The Master's Violin
by Myrtle Reed
I. The Master
III. The Gift of
V. The Light of
VI. A Letter
VIII. A Bit of
IX. Rosemary and
X. In the Garden
XI. “Sunset and
XII. The False
XIII. To Iris
XV. Little Lady
XVI. Afraid of
XVII. “He Loves
Comes Into His
XIX. The Secret
XXI. The Cremona
I. The Master Plays
The fire blazed newly from its embers and set strange shadows to
dancing upon the polished floor. Now and then, there was a gleam from
some dark mahogany surface and an answering flash from a bit of old
silver in the cabinet. April, warm with May's promise, came in through
the open window, laden with the wholesome fragrance of growing things,
and yet, because an old lady loved it, there was a fire upon the hearth
and no other light in the room.
She sat in her easy chair, sheltered from possible draughts, and
watched it, seemingly unmindful of her three companions. Tints of
amethyst and sapphire appeared in the haze from the backlog and were
lost a moment later in the dominant flame. In that last hour of
glorious life, the tree was giving back its memoriesblue skies, grey
days just tinged with gold, lost rainbows, and flashes of sun.
Friendly ghosts of times far past were conjured back in
shadowsoutspread wings, low-lying clouds, and long nights that ended
in dawn. Swift flights of birds and wandering craft of thistledown were
mirrored for an instant upon the shining floor, and then forgotten,
because of falling leaves.
Lines of transfiguring light changed the snowy softness of Miss
Field's hair to silver, and gave to her hands the delicacy of carved
ivory. A tiny foot peeped out from beneath her gown, clad in its
embroidered silk stocking and high-heeled slipper, so brave in its
trappings of silver buckles that she might have been eighteen instead
Upon her face the light lay longest; perhaps with an answering love.
The years had been kind to herhad given her only enough bitterness to
make her realise the sweetness, and from the threads that Life had
placed in her hands at the beginning, had taught her how to weave the
blessed fabric of Content.
Aunt Peace, asked the girl, softly, have you forgotten that we
Dispelled by the voice, the gracious phantoms of Memory vanished.
There was a little silence, then the old lady smiled. No, dearie, she
said, indeed I haven't. It is too rare a blessing for me to forget.
Please don't call us 'company,' put in the other woman, quickly,
because we're not.
'Company,' observed the young man on the opposite side of the
hearth, is extremely good under the circumstances. Somebody nearly
breaks down your front door on a rainy afternoon, and when you rush out
to save the place from ruin, you discover two dripping tramps on your
steps. Stranded on an island in the road is a waggon containing their
trunks, from which place of refuge they recently swam to your door.
'How do you do, Aunt Peace?' says mother; 'we've come to live with you
from this time on to the finish.' On behalf of this committee, ladies,
I thank you, from my heart, for calling us 'company.'
Laughing, he rose and made an exaggerated courtesy. Lynn! Lynn!
expostulated his mother. Is it possible that after all my explanations
you don't understand? Why, I wrote more than two weeks ago, asking her
to let us know if she didn't want us. Silence always gives consent, and
so we came.
Yes, we came all right, continued the boy, cheerfully, and, as
everybody knows, we're here now, but isn't it just like a woman? Upon
my word, I think they're queerthe whole tribe.
Having thus spoken, remarked the girl, you might tell us how a
man would have managed it.
Very easily. A man would have called in his stenographerno, he
wouldn't, either, because it was a personal letter. He would have made
an excavation into his desk and found the proper stationery, and would
have put in a new pen. 'My dear Aunt Peace,' he would have said, 'you
mustn't think I've forgotten you because I haven't written for such a
long time. If I had written every time I had wanted to, or had thought
of you, actually, you'd have been bored to death with me. I have a kid
who thinks he is going to be a fiddler, and we have decided to come and
live with you while he finds out, as we understand that Herr Franz
Kaufmann, who is not unknown to fame, lives in your village. Will you
please let us know? If you can't take us, or don't want to, here's a
postage stamp, and no hard feelings on either side.'
Just what I said, explained Mrs. Irving, though my language
wasn't quite like yours.
The old lady smiled again. My dears, she began, let us cease this
unprofitable discussion. It is all because we are so far out of the
beaten track that we seldom go to the post-office. I am sure the letter
is there now.
I will get it to-morrow, replied Lynn, which is kind of me,
considering that my remarks have just been alluded to as
You can't expect everybody to think as much of what you say as you
do, suggested Iris, with a trace of sarcasm.
Score one for you, Miss Temple. I shall now retire into my shell.
So saying, he turned to the fire, and his face became thoughtful again.
The three women looked at him from widely differing points of view.
The girl, concealed in the shadow, took maidenly account of his tall,
well-knit figure, his dark eyes, his sensitive mouth, and his firm,
finely modelled chin. From a half-defined impulse of coquetry, she was
glad of the mood which had led her to put on her most becoming gown
early in the afternoon. The situation was interestingthere was a
vague hint of a challenge of some kind.
Aunt Peace, so long accustomed to quiet ways, had at first felt the
two an intrusion into her well-ordered home, though at the same time
her hospitable instincts reproached her bitterly. He was of her blood
and her line, yet in some way he seemed like an alien suddenly claiming
kinship. A span of fifty years and more stretched between them, and
across it, they contemplated each other, both wondering. For his part
he regarded her as one might a cameo of fine workmanship or an old
miniature. She was so passionless, so virginal, so far removed from all
save the gentlest emotions, that he saw her only as one who stood
The smile still lingered upon her lips and the firelight made
shadows beneath her serene eyes. Had they asked her for her thoughts
she could have phrased only one. Deep down in her heart she wondered
whether anything on earth had ever been so joyously young as Lynn.
His mother, too, was watching him, as always when she thought
herself unobserved. In spite of his stalwart manhood, to her he was
still a child. Forgiving all things, dreaming all things, hoping all
things with the boundless faith of maternity, she loved him, through
the child that he was, for the man that he might beloved him, through
the man that he was, for the child that he had been.
The fire had died down, and Iris, leaning forward, laid a bit of
pine upon the dull glow in the midst of the ashes. It caught quickly,
and once again the magical light filled the room.
Sing something, dear, said Aunt Peace, drowsily, and Iris made a
little murmur of dissent.
Do you sing, Miss Temple? asked Irving, politely.
No, she answered, and what's more, I know I don't, but Aunt Peace
likes to hear me.
We'd like to hear you, too, said Mrs. Irving, so gently that no
one could have refused.
Much embarrassed, she went to the piano, which stood in the next
room, just beyond the arch, and struck a few chords. The instrument was
old and worn, but still sweet, and, fearful at first, but gaining
confidence as she went on, Iris sang an old-fashioned song.
Her voice was contralto; deep, vibrant, and full, but untrained.
Still, there were evidences of study and of work along right lines.
Before she had finished, Irving was beside her, resting his elbow upon
Who taught you? he asked, when the last note died away.
Herr Kaufmann, she replied, diffidently.
I thought he was a violin teacher.
Then how can he teach singing?
Irving went no farther, and Miss Temple, realising that she had been
rude, hastened to atone. I mean by that, she explained, that he
doesn't teach anyone but me. I had a few lessons a long time ago, from
a lady who spent the Summer here, and he has been helping me ever
since. That is all. He says it doesn't matter whether people have
voices or notif they have hearts, he can make them sing.
You play, don't you?
Yesa little. I play accompaniments for him sometimes.
Then you'll play with me, won't you?
I'll see, laughed Iris. You should be a lawyer instead of a
violinist. You make me feel as if I were on the witness stand.
My father was a lawyer; I suppose I inherit it. Iris had a
question upon her lips, but checked it.
He is dead, the young man went on, as though in answer to it. He
died when I was about five years old, and I remember him scarcely at
I don't remember either father or mother, she said. I had a very
unhappy childhood, and things that happened then make me shudder even
now. Just at the time it was hardestwhen I couldn't possibly have
borne any moreAunt Peace discovered me. She adopted me, and I've been
happy ever since, except for all the misery I can't forget.
She's not really your aunt, then?
No. Legally, I am her daughter, but she wouldn't want me to call
her 'mother,' even if I could.
The talk in the other room had become merely monosyllables, with
bits of understanding silence between. Iris went back, and Mrs. Irving
thanked her prettily for the song.
Thank you for listening, she returned.
Come, Aunt Peace, you're nodding.
So I was, dearie. Is it late?
It's almost ten.
In her stately fashion, Miss Field bade her guests good night. Iris
lit a candle and followed her up the broad, winding stairway. It made a
charming picturethe old lady in her trailing gown, the light throwing
her white hair into bold relief, and the girl behind her, smiling back
over the banister, and waving her hand in farewell.
In Lynn's fond sight, his mother was very lovely as she sat there,
with the firelight shining upon her face. He liked the way her dark
hair grew about her low forehead, her fair, smooth skin, and the
mysterious depths of her eyes. Ever since he could remember, she had
worn a black gown, with soft folds of white at the throat and wrists.
It's time to go out for our walk now, he said.
Not to-night, son. I'm tired.
That doesn't make any difference; you must have exercise.
I've had some, and besides, it's wet.
Lynn was already out of hearing, in search of her wraps. He put on
her rubbers, paying no heed to her protests, and almost before she knew
it, she was out in the April night, woman-like, finding a certain
pleasure in his quiet mastery.
The storm was over and the hidden moon silvered the edges of the
clouds. Here and there a timid planet looked out from behind its
friendly curtain, but only the pole star kept its beacon steadily
burning. The air was sweet with the freshness of the rain, and belated
drops, falling from the trees, made a faint patter upon the ground.
Down the long elm-bordered path they went, the boy eager to explore
the unfamiliar place; the mother, harked back to her girlhood, thrilled
with both pleasure and pain.
Happy are they who leave the scenes of early youth to the ministry
of Time. Going back, one finds the river a little brook, the long
stretch of woodland only a grove in the midst of a clearing, and the
upland pastures, that once seemed mountains, are naught but stony,
As they stood upon the bridge, looking down into the rushing waters,
Margaret remembered the lost majesty of that narrow stream, and sighed.
The child who had played so often upon its banks had grown to a woman,
rich with Life's deepest experiences, but the brook was still the same.
Through endless years it must be the same, drawing its waters from
unseen sources, while generation after generation withered away, like
the flowers that bloomed upon its grassy borders while the years were
Lynn broke rudely into her thoughts. I wish I'd known you when you
were a kid, mother, he said.
Oh, I think I'd have liked to play with you. We could have made
some jolly mud pies.
We did, but you were three, and I was twenty-five. Much ashamed,
too, I remember, when your father caught me doing it.
Am I like him?
He had asked the question many times and her answer was always the
same. Yes, very much like him. He was a good man, Lynn.
Do I look like him?
Yes, all but your eyes.
When you lived here, did you know Herr Kaufmann?
By sight, yes. He was looking straight at her, but she had turned
her face away, forgetting the darkness. We used to see him passing in
the street, she went on, in a different tone. He was a student and
never seemed to know many people. He would not remember me.
Then there's no use of my telling him who I am?
Not the least.
Maybe he won't take me.
Yes, he will, she answered, though her heart suddenly misgave her.
He mustthere is no other way.
Will you go with me?
No, indeed; you must go alone. I shall not appear at all.
Because. It was her woman's reason, which he had learned to accept
as final. Beyond that there was no appeal.
East Lancaster lay on one side of the brook and West Lancaster on
the other. The two settlements were quite distinct, though they had a
common bond of interest in the post-office, which was harmoniously
situated near the border line. East Lancaster was the home of the
aristocracy. Here were old Colonial mansions in which, through their
descendants, the builders still lived. The set traditions of a bygone
century held full sway in the place, but, though circumscribed by
conditions, the upper circle proudly considered itself complete.
West Lancaster was on a hill, and a steep one at that. Hardy German
immigrants had settled there, much to the disgust of East Lancaster,
holding itself sternly aloof year after year. It was not considered
good form to allude to the dwellers upon the hill, save in low tones
and with lifted brows, yet there were not wanting certain good
Samaritans who sent warm clothing and discarded playthings, after
nightfall and by stealth, to the little Teutons who lived so near them.
Hemmed in by the everlasting hills, estranged from its neighbour,
and barely upon speaking terms with other towns, East Lancaster let the
world go on by. Two trains a day rushed through the station, for the
main line of the railroad, receiving no encouragement from East
Lancaster, had laid its tracks elsewhere. It was still spoken of as
the time when, if you will remember, my dear, they endeavoured to ruin
our property with dirt and noise.
Her clothes are like her name, remarked Lynn.
Whose clothes? asked Mrs. Irving, taken out of her reverie.
That girl's. She had on a green dress, and some yellow velvet in
her hair. Her eyes are purple.
Violet, you mean, dear. Did you notice that?
Of coursedon't I notice everything? Come, mother; I'll race you
to the top of the hill.
Once again her objections were of no avail. Together they ran,
laughing, up the winding road that led to the summit, stopping very
soon, however, and going on at a more moderate pace.
The street was narrow, and the houses on either side were close
together. Each had its tiny patch of ground in front, laid out in
flower-beds bordered with whitewashed stones, in true German fashion.
There were no street lamps, for West Lancaster also resented all modern
innovations, but in the Spring night one could see dimly.
Lanterns flitted here and there, like fireflies starred against the
dark. Margaret protested that she was tired, but Lynn put his arm
around her and hurried her on. Never before had she set foot upon the
soil of West Lancaster, but she had full knowledge of the way.
The brow of the hill was close at hand, and she caught her breath in
sudden fear. Lynn, in the midst of a graphic recital of some boyish
prank, took no note of her agitation. He did not even know that they
had come to the end of their journey, until a man tiptoed toward them,
his finger upon his lips.
Hush! he breathed. The Master plays.
At the very top of the hill, almost at the brink of the precipice,
was a house so small that it seemed more like a box than a dwelling. In
the street were a dozen people, both men and women, standing in stolid
patience. The little house was dark, but a window was open, and from
within, muted almost to a whisper, came the voice of a violin.
For an hour or more they stood there, listening. By insensible
degrees the music grew in volume, filled with breadth and splendour,
yet with a lyric undertone. Sounding chords, caught from distant
silences, one by one were woven in. Songs that had an epic grasp;
question, prayer, and heartbreak; all the pain and beauty of the world
were part of it, and yet there was something more.
To Lynn's trained ear, it was an improvisation by a master hand. He
was lost in admiration of the superb technique, the delicate phrasing,
and the wonderful quality of the tone. To the woman beside him, shaken
from head to foot by unutterable emotion, it was Life itself, bare,
exquisitely alive, tuned to the breaking pointa human thing, made of
tears and laughter, of ecstasy, tenderness, and black despair, lying on
the Master's breast and answering to his touch.
The shallows touch the pebbles, and behold, there is a little song.
The deeps are stirred to their foundations, and, long afterward, there
is a single vast strophe, majestic and immortal, which takes its place
by right in the symphony of pain. To Margaret, standing there with her
senses swaying, all her possibilities of feeling were merged into one
Take me away; she whispered, I can bear no more!
But Lynn did not hear. He was simply and solely the musician, his
body tense, his head bent forward and a little to one side, nodding in
emphasis or approval.
She slipped her arm through his and, trembling, waited as best she
might for the end. It came at last and the little group near them took
up its separate ways. Someone put down the window and closed the
shutters. The Master knew quite well that some of his neighbours had
been listening, but it pleased him to ignore the tribute. No one dared
to speak to him about his playing.
Mother! Mother! said Lynn, tenderly, I've been selfish, and I've
kept you too long!
No, she answered, but her lips were cold and her voice was not the
same. They went downhill together, and she leaned heavily upon his
supporting arm. He was humming, under his breath, bits of the
improvisation, and did not speak again until they were at home.
The fire was out, but Iris had left two lighted candles on a table
in the hall. A fine violin, he said; by far the finest I have ever
Yes, she returned, a Cremonathat is, I think it must be, from
Possibly. Good night, and pleasant dreams.
They parted at the head of the stairs, and down on the landing the
tall clock chimed twelve. Margaret lay for a long time with her eyes
closed, but none the less awake. Toward dawn, the ghostly fingers of
her dreams tapped questioningly at the Master's door, but without
disturbing his sleep.
II. Mine Cremona
Lynn went up the hill with a long, swinging stride. The morning was
in his heart and it seemed good to be alive. His blood fairly sang in
his pulses, and his cheery whistle was as natural and unconscious as
the call of the robin in the maple thicket beyond.
The German housewives left their work and came out to see him pass,
for strangers in West Lancaster were so infrequent as to cause extended
comment, and he left behind him a trail of sharp glances and nodding
heads. The entire hill was instantly alive with gossip which buzzed
back and forth like a hive of liberated bees. It was a sturdy dame near
the summit who quelled it, for the time being.
So, she said to her next-door neighbour, I was right. He will be
going to the Master's.
The word went quickly down the line, and after various speculations
regarding his possible errand, the neglected household tasks were taken
up and the hill was quiet again, except for the rosy-cheeked children
who played stolidly in their bits of dooryards.
Lynn easily recognised the house, though he had seen it but dimly
the night before. It was two stories in height, but very small, and, in
some occult way, reminded one of a bird-house. It was perched almost
upon the ledge, and its western windows overlooked the valley, filled
with tossing willow plumes, the winding river, half asleep in its
mantle of grey and silver, and the range of blue hills beyond.
It was the only house upon the hill which boasted two front
entrances. Through the shining windows of the lower story, on a level
with the street, he saw violins in all stages of making, but otherwise,
the room was empty. So he climbed the short flight of steps and rang
The wire was slack and rusty, but after two or three trials a
mournful clang came from the depths of the interior. At last the door
was opened, cautiously, by a woman whose flushed face and red, wrinkled
fingers betrayed her recent occupation.
I beg your pardon, said Irving, making his best bow. Is Herr
Kaufmann at home?
Not yet, she replied, he will have gone for his walk. You will be
She asked the question as though she feared an affirmative answer.
If I may, please, he returned, carefully wiping his feet upon the
mat. Do you expect him soon?
Yes. She ushered him into the front room and pointed to a chair.
You will please excuse me, she said.
Certainly! Do not let me detain you.
Left to himself, he looked about the room with amused curiosity. The
furnishings were a queer combination of primitive American ideas and
modern German fancies, overlaid with a feminine love of superfluous
ornament. The Teutonic fondness for colour ran riot in everything, and
purples, reds, and yellows were closely intermingled. The exquisite
neatness of the place was its redeeming feature.
Apparently, there were two other rooms on the same floora combined
kitchen and dining-room was just back of the parlour, and a smaller
room opened off of it. Lynn was meditating upon Herr Kaufmann's
household arrangements, when a wonderful object upon the table in the
corner attracted his attention, and he went over to examine it.
Obviously, it had once been a section of clay drainage pipe, but in
its sublimated estate it was far removed from common uses. It had been
smeared with putty, and, while plastic, ornamented with hinges, nails,
keys, clock wheels, curtain rings, and various other things not usually
associated with drainage pipes. When dry, it had been given further
distinction by two or three coats of gold paint.
A wire hair-pin, placed conspicuously near the top of it, was
rendered so ridiculous by the gilding that Lynn laughed aloud. Then,
influenced by the sound of the scrubbing-brush close at hand, he
endeavoured to cover it with a cough. He was too late, however, for,
almost immediately, his hostess appeared in the doorway.
Mine crazy jug, she said, with gratified pride beaming from every
I was just looking at it, responded Lynn. It is marvellous. Did
you make it yourself?
Yes, I make him mineself, she said, and then retreated, blushing
with innocent pleasure.
Not knowing what else to do, he went back to his chair and sat down
again, carefully avoiding the purple tidy embroidered with pink roses.
Outside, the street was deserted. He wondered what type of a man it was
who could live in the same house with a crazy jug and play as Herr
Kaufmann played, only last night. Then he reflected that the room had
been dark, and smiled at his foolish fancy.
A square piano took up one whole side of the room, and there were
two violins upon it. Unthinkingly, Lynn investigated. The first one was
a good instrument of modern make, and the otherhe caught his breath
as he took it out of its case. The thin, fine shell was the beautiful
body of a Cremona, enshrining a Cremona's still more beautiful soul.
He touched it reverently, though his hands trembled and his face was
aglow. He snapped a string with his finger and the violin answered with
a deep, resonant tone, but before the sound had died away, there was an
exclamation of horror in his ears and a firm grip upon his arm.
Mine brudder's Cremona! cried the woman, her eyes flashing
lightnings of anger. You will at once put him down!
I beg a thousand pardons! I did not realiseI did not meanI did
not understand He went on with confused explanations and apologies
which availed him nothing. He stood before her, convicted and shamed,
as one who had profaned the household god.
Wiping her hands upon her apron, she went to her work-box, took out
her knitting, and sat down between Lynn and the piano. The chair was
hard and uncompromising, with an upright back, but she disdained even
that support and sat proudly erect.
There was no sound save the click of the needles, and she kept her
eyes fixed upon her work. After an awkward silence, Lynn made one or
two tentative efforts toward conversation, but each opening proved
fruitless, and at length he seriously meditated flight.
The approach to the door was covered, but there were plenty of
windows, and it would be an easy drop to the ground. He smiled as he
saw himself, mentally, achieving escape in this manner and running all
the way home.
I wonder, he mused, where in the dickens 'mine brudder' is!
The face of the woman before him was still flushed and the movement
of the needles betrayed her excitement. He noted that she wore no
wedding ring and surmised that she was a little older than his mother.
Her features were hard, and her thin, straight hair was brushed tightly
back and fastened in a little knot at the back of her head. It was not
unlike a door knob, and he began to wonder what would happen if he
should turn it.
His irrepressible spirits bubbled over and he coughed violently into
his handkerchief, feeling himself closely scrutinised meanwhile. The
situation was relieved by the sound of footsteps and the vigorous slam
of the lower door.
Still keeping the piano, with its precious burden, within range of
her vision, Fräulein Kaufmann moved toward the door. Franz! Franz!
she called. Come here!
One minute! The voice was deep and musical and had a certain lyric
quality. When he came up, there was a conversation in indignant German
which was brief but sufficient.
I can see, said Lynn to himself, that I am not to study with Herr
Just then he came in, gave Lynn a quick, suspicious glance, took up
the Cremona, and strode out. He was gone so long that Lynn decided to
retreat in good order. He picked up his hat and was half way out of his
chair when he heard footsteps and waited.
Now, said the Master, you would like to speak with me?
He was of medium height, had keen, dark eyes, bushy brows, ruddy
cheeks, and a mass of grey hair which he occasionally shook back like a
mane. He had the typical hands of the violinist.
Yes, answered Lynn, I want to study with you.
Study what? Herr Kaufmann's tone was somewhat brusque. Manners?
The violin, explained Irving, flushing.
So? You make violins?
NoI want to play.
Oh, said the other, looking at him sharply, it is to play! Well,
I can teach you nothing.
He rose, as though to intimate that the interview was at an end, but
Lynn was not so easily turned aside. Herr Kaufmann, he began, I have
come hundreds of miles to study with you. We have broken up our home
and have come to live in East Lancaster for that one purpose.
I am flattered, observed the Master, dryly. May I ask how you
have heard of me so far away as many hundred miles?
Why, everybody knows of you! When I was a little child, I can
remember my mother telling me that some day I should study with the
great Herr Kaufmann. It is the dream of her life and of mine.
A bad dream, remarked the violinist, succinctly. May I ask your
Mrs. IrvingMargaret Irving.
Margaret, repeated the old man in a different tone. Margaret.
There was a long silence, then the boy began once more. You'll take
me, won't you?
For an instant the Master seemed on the point of yielding,
unconditionally, then he came to himself with a start. One moment, he
said, clearing his throat. Why did you lift up mine Cremona?
The piercing eyes were upon him and Lynn's colour mounted to his
temples, but he met the gaze honestly. I scarcely know why, he
answered. I was here alone, I had been waiting a long time, and it has
always been natural for me to look at violins. I think we all do things
for which we can give no reason. I certainly had no intention of
harming it, nor of offending anybody. I am very sorry.
Well, sighed the Master, I should not have left it out. Strangers
seldom come here, but I, too, was to blame. Fredrika takes it to
herself; she thinks that she should have left her scrubbing and sat
with you, but of that I am not so sure. It is mine Cremona, he went
on, bitterly, nobody touches it but mineself.
His distress was very real, and, for the first time, Irving felt a
throb of sympathy. However unreasonable it might be, however weak and
childish, he saw that he had unwittingly touched a tender place. All
the love of the hale old heart was centred upon the violin, wooden,
inanimatebut no. Nothing can be inanimate, which is sweetheart and
child in one.
Herr Kaufmann, said Lynn, believe me, if any act of mine could
wipe away my touch, I should do it here and now. As it is, I can only
ask your pardon.
We will no longer speak of it, returned the Master, with quiet
dignity. We will attempt to forget.
He went to the window and stood with his back to Irving for a long
time. What could I have done? thought Lynn. I only picked it up and
laid it down againI surely did not harm it.
He was too young to see that it was the significance, rather than
the touch; that the old man felt as a lover might who saw his beloved
in the arms of another. The bloom was gone from the fruit, the
fragrance from the rose. For twenty-five years and more, the Cremona
had been sacredly kept.
The Master's thoughts had leaped that quarter-century at a single
bound. Again he stood in the woods beyond East Lancaster, while the sky
was dark with threatening clouds and the dead leaves scurried in fright
before the north wind. Beside him stood a girl of twenty, her face
white and her sweet mouth quivering.
You must take it, she was saying. It is mine to do with as I
please, and no one will ever know. If anyone asks, I can fix it
someway. It is part of myself that I give you, so that in all the
years, you will not forget me. When you touch it, it will be as though
you took my hand in yours. When it sings to you, it will be my voice
saying: 'I love you!' And in it you will find all the sweetness of this
one short year. All the pain will be blotted out and only the joy will
be leftthe joy that we can never know!
Her voice broke in a sob, then the picture faded in a mist of
blinding tears. Dull thunders boomed afar, and he felt her lips crushed
for an instant against his own. When clear sight came back, the storm
was raging, and he was alone.
Irving waited impatiently, for he was restless and longed to get
away, but he dared not speak. At last the old man turned away from the
window, his face haggard and grey.
You will take me? asked Lynn, with a note of pleading in his
Yes, sighed the Master, I take you. Tuesdays and Fridays at ten.
Bring your violin and what music you have. We will see what you have
done and what you can do. Good-bye.
He did not seem to see Lynn's offered hand, and the boy went out,
sorely troubled by something which seemed just outside his
comprehension. He walked for an hour in the woods before going home,
and in answer to questions merely said that he had been obliged to wait
for some time, but that everything was satisfactorily arranged.
Isn't he an old dear? asked Iris.
I don't know, answered Lynn. Is he?
III. The Gift of Peace
The mistress of the mansion was giving her orders for the day. From
the farthest nooks and corners of the attic, where fragrant herbs
swayed back and forth in ghostly fashion, to the tiled kitchen, where
burnished copper saucepans literally shone, Miss Field kept in daily
touch with her housekeeping.
The old Colonial house was her pride and her delight. It was by far
the oldest in that part of the country, and held an exalted position
among its neighbours on that account, though the owner, not having
spent her entire life in East Lancaster, was considered somewhat new.
To be truly aristocratic, at least three generations of one's forbears
must have lived in the same dwelling.
In the hall hung the old family portraits. Gentlemen and
gentlewomen, long since gathered to their fathers, had looked down from
their gilded frames upon many a strange scene. Baby footsteps had
faltered on the stairs, and wide childish eyes had looked up in awe to
this stately company. Older children had wondered at the patches and
the powdered hair, the velvet knickerbockers and ruffled sleeves.
Awkward schoolboys had boasted to their mates that the jewelled sword,
which hung at the side of a young officer in the uniform of the
Colonies, had been presented by General Washington himself, in
recognition of conspicuous bravery upon the field. Lovers had led their
sweethearts along the hall at twilight, to whisper that their
portraits, too, should some day hang there, side by side. Soldiers of
Fortune who had found their leader fickle had taken fresh courage from
the set lips of the gallant gentlemen in the great hall. Women whose
hearts were breaking had looked up to the painted and powdered dames
along the winding stairway, and learned, through some subtle
freemasonry of sex, that only the lowborn cry out when hurt. Faint,
wailing voices of new-born babes had reached the listening ears of the
portraits by night and by day. Coffin after coffin had gone out of the
wide door, flower-hidden, and step after step had died away forever,
leaving only an echo behind. And yet the men and women of the line of
Field looked out from their gilded frames, high-spirited, courageous,
and serene, with here and there the hint of a smile.
Far up the stairs and beyond the turn hung the last portrait: Aunt
Peace, in the bloom of her mature beauty, painted soon after she had
taken possession of the house. The dark hair was parted over the low
brow and puffed slightly over the tiny ears. The flowered gown was cut
modestly away at the throat, showing a shoulder line that had been
famous in three counties when she was the belle of the countryside. For
the rest, she was much the same. Let the artist make the brown hair
snowy white, change the girlish bloom to the tint of a faded pink rose,
draw around the eyes and the mouth a few tiny time-tracks, which, after
all, were but the footprints of smiles, sadden the trustful eyes a bit,
and cover the frivolous gown with black brocade,then the mistress of
the mansion, who moved so gaily through the house, would inevitably
startle you as you came upon her at the turn of the stairs, having
believed, all the time, that she was somewhere else.
At the moment, she was in the garden, with Mrs. Irving and the
children, as she called Iris and Lynn. Now, my talented
nephew-once-removed, she was saying, in her high, sweet voice, will
you kindly take the spade and dig until you can dig no more? I am well
aware that it is like hitching Pegasus to the plough, but I have grown
tired of waiting for my intermittent gardener, and there is a new
theory to the effect that all service is beautiful.
So it is, laughed Lynn, turning the earth awkwardly. I know what
you're thinking of, mother, but it isn't going to hurt my hands.
You shall have a flower-bed for your reward, Aunt Peace went on.
I will take the front yard myself, and the beds here shall be equally
divided among you three. You may plant in them what you please and each
shall attend to his own.
I speak for vegetables, said Lynn.
How characteristic, murmured Iris, with a sidelong glance at him
which sent the blood to his face. What shall you plant, Mrs. Irving?
Roses, heartsease, and verbenas, she replied, and as many other
things as I can get in without crowding. I may change my mind about the
others, but I shall have those three. What are you going to have?
Violets and mignonette, nothing more. I love the sweet, modest ones
Cucumbers, tomatoes, corn, melons, peas, asparagus, put in Lynn,
and what else?
Nothing else, my son, answered Margaret, unless you rent a vacant
acre or two. The seeds are small, but the plants have been known to
I'll have one plant of each kind, then, for I must assuredly have
variety. It's said to be 'the spice of life' and that's what we're all
looking for. Besides, judging from the various scornful remarks which
have been thought, if not actually made, the rest of you don't care for
vegetables. Anyhow, you sha'n't have anyexcept Aunt Peace.
Over here now, please, Lynn, said Miss Field. When you get that
done, I'll tell you what to do next. Come, Margaret, it's a little
chilly here, and I don't want you to take cold.
For a few moments there was quiet in the garden. A flock of pigeons
hovered about Iris, taking grain from her outstretched hand, and cooing
soft murmurs of content. The white dove was perched upon her shoulder,
not at all disturbed by her various excursions to the source of supply.
Lynn worked steadily, seemingly unconscious of the girl's scrutiny.
Finally, she spoke. I don't want any of your old vegetables, she
You may not have any at allI don't believe the seeds will come
Perhaps notit's quite in the nature of things.
The pouter pigeon, brave in his iridescent waistcoat, perched upon
her other shoulder, and Lynn straightened himself to look at her. From
the first evening she had puzzled him.
Her face was nearly always pale, but to-day she had a pretty colour
in her cheeks and her deep, violet eyes were aglow with innocent
mischief. There was a dewy sweetness about her red lips, and Lynn noted
that the sheen on the pigeon's breast was like the gleam from her
blue-black hair, where the sun shone upon it. She had a great mass of
it, which she wore coiled on top of her small, well-shaped head. It was
perfectly smooth, its riotous waves kept well in check, except at the
blue-veined temples, where little ringlets clustered, unrebuked.
You should be practising, said Iris, irrelevantly.
So should you.
I don't need to.
Because I'm not going to play with you any more.
Oh, she returned, with a little shrug of her shoulders, which
frightened away both pigeons, you didn't like the way I played your
last accompaniment, and so I've stopped for good.
Lynn thought it only a repetition of what she had said when he
criticised her, and passed it over in silence.
I've already done an hour, he said, and I'll have time for
another before lunch. I can get in the other two before dark, and then
I'm going for a walk. You'll come with me, won't you?
You haven't asked me properly, she objected.
Irving bowed and, in set, gallant phrases, asked Miss Temple for
the pleasure of her company.
I'm sorry, she answered, but I'm obliged to refuse. I'm going to
make some little cakes for teathe kind you like.
Bother the cakes!
Then, laughed Iris, if you want me as much as that, I'll go. It's
my Christian duty.
From the very beginning, Aunt Peace had taught Iris the principles
of dainty housewifery. Cleanliness came firstan exquisite cleanliness
which was not merely a lack of dust and dirt, but a positive quality.
When the old lady's keen eyes, reinforced by her strongest glasses,
were unable to discern so much as a finger mark upon anything, Iris
knew that it was clean, and not before.
At first, the little untrained child had bitterly rebelled, but Miss
Field's patience was without limit and at last Iris attained the
required degree of proficiency. She had done her sampler, like the
Colonial maids before her, made her white, sweet loaves, her fragrant
brown ones, put up her countless pots of clear, rich preserves, made
amber and crimson jellies, huge jars of spiced fruits, and brewed ten
different kinds of home-made wine. Then, and not till then, Iris got
the womanly idea which was beneath it all. Perception came slowly, but
at length she found herself in a beautiful comradeship with Aunt Peace.
For sheer love of the daintiness of it, Iris beat the yolks of eggs in
a white bowl and the whites in a blue one. She took pleasure out of
various fine textures and feathery masses, sang as she shaped small
pats of unsalted butter, tying them up in clover blossoms, and laughed
at the little packets of seeds Dame Nature sends with her parcels.
See, said Iris, one morning, as she cut a juicy muskmelon and took
out the seeds, this means that if you like it well enough to work and
wait, you can have lots, lots more.
Miss Field smiled, and a soft pink colour came into her fine,
high-bred face. For one, at least, she had opened the way to the
Fortunate Isles, where one's daily work is one's daily happiness, and
nothing is so poor as to be without its own appealing beauty.
As time went on, Iris found deep and satisfying pleasure in the
countless little things that were done each day. She piled the clean
linen in orderly rows upon the shelves, delighting in the unnameable
freshness made by wind and sun; sniffed appreciatively at the cedar
chest which stood in a recess of the upper hall, and climbed many a
chair to fasten bunches of fragrant herbs, gathered with her own hands,
to the rafters in the attic.
She washed the fine old china, rubbed the mahogany till she could
see her face in it, and kept the silver shining. A gentlewoman, Aunt
Peace had said, will always be independent of her servants, and there
are certain things no gentlewoman will trust her servants to do.
Upon this foundation, Aunt Peace had reared the beautiful
superstructure of her life. Her hands were capable and strong, yet soft
and white. As we learn to love the things we take care of, so every
household possession became dear to her, and repaid her for her labours
To be sure of doing the very best for her adopted daughter, Miss
Field had, for many years, kept house without a servant. Now, at
seventy-five, she had grudgingly admitted one maid into her sanctum,
but some of the work still fell to Iris, and no one ever doubted for an
instant that the head of the household vigilantly guarded her own
For a long time Iris had known how useless it wasthat there had
never been a moment when the old lady could not have had a retinue of
servants at her command, but had it been useless after all? Remembering
the child she had been, Iris could not but see the immeasurable advance
the woman had made.
Someday, my child, Aunt Peace had said, when your adopted mother
is laid away with her ancestors in the churchyard, you will bless me
for what I have done. You will see that wherever you happen to be, in
whatever station of life God may be pleased to place you after I am
gone, you have one thing which cannot be taken away from youthe power
to make for yourself a home. You will be sure of your comfort
independently, and you will never be at the mercy of the ignorant and
the untrained. In more than one sense, went on Miss Field, smiling,
you will have the gift of Peace.
In the house, in her favourite chair by the fire, the old lady was
saying much the same thing to Margaret Irving. It was apropos of a book
written by a member of the shrieking sisterhood, which had sorely
stirred East Lancaster, set as it was in quiet ways that were centuries
I have no patience with such foolishness, Aunt Peace observed.
Since Adam and Eve were placed in the Garden of Eden, women have been
home-makers and men have been home-builders. All the work in the world
is directly and immediately undertaken for the maintenance and
betterment of the home. A woman who has no love for it is unsexed. God
probably knew how He wanted itat least we may be pardoned for
supposing that He did. It is absolutelybut I would better stop, my
dear. I fear I shall soon be saying something unladylike.
Margaret laugheda low, musical laugh with a girlish note in it.
For a long time she had not been so happy as she was to-day.
To quote a famous historian, she replied, a book like that
'carries within itself the germs of its decay.' You need have no fear,
Aunt Peace; the home will stand. This single house, this beautiful old
home of yours, has lasted two centuries, hasn't it, just as it is?
Yes, sighed the other, after a pause, they built well in those
The charm of the room was upon them both. Through the open door they
could see the long line of portraits in the hall, and the house seemed
peopled with friendly ghosts, whose memories and loves still lived.
Because she had recently come from a city apartment, Margaret looked
down the spacious vista, ending at a long mirror, with an
ever-increasing sense of delight.
My dear, said Miss Field, I have always felt that this house
should have come to you.
I have never felt so, answered Margaret. I have never for a
moment begrudged it to you. You know my father died suddenly, and his
will, made long before I was born, had not been changed. So what was
more natural than for my mother to have the house during her lifetime,
with the provision that it should revert to his favourite sister
afterward, if she still lived?
I have cheated you by living, Margaret, and your mother was cut off
in her prime. She was a hard woman.
Yes, sighed Margaret, she was. But I think she meant to be kind.
I knew her very little; in fact, the only chance that I ever had to
get acquainted with her was when I came here for a short visit just
after you were married. The house had been closed for a long time. She
took you away with her, and when she came back she was alone. Then she
wrote to me, asking me to share her loneliness for a time, and I
The way was open for confidences, but Margaret made none, and Aunt
Peace respected her for it.
We never knew each other very well, did we? asked the old lady, in
a tone that indicated no need of an answer. I remember that when I was
here I yearned over you just as I did over Iris several years later. I
wanted to give to you out of my abundance; to make you happy and
Dear Aunt Peace, said Margaret, softly, you are doing it now,
when perhaps I need it even more than I did then. All your life you
have been making people happy and comfortable.
I hope soit is what I have tried to do. By the way, when I am
through with it, this house goes to you, then to Lynn and his children
Thank you. For an instant Margaret's pulses throbbed with the joy
of possession, then the blood retreated from her heart in shame.
I have made ample provision for Iris, Miss Field went on. She is
my own dear daughter, but she is not of our line.
At this moment, Iris came around the house, laughing and screaming,
with Lynn in full pursuit. Mrs. Irving went to the window and came back
with an amused light in her eyes.
What is the matter? asked Aunt Peace.
Lynn is chasing her. He had something in his fingers that looked
like an angle-worm.
No doubt. Iris is afraid of worms.
I'll go out and speak to him.
Nolet them fight it out. We are never young but once, and Youth
asks no greater privilege than to fight its own battles. It is mistaken
kindness to shieldit weakens one in the years to come.
Youth, repeated Margaret. The most beautiful gift of the gods,
which we never appreciate until it is gone forever.
I have kept mine, said Aunt Peace. I have deliberately forgotten
all the unpleasant things and remembered the others. When a little
pleasure has flashed for a moment against the dark, I have made that
jewel mine. I have hundreds of them, from the time my baby fingers
clasped my first rose, to the night you and Lynn came to bring more
sunshine into my old life. I call it my Necklace of Perfect Joy. When
the world goes wrong, I have only to close my eyes and remember all the
links in my chain, set with gems, some large and some small, but all
beautiful with the beauty which never fades. It is all I can take with
me when I go. My material possessions must stay behind, but my Necklace
of Perfect Joy will bring me happiness to the end, when I put it on, to
be nevermore unclasped.
Aunt Peace, asked Margaret, after an understanding silence, why
did you never marry?
Miss Field leaned forward and methodically stirred the fire. I may
be wrong, she said, but I have always felt that it was indelicate to
allow one's self to care for a gentleman.
IV. Social Position
On Wednesday, the dullest person might have felt that there was
something in the air. The old house, already exquisitely clean,
received further polishing without protest. Savoury odours came from
the kitchen, and Iris rubbed the tall silver candlesticks until they
shone like new.
What is it? asked Lynn. Are we going to have a party and am I
It is Wednesday, explained Iris.
Well, what of it?
Doctor Brinkerhoff comes to see Aunt Peace every Wednesday
Who is Doctor Brinkerhoff?
The family physician of East Lancaster.
He wasn't here last Wednesday.
That was because you and your mother had just come. Aunt Peace sent
him a note, saying that her attention was for the moment occupied by
other guests from out of town. It was the first Wednesday evening he
has missed for more than ten years.
Oh, said Lynn. Are they going to be married?
Aunt Peace wouldn't marry anybody. She receives Doctor Brinkerhoff
because she is sorry for him.
He has no social position, Iris continued, feeling the unspoken
question. He is not of our class and he used to live in West
Lancaster, but Aunt Peace says that any gentleman who is received by a
lady in her bedroom may also be received in her parlour. Another lady,
who thinks as Aunt Peace does, entertains him on Saturday evenings.
Iris sat there demurely, her rosy lips primly pursed, and vigorously
rubbed the tall candlestick. Lynn fairly choked with laughter. Oh, he
cried, you funny little thing!
I am not a little thing and I am not funny. I consider you very
What is 'social position'? asked Irving, instantly sobering. How
do we get it?
It is born with us, answered Iris, dipping her flannel cloth in
ammonia, and we have to live up to it. If we have low tastes, we lose
it, and it never comes back.
Wonder if I have it, mused Lynn.
Of course, Iris assured him. You are a grand-nephew of Aunt
Peace, but not so nearly related as I, because I am her legal daughter.
I was born of poor but honest parents, she went on, having evidently
absorbed the phrase from her school Reader, so I was respectable, even
at the beginning. When Aunt Peace took me, I got social position, and
if I am always a lady, I will keep it. Otherwise not.
The girl was very lovely as she leaned back in the quaint old chair
to rest for a moment. She was still regarding the candlestick
attentively and did not look at Lynn. It is strange to me, she said,
that coming from the city, as you do, you should not know about such
things. Here she sent him the quickest possible glance from a pair of
inscrutable eyes, and he began to wonder if she were not merely amusing
herself. He was tempted to kiss her, but wisely refrained.
Iris, called Aunt Peace, from the doorway, will you wash the
Royal Worcester plate? And Lynn, it is time you were practising.
Lynn worked hard until the bell rang for luncheon. When he went
down, he found the others already at the table. We did not wait for
you, Aunt Peace explained, because we were in a hurry. Immediately
after luncheon, on Wednesdays, I take my nap. I sleep from two to
three. Will you please see that the house is quiet?
She spoke to Margaret, but she looked at Lynn. Which means, said
he, that those who are studying the violin will kindly not practise
until after three o'clock, and that it would be considered a kindness
if they would not walk much in the house, their feet being heavy.
Lynn, said the old lady, irrelevantly, you are extremely
intelligent. I expect great things of you.
That weekly hour of luxury was the only relaxation in Miss Field's
busy, happy life. Breakfast at seven and bed at tenthis was the
ironclad rule of the house. Ever since she came to East Lancaster, Iris
had kept solemn guard over the front door on Wednesdays, from two to
three. Rash visitors never reached the bell, but were met, on the
doorstep, by a little maid whose tiny finger rested upon her lip.
Hush, she would say, Aunt Peace is asleep! Interruptions were
infrequent, however, for East Lancaster knew Miss Field's habitsand
Good-bye, my dears, she said, as she paused at the foot of the
winding stairs, I leave you for a far country, where, perhaps, I shall
meet some of my old friends. I shall visit strange lands and have many
new experiences, some of which will doubtless be impossible and
grotesque. I shall be gone but one short hour, and when I return I
shall have much to tell you.
She dreams, explained Iris, in a low voice, as the mistress of the
mansion smiled back at them over the railing, and when she wakes she
always tells me.
Lynn went out for a long tramp, after vainly endeavouring to
persuade his mother or Iris to accompany him. I'm walked enough at
night as it is, said Mrs. Irving, and the girl excused herself on
account of her household duties.
He clattered down the steps, banged the gate, and went whistling
down the elm-bordered path. The mother listened, fondly, till the
cheery notes died away in the distance. Bless his heart, she said to
herself, how fine and strong he is and how much I love him!
The house seemed to wait while its guardian spirit slept. Left to
herself, Margaret paced to and fro; down the long hall, then back,
through the parlour and library, and so on, restlessly, until she
reflected that she might possibly disturb Aunt Peace.
A love-lorn robin, in the overhanging boughs of the maple at the
gate, was unsuccessfully courting a disdainful lady who sat on the
topmost twig and paid no attention to him. From the distant orchard
came the breath of apple blooms, and a single bluebird winged his
solitary way across the fields, his colour gleaming brightly for an
instant against the silvery clouds. Beautiful as it was, Margaret
sighed, and her face lost its serenity.
A bit of verse sang itself through her memory again and again.
Who wins his love shall lose her,
Who loses her shall gain,
For still the spirit wooes her,
A soul without a stain,
And memory still pursues her
With longings not in vain.
* * *
In dreams she grows not older
The lands of Dream among;
Though all the world wax colder,
Though all the songs be sung,
In dreams doth he behold her
Still fair and kind and young.
Dreams, she murmured, empty dreams, while your soul starves.
Iris tiptoed in with her sewing and sat down. Margaret felt her
presence in the room, but did not turn away from the window. Iris was
one of those rare people with whom one could be silent and not feel
that the proprieties had been injured.
Deep down in her heart, Margaret had stored away all the bitterness
of her lifethat single drop which is well enough when left by itself,
because it is of a different specific gravity. When the cup is stirred,
the lees taint the whole, and it takes time for the readjustment. Were
it not for the merciful readjustment, this grey old world of ours would
be too dark to live in.
At length she turned and looked at the little seamstress, who sat
bolt upright, as she had been taught, in the carved mahogany chair. She
noted the long lashes that swept the tinted cheek, the masses of
blue-black hair over the low, white brow, the tender wistfulness in the
lines of the mouth, the dimpled hands, and the rounded armso
evidently made for all the sweet uses of love that Margaret's heart
contracted in sudden pain.
Iris, she said, in a tone that startled the girl, when the right
man comes, and you know absolutely in your own heart that he is the
right man, go with him, whether he be prince or beggar. If unhappiness
comes to you, take it bravely, as a gentlewoman should, but never, for
your own sake, allow yourself to regret your faith in him. If you love
him and he loves you, there are no barriers between youthey are
nothing but cobwebs. Sweep them aside with a single stroke of
magnificent daring, and go. Social position counts for nothing, other
people's opinions count for nothing; it is between your heart and his,
and in that sanctuary no one else has a right to intrude. If he has
only a crust to give you, share it with him, but do not let anyone
persuade you into a lifetime of heart-hungerit is too hard to bear!
The girl's deep eyes were fixed upon her, childish, appealing, and
yet with evident understanding. Margaret's face was full of tender
pitywas this butterfly, too, destined to be broken on the wheel?
Iris felt the sudden passion of the other, saw traces of suffering
in the dark eyes, the set lips, and even in the slender hands that
hovered whitely over the black gown. Thank you, Mrs. Irving, she
said, quietly, I understand.
The minutes ticked by, and no other word was spoken. At half-past
three, precisely, Aunt Peace came back. She had on her best gowna
soft, heavy black silk, simply made. At the neck and wrists were bits
of rare old lace, and her one jewel, an emerald of great beauty and
value, gleamed at her throat. She wore no rings except the worn band of
gold that had been her mother's wedding ring.
What did you dream? asked Iris.
Nothing, dearie, she laughed. I have never slept so soundly
before. Our guests have put a charm upon the house.
From the embroidered work-bag that dangled at her side, she took out
the thread lace she was making, and began to count her stitches.
I think I'll get my sewing, too, said Margaret. I feel like a
drone in this hive of industry.
One, two, three, chain, said Aunt Peace. Iris, do you think the
cakes are as good as they were last time?
I think they're even better.
Did you take out the oldest port?
Yes, the very oldest.
I trust he was not hurt, Aunt Peace went on, because last week I
asked him not to come. The common people sometimes feel those things
more keenly than aristocrats, who are accustomed to the disturbance of
Of course, he would be disappointed, said Iris, with a little
smile, but he would understandI'm sure he would.
When Margaret came back she had a white, fluffy garment over her
arm. Who would have thought, she cried, gaily, that I should ever
have the time to make myself a petticoat by hand! The atmosphere of
East Lancaster has wrought a wondrous change in me.
Iris, said Miss Field, let me see your stitches.
The girl held up her petticoata dainty garment of finest cambric,
lace-trimmed and exquisitely made, and the old lady examined it
critically. It is not what I could do at your age, she continued,
but it will answer very well.
Lynn came in noisily, remembering only at the threshold that one did
not whistle in East Lancaster houses. I had a fine tramp, he said,
all over West Lancaster and through the woods on both sides of it. I
had some flowers for all of you, but I laid them down on a stone and
forgot to go back after them. Aunt Peace, you're looking fine since you
had your nap. Still working at that petticoat, mother?
We're all making petticoats, answered Margaret. Even Aunt Peace
is knitting lace for one and Iris has hers almost done.
Let me see it, said Lynn. He reached over and took it out of the
girl's lap while she was threading her needle. Much to his surprise, it
was immediately snatched away from him. Iris paused only long enough to
administer a sounding box to the offender's ear, then marched out of
the room with her head high and her work under her arm.
Well, of all things, said Lynn, ruefully. Why wouldn't she let me
look at her petticoat?
Because, answered Aunt Peace, severely, Iris has been brought up
like a lady! Gentlemen did not expect to see ladies' petticoats when I
Oh, said Lynn, I see. His mouth twitched and he glanced sideways
at his mother. She was bending over her work, and her lips did not
move, but he could see that her eyes smiled.
* * * * *
At exactly half-past seven, the expected guest was ushered into the
parlour. Good evening, Doctor, said Miss Field, in her stately way;
I assure you this is quite a pleasure. She presented him to Mrs.
Irving and Lynn, and motioned him to an easy-chair.
He was tall, straight, and seventy; almost painfully neat, and
evidently a gentleman of the old school.
I trust you are well, madam?
I am always well, returned Aunt Peace. If all the other old
ladies in East Lancaster were as well as I, you would soon be obliged
to take down your sign and seek another location.
The others took but small part in the conversation, which was never
lively, and which, indeed, might have been stilted by the presence of
strangers. It was the commonplace talk of little things, which
distinguishes the country town, and it lasted for half an hour. As the
clock chimed eight, Miss Field smiled at him significantly.
Shall we play chess? she asked.
If the others will excuse us, I shall be charmed, he responded.
Soon they were deep in their game. Margaret went after a book she
had been reading, and the young people went to the library, where they
could talk undisturbed.
They played three games. Miss Field won the first and third, her
antagonist contenting himself with the second. It had always been so,
and for ten years she had taken a childish delight in her skill. My
dear Doctor, she often said, it takes a woman of brains to play
It does, indeed, he invariably answered, with an air of gallantry.
Once he had been indiscreet and had won all three games, but that was
in the beginning and it had never happened since.
When the clock struck ten, he looked at his heavy, old-fashioned
silver watch with apparent surprise. I had no idea it was so late, he
said. I must be going!
Pray wait a moment, Doctor. Let me offer you some refreshment
before you begin that long walk. Iris?
Yes, Aunt Peace. The girl knew very well what was expected of her,
and dimples came and went around the corners of her mouth.
Those little cakes that we had for teaperhaps there may be one or
two left, and is there not a little wine?
Smiling at the pretty comedy, she went out into the kitchen, where
Doctor Brinkerhoff's favourite cakes, freshly made, had been carefully
put away. Only one of them had been touched, and that merely to make
sure of the quality.
With the Royal Worcester plate, generously piled with cakes, a tray
of glasses, and a decanter of Miss Field's famous port, she went back
into the parlour.
This is very charming, said the Doctor. He had made the same
speech once a week for ten years. Aunt Peace filled the glasses, and
when all had been served, she looked at him with a rare smile upon her
beautiful old face.
Then the brim of his glass touched hers with the clear ring of
crystal. To your good health, madam!
And to your prosperity, she returned. The old toast still served.
And now, my dear Miss Iris, he said, may we not hope for a song?
'Annie Laurie,' if you please.
She sang the old ballad with a wealth of feeling in her deep voice,
and even Lynn, who was listening critically, was forced to admit that
she did it well.
At eleven, the guest went away, his hostess cordially inviting him
to come again.
What a charming man, said Margaret.
An old brick, added Lynn, with more force than elegance.
Yes, replied Aunt Peace, concealing a yawn behind her fan, it is
a thousand pities that he has no social position.
V. The Light of Dreams
How do you get on with the Master? asked Iris.
After a fashion, answered Irving; but I do not get on with
Fräulein Fredrika at all. She despises me.
She does not like many people.
So it would seem. I have been unfortunate from the first, though I
was careful to admire 'mine crazy jug.'
It is the apple of her eye, laughed Iris, it means to her just
what his Cremona means to him.
It is a wonderful creation, and I told her so, but where in the
dickens did she get the idea?
Don't ask me. Did you happen to notice anything else?
Noonly the violin. Sometimes I take my lesson in the parlour,
sometimes in the shop downstairs, or even in Herr Kaufmann's bedroom,
which opens off of it. When I come, he stops whatever he happens to be
doing, sits down, and proceeds with my education.
On the floor, said Iris reminiscently, she has a gold jar which
contains cat tails and grasses. It is Herr Kaufmann's silk hat, which
he used to have when he played in the famous orchestra, with the brim
cut off and plenty of gold paint put on. The gilded potato-masher, with
blue roses on it, which swings from the hanging lamp, was done by your
humble servant. She has loved me ever since.
Iris! exclaimed Lynn, reproachfully. How could you!
How could I what?
Paint anything so outrageous as that?
My dear boy, said Miss Temple, patronisingly, with her pretty head
a little to one side, you are young in the ways of the world. I was
not achieving a work of art; I was merely giving pleasure to the
Fräulein. Much trouble would be saved if people who undertake to give
pleasure would consult the wishes of the recipient in preference to
their own. Tastes differ, as even you may have observed. Personally, I
have no use for a gilded potato-masherI couldn't even live in the
same house with one,but I was pleasing her, not myself.
I wonder what I could do that would please her, said Lynn, half to
Make her something out of nothing, suggested Iris. She would like
that better than anything else. She has a wall basket made of a fish
broiler, a chair that was once a barrel, a dresser which has been
evolved from a packing box, a sofa that was primarily a cot, and a
match box made from a tin cup covered with silk and gilded on the
inside, not to mention heaps of other things.
Then what is left for me? The desirable things seem to have been
Wait, said Iris, and I'll show you. She ran off gaily, humming a
little song under her breath, and came back presently with a
clothes-pin, a sheet of orange-coloured tissue paper, an old black
ostrich feather, and her paints.
What in the world began Lynn.
Don't be impatient, please. Make the clothes-pin gold, with a black
head, and then I'll show you what to do next.
Aren't you going to help me?
Only with my valuable adviceit is your gift, you know.
Awkwardly, Lynn gilded the clothes-pin and suspended it from the
back of a chair to dry. I hope she'll like it, he said. She pointed
to me once and said something in German to her brother. I didn't
understand, but I remembered the words, and when I got home I looked
them up in my dictionary. As nearly as I could get it, she had
characterised me as 'a big, lumbering calf.'
Discerning woman, commented Iris. Now, take this sheet of tissue
paper and squeeze it up into a little ball, then straighten it out and
do it again. When it's all soft and crinkly, I'll tell you what to do
There, exclaimed Lynn, finally, if it's squeezed up any more it
Now paint the head of the clothes-pin and make some straight black
lines on the middle of it, cross ways.
Will you please tell me what I'm making?
Wait and see!
Obeying instructions, he fastened the paper tightly in the fork of
the clothes-pin, and spread it out on either side. The corners were cut
and pulled into the semblance of wings, and black circles were painted
here and there. Iris herself added the finishing touchtwo bits of the
ostrich feather glued to the top of the head for antennæ.
Oh, cried Lynn, in pleased surprise, a butterfly!
How hideous! said Margaret, pausing in the doorway. I trust it's
not meant for me.
It's for the Fräulein, answered Iris, gathering up her paints and
sweeping aside the litter. Lynn has made it all by himself.
I wonder how he stands it, mused Irving, critically inspecting the
I asked him once, said Iris, if he liked all the queer things in
his house, and he shrugged his shoulders. 'What good is mine art to
me,' he asked, 'if it makes me so I cannot live with mine sister?
Fredrika likes the gay colours, such as one sees in the fields, but
they hurt mine eyes. Still because the tidies and the crazy jug swear
to me, it is no reason for me to hurt mine sister's feelings. We have a
large house. Fredrika has the upstairs and I have the downstairs. When
I can no longer stand the bright lights, I can turn mine back and look
out of the window, or I can go down in the shop with mine violins. Down
there I see no colours and I can put mine feet on all chairs.'
Lynn laughed, but Margaret, who was listening intently, only smiled
That afternoon, when the boy went up the hill, with the butterfly
dangling from his hand by a string, he was greeted with childish cries
of delight on either side. Hoping for equal success at the Master's, he
rang the bell, and the Fräulein came to the door. When she saw who it
was, her face instantly became hard and forbidding.
Mine brudder is not home, she said, frostily.
I know, answered Lynn, with a winning smile, but I came to see
you. See, I made this for you.
Wonder and delight were in her eyes as she took it from his
outstretched hand. For me?
Yes, all for you. I made it.
You make this for me by yourself alone?
No, Miss Temple helped me.
Miss Temple, repeated the Fräulein, she is most kind. And you
likewise, she hastened to add. It will be of a niceness if Miss
Temple and you shall come to mine house to tea to-morrow evening.
I'll ask her, he returned, and thank you very much. Thus Lynn
made his peace with Fräulein Fredrika.
* * * * *
Laughing like two irresponsible children, they went up the hill
together at the appointed time. Lynn's arms were full of wild
crab-apple blooms, which he had taken a long walk to find, and Iris had
two little pots of preserves as her contribution to the feast.
Their host and hostess were waiting for them at the door. Fräulein
Fredrika was very elegant in her best gown, and her sharp eyes were
kind. The Master was clad in rusty black, which bore marks of frequent
sponging and occasional pressing. It is most kind, he said, bowing
gallantly to Iris; and you, young man, I am glad to see you, as
Iris found a stone jar for the apple blossoms and brought them in.
The Master's fine old face beamed as he drew a long breath of pink and
white sweetness. It is like magic, he said. I think inside of every
tree there must be some beautiful young lady, such as we read about in
the old booksa young lady something like Miss Iris. All Winter, when
it is cold, she sleeps in her soft bed, made from the silk lining of
the bark. Then one day the sun shines warm and the robin sings to her
and wakes her. 'What,' says she, 'is it so soon Spring? I must get to
work right away at mine apple blossoms.'
Then she stoops down for some sand and some dirt. In her hands she
moulds itsoreaching out for some rain to keep it together. Then she
says one charm. With a forked stick she packs it into every little
place inside that apple tree and sprinkles some more of it over the
'Now,' says she, 'we must wait, for I have done mine work well. It
is for the sun and the wind and the rain to finish.' So the rain makes
all very wet, and the wind blows and the sun shines, and presently the
sand and dirt that she has put in is changed to sap that is so glad it
runs like one squirrel all over the inside of the tree and tries to
sing like one bird.
'So,' says this young lady, 'it is as I thought.' Then she says one
more charm, and when the sun comes up in the morning, it sees that the
branches are all covered with buds and leaves. The young lady and the
moon work one little while at it in the evening, and the next morning,
The Master buried his face in the fragrant blooms. It is a most
wonderful sweetness, he went on. It is wind and grass and sun, and
the souls of all the apple blossoms that are dead.
Franz, called Fräulein Fredrika, you will bring them out to tea,
As the entertainment progressed, Lynn's admiration of Iris
increased. She seemed equally at home in Miss Field's stately mansion
and in the tiny bird-house on the brink of a precipice, where
everything appeared to be made out of something else. She was in high
spirits and kept them all laughing. Yet, in spite of her merry chatter,
there was an undertone of tender wistfulness that set his heart to
The Master, too, was at his best. Usually, he was reserved and
quiet, but to-night the barriers were down. He told them stories of his
student days in Germany, wonderful adventures by land and sea, and
conjured up glimpses of the kings and queens of the Old World. Life,
he sighed, is very strange. One begins within an hour's walk of the
Imperial Palace, where sometimes one may see the Kaiser and the
Kaiserin, and one endshere!
Wherever one may be, that is the best place, said the Fräulein.
The dear God knows. Yet sometimes I, too, must think of mine Germany
and wish for it.
Fredrika! cried the Master, are you not happy here?
Indeed, yes, Franz, always. Her harsh voice was softened and her
piercing eyes were misty. One saw that, however carefully hidden, there
was great love between these two.
Iris helped the Fräulein with the dishes, in spite of her protests.
One does not ask one's guests to help with the work, she said.
But just suppose, answered Iris, laughing, that one's guests have
washed dishes hundreds of times at home!
In the parlour, meanwhile, the Master talked to Lynn. He told him of
great violinists he had heard and of famous old violins he had
seenbut there was never a word about the Cremona.
Mine friend, the Doctor, said the Master, do you perchance know
Yes, answered Lynn, I have that pleasure. He's all right, isn't
So he thinks, returned the Master, missing the point of the
phrase. In an argument, one can never convince him. He thinks it is
for me to go out on one grand tour and give many concerts and secure
much fame, but why should I go, I ask him, when I am happy here? So
many people know what should make one happy a thousand times better
than the happy one knows. Life, he said again, is very strange.
It was a long time before he spoke again. I have had mine fame, he
said. I have played to great houses both here and abroad, and women
have thrown red roses at me and mine violin. There has been much in the
papers, and I have had many large sums, which, of course, I have always
given to the poor. One should use one's art to do good with and not to
become rich. I have mine house, mine clothes, all that is good for me
to eat, mine sister and mine he hesitated for an instant, and Lynn
knew he was thinking of the Cremona. Mine violins, he concluded,
mine little shop where I make them, and best of all, mine dreams.
Iris came back and Fräulein Fredrika followed her. If you will give
me all the little shells, she was saying, I will stick them together
with glue and make mineself one little house to sit on the parlour
table. It will be most kind. Her voice was caressing and her face
fairly shone with joy.
I will light the lamp, she went on. It is dark here now. Suiting
the action to the word, she pulled down the lamp that hung by heavy
chains in the centre of the room, and the gilded potato-masher swung
back and forth violently.
No, no, Fredrika, said the Master. It is not a necessity to light
Herr Irving, she began, would you not like the lamp to see by?
Not at all, answered Lynn. I like the twilight best.
Come, Fräulein, said Iris, sit over here by me. Did I tell you
how you could make a little clothes-brush out of braided rope and a bit
of blue ribbon?
No, returned the Fräulein, excitedly, you did not. It will be
most kind if you will do it now.
The women talked in low tones and the others were silent without
listening. The street was in shadow, and here and there lanterns
flashed in the dark. Down in the valley, velvety night was laid over
the river and the willows that grew along its margin, but the last
light lingered on the blue hills above, and a single star had set its
exquisite lamp to gleaming against the afterglow.
The wings of darkness hovered over the little house, and yet no word
was spoken. It was an intimate hush, such as sometimes falls between
lovers, who have no need of speech. Lynn and Iris looked forward to the
future, with the limitless hope of Youth, while the others brooded over
a past which had brought each of them a generous measure of joy and
The full moon came out from behind the clouds and flooded the valley
with silver light. Oh, cried Iris, how glorious it is!
Yes, said the Master, it is the light of dreams. All the ugliness
is hidden, as in life, when one can dream. Only the beauty is left.
Wait, I will play it to you.
He went downstairs for his violin and Lynn moved closer to Iris.
Fräulein Fredrika retreated into the shadow at the farthest corner of
Presently the Master returned, snapping and tightening the strings.
It was not the Cremona, but the other. He sat down by the window and
the moonlight touched his face caressingly. He was grey with his fifty
years and more, but as he sat there, his massive head thrown back and
his hair silvered, he seemed very near to the Gates of Youth.
In a moment, he was lost to his surroundings. He tapped the bow on
the sill, as an orchestra leader taps for attention, straightened
himself, smiled, and began.
It was a rippling, laughing melody, played on muted strings, full of
unexpected harmonies, and quaintly phrased. In a moment, they caught
the witchery of it, and the meaning. It was Titania and her fairies,
suddenly transported half-way around the world.
Mystery and magic were in the theme. Moonbeams shimmered through it,
elves played here and there, and shining waters sang through Summer
silences. All at once there was a pause, then, sonorous, deep, and
splendid, came another harmony, which in impassioned beauty voiced the
ministry of pain.
As before, Lynn saw chiefly the technique. Never for a moment did he
forget the instrument. Iris was trembling, for she well knew those high
and lonely places of the spirit, within the borders of Gethsemane.
The Master put down the violin and sighed. Come, faltered Iris,
it is late and we must go.
He did not hear, and it was Fräulein Fredrika who went to the door
with them. Franz is thinking, she whispered. He is often like that.
He will be most sorry when he learns that you have gone.
This way, said Iris, when they reached the street. They went to
the brow of the cliff and looked once more across the shadowed valley
to the luminous ranges of the everlasting hills. She turned away at
last, thrilled to the depths of her soul. Come, she whispered, we
must go back.
They walked softly, as though they feared to disturb someone in the
little house, but there was no sound from within nor any light save at
the window, where the light of dreams streamed over the Master's face
and made it young.
VI. A Letter
Roses rioted through East Lancaster and made the gardens glorious
with bloom. The year was at its bridal and every chalice was filled
with fragrant incense. Bees, powdered with pollen, hummed slowly back
and forth, and the soft whir of unnumbered gossamer wings came in
drowsy melody from the distant clover fields.
June, sang Iris to herself, JuneOh June, sweet June!
She was getting ready for her daily trip to the post-office. Once in
a great while there would be a letter there for Aunt Peace or Mrs.
Irving. Lynn also had an intermittent correspondent or two, but the
errand usually proved fruitless. Still, since Mrs. Irving's letter had
lain nearly two weeks in Miss Field's box, uncalled for, it had been a
point of honour with Iris to see that such a thing did not happen
Books and papers were supplied in abundance by the local circulating
library, and the high bookcases at Miss Field's were well filled with
standard literature. Iris read everything she could lay her hands upon.
Mere print exercised a certain fascination over her mind, and she had
conscientiously finished every book that she had begun. Those early
years, after all, are the most important. The old books are the best,
and how few of us have the time to read them!
Ten years of browsing in a well equipped library will do much for
anyone, and Iris had made the most of her opportunities. This girl of
twenty, hemmed about by the narrow standards of East Lancaster, had a
broad outlook upon life, a large view, that would have done credit to a
woman of twice her age. From the beginning, the people of the books had
been real to her, and she had filled the old house with the fairy
figures of romance.
Of the things that make for happiness, the love of books comes
first. No matter how the world may have used us, sure solace lies
there. The weary, toilsome day drags to its disheartening close, and
both love and friendship have proved powerless to appreciate or
understand, but in the quiet corner consolation can always be found. A
single shelf, perhaps, suffices for one's few treasures, but who shall
say it is not enough?
A book, unlike any other friend, will wait, not only upon the hour,
but upon the mood. It asks nothing and gives much, when one comes in
the right way. The volumes stand in serried ranks at attention,
listening eagerly, one may fancy, for the command.
Is your world a small one, made unendurable by a thousand petty
cares? Are the heart and soul of you cast down by bitter
disappointment? Would you leave it all, if only for an hour, and come
back with a new point of view? Then open the covers of a book.
With this gentle comrade, you may journey to the very end of the
world and even to the beginning of civilisation. There is no land which
you may not visit, from Arctic snows to the loftiest peaks of southern
mountains. Gallant gentlemen will go with you and tell you how to
appreciate what you see. Further still, there are excursions into the
boundless regions of imagination, where the light of dreams has laid
its surpassing beauty over all.
Would you wander in company with soldiers of Fortune, and share
their wonderful adventures? Would you live in the time of the Crusades
and undertake a pilgrimage in the name of the Cross? Would you smell
the smoke of battle, hear the ring of steel, the rattle of musketry,
and see the colours break into deathly beauty well in advance of the
charge? Would you have for your friends a great company of noble men
and women who have wrought and suffered and triumphed in the end? Would
you find new courage, stronger faith, and serene hope? Then open the
covers of a book, and prestochange!
* * * * *
Iris, called Aunt Peace, you're surely not going without your
Of course not. The colour that came and went in her damask cheeks
was very like that in her pink dimity gown. She put on her white hat,
the brim drooping beneath its burden of pink roses, and drew her gloves
reluctantly over her dimpled hands.
Iris, dear, your sunshade!
Yes, Aunt Peace. She came back, a little unwillingly, but tan was
a personal disgrace in East Lancaster.
Ready at last, she tripped down the path and closed the gate
carefully. Mrs. Irving waved a friendly hand at her from the upper
window. Bring me a letter! she called.
I'll try to, answered Iris, but I can't promise.
She lifted her gown a little, to keep it clear of burr and brier,
and one saw the smooth, black silk stocking, chastely embroidered at
the ankle, as one suspected, by the hand of the wearer, and the dainty,
high-heeled shoes. The sunshade waved back and forth coquettishly. It
seemed to be an airy ornament, rather than an article of utility.
Half-way down the street, she met Doctor Brinkerhoff. Good morning,
little lady, he said, with a smile.
Good morning, sir, replied Iris, with a quaint courtesy. I trust
you are well?
My health is uniformly good, he returned, primly. You must
remember that I have my own drugs and potions always at hand. He made
careful inquiries as to the physical and mental well-being of each
member of the family, sent kindly salutations to all, made a low bow to
Iris, and went on.
A very pleasant gentleman, she said to herself. What a pity that
he has no social position!
She loitered at the bridge, hanging over the railing, and looked
down into the sunny depths of the little stream. All through the sweet
Summer, the brook sang cheerily, by night and by day. It began in a
cool, crystal pool, far up among the hills, and wandered over mossy
reaches and pebbly ways, singing meanwhile of all the fragrant woodland
through which it came. Hidden springs in subterranean caverns, caught
by the laughing melody, went out to meet it and then followed, as the
children followed the Pied Piper of old. Great with its gathered
waters, it still sang as it rippled onward to its destiny, dreaming,
perchance, of the time when its liquid music, lost at last, should be
merged into the vast symphony of the sea.
Lynn came down the hill, swinging his violin case, and Iris, a
little consciously, went on to the post-office.
Standing on tiptoe, she peered into the letter box, and then her
heart gave a little leap, for there were two, yes three letters there.
Wait a moment, called the grizzled veteran who served as
postmaster. I've finally got something fer ye! Here! Miss Peace Field,
Mrs. Margaret Irving, and Miss Iris Temple.
Oh-h! whispered Iris, in awe, a letter for me?
'Tain't fer nobody else, I reckon, laughed the old man. Anyhow,
it's got your name on it.
She went out, half dazed. In all her life she had had but three
letters; two from her mother, which she still kept, and one from Santa
Claus. The good saint had left his communication in the little maid's
stocking one Christmas eve, and it was more than a year before Iris
observed that Aunt Peace and Santa Claus wrote precisely the same hand.
For me, she said to herself, all for me!
It never entered her pretty head to open it. The handwriting was
unfamiliar and the post-mark was blurred, but it seemed to have come
from the next town. The whole thing was very disturbing, but Aunt Peace
Then Iris stopped suddenly in the path. It might be wicked, but,
after all, why should Aunt Peace know? Why not have just one little
secret, all to herself? The daring of it almost took her breath away,
but in that single, dramatic instant, she decided.
No one was in sight, and Iris, in the shadow of a maple, tucked the
letter safely away in her stocking, fancying she heard it rustle as she
In her brief experience of life there had seldom been so long a day.
The hours stretched on interminably, and she was never alone. She did
not forget the letter for a moment, and when she had once become
accustomed to the wonder of it, she was conscious of a growing, very
A little after ten, when she had dutifully kissed Aunt Peace good
night, she stood alone in her room with her heart wildly beating. The
door was locked and there was not even the sound of a footstep. Surely,
she might read it now!
By the flickering light of her candle, she cut it at the end with
the scissors, drew out the letter, and unfolded it with trembling
Iris, Daughter of the Marshes, it began, how shall I tell you
of your loveliness? You are straight and slender as the rushes,
dainty as a moonbeam, and sweet as a rose of June. Your dimpled
hands make me think of white flowers, and the flush on your
cheeks is like that on the petals of the first anemone.
Midnight itself sleeps in your hair, fragrant as the Summer
dusk, and your laughing lips have the colour of a scarlet
geranium, but your eyes, my dear one, how shall I write to you
of your eyes? They have the beauty of calm, wide waters, when
sunset has given them that wonderful blue; they are eyes a man
might look into during his last hour in the world, and think
whole life well spent because of them.
Do you think me boldyour unknown lover? I am bold because my
heart makes me so, and because there is no other way. I dare
not ask for an answer, nor tell you my name, but if you are
displeased, I am sure I have a way of finding it out. Perhaps
you wonder where I have seen you, so I will tell you this. I
have seen you, more than once, going to the post-office in East
Lancaster, and, no matter how, I have learned your name.
Some day, perhaps, I shall see you face to face. Some day you
may give me your gracious permission to tell you all that is in
my heart. Until then, remember that I am your knight, that you
are my lady, and that I love you, Iris, love you!
* * * * *
Her eyes were as luminous as the stars that shone upon the breast of
night. If the heavens had suddenly opened, she could not have been more
surprised. Her first love letter! At a single bound she had gained her
place beside those fair ladies of romance, who peopled her maiden
dreams. From to-night, she stood apart; no longer a child, but a woman
worshipped afar, by some gallant lover who feared to sign his name.
She put out the candle, for the moonlight filled the room, and
pattered across the polished floor, in her bare feet, to her little
white bed, the letter in her hand.
Rose bloom fell on her hands, together prest,
And on her silver cross soft amethyst.
The hours went by and still Iris was awake, the mute paper crushed
close against her breast. I wonder, she murmured, her crimson face
hidden in the pillow, I wonder who he can be!
The Doctor's modest establishment consisted of two rooms over the
post-office. Here his shingle swung idly in the Summer breeze or
resisted the onslaughts of the Winter storms. The infrequent patient
seldom met anyone else in the office, but in case there should be two
at once, a dusty chair had been placed in the hall.
Both rooms were kept scrupulously clean by the wife of the
postmaster, who lived on the same floor, but the bottles ranged in
orderly rows upon the shelves were left severely alone, because the
ministering influence lived in hourly dread of poison.
Here the family physician of East Lancaster lived out his monotonous
existence. When he had first taken up his abode there, he had set up
his household gods upon the hill, in company with his countrymen. He
soon found, however, that his practice was confined to the hill, and
that, for all he might know to the contrary, East Lancaster was unaware
of his existence.
It was the postmaster who first set him right. If you're a-layin'
out to heal them as has the money to pay for it, he had said, you'll
have to move. This yere brook, what seems so innocent-like, is the
chalk mark that partitions the sheep off from the goats. You'll find it
so in every place. Sometimes it's water, sometimes it's a car track,
and sometimes a deepo, but it's always there, though more 'n likely
there ain't no real line exceptin' the one what's drawn in folks' fool
heads. I reckon, bein' as you're a doctor, you're familiar with that
line down the middle of human's brains. Well, this yere brook is
practically the same thing, considerin' East and West Lancaster for a
minute as brains, the which is a high compliment to both.
So, at the earliest possible moment, the Doctor had cast in his
fortunes with the quality. East Lancaster affected refined
astonishment at first, but when the resident physician, who had long
enjoyed the deep respect of the community, had been gathered to his
fathers, Doctor Brinkerhoff became the last resort. His skill was
universally admitted, but no one went to his office, for fear of
meeting undesirable strangers. It was thought to be in better taste to
pay the double fee and have the Doctor call, even for such slight
ailments as boils and cut fingers.
The man was mentally broad enough to be amused at the eccentricities
of East Lancaster, though his keen old eyes did not fail to discern
that he was merely tolerated where he had hoped to find friends. Within
the narrow confines of his establishment, he cultivated a serene and
comfortable philosophy. To suit himself to his environment when that
environment was out of his power to change, to seek for the good in
everything and resolutely refuse to be affected by the bad, to believe
steadfastly in the law of Compensationthis was Doctor Brinkerhoff's
On Wednesday and Saturday evenings, he was received as an equal by
two of the aristocratic families. On Sunday mornings, he never failed
to attend church. Before the last notes of the bell died away, he was
always in his place. After the service, he hurried away, making courtly
acknowledgments on every side to the formal greetings.
Sunday afternoons, precisely at half-past four, he went up the hill
to Herr Kaufmann's and spent the evening. This weekly visit was the
leaven of Fräulein Fredrika's humdrum life. There was a sort of romance
about it which glorified the commonplace and she looked forward to it
with repressed excitement. Poor Fräulein Fredrika! Perhaps she, too,
had her dreams.
In many respects the two men were kindred. Their conversations were
frequently perfunctory, but lacked no whit of sustaining grace for
that. Talk, after all, is pathetically cheap. Where one cannot
understand without words, no amount of explanation will make things
clear. Across impassable deeps, like lofty peaks of widely parted
ranges, soul greets soul. Separated forever by the limitations of our
clay, we live and die absolutely alone. Even Love, the magician, who
for dazzling moments gives new sight and boundless revelation, cannot
always work his charm. A third of our lives is spent in sleep, and who
shall say what proportion of the rest is endured in planetary
June came through the open windows of the house upon the brink of
the cliff and the Master dozed in his chair. The height was glaring,
because there were no trees. The spirit of German progress had cut down
every one of the lofty pines and maples, save at the edges of the
settlement, where primeval woods, sloping down to the valley, still
Fräulein Fredrika sat with her face resolutely turned to the west.
It was Sunday and almost half-past four, but she would not look for the
expected guest. She preferred to concentrate her mind upon something
else, and when the rusty bell-wire creaked, experience all the emotion
of a delightful surprise.
At the appointed hour, he came, and the colour of dead rose petals
bloomed on the Fräulein's withered face. Herr Doctor, she said, it
is most kind. Mine brudder will be pleased.
Wake up! cried the Doctor, with a hearty laugh, as he strode into
the room. You can't sleep all the time!
So, said the Master, with an understanding smile, as he
straightened himself and rubbed his eyes, it is you!
Fräulein Fredrika sat in the corner and watched the two whom she
loved best in all the world. No one was so wise as her Franz, unless it
might be the Herr Doctor, to whom all the mysteries of life and death
were as an open book.
To me, said the Doctor, once, much has been given to see. My
Father has graciously allowed me to help Him. I am first to welcome the
soul that arrives from Him, and I am last to say farewell to those He
takes back. What wonder if, now and then, I presume to send Him a
message of my faith and my belief?
The Master's idea of satisfying companionship was not a flow of
uninterrupted talk, marred by much levity. He merely asked that his
friend should be near at hand, that he might communicate with him when
he chose. When he had a thought which seemed worthy of dignified
inspection, he would offer it, but not before.
On this particular afternoon, Lynn was exceedingly restless. Like
many other men, to whom the thing is impossible, he vaguely feared
feminisation. The variety of soft influences continually about him had
a subtle, enervating effect.
Iris was reading, his mother was writing letters, and Aunt Peace was
endeavouring to entertain him with reminiscences of her early youth.
When life lies fair in the distance, with the rosy hues of anticipation
transfiguring its rugged steeps and yawning chasms, we are young,
though our years may number threescore and ten. On that first day when
we look back, either happily or with remorse, to the stony ways over
which we have travelled, losing concern for that part of the journey
which is yet to come, we have grown old.
That is very interesting, said Lynn, when Aunt Peace had finished
her description of the first school she attended. I think I'll go out
for a walk now, if you don't mind. Will you tell mother, please, when
she comes down?
He went off at a rapid pace and made a long, circling tour of East
Lancaster, ending at the bridge, where he, too, leaned over and looked
into the sunny depths of the stream. Doctor Brinkerhoff's sign, waving
in the wind, gave him an idea. Accidentally, he had hit upon his need;
he hungered for the companionship of his kind.
But Doctor Brinkerhoff was not at home, and the deserted corridors
echoed strangely beneath his tread. He walked the length of the long
hall a few times, because there seemed nothing else to do, and the
Doctor's cat, locked in the office, mewed piteously.
Poor pussy! said Lynn, consolingly, I wish I could let you out,
but I can't.
Up the hill he went, his nameless irritation already sensibly
decreased. After all, it was good to be aliveto breathe the free air,
feel the warm sun upon his cheek and the springy turf beneath his feet.
Someone is coming, announced Fräulein Fredrika. I think it will
be the Herr Irving.
Herr Irving, repeated the Master. Mine pupil? It is not the day
for his lesson.
Perhaps someone is ill, suggested the Doctor.
But, as it happened, Lynn had no errand save that of pure
friendliness. His buoyant spirits immediately gave a freshness to the
time-worn themes of conversation, and they talked until sunset.
It is good to have friends, observed the Master. In one's wide
acquaintance every person has his own place. You lose one friend,
perhaps, and you think, 'Well, I can get along without him,' but it is
not so. We have as many sides as we know people, and each acquaintance
sees a different one, which is often only a reflection of himself.
This afternoon, we have been speaking of Truth, and how it is that
things entirely opposite each other can both be true. The Herr Doctor
says it is because Truth has many sides, but I say no. Truth is one
clear white light and we are sun-glasses with many corners. Prisms, I
think you say. If the light strikes a sharp edge, it breaks into many
colours. To one of us everything will be purple, to another red, and to
yet one more it will be all blue. If we have many edges, we see many
colours. It is only the person who is in tune, who lets the light pass
with no interruption, who sees all things in one harmony, and Truth as
Yes, said the Doctor, that is all very true. When we oppose our
personal opinion to the thing as it is, and have our minds set upon
what should be, according to our ideas, it makes an edge. I think it is
the finest art of living to see things as they are and make the best of
them. There is so little that we can change! If the colours break over
us, it is the fault of our sharp edges and not of the light.
We are getting very serious, observed Lynn. For my part, I take
each day just as it comes.
One day, repeated the Master. How many possible things there are
in it! What was it the poet said of Herr Columbus? Yes, I have it now.
'One day with life and hope and heart is time enough to find a world.'
That is the beauty of it, put in the Doctor. One day is surely
enough. An old lady who had fallen and hurt herself badly said to me
once: 'Doctor, how long must I lie here?' 'Have patience, my dear
madam,' said I. 'You have only one day at a time to live. Get all the
content you can out of it, and let the rest wait, like a bud, till the
sun of to-morrow shows you the rose.'
Did she get well? asked Lynn.
Of coursewhy not?
His sick ones always get well, said Fräulein Fredrika, timidly.
Mine brudder's friend possesses great skill.
She was laying the table for the simple Sunday night tea, and Lynn
said that he must go.
No, no, objected the Master, you must stay.
It would be of a niceness, the Fräulein assured him, very
We should enjoy it, said the Doctor.
You are all very kind, returned Lynn, but they will look for me
at home, and I must not disappoint them.
Then, continued the Doctor, may I not hope that you will play for
me before you go?
Certainly, if I have Herr Kaufmann's permission, and if I may
borrow one of his violins.
Of a surety. The Master clattered down the uncarpeted stairs and
returned with an instrument of his own make. Without accompaniment,
Lynn played, and the Doctor nodded his enthusiastic approval. Herr
Kaufmann looked out of the window and paid not the slightest attention
to the performance.
Very fine, said the Doctor. We have enjoyed it.
I am glad, replied Lynn, modestly. Then, flushed with the praise,
and his own pleasure in his achievement, he turned to the Master. How
am I getting on? he asked, anxiously. Don't you think I am
Yes, returned the Master, dryly; by next week you will be one
Stung by the sarcasm, Lynn went home, and after tea the group
resolved itself into its original elements. Herr Kaufmann and the
Doctor sat in their respective easy-chairs, conversing with each other
by means of silences, with here and there a word of comment, and
Fräulein Fredrika was in the corner, silent, too, and yet overcome with
That boy, said the Doctor, at length, he has genius.
The crescent moon gleamed faintly against the sunset, and a wayworn
robin, with slow-beating wings, circled toward his nest in one of the
maples on the other side of the valley. The fragrant dusk sheltered the
little house, which all day had borne the heat of the sun.
Possibly, said the Master, but no heart, no feeling. He is all
There was another long pause. His mother, observed the Doctor, do
you know her?
No. I meet no women but mine sister.
She is a lovely lady.
It was evident that the Master had no interest in Margaret Irving,
but the Doctor still brooded upon the vision. She was different from
anyone else in East Lancaster, and he admired her very much.
That boy, said the Doctor, again, he has her eyes.
The interval lengthened into an hour, and presently the kitchen
clock struck ten. I shall go now, remarked the Doctor, rising.
Not yet, said the Master. Come!
They went downstairs together, into the shop. It had happened
before, though rarely, and the Doctor suspected that he was about to
receive the greatest possible kindness from his friend's hands. Herr
Kaufmann disappeared into his bedroom and was gone a long time.
The room was dark, and the Doctor did not dare to move for fear of
stepping upon some of the wood destined for violins. A cricket in the
corner sang cheerily and ceased suddenly in the middle of a chirp when
the Master came back with a lighted candle.
One moment, Herr Doctor.
He whisked off again and presently returned, holding under his arm
something that was wrapped in many pieces of ragged silk. One by one
these were removed, and at last the treasure was revealed.
He held it off at arm's length, where the light might shine upon its
beauty, and well out of reach of a random touch. The Doctor said the
expected thing, but it fell upon deaf ears. The Master's fine face was
alight with more than earthly joy, and he stroked the brown breasts
Mine Cremona! he breathed. Mineall mine!
VIII. A Bit of Human Driftwood
Present company excepted, remarked Lynn, this village is full of
At what age does one get to be a 'fossil,' asked Aunt Peace, her
eyes twinkling. Seventy-five?
That isn't fair, Lynn answered, resentfully. You're younger than
any of us, Aunt Peace,you're seventy-five years young.
So I am, she responded, good humouredly. She was upon excellent
terms with this tall, straight young fellow who had brought new life
into her household. A March wind, suddenly sweeping through her rooms,
would have had much the same effect.
Am I a fossil? asked Margaret, who had overheard the conversation.
You're nothing but a kid, mother. You've never grown up. I can do
what I please with you. He picked her up, bodily, and carried her,
flushed and protesting, to her favourite chair, and dumped her into it.
Aunt Peace, is there any place in the house where you might care to
Thank you, no. I'll stay where I am, if I may. I'm very
Lynn paced back and forth with a heavy tread which resounded upon
the polished floor. Iris happened to be passing the door and looked in,
anxiously, for signs of damage.
Iris, laughed Miss Field, what a little old maid you are! You
remind me of that story we read together.
Which story, Aunt Peace?
The one in which the over-neat woman married a careless man to
reform him. She used to follow him around with a brush and dustpan and
sweep up after him.
That would make him nice and comfortable, observed Lynn. What
became of the man?
He was sent to the asylum.
And the woman? asked Margaret.
She died of a broken heart.
I think I'd be in the asylum too, said Lynn. I do not desire to
be swept up after.
Nobody desires to sweep up after you, retorted Iris, but it has
to be done. Otherwise the house would be uninhabitable.
East Lancaster, continued Lynn, irrelevantly, is the abode of
mummies and fossils. The city seal is a broomat least it should be. I
was never in such a clean place in my life. The exhibits themselves
look as though they'd been freshly dusted. Dirt is wholesomedidn't
you ever hear that? How the population has lived to its present
advanced age, is beyond me.
We have never really lived, returned Iris, with a touch of
sarcasm, until recently. Before you came, we existed. Now East
Who's the pious party in brown silk with the irregular dome on her
roof? asked Lynn.
The minister's second wife, answered Aunt Peace, instantly
gathering a personality from the brief description.
So, as Herr Kaufmann says. Might one inquire about the jewel she
It's just a pin, said Iris.
It looks more like a glass case. In someway, it reminds me of a
It has some of her first husband's hair in it, explained Iris.
Jerusalem! cried Lynn. That's the limit! Fancy the feelings of
the happy bridegroom whose wife wears a jewel made out of her first
husband's fur! Not for me! When I take the fatal step, it won't be a
That, remarked Margaret, calmly, is as it may be. We have the
reputation of being a bad lot.
Lynn flushed, patted his mother's hand awkwardly, and hastily beat a
retreat. They heard him in the room overhead, walking back and forth,
and practising feverishly.
Margaret, asked Miss Field, suddenly, what are you going to make
of that boy?
A good man first, she answered. After that, what God pleases.
By a swift change, the conversation had become serious, and, always
quick at perceiving hidden currents, Iris felt herself in the way.
Making an excuse, she left them.
For some time each was occupied with her own thoughts. Margaret,
said Miss Field, again, then hesitated.
Yes, Aunt Peacewhat is it?
My little girl. I have been thinkingafter I am gone, you know.
Don't talk so, dear Aunt Peace. We shall have you with us for a
long time yet.
I hope so, returned the old lady, brightly, but I am not endowed
with immortalityat least not here,and I have already lived more
than my allotted threescore and ten. My problem is not a new oneI
have had it on my mind for years,and when you came I thought that
perhaps you had come to help me solve it.
And so I have, if I can.
My little girl, said Aunt Peace,and the words were a
caress,she has given to me infinitely more than I have given to her.
I have never ceased to bless the day I found her.
Between these two there were no questions, save the ordinary,
meaningless ones which make so large a part of conversation. The deeps
were silently passed by; only the shallows were touched.
You have the right to know, Miss Field continued. Iris is twenty
now, or possibly twenty-one. She has never known when her birthday
came, and so we celebrate it on the anniversary of the day I found her.
I was driving through the country, fifteen or twenty miles from
East Lancaster. II was with Doctor Brinkerhoff, she went on,
unwillingly. He had asked me to go and see a patient of his, in whom,
from what he had told me, I had learned to take great interest. Doctor
Brinkerhoff, she said, sturdily, is a gentleman, though he has no
Yes, replied Margaret, seeing that an answer was expected, he is
a charming gentleman.
It was a warm Summer day, and on our way back we came upon a dozen
or more ragged children, playing in the road. They refused to let us
pass, and we could not run over them. A dilapidated farmhouse stood
close by, but no one was in sight.
'Please hold the lines,' said the Doctor. 'I will get out and lead
the horse past this most unnecessary obstruction.' When he got out, the
children began to throw stones at the horse. It was a young animal, and
it started so violently that I was almost thrown from my seat. One
child, a girl of ten, climbed into the buggy and shrieked to the rest:
'I'll hold the linesget more stones!'
I was frightened and furiously angry, but I could do nothing, for I
had only one hand free. I tried to make the child sit down, and she
struck at me. Her torn sleeve fell back, and I saw that her arm was
bruised, as if with heavy blows.
Meanwhile the Doctor had led the horse a little way ahead, and had
come back. The whole tribe was behind us, yelling like wild Indians,
and we were in the midst of a rain of stones. Doctor Brinkerhoff got in
and started the horse at full speed.
'We'll put her down,' he said, 'a little farther on. She can walk
She was quiet, and her head was down, but I had one look from her
eyes that haunts me yet. She hated everybodyyou could see that,and
yet there was a sort of dumb helplessness about it that made my heart
She got out, obediently, when we told her to, and stood by the
roadside, watching us. 'Doctor,' I said, 'that child is not like the
others, and she has been badly used. I want herI want to take her
home with me.'
'Bless your kind heart, dear lady,' he replied, laughing, and we
were almost at home before I convinced him that I was in earnest. He
would not let me go there again, but the very next day, he went, late
in the afternoon, and brought her to me after dark, so that no one
might see. East Lancaster has always made the most of every morsel of
The poor little soul was hungry, frightened, and oh, so dirty! I
gave her a bath, cut off her hair, which was matted close to her head,
fed her, and put her into a clean bed. The bruises on her body would
have brought tears from a stone. I sat by her until she was asleep, and
then went down to interview the Doctor, who was reading in the library.
He said that the people who had her were more than glad to get rid
of her, and hoped that they might never see her again. Nothing had been
paid toward her support for a long time, and they considered themselves
Of course I put detectives at work upon the case and soon found out
all there was to know. She was the daughter of a play-actress, whose
stage name was Iris Temple. Her husband deserted her a few months after
their marriage, and when the child was born, she was absolutely
destitute. Finally, she found work, but she could not take the child
with her, and so Iris does not remember her mother at all. For six
years she paid these people a small sum for the care of the child, then
remittances ceased, and abuse began. We learned that she had died in a
hospital, but there was no trace of the father.
There was no one to dispute my title, so I at once made it legal.
Shortly afterward, she had a long, terrible fever, and oh, Margaret,
the things that poor child said in her delirium! Doctor Brinkerhoff was
here night and day, and his skill saved her, but when she came out of
it she was a pitiful little ghost. Mercifully, she had forgotten a
great deal, but even now some of the horror comes back to her
occasionally. She knows everything, except that her mother was a
play-actress. I would not want her to know that.
For a while, Aunt Peace went on, we both had a very hard time.
She was actually depraved. But I believed in the good that was hidden
in her somewherethere is good in all of us if we can only find
it,and little by little she learned to love me. Through it all, I had
Doctor Brinkerhoff's sympathetic assistance. He came every week,
advised me, counselled with me, helped me, and even faced the gossips.
All that East Lancaster knows is the simple fact that I found a child
who attracted me, discovered that her parents were dead, and adopted
her. There was a great deal of excitement at first, but it died down.
Most things die down, my dear, if we give them time.
Dear Aunt Peace, said Margaret, softly, you found a bit of human
driftwood, and with your love and your patience made it into a
The old face softened, and the serene eyes grew dim. Whenever I
think that my life has been in vain; when it seems empty, purposeless,
and bare, I look at my little girl, remember what she was, and find
content. I think that a great deal will be forgiven me, because I have
done well with her.
I am so glad you told me, continued Margaret, after a little.
Her future has sorely troubled me. Of course I can make her
comfortable, but money is not everything. I dread to have her go away
from East Lancaster, and yet
She never need go, interrupted Margaret. If, as you say, the
house comes to me, there is no reason why she should. I would be so
glad to have her with me!
Thank you, my dear! It was what I wanted, but I did not like to
ask. Now my mind will be at rest.
It is little enough to do for you, leaving her out of the question.
She might be a great deal less lovely than she is, and yet it would be
a pleasure to do it for you.
She will repay you, I am sure, said Aunt Peace. Of course Lynn
will marry sometime,here the mother's heart stopped beating for an
instant and went on unevenly,so you will be left alone. You cannot
expect to keep him in a place like East Lancaster. He ishow old?
Then, in a few years more, he will leave you. Aunt Peace was
merely meditating aloud as she looked out of the window, and had no
idea that she was hurting her listener. Perhaps, after all, Iris will
be my best bequest to you.
Iris may marry, suggested Mrs. Irving, trying to smile.
Iris, repeated Aunt Peace, no indeed! I have made her an
old-fashioned spinster like myself. She has never thought of such
things, and never will!
(At the moment, Miss Temple was reading an anonymous letter, much
worn, but, though walls have ears, they are happily blind, and Aunt
Peace did not realise that she was nowhere near the mark.)
Marriage is a negative relation, continued Miss Field, with an air
of knowledge. People undertake it from an unpardonable individual
curiosity. They see it all around them, and yet they rush in, blindly
trusting that their own venture will turn out differently from every
other. Someone once said that it was like a crowded churchthose
outside were endeavouring to get in, and those inside were making
violent efforts to get out. Personally, I have had the better part of
it. I have my home, my independence, and I have brought up a child.
Moreover, I have not been annoyed with a husband.
Suppose one falls in love, said Margaret, timidly.
Love! exclaimed Aunt Peace. Stuff and nonsense! She rose
majestically, and went out with her head high and the step of a
Left to herself, Margaret mentally reviewed their conversation,
passing resolutely over the hurt that Aunt Peace had unconsciously made
in her heart. Never before had it occurred to her that Lynn might
marry. He can't, she whispered; why, he's nothing but a child.
She turned her thoughts to Iris and Aunt Peace. The homeless little
savage had grown into a charming woman, under the patient care of the
only mother she had ever known. If Aunt Peace should dieand if Lynn
should marry,she did not phrase the thought, but she was very
conscious of its existence,she and Iris might make a little home for
themselves in the old house. Two men, even the best of friends, can
never make a home, but two women, on speaking terms, may do so.
If Lynn should marry! Insistently, the torment of it returned. If
he should fall in love, who was she to put a barrier in his path? His
mother, whose heart had been hungry all these years, should she keep
him back by so much as a word? Then, all at once, she knew that it was
her own warped life which demanded it by way of compensation.
No, she breathed, with her lips white, I will never stand in his
way. Because I have suffered, he shall not. Then she laughed
hysterically. How ridiculous I am! she said to herself. Why, he is
nothing but a child!
The mood passed, and the woman's soul began to dwell upon its
precious memories. Mnemosyne, that guardian angel, forever separates
the wheat from the chaff, the joy from the pain. At the touch of her
hallowed fingers, the heartache takes on a certain calmness, which is
none the less beautiful because it is wholly made of tears.
Lynn's violin was silent now, and softly, from the back of the
house, the girl's full contralto swelled into a song.
The hours I spent with thee, Dear Heart,
Are as a string of pearls to me;
I count them over, every one apart
My rosary! My rosary!
Iris sang because she was happy, but, none the less, the deep,
vibrant voice had an undertone of sadnessa world-old sorrow which, by
right of inheritance, was hers.
Margaret's thoughts went back to her own girlhood, when she was no
older than the unseen singer. Love's cup had been at her lips, then,
and had been dashed away by a relentless hand.
O memories that bless and burn!
O barren pain and bitter loss!
I kiss each bead and strive at last to learn
To kiss the crossSweetheart! To kiss the cross!
'To kiss the cross,' muttered Margaret, then the tears came in a
blinding flood. Mother! Mother! she sobbed. How could you!
Insensibly, something was changed, and, for the first time, the
woman who had gone to her grave unforgiven, seemed not entirely beyond
the reach of pardon.
IX. Rosemary and Mignonette
Sweet Lady of my Dreams, it cannot be that you are displeased. If
you were, I should know, but do not ask me how!
Day by day, my eyes long for the sight of you; night by night my
heart remembers you, for that inner vision does not vanish with the
sun. You have unconsciously given me a priceless gift, for wherever I
may go, I take you with meall the grace of you, all the beauty, and
all the softness. I have only to close my eyes and then I see.
But do not think I keep your image always before me, for it is not
so. In the work-a-day world, you have no place. You belong, rather, to
those fair lands of fancy which lie just beyond the borders of this
world and are, or so I think, very near the gleaming gates of Heaven.
I am not always at work, but sometimes, even when I am, you come
tripping before my eyes, so dainty, so wholly exquisite, that I forget
what I am doing, and then I must put you aside. But when the day is
done, and the light of it shows only through the pinholes pricked in
the curtain of night, then I can think of you, as radiant, as
beautiful, and as far above me as those very stars.
All unknowingly, you are the light of my day. Whatever darkness
might surround me, your eyes would make it noon. However steep and
thorny my path, your hand in mine would make it a sunny meadow, swept
by shadowy wings, where the white and crimson clover bloomed all day.
You give me life. You make the birds sing more sweetly for me; you
make the roses more fragrant, the moonlight more like pearl. You have
glorified the commonplace affairs of the day with your enchantment; you
have put the joy of the gods into the heart of a man.
Do you wonder that, loving you like this, I do not make myself
known? Sweetheart, it is because I fear. Already I have more than I
deserve because you are not displeased with me, and since I wrote last
I have made progress. Would it surprise you very much if I told you I
knew where you lived?
I fancy I see you now, with the scarlet signals flaming on your
cheeks, but, Iris, I shall never intrude. It is for you to say whether
I shall love you in silence and afar, or face to face, as I dream that
some day I may.
I want you, dearI want you with all my heart. Of all the women in
the world, you are the one God meant for me. Otherwise, why have I been
so strangely led to you?
Since the first day I saw you, I have knelt at your feet. Not for
one moment have I forgotten you, so flower-like, so womanly, so dear.
So will it always be, whether I live or die. Even to my grave, I shall
take the memory of you.
To-night my memories are few, but my dreamsthey are so many that
I could not begin to tell you all. But one of them you must knowthat
some day you will let me tell you how much I love you, and promise me
that I may shield you all the rest of your life.
The wind should never make you cold, the sun should never shine too
fiercely upon you, the storm should never beat against you, if I had my
Iris, may I come? Will you let me teach you to care? So sure am I
of my love that I ask only for the chance to make you believe.
Put a flower on your gate-post when the moon rises to-night, if you
are willing that I should come. Two flowers, if you are willing that I
should come sometime, but not now. Then, when your name-flower
embroiders the marshes, you will know who loves youwho worships
youwho offers you his all.
* * * * *
That night, when the moon swung high in the heavens, Iris tiptoed
out into the garden, with the lettersentient, alive, and
humancrushed close against her heart. So conscious was she of its
presence that she felt it blazoned upon her breast for all the world to
Dew made the grass damp, but Iris did not care. Threads of silver
light picked out a dainty tracery, and here and there set a dew-drop to
gleaming like a diamond among unnumbered pearls. Drowsy chirps came
from the maples above her, where the little birds slept in their
swaying nests and dreamed of wild flights at dawn. A great white moth
brushed against her face, as softly as thistledown, and she laughed,
because it was so like a kiss.
Down toward her corner of the garden she went, her dimity skirts
daintily uplifted. The moonlight touched a cobweb woven across the
rose-bush, and made a rainbow of it.
A little lost rainbow, thought Iris, out alone in the night, like
She stooped and gathered a sprig of mignonette, then a bit of
rosemary from Mrs. Irving's garden. She won't care, said Iris, to
herself; she used to love somebody, long ago.
She bound the two together with a blade of grass, and put the merest
kiss between them, then impulsively wiped it away. But, after all, some
trace of it must linger, and Iris did not intend to give too much, so
she threw it aside, as it happened, into Lynn's garden. Then she
gathered another sprig of mignonette, another leaf of rosemary, bound
them together, and held them very far away, out of reach of temptation.
Back toward the gate she went, her heart wildly beating against the
imprisoned letter. She hesitated a moment in the shadow of the house.
The great white moth had followed her and again touched her face
caressingly. Suppose someone should see!
But there was no one in sight. Anyhow, thought Iris, if one
wishes to come out for a moment in the evening, to walk as far as the
gate, it is all right. If there should be rosemary and mignonette on
the gate-post in the morning, someone who was up very early might take
it away before anybody had seen it. There would be no harm in leaving
it there overnight, even though it isn't quite orderly.
She went bravely toward the gate, and the moonbeams made an aureole
about her hair. The light of dreams, shining through the mist,
transfigured her with silver sheen. The earth was exquisitely still,
and the sound of her little feet upon the gravelled path echoed and
Timidly, Iris put the rosemary and mignonette, bound together by a
single blade of grass, first upon one gate-post and then upon the
other. Such a little bit! she mused. One couldn't call it a flower!
Yes, mignonette was a flower, but rosemary? Surely, no!
She walked backward, slowly, toward the house, and to her conscious
eyes, the tell-tale message dominated the landscape. The moonlight
fairly made it shine. Almost at the steps, Iris was seized with panic.
Then her light feet twinkled down the path, and frightened, trembling,
and ashamed, she thrust the nosegay into the open throat of her gown.
Oh, murmured Iris, as she went hastily into the house, what could
I have been thinking of!
* * * * *
But across the street, in the darkness of the shrubbery, Someone
X. In the Garden
To-night, said Aunt Peace, we will sit in the garden.
It was Wednesday, and the rites in the house were somewhat relaxed,
though Iris, from force of habit, polished the tall silver candlesticks
until they shone like new. Miss Field herself made a pan of little
cakes, sprinkled them with powdered sugar, and put them away. She was
never lovelier than when at her dainty tasks in her spotless kitchen.
By some alchemy of the spirit, she made the homely duties of the day
into pleasuressimple ones, perhaps, but none the less genuine.
No one alluded to the fact that Doctor Brinkerhoff was coming. Of
course, as Iris said to Lynn, we don't know that he is, but since
he's missed only one Wednesday in ten years, we may be pardoned for
One might think so, agreed Lynn, laughing. He took keen delight in
the regular Wednesday evening comedy.
We make the little cakes for tea, continued Iris, her eyes
But we never have 'em for tea, Lynn objected, and I wish you'd
quit talking about 'em. It disturbs my peace of mind.
Pig! exclaimed Iris. They were alone, and her face was dangerously
near his. Her rosy lips were twitching in a most provoking way, and,
immediately, there were Consequences.
She left the print of four firm fingers upon Lynn's cheek, and he
rubbed the injured place ruefully. I don't see why I shouldn't kiss
you, he said.
If you haven't learned yet, I'll slap you again.
No, you won't; I'll hold your hands next time.
There isn't going to be any 'next time.' The idea!
Iris! Please don't go away! Wait a minuteI want to talk to you.
It's too bad it's so one-sided, remarked Iris, with a sidelong
Well, I'm looking, but so much greenthe grassand the shrubbery,
you knowand allit's hard on my eyes.
We're cousins, aren't we?
Iris sat down on the bench beside him, evidently struck by a new
idea. I hadn't thought of it, she said conversationally. Are we?
I think we are. Mother is Aunt Peace's nephew, isn't she?
Not that anybody knows of. A lady nephew is called a niece in East
Oh, well, replied Lynn, colouring, you know what I mean. Mother
is Aunt Peace's niece, isn't she?
I hear so. A gentleman for whom I have much respect assures me of
it. The wicked light in her eyes belied her words, and Lynn wished
that he had kissed her twice while he had the opportunity.
It's the truth, he said. And mother's my mother.
So that makes me Aunt Peace's nephew.
Grand-nephew, corrected Iris, with double meaning.
Thank you for the compliment. Perhaps I'm a nephew-once-removed.
I haven't seen any signs of removal, observed Iris, but I'd love
Don't be so frivolous! If I am Aunt Peace's nephew, what relation
am I to her daughter?
Legal daughter, Iris suggested.
Legal daughter is just as good as any other kind of a daughter.
That makes me your cousin.
Legal cousin, explained Iris, but not moral.
It's all the same, even in East Lancaster. I'm your legal
Grand-legal-cousin-once-removed, repeated Iris, parrot-like, with
her eyes fixed upon a distant robin.
That's just the same as a plain cousin.
You're plain enough to be a plain cousin, she observed, and the
colour deepened upon Lynn's handsome face.
So I'm going to kiss you again.
You're not, she said, with an air of finality. She flew into the
house and took refuge beside Mrs. Irving.
Mother, cried Lynn, closely following, isn't Iris my cousin?
No, dear; she's no relation at all.
So now! exclaimed Iris, in triumph.
Grand-legal-cousin-once-removed, you will please make your escape
Little witch! thought Lynn, as he went upstairs; I'll see that
she doesn't slap me next time.
Iris, said Mrs. Irving, suddenly, you are very beautiful.
Am I, really? For a moment the girl's deep eyes were filled with
wonder, and then she smiled. It is because you love me, she said,
dropping a tiny kiss upon Margaret's white forehead; and because I
love you, I think you are beautiful, too.
Alone in her room, Iris studied herself in her small mirror. It was
just large enough to see one's face in, for Aunt Peace did not believe
in cultivating vanityin others. In her own room was a long
pier-glass, where a certain young person stole brief glimpses of
I'll go in there, she thought. Aunt Peace is in the kitchen, and
no one will know.
She left the door open, that she might hear approaching footsteps,
and was presently lost in contemplation. She turned her head this way
and that, taking pleasure in the gleam of light upon the shining coils
of her hair, and in the rosy tint of her cheeks. Just above the corner
of her mouth, there was the merest dimple.
Iris smiled, and then poked an inquiring finger into it. I didn't
know I had that, she said to herself, in surprise. I wonder why I
couldn't have a glass like this in my room? There's one in the atticI
know there is,and oh, how lovely it would be!
It's where I kissed you, said Lynn, from the doorway. If you'll
keep still, I'll make another one for you on the other side. You didn't
have that dimple yesterday.
Mr. Irving, replied Iris, with icy calmness, you will kindly let
He stepped aside, half afraid of her in this new mood, and she went
down the hall to her own room. She shut the door with unmistakable
firmness, and Lynn sighed. Happy mirror! he thought. She's the
prettiest thing that ever looked into it.
But was she, after all? Since the great mirror came over-seas, as
part of the marriage portion of a bride, many young eyes had sought its
shining surface and lingered upon the vision of their own loveliness.
Many a woman, day by day, had watched herself grow old, and the mirror
had seen tears because of it. The portraits in the hall and the old
mirror had shared many a secret together. Happily, neither could betray
the other's confidence.
Iris, meanwhile, was finding such satisfaction as she might in the
smaller glass, and meditating upon the desirability of the one in the
attic. I'll ask Aunt Peace, she thought, and knew, instantly, that
she wouldn't ask Aunt Peace for worlds.
I'm vain, she said to herself, reprovingly; I'm a vain little
thing, and I won't look in the mirror any more, so there!
She reviewed her humdrum round of daily duties with increasing pity
for herself. Then, she had had only the books and the people who moved
across their eloquent pages, but now? Surely, Cupid had come to East
Just think! Two letters, not so very far apart, from someone who
worshipped her at a distance and was afraid to sign his name! And this
very day, not more than an hour ago, she had been kissed. No man had
ever kissed Iris before, not even a grand-legal-cousin-once-removed.
Still, she rather wished it hadn't happened, for she felt different,
someway. It would have been better if the writer of the letters had
done it. A romance like this set her far above the commonplaceshe
felt very much older than Lynn, and was inclined to patronise him. He
was nothing but a boy, who chased one around the garden with worms and
put grasshoppers in one's hat. Yet one could pardon those things, when
one was so undeniably popular.
* * * * *
After tea, they sat in the shadowy coolness of the parlour, waiting.
The very air was expectant. Aunt Peace was beautiful in shimmering
white, with the emerald gleaming at her throat. Mrs. Irving, as always,
wore a black gown, and Iris had donned her best lavender muslin, in
honour of the occasion.
Why can't we go outside? asked Margaret.
We can, my dear, returned Aunt Peace, but I was taught that it
was better to wait in the house until after calling hours. Of course,
there are few visitors in East Lancaster, but even on a desert island
one must observe the proprieties, and a lady will always receive her
guests in the house.
While she was speaking, Doctor Brinkerhoff opened the gate. Miss
Field affected not to see him, and waited until the maid ushered him
in. Good evening, Doctor, she said, I assure you this is quite a
His manner toward the others was gentle, and even courtly, but he
distinguished Miss Field by elaborate deference. If he disagreed with
her, it was with evident respect for her opinion, and upon all disputed
points he seemed eager to be convinced.
Shall we not go into the garden? asked Aunt Peace, addressing them
all. We were just upon the point of going, Doctor, when you came.
She led the way, with the Doctor beside her, attentive, gallant, and
considerate. Margaret came next, with Miss Field's white shawl. Behind
were Lynn and Iris, laughing like children at some secret joke. By a
strange coincidence, five chairs were arranged in a sociable group
under the tall pine in a corner of the garden.
Yes, Miss Field was saying, I think East Lancaster is most
beautiful at this time of year. I have not travelled much, but I have
seen pictures, and I am content with my own little corner of the
And yet, madam, returned the Doctor, you would so much enjoy
travelling. It is too bad that you cannot go abroad.
Perhaps I may. I have not thought of it, but as you speak of it, it
seems to me that it might be very pleasant to go.
Aunt Peace! exclaimed Mrs. Irving. What are you thinking of!
Not of my seventy-five years, my dear; you may be sure of that.
Why shouldn't she go? asked Lynn. Aunt Peace could go anywhere
and come back safely. Everybody she met would fall in love with her,
and see that she was comfortable.
Quite right! said the Doctor, with evident sincerity.
Flatterers! she laughed. Fie upon you! But there was a note of
happy youthfulness in the voice, and they knew that she was pleased.
If you go, madam, the Doctor continued, it will be my pleasure to
give you letters to friends of mine in Germany.
Thank you, she returned, with a stately inclination of her head.
It would be very kind.
And, he went on, I have many books which would be of service to
you. Shall I bring some of them, the next time I come?
I would not trouble you, Doctor, but sometime, if you happened to
Yes, he answered, when I happen to be passing. I shall not
They might be interesting, if not of actual service. I am familiar
with much that has been written of foreign lands. We have Marco
Polo's Adventures in our library.
The Doctor coughed into his handkerchief. The world has changed,
dear madam, since Marco Polo travelled.
Yes, she sighed, it is always changing, and we older ones are
left far behind.
Oh, nonsense! exclaimed Lynn. I'll tell you what, Aunt Peace,
you're well up at the head of the procession. You're no farther behind
than the drum-major is.
The drum-major, my dear? I do not understand. Is he a military
He's the boss of the whole shooting match, explained Lynn,
inelegantly. He wears a bear-skin bonnet and tickles the music out of
the band. If it weren't for him, the whole show would go up in smoke.
Lynn! said Margaret, reprovingly. What language! Aunt Peace
cannot understand you!
I'll bet on Aunt Peace, remarked Lynn, sagely.
I fear I am not quite abreast of the times, said the old lady. Do
you think, Doctor, that the world grows better, or worse?
Better, madam, steadily better. I can see it every day.
It is well for one to think so, observed Margaret, whatever the
facts may be.
Midsummer and moonlight made enchantment in the garden. Merlin
himself could have done no more. The house, half hidden in the shadow,
stood waiting, as it had done for two centuries, while those who
belonged under its roof made holiday outside. Most of them had gone
forever, and only their portraits were left, but, replete with memories
both happy and sad, the house could not be said to be alone.
The tall pine threw its gloom far beyond them, and the moonlight
touched Aunt Peace caressingly. Her silvered hair gleamed with
unearthly beauty and her serene eyes gave sweet significance to her
name. All those she cared for were about herdaughter and friends.
Nights like this, said the Doctor, dreamily, make one think of
the old fairy tales. Elves and witches are not impossible, when the
moon shines like this.
Lynn looked across the garden to the rose-bush, where a cobweb,
dew-impearled, had captured a bit of wandering rainbow. They are far
from impossible, he answered. I think they were here only the other
night, for in the morning, when I went out to look at my vegetables, I
found something queer among the leaves.
Something queer, my dear? asked Aunt Peace, with interest. What
A leaf of rosemary and a sprig of mignonette, tied round with a
blade of grass and wet with dew.
How strange, said Margaret. How could it have happened?
Rosemary, said Aunt Peace, that means remembrance, and the
mignonette means the hope of love. A very pretty message for a fairy to
leave among your vegetables.
Very pretty, repeated the Doctor, nodding appreciation.
Iris feared they heard the loud beating of her heart. What do you
think? asked Lynn, turning to her. Was it a fairy?
Of course, she returned, with assumed indifference. Who else?
There was silence then, and in the house the clock struck ten. They
heard it plainly, and the Doctor, with a start of recollection, took
out his huge silver watch.
I had no idea it was so late, he said. I must go.
One moment, Doctor, began Miss Field, putting out a restraining
hand. Let me offer you some refreshment before you start upon that
long walk. Iris?
Yes, Aunt Peace.
Those little cakes that we had for teathere may be one or two
leftand is there not a little wine?
Lynn followed her, and presently they came back, with the Royal
Worcester plate piled generously with cakes, and a decanter of the port
that was famous throughout East Lancaster.
With a smile upon her lips, the old lady leaned forward, into the
moonlight, glass in hand. The brim of another touched it and the clear
ring of crystal seemed carried afar into the night.
To your good health, madam.
And to your prosperity.
This has been very charming, said the Doctor, as he brushed away
the crumbs, and now, my dear Miss Iris, may we not hope for a song?
'Annie Laurie,' if you please.
Iris went in, and Margaret made a move to follow her. Don't go,
mother, said Lynn, let's stay here.
I'm afraid Aunt Peace will take cold.
No, dearie, I have my shawl. Let me be young again, just for
to-night, with no fear of draughts or colds. Midsummer has never hurt
anyone, and, as Doctor Brinkerhoff says, the good fairies are abroad
The old-fashioned ballad took on new beauty and meaning. Mellowed by
the distance, the girl's deep contralto was surpassingly tender and
sweet. When she came out, the others were silent, with the spell of her
song still upon them.
A good voice, said Lynn, half to himself. She should study.
Iris has had lessons, returned Aunt Peace, with gentle dignity,
and her voice pleases her friends. What is there beyond that?
Fame, said Lynn.
Fame is the love of the many, Aunt Peace rejoined, and counts for
no more than the love of the few. The great ones have said it was
barren, and my little girl will be better off here.
As she spoke, she put her arm around Iris, and they went to the
house together. At the steps, there was a pause, and Doctor Brinkerhoff
said good night.
It has been perfect, said Miss Field, as she gave him her hand.
If this were to be my last night on earth, I could not ask for
moremy beautiful garden, with the moonlight shining upon it, music,
and my best friends.
The Doctor was touched, and bent low over her hand, pressing it ever
so lightly with his lips. I thank you, dear madam, he answered,
gently, for the happiest evening I have ever spent.
Come again, then, she said, graciously, with a happy little laugh.
The years stretch fair before us, when one is but seventy-five!
* * * * *
That night, just at the turn of dawn, Margaret was awakened by a hot
hand upon her face. Dearie, said Aunt Peace, weakly, will you come?
I'm almost burning up with fever.
XI. Sunset and Evening Star
Doctor Brinkerhoff came in the morning, but afterward, when Margaret
questioned him, he shook his head sadly. I will do the best I can, he
said, and none of us can do more. He went down the path, bent and
old. He seemed to have aged since the previous night.
On Friday, Lynn went to Herr Kaufmann's as usual, but he played
carelessly. Young man, said the Master, why is it that you study the
Why? repeated Lynn. Well, why not?
It is all the same, returned the Master, frankly. I can teach you
nothing. You have the technique and the good wrist, you read quickly,
but you play like one parrot. When I say 'fortissimo,' you play
fortissimo; when I say 'allegro,' you play allegro. You are one
obedient pupil, he continued, making no effort to conceal his scorn.
What else should I be? asked Lynn.
Do not misunderstand, said the Master, more kindly. You can play
the music as it is written. If that satisfies you, well and good, but
the great ones have something more. They make the music to talk from
one to another, but you express nothing. It is a possibility that you
have nothing to express.
Lynn walked back and forth with his hands behind his back, vaguely
One moment, the Master went on, have you ever felt sorry?
Sorry for what?
Of courseI am often sorry.
Well, sighed the Master, instantly comprehending, you are young,
and it may yet come, but the sorrows of youth are more sharp than those
of age, and there is not much chance. The violin is the most noble of
instruments. It is for those who have been sorry to play to those who
are. You have nothing to give, but it is one pity to lose your fine
technique. Since you wish to amuse, change your instrument, and study
the banjo, or perhaps the concertina.
Lynn understood no more than if Herr Kaufmann had spoken in a
foreign tongue. I may have to stop for a little while, he said, for
my aunt is ill, and I can't practise.
Practise here, returned the Master, indifferently. Fredrika will
not care. Or go to the office of mine friend, the Herr Doctor. He will
not mind. A fine gentleman, but he has no ear, no taste. Until you
acquire the concertina, you may keep on with the violin.
My mother, began Lynn. She wants me to be an artist.
An artist! repeated the Master, with a bitter laugh. Your
mother here he paused and looked keenly into Lynn's eyes. Something
was stirred; some far-off memory. She believes in you, is it not so?
Yes, she doesshe has always believed in me.
Well, said the Master, with an indefinable shrug, we must not
disappoint her. You work on like one faithful parrot, and I continue
with your instruction. It is good that mothers are so easy to please.
Herr Kaufmann, pleaded the boy, tell me. Shall I ever be an
Yes, I think so.
When the river flows up hill and the sun rises in the west.
Suddenly, Lynn's face turned white. I will! he cried,
passionately; I will! I will be an artist! I tell you, I will!
Perhaps, returned the Master. He was apparently unmoved, but
afterward, when Lynn had gone, he regretted his harshness. I may be
mistaken, he admitted to himself, grudgingly. There may be something
in the boy, after all. He is young yet, and his mother, she believes in
him. Well, we shall see!
Lynn went home by a long, circuitous route. Far beyond East
Lancaster was a stretch of woodland which he had not as yet explored.
Herr Kaufmann's words still rang in his ears, and for the first time he
doubted himself. He sat down on a rock to think it over. He said I had
the technique, mused Lynn, but why should I feel sorry?
After long study, he concluded that the Master was eccentric, as
genius is popularly supposed to be, and determined to think no more of
it. Still, it was not so easily put wholly aside. You play like one
parrot,that single sentence, like a barbed shaft, had pierced the
armour of his self-esteem.
He went on through the woods, and stopped at a pile of rocks near a
spring. It might have been an altar erected to the deity of the wood,
but for one symbol. On the topmost stone was chiselled a cross.
Wonder who did it, said Lynn, to himself, and what for. He found
some wild berries, made a cup of leaves, and filled it with the
fragrant fruit, planning to take it to Aunt Peace.
But when he reached home Aunt Peace was far beyond the thought of
berries. She was delirious, and her ravings were pitiful. Iris was as
white as a ghost, and Margaret was sorely troubled.
Lynn, she said, don't go away. I need you. Where have you been?
To my lesson, and then for a walk. Herr Kaufmann says I may
practise there sometimes. He also suggested Doctor Brinkerhoff's.
That was kind, and I am sure the Doctor will be willing. How does
he think you are getting along?
She asked the question idly, and scarcely expected an answer, but
Lynn turned his face away and refused to meet her eyes. Not very
well, he said, in a low tone.
Why not, dear? You practise enough, don't you?
Yes, I think so. He says I have the technique and the good wrist,
but I play like a parrot, and can only amuse. He told me to take up the
Margaret smiled. That is his way. Just go on, dear, and do the very
best you can.
But I don't want to disappoint you, motherI want to be an
Lynn, dear, you will never disappoint me. You have been a comfort
to me since the day you were born. What should I have done without you
in all these years that I have been alone!
She drew his tall head down and kissed him, but Lynn, boy-like,
evaded the sentiment and turned it into a joke. That's very Irish,
mother'what would you have done without me in all the time you've
been alone?' How is the invalid?
The fever is high, sighed Margaret, and Doctor Brinkerhoff looks
I hope she isn't going to die, said Lynn, conventionally. Can I
No, nothing but wait. Sometimes I think that waiting is the very
hardest thing in the world.
That day was like the others. Weeks went by, and still Aunt Peace
fought gallantly with her enemy. Doctor Brinkerhoff took up his abode
in the great spare chamber and was absent from the house only when
there was urgent need of his services elsewhere. He even gave up his
Sunday afternoons at Herr Kaufmann's, and Fräulein Fredrika was
Fredrika, said the Master, gently, the suffering ones have need
of our friend. We must not be selfish.
Our friend possesses great skill, replied the Fräulein, with quiet
dignity. Do you think he will forget us, Franz?
Forget us? No! Fear not, Fredrika; it is only little loves and
little friendships that forget. One does not need those ties which can
be broken. The Herr Doctor himself has said that, and of a surety, he
knows. Let us be patient and wait.
To wait, repeated Fredrika; one finds it difficult, is it not
Yes, smiled the Master, but when one has learned to wait
patiently, one has learned to live.
Meanwhile, Aunt Peace grew steadily weaker, and the strain was
beginning to tell upon all. Doctor Brinkerhoff had lost his youthhe
was an old man. Margaret, painfully anxious, found relief from
heartache only in unremitting toil. Iris ate very little, slept
scarcely at all, and crept about the house like the ghost of her former
self. Lynn alone maintained his cheerfulness.
Iris, said Aunt Peace, one day, come here.
I'm here, said the girl, kneeling beside the bed, and putting her
cold hand upon the other's burning cheek, what can I do?
Nothing, dearie. I could get well, I think, were it not for my
Iris shuddered, and yet was thankful because Aunt Peace could call
her delirium dreams.
Lately, continued Aunt Peace, I have been afraid that I am not
going to get well.
Don't! cried Iris, sharply, turning her face away.
Dearie, dearie, said the other, caressingly, be my brave girl,
and let me talk to you. When the dreams come back, I shall not know
you, but now I do. I am stronger to-day, and we are alone, are we not?
Where are the others?
The Doctor has gone to see someone who is very ill. Lynn has taken
Mrs. Irving out for a walk.
I am glad, said Aunt Peace, tenderly. Margaret has been very good
to me. You have all been good to me.
Iris stroked the flushed face softly with her cool hand. In her eyes
were love and longing, and a foreshadowed loneliness.
Dearie, Aunt Peace continued, listen while I have the strength to
speak. All the papers are in a tin box, in the trunk in the attic.
There you will find everything that is known of your father and mother.
I do not anticipate any need of the information, but it is well that
you should know where to find it.
I have left the house to Margaret, she went on, with difficulty,
for it was rightfully hers, and after her it goes to Lynn, but there
is a distinct understanding that it shall be your home while you live,
if you choose to claim it. Margaret has promised me to keep you with
her. When Lynn marries, as some day he will, you will be left alone.
You and Margaret can make a home together.
The girl's face was hidden in her hands, and her shoulders shook
Don't, dearie, pleaded Aunt Peace, gently; be my brave girl. Look
up at me and smile. Don't, dearieplease don't!
I have left you enough to make you comfortable, she went on, after
a little, but not enough to be a care to you, nor to make you the prey
of fortune hunters. It is, I think, securely invested, and you will
have the income while you live. Some few keepsakes are yours,
alsothey are written down inhere she hesitatedin a paper Doctor
Brinkerhoff has. He has been very good to us, dearie. He is almost your
foster-father, for he was with me when I found you. He is a gentleman,
she said, with something of her old spirit, though he has no social
Social position is not much, Aunt Peace, beside the things that
really count, do you think it is?
I hardly know, dearie, but I have changed my mind about a great
many things since I have lain here. I was never ill beforein all my
seventy-five years, I have never been ill more than a day at a time,
and it seems very hard.
It is hard, Aunt Peace, but we hope you will soon be well.
No, dearie, she answered, I'm afraid not. But do not let us
borrow trouble, and let me tell you something to remember. When you
have the heartache, dearie,here the old eyes looked trustfully into
the younger ones,don't forget that you made me happy. You have
filled my days with sunshine, and, more than anything else, you have
kept me young. I know you thought me harsh at first, but now, I am sure
you understand. You have been my own dear daughter, Iris. If you had
been my own flesh and blood, you could not have been more to me than
Margaret came in, and Iris went away, sobbing bitterly. Aunt Peace
sighed heavily. Her cheeks were scarlet, and her eyes burned like
I'm afraid you've tired yourself, said Margaret, softly. Was I
gone too long?
No, indeed! Iris has been with me, and I am better to-day.
Try to sleep, said Margaret, soothingly.
Obediently, Aunt Peace closed her eyes, but presently she sat up.
I'm so warm, she said, fretfully. Where is Doctor Brinkerhoff?
He has not come yet, but I think he will be here soon.
Yes, Aunt Peace.
Will you write off the recipe for those little cakes for him? He
may be able to find someone to make them for him, though of course they
will not be the same.
Yes, I will.
It's in my book. They are called 'Doctor Brinkerhoff's cakes.' You
will not forget?
No, I won't forget. Can't you sleep now?
Presently, the deep regular breathing told that she was asleep. Iris
came back with her eyes swollen and Margaret took her out into the
hall. They sat there for a long time, hand in hand, waiting, but no
sound came from the other room.
I cannot bear it, moaned Iris, her mouth quivering. I cannot bear
to have Aunt Peace die.
Life has many meanings, said Margaret, but it is what we make it,
after all. The pendulum swings from daylight to darkness, from sun to
storm, but the balance is always true.
Iris leaned against her, insensibly comforted.
She would be the first to tell you not to grieve, Margaret went
on, though her voice faltered, and still, we need sorrow as the world
needs night. We cannot always live in the sun. We can take what comes
to us bravely, as gentlewomen should, but we must take it, dearthere
is no other way.
Long afterward, Iris remembered the look on Margaret's face as she
said it, but the tears blinded her just then.
Doctor Brinkerhoff came back at twilight, anxious and worn, yet
eager to do his share. Through the night he watched with her, alert,
capable, and unselfish, putting aside his personal grief for the sake
of the others.
In the last days, those two had grown very near together. When the
dreams came, he held her in his arms until the tempest passed, and
afterwards, soothed her to sleep.
Doctor, she said one day, I have been thinking a great deal while
I have lain here. I seem never to have had the time before. I think it
is well, at the end, to have a little space of calm, for one sees so
much more clearly.
You have always seen clearly, dear lady, said the Doctor, very
Not always, she answered, shaking her head. I can see many a
mistake now. The fogs have sometimes gathered thick about me, but now
they have lifted forever. We are but ships on the sea of life, she
went on. My course has lain through calm waters, for the most part,
with the skies blue and fair above me. I have been sheltered, and I can
see now that it might have made me stronger and better to face some of
the storms. Still, my Captain knows, and now, when I can hear the
breakers booming on the reef where I am to strike my colours, I am not
The end came on Sunday, just at sunset, while the bells were tolling
for the vesper service. The crescent moon rocked idly in the west, and
a star glimmered faintly above it.
Sunset and evening star, she repeated, softly. And one clear call
for me. Will you say the rest of it?
Choking, Doctor Brinkerhoff went on with the poem until he reached
the last verse, when he could speak no more.
For though from out our bourne of time and place
The flood may bear me far,
I hope to meet my Pilot face to face
When I have crossed the bar.
She finished it, then turned to him with her face illumined. It is
beautiful, she said, is it not, my friend?
* * * * *
Twilight came, and Margaret found them there when she went in with a
lighted candle. The Doctor sat at the side of the bed, very stiff and
straight, with the tears streaming over his wrinkled face. On his
shoulder, like a tired child, lay Aunt Peace, who had put on, at last,
her Necklace of Perfect Joy.
XII. The False Line
Up in the darkened chamber where Aunt Peace lay, Iris stood face to
face with the greatest sorrow of her life. Was this, then, the end? Was
there nothing more? Cold as snow, unpitying as marble, Death mocked
Iris as she stood there, mutely questioning. Timidly she touched the
waxen cheek. The crimson fires burned there no morethe fever was
Through the house resounded the steady tread of muffled feet. Of all
the horrors of Death, the worst is that seemingly endless procession
who come to offer sympathy, to ask if there is anything they can do.
Mere acquaintances, privileged only by a casual nod, break down all
barriers when the Conqueror comes. Is it that idle curiosity which
occasionally dominates the best of us, or is it Life, triumphant for
the moment, looking forward fearfully to its inevitable end?
Some friend of the family, high in its confidence, assumes the
responsibility at such times. Chance callers are rewarded with grisly
details and grewsome descriptions of the soul struggling to free itself
from its bonds. We are told how the others took it, when at last the
sail was spread for the voyage over the uncharted sea.
In the hall, straight as a soldier under orders, stood Doctor
Brinkerhoff. No, madam, he would say, there is nothing you can do.
The arrangements are made. I will tell Mrs. Irving and Miss Temple that
you called. Yes, we were expecting it. She died peacefully; there was
no pain. To-morrow at four.
And then again: Thank you, there is nothing you can do, but it is
kind of you to offer. The ladies will be grateful for your sympathy.
Who shall I say called?
Iris, pleaded Margaret, come away.
The girl started. I can't, she answered, dully.
You must come, dearcome into my room.
Unwillingly, Iris suffered herself to be led away. It is only the
surface emotion which is relieved by tears. Within the prison-house of
the soul, when Grief, clad in grey garments, enters silently and
prepares to remain, there is no weeping. One hides it, as the Spartan
covered the bleeding wound in his breast.
Dear, said Margaret, my heart aches for you.
She was all I had, whispered Iris.
But not all you have. Lynn and I, and Doctor Brinkerhoffsurely we
Did you ever care? asked Iris, her despairing eyes fixed upon
The older woman shrank from the question. She was tempted to
dissemble, but one tells the truth in the presence of Death.
Not as you care, she answered. My mother broke my heart. She took
me away from the man I loved, and forced me to marry another, whom I
only respected. When my husband died, I had my freedom, but it came too
late. When my mother diedshe died unforgiven.
Then you don't understand.
Yes, dear, I understand. You must remember that I loved her too.
Suppose it had been Lynn?
Lynn! cried Margaret, with her lips white. Lynn! Dear God, no!
Iris laughed hysterically. You do not understand, she said, with
forced calmness, but you would if it were Lynn. You would not let me
keep you away if it were Lynn instead of Aunt Peace, so please do not
disturb me again.
Back she went, into the darkened chamber, and closed the door.
Lynn walked back and forth through the halls aimlessly. All along,
he had felt the repulsion of the healthy young animal for the aged and
ill. Now he was unmoved, save by the dank, sweet smell of the house of
death. It grated on his sensibilities and made him shudder. He wished
that it was over.
From his mother, he felt a curious alienation. Her eyes were red,
and, man-like, Lynn hated tears. From Doctor Brinkerhoff, too, a gulf
His fingers itched for his violin, but he could not practise. It
would not disturb Aunt Peace, but it would be considered out of keeping
with the situation. The Doctor's rooms over the post-office were also
impossible. He smiled at the thought of the gossip which would permeate
East Lancaster if he should practise there.
But at Herr Kaufmann's? His face brightened, and with characteristic
impulsiveness he hastened downstairs.
Doctor Brinkerhoff still stood in the hall, a little wearily,
perhaps, but calmness overlaid his features like a mask. Lynn wondered
at the change in him.
Mr. Irving, he said, huskily, you were going out?
Yes, replied Lynn, to Herr Kaufmann's. I can do nothing here, he
added, by way of apology.
No, sighed the Doctor, no one can do anything here, but wait one
Yes? responded Lynn, with a rising inflection. Is there some
It is my message, said the Doctor, with dignity. Say to him,
please, that no provision has been made for music to-morrow, and that I
would like him to come. Be sure to say that I ask it.
Lynn moved away from the house decorously, though the freedom of the
outer air and the spring of the turf beneath his feet lifted the cloud
from his spirits and urged him to hasten his steps.
Doctor Brinkerhoff looked after him, his old eyes dim. The
impassable chasm of the years lay between him and Lynna measureless
gulf which no trick of magic might span. If I had it to do over, said
the Doctor, to himself,if I had my lost youthand was not
afraid,things would not be as they are now.
Margaret saw him from her upper window, and something tightened
round her heart, as though some iron hand held it unpityingly. Then
came a great throb of relief, because it was Aunt Peace, instead of
Iris, too, had seen him as he left the house. She perceived that he
was eager to get awaythat only a sense of the fitness of things kept
him from running and whistling as was his wont. From the first, she had
known that it was nothing to him. He has no heart, she said to
herself. He is as cold asas cold as Aunt Peace is now.
Slow torture held the girl in a remorseless gird. Dimly, she knew
that some day there would be a changethat it could not always be like
this. Sometime it must ease, and each throb would be sensibly less of a
hurtjust a little easier to bear. With rare prescience, also, she
knew that nothing in the world would ever be the same againthat she
had come to the dividing line. One reaches it as a light-hearted child;
one crosses ita woman.
No, said the Doctor, for the fiftieth time, there is nothing you
can do. Mrs. Irving and Miss Temple are not receiving. Yes, we expected
it. The end was very peaceful and she did not suffer at all. Yes, it is
surely a comfort to know that. The arrangements are all made. Yes,
thank you, we have the music provided for. It was kind of you to come,
and the ladies will be grateful for your sympathy. Who shall I say
Behind him were the portraits, ranged in orderly rows. Some were old
and others young, but all had gone the way that Peace should go
to-morrow. Dumbly, the Doctor wondered if the same remorseless
questioning had gone on every time there had been a death in the old
house, and, if so, why the very floors did not cry out in protest at
Life, that mystery of mysteries! The silence at the end and the
beginning is far easier to understand than the rainbow that arches
between. Man, the epitome of his forbears,more than that, the epitome
of creation,stands by himselfthe riddle of the universe.
The house in some way seemed alive, in pitiful contrast to its
mistress, who lay upstairs, spending her last night in the virginal
whiteness of her chamber. To-night there, and to-morrow night
Doctor Brinkerhoff, unable to bear the thought, recoiled as if from
an unexpected blow. Was it fancy, or did the painted lips of the young
officer in the uniform of the Colonies part in an ironical smile?
* * * * *
So, said the Master, as he opened the door, you are late to your
It is my lesson day, isn't it? returned Lynn. But I have only
come to practise. My aunt is dead.
So? Your aunt?
Yes, Aunt Peace. Miss Field, you know, he continued, in
So? I did not know. When was it?
And this is Tuesday. Well, we hear very little up here. It is too
Yes, agreed Lynn, awkwardly, Itit upsets things.
The Master looked at him narrowly. So it does. For instance, you
have lost one lesson on account of it, but you can practise. Come down
in mine shop where I am finishing mine violin. You shall play your
concerto. It is not a necessity to lose the practise for death.
That's what I thought, said Lynn, as they went downstairs. She
was very old, you knowmore than seventy-five. There is a great deal
of fuss made about such things.
Again the Master looked at him sharply, but Lynn was unconscious and
perfectly sincere. He was not touched at all.
You can have one of mine violins, the Master resumed, and I shall
finish the one upon which I am at work. The concerto, please.
At once Lynn began, walking back and forth restlessly as he played.
He had long since memorised the composition, and when he finished the
first movement he paused to tighten a string.
You, said the Master,you have studied composition?
Only a little.
You feel no gift in that line?
No, not at all.
It is only to play?
Yes, for the present.
Then, said the Master, changing the position of the bridge on the
violin in his hand, if you have no talents for composition, why do you
not let the composer of your concerto have his own way? You should not
correct himit is most impolite.
Whatwhat do you mean? stammered Lynn.
Nothing, said the Master, only, if you have no gifts, you should
play G sharp where it is written, instead of G natural. It is not what
one might call an improvement in the concerto.
Lynn flushed, and began to play the movement over again, but before
he reached the bar in question he had forgotten. When he came to it he
played G natural again, and instantly perceived his mistake.
The Master laughed. Genius, he said, must have its own way. It is
not to be held down by the written score. It must make changes,
flourishes, improvements. It is one pity that the composer cannot
I forgot, temporised Lynn.
So? Then why not take up the parlour organ? You should have an
instrument on which the notes are all made. I should not advise the
banjo, or even the concertina. The organ that turns by the handle would
be better yet. To make the notesthat is most difficult, is it not so?
Now, then, the adagio. Let us see how much you can better that.
Lynn played it correctly, and with intelligence, but without
One moment, said the Master. There is something I do not
understand. That adagio is one of the most beautiful things ever
written. It is full of one heartache and has in it many tears. Your
aunt, you say, lies dead in your house, and yet you play it like one
machine. I cannot see! Perhaps you had quarrelled?
No, returned Lynn, in astonishment, I was very, very fond of
There was a long silence, then the Master sighed. The thing means
more than the person, he said. Whoever is dead, if it is only one
little bird, it should make you feel sad. But it waits. Before you have
finished, the world will do one of three things to you. It will make
your heart very soft, very hard, or else break it, so. No one escapes.
By the way, began Lynn, eager to change the subject, Doctor
Brinkerhoff told me to ask you to come and play at the funeral
to-morrow at four o'clock. He said it was his wish.
The Master's face was troubled. Once, he said, I promised one
very angry lady that I would not go in that house again, and I have
kept mine word. It was only once I went, but that was too much. Still,
it was twenty-five years and more past, and she has long since been
dead. Death frees one from a promise, is it not so?
Of course, replied Lynn, vaguely.
At any rate, mine friend, the Herr Doctor, has asked it, even after
he has known of mine promise, and, of a surety, he is wiser than I. I
will come, at four, with mine violin.
Lynn took the long way home, his sunny nature deeply disturbed.
What is it? he vainly asked of himself. Am I different from
everybody else? They all seem to know something that I do not.
* * * * *
Iris kept her long vigil by Aunt Peace, her grief too great for her
starved body to withstand. At the sound of a fall, Doctor Brinkerhoff
left his post and hurried upstairs. Margaret was there almost as soon
as he was. Iris had fainted.
Together, they carried her into her own room, where at length she
revived. What happened? she asked, weakly. Did I fall?
Hush, dear, said Margaret. Lie still. I'm coming to sit with you
after a while.
She went out into the hall to speak to the Doctor, but he was not
there. By instinct, she knew where to find him, and went into the front
He stood with his back to the door, looking down upon that marble
face. Margaret was beside him, before he knew of her presence, and when
he turned, for once off his guard, she read his secret.
She never knew, he said, briefly, as though in explanation. I
never dared to tell her. Sometimes I think the lines we draw are false
onesthat God knows best.
Yes, replied Margaret, unsteadily, the lines are false, but it is
always too late when we find it out.
Yet a part of the barrier was of His own making. She was infinitely
above me. I should have been her slave; I was never meant to be her
equal. Still, the thirsty heart will aspire to the waters beyond its
She knows now, said Margaret.
Yes, she knows now, and she pardons me for my presumption. I can
read it in her face as I stand here.
Margaret choked back a sob. Come away, she said, with her hand
upon his arm, come away until to-morrow.
Until to-morrow, he repeated, softly. He closed the door quietly,
as though he feared the sound might break her sleep.
Iris was resting, and Margaret tiptoed down into the parlour, where
the Doctor sat with his grey head bowed upon his hands. She knows it
now, he said again, and she forgives me. I can feel it in my heart.
If she had known it before, said Margaret, things would have been
different, but she knew that what she said was untrue.
No, he returned, shaking his head, the line was there. You would
not know what it is like unless there had been a line between you and
the one you loved.
There was, she answered, hoarsely, then her eyes met his.
You, too? he asked, unbelieving, but she could not speak. She only
bowed her head in assent. Then his hand grasped hers in full
understanding. The false line divided them, also, but in one thing, at
least, they were kindred.
I wish, said the Doctor, after a little, that we could hide her
away before to-morrow. The people she has held herself apart from all
her life will come and look at her now that she is helpless.
That is the irony of it, returned Margaret. I have even prayed to
outlive those I hated, so that they could not come and look at me when
I was dead.
Have you outlived them?
Yes, answered Margaret, thickly, every one.
You hated someone who drew the false line?
And that person is dead?
Then, said the Doctor, very gently, when you have forgiven, the
line will be blotted out. The one on the other side of it may be out of
your reach forever, but the line will be gone.
The idea was new to her, that she must forgive. She thought of it
long afterward, when the house was as quiet as its sleeping mistress,
and the pale stars faded to pearl at the hour of dawn.
The third day came; the end of that pitiful period in which we wait,
blindly hoping that the miracle of resurrection may be given once more,
and the stone be rolled away from our dead.
It was Doctor Brinkerhoff who had the casket closed before the
strangers came, and afterward he told Margaret. She would be
thankful, Margaret assured him, and his eyes filled. Yes, he
answered, huskily, I believe she would.
They sat together at the head of the stairs, out of sight, and yet
within hearing. Lynn sat at one end, still perplexed, and shuddering at
the unpleasantness of it all. His mother's hand was in his, and with
her left arm she supported Iris, who leaned heavily against her
shoulder, broken-hearted. On the other side of Iris was Doctor
Brinkerhoff, austere and alone.
From below came the wonderful words of the burial service: I am the
resurrection and the life. He that believeth in me, though he were
dead, yet shall he live. It was followed by a beautiful tribute to
Aunt Peaceto the countless good deeds of her five and seventy years.
Then there was silence, broken by the muffled sound of a string
being tightened to harmonise with the piano. Swiftly upon the
discordant note, the voice of a violin, strong, clear, and surpassingly
sweet, rose in an Ave Maria.
Margaret started to her feet. What is it? she whispered, hoarsely.
Mother, said Lynn, in a low tone, don't. It is only Herr
Kaufmann. We asked him to play.
The Cremona! she muttered. The Cremonahereto-day!
She lay back in her chair with her eyes closed and her mouth
quivering. Lynn held her hand tightly, and Iris breathed hard. Doctor
Brinkerhoff listened intently, his heart rejoicing in the beauty of it,
because it was done for her.
Deep chords, full and splendid, sounded an ultimate triumph over
Death. The music counselled acceptance, resignation, because of
something that lay beyondindefinite, yet complete restitution, when
the time of its fulfilment should be at hand. Beside it, the individual
grief sank into insignificanceit was the sorrow of the world
demanding payment for itself from the world's joy.
Something vast and appealing took the place of the finite passion,
seeking hungrily for its own ends, and in the greatness of it, with
heart uplifted, Margaret forgave the dead.
XIII. To Iris
Daughter of the Marshes, the winds have told me you are sad. If
I could, I would bear it for you, but there is no way by which
one of us may take another's burden.
I wish I might come to you, but now, when you are troubled,
I will not ask you for a signal, even for a flower on the
gate-post. I would always have you happy, dear, if my love
buy it from the Fatesthose deep eyes of yours should never be
veiled by the mist of tears.
Do you know where the marsh is, Iris? You have lived in East
Lancaster for many years, so the gossips tell me, yet I doubt
whether you could find it unless someone showed you the way. To
reach it, you must follow the river, through all its turns and
windings, for many a weary mile.
Up in those distant hills, so far that I have never found
it, the river beginsperhaps in some tiny pool of crystal
clearness. It sings along over its rocky bed until it reaches a
low, sandy plain, and here is the marsh. I was there the other
day, just at sunset; my heart thrilled with the beauty of it
because it is the beauty of you.
How shall I tell you of the wonder of the marshes, those wide,
watery plains embroidered with strange bloom? Tall, slender
rushes stand there, bending gracefully when the wind passes,
answering with music to the touch. Have you ever heard the song
of the marshes when the wind moves through the rushes and plays
upon them like strings? Some day, I will take you there, and
shall listen, too, and tell me what you think it means.
Here and there are pools, set like jewels among the rushes,
with never a hint of growth. Sometimes you see a wide sweep of
grass, starred with tiny yellow flowers, or a lily, surrounded
by its leaves, drinking in the loveliness of the day and
forgetting all the maze of slime and dark water through which
has somehow come. I think our souls are like that, Iriswe
through the world, with all its darkness, borne upward by
unfailing aspiration, until we reach the end, which we have
taught to call Heaven, but which is only blossoming in the
But of all the radiant beauty of marshes, the best is
thisthat part of it which bears the purple flower of your
name. In and out of the rushes, like the thread of a strange
tapestry, it winds and wanders, hidden for an instant, maybe,
but never lost. I have gathered an armful of the blossoms, and
put my face down to them, closing my eyes, and dreaming that
it was youyou whom I must ever hold apart as something too
beautiful for me to touchyou, whom I can only love from afar.
I have told you that I would come when the iris bloomed, but
now, when the marsh is glorious with the purple banners, I dare
not. It is not only because you are sad, though not for worlds
would I trouble you now, but because I am afraid.
Only in my wildest moments do I dare to hopeyou were never
meant for such as I. By day, I bow my soul before you in shame
at my own unworthiness, but at night, like some flaming star
which speeds across the uncharted dark, you light the barren
country of my dreams.
I think sometimes that I shall never dare to tell you; that it
must be like this, year after year. If you knew your lover, who
is so bold and yet so fearful, I think you would cast him aside
in scorn. So it is better for me to believe, though that belief
has no foundation,better for me to hope than utterly to
despair. Without you, I dare not think what life might be.
Like the marsh, the years stretch out before mea vast plain
of which the uncertainty only is sure. They are full of strange
pitfalls, of unsounded deeps and silences, of impassable
barriers which I, disheartened and doubting, must one day meet
face to face.
Night lies upon it, and I cannot see the way. Storm beats upon
me and turns me from my course. The clouded day ends in sunset,
and the crystal pools, by which I thought to mark my path,
become beacons of blood-red flame.
The will o' the wisp leads me into the mire, where the rushes
cling tightly about me and keep me back. But the night wind
blows from the east, where the dawn sleeps, and on the strings
of the marsh grass breathes a little song. 'Iris! Iris!' it
sings, then all at once my sore heart grows strangely glad, for
whatever may come to me, I shall have the memory of you.
Like the flags that glorify the marshes and spread their elfin
sweetness afar, you shine upon the desert wastes of my life. I
can never wholly lose youyou are there for always, and graven
on my heart forever is the symbol of the fleur-de-lis.
XIV. Her Name-Flower
Somehow, the days passed. Iris ate mechanically, and went about her
household duties with her former precision. On Wednesday evening,
Doctor Brinkerhoff came, as usual, and Margaret's eyes filled at the
sight of him.
Bent, old, and haggard, he came up the path, longing for his
accustomed place in the house, and yet dreading to take it. Iris met
him with a pitiful little smile, and he bowed over her hand for a
moment, his shoulders shaking. Then he straightened himself, like a
soldier under fire.
Miss Iris, he said, we are bound together by a common grief. More
than that, I have a trust to fulfil. Shehere he hesitated and then
went onshe asked me if I would not try to take the place of a father
to you, and I promised that I would.
I have always felt so toward you, answered Iris, in a low tone.
Lynn was quite himself again, and his cheerful talk enlivened the
others, almost against their will. There was laughter and to spare, yet
beneath it was an undercurrent of sorrow, for the wound was healed only
upon the surface.
It is hard, said the Doctor, sadly, but life holds many hard
things for all of us. Perhaps, if we lived rightly, if our faith were
stronger, death would not rend our hearts as it does. It is the common
lot, the universal leveller, and soon or late it comes to us all. It
remains to make our spiritual adjustment accord with the inevitable
fact. There is so little that we can change, that it behooves us to
confine our efforts to ourselves.
Life, replied Lynn is the pitch of the orchestra, and we are the
Doctor Brinkerhoff nodded. Very true. The discord and the broken
string of the individual instrument do not affect the whole, except as
false notes, but I think that God, knowing all things, must discern the
symphony, glorious with meaning, through the discordant fragments that
So the talk went on, Lynn taking the burden of it and endeavouring
always to make it cheerful. Margaret understood and loved him for it,
but she, too, was sad. Iris sat like a stone, waiting, counting off the
leaden hours as something to be endured, and blindly believing that
rest would come.
Everything, said Margaret, after a long silence, was as beautiful
as it could be.
Doctor Brinkerhoff understood at once. Yes, he sighed, and I am
glad. I think it was as she would have wished it to be, and I am sure
she was pleased because I shielded her from the gaze of the curious at
the end. His face worked as he said it, but he took a pitiful pride in
what he had done. Day by day he hugged this last service closer,
because it was done through his own thought and his own understanding,
and would have pleased her if she had known.
Yes, returned Margaret, kindly, it was very thoughtful of you. It
would never have occurred to me, and I know she would have been
Miss Iris? said the Doctor, inquiringly.
The girl turned. Yes?
Sheshe gave me a paper for you. Will you have it, or shall I read
it to you?
Read it, answered Iris, dully.
It is in the form of a letter. She wrote it one day, near the end
of her illness, and gave it to me, to be opened after her death.
In the midst of a profound silence, he took an envelope from his
pocket and broke the seal.
'My Dear Doctor Brinkerhoff,' he began, clearing his throat,
'I feel that I am not going to get well, and so I have been
thinking, as I lie here, and setting my house in order. I have
told Iris, but for fear she may forget, I tell you. All the
papers which concern her are in a tin box in a trunk in the
attic. She will know where to find it.
'To her, as to an only daughter, go my little keepsakesthe
emerald pin, my few pieces of real lace, my fan, and the
buckles. She will understand the spirit of this bequest and
will feel free to take what she likes.
'The house is for Margaret, and, after her, for Lynn, but it
is to be a home for Iris, just as it has been, while she
Her income is to be paid regularly on the first of every
during her lifetime, as is written in my will, which the
lawyer has and which he will read at the proper time.
'Tell my little girl that, though I am dead, I love her still;
that she has given me more than I could ever have given her,
and that she must be my brave girl and not grieve. Tell her I
want her to be happy.
'To you, I send my parting salutations. I have appreciated
your friendship and your professional skill.
'With assurances of my deep personal esteem,
Iris broke down and left the room, weeping bitterly. Margaret
followed her, but the girl pushed her aside. No, she whispered, go
back. It is better for me to be alone.
I am sorry, said the Doctor, breaking the painful hush; perhaps I
should have waited. I very much regret having given Miss Iris
It is as well now as at any other time, Margaret assured him, but
my heart bleeds for her.
The clock on the landing struck ten, and Margaret excused herself
for a moment. She returned with the Royal Worcester plate, piled with
cakes, and a decanter of the port.
I made them, she said, in a low tone; she asked me to give you
She was always thoughtful of others, returned the Doctor, choking.
He filled his glass, and from force of habit, offered it to an
invisible friend. To your then he stopped.
To her memory, sobbed Margaret, touching his glass with hers.
They drank the toast in silence, then the Doctor staggered to his
I can bear no more, he said, unsteadily; it is a communion
service with the dead.
Lynn, said Margaret, after the guest had gone, I am troubled
about Iris. She is grieving herself to death, and it is not natural for
the young to suffer acutely for so long. Can you suggest anything?
No, answered Lynn, anxious in his turn, except to get outdoors. I
don't believe she's been out since Aunt Peace was buried.
You must take her, then.
Do you think she would go with me?
I don't know, dear, but try ittry it to-morrow. Take her for a
long walk and get her so tired that she will sleep. Nothing rests the
mind like fatigue of the body.
Mother, began Lynn, after a little, are we always going to stay
in East Lancaster?
I haven't thought about it at all, Lynn. Are you becoming
NoI was only looking ahead.
This is our homeAunt Peace has given it to us.
It was ours anyway, wasn't it?
In a way, it was, but your grandfather left it to Aunt Peace. If he
had not died suddenly he would have changed his will. Mother said he
intended to, but he kept putting it off.
Do you want me to keep on studying the violin?
Margaret looked up in surprise, but Lynn was pacing back and forth
with his hands clasped behind him and his head down.
Why not, dear? she asked, very gently.
Well, he sighed, I don't believe I'm ever going to make anything
of it. Of course I can playHerr Kaufmann says, if it satisfies me to
play the music as it is written, he can teach me that much, but he
hasn't a very good opinion of me. I'd rather be a first-class carpenter
than a second-rate violinist, and I'm twenty-threeit's time I was
Margaret's heart misgave her, but she spoke bravely. Lynn, look at
He turned, and his eyes met hers, openly and unashamed.
Tell me the truthdo you want to be an artist?
Mother, I'd rather be an artist than anything else in the world.
Then, dear, keep at it, and don't get discouraged. Somebody said
once that the only reason for a failure was that the desire to succeed
was not strong enough.
Lynn laughed mirthlessly. If that is so, he said, moodily, I
shall not fail.
No, she answered, you shall not fail. I won't let you fail, she
added, impulsively. I know you and I believe in you.
The worst of it, Lynn went on, would be to disappoint you.
Margaret drew his tall head down and rubbed her cheek against his.
You could not disappoint me, she said, serenely, for all I ask of
you is your best. Give me that, and I am satisfied.
You've always had that, mother, he returned, with a forced laugh.
When you strike a snag, I suppose the only thing to do is to drive on,
so we'll let it go at that. I'll keep on, and do the best I can. If
worst comes to worst, I can play in a theatre orchestra.
Don't! cried Margaret; you'll never have to do that!
Well, sighed Lynn, you can never tell what's coming, and in the
meantime it's almost twelve o'clock.
With the happy faculty of youth, Lynn was asleep almost as soon as
his head touched the pillow. Iris lay with her eyes wide open, staring
into the dark, inert and helpless under the influence of that anodyne
which comes at the end of a hurt, simply through lack of the power to
suffer more. The three letters under her pillow brought a certain sense
of comfort. In the midst of the darkness which surrounded her, someone
knew, someone understoodloved her, and was content to wait.
Margaret was troubled because of Lynn's disbelief in himself. His
sunny self-confidence was apparently put to rout by this new phase.
Then she remembered that they had all passed through a time of stress,
that Lynn, strong and self-reliant as he had been, must have felt it,
too, and, moreover, the artistic temperament in itself was inclined to
Of his future, she never for one moment had any doubt. It was her
heart's desire that Lynn should be an artist. Looking back upon her
life and upon all that she had suffered, she saw this one boon as full
compensationas her just due. If this bone of her bone and flesh of
her flesh might wear the laurel crown of the great, she would be
contentwould not begrudge the price which she had paid for it.
She smiled ironically at the thought that, while credit was given to
some, she had been compelled to pay in advance. It does not matter,
she mused, we must all pay, and it may be all the sweeter because I
know that no further payment will be demanded.
She was thinking of it when she fell asleep, and in her dream she
stood at a counter with a great throng of people, pushing and jostling.
Behind the counter was one in the form of a man who appeared to be
an angel. His face was serene and calm; he seemed far removed from the
passions which swayed the multitude. He conducted his business without
hurry or fret, and all the pushing availed nothing. His voice was clear
and high, and had in it a sense of finality. No one questioned him,
though many went away grumbling.
You have come to buy wealth? he asked. We have it for sale, but
the price of it is your peace of mind. For knowledge, we ask human
sympathy; if you take much of it, you lose the capacity to feel with
your fellow men. If you take beauty, you must give up your right to
love, and take the risk of an ignoble passion in its place. If you want
fame, you must pay the price of eternal loneliness. For love, you must
give self-surrender, and take the hurts of it without complaining. For
health, you pay in self-denial and right living. Yes, you may take what
you like, and the bill will be collected later, but there is no
exchange, and you must buy something. Take as long as you wish to
choose, but you must buy and you must pay.
* * * * *
Margaret awoke with his voice thundering in her ears: You must buy
and you must pay. The dream was extraordinarily vivid, and it seemed
as though someone shared it with her. It was difficult to believe that
it had not actually happened.
I have bought, she said to herself, and I have paid. Now it only
remains for me to enjoy Lynn's triumph. He will not have to payhis
mother has paid for him.
At breakfast, Iris was more like herself, and Lynn was in good
spirits. I dreamed all night, he said, cheerily, and one dream kept
coming back. I was buying something somewhere and refusing to pay for
it, and there was a row about it. I insisted that the thing was paid
forI don't know what it was, but it was something I wanted.
We always pay, said Iris, sadly; but I can't help wondering what
I am paying for now.
Perhaps, suggested Margaret, you are paying in advance.
Iris brightened, and upon her face came the ghost of a smile. That
may be, she answered.
Iris, asked Lynn, will you go out with me this afternoon? You
haven't been for a long time.
I don't think so, she replied, dully. It is kind of you, but I'm
not very strong just now.
We'll walk slowly, Lynn assured her, and it will do you good.
Won't you come, just to please me?
His voice was very tender, and Iris sighed. I'll see, she said,
resignedly; I don't care what I do.
At three, then, said Lynn. I'll get through practising by that
time and I'll be waiting for you.
At the appointed time they started, and Margaret waved her hand at
them as they went down the path. Iris was so thin and fragile that it
seemed as if any passing wind might blow her away. Lynn was very
careful and considerate.
Where do you want to go? he asked.
I don't care; I don't want to climb, though. Let's keep on level
Very well, but where? Which way?
Iris felt the stiff corner of the letter hidden in her gown. Let's
go up the river, she said. I've never been there and I'd like to go.
So they followed the course of the stream, and the fresh air brought
a faint colour into her cheeks. As the giant of old gained strength
from his mother earth, Iris revived in the sunshine. The long period of
inactivity demanded exertion to balance it.
It is lovely, she said. It seems good to be moving around again.
I'll take you every day, returned Lynn, if you'll only come. I
want to see you happy again.
I shall never be as happy as I was, she sighed. No one is the
same after a sorrow like mine.
I suppose not, answered Lynn. We are always changing. No one can
go back of to-day and be the same as he was yesterday. I often think
that old Greek philosopher was right when he said that the one thing
common to all life was change.
Which one was he?
Heraclitus, I think. Anyhow, he was a clever old duck.
Iris smiled. I have sometimes thought ducks were philosophers, she
said, but it never occurred to me that philosophers were ducks.
Lynn laughed heartily, thoroughly pleased with himself because Iris
seemed so much better. We don't want to go too far, he said. I
wouldn't tire you for anything. Shall we go back?
Nonot yet. Isn't there a marsh up here somewhere?
I should think there would be.
Then let's keep on and see if we don't find it. I feel as though I
were exploring a new country. It's strange that I've never been here
before, isn't it?
It's because I wasn't here to take you, but you'll always have me
now. You and I and mother are all going to live together. Won't that be
Yes, answered Iris, but her voice sounded far away and her eyes
Late afternoon flooded the earth with gold, and from distant fields
came the drowsy hum and whir of the fairy folk with melodious wings.
The birds sang cheerily, butterflies floated in the fragrant air, and
it was difficult to believe that in all the world there was such a
thing as Death.
I'm not going to let you go any farther, said Lynn. You'll be
No, I won't, and besides, I want to see the marsh.
My dear girl, you couldn't see ityou could only stand on the edge
Well, I'll stand on the edge of it, then, said Iris, stubbornly.
I've come this far, and I'm going to see it.
Suppose we climb that hill yonder, suggested Lynn. It overlooks
That will do, returned Iris. I'm willing to climb now, though I
wasn't when we started.
At first, Lynn walked by her side, warning her to go slowly, then he
took her hand to help her. When they reached the summit, he had his arm
around her, and it was some minutes before it occurred to him to take
Iris was looking at the tapestry spread out before themthe great
marsh with the sunset light upon it and the swallows circling above it.
Oh, she whispered, with her face alight, how beautiful it is! See
all the purple in itwhy, it might be violets, from up here!
Yes, answered Lynn, dreamily, it is your name-flower, the
fleur-de-lis. Then the colour flamed in his face and he bit his lips.
Quick as a flash, Iris turned upon him. Did you write the letters?
Lynn's eyes met hers clearly. Yes, he said, very tenderly. Dear
Heart, didn't you know?
XV. Little Lady
Up in the attic, Iris sat beside the old trunk, her lap filled with
papers. Never had she felt so alone, so desolate as to-day. The rain
beat upon the roof and grey swirls of water dashed against the pane.
The old house rocked in the rising wind, and from below, like an eerie
accompaniment, came the sound of Lynn's violin.
He was practising, and Iris heard him walking back and forth,
playing with mechanical precision. She shuddered at the sound of it,
for, strangely enough, she was conscious of bitter resentment against
Lynn. His hand had destroyed her dream and levelled it to the dust. In
the darkness, she had leaned, insensibly, upon the writer of the
letters, and now she knew that it was only LynnLynn, who had no
There comes a time to most of us, when the single prop gives way
and, absolutely alone, we either stand or fall. In the hard school of
life, sooner or later, one learns self-reliance. Iris began to perceive
that, in the end, she could depend upon no one but herself.
With a sigh, she turned to the papers once more. There was the
report of the detective whom Aunt Peace had engaged at the beginning,
voluminous, and obscured by legal phrases. Two or three letters,
bearing upon the subject, were attached to it. In the bottom of the box
were a wide, showy band of gold which, presumably, had been her
mother's wedding ring, and two photographs.
One was of a man whose weakness was indelibly stamped upon every
featurethe low, narrow forehead, the eyes slanting inward, the full
lips, and receding chin. On the back of it, Aunt Peace had written:
Supposed to be her father. Looking at it, Iris wondered how her
mother could have cared for a man like thatweak and frankly sensuous.
Yet there was an air of gay carelessness about the picture, a sort of
friendly camaraderie, distantly related to those genial ways
which stamp a higher grade of man as a good fellow.
Over the other photograph, she lingered long. The first Iris Temple
was pictured in the panoply of a stage queen. The crown of paste
brilliants upon her head, the tawdry gown, elaborately trimmed with
tinsel, and the gilded sceptre were all discredited by the face.
Beneath its mask of artificiality was a woman, a very human woman,
impulsive, eager, and loving, whose trustful eyes looked straight at
Iris with intimate comprehension. Plainly, the life of the stage was
not to her taste; she hungered, as every normal woman hungers, for the
quiet hearthstone and the simple joys of home.
In all her dreams of her mother, Iris had never imagined her like
this, and yet she was not disappointed. At times, looking back upon her
miserable childhood, she had bitterly blamed her for it, but now, for
the first time, she understood. Poor little mother, said Iris, you
did the very best you could.
If things had been different, she and her mother could have had a
little home of their own. Rebellion was hot in the girl's heart, when
she suddenly remembered something Fräulein Fredrika had said long ago.
Wherever one may be, that is the best place. The dear God knows.
She folded up the papers and put them back in the box, with the
photographs and the wedding ring. For the moment, she wondered what her
real name might be, for Iris Temple was only a stage name. Then she
dismissed the matter as of no importance, for she certainly would not
care to bear the name of the man who had deserted her mother in her
hour of need.
She wondered why Aunt Peace had never given her the papers before,
but, after all, what good could it have done? What had she gained by
it, even now? In a flash of insight, she saw that she had been given a
feeling of definite relationship with the woman in the tawdry stage
trappings, who had loved much and suffered morethat though an old
grave divided them, she was not quite motherless, not quite alone. For
the first time since Aunt Peace was stricken with the fever, balm came
into the girl's sore heart.
Below, Lynn played unceasingly. Four hours a day, thought Iris.
One sixth of lifeand for what?
Lynn was asking himself the same question. For what? Ambition was
strong within him, but Herr Kaufmann's words had struck deep. I will
be an artist! he said to himself, passionately; I will! He worked
feverishly at his concerto, but his mind was not upon it. He was
thinking of Iris and of the unconscious scorn in her face when she
discovered that he had written the letters.
He put down his violin and meditated, as many a man in that very
room had done before him, upon the problem of the eternal feminine.
Iris was incomprehensible. He knew that the letters had not displeased
her; that, on the contrary, she had been unusually happy when they
came. He remembered also that moonlight night, when, safely screened by
the shrubbery across the street, he had seen her put the flower upon
the gate-post and as swiftly take it away. He had loved her all the
more for that quick impulse, that shame-faced retreat, and put the
memory securely away in his heart, biding his time.
Iris, he asked, at luncheon, will you go for a walk with me this
No, she returned, shortly.
Why not? It isn't too wet, is it?
I'm going by myself. I prefer to be alone.
Lynn coloured and said nothing more. In the afternoon, while he was
at work, he saw her trip daintily down the path, lifting her skirts to
avoid the pools of water the Summer shower had left. He watched her
until she was no longer within range of his vision, then went back to
Iris had no definite errand except to the post-office, where, as
usual, there was nothing, but it rested her to be outdoors. It is
Nature's unfailing charm that she responds readily to every mood, and
ultimately brings extremes to a common level of quiet cheerfulness.
She leaned over the bridge and looked into the stream, where her own
face was mirrored. She saw herself sad and old, a woman of mature
years, still further aged by trouble. What had become of the happy girl
of a few months ago?
The thought of Lynn recurred persistently, and always with
repulsion. What should she do? She could not wholly ignore him, year in
and year out, and live in the same house. It must be nearly time for
him to go away and leave her in peace.
Then Iris gasped, for it was Lynn's house,his and his mother's.
She was there upon sufferance onlya guest? No, not a guestan
intruder, an interloper.
In her new trouble, she thought of Herr Kaufmann, always gentle,
always wise. With Iris, action followed swiftly upon impulse, and she
went rapidly up the hill. Fräulein Fredrika was out, but the Master was
in the shop, so she went in at the lower door.
So, he said, kindly, one little lady comes to see the old man. It
is long since you have come.
I have been in trouble, faltered Iris.
Yes, returned the Master, I have heard. Mine heart has been very
sorry for you.
It was lovely of you, she went on, choking back a sob, to come
and play for us. We appreciated itMrs. Irving and IDoctor
BrinkerhoffandLynn, she added, grudgingly.
The Herr Irving, said the Master, with interest, he has
appreciated mine playing?
Of coursewe all did.
Mine pupil progresses, he remarked, enigmatically.
Was it, began Iris, hesitating over the words,was it the
The Master looked at her sharply. Yes, why not? One gives one's
best to Death.
Death demands it, and takes it, said the girl. That is why.
She spoke bitterly, and Herr Kaufmann put down the violin he was
working upon. His heart went out to Iris, white-faced and ghostly, her
eyes burning fiercely. He saw that her hands were trembling, and,
moving his chair closer, he took them both in his.
Little lady, he said, it makes mine old heart ache to see you so
close with sorrow. If it could be divided, I would take mine share,
because these broad shoulders are used to one heavy burden, and a
little more would not matter so much, but one must learn, even though
the cross is very hard to bear.
It is most difficult, and yet some day you will see. You have only
to look out of your window for one year to understand it all. First it
is Winter, and the snow is deep upon the ground. All the flowers are
dead, and there are no birds. The moon shines cold, and there are many
storms. But, so slow that you can never see it, there is change.
Presently, the bare branches turn in their sleep and wake up with
leaves. The birds come back, and all the earth is glad again.
Then everything grows and it is all in one blossom. On the wide
fields there is much grain, and all hearts are singing. Even after the
frost, everything is glad for a little while, and then, very slowly, it
is Winter once more.
Little lady, do you not see? There must always be Winter, there
must always be night and storm and cold. It is then that the flowers
restthey cannot always be in bloom. But somewhere on the great world
the sun is always shining, and, just so sure as you live, it will
sometime shine on you. The dear God has made it so. There is so much
sun and so much storm, and we must have our share of both. It is Winter
in your heart now, but soon it will be Spring. You have had one long
Summer, and there must be something in between. We are not different
from all else the dear God has made. It is all in one law, as the Herr
Doctor will tell you. He is most wise, and he has helped me to
But Aunt Peace! sobbed the girl. Aunt Peace is dead, and mother,
too! I am all alone!
Little lady, said the Master, very tenderly, you must never say
you are alone. Because you have had much love, shall you be a child
when it is taken away? Has it meant so little to you that it leaves
nothing? Just so strong and beautiful as it has been, just so much
strength and beauty does it leave. There are many, in this world, who
would be so glad to change places with you. To be dead, he went on,
bitterly, that is nothing beside one living grave! It is by far the
He left her and went to the window, where he stood for a long time
with his back toward her. Then Iris perceived her own selfishness, and
she crept up beside him, slipping her cold little hand into his. I
understand, she said, gently, you have had sorrow, too.
The Master smiled, but she saw that his eyes were wet. Yes, he
sighed, I know mine sorrow. We are old friends. Then he stooped and
kissed her, ever so softly, upon her forehead. It was like a
I think, she said, after a little, that I must go away from East
So? And why?
Iris knit her brows thoughtfully. Well, she explained, I have no
right here. The house is Mrs. Irving's, and after her it belongs to
Lynn. Aunt Peace said it was to be my home while I lived, but that was
only because she did not want to turn me out. She was too kind to do
that, but I do not belong there.
The Herr Irving, said the Master, in astonishment. Does he want
you to go away?
No! No! cried Iris. Don't misunderstand! They have said
nothingthey have been lovely to mebut I can't help feeling
The Master nodded. Yes, I see. Perhaps you will come to live with
mine sister and me. The old house needs young faces and the sound of
young feet. Mine house, he said, with quiet dignity, is very large.
Even in her perplexity, Iris wondered why the little bird-house on
the brink of the cliff always seemed a mansion to its owner. Quickly,
he read her thought.
I know what you are thinking, he continued; you are thinking that
mine house is small. Three rooms upstairs and three rooms downstairs.
Fredrika could sleep in mine room, and I could take the store closet
back of mine shop and keep the wood for the violins at the Herr
Doctor's. Upstairs, you could have one bedroom and one parlour.
Fredrika and I would come up only to eat.
Herr Kaufmann, cried Iris, her heart warming to him, it is lovely
of you, but I can't. Don't you see, if I could stay anywhere I could
stay where I am?
It was not a clear sentence, but he grasped its meaning. Yes, I
see. But when I say mine house is large, it is not of these six rooms
that I think. Have you not read in the good book that in mine Father's
house there are many mansions? So? Well, it is in those mansions that I
live. I have put aside mine sorrow, and I wait till the dear God is
pleased to take me home.
To take us home, said Iris, thoughtfully. Perhaps Aunt Peace was
Yes, answered the Master, she was tired. Otherwise, she would
have been allowed to stay. You have not been thinking of her, but of
Perhaps I have, she admitted.
If you go away, he went on, it is better that you should study.
You have one fine voice, and with sorrow in your heart, you can make
much from it. Those who have been made great have first suffered.
Iris turned upon him. You mean that? she asked, sharply.
Of course, he returned, serenely. Before you can help those who
have suffered, you must suffer yourself. It is so written.
Iris sighed heavily. I must go, she said, dully.
Not yet. Wait.
He went to his bedroom, and came back with a violin case. He opened
it carefully; unwrapped the many thicknesses of silk, and took out the
Cremona. See, he said, with his face aglow, is it not most
beautiful? When you are sad, you can remember that you have seen mine
Thank you, returned Iris, her voice strangely mingled with both
laughter and tears, I will remember.
When she went home, the Master looked after her for a moment or two,
then turned away from the window to wipe his eyes. He was drawn by
temperament to all who sorrowed, and he had loved Iris for years.
That night, she sat alone in the library, sheltered by the darkness.
Margaret was reading in her own room, and Lynn was out. More clearly
than ever, Iris saw that she must go away. She had no definite plan,
but Herr Kaufmann's suggestion seemed a good one.
When Lynn came in, he lit the candles in the parlour. Iris hoped he
would go upstairs without coming into the library, but he did not. She
shrank back into her chair, trusting that he would not see her, but
with unerring instinct he went straight to her.
Sweetheart, he whispered, are you here?
I'm here, said Iris, frostily, but that isn't my name.
The timid little voice thrilled him with a great tenderness, and he
quickly possessed himself of her hand. Iris, darling, he went on,
why do you avoid me? I have been miserable ever since I told you I
wrote the letters.
It was wrong to write them, she said.
Didn't you like them?
I didn't think you were displeased. He was too chivalrous to
remind her of that moonlight night.
It was very wrong, she repeated, stubbornly.
Then forgive me.
It's nothing to me, she returned, unmoved.
I hoped it would be, said Lynn, gently. Every time, I walked over
to the next town to mail them. I knew you hadn't seen any of my
writing, and I was sure you wouldn't suspect me.
Nice advantage to take of a girl, wasn't it? demanded Iris, her
She rose and started toward the door, but Lynn kept her back. The
starlight showed him her face, white and troubled. Sweetheart, he
said, listen. Just a moment, dearthat isn't much to ask, is it? If
it was wrong to write the letters, then I ask you to forgive me, but
every word was true. I love you, IrisI love you with all my heart.
With all your heart, she repeated, scornfully. You have no
Iris, he said, unsteadily, what do you mean?
This, she cried, in a passion. You have no more feeling than the
ground beneath your feet! Haven't I seen, haven't I known? Aunt Peace
died, and you did not careyou only thought it was unpleasant. You
play like a machine, a mountebank. Tricks with the violintricks with
words! And yet you dare to say you love me!
Iris! Darling! cried Lynn, stung to the quick. Don't!
Once for all I will have my say. To-morrow I go out of your house
forever. I have no right here, no place. I am an intruder, and I am
going away. You will never see me again, never as long as you live.
You, a machine, a clod, a trickster, a thing without a heartyou shall
not insult me again!
White to the lips, trembling like a leaf, Iris shook herself free
and ran up to her room.
Lynn drew a long, shuddering breath. God! he whispered, clenching
his hands tightly. God!
XVI. Afraid of Life
She kept her word. To Mrs. Irving she merely said that she had
already trespassed too long upon their hospitality, and that she
thought it best to go away. She had talked with Herr Kaufmann, and he
had advised her to go to the city and have her voice trained. Yes, she
would write, and would always think of them kindly.
Lynn, who had passed the first sleepless night of his life, went to
the train with her, but few words were spoken. Iris was cool,
dignified, and cruelly formal. An immeasurable distance lay between
them, and one, at least, made no effort to lessen it.
They had only a few minutes to wait, and, just as the train came in
sight, Lynn bent over her. Iris, he said, unsteadily, if you ever
want me, will you promise me that you will let me know?
Yes, she replied, with an incredulous laugh, if I ever want you,
I will let you know.
I will go to you, said Lynn, struggling for his self-control,
from the very end of the world. Just send me the one word: 'Come.' And
let me thank you now for all the happiness you have given me, and for
the memory of you, which I shall have in my heart for always.
You are quite welcome, she returned, frigidly. You but the
roar of the train mercifully drowned her words.
The sun still shone, the birds did not cease their singing.
Outwardly, the world was just as fair, even though Iris had gone. Lynn
walked away blindly, no longer dull, but keenly alive to his hurt.
From the crucible of Eternity, Time, the magician, draws the days.
Some are wholly made of beauty; of wide sunlit reaches and cool
silences. Some of dreams and twilight, with roses breathing fragrance
through the dusk. Some of darkness, wild and terrible, lighted only by
a single star. Others still of riving lightnings and vast,
reverberating thunders, while the heart, swelled to bursting, breaks on
the reef of Pain.
It seemed as though Lynn's heart were rising in an effort to escape.
I must keep it down, he thought. It was like an imprisoned bird, cut,
bruised, and bleeding, beating against the walls of flesh. And yet,
there was a hand upon it, and the iron fingers clutched unmercifully.
Iris had gone, and the dream was at an end. Iris had gone, flouting
him to the last, calling his love an insult.
Machineclodmountebank the bitter words rang through his
consciousness again and again.
It might be true, part of it at least. Herr Kaufmann had told him,
more than once, that he played like a machine. Clod? Possibly.
Mountebank? That might be, too. Trickster with the violin, trickster
with words? Perhaps. But a thing without a heart? Lynn laughed bitterly
and put his hand against his breast to quiet the throbbing.
No one knewno one must ever know. Iris would not betray him, he
was sure of that, but he must be on his guard lest he should betray
himself. He must hide it, must keep on living, and appear to be the
same. His mother's keen eyes must see nothing amiss. Fortunately, he
could be alone a great dealoutdoors, or practising, and at night. He
shuddered at the white night through which he had somehow lived, and
wondered how many more would follow in its train.
Suddenly, he remembered that it was his lesson day, and he was not
prepared. Common courtesy demanded that he should go up to Herr
Kaufmann's, and tell him that he did not feel like taking his
lessonthat he had a headache, or something of the kindthat he had
hurt his wrist, perhaps.
He hoped that Fräulein Fredrika would come to the door, and that he
might leave his message with her, but it was Herr Kaufmann who answered
So, said the Master, you are once more late.
No, answered Lynn, refusing to meet his eyes, I just came to tell
you that I couldn't take my lesson to-day. I don't think, he
stammered, that I can ever take any more lessons.
And why? demanded the Master. Come in!
Before he realised it, he was in the parlour, gay with its
accustomed bright colours. One look at Lynn's face had assured Herr
Kaufmann that something was wrong, and, for the first time, he was
drawn to his pupil.
So, said the Master. Mine son, is it not well with you?
Lynn turned away to hide the working of his face. Not very, he
answered in a low tone.
Miss Iris, said the Master, she will have gone away?
It was like the tearing of a wound. Yes, replied Lynn, almost in a
whisper, she went this morning.
And you are sad because she has gone away? I am sorry mineself.
Miss Iris is one little lady.
Yes, returned Lynn, clenching his hands, she is.
Something in the boy's eyes stirred an old memory, and made the
Master's heart very tender toward him. Mine son, he said very gently,
if something has troubled you, perhaps it will give you one relief to
tell me. Only yesterday Miss Iris was here. She was very sad when she
came, and when she went away the world was more sunny, or so I think.
Quickly surmising that Herr Kaufmann had something more than a hint
of it, and more eager for sympathy than he realised, Lynn stammered out
the story, choking at the end of it.
There was a long silence, in which the Master went back twenty-five
years. Lynn's eyes, so full of trouble, were they not like another's,
long ago? The organ-tone of the thunder once more reverberated through
the forest, where the great boughs arched like the nave of a cathedral,
and the dead leaves scurried in fright before the rising wind.
That is all, said the boy, his face white to the lips. It is not
much, but it is a great deal to me.
So, said the Master, scornfully, you are to be an artist and you
are afraid of life! You are summoned to the ranks of the great and you
shrink from the signalcover your ears, that you shall not hear the
trumpet call! This, when you should be on your knees, thanking the good
God that at last He has taught you pain!
Lynn's face was pitiful, and yet he listened eagerly.
There is no half-way point, the Master was saying; if you take
it, you must pay. Nothing in this world is free but the sun and the
fresh air. You must buy shelter, food, clothing, with the work of your
hands and brain. If someone else gives it to you, it is not yoursyou
are one parasite. You must earn it all.
You think you can take all, and give nothing? It is not so. For
six, eight years now, you study the violin. You learn the scales, the
technique, the good wrist, and nothing else. I teach you all I can, but
it must come from yourself, not me. I can only guidetell you when you
have made one mistake.
What is it that the art is for? Is it for one great assembly of
people to pay the high price for admission? 'See,' they say, 'this
young man, what good tone he has, what bowing, what fine wrist! How
smooth he plays his concerto! When it is marked fortissimo, see how he
plays fortissimo! It is most skilful!' Is the art for that? No!
It is for everyone in the world who has known trouble to be lifted
up and made strong. They care nothing for the means, only for the end.
They have no eyes for the fine bowing, the good wristwhat shall they
know of technique? And yet you must have the technique, else you cannot
give the message.
Everyone that hears has had his own sorrow. None of them are new
ones, they are all old, and so few that one person can suffer all. It
is for you to take that, to know the hurt heart and the rebellious
soul, so that you can comfort, lift up, and make noble with your art.
And youyou cry out when you should be glad. Miss Iris does not
love you, and beyond that you do not see. Suppose one thousand people
were before you, and all had loved someone who did not care for them.
Could you make it easier if you knew nothing of it by yourself?
Listen. On a hill in Italy there was once a tree. It was a seed at
the beginning, a seed you could hold with the ends of your fingers, so.
It was buried in the ground, covered up with earth like something that
had died. Do you think the seed liked that?
But is it afraid, when its heart is swelling? No! It breaks
through, with the great hurt. Still there is earth around it, still it
is buried, but yet it aspires. One day it comes to the surface of the
ground, and once more it breaks through, with pain.
But the sun is bright and warm, and the seed grows. Careless feet
trample upon itthere is yet one more hurt. But it straightens, waits
through the long nights for the blessed sun, and so on, until it is so
high as one bush.
Constantly, there is growing, one aspiration upward. Bark comes and
the tree swells outward, always with pain. Someone cuts off all the
lower branches, and the tree bleeds, yet keeps on. Other branches come
thick about it; there is one struggle, but through the dense growth the
tree climbs, always upward. In the sun above the thick shade, it can
laugh at the ache and the thorns, but it does not forget.
And so, upward, always upward, till it is lifted high above its
fellows. Birds come there to sing, to build their nests, to rear their
young, to mourn when one little bird falls out from the nest and is
The sun shines fiercely, and it nearly dies in the heat. The storm
comes and it is shrouded in icemade almost to die with the cold. The
wild winds rock it and tear off the branches, making it bleedthere
must always be pain. The thunders play over its head, the lightnings
burn it, and yet its heart lives on. The rains beat upon it like one
river, and still it grows.
The years go by and each one brings new hurt, but the tree is made
hard and strong. One day there comes a man to look at it, all the
straight fine length, the smooth trunk. 'It will do,' he says, and with
his axe he chops it down. Do you think it does not hurt the tree? After
the long years of fighting, to be cut like that?
Then it falls, crashing heavy through the branches to the ground.
See, there must always be pain, even at the end. Then more cutting,
more bleeding, more heat, more cold. Fine toolssteel knives that tear
and split the fibres apart. Do you think it does not hurt? More sun,
more cold, still more cutting, tearing, and throwing aside. Then, one
day, it is finished, and there is mine Cremonaall the strength, all
the beauty, all the pain, made into mine violin!
But the end is not yet. God is working with me and mine as well as
with mine instrument. As yet, I do not know that it is for meit comes
to me through pain.
One old gentleman, one of the first to travel abroad from this
country for pleasure, he goes to Italy, he finds it in the hands of one
ignorant drunkard, and he buys it for little. He brings it home, but he
cannot play, and no one else can play; he does not know its value, but
it pleases him and he takes it. For long years, it stays in one attic,
with the dust and the cobwebs, kicked aside by careless feet.
Meanwhile, I know one lovely young lady. I meet her by chance, and
we like each other, oh, so much! 'Franz,' she says to me, 'you live on
one hill in West Lancaster, and mine mother, she would never let me
speak with you, so I must see you sometimes, quite by accident,
elsewhere. On pleasant days, I often go to walk in the woods. Mine
mother likes me to be outdoors.' So, many times, we meet and we talk of
strange things. Each day we love each other more, and all the time her
mother does not suspect. We plan to go away together and never let
anyone know until we are married and it is too late, but first I must
'Franz,' she says to me one day, 'up in mine attic there is one old
violin, which I think must be valuable. Mine mother is away with a
friend and the house is by itself. Will you not come up to see?'
So we go, and the house is very quiet. No one is there. We go like
two thieves to the attic, laughing as though we were children once
more. Presently we find the violin, and I see that it is one Cremona,
very old, very fine, but with no strings. I fit on some strings that I
have in mine pocket, but there is no bow and I can only play pizzicato.
I need to hear the tone but one moment to know what it is that I have.
'It is most wonderful,' I say, and then the door opens and one very
angry lady stands there.
She tells me that I shall never come into that house again, that I
must go right away, that I have nowhat do you say?no social place,
and that I am not to speak with her daughter. To her she says: 'I will
attend to you very soon.' We creep down the stairs together and mine
Beloved whispers: 'Every day at four, at the old place, until I come.'
I understand and I go away, but mine heart is very troubled for her.
For long days I wait, and every day, at four, I am at the
meeting-place in the wood, but no one comes, and there is no message,
no word. All the time I feel as you feel now because Miss Iris has gone
away and does not care. I wait and wait, but I can get no news, and I
fear to go to the house because I shall perhaps harm mine Beloved, and
she has told me what to do. Every day I am there, even in the rain,
At last she comes, with the violin under her arm, wrapped in her
coat. 'I have only one minute,' she cries; 'they are going to take me
away, and we can never see each other again. So I give you this. You
must keep it, and when you are sad it will tell you how much I love
you, how much I shall always love you. You will not forget me,' she
says. There is just one instant more together, with the thunders and
the lightnings all around us, then I am alone, except for mine violin.
Do you not see? There must always be pain. The dear God has made
mine instrument, and in the same way He has made me, with the cutting
and the bruises and the long night. I, too, have known the storm and
all the fury of the winds and rain. Like the tree, I have aspired, I
have grown upward, I have done the best I could. Otherwise, I should
not be fitted to play on mine CremonaI would not deserve to touch it,
and so, in a way, I am glad.
I have had mine fame, he went on. With the sorrow in mine heart,
I have studied and worked until I have made mineself one great artist.
If you do not believe, I can show you the papers, where much has been
written of me and mine violin. Women have cried when I have played, and
have thrown their red roses to me. I had the technique, and when the
hurt broke open mine heart, I was immediately one artist. I understood,
I could play, I could lift up all who suffered, because I had known
Mine son, do you not understand? You can give only what you have.
If one sorrow is in your heart, if you have learned the beauty and the
nobility of it, you can teach others the same thing. You can show them
how to rise above it, like the tree that had one long lifetime of hurt,
and ended in mine Cremona to help all who hear. The one who plays the
instrument must be made in the same way, of the same influencesthe
cutting, the night, and the cold. Of softness nothing good ever comes,
for one must always fight.
Nothing in this whole world is free but the sun and the fresh air
and the water to drink. We must pay the fair price for all else. I have
had mine fame and I have paid mine price, but the heights are lonely,
and sometimes I think it would be better to walk in the valley with a
woman's hand in mine. But at the first, before I knew, I chose. I said:
'I will be an artist,' and so I am, but I have paid, oh, mine son, I
have paid and I am still paying! There is no end!
The Master's face was grey and haggard, but his eyes burned. Lynn
saw what it had cost him to open this secret chamberto lay bare this
old wound. And I, he said huskily, I touched the Cremona!
Yes, said the Master, sadly, on that first day, you lifted up
mine Cremona, and until to-day I have never forgiven. There has been
resentment in mine old heart for you, though I have tried to put it
aside. Her hands were last upon ithers and mine. When I touched it,
it was the place where her white fingers rested, where many a time I
put mine kiss to ease mine heart. And you, you took that away from me!
If I had only known, murmured Lynn.
But you did not know, said the Master, kindly; and to-day I have
Thank you, returned Lynn, with a lump in his throat; it is much
Sometimes, sighed the Master, when I have been discouraged, I
have been very hungry for someone to understand mesomeone to laugh,
to touch mine tired eyes, to make me forget with her little sweet ways.
In mine fancy, I have seen it all, and more.
When I have gone down the hill to the post-office, where there has
never been the letter from her, and the little children have run to me,
holding out their arms that I should take them up, I have felt that the
price was too high that I have paid. But all the time I have understood
that on the heights one must go alone, for a time at least, with the
thunders and the lightnings and the storms. If I had been given one
son, I think he would have been like you, one fine tall young fellow
with the honest face and the laughing ways, but you have been shielded,
and I should not have done so. I should have let you grow from the
start and learn all things so soon as you could.
I never knew my father, Lynn said, deeply moved, but if I could
choose, I would choose you.
So, said the Master, his eyes filling. Then their hands met in a
long clasp of understanding.
Already I am the richer for it, Lynn went on, after a little. I
know now what I did not know before.
The boy's face was still white, but the look of hopeless despair was
merged into something which foreshadowed ultimate acceptance. The
Master still held his hand.
If you are to be an artist, he said, once more, you must not be
afraid of life. You must welcome it to its utmost cross. You must take
the cold, the heat, the poverty, the hunger, the burning way through
the desert, the snow-clad steeps, the keen hurt, and the happinessit
is all one, for it gives you knowledge. You must know all the pain of
the world, face to face, if you are to help those who bear it. Keen
feelings give you the great hurt, but also, in payment, the great joy.
The balance swings true. The Herr Doctor has told me this. He is most
wise; he understands.
I see, answered Lynn. I will never be afraid again.
That, said the Master, with his face alight,that is mine son's
true courage. Take it with your head up, your teeth shut, and your
heart always believing. Fear nothing, and much will be given back to
you,is it not so? Let life do all it canyou will never be crushed
unless you are willing that it should be so. Defeat comes only to those
who invite it.
I see, said Lynn, again; with all my heart I thank you.
He went away soon afterward, insensibly comforted. Overnight, he had
come into his heritage of pain, had lost the girl he loved, and in
swift restitution found comradeship with the Master.
That stately figure lingered long before his vision, grey and
rugged, yet with a certain graciousnesssimple, kindly, and yet
austere; one who had accepted his sorrow, and, by some alchemy of the
spirit, transmuted it into universal compassion, to speak, through the
Cremona, to all who could understand.
XVII. He Loves Her Still
When Doctor Brinkerhoff came on Wednesday evening, he was surprised
to discover that Iris had gone away. It was sudden, was it not? he
It seemed so to us, returned Margaret. We knew nothing of it
until the morning she started. She had probably been planning it for a
long time, though she did not take us into her confidence until the
Lynn sat with his face turned away from his mother. Did you,
perhaps, suspect that she was going? the Doctor directly inquired of
He hesitated for the barest perceptible interval before he spoke.
She told us at the breakfast table, he answered. Iris is replete
But before that, continued the Doctor, did you have no
Lynn laughed shortly. How should I suspect? he parried. I know
nothing of the ways of women.
Women, observed the Doctor, with an air of knowledge,women are
inscrutable. For instance, I cannot understand why Miss Iris did not
come to say 'good-bye' to me. I am her foster-father, and it would have
Good-byes are painful, said Margaret.
We Germans do not say 'good-bye,' but only 'auf wiedersehen.'
Perhaps we shall see her again, perhaps not. No one knows.
Fräulein Fredrika does not say 'auf wiedersehen,' put in Lynn,
anxious to turn the trend of the conversation.
No, responded the Doctor, with a smile. She says: 'You will come
once again, yes? It would be most kind.'
He imitated the tone and manner so exactly that Lynn laughed, but it
was a hollow laugh, without mirth in it. Do not misunderstand me,
said the Doctor, quickly; it was not my intention to ridicule the
Fräulein. She is a most estimable woman. Do you perhaps know her? he
asked of Margaret.
I have not that pleasure, she replied.
She was not here when I first came, the Doctor went on, but Herr
Kaufmann sent for her soon afterward. They are devoted to each other,
and yet so unlike. You would have laughed to see Franz at work at his
housekeeping, before she came.
A shadow crossed Margaret's face.
I have often wondered, she said, clearing her throat, why men are
not taught domestic tasks as well as women. It presupposes that they
are never to be without the inevitable woman, yet many of them often
are. A woman is trained to it in the smallest details, even though she
has reason to suppose that she will always have servants to do it for
her. Then why not a man?
A good idea, mother, remarked Lynn. To-morrow I shall take my
first lesson in keeping house.
You? she said fondly; you? Why, Lynn! Lacking the others, you'll
always have me to do it for you.
That, replied the Doctor, triumphantly, disproves your own
theory. If you are in earnest, begin on the morrow to instruct Mr.
Margaret flushed, perceiving her own inconsistency.
I could be of assistance, possibly, he continued, for in the
difficult school of experience I have learned many things. I have often
taken professional pride in closing an aperture in my clothing with
neat stitches, and the knowledge thus gained has helped me in my
surgery. All things in this world fit in together.
It is fortunate if they do, she answered. My own scheme of things
has been very much disarranged.
Yet, as Fräulein Fredrika would say, 'the dear God knows.' Life is
like one of those puzzles that come in a box. It is full of queer
pieces which seemingly bear no relation to one another, and yet there
is a way of putting it together into a perfect whole. Sometimes we make
a mistake at the beginning and discard pieces for which we think there
is no possible use. It is only at the end that we see we have made a
mistake and put aside something of much importance, but it is always
too late to go backthe pieces are gone.
In my own life, I lost but onestill, it was the keystone of the
whole. When I came from Germany, I should have brought letters from
those in high places there to those in high places here. It could
easily have been done. I should have had this behind me when I came to
East Lancaster, and I should not have made the mistake of settling
first on the hill. Then The Doctor ceased abruptly, and sighed.
This country is supposed to be very democratic, said Lynn, chiefly
because he could think of nothing else to say.
Yes, replied the Doctor, it is in your laws that all men are free
and equal, but it is not so. The older civilisations have found there
is class, and so you will find it here. At first, when everything is
chaotic, all particles may seem alike, but in time there is an
We are getting very serious, said Margaret.
It is an important subject, responded the Doctor, with dignity. I
have often discussed it with my friend, Herr Kaufmann. He is a very
fine friend to have.
Yes, said Lynn, he is. It is only lately that I have learned to
One must grow to understand him, mused the Doctor. At first, I
did not. I thought him rough, queer, and full of sarcasm. But
afterward, I saw that his harshness was only a maskthe bark, if I may
say so. Beneath it, he has a heart of gold.
People, began Margaret, avoiding the topic, always seek their own
level, just as water does. That is why there is class.
But for a long time, they do not find it, objected the Doctor.
Miss Iris, for instance. Her people were of the common sort, and those
with whom she lived afterward were worse still. Sheby the
unconscious reverence in his voice, they knew whom he meantshe
taught her all the fineness she has, and that is much. It is an
argument for environment, rather than heredity.
Lynn left the room abruptly, unable to bear the talk of Iris.
I wish, said the Doctor, at length, I wish you knew Herr
Kaufmann. Would you like it if I should bring him to call?
No! cried Margaret. It is too soon, she added, desperately. Too
The Doctor nodded. I understand, he said. It was a mistake on my
part, for which you must pardon me. I only thought you might be a help
to each other. Franz, too, has sorrowed.
Has he? asked Margaret, her lips barely moving.
Yes, the Doctor went on, half to himself, it was an unhappy love
affair. The young lady's mother parted them because he lived in West
Lancaster, though he, too, might have had letters from high places in
Germany. He and I made the same mistake.
Her mother, repeated Margaret, almost in a whisper.
Yes, the young lady herself cared.
And he, she breathed, leaning eagerly forward, her body
tense,does he love her still?
He loves her still, returned the Doctor, promptly, and even more
The Doctor roused himself. What have I done! he cried, in genuine
distress. I have violated my friend's confidence, unthinking! My
friend, for whom I would make any sacrificeI have betrayed him!
No, replied Margaret, with a great effort at self-control. You
have not told me her name.
It is because I do not know it, said the Doctor, ruefully. If I
had known, I should have bleated it out, fool that I am!
Please do not be troubledyou have done no harm. Herr Kaufmann and
I are practically strangers.
That is so, replied the Doctor, evidently reassured; and I did
not mean it. It is not the same thing as if I had done it purposely.
Not at all the same thing.
At times, we put something aside in memory to be meditated upon
later. The mind registers the exact words, the train of circumstances
that caused their utterance, all the swift interplay of opposing
thought, and, for the time being, forgets. Hours afterward, in
solitude, it is recalled; studied from every point of view, searched,
analysed, questioned, until it is made to yield up its hidden meaning.
It was thus that Margaret put away those four words: He loves her
They are pathetic, these tiny treasure-houses of Memory, where
oftentimes the jewel, so jealously guarded, by the clear light of
introspection is seen to be only paste. One seizes hungrily at the
impulse that caused the hiding, thinking that there must be some
certain worth behind the deception. But afterward, painfully sure, one
locks the door of the treasure-chamber in self-pity, and steals away,
as from a casket that enshrines the dead.
They talked of other things, and at half-past ten the Doctor went
home, leaving a farewell message for Lynn, and begging that his kind
remembrances be sent to Iris, when she should write.
Thank you, said Mrs. Irving. I shall surely tell her, and she
will be glad.
The door closed, and almost immediately Lynn came in from the
library, rubbing his eyes. I think I've been asleep, he said.
It was rude, dear, returned Margaret, in gentle rebuke. It is
ill-bred to leave a guest.
I suppose it is, but I did not intend to be gone so long.
The house seemed singularly desolate, filled, as it was, with
ghostly shadows. Through the rooms moved the memory of Iris, and of
that gentle mistress who slept in the churchyard, who had permeated
every nook and corner of it with the sweetness of her personality.
There was something in the air, as though music had just ceasedthe
wraith of long-gone laughter, the fall of long-shed tears.
I miss Iris, said Margaret, dreamily. She was like a daughter to
Taken off his guard, Lynn's conscious face instantly betrayed him.
Lynn, said Margaret, suddenly, did you have anything to do with
her going away?
The answer was scarcely audible. Yes.
Margaret never forced a confidence, but after a pause she said very
gently: Dear, is there anything you want to tell me?
It's nothing, said Lynn, roughly. He rose and walked around the
room nervously. It's nothing, he repeated, with assumed carelessness.
II asked her to marry me, and she wouldn't. That's all. It's
Margaret's first impulse was to smile. This child, to be talking of
marriagethen her heart leaped, for Lynn was twenty-three; older than
she had been when the star rose upon her horizon and then set forever.
Then came a momentary awkwardness. Childish though the trouble was,
she pitied Lynn, and regretted that she could not shield him from it as
she had shielded him from all else in his life.
Then resentment against Iris. What was she, a nameless outcast, to
scorn the offered distinction? Any woman in the world might be proud to
become Lynn's wife.
Then, smiling at her own folly, Margaret went to him, dominated
solely by gratitude. Not knowing what else to do, she drew his tall
head down to kiss him, but Lynn swerved aside, and with his face
against the softness of his mother's hair, wiped away a boyish tear.
Lynn, she said, tenderly, you are very young.
How old were you when you married, mother?
How old was father?
Then, persisted Lynn, with remorseless logic, I am not too young,
and neither is Irisonly she doesn't care.
She may care, son.
No, she won't. She despises me.
She said I had no heart.
Maybe I didn't have then, but I'm sure I have now.
He walked back and forth restlessly. Margaret knew that the griefs
of youth are cruelly keen, because they come well in the lead of the
strength to bear them. She was about to offer the usual threadbare
consolation, You will forget in time, when she remembered the stock
of which Lynn came.
His mother, who had carried a secret wound for more than twenty-five
years, who was she, to talk about forgetting, and, of all others, to
Gratitude was still dominant, though in her heart of hearts she knew
that she was selfish. Lynn felt the lack of sympathy, and became
conscious, for the first time in his life, that her tenderness had a
Mother, he said, suddenly, did you love father?
Why do you ask, son?
Because I want to know.
I respected him highly, said Margaret, at length. He was a good
You have answered, he returned. You don't knowyou don't
But I do understand, she flashed.
You can't, if you didn't love father.
II cared for someone else, said Margaret, thickly, unwilling to
be convicted of shallowness.
Lynn looked at her quickly. And you still care?
Margaret bowed her head. Yes, she whispered, I still care!
Mother! he cried. In an instant, his arms were around her and she
was sobbing on his shoulder. Mother, he pleaded, forgive me! To
think I never knew!
They had a long talk then, intimate and searching. You have borne
it bravely, he said. No one has ever dreamed of it, I am sure. The
Master told me, the other day, that I must not be afraid of life. He
said that everything, even our blessings, came to us through pain.
I would not say everything, temporised Margaret, but it is true
that much comes that way. We know happiness only by contrast.
Happiness and misery, light and dark, sunshine and storm, life and
death, mused Lynn. Yes, it is by contrast, but, as the Master says,
'the balance swings true.' I wish you knew him, mother; he has helped
me. I never knew my father, so it is not wrong for me to say that I
wish he might have been my father.
Margaret grew as cold as ice, and her senses reeled, then flame
swept her from head to foot. Come, she said, not knowing her own
voice, it is late.
Long afterward, in the solitude of her room, she took the precious
thought from its hiding-place, and found it purest gold. It was as
though all the bitterness in her heart, growing upward, through the
years, had flowered overnight into a perfect rose.
XVIII. Lynn Comes Into His Own
At the post-office there was a letter for Mrs. Irving. Lynn took it,
with a lump rising in his throat, for, though he had never seen her
handwriting, he knew, through a sixth sense, that it was from Iris.
Evidently, it was a brief communication, for the envelope contained not
more than a single sheet. The straight, precise slope of the address
had an old-fashioned air. It was very different from the modern angular
hand which demands a whole line for two or three words.
In some way, it brought her nearer to him, and in the shadow of the
maple, just outside the house, he kissed the superscription before he
took it in.
He waited, consciously, while his mother read it. It was little more
than a note, saying that she was established in a hall bedroom in a
city boarding-house, where she had the use of the piano in the parlour,
and that she was taking two lessons a week and practising a great deal.
She gave the name of her teacher, said she was well, and sent kind
remembrances to all who might inquire for her.
With a woman's insight, Margaret read heartache between the lines.
She knew that the note was brief because Iris did not dare to trust
herself to write more. There was no mention of Lynn, but it was not
because she had forgotten him.
Margaret gave the letter to Lynn, then turned away, that she might
not see his face. I shall write this afternoon, she said. Shall I
send any message for you?
No, returned Lynn, with a short, bitter laugh, I have no message
Her heart ached in sympathy, for by her own sorrow she measured the
depth of his. She knew that the elasticity of youth would fail
herethat Lynn was not of those who forget.
Son, she said, gently, I wish I might bear it for you.
I wouldn't let you, mother, even if you could. You have had enough
as it is. Herr Kaufmann says you have always shielded me and that it
was a mistake.
Had it been a mistake? Margaret thought it over after Lynn went
away. She had shielded himthat was true. He had never learned by
painful experience anything from which she had the power to save him.
If his father had lived
For the first time, Margaret thought of her freedom as a doubtful
blessing. Then, once more, she took the jewelled thought from its
hiding-place in her inmost heart. There was no hint of alloy thereit
was radiant with its own unspeakable beauty.
Lynn went to the post-office to mail the letter. East Lancaster
considered post-boxes modern innovations which were reckless and
unjustifiable. Suppose a stranger should be passing through East
Lancaster, break open a post-box, and feloniously extract a private
letter? What if the box should blow away? When a letter was placed in
the hands of the accredited representative of the Government, one might
be sure that it was safe, but not otherwise.
Doctor Brinkerhoff was talking with the postmaster, but he left him
to speak to Lynn. Miss Iris, he began, eagerly, you have perhaps
heard from her?
Yes, answered Lynn, dully, fingering the letter.
Is she quite well?
Briefly, Lynn told him what Iris had written.
It was kind to send remembrances to all who might inquire, mused
the Doctor. That is like my foster-daughter; she is always thinking of
others. She knew that I would be the first to ask. If you will give me
the address, it will be a pleasure to me to write to her. She must be
quite lonely where she is.
Lynn told him. Her letter was at home, but every syllable of it,
even the prosaic address, was written in letters of fire upon his
Thank you, said the Doctor, as he took it down in his memorandum
book; I shall write to-night. Shall I give her any word from you?
No! cried Lynn.
Ah, laughed the Doctor, I understand. You write yourself. Well, I
will tell her a letter is coming. Good afternoon!
He moved away, leaving Lynn cold from head to foot. He was tempted
to call the Doctor back, to ask him not to mention his name to Iris,
then he reflected that an explanation would be necessary. In any event,
Iris would understand. She would know that he did not intend to
writethat he had sent no message.
But, three days later, it was fated that Iris should tremble at the
sight of Lynn's name in a letter from East Lancaster. I think he will
write soon, Doctor Brinkerhoff had said. Mr. Irving is a very fine
gentleman and I have deep respect for him.
Write to me! repeated Iris. He would not dare! Why should he
write to me? She put the letter aside and read over those three
anonymous communications of Lynn's, making a vain effort to associate
them with his personality.
Meanwhile, Lynn was learning endurance. He slept but fitfully,
awaking always with the sense of choking and of a hand pulling at his
heart. He saw Iris everywhere. There was no room in the house, except
his own, that was not full of her and of the faint, elusive perfume
which seemed a part of her. Sometimes those ghostly images haunted him
until he could bear no more. Margaret often saw him throw down the book
he was reading and dash outdoors. For an hour, perhaps, he had not
turned a page, and the book was a flimsy pretence at best.
He had not touched his violin since Iris went away. More than
anything else, it spoke to him of her. Trickster with the violin
seemed written upon it for all the world to read. Dimly, he knew that
work was the only panacea for heartache, but he could not bring himself
to go on with his mechanical practising.
Summer was drawing to its close. Already there was a single scarlet
bough in the maple at the gate, where the frost had set its signal and
its promise of return. Many of the birds had gone, and fairy craft of
winged seeds, the sport of every wind, drifted aimlessly about in
search of some final harbour.
Strangely, Lynn rather avoided his mother. He felt her sympathy, her
comprehension, and yet he shrank from her. She was gentle and patient,
responded readily to his every mood, and rarely offered a caress, yet
he continually shrank back within himself.
He had made no friends in East Lancaster, though he knew one or two
young men near his own age, but he kept so far aloof from them that
they had long since ceased to seek him out. He kept away from Doctor
Brinkerhoff, fearing talk of Iris, or some new complication, and even
the postmaster's kindly sallies fell upon deaf ears. He, too, missed
Iris, and often inquired for her, though he could not have failed to
note that no letters came for Lynn.
Almost in the first of the hurt, when it seemed the hardest to bear,
he had wondered whether it could be any worse if Iris were dead. All at
once, he knew that it would be; that the cold hand and the quiet heart
were the supreme anguish of loving, because there was no longer any
possibility of change. Swiftly, he understood how Iris had felt when
Aunt Peace died and he stood by, indifferent and unmoved.
In tardy atonement, he covered the grave in the churchyard with
flowersthe goldenrod and purple aster that marched side by side over
the hills to meet the frost, gay and fearless to the last.
He saw himself as he had been then, and his heart grew hot with
shame. I don't wonder she called me a clod, he said to himself, for
that is what I was.
In the maze of darkness through which he somehow lived, there was
but one ray of comfortthe Master. Lynn felt, vaguely, that here was
something upon which he might lean. He did not perceive that it was his
own individuality which Herr Kaufmann had in some way awakened, so
prone are we to confuse the person with the thing, the thought with the
Day after day, he tramped over the hills around East Lancaster; day
by day, footsore and weary, he sought for peace along those sunlit
fields. At night, desperately tired and faint with hunger, he crept
home, where he slept uneasily, waking always with that hand of terror
clutching at his heart.
He went most frequently to the pile of rocks in the woods, a mile or
more from the house. There were no signs upon the bare earth around it;
seemingly no one went there but Lynn. Yet the suggestion of an altar
was openly made, from the wide ledge at the foundation, where one might
kneel, to the cross at the summit, rude, stern, and forbidding,
chiselled in the rock.
Here, many times, Lynn had found comfort. Someone else, whose heart
swelled, burned, and tried to escape, had cut that cross upon the
granite. Thus he came, by slow degrees, into an intimate, invisible
Herr Kaufmann had ceased to speak of lessons, though Lynn went there
sometimes and sat by while he worked. The Master had admitted him to
that high fellowship which does not demand speech. For an hour or more,
Lynn might sit there, watching, and yet no word would be spoken. As
with Dr. Brinkerhoff, there were occasional visits in which nothing was
said but Good afternoon and Good-bye.
Fräulein Fredrika was always busy overhead with her manifold
household tasks, and seldom disturbed them by coming into the shop.
Lynn wondered if the house was never clean, and once put the question
to Herr Kaufmann.
Mine house is always clean, he answered, except down here. Twice
in every year, I allow Fredrika to come in mine shop with her cloths
and her brush and her pails. The rest of the time, it is mine own. If
she could clean here all the time, as upstairs, I think she would be
more happy. If you like to come in mine shop when I am not here, I am
willing. It is one quiet place where one can rest undisturbed and think
of many things. Fredrika would not care.
Weeks later, Lynn thought of the kindly offer. A storm was coming
up, and he remembered that the Master had spoken of driving to another
town with Dr. Brinkerhoff. I have one violin, he had explained,
which was ordered long ago and which is now finished. While the Herr
Doctor visits the sick, I will go on with mine instrument and perhaps
obtain one more pupil.
Fräulein Fredrika answered his ring, and he asked, conventionally,
for Herr Kaufmann. Mine brudder is not home, she said. He will have
gone away, but I think not for long. You will perhaps come in and
I will not disturb you, replied Lynn. I will go down in the
But no, returned the Fräulein, coaxingly. Will you not stay with
me? I am with the loneliness when mine brudder is away. You will sit
with me? Yes? It will be most kind!
Thus entreated, he could not refuse, and he sat down in the parlour,
awkward and ill at ease. His hostess at once proceeded to entertain
You think it will rain, yes? she asked.
Yes, I think so.
Well, I do not, returned the Fräulein, smiling. I always think
the best. Let us wait and see which is right.
We need rain, objected Lynn, turning uneasily in his chair.
But not when mine brudder is out. He and the Herr Doctor will have
gone for a long drive. Mine brudder have finished one fine violin and
the Herr Doctor will visit the sick. Mine brudder's friend possesses
Lynn looked moodily past her and out of the window. The Fräulein
changed her tactics. You have not seen mine new clothes-brush, she
No, returned Lynn, unthinkingly, I haven't.
Then I will get him.
She came back, presently, and put it into Lynn's hand. It was made
of three strands of heavy rope, braided, looped to form a handle, tied
with a blue ribbon, and ravelled at the ends. See, she said, is it
not most beautiful?
Yes, agreed Lynn, absently.
Miss Iris have told me how to make him.
Lynn came to himself with a start. And this, she went on, pointing
to the gilded potato-masher that hung under the swinging lamp, and
this,but no, it is you who have made this for me. Miss Iris showed
you how. She pointed to the butterfly made so long ago, but still in
its pristine glory.
He said nothing, but by his face Fräulein Fredrika saw that she had
made a mistakethat she had somehow been clumsy. After all, it was
very difficult, this conversing with gentlemen. Franz was easy to get
along with, but the others? She shook her head in despair, and
immediately relinquished the thought of entertaining Lynn.
She could not tell him that she had changed her mind, that she no
longer wanted him to sit with her, and that he could go down in the
shop to wait for Herr Kaufmann. Painfully, in the silence, she
considered several expedients, and at last her face brightened.
Now that you are here, she said, to guard mine house, it will be
of a possibility for me to go out for some vegetables for mine
brudder's dinner. He will have been very hungry from his long ride, and
you see it is not going to rain. You will excuse me for a short time,
Gladly, answered Lynn, with sincerity.
Then I need not fear to go. It will be most kind.
She had been gone but a few minutes when the storm broke. Lynn saw
the wild rain sweep across the valley with a sense of peaceful security
which was quite new to him. For some time, now, he would be
alonealone, and yet sheltered from the storm.
Very often, after a deep experience, one looks upon the inanimate
things which were present at the beginning of it with wondering
curiosity. The crazy jug, the purple tidy embroidered with pink roses,
and the gilded potato-masher which swung back and forth when the wind
shook the house, were strangely linked with Destiny.
Here he had thoughtlessly touched the Cremona, and, for the time
being, made an enemy of the Fräulein. Her dislike of him abated only
when he and Iris made her the hideous paper butterfly which illuminated
a corner. A flash of memory took him back to the day they made it,
alone, in the big dining-room. He saw the sweet seriousness in the
girl's face as she glued on the antennæ, having chosen proper bits of
an old ostrich feather for the purpose.
And now, the dining-room was empty, save of the haunting shadows.
Aunt Peace was at rest in the churchyard, the fever at an end, and
IrisIris had gone, leaving desolation in her wake.
Only the butterfly remainedthe flimsy, fragile thing that any
passing wind might easily have destroyed. The finer things of the
spirit, that are supposed to be permanent, had vanished. In their
place, there was only a heartache, which waxed greater as the days went
by, and through the long nights which brought no surcease of pain.
In the beginning, Lynn had felt himself absolutely alone. Now he
began to perceive that he had been taken into an invisible brotherhood.
He was like one in a crowded playhouse when the lights go out, isolated
to all intents and purposes, and yet conscious that others are near
him, sharing his emotions.
The thunders boomed across the valley and the lightnings rived the
clouds. The grey rain swirled against the windows and the house swayed
in the wind. Then, almost as suddenly as it had begun, the storm
ceased, and Lynn smiled.
Diamonds dripped from every twig, and the grass was full of them.
The laughter of happy children came to his ears, and a rainbow of
living light spanned the valley. Its floating draperies overhung the
topmost branches of the trees on the crest of the opposite hill, and
picked out here and there a jewela ruby, an opal, or an emerald, set
in the silvered framework of the leaves.
Lynn sighed heavily, for the beauty of it sent the old, remorseless
pain to surging through his heart. The Master's violin lay on the piano
near him, and he took it up, noting only that it was not the Cremona.
As his fingers touched the strings, there came a sense of
familiarity with the instrument, as one who meets a friend after a long
separation. He tightened the strings, picked up the bow, and began to
It was the adagio movement of the concertothe one which Herr
Kaufmann had said was full of heartache and tears. In all the
literature of music, there was nothing so well suited to his mood.
He stood with his face to the window, his eyes still fixed upon the
rainbow, and deep, quivering tunes came from the violin. In an instant,
Lynn recognised his mastery. He was playing as the great had played
before him, with passion and with infinite pain.
All the beauty of the world was a part of itthe sun, the wide
fields of clover, and the Summer rain. Moonlight and the sound of many
waters, the unutterable midnights of the universe, Iris and the beauty
of the marshes, where her name-flower, like a thread of purple,
embroidered a royal tapestry. Beyond this still was the beauty of the
spirit, which believes all things, suffers all things, and triumphs at
last through its suffering and its belief.
Primal forces spoke through the adagio, swelling into splendid
chordslove and night and death. It was the cry of a soul in bondage,
straining to be free; struggling to break the chain and take its place,
by right of its knowledge and its compassion, with those who have
learned to live.
Lynn was quivering like an aspen in a storm, and he breathed
heavily. Through the majestic crescendo came that deathless message:
Endure, and thou shalt triumph; wait, and thou shalt see. Like an
undercurrent, too, was the inseparable mystery of pain.
Under the spell of the music, he saw it allthe wide working of the
law which takes no account of the finite because it deals with the
infinite; which takes no heed of the individual because it guards us
all. Far removed from its personal significance, his grief became his
friendthe keynote, the password, the countersign admitting him to
that vast Valhalla where the shining souls of the immortals, outgrowing
defeat, have put on the garments of Victory.
Sunset took the rainbow and made it into flame. Once more Lynn
played the adagio, instinct with its world-old story, voicing its
world-old law. He was so keenly alive that the strings cut into his
fingers, yet he played on, fully comprehending, fully believing,
through the splendid chords of the crescendo to the end.
Then there was a faltering step upon the stair, a fumbling at the
latch, and someone staggered into the room. It was the Master, blind
with tears, his loved Cremona in his outstretched hands.
Here! he cried, brokenly. Son of mine heart! Play!
XIX. The Secret Chamber
He loves her still. The memory of the words carried balm to
Margaret's sore heart. There could be no mistake, for Doctor
Brinkerhoff had been positive. It was absolutely, beautifully true.
Believing all the time that he had forgotten, she was now proved false.
Swiftly upon the thought came another which sent the blood to her
face. In all the time she had been in East Lancaster, she had feared
that he might in some way learn of her presence, and now there was
nothing she desired so much. Had Aunt Peace lived, she would scarcely
have dared to continue the acquaintance, for, like Doctor Brinkerhoff,
the Master was without social position.
Iris, too, had goneno one need know but Lynn. Herr Kaufmann did
not know the name of the man she had married, and he thought Lynn's
mother a stranger. It would be very simple to write the Master a note,
saying that he had been so good to Lynn and had done so much for him
that his mother would like to express her appreciation personally, and
end by asking him to call.
But would the old promise still keep him away? As though it were
yesterday, Margaret remembered her mother as she sternly demanded from
Franz his promise never to enter the house againand Franz was one who
always kept his word.
Then she reflected that on the day when Aunt Peace received guests
for the last time he had been there, in that very house, with the
Cremona, which had separated them in the beginning and, years later, so
strangely brought them together.
Doctor Brinkerhoff had asked permission to bring his friend, and it
would be so simple to give it. So easy to say: Doctor, it would give
me pleasure to meet your friend, Herr Kaufmann. Will you not bring him
with you next Wednesday evening? But, after all the years, all the
sorrow that lay between them, would she wish Doctor Brinkerhoff to be
there? Was it not also taking an unfair advantage of the Master, to
send for him, and then suddenly confront him with his sweetheart of
long ago? Margaret put the plan aside without further thought.
And Lynnwould she wish Lynn to bring Herr Kaufmann? Would she want
her son to tell him that she was the woman he had loved in vain a
quarter of a century ago? Margaret flushed crimson as she imagined the
meeting. Lynn did not know that it was the Masteronly that she had
cared for someone whom she did not marry. Would she wish Lynn to stand
by, surprised and perhaps troubled? Her heart answered no.
The note, too, would be an unfair advantage. He would not know
Margaret Irving, and she could not well write that they had once
loved each other. After all, she had only Doctor Brinkerhoff's word for
it, and he might be mistaken. Even the Master might be labouring under
a delusionmight only think he cared.
The after-meetings are often pathetic, between those who have loved
in youth. Circumstance parts two who vow undying devotion, and one,
perhaps, remains faithful, while the other forgets. Sometimes, both
marry elsewhere, each with the other's image securely hidden in those
secret chambers of the heart, which twilight and music serve best to
Time, that kindly magician, softens the harsh outlines, eliminates
every defect, and, by his wondrous alchemy, transmutes the real to the
ideal. Thus in one's inmost soul is enshrined the old love, with
countless other precious things.
Rue lies at the threshold, for Regret, like a sentinel, guards the
door, and to enter, one must first make peace with Regret. The
labyrinthine passages are hung with shining fabrics, woven of long-dead
dreams. The floor is deeply hidden with rosemary, that homely, fragrant
herb which means remembrance. The light is that of a stained-glass
window, where the sun streams through many colours, and illumines the
utmost recesses with a rainbow gleam.
Costly vessels are there, holding Heart's Desire, which must wait
for its fulfilment until immortal dawn. Heart's Belief is in a chest,
laid away with lavender, but the lock is rusty and does not readily
yield. Heart's Love, sweet with spikenard, waits near the door, so
eager to pass the threshold, where stands Regret!
Memory's jewels are there, in many a casket of cunning workmanship,
where the dust never lies. Emeralds made of the green pastures and the
still waters; sapphires that were born of sun and sea. Topazes of the
golden glow that comes after a rain; diamonds of the white light of
noon. Rubies that have stolen their colour from the warm blood of the
heart, gladly giving its deepest love. Amethysts made of dead violets,
still hinting that perishable fragrance which, perhaps, like a single
precious drop, still lives within, forever out of the reach of decay.
Opals made from changeful flame, of irised fancies that lived but for
the space of a thought, then passed away. Linked together by a thousand
perfect moments, these jewels of Memory wait for the quiet hour when
one's fingers lift them from their hiding-place, and one's eyes,
forgetting tears, shine with the old joy.
The petals of crimson roses, long since crushed and dead, rustle
softly from the shadow when the door of the secret chamber opens.
Melodies start from the silence and breathe the haunting measures of
some lost song. Letters, ragged and worn, with the tint of old ivory
upon their eloquent pages, whisper still: I love you, though the hand
that penned the tender message has long since been folded, with its
mate, upon the quiet heart.
When the world has proved forbidding, when love has been
unresponsive, and friendship has failed, one steals to the secret
chamber with a sense of sanctuary. Past Regret, stern, unyielding, and
austere, one goes silently, having given the password, and enters in.
The fragrant herbs and the rose petals bring balm to the tired
heart, that heart which has loved so vainly, has tried so faithfully,
and failed. The ghosts of dreams, woven in the tapestries that hide the
walls, come back to touch the roughened fingers of the one who followed
out the Pattern, in the midst of blinding tears. All the music that has
soothed and comforted, trembles once more from muted strings. The
work-worn hands, made old and hard by unselfish toil, become fair and
smooth at a lover's kiss of long ago. After an hour in the secret
chamber, when Mnemosyne, singing, brings forth her treasures, one goes
back, serene and fearless, to meet whatever may come.
* * * * *
Margaret came from her secret chamber with a smile upon her lips. In
that one hour, she had finally parted with all bitterness, all sense of
loss. After twenty-five years of heart hunger and disappointment, she
had put it all aside, and come into her heritage of content.
She began to consider Herr Kaufmann again. After all, what was there
to be gained? She might be disappointed in him, or he might be
disillusioned in regard to her. She remembered what a friend had once
told her, years ago.
My dear, she had said, there is one thing in my life for which I
have never ceased to be thankful. When I was very young, I fell in love
with a boy of my own age, and our parents, by separating us, kept us
from making a hasty marriage. I did not forget, but later I met a man
who was much better suited to me in every way, whom I liked and
thoroughly respected, and of whom my mother approved. But, secretly, I
cherished this old love until one day a lucky chance brought me face to
face with him. In an instant, the whole thing was gone, and I laughed
at my follylaughed because I was free. I married the other, and I
have been a very happy wifefar happier than I should have been had I
continued to believe myself in love with a memory.
There was truth in it, Margaret reflected. She went over to her
mirror and sat down before it, to study her face. She was forty-five,
and the bloom of youth was gone. The grey threads at her temples and
around her low brow softened her face, where Time had left the prints
of his passing. Her eyes, that had once been merry, were sad now, and
the corners of her mouth drooped a little. She turned away from the
mirror with a sigh, wondering if, after all, the dreams were not the
Moreover, the womanly instinct asserted itself. To be sought and
never to do the seeking, to hold one's self high and apart, to be
earned but never giventhis feeling, so long in abeyance, returned to
its rightful place.
When the years bring wisdom, one learns to leave many problems to
their own working out. Margaret determined not to interfere with the
complex undercurrents which, like subterranean rivers, lie beneath our
daily living. It might happen or it might not, but she would not seek
to control the subtle forces which forever work secretly toward the
fulfilling of the law. To live on from day to day, making the best of
it,this is a simple creed, but no one yet has found it
Lynn came in and went straight to his room. Margaret heard him
walking back and forth, as if in search of something. He tuned his
violin and she rejoiced, because at last he had turned to his practise.
But it was not practising that she heard. It was the concerto, every
measure of which she knew by heart. With the first notes, she felt a
new authority, a new grasp, and began to wonder if it were really Lynn.
She leaned forward, her body tense, to listen.
When he came to the adagio, the hot tears blinded her. Lynn, her
boy, to play like this! Her mother's heart beat high in an ecstasy of
gratitude for the full payment, the granting of her heart's desire.
The deep tones stirred her very soul. The passion of it made her
tremble, the beauty of it made her afraid. Wondering, she saw the
working out of it,that at the very hour when she had surrendered, had
given up, had cast aside her bitterness forever, Lynn had come into his
With splendid dignity, with exquisite phrasing, with masterful
interpretation, the concerto moved to its end. It left her faint, her
heart wildly beating. Through Lynn, Franz had worked out her salvation,
her atonement; through Lynn full payment had been made.
When he came out of his room, she was in the hall, her face alight
with her great happiness. Lynn! she cried. A world of meaning was in
I know, he returned, but all the youth was gone out of his voice.
At once she realised that he had crossed the dividing line, that, even
to her, he was no longer a child, but a man.
He went past her, walked downstairs slowly, and went out. Poor
lad! she murmured; poor soul! Lynn, too, had paid the pricewas it
needful that both should pay?
But, none the less, the fact remained; the boon had been granted and
full payment made, in each instance the same payment. She had paid with
long years of heart-hunger, which only now had ceased. Lynn's years
still lay before him.
A sob choked her. Was not the price too high? Must he bear what she
had borne for these five and twenty years? With all the passion of her
motherhood, she yearned to shield him; to eke out, in the remainder of
her days, the remorseless balance against Lynn.
But in the working of that law there is no discriminationthe price
is fixed and unalterable, the payment merciless and sure. There is no
escape for the individual; it is continually the sacrifice of the one
for the many, the part for the whole.
Try as she would, Margaret could not go back. She could not, for
Lynn's sake, take up the burden she had laid down, in the futile effort
to bear more. From her, no more would be accepted, so much was plain.
The rest must come from Lynn.
Her heart ached for him, but there was nothing she could do, except
to stand aside and watch, while his broad shoulders grew accustomed to
their load. A wild impulse seized her to go to the city, find Iris,
bring her back, even unwillingly, and literally force her to marry
Lynn. But that was not what Lynn wanted, and Margaret herself had been
forced into a marriage. Clearly, at last, she saw that she must remain
passive, and cultivate resignation.
The hours went by and Lynn did not return. She well knew the mood in
which he had gone away. At night, white-faced and weary, with his eyes
gleaming strangely, he would come back, refuse to eat, and lock himself
into his room. It had been so for a long time and it would be so until,
through the slow working of the inner forces, he stepped over the
boundary that his mother had just crossed.
White noon ascended the arch of the heavens, blazed a moment at the
zenith, and then went on. The golden hours followed, each one making
the shadows a little longer, the earth more radiant, if that could be.
Upon the hills were set the blood-red seals of the frost. Every
maple, robed in glory, had taken on the garments of royalty. The air
shimmered with the amethystine haze of Indian Summer, that veil of
luminous mist, vibrant with colour, which Autumn weaves on her loom.
Margaret went out, leaving the door ajar for Lynn. There were few
keys in East Lancaster. A locked door was discourteousa reflection
upon the integrity of one's neighbours.
From the elms the yellow leaves were dropping, like telegrams from
the high places, saying that Summer had gone. She turned at the corner
and went east, the long light throwing her shadow well before her. It
is like Life, she mused, smiling; we go through it, following
shadowsthings that vanish when there is a shifting of the light.
Across the clover fields, where the dried blossoms stirred in their
sleep as she passed, through the upland pastures, stony and barren,
with the pools overgrown, through a fallow field, shorn of its harvest,
where only the tiny lace-makers spread their webs amidst the stubble,
Margaret's way was all familiar, and yet sadly changed.
A meadow-lark, the last one of his kind, winged a leisurely way
southward, singing as he flew. A squirrel flaunted his bushy tail, gave
her a daring backward glance, and scurried up a tree. She laughed, and
paused at the entrance to the forest.
Once she had stood there, thrilled to her inmost soul. Again she had
waited there, white to the lips with pain. Now she had outgrown it, had
learned peace, and the long years slipped away, each with its own
The wood was exquisitely still. A nut dropped now and then, and a
belated bird called to its mate. The swift patter of fairy feet echoed
and re-echoed through the long aisles. The air was crystalline, yet
full of colour, and the gold and crimson leaves floated idly back and
forth. It needed only a passing wind, at the right moment and from the
right place, to make a rainbow then and there.
She went farther into the wood, with a sense of friendliness for the
well-known way. Just at the turn of the path, she stopped, amazed. At
their trysting-place, where the wide rock was laid at the foot of the
oak, someone had reared an altar and blazoned a cross upon the stone.
Her eyes filled, for she knew who had made it, that symbol of
sacrifice. Weather-worn and moss-grown, it must have stood for the
whole of the five and twenty years. There was no word, no
inscriptiononly the cross, but for her it was enough.
To kiss the cross, Sweetheart, to kiss the cross! The last
measures of the song reverberated through her memory, as Iris had sung
it in her deep contralto, so long ago.
Sobbing, she knelt, with her lips against the symbol, then suddenly
started to her feet, for there was a step upon the path.
For a blinding instant, they faced each other, unbelieving, then the
Master opened his arms.
Beloved, he breathed, is it thou?
XX. Mine Brudder's Friend
That day the Master put aside the garment of his years. The quarter
century that had lain between them like a thorny, upward path was
suddenly blotted out, and only the memory of it remained. Belated, but
none the less keen, the primeval joy came back to him. Youth and love,
the bounding pulse and the singing heart,they were all his.
It was twilight when they came away from the moss-grown altar in the
forest, his arm around his sweetheart, and the faces of both wet with
Until to-morrow, mine Liebchen, he said. How shall I now wait for
that to-morrow when we part no more? The dear God knew. He gave to me
the cutting and the long night that in the end I might deserve thee. He
was making of me an instrument suited to thy little hand. He kissed
the hand as he spoke, and Margaret's eyes filled once more.
Through the mist of her tears she saw the rising moon rocking idly
just above the horizon. See, said the Master, it is a new light from
the east, from the same place as thou hast come to me. Many a time have
I watched it, thinking that it also shone on thee; that perhaps thy
eyes, as well as mine, were upon it, and thus, through heaven, we were
Those whom God hath joined together, murmured Margaret, let no
man put asunder.
Those whom God hath joined, returned the Master, reverently, no
man can put asunder. Dost thou not see? I thought thou hadst forgotten,
and when I go to keep mine tryst with Grief, I find thee there, with
thy lips upon the cross.
I have never gone before, whispered Margaret. I could not.
So? Mine Beloved, I have gone there many times. When mine sorrow
has filled mine old heart to breaking, I have gone there, that I might
look upon thy cross and mine and so gain strength. It is where we
parted, where thy lips were last on mine. Sometimes I have gone with
mine Cremona and played until mine sore heart was at peace. And to-day,
I find thee there! The dear Father has been most kind.
Did you know me? asked Margaret, shyly. Have I not grown old?
Mine Liebchen, thou canst never grow old. Thou hast the beauty of
immortal youth. As I saw thee to-day, so have I seen thee in mine
dream. Sometimes I have felt that thou hadst taken up thy passing, and
I have hungered for mine, for it was a certainty in mine heart that the
dear Father would give thee back to me in heaven.
I do not think of heaven as the glittering place with the streets
of gold and the walls of pearl, but more like one quiet wood, where the
grass is green and the little brook sings all day. I have thought of
heaven as the place where those who love shall be together, free from
all misunderstanding or the thought of parting.
The great ones say that man's own need gives him his conception of
the dear God; that if he needs the avenging angel, so is God to him;
that if he needs but the friend, that will God be. And so, in mine
dream of heaven, because it was mine need, I have thought of it but as
one sunny field, where there was clover in the long grass and tall
trees at one side, with the clear, shining waters beyond, where we
might quench our thirst, and thee beside me forever, with thy little
hand in mine. And now, because I have paid mine price, I do not have to
wait until I am dead for mine heaven; the dear God gives it to me
Whatever heaven may be, said Margaret, thrilled to the utmost
depths of her soul, it can be no more than this.
Nor different, answered the Master, drawing her closer. I think
it is like this, without the fear of parting.
Parting! repeated Margaret, with a rush of tears; oh, do not
speak of parting!
Mine Beloved, said the Master, and his voice was very tender,
there is nothing perfect herethere must always be parting. If it
were not so, we should have no need of heaven. But to the end of the
road thou and I will go together.
See! In the beginning, we were upon separate paths, and, after so
long a time, the ways met. For a little space we journeyed together,
and because of it the sun was more bright, the flowers more sweet, the
road more easy. Then comes the hard place and the ways divide. But
though the leagues lie between us and we do not see, we go always at
the same pace, and so, in a way, together. We learn the same things, we
think the same things, we suffer the same things, because we were of
those whom the dear God hath joined. Another walks beside thee and yet
not with thee, because, through all the distance, thou art mine.
And so we go until thy road is turned. Thou dost not know it is
turned, because the circle is so great thou canst not see. Little dost
thou dream thou art soon to meet again with thy old Franz. Through the
thicket, meanwhile, I am going, and mine way is hard and set with
brambles. It is only mine blind faith which helps me onwardthat, and
the vision in mine heart of thee, which never for a day, nor even for
an hour, hath been absent.
One day mine road turns too, and there art thou, mine Beloved,
leading by the hand mine son.
Margaret was sobbing, her face hidden against his shoulder.
Mine Liebchen, it is not for me to bear thy tears. Much can I
endure, but not that. After the long waiting, I have thee close again,
thou and mine son, the tall young fellow with the honest face and the
laughing ways, who have made of himself one artist.
The way lies long before us, but it is toward the west, and sunset
hath already begun to come upon the clouds. But until the end we go
together, thy little hand in mine.
Some day, Beloved, when the ways part once more, and thou or I
shall be called to follow the Grey Angel into the darkness, I think we
shall not fear. Perhaps we shall be very weary, and the one will be
glad because the other has come into the Great Rest. But, Beloved, thou
knowest that if it is I who must follow the Grey Angel, and still leave
thee on the dusty road alone, mine grave will be no division. Life hath
not taught me not to love thee with all mine soul, and Death shall not.
Life is the positive, and Death is the negation. Shall Death, then, do
something more than Life can do? Oh, mine Liebchen, do not fear!
The Autumn mists were rising and the stars gleamed faintly, like
far-off points of pearl. At the bridge, they said good night, and
Margaret went on home, wishing, even then, that she might bear the
burden for Lynn.
The Master went up the hill with his blood singing in his veins.
Fredrika thought him unusually abstracted, but strangely happy, and
until long past midnight, he sat by the window, improvising upon the
Cremona a theme of such passionate beauty that the heart within her
trembled and was afraid.
That night Fredrika dreamed that someone had parted her from Franz,
and when she woke, her pillow was wet with tears.
It was not until the next afternoon that he realised that he must
tell her. After long puzzling over the problem, he went to Doctor
The Doctor was out, and did not return until almost sunset. When he
came, the Master was sitting in the same uncomfortable chair that, with
monumental patience, he had occupied for hours.
Mine friend, said the Master, with solemn joy, look in mine face
and tell me what you see.
What I see! repeated the Doctor, mystified; why, nothing but the
same blundering old fellow that I have always seen.
The Master laughed happily. So? And this blundering old fellow; has
nothing come to him?
I can't imagine, said the Doctor, shaking his head. I may be
dense, but I fear you will have to tell me.
So? Then listen! Long since, perhaps, you have known of mine
sorrow. Of it I have never said much, because mine old heart was sore,
and because mine friend could understand without words.
Yes, replied the Doctor, eagerly, I knew that the one you loved
was taken away from you while you were both very young.
Yes. Well, look in mine face once more and tell me what you see.
Youyou haven't found her! gasped the Doctor, quite beside
himself with surprise.
Precisely, the Master assured him, with his face beaming.
The Doctor wrung his hand. Franz, my old friend, he cried, words
cannot tell you how glad I am! Wherewho is she?
Mine friend, returned the Master, it is you who are one
blundering old fellow. After taking to yourself the errand of telling
her that I loved her still, you did not see fit to come back to me with
the news that she also cared. Thereby much time has been wrongly
The Doctor grew hot and cold by turns. You don't mean he cried.
Notnot Mrs. Irving!
Who else? asked the Master, serenely. In all the world is she not
the most lovely lady? Who that has seen her does not love her, and why
Doctor Brinkerhoff sank into a chair, very much excited.
It is one astonishment also to me, the Master went on. I cannot
believe that the dear God has been so good, and I must always be
pinching mineself to be sure that I do not sleep. It is most
It is, indeed, the Doctor returned.
But see how it has happened. Only now can I understand. In the
beginning, mine heart is very hurt, but out of mine hurt there comes
the power to make mineself one great artist. It was mine Cremona that
made the parting, because I am so foolish that I must go in her house
to look at it. It was mine Cremona that took her to me the last time,
when she gave it to me. 'Franz,' she says, 'if you take this, you will
not forget me, and it is mine to do with what I please.'
So, when I have made mineself the great artist, I have played on
mine Cremona to many thousands, and the tears have come from all. See,
it is always mine Cremona. And because of this, she has heard of me
afar off, and she has chosen to have mine son learn the violin from me,
so that he also shall be one artist. Twice she has heard me and mine
Cremona when we make the music together; once in the street outside
mine house, and once when I played the Ave Maria in her house
when the old lady was dead.
Doctor Brinkerhoff turned away, his muscles suddenly rigid, but the
Master talked on, heedlessly.
See, it is always mine Cremona, and the dear God has made us in the
same way. He has made mine violin out of the pain, the cutting, and the
long night, and also me, so that I shall be suited to touch it. It is
so that I am to her as mine Cremona is to meI am her instrument, and
she can do with me what she will.
It is but the one string now that needs the tuning, went on the
Master, deeply troubled. I know not what to do with mine Fredrika.
Fredrika! repeated Doctor Brinkerhoff. He, too, had forgotten the
The bright colours are not for mine Liebchen, the Master
The bright colours, said the Doctor, by some curious trick of mind
immediately upon the defensive, why, I have always thought them very
A great light broke in upon the Master, and he could not be expected
to perceive that it was only a will o' the wisp. So, he cried,
triumphantly, you have loved mine sister! I have sometimes thought so,
and now I know!
The Doctor's face turned a dull red, his eyelids drooped, and he
wiped his forehead with his handkerchief.
Ah, mine friend, said the Master, exultantly, is it not most
wonderful to see how we have played at the cross-purposes? All these
years you have waited because you would not take mine sister away from
me, you, mine kind, unselfish friend! So much fun have you made of mine
housekeeping before she came that you would not do me this wrong!
And II could not send mine sister the money to take the long
journey, and for many years keep her from her Germany and her friends,
then after one night say to her: 'Fredrika, I have found mine old
sweetheart and I no longer want you.'
Mine Fredrika has never known of mine sorrow, and I cannot to-day
give her the news. It is not for me to make mine sister's heart to ache
as mine has ached all these years, nor could I give her the money to go
back to her Germany because I no longer want her, when she has given it
all up for me. It would be most unkind.
But now, see what the dear God has done for us! When it is all
worked out, and we come to the end, we see that you, also, share. I
know, mine friend, I know what it has been for you, because I, too,
have been through the deep waters, and now we come to the land
together. It is most fitting, because we are friends.
Moreover, you are to her as she is to you. She has not told me, but
mine old eyes are sharp and I see. I tell you this to put the courage
into your heart. If you make mine sister happy, it is all I shall ask.
Go, now, to mine Fredrika, and tell her I will not be back until late
this evening! Is it not most beautiful?
Limp, helpless, and sorely shaken, but without the faintest idea of
protesting, Doctor Brinkerhoff found himself started up the hill. The
Master stood at the foot, waving his hat in boyish fashion and shouting
messages of good-will. At last, when he dared to look back, the Doctor
saw that the way was clear, and he sat down upon a boulder by the
roadside to think.
He would be ungenerous, indeed, he thought, if he could not make
some sacrifice for Franz and for Mrs. Irving. Unwillingly, he had come
into possession of Fräulein Fredrika's closely guarded secret, and, as
he repeatedly told himself, he was a man of honour. Moreover, he was
not one of those restless spirits who forever question Life for its
meaning. Clearly, there was no other way than the one which was plainly
laid before him.
But a few more years remained to him, he reflected, for he was
twenty years older than the Master; still life was very strange.
Disloyalty to the dead was impossible, for she never knew, and would
have scorned him if she had known. The end of the tangled web was in
his handsfor three people he could make it straight again.
The long shadows lay upon the hill and still he sat there, thinking.
The children played about him and asked meaningless questions, for the
first time finding their friend unresponsive.
Finally one, a little bolder than the rest, came closer to him. The
good Fräulein, whispered the child, she is much troubled for the
Master. Why is it that he comes not to his home?
With a sigh and a smile, the Doctor went slowly up the hill to the
Master's house, where Fräulein Fredrika was waiting anxiously. Mine
brudder! she cried; is he ill?
No, no, Fräulein, answered the Doctor, reassuringly, his heart
made tender by her distress. Shall not Franz sit in my office to await
the infrequent patient while I take his place with his sister? You are
glad to see me, are you not, Fräulein?
The tint of faded roses came into the Fräulein's face. Mine
brudder's friend, she said simply, is always most welcome.
She excused herself after a few minutes and began to bustle about in
the kitchen. Surely, thought the Doctor, it was pleasant to have a
woman in one's house, to bring orderly comfort into one's daily living.
The kettle sang cheerily and the Fräulein hummed a little song under
her breath. In the twilight, the gay colours faded into a subdued
It is all very pleasant, said the Doctor to himself, resolutely
putting aside a memory of something quite different. Perhaps, as his
simple friends said, the dear God knew.
After tea, the Fräulein drew her chair to the window and looked out,
seemingly unconscious of his presence. A rare woman, he told himself.
One who has the gift of silence.
In the dusk, her face was almost beautifulall the hard lines
softened and made tenderly wistful. The Doctor sighed and she turned
Mine brudder, she said, anxiously, if something was wrong with
him, you would tell me, yes?
Of course, laughed the Doctor. Why are you so distressed? Is it
so strange for me to be here?
No, she answered, in a low tone, but you are mine brudder's
And yours also, Fredrika. Did you never think of that? She
trembled, but did not answer, and, leaning forward, the Doctor took her
hand in his.
Fredrika, he said, very gently, you will perhaps think it is
strange for me to talk in this way, but have you never thought of me as
something more than a friend?
The woman was silent and bitterly ashamed, wondering when and where
she had betrayed herself.
That is unfair, he continued, instantly perceiving. I have
thought of you in that way, more especially to-day. Even in the dusk,
he could see the light in her eyes, and in his turn he, too, was
Dear Fräulein Fredrika, he went on, I have not much to offer, but
all I have is yours. I am old, and the woman I loved died, never
knowing that I loved her. If she had known, it would have made no
difference. Perhaps you think it an empty gift, but it is my all. You,
too, may have dreamed of something quite different, but in the end God
knows best. Fredrika, will you come?
The maidenly heart within her rioted madly in her breast, but she
was used to self-repression. I thank you, she said, with gentle
dignity; it is one compliment which is very high, but I cannot leave
mine Franz. All the way from mine Germany I have come to mend, to cook,
to wash, to sew, to scrub, to sweep, to take after him the many things
which he forgets and leaves behind, even the most essential. What
should he think of me if I should say: 'Franz, I will do this for you
no more, but for someone else?' You will understand, she concluded, in
a pathetic little voice which stirred him strangely, because you are
mine brudder's friend.
Yes, replied the Doctor, I am his friend, and so, do you think I
would come without his permission? Dear Fräulein, Franz knows and is
glad. That is why I left him. Almost the last words he said to me were
these: 'If you make mine sister happy, it is all I ask.'
Franz! she cried. Mine dear, unselfish Franz! Always so good, so
gentle! Did he say that!
Yes, he said that. Will you come, Fredrika? Shall we try to make
each other happy?
She was standing by the window now, with her hand upon her heart,
and her face alight with more than earthly joy.
Dear Fräulein, said the Doctor, rejoicing because it was in his
power to give any human creature so much happiness, will you come?
Without waiting for an answer, he put his hand upon her shoulder and
drew her toward him. Then the heavens opened for Fräulein Fredrika, and
star-fire rained down upon her unbelieving soul.
XXI. The Cremona Speaks
The grey autumnal rain beat heavily upon her window, and Iris stood
watching it, with a heavy weight upon her heart.
The prospect was inexpressibly dreary. As far as she could see,
there was nothing but a desert of roofs. Roofs, thought Iris, always
roofs! Who would think there were so many in the world!
Six months ago she had been a happy child, but now all was changed.
Grown to womanhood through sorrow, she could never be the same again,
even though Aunt Peace, by some miracle of resurrection, should be
given back to her.
In those long weeks of loneliness, Iris had learned a different
point of view. She had not written to Mrs. Irving but once, though the
motherly letter that came in reply to her note had seemed like a brief
glimpse of East Lancaster. Doctor Brinkerhoff's letter also remained
unanswered, chiefly because she could not trust herself to write.
Her grief for Aunt Peace was insensibly changed. The poignant sense
of loss which belonged to the first few weeks had become something
quite different. Gradually, she had learned acceptance, though not yet
With a wisdom far beyond her years, she had plunged into her work.
The hours not devoted to lessons or practice were spent at her books.
She had even planned out her days by a schedule in which every minute
was accounted forso much for study, so much for practise, so much for
the daily walk.
She had no friends. Aside from the hard-faced proprietor of the
boarding-house, she was upon speaking terms with no one except her
teacher and one of the attendants at the library. It has been written
that there is no loneliness like that of a great city, and in the
experience of nearly every one it is at some time proved true.
She missed East Lancaster, with all its dear, familiar ways. The
elm-bordered path, the maple at the gate, and every nook and corner of
the garden constantly flitted before her like a mocking dream. She
could not avoid contrasting the tiny chamber, which was now her only
home, with the great rooms of the old house, where everything was
always exquisitely clean. She even longed for the kitchen, with its
shining saucepans and its tiled hearth.
To go back, if only for one night, to her own roomto make the
little cakes for Doctor Brinkerhoff, and play her part in the pretty
Wednesday evening comedy, while Aunt Peace sat by, graciously
hospitable, and Lynn kept them all laughingoh, if she only could!
But it is the sadness of life that there is never any going back.
The Hour, with its opportunity, its own individual beauty, comes but
once. The hand takes out of the crystal pool as much water as the tiny,
curved cup of the palm will hold. The shining drops, each one perfect
in itself and changing colour with the shifting of the light, fall
through the fingers back into the pool, with a faint suggestion of
music in the sound. The circle widens outward, and presently the water
is still again. If one could go back, gather from the pool those same
shining drops, made into jewels by the light, which, at the moment, is
also changing, one might go back to the Hour.
Steadfastly, Iris had hardened her heart against Lynn. He had dared
to love her! Her cheeks crimsoned with shame at the thought, but still,
when the days were dark, it had more than once been a certain comfort
to know that someone cared, aside from Aunt Peace, asleep in the
Lynn and Aunt Peacethey were the only ones who cared. Mrs. Irving
had been friendly; Doctor Brinkerhoff and the Master had been kind;
Fräulein Fredrika had always been glad when she went to see her: but
these were like bits of Summer blown for an instant against the Winter
of the world.
Iris saw clearly, from her new standpoint, that she had learned to
love the writer of the letters. It was he upon whom her soul leaned.
Then, in the midst of her grief, to find that her unknown lover was
merely Lynna boy who chased her around the garden with grasshoppers
and wormsit was too much.
Meditatively, Iris brushed the surface of her cheek, where Lynn had
kissed her. She could feel it nowan awkward, boyish kiss. It was much
the same as if Aunt Peace or Mrs. Irving had done it, and it was not at
all what one read about in the books.
If it were not for Lynn, she could go back to East Lancaster. She
might go, anyway, if she were sure she would not meet him, but where
could she stay? Not with Mrs. Irvingthat was certain, unless Lynn
went away. But even then, sometimes he would come backshe could not
always avoid him.
Her eyes filled when she thought of the Master, generously offering
her two of his six tiny rooms. The parlour, with its hideous ornaments,
seemed far preferable to the dingy room in the boarding-house, where
the old square piano stood, thick with dust, and where Iris did her
daily practising. But no, even there, she would meet Lynn. East
Lancaster was forbidden to hershe could never go there again.
Women have a strange attachment for places, especially for those
which, even for a little time, have been home. To a man, home means
merely a house, more or less comfortable according to circumstances,
where he eats and sleepsan easy-chair and a fire which await him at
the close of the day. The location of it matters not to him. Uproot him
suddenly, transport him to a strange land, surround him with new
household gods, give him an occupation, and he will rather enjoy the
change. Never for an instant will he grieve. With assured comfort and
congenial employment, he will be equally happy in New York or on the
coast of South Africa. But the woman, ah, the daily tragedy of the
woman in the strange place, and the long months before she becomes even
reconciled to her new surroundings! After all, it is the home instinct
and the mother instinct which make the foundations of civilisation.
So it was that Iris hungered for East Lancaster, quite apart from
its people. Every rod of the ground was familiar to her, from the
woods, far to the east, to the Master's house on the summit of the
hill, at the very edge of West Lancaster, overlooking the valley, and
toward the blue hills beyond.
The rain dripped drearily, and Iris sighed. She felt herself
absolutely alone in the world, with neither friend nor kindred. There
was only one belonging to her who was not deadher father. No trace of
him had been found, and his death had been taken for granted, but none
the less Iris wondered if he might not still live, heart-broken and
remorseful; if, perhaps, her skirts had not brushed against him in some
crowded thoroughfare of the city. She hoped not, for even that seemed
It did not much matter that in her haste she had left the box
containing the photographs and the papers in the attic. Aunt Peace's
emerald, the fan, and the lace, which she had also forgotten, were
rightfully hers, and yet they seemed to belong to the houseto Mrs.
Irving and Lynn.
Swiftly upon her thought came a rap at her door. A letter for you,
Iris took it eagerly and closed the door again, consciously
disappointed when she saw that it was from Mrs. Irving. Doctor
Brinkerhoff's careless remark, to the effect that Lynn would write
soon, had fallen upon fertile soil. First, Iris decided not to read the
letter when it cameto return it unopened. Then, that it was not
necessary to be rude, but she need not answer it. Next, a healthy human
curiosity as to what Lynn might have to say to her, after all that had
passed between them. Then she wondered whether Lynn's next letter would
be anything like the three that she had put away in her trunk. Now, her
hands were trembling, and her cheeks were very pale.
My Dear Child, the letter began. Not having heard from you
for so long, I fear that you are ill, or in trouble. If
anything is wrong, do not hesitate to tell us, for we are your
friends, as always. Doctor Brinkerhoff, Herr Kaufmann, or I
would be glad to do anything to make you happier, or more
comfortable. I will come, if you say so, or either of the
We are all well and happy here, but we miss you. Won't you
come back to us, if only for a little while? The old house is
desolate without you, and it is your home as much as it is
mine. You left the emerald and the other little keepsakes.
Shall I send them to you, or will you come for them? In any
event, please write me a line to tell me that all is well with
you, or, if not, how I can help you.
Very affectionately yours,
And never a word about Lynn! Only that all were well and happy,
which, of course, included Lynn, and went far to prove to Iris that she
was rightthat he had no heart.
It was different in the books. When a beloved woman went away, the
hero's heart invariably broke, and here was Lynn, well and happy.
Iris put the letter aside with a gesture of disdain.
Yet the motherly tone of it had touched her more deeply than she
knew, and accentuated her loneliness. Twice she tried to answer it, to
tell Mrs. Irving that she, too, was well and happy, and ask her to send
the emerald, the lace, and the fan. Twice she gave it up, for the page
was sadly blotted with her tears.
Then she determined to write the next day, and ask also for the box
of papers in the attic. Yet would she want Mrs. Irving to see the
documents meant for her eyes alone, and that pathetic little mother in
the tawdry stage trappings? Surely not! She did not question Margaret's
sense of honour, but there were many boxes in the trunk in the attic,
and she would have to open them one after another, until she was sure
she had found the right one.
Sorely puzzled, desperately homesick, and very lonely, Iris sobbed
herself to sleep. All night she dreamed of East Lancaster, where the
sky came down close to the ground, instead of ending at an ugly line of
roofs. The soft winds came through her window, sweet with clover and
apple bloom. Doctor Brinkerhoff and the Master, Fräulein Fredrika, Aunt
Peace, Mrs. Irving, and Lynnalways Lynnmoved in and out of the
dream. When she woke, she felt her desolation more keenly than ever
At the door of Sleep a sentinel stands, an angel in grey garments.
The crimson poppies crown her head and droop to her waist. The floor is
strewn with them, and the silken petals, crushed by the feet of passing
strangers, give out a strange perfume. To enter that door, you must
pass Our Lady of Dreams.
Sometimes she smiles as you enter, and sometimes there is only a
careless nod. Often her clear, serene eyes make no sign of recognition,
and at other times she frowns. But, whatever be the temper of the Lady
at the door, your dream waits for you inside.
The parcels are all alike, so it is useless to stop and choose, but
you must take one. Frequently, when you open it, there is nothing there
but peaceful slumber, cunningly arranged to look like a dream. Once in
a thousand times it happens that you get the dream that is meant for
you, because it all depends upon chance, and so many strangers nightly
enter that door that it is impossible to arrange the parcels any
When the night has passed, and you come back, it is always through
the same door, where the patient sentinel still stands. You are
supposed to give back your dream, so that someone else may have it the
next night, but if she is tired, or very busy, you may sometimes slip
through and so have a dream to remember.
Iris had given back her dream, but a strong impression of East
Lancaster still remained, and it was as though she had been there in
the night. Suddenly she sat up in bed, with her heart wildly throbbing.
Why not go back?
Why not, indeed? Why not take a flying trip, just to see the dear
place again? Why not talk for a few minutes with Mrs. Irving, then slip
upstairs for the emerald, the bit of lace, the feather fan, and the
lonely little mother in the attic?
She could plan her journey so that she would be making her call
while Lynn was at his lesson. When it was time for him to return, she
could go to Doctor Brinkerhoff's and thank him for writing. While
there, she could see Lynn come downhillof course, not to look at him,
but just to know that he was out of the way. Then she could go up the
hill and stay with Fräulein Fredrika and the Master until almost train
It was practicable and in every way desirable. Perhaps, after she
had seen East Lancaster once more, she would not be so homesick. Iris
hummed a little song as she dressed herself, far happier than she had
been for many months.
Thought and action were never far apart with her. The next day she
was safely aboard the train. She stopped overnight at the little hotel
in a nearby town, where once she had been with Aunt Peace, after a
memorable visit to the city. The morning train left at five, and just
at ten she reached her destination, her heart fluttering joyously.
Lynn was certainly at his lessonthere could be no doubt of that.
She fairly flew up the street, fearful lest someone should see her, and
paused at the corner for a look at the old house.
Nothing was changed. It was just as it had been for two centuries
and more. Panic seized her, but she went on boldly, though her cheeks
burned. After all, she was not an intruderit was her home, not only
through the gift, but by right of possession.
She rang the bell timidly, but no one answered. Then she tried
again, but with no better result, so she turned the knob and the door
She stepped in, but no one was there. Mrs. Irving! she called, but
only the echo of her own voice came back to her. The portraits in the
hall stared at her, but it was a friendly scrutiny and not at all
distressing. They seemed to nod to one another and to whisper from
their gilded frames: Iris has come back.
Well, she thought, I can't sit down and wait, for Lynn may come
home from his lesson at any minute. I'll just go upstairs.
The door of Margaret's room was ajar, and Iris peeped in, but it was
empty, like the rest of the house. She stole into Aunt Peace's room,
found her keepsakes, and prepared to depart.
She saw her reflection in the long mirror, and, for the moment, it
startled her. I feel like a thief, she said to herself, even though
I am only taking my own.
She went up into the attic, found the box, and came down again. The
old house was so still! Surely it would do no harm if she took just one
sniff at the cedar chest before she went away. She loved the fragrance
of the wood, and it would delay her only a moment longer.
Then, all at once, she paused like a frightened bird. Someone was
there! Someone was walking back and forth in Lynn's room! Scarcely
knowing what she did, Iris crouched on the floor at the end of the
chest, trusting to the kindly shadows to screen her if the door should
But no one came. Lynn had taken the Cremona from its case with
something very like a smile upon his face. The brown breasts had the
colour of old wine, and the shell was thin to the point of fragility.
He had feared to touch it, but the Master had only laughed at him.
What! he had said, shall I not sometimes lend mine Cremona to mine
son, who like mineself is one great artist? Of a surety!
Lynn placed the instrument in position, and dreamily, began to play.
His mother was out, and he played as he could not if he had not thought
himself alone. All his heartbreak, all his pain, the white nights and
the dark days went into the adagio, the one thing suited to his mood.
At the first notes, Iris drew a quick, gasping breath. Surely it was
not Lynn! Yet who else should be in his room, playing as no one played
but the great?
Primeval forces held her in their grasp, and all at once her
shallowness fell away from her, leaving her free. The blood surged into
her heart with shameshe had wronged Lynn. She had been so blind, so
painfully sure of herself, so pitifully important in her self-esteem!
The music went on without hindrance or pause. Deep chords and
piercing flights of melody alternated through the theme, yet there was
the undertone of love and night and death. Iris clenched her hands
until the nails cut into her palms. All her life, she seemed to have
been playing with tinsel; now, when it was out of her reach, she had
discovered the gold.
Why should it seem so strange for Lynn to play like this? Had he not
written the letters? Had he not offered her his whole heartthe gift
she had so insultingly thrown aside? Iris knelt beside the chest, in
One thing was certainshe must go away, and quickly. She could not
wait there, trembling and afraid, until someone found her; she must get
away, but how? She was sorely shaken, both in body and soul.
She could not go away, and yet she must. She would go to the
station, and, from there, write to Mrs. Irving and to Lynn. The least
she could do was to ask him to forgive her. Having done that, she would
go back to the city, change her address, and be lost to them forever.
Low, quivering tones came from the Cremona, like the sobs of a woman
whose heart was broken. Suddenly, Iris knew that she belonged to
Lynnthat through love or hate she was bound to him forever. Then, in
a blinding flood came the tears.
Slowly the adagio swept to its end, and yet she could not move. The
music ceased, and yet the silence held her spellbound, vainly praying
for the strength to go away. She heard the click of the lock as the
violin case was closed, the quick step to the door, and the turning of
She shrank back into the corner, close to the chest, and hid her
face in her hands, then someone lifted her up.
Sweetheart, cried Lynn, have you come back to me?
At the touch, at the tender word, the barriers crumbled away, and
Iris lifted her lovely tear-stained face to his. Yes, she said,
unsteadily, I have come back. Will you forgive me?
Forgive you? repeated Lynn, with a happy laugh; why, dearest,
there is nothing to forgive!
In that radiant instant, he thought he spoke the truth, so quickly
do we forget sorrow when the sun shines into the soul.
Oh! sobbed Iris, hiding her face against his shoulder, II said
you had no heart!
So I haven't, darling, answered Lynn, tenderly; I gave it all to
you, the very first day I saw you. Will you keep it for me, dear? Will
you give me a little corner of your own?
All, whispered Iris. I think it has always been yours, but I
didn't know until just now.
How long have you been here, sweetheart?
II don't know. I heard you play, and then I knew.
It was that blessed Cremona, said Lynn, with his lips against her
hair. You said I should never kiss you again, dear, do you remember?
Don't you think it's time you changed your mind?
The golden minutes slipped by, and still they stood there, by the
window in the hall. Margaret came back, and went up to her room, but no
one heard her, even though she was singing. At the head of the stairs,
she stopped, startled. Then, by the light of her own happiness, she
understood, and crept softly away.