Doctor Warrick's Daughters
Serialized: Harper's Bazar (Jul.-Nov. 1895)
Serialized: Harper's Bazar (Jul.-Nov. 1895)
DOCTOR SAMUEL WARRICK was a surgeon in a Federal regiment from the beginning to the end of the Civil War. His wife, in the meantime, lived with her children in the old Warrick homestead near Luxborough in eastern Pennsylvania.
The old settlers, who lived in crooked, shady lanes on the hill, ignored these people and their city. They always talked of “our little burgh” with proud humility: as the great Louis was known to his people only as “Monsieur,” because there could be but one gentleman in France. Of course they knew that there were other towns in the country, but they thought of them vaguely, as one does of affairs in the Antarctic circle. Luxborough was the final result of the creation. For it Columbus had sailed, and Washington fought, and the Bible been written. They delighted to tell each other that “with our resources and water power we could easily have surpassed Philadelphia at any time. But our people, sir, have had higher pursuits than trade.” A small cottage gave a scholastic flavor to the pursuits of some citizens; others were army and navy officers on half pay; still others derived their support from the meagre dividends of the venerable Luxborough Bank. But a meagre income did not interfere with the self-respect of any Luxboroughan. He wrapped his poverty about him as a royal garment and smiled down patronage on the world.
Now, these people all knew that their forefathers had been Swedish peasants who came over on the Key of Calmar: or mechanics and cotters brought to his principality by Penn. But had they not founded Luxborough? That was a patent of nobility in the minds of their descendants, who clung fondly to their old oak chests and chain clocks.
The young people, it is true, had talked much, of late, of certain Scotch lords and English baronets, whom, without regard to Burke and Debrett, they declared to be their ancestors and whose crests they uneasily adopted.
Luxborough asserted itself, however, most strenuously in the Monthly Whist Club (established a. d. 1767). The mill-owners beat in vain at its closed doors. They jeered at the sandwiches and tea which were its fixed features, but their hearts were sore with envy. These homely simplicities showed a superb contempt for the vulgar splendor of their balls and costly suppers. Once a year minuets were danced at the club, the girls wearing their grandmothers’ brocade gowns. The patronesses “requested the honour of your presence” on the backs of playing cards, as the club had done when Dolly Madison or Nelly Custis were its guests. These things furnished the new-comers with endless gibes. But the old Luxboroughans smiled and vouchsafed no answer. They were sure that their town, with its patrician caste, was as unique in the world as a Rome or a Damascus.
For the rest, their minds were chiefly concerned with their food and the squabbles of the High and Low churches. They were all good housekeepers and churchgoers, and, let the world rage as it would, the excellence of their hams and jellies and missionaries were firm foundations on which they stood impregnable. So deep was their complacency that if a Luxboroughan went out into the world and found success, his old neighbors scowled askance at him. Why should he go out into the world? Could he not have the best of hams and the Monthly Club at home? They would not clap their hands for him.
Young Logue was the foremost American sculptor in Rome for years, and George Parr, the philologist, was recognized by the greatest of German scholars. He was for months the honored guest of Queen Sophie in the Huis ten Bosch.
But when the two men came home Luxborough passed them with an icy nod. No cards were sent them for the club. “They have good blood,” said Mrs. Hayes, who was patroness that year. “But it is safer to keep out all artistic riffraff.” She felt that they should be taught that Luxborough was its own world. Roman studios and foreign courts were but as the rim to its cup.
Naturally, the men of ability who were born in the town and could not push out into the world did not find these things as ludicrous as they seemed to Doctor Parr or John Logue. They complained that they were stifled: sunk in a slough, not of despond, but of self-satisfied mediocrity.
Doctor Warrick was one of these men. The war gave him his first chance to draw a full breath of life. His wife, on the contrary, was calm and self-contained as any Luxboroughan, although she came from another city. Certain idiosyncrasies belong to all Pennsylvanian towns as though they were first cousins.
Mrs. Warrick lived a couple of miles outside of the borough. She ignored the town as the town did the rest of the earth. Her children, her garden, the cook, the turkeys—here was the world. Even the war threw but a far-off shadow through the windows of her cheerful lighted home.
She had her anxieties, however. She was forced to economize closely, as her husband was apt to lend part of every quarter’s salary to some needy friend in camp. Sometimes, what with tobacco to the prisoners and suppers to the staff, he would have none left to send home.
“Your papa”—she would say, with kindling eyes, when this happened—“your papa is the most generous of men! He is giving his life to his country, and he would give his last dollar to any body who needs it. Well, thank God, the dear soul has it to give!” Then she would go to work to nip ten cents here and there out of meat and butter bills to make up the deficit.
When the news of Lee’s surrender came the neighboring women rejoiced loyally together in their sanitary committees, but she fell to cleaning house to be ready for the doctor.
Her nephew, Brooke Calhoun, a noisy boy who had rushed in from the country when the news came, hauled down the flags from the garret early in the morning. “I’ll put one out of each window,” he shouted. Anne, a lean child of ten, clattered down the stairs after him, loaded with nails and hammer. Mrs. Warrick came in from her crocus-beds with muddy fingers.
“No, I think not, Brooke, dear,” she said gently, “not flags; it is peace, you know. Your uncle has been through such horrors in these years—knee-deep, you might say, in blood and mud—that I thought the house ought to be very quiet and clean for him. Just home. No flags—evergreen now, twisted around the pillars and over the door? What do you think?”
“All right,” Brooke said. But he and Anne scowled as they nailed up the hemlock. Their souls were clothed upon with victory and blood to-day. Brooke banged the nails viciously. The whole North was resplendent in red, white, and blue; why must he carry out the idea of a ridiculous woman? As for Anne, she hid one of the flags. She intended presently to go to a window in the barn which opened on the road, and, wrapping it around her, pose there as Liberty, for passers-by to see. Sometimes she covered herself with a piece of old mosquito netting and stood there, hoping that people would take her for a bride. Mrs. Warrick, who kept her little girls apart from the villagers as if they were nuns, never dreamed of these tricks of the child.
Mildred Warrick, a girl of fourteen, stood silently watching her sister and Brooke, slowly turning her innocent blue eyes from one to the other. They never asked for her opinion in their disputes. Her mouth was as dumb as her eyes. Nobody had ever known the soft, chubby creature to have an opinion since she was born.
When they were seated at breakfast Mrs. Warrick looked around her with a beaming face. Her regency was nearly over. Surely Samuel would think she had not managed badly?
Five years ago, at parting, the doctor had made over the property to her. “You’ll make ducks and drakes of it, of course, being a woman,” he said, with a shrug. “But what else can I do?”
When they were married the house had been surrounded for several miles by the Warrick estate. But the doctor, from time to time, to pull himself out of debt, had sold farm after farm, until only the old apple orchard was left on one side, and on the other the garden where his wife worked all day among her pease and beans.
“If my wife breathes on a seed it turns into a rose,” he used to say fondly, which pleased her so much that she did not notice that he never helped her to weed the rose-bed.
In front of the house a grassy field sloped to the road, and upon it three or four huge, ancient oaks threw an always grave and solemn shadow.
The homestead, like most Colonial houses in Eastern Pennsylvania, was built of black-lined English brick in a large, unmeaning square. The doctor liked to tell of the entertainments which long-dead Warricks had given here to Washington, or to wandering Bourbon princes, and there was still a lingering flavor of gracious hospitality in the noble proportions of the lofty apartments and the vast fireplaces, with their unwieldy brass dogs glittering in the flame. Time had softened the florid splendors of the frescoed nymphs on the ceiling and yellowed the marble Caryatides on the mantel-pieces: even the gorgeous roses on the carpets had faded into soft, dull hues on which the sunshine fell pleasantly. The great mahogany chairs on which the children sat at the table shone in it, black with age.
“Your papa will find no change in the house when he comes,” Mrs. Warrick said complacently, “and I have not sold an inch of ground, either.”
“That is a pity,” said Brooke. “If you had sold Matthew Plunkett the orchard, and he had built his big villa there, it would have sent up the value of this property five hundred per cent.”
“Perhaps so,” said his aunt indifferently. “We have enough of money. I did not care to have the Plunketts for neighbors, or any of the new rich clique.”
“Here comes David Plunkett now,” said Anne. “He writes poetry,” she whispered to Brooke. “He reads his tragedies to mamma while she plants her seeds! He waddles after her through the paths like a tame dog.”
“I will not bring my tragedy, when I write it, to Aunt Sarah,” said Brooke gravely, looking at the jolly face and tawdry plaid gown of the stout old lady.
An enormously fat lad, gaudily dressed, came into the room, and, after greeting them with a bob of the head, dropped into a seat and fell to work voraciously at the scrapple and toast. He paused long enough to mumble:
“When d’ye expect the doctor, Mrs. Warrick?”
“Next week. We are almost ready. The grates must be polished and the pictures hung.”
“Why did you not keep the prints on the walls for your own comfort all these years, Aunt Sarah?” asked Brooke.
“The frames would have tarnished, and besides I take no interest in pictures,” she said, calmly sipping her coffee.
“And yet they count for so much to the doctor! He must have grown thin, kept away from such things so long!” the boy said. “George! How he will scamper around to the theatres and old-book shops when he comes! And how the money will fly!”
“I’ll go with him!” piped Anne shrilly.
Mrs. Warrick, her cup in her hand, turned her broad red face from one to the other with a startled stare. In the last five years she had learned to look upon her husband only as a hero, facing death for a great cause.
But—. Why, of course he would run about to theatres and book-shops, irritable, voluble; in a paroxysm of rapture one minute over a first edition, and a paroxysm of misery the next over a limp collar. And she—always outside of his paroxysms! The old days flashed up distinctly before her. His finest engraving was no more to her than black scratches on paper. Clothes were to her only troublesome covering for the body. He had poetic ideas about color and drapery which she never could understand. How tired she used to be trying to understand, to keep up. But Samuel never saw it. He would keep her for an hour descanting on the lines of a Morghen when she was frantic to go and devil the crabs for supper.
Milly watched her anxiously. She caught her hand under the table. “Is papa like that?” she whispered. “Would he waste your little bit of money on such trash?”
“Mildred!” she shook off her hand. You don’t know your father. He is a man who—why he has great ideas, great purposes! He stands head and shoulders above other men, like Cato or Nelson, or—or—Lafayette. He has been risking his life for years, and you would begrudge him a little miserable money? He lives away above us with his books and his pictures. You’ll see.”
“Why! I didn’t mean any thing! I am sorry!” stammered Brooke, amazed at this outbreak. He wanted to laugh. Love between people of his own age was a divine thing, but the devotion of this old woman with a mole on her nose to the fussy little surgeon was like a farce on the stage.
David Plunkett, who had been watching Mrs. Warrick, broke in at this crisis:
“Calhoun, did you know I thought of going to Princeton? Father says I can, if I like.”
“Well, do you like?” said Brooke gruffly, with an uneasy glance at his aunt’s dim eyes.
“Better’n any thing. It seems as if I ought to have the chance, too. There’s Sims the butcher’s sendin’ his son to Yale, an’ Warren—you know Jo Warren—he’s workin’ his way through Harvard. If I—think of me graduatin’ first honor-man in Princeton!” He stretched out his huge arms with a deep breath.
Brooke looked at him a moment and then said respectfully, “It will take a lot of work, Pud.”
“I don’t mind work. I’ve got a fine brain. If I do it at all, I’ll go in for bein’ a professor. Why, I’d rather be a teacher sittin’ up there with a lot of men before me, knowin’ things that they don’t know, than be President!”
“Why don’t you go to college then?” said Brooke impatiently. “Your father’s reckoned an eight-million man—he can afford it. What hinders you?”
David munched a great mouthful deliberately before he spoke. “Eight million? P’r’haps. But you see, if I’m to be an oil man like pap, I’ve to begin now. College graduates don’t count in business. You’ve got to be trained young.”
“It does not need much training to measure tanks of oil and take pay.”
“So! that’s your idea of the oil business, is it?” said David contemptuously. “My father began without a dollar, sir. But he knows oil and gas. He’s got the sharpest eye for indications of any man in the State. That’s what brought him the eight millions. If I mean to carry on the business, I’ve got to go in training now. I must give up college.”
Brooke laughed. “Well, go in training, then! You won’t have money enough!”
David looked at him steadily, a sharp cunning creeping into his flabby white face. “Millions breed millions, is the old saying. But you’ve got to nurse ’em well. You can’t have too much money nowadays”—his catlike eyes twinkling.
“I am ashamed of you, David!” said Mrs. Warrick. “You are going to sell your birthright for pottage that you don’t need!”
“Oh! Nobody but you ever thought I had a birthright, Mrs. Warrick.” David rose and went to her side, a queer tremor on his broad face. “I brought sumthin’ for you to read to-day, but I guess you’re too busy!”
“A poem!” she said, smiling kindly. “Come this evening, my boy. I am going to town now.”
“Well, then, I’ll go. ’Mornin!” he muttered, with a general nod.
“’By, Pud,” said Brooke.
“Good-morning, Mr. Plunkett,” lisped Milly respectfully as he passed her. He stopped short, his face red with delight, and held out his hand. She took it reluctantly, and as the unwieldy body lumbered out rubbed her fingers with a shudder.
“Why were you civil to him then?” cried Anne. “He thinks the world is made up of Dave Plunkett!”
Mrs. Warrick looked after Dave with alarm. What would the doctor say when he found this rough lad an habitué of the house?
Her soul was full of alarms. It was not a hero who was coming; it was—Samuel. How Milly’s lisp would worry him! Anne’s clumsiness would drive him mad. Heavens! why must the child wave her arms and legs around like that!’
As she sat silent behind the coffee urn the world suddenly grew askew around her. It must be set straight in a day for Samuel.
If she were only one of these superior women coming to the front now, who organized sanitary commissions or lectured on the war! But Sarah was only clever in gardening. She was a good-humored creature. The knowledge of her inferiority had never hurt her as it did to-day. If she had even kept her pretty white-and-pink skin! She glanced at the mirror. Samuel used to think so much of that!
Then a fiery passion rose in her. He ought not to ask whether her skin was white or black! If she were an idiot, he shouldn’t care! She had loved him so. These things were trifles—trifles!
Sarah’s thoughts as usual soon dropped to the basis of hard common-sense. She was not to blame if she had been born without wit and taste as her husband and children had. She had at least made them live up to their own high standard.
“Why do you shriek so, Anne?” she said now, irritably; “other girls do it, but you cannot. How often must I tell you? You are a Warrick. A Warrick cannot be loud or pushing any more than she can be dishonest or cowardly. Your father will expect to find you fit to bear your name.”
Brooke, who was reading the newspaper, threw it down. “They are going to disband the troops! It is to be peace, sure enough!” he cried. “I thought there always would be fighting here and there, and in a year I could go in. I’ve had hard luck, to be only a boy while this scrimmage was going on. Now, I’ve no chance.”
“Oh,” said Mrs. Warrick eagerly, “we may have a war with England soon, and then you can go in. A man always has a chance to do credit to his name.”
“Why, I am not a Warrick, cousin Sarah. Nor you. We are Dacres.”
“Yes, and the Dacres always stood by their creed till death. There was a Dacre burned at Smithfield, and my grandfather was whipped by the Puritans in Massachusetts. On his gravestone it says, ‘He was the son of generations of fearless confessors.’ You are descended from him, Brooke,” said Mrs. Warrick, with kindling eyes.
Brooke laughed. “Oh, I’ve no doubt the Puritan creed was as nearly right as his own. He ought to have met them half-way comfortably, and so dodged the whipping. We’ve outgrown that sort of thing! You are a churchwoman, but you don’t want to burn Father Riley, nor the Plunketts, who are Methodists.”
“I’d as lief go to the stake myself as to Mass or to the Methodist revivals,” she said doggedly.
Brooke laughed, and took Anne to feed the cows. Her mother looked after her anxiously. Would Samuel be satisfied with the girls? She knew nothing of modern training. One or two ideas had seemed to her of authority: the Church and the family honor. She had helped herself in her weeding and darning by thinking of Jane Dacre tied to the stake. But was this sort of thing enough for the girls?
“Elegance of deportment,” “grade of attitude”—some of the doctor’s favorite phrases came back to nag at her honest soul.
Milly was patting her hand fondly. “Mamma, Anne does not understand,” she said; “she would not be burned sooner than be a Methodist, but I would.”
“Oh, yes; certainly, dear,” her mother said impatiently.
If Anne had said that it would mean something. But Milly’s mind was so easily filled and emptied! When Mrs. Warrick had an opinion, she knew as certainly that Milly would echo it as that a cup of water would reflect a passing color.
“She will be what I am while I am with her,” she thought. “Well, I shall probably always be with her. Even when the girls are married, I shall look after them a bit.”
She made haste now to catch the train into town. It was a threatening day. Heavy clouds drifted through the thin April sunshine. Brooke walked with her to the little station. “I have an appointment with the oculist,” she explained; “my eyes have suddenly failed. I must have glasses before Samuel comes. Brooke, what do you think of this gown? It is my best, but the figures are so bold. It was cheap, but I wish I had bought a better one—and the red ginghams the girls wear? He has such exquisite taste.”
“Don’t bother! What are gowns?” the boy growled. He could not put it into words, but if Doctor Warrick could not see how unlike to all other girls these were in their solitary life with their mother; with the queer unworldly notions about their Warrick blood and souls inherited from martyrs? If he made it a question of gowns? He kicked a stone viciously which lay in his way.
“What day does he come?” he asked.
“He leaves it for me to decide. He can run up on furlough, returning when his regiment is mustered out, or wait and come then to stay. Of course I shall write for him to come at once, if only for a day—”
She did not finish the sentence. Brooke looked at her face, and turned quickly away.
“Here is your train,” he said gently.
Sarah Warrick is of no interest in this history. The chapter which concerns her must be brief.
She waited an hour in the oculist’s outer office, her mind busy with calculations of the cost of a plainer gown and the time she would need to make it. At last her turn came, and she entered the operating-room.
Doctor Swan was an old man, whom she had known since her childhood. He was standing when she came in, and greeted her gravely. She fancied that he looked anxious. He was a sympathetic man, in spite of his dry manner. Some patient, perhaps, whose case he found incurable.
“How much longer will the examination last?” she asked. “I have been looking at these tedious letters and wheels for five days. Can you not tell me what ails my eyes to-day?”
“Yes, I think I can,” he said.
At another time she might have been startled by his unsmiling face, but just then she thought of a nainsook wrapper, soft and creamy white—Samuel would delight in that, unless—was she too old to wear white?
Doctor Swan meanwhile led her into a dark closet and turned a strong light into her eyes. “I must trouble you with this once more. I must be sure that I am right,” he said. As she moved her eyes up and down at his bidding, she hesitated about embroidery for the gown. It would be costly, but Samuel liked lace so much—
“Now to the left. That will do.”
He drew back, wiping the little mirror that he held.
“Have you finished already?”
“Yes, I have finished.”
“I am very glad. I am so busy at home. And the glasses?” she asked, buttoning her coat.
The old man still rubbed the mirror with a bit of chamois-skin, looking down at her steadily, standing between her and the door.
“You will never require glasses. I wish to say—Sarah, there is something I must tell you.”
“Yes.” She waited, attentive, smiling.
“There is a peculiar fact about the eye. You may have heard of it. There is a gray curtain—I may call it that—at the back of the eye, and on it, when I turn a strong light—— Sit down, Sarah. You do not seem strong to-day.”
“I am not as young as when we went to school on the hill together,” she said, laughing. “I do feel my age a bit this year. You were saying?”
Why did he prose so? She would have time to buy the nainsook, if she could go at once.
“It is like a gray canvas. On it, as I said—” he turned his eyes away from her, but went on hurriedly—“on it an oculist can see the marks made by certain incurable diseases before any other part of the body betrays their presence. It is the writing on the wall. Death—”
She had taken the seat he gave her. She rose now mechanically, and stood looking into his eyes. He stopped speaking, but it seemed to her, after a moment, that he had been talking a long time and had said much.
She said at last: “What did you see? What is the disease?”
He answered her, briefly.
Turning his back on her, he began to arrange some empty vials on a shelf. Her eyes followed him. How clean his bottles were—quite shining! She must go now. The nainsook—the train——
Her jaws moved beyond her control.
“Are you going, Sarah?” He walked with her to the door. “Will you have a little wine? Water?”
“No, thank you.” She had her hand on the knob of the door. She hesitated a moment and then turned:
“Can any thing be done? Is there a chance?”
“Consult your physician at once, of course. But I did not diagnose the case hastily. It is kindest to be frank, when the time is short—— What did you say?”
“Not more than a month.”
She bowed and smiled civilly, as if he had told her the time of day, and opening the door passed through the outer office, which was filled with patients. He followed her to the hall.
“It is raining,” he said.
“I have an umbrella, thank you. Good-morning.”
“Good-morning, Mrs. Warrick.”
As she went down the steps he put out his hand to stop her, but checked himself, looked after her with an approving nod, and went in.
It was only a spring shower. The buds on the maple-trees shone redly in it. “They will be out early in May this year,” she thought, and then stopped short.
“Why, I shall not see them!” she said.
Some woman whom she knew passed at that moment. Sarah smiled and nodded, but looked after her. “She will be here. She can see the children and talk to Samuel, and I——”
Then a sudden frenzy came upon her to be at home, to see her husband. The minutes were flying, and there were so few! She had work for their whole lives to do, and no time was left to her—no time.
But at the end of a block she turned and went into a shop. As she made her purchase she saw that they were closing the windows of the house. The saleswomen were whispering anxiously together. Coming into the street, she saw workmen busy everywhere removing the flags and decorations from the houses. Black streamers hung from many windows; groups of excited men stood talking on the street; some of them wore crape on their arms, and they spoke low as if in the presence of the dead.
She stopped, bewildered. Had they heard—that it was only a month?
“What has happened?” she asked some one hurrying by.
“Lincoln was murdered last night!” the woman said. “Why, where have you been not to know it?”
“Is that all?” said Sarah.
She walked on up the street. It was all so natural and familiar—the sun shining on the muddy spattered sidewalks, the bells on the horse-cars jingling. There was a policeman whom she knew: this show where she always bought candy for Anne.
There was no awful presence near her. No death, nor God. Nothing but the gay shops and the car horses with their bells.
Sarah had, as we know, a worried sense of the inferiority of her own small mind. She felt, with a kind of humiliation now, that she could not force herself up to the supreme moment.
“I wonder,” she thought, “if I should go before Him thinking of candy and policemen?”
She went to her physician’s office for an hour, then to a telegraph station, and then home.
The car was filled with her neighbors. They greeted her cordially, but they were still excited with the horror of the assassination.
Mrs. Warrick sat silent, listening, on a back seat. She said to herself, “The whole world is shaken because Lincoln is dead. Nobody thinks of me. Yet I have lived my life in the world too. I have lived my life in the world too.”
She tried to quiet herself, to think rationally. How would the Warricks meet death? She had always looked up to her husband’s family as of finer clay than herself. But they did not seem real to her at all now. Their very name was an empty sound.
She tried to think of Jane Dacre and the flames, but she could not remember why now it was that Jane died. She could not remember what the Protestant creed was.
As she left the car, her neighbors nodded good-by, laughing. Would they care when they knew? There was old Peter, waiting to carry her bag. She had always tried to be kind to the poor black soul. Would he remember her? Would any body remember her?
The storm which had been threatening all day had sunk lower, a gray darkness thickened the air; suddenly, fierce gusts bent the trees. They made the stout old woman stagger as she walked. She halted under the oaks; they waved their branches wildly, with half inarticulate cries over her head. She saw that they knew what had happened to her. There was some comfort in that. She turned into the old garden, which was home to her more than any place on earth. The rain was falling now, the pale green bushes were dripping; the crocuses thrust their wet heads through the soft mould. She dropped upon her knees in it. So many years she had worked with them! She knew every leaf and root of them.
She pulled up a weed or two and straightened the roots of the jonquils with affectionate pats, her eyes growing quiet. She had been treading on shifting seas, but now she felt firm ground again under her feet.
She walked toward the house. “I’m afraid I haven’t much grit to go through with it,” she said with an uneasy laugh.
The girls were waiting for her on the porch. She sat down and drew them to her, kissing them again and again.
“Have you heard?” Milly cried. “Have you heard, mamma?”
“About the President? Yes. All the world’s dying, I think. Stay, don’t go away! Don’t leave me.”
“How wet you are.” said Milly. “What’s in that bundle?’
“It is a white wrapper,” Mrs. Warrick said, opening it, “with embroidery. I thought you and Anne would like to remember—to see me in it. I shall wear it every day. I am sorry I ever wore those ugly gowns.”
“And papa? When did you tell him to come?”
“I told him,” she said slowly, “to stay there until his regiment was mustered out. It will be—more than a month.”
“Oh, you poor little mother!” Anne said. “You wanted him so! It will be hard for you to wait!”
“I——” she gave a queer laugh. “Papa cannot bear a fuss. You must always keep him from that. I will—wait.”
She sat with her arms about them, looking out into the rain.
Wait? For what? In a month she would be gone—altogether gone. The children would grow up like their father. They were of his kind—a different kind from her. She had sometimes been taken for their nurse in the train. There was a certain air of distinction in them which she never could get, try as she might. She had often felt as if she were down on a low road in life, and these girls, the children of womb, to whom she had given her own flesh and her own blood, were climbing up above her. They would go on climbing, now, and where would she be?
Anne, who very seldom caressed any body, saw just then her mother’s troubled face, and throwing her arms about her kissed her.
“Why—Anne!” Mrs. Warrick held her back, looking at her. Her eyes gathered an intelligence which never before had lighted them. “You won’t forget! I have loved you so, children!” she said, “no matter what I am. Nobody will ever love you like your mother.”
She walked down the porch. “It’s love that lasts!” she told herself, shivering with exultation. “Oh, I see now! On the cross—for love. He came back to them that loved him—He came back——”
Brooke at that moment rushed up the steps. “I must pull down these greens!” he said. “Lincoln’s dead! I must hang out black streamers. Every-body has black streamers out!”
“No! No black on this house!” Mrs. Warrick cried. “I will have no black—no mourning! When people die they do not go away; they are not forgotten! God is good. They stay to help their own. They stay right here!”
IT was the week after the funeral. The day was chilly, and Dr. Warrick sat in front of the fire, stretching out his neat little legs before the glowing coals.
Sarah had not been allowed to creep alone out of life as she meant to do. Brooke, when he knew the truth, wrote to the doctor, who came on the instant. The little man, beneath his whims, had a heart stout enough to face this moment. The small worries which dogged him intolerably every day of his life did not follow him up to this great and solemn height. He was there alone with the one woman whom he had ever loved, watching her go from him. His love was deep and strong enough to fit him for even this.
But now she was put out of sight yonder in her garden. He felt that he must brace himself and decide at once where to go and what to do. Five years in the army had cut him completely loose from his moorings. He tried to think, but his heart was sore. He took out a bit of soft gray hair, the tears coming to his eyes. There was a certain comfort in thus lapping himself in gentle misery. But as for his practice, or the taxes now due, or these great two girls?
He shuffled irritably in his chair. There was a feeling which did not form itself into a thought: that Sarah had taken a most inappropriate time to die; that it was inconsiderate in somebody to dump this load of cares upon him just as he was looking forward to the welcome and leisure of home. She, thank God, had entered into an eternal welcome and leisure! She did not choose her time to go, of course, poor girl! Then, with the tears rising again to his eyes, he lost himself in dreaming of her happiness yonder. The doctor’s ideas of a future life were not very lofty, perhaps. But Sarah, he felt, had been a good woman, and he had a vague conviction that anyone connected even by marriage with the Warrick family would be especially cared for there beyond. To set a family apart from others, for generations, with special excellencies on earth, and then treat them like the mass afterward would hardly be just.
While the doctor sat before the fire his two cousins, Mrs. Dane and Mr. Franciscus (Warricks by the female line), were walking up and down the porch outside. They had come out from Luxborough before Sarah’s death to help him in his sore strait, but now were impatient to set him on his way and go home.
The lady was a small, alert woman of forty. She walked quickly, spoke quickly, glancing from side to side with keen but kind eyes. Indeed, Julia Dane was a friendly, helpful soul, too well bred ever to assert herself loudly. Yet something, from the creak of her shining little boots to coils of iron-gray hair upon her erect head, told you that she was an authority in the parish, in literary clubs, and in a dozen benevolent committees.
Mr. Franciscus, lingering lazily a step behind her, was a tall, spare man, who stooped deferentially to his companion, talking incessantly in a low monotone. Why the gentle “Miss Fanny,” as the young people dubbed him, should have been a ruler of fashion in Luxborough through two generations nobody knew. There was an intangible cachet of old-time elegance in his dress and bearing, so unobtrusive that each observer believed that he alone had detected it and felt the pleasure of discovery in it.
“Really,” he said, waving his thin white hand to the window, “Samuel is not ten years old! They are three children together.” He paused a moment and continued gloomily: “I find that there is but a trifle of the property left. Samuel has had a positive genius for waste! But he is fairly skilful as a physician; he might resume his practice here.”
“Oh, the man is well enough as a tool,” said Mrs. Dane, “but there must be a hand to push the tool. In the army he was under orders. Before that, Sarah, dull as she was, was the motive power. But now—that poor little thing!” nodding to Milly, who sat crouched upon the steps. Her face was pinched and her eyes dulled with crying. Mr. Franciscus gave an inarticulate cluck of pity.
“That child is making herself ill with grief; but the other girl has not shed a tear, to my knowledge. We shall find her difficult, Julia. We must look the thing in the face. In a very few years, you and I will be responsibly socially for these children. That younger one is impossible.”
“Poor little Anne!” laughed Mrs. Dane good-humoredly; what has she done?”
“I’ll tell you what she did to-day. I’ve had my eye on her,” with a shudder. “It appears these people in the village made an idol of poor Sarah; why, God only knows!” shrugging his shoulders. “This morning Anne gathered them all, hucksters, washerwomen and gentry from the neighboring kitchens, and going through the house in a sort of dumb frenzy she collected all of her mother’s belongings and divided them among them. The cook got Sarah’s one satin gown; the milkman her À Kempis—a Pickering! I protested gently, and she cried, ‘What are old gowns and books? If they can make her alive a little longer to the people who loved her, shall I keep them?’ Well, there was a certain truth in that, but—I foresee a radical in that girl.”
Mrs. Dane’s boot-heels clicked more firmly as she walked. “I’ll take the radicalism out of her,” she said quietly.
Milly meanwhile had a very clear idea of their meaning. Why should they interfere? She and Anne could easily carry out mamma’s wishes. They would always live here, taking care of dear papa. They would talk and act just as their Warrick blood required. They would be good Christians. She had some hazy idea of an embroidered altar-cloth and new covers for the Sunday-school books, and advice to her wicked inferiors. And so it would go on and on. And some day when they were quite old and gray, the pearly gates would open, and they would all be together again. Life seemed simple enough to the little girl in whose pure soul her mother was really, as yet, the only God or law-giver.
Mrs. Dane suddenly stopped. “We will go at once and talk the matter over with Samuel. He must wake up to real life,” she said decisively. “Come, Mildred, you must be your father’s helper now.”
“Yes, Cousin Julia. I mean to do exactly as mamma did.”
“Oh? Your mamma——” She interrupted herself with a cough. “Come. I shall expect much discretion from you, my dear.”
It was the first time in her life that any body had expected any exercise of brain from Mildred. A curious flash lighted her unmeaning blue eyes.
“Shall we call sister, Paul?” said Mrs. Dane.
“No, Cousin Julia,” said Milly quickly. “I can manage. Never mind Anne.”
Mr. Franciscus’s prologue to her father was ponderous and lengthy. Mildred understood but little of it.
“You are most kind, Paul, most kind! and so is Julia,” said the doctor, waving his nervous fingers, as if to scatter their arguments into air. “I mean to take care of the children, of course. I had intended to give up my time to original research, in the direction of germ disease. But now, with two schoolgirls
to—— I’m sure I don’t know any thing about bonnets and calicoes. It was the most inconvenient time for—— But I blame nobody! God, He knows what He wants done. I shall give my life to my poor children,” drawing Milly toward him and resting her head on his shoulder, with a miserable sob.
“He will help you, Samuel! I know He will!” said Mrs. Dane, the tears in her own eyes. “But there are details to consider. Paul and I are ready to do what we can to aid you in directing the girls’ future. I can advise you as to schools, and Paul is really, as you know, a social power. He can aid us enormously with them when they enter the world; and also in—in the promotion of suitable marriages. One may as well speak frankly. We must face the whole matter now. Women are born to be wives, and it is our duty to place our girls advantageously. You must perceive, Samuel, that their future, the kind of education which they receive, their place in society, and, some day, their marriages, all will depend upon one consideration.”
“I suppose you mean the will of God,” said the doctor, vaguely remembering that cousin Julia was aggressively devout in the way of tracts and church-going.
Mrs. Dane hesitated. Milly’s little white face was turned toward her, eager for her reply. Her mother had never bared her life to her in this naked fashion. What was this which was needed to help her through all that was to come?
“We all bow to the will of God,” said Mrs. Dane severely. “We are not pagans, I trust. But in this case—you surely must see, Samuel, that the future lives of your daughters will largely depend on your income? On the amount of money which you can expend; and the style in which they live?”
“Money?” said Milly, under her breath, “money?”
“Yes, my dear,” said Mr. Franciscus testily. “Money. That, I am sorry to say, is now the dominant power in America. Great fortunes have been made during the war. Vulgar contractors are pushing in everywhere, even in Luxborough.”
“You give the child a low view of life, Paul,” said the doctor hotly.
“You must look at society as it is,” said Mrs. Dane calmly. “Myself—I take a philosophic estimate of it. One thing I will say. Dear Sarah brought up the children in this solitude with very peculiar ideas. They were to make their way through the world by virtue of good blood and the example of some martyr ancestor. Now, Samuel, these notions are of no more use in every-day life in Luxborough than—than the spear of the archangel Michael would be to keep off the rain. It is an umbrella you want in a storm, and it is money a woman wants to make her comfortable. I speak plainly. I always do in a crisis. Now listen to me. If there is no probability that these girls will inherit a fortune, we must give them a plain education. We will not introduce them into a fashionable life at all. Nothing is so tragic as a poor girl trying to push her way in it, in her cheap silks and Rhine stones. If I have a claim to any virtue it is common-sense, and I bring it to bear now. Paul here would be for giving them, when they come out, a season at Newport or a winter in Philadelphia. But no. It would only make them discontented. We will prepare them for a career of comfort—not luxury. But—but if there is a chance, even the barest chance, of their being heiresses, we will strain every nerve to fit them for a brilliant position.”
“What are you talking about? How in Heaven’s name should my children be heiresses? My practice may return, but——”
Cousin Julia lowered her voice, glancing around cautiously. “You forget your cousin Eliza Joyce. There is no reason why you or your girls should not be her heirs.”
“Bah!” the doctor sprang to his feet and paced up and down. “Do you mean that I am to spend my life toadying to the whims of a cantankerous old woman, in hopes that she may fling me her shoes when she is dead? I am poor, but I have not sunk so low as that! No, Julia!”
“No old shoes,” said Mr. Franciscus, laughing, “but a very snug fortune. I wish I had your chance, Warrick.”
“Why don’t you try for it then?”
“Who? Me?” said the old beau indifferently. “I am out of the running. So is Julia. She will leave it only to a Warrick by name. You have a fine chance, if you are decently civil, or allow the girls to be so. But just as you please”—concealing a yawn.
“I have quite made up my mind as to that point!” said the doctor doggedly, resuming his seat. “What next?”
“This is too important a matter to decide in a moment,” said Mrs. Dane gently. “I only wished to suggest it. The fortune is a large one. It would give solidity and brilliancy to the children’s lives. It is there, waiting for you to pick it up. But we will not discuss it now. Paul and I must go home this evening. We will come back in a few weeks, dear cousin, to talk it all over when you are settled and your heart is not so sore. That will be time enough for business.”
After Mr. Franciscus was settled comfortably in the carriage beside Mrs. Dane that afternoon, he abandoned himself to reflection.
“They are an impracticable lot!” he said, rousing himself at last. “I like to help my kin to the farthest generation, but—— Now that girl Mildred is the most hopeful of the three. A dowerless woman with as marked beauty as hers sometimes marries very well indeed. Her tints are exquisite, and that dove-like softness of voice and manner is very alluring. But I’m afraid she inclines to embonpoint. There is a thickness in her lips and eyelids which suggests absolute fat at thirty. She should eliminate from her diet for a year or two all oils and sugars and starchy food. I wish you would see to that, Julia. She is your godchild. I want to do the best I can for the child. She has no mother.”
Mildred just then was sitting in the wet grass beside her mother’s grave. Her tears had never been so bitter as now. Anne found her there and sat beside her, stroking her head softly, at which Milly sobbed more loudly.
“I wish I could cry too,” said the little girl.
“I’m glad she is here, so near!” cried Milly passionately. “I can come to her every night, to be sure that I have done just as she wished me to do!”
An hour later, as the girls walked home through the gathering twilight, Mildred stopped in the orchard.
“You can see the windows of the Joyce House from here, dear,” she said. “Did you know that Mrs. Joyce is our own cousin? We ought to go to see her.”
“She is a wicked old woman! She is no cousin of mine,” cried Anne. “Brooke told me. She has all kinds of disreputable people at her dinners. She is a gambler—she jeers at the Bible. Mamma was afraid of her.”
“Yes, I know,” said Milly thoughtfully, “Mamma——” Presently she said, “The world is so big! And there are things in it,” she added, with a little air of authority, “which perhaps even mamma did not know. I think we should be kind to poor Mrs. Joyce, Anne.”
WE all know that Pennsylvania and her children grow old slowly; they seem to linger always in the calm of satisfied, mellow middle age.
Luxborough, for example, after eight years had passed, had not changed a whit; it had not as yet even suspected that any change could better it. It listened with silent, well-bred contempt to reports of the transient enthusiasms of Boston, the huge fortunes of New York, and the crude splendors of new-born Western towns. Luxborough had no need to pant or swagger, to clutch at money, or to grope after Christian Science or Buddha. The good folk still waged war on each other from the High and Low churches; the same Bourbon rose-bushes reddened the dusky alleys of their gardens. The pickled and preserved by the same recipes, and still danced the minuet once a year in the ancient brocade gowns of their grandmothers.
It was the identical grimy train that went lumbering up from Philadelphia through the deep gorges and perilous beauty of the Gap to Luxborough one wintry afternoon, and the same Dutch conductor, his jaws redder and his hair whiter, who called the stations as he had done for twenty years.
A young girl spoke to him in a low tone. The old man shuffled from foot to foot, looking back at her, as he turned away, with pleased admiration.
Mrs. Dane, who sat beside her, said gently, “I have travelled with that man half of my life and I have never spoken to him.”
“How droll!” said Anne. “I know Fritz well, though I have not seen him for five years. I wanted to hear about his wife and his boy Jake. Mamma knew them all.”
“Your mamma,” said Mrs. Dane, hesitating, “cluttered up her life with common people. She knew all about the diseases and debts of her cook and butcher. I pay them their money; that ends our relations. I give charity through organized associations. When you have studied social economics as thoroughly as I have, I think you will find that to be the easiest way of dealing with that class, my dear, and the safest.”
“Undoubtedly it is easy and safe,” said Anne, turning her bright eyes full on her for a moment. Mrs. Dane bridled with annoyance. What was she laughing at? She was always laughing!
Judge and Mrs. Hayes were in the seat behind her. She knew that they were eying Anne curiously. Presently Mrs. Hayes leaned forward, beady fringes on her broad bosom rattling.
“Who is that?” she whispered. “What a distinguished-looking girl!”
“It is the younger Miss Warrick. She has been five years at school. Near Boston. With Mme. Dupont. Best class of girls in the country. So exclusive! Really, you have to enter a pupil’s name while she is in her cradle to get her in. I have just been up to bring Anne home.”
“Very odd, attractive face, eh?” said the judge.
“Oh, no! candidly, Anne is very ugly,” said Mrs. Dane. “But she surprises me every day. She will puzzle Luxborough,” she added, with a complacent smile. “She will be something quite new in the way of a young woman.”
“Ah, really!” said Mrs. Hayes dryly.
The younger Hayes girls were not yet settled. Mrs. Hayes scanned this new débutante with jealous eyes. There were quite enough marriageable young women in the town already, she reflected.
Why could not Jenny and Matty bear themselves with that repose? The girls trained by Mme. Dupont did acquire an air!
She turned to look at the woods flying past, the pompoms of her hat nodding gloomily.
“Why, Aunty Conn! I’m afraid you don’t know me!” said a voice beside her. “I used to call you Aunty Conn. Don’t you remember Nancy, and the day I broke through the glass of your hot - house climbing over it, and how you bandaged up my leg and gave me root-beer?”
Mrs. Dane looked back, saw the Hayeses on their feet, shaking hands and laughing with the girl. Cornelia Hayes’s broad face was beaming with hearty pleasure. They left the train at the next station, tearing themselves away from Anne with difficulty.
“I’ll bring Jenny and Matty up to-morrow!” the judge called from the platform.
“And remember, my dear, dinner on Thursday, and you shall have root-beer,” said his wife.
Mrs. Dane listened, amazed. “I wonder how she did it?” she thought, looking at Anne, perplexed. She could not quite master this school-girl.
Mrs. Dane had been faithful in her duty to the Warrick family. She had plotted Mildred into both factions of Luxborough society. A brilliant match was always possible to a girl of such singular beauty. Anne had been an ugly, high-tempered child. Mrs. Dane had decided to hand her over to Mme. Dupont, who was said to turn out “superior” young women. An intelligent girl, possessed of a certain amount of Latin, literature and executive ability in church-work, she was sure she would take in old Luxborough circles and soon marry a professor or one of the assistant clergy.
Such were her plans. But would Anne fulfil them? She had tried in vain yesterday to obtain some estimate of the girl from Mme. Dupont, but the lady (certainly a most eccentric person) had not the faintest ideas of the duties of a teacher. Mrs. Dane stood with her on a balcony, watching Anne in the garden below, as she bade good-by to the girls and a half dozen dogs.
“You can speak freely to me of my niece,” said Mrs. Dane affably, to the little woman in black. “If I have any ability, it is a thorough comprehension of young people—a sympathy. What is she? What does she know?”
“Know?” repeated Mrs. Dupont. She nodded and smiled affectionately as she met Anne’s eye. “Nothing, accurately. But she will learn more than most women as life goes on.”
“I must understand her. I must plan her future.”
“She will do that for herself,” said the teacher quickly.
“I am quite satisfied,” said Mrs. Dane, with official gravity, “with her manner. The voice is low and clear and the carriage noble.”
“Oh, these are mere habits,” said the other woman carelessly. “I am sorry,” she added, observing Mrs. Dane’s impatience, “that I cannot schedule her character for you. You see?” motioning to the crowd below. “Whatever else she may lack, she will have friends. That capital she is sure of. And there are other things—Anne gets more out of life than we do. The world is fuller for her. You understand me? I have heard of certain people,” she said, smiling, “who are born without the outer cuticle. The sun is hotter to them than to us, and the wind colder. They know sights and smells and the calls of insects which are nothing to us. Anne is like them.”
“Really?” said Mrs. Dane anxiously.
“She comes closer to things. At her age, naturally, she sees the gay side first—the fun. But after awhile—I hope her life will not be a hard one”—she broke off abruptly.
“Her father is not a rich man.”
“That will have something to do with it. Not much,” said Mme. Dupont. “Shall we go down?”
Hence Mrs. Dane, when she left the school, was greatly bewildered. She inspected Anne’s skin keenly. It was all right. Or had the woman only been talking in allegories? Mrs. Dane hated that hyperbolic way of putting things! It was so—Bostonian; which was the term Luxboroughans used for any thing which they did not quite understand.
As they came near Luxborough, she feared that Anne’s welcome would not be warm enough. She saw that this home-coming was a thing of tremendous import to her. She had been thinking of it for years. Mrs. Dane kept an eager watch ahead. Very likely the doctor would forget the time when the train was due; it would be just like him! Mr. Franciscus had boarded the car at the lower station; one could always trust Paul to do the right and courteous thing.
Anne, however, had a welcome of which Mrs. Dane knew nothing. The old fields were looking at her. She knew every foot of them, and they knew her. There was her own hedge, which the king-birds liked best. The snow lay thick at the roots of the bushes, but the leaves of some red creepers which had outlasted the winter fluttered atop. “They knew I was coming and waited,” Anne thought. It seemed to her as if she and every thing about her were shouting for joy.
They skirted the edge of town with rapid glimpses of the narrow, empty streets, running up the hill between lines great Lombardy poplars, and near the way-side station at The Oaks. There was the orchard; the chimneys of the house rose behind the hill, and now she could see old Peter waiting by the hedge, and Bruce beside him, and——
“There is papa!” she said quietly, as the train stopped. But she trembled so that she did not speak to him at all when she came to him.
“God bless me! And here you are, my dear! And you’re glad to get home to old Daddy? Tut—tut! Why—Anne?”
He had been mildly glad that she was coming home. But—nobody before had ever cried with joy to see him. His thin blood throbbed in his veins.
“Run along home together,” said Mr. Franciscus, with a little quaver in his laugh. “I’ll send the luggage up. Samuel, go along with your girl.”
As he strolled home presently with Mrs. Dane, he whistled inaudibly to himself, a sure sign that he was greatly pleased.
“She is quite satisfactory, Paul?” she asked. “I should call her figure perfect, and she knows what to wear. That brown gown and hat, with the fleck of red here and there——”
“It is not her clothes. Nor her looks. But something in the girl herself, indescribable,” he said, with energy. “It wasn’t easy to spare the money for her education, but I am glad we did it. She does not suspect that we had a hand in it, I hope?”
“No one but Mildred knows. She is reasonable. Samuel would resent the obligation. But he gives Milly the purse to carry and asks no questions.”
“It is no obligation,” he said hastily. “I do not wish Anne ever to know. I am glad that we did it!”
Anne, going up the hill with her father, halted suddenly. “Where is Milly, papa? I always thought she would meet me here, at the oaks.”
“Oh, don’t you know, my dear?” stammered the doctor. “She is gone to New York for a month. Mrs. Joyce wished to consult a specialist, and Milly felt that she ought to go with her. The poor old woman is quite dependent on your sister now. Mildred left her love for you.”
Anne did not speak for a minute.
“It must have been harder for her than it is for me,” she burst out loudly. “She will have nobody there, and she knew that I would have you.”
“Yes, yes!” the doctor held her arm tightly. His heart fluttered as it had not done for many a year. How the child loved him! He had so much to tell her. He was sure that she would understand. She would see things as he did. Dear Mildred could not come back unexpectedly. And they could do as they pleased for a whole month!
He gave her another hug when they were inside of the door, and ran bustling about, humming a tune.
“Make up a rousing fire,” he shouted. “Let us be warm for once. Maria, come and show yourself to Miss Anne. About dinner, now?” adding some whispered orders, which sent Maria amazed and chuckling back to the kitchen. He had startled himself into a frightened silence for a minute. But no matter! The bills would not come in for a month, and surely Mildred would remember that Anne only came home once in her life.
“Well, well, my dear! How Bruce does keep close to you! Milly detests pets, but she tolerates him because—he was your mother’s dog, you know.”
“Yes.” Anne laid her cheek down on the shaggy head in her lap. “But we must have a half dozen more. I’m very fond of dogs,” she said.
“Oh? Six dogs! Why, Mildred—but run up to your room now. Dinner will soon be ready.”
Anne ran up the stairs, and then down by the back way and out through the garden to a little mound among the crocuses. She knew the way in the dark! She had been thinking of coming here for five years. She threw herself down, crying and laughing and kissing the ground. “I’ve come back to you, mammy, dear! I’ve come back to stay,” she cried.
The doctor skipped about, putting a rose in his buttonhole, adjusting the glasses on the table, humming a dozen tunes. How lucky it was that he had thought of decorating the house with holly! She had seen it in an instant. That girl saw every thing! He would show her the etchings after dinner. And to think that an hour ago he did not know what was coming to him! A companion for life! Mildred was a dear girl, but she understood him no better than if he were an Esquimau.
When they were seated at dinner, the holly-berries glowing between him and the young, vivid face opposite, he cackled on without ceasing. It seemed to him that he had not talked before for years.
“I am so glad that you have a good appetites, my dear. Your sister only nibbles. We don’t have game or ice cream unless when Mildred entertains the millionnaires of Luxborough, but I thought that to-night——“
“She entertains a great deal then? I am so glad of that! Mamma always had a cover laid for any one who might drop in.”
“Oh, Mildred says this kind of hospitality is out of date. She has to perform her social duties, you know. ‘Keeping up with the procession,’ they call it. She has two heavy dinners yearly for these people who only come to feed, and pays her debts to all the others by one big reception. She borrows for that day your Cousin Julia’s silver and Turkish rugs and curtains——“
“Ah-h!” gasped Anne.
“Yes, quite so! I don’t think it is in good taste, myself. I say—damn the millionaires! I beg your pardon, my dear. Why go into their set at all, or try to compete with them? That’s what I say. But Mildred manages—every thing, money and accounts. I have my own occupations—a kind which society don’t touch. I live my life apart. Do take this bird, dear? Well, if you won’t”—laying it on his plate. “So it goes. She keeps up appearances, you see. Two dinners and the At Home. But the rest of the time it’s bare, very bare! Why, I haven’t tasted partridges before, since——“ The doctor forgot to finish the sentence, anxiously nibbling the juicy morsels until the bones were bare, and then wiping his gray mustache and leaning back with the air of a gourmand. “That was really an excellent dinner!” The little man contentedly clasped his hands over his stomach. “Milly made out a bill of fare for each day while she was gone. It was—not long.”
His complacency increased with each moment. The big fire burned. He had for once had plenty to eat, and there sat Anne—young, yet belonging to his own generation—listening to every word he spoke with eager, trembling lips. She loved the theatre. She turned over his etchings with a sort of reverent ecstasy! His stories of the elder Booth and Macready and Jenny Lind were new to her, and when he sang a snatch of one of the great Swede’s ballads, the tears actually came into her yes. “Tut, tut! child!” he said, patting her shoulder. “You like it, eh? My voice is cracked now, but once—well, well!” Then he told her of his music-teacher in Paris, and of Paris itself—a jumble of his tramps through the forest at Fontainebleau, and royal processions, and dinners, when his last coat was pawned, of pot-au-feu and bread—fit for the gods.
“We’ll go there together some day,” she said, drawing a long breath when he paused.
So it came about that evening, while his heart was melted and his judgment shaken by the coming of this new affection and sympathy into his life, that he told Anne his great secret—took her up to a closet in his room and showed her a mysterious collection of glass tubes and dishes.
“This is my true work. I never speak of it to Mildred. But here is where I find my real life,” he said, with a dramatic wave of the hand.
“What are they?” Anne asked, awe-struck. “What is it that you do here, papa?”
“I study the germs of disease. It is comparatively a new pursuit in this country. I purposed to give myself up to original research when I left the army, but I had to begin practice—I had a young, helpless family.”
“Yes, us. I know!” stroking his arm. “And then?”
“I cannot attend to both. Sometimes I feel that I am on the verge of a discovery which will make the world hold its breath. If I could pursue my experiments, I know that I should find the germ of cholera. By inoculating for it, I should save thousands of lives.”
Anne’s eyes flashed. “And yet you do not pursue your experiments! You could benefit the whole human race, and you go on earning money for us? Has Mildred allowed you to make such a sacrifice?”
“Oh, I never have told Milly,” the doctor said, with almost a sob. He was greatly excited. The cholera germ had really been a very vague idea until to-night, but Anne’s faith gave it a sudden reality. “I oughtn’t to have told you. But I have had this secret so many years, and you come so close to me, Nancy.”
“Yes, yes! I understand. Let me think a moment!”
She walked up and down the chamber, her cheeks hot, her eyes burning. Here was a man within reach of a great triumph—a mighty gift for all mankind, and his hands were tied by duty—duty to her! On the very night that she came home, to discover such a hero—and in her dear old father! Anne’s imagination, always ready to kindle, was now all aflame.
She must act at once and for the whole family. But discreetly. In her own opinion she was always as discreet as the judicious Hooker himself.
“Now, father, come and let us talk this matter over coolly. Let us go down to the fire again. We will be perfectly calm. We must do nothing hastily.”
When they were seated beside the library table, she began gravely, “Have you never seriously thought of giving up your practice?”
“Oh, dear, yes! I think of giving it up every day. It’s a terrible grind. You’ve no idea how stiff one’s legs are, riding over these hills!”
“Is there any one to take your patients? They must not suffer.”
“Any one? There’s a dozen! The country’s swarming with Bob Sawyers. But you don’t wish me to stop at once?”
“In a day—an hour—if that will hasten your great work! But we must be practical, dear. What income have you outside of your practice?”
“Well, there’s this house—and the land about it. Enough for chickens, and pigs, and calves, and potatoes, and that sort of thing.”
“Quite enough, I fancy. Chickens and veal? We shall live like Irish kings! That is all?”
“Oh, dear, no!” said the doctor, with a little pompous laugh. “There are some government and railway bonds, bringing in two thousand or thereabouts—Milly knows.”
“Why, we are rich! And now that I am at home my school expenses will be saved. Papa, you must stop at once! Write to Mildred to-night——“
“I—would it be necessary to write to Mildred?”
The doctor was being swept off of solid ground into a great flood. He thrilled with exhilaration. To discover this germ! To become famous all over the world—to be able to be done with back-breaking rides, and to be able to stay in bed all night and every night! But, if Mildred knew?
If the step could be taken while she was gone, there would be a victory!
“If the thing is right to do, let me do it!” he blustered. “Never mind Mildred.”
“Right? There can be no question in the matter! Of course Mildred will agree with us.” Her courage was so lofty and gay that the doctor’s momentary bravado suddenly collapsed before it.
“It is too important a thing to decide in haste, child,” he said irritability.
“It is too important to dawdle about,” she retorted quickly. “Let us talk it over in detail.”
They talked it over until the clock struck twelve, one, two. The more the doctor vacillated, the more urgent Anne grew to force him into heroism.
“How can I give up my patients, my dear? We will starve!” he cried for the twentieth time.
“Mr. Greeley says the way to resume specie payment is to resume!” she said. “The way to resign your practice is to resign. Wait a moment!”
She seated herself at the desk, drew a sheet of paper toward her, and wrote a courteous note stating that Doctor Warrick, having resolved to devote his whole attention to laboratory work, must decline to receive patients after the first day of the ensuring February.
“There! That is concise and businesslike,”—looking at it critically. “Give me a list of your patients, and I will copy it to-morrow and send it out to them. You can call and explain a little, to be friendly.”
“Yes, yes!” The doctor chuckled. “What a breeze it will raise in Luxborough! And Mildred—— Copy it early in the morning, my dear. Something might happen.”
He gave her his list and carried her candle to her door, kissing her good-night. She held him, her hands on his cheeks.
“To think my father is to do this great work! My father”—her lips quivering.
“Yes, dear. You do carry things with a high hand! I wonder what Milly will say? We must send her a copy.”
He went, laughing to himself, to his own room. The doctor’s triumph was not so much that of a hero taking up his life’s work, as of a donkey kicking off a load.
But Anne did not suspect that. She glanced at the list of patients. “How few there are! They do not appreciate him here, then? They will, some day!” She kneeled at her prayers, trembling with a lofty exultation. “Well, I have done a good day’s work for the world!” she sighed, smiling happily as she fell asleep.
THE circulars were sent out and Doctor Warrick hurried from house to house, explaining the reason of his self-sacrifice. Luxborough heard the news with smiling indifference. The doctor was one of themselves, and, if he had committed burglary, his old neighbors would have hushed it up. They would hush it up now, if he chose to play the fool and starve; but they had no interest in his germs or in any such new-fangled folly.
Anne was amazed when the great deed thus fell flat on the world's ear, but she indignantly urged her father on to work. “You are the only man in America who is trying to do this thing,” she said; “you will soon be a benefactor to every nation on earth!”
She wrote huge and ardent letters to Mildred to this effect; the doctor also wrote to her, stating how prudent his course had been; how every detail of income, outlay, etc., had been considered before the irrevocable step was taken. Mildred simply replied, “I have received your circular, dearest papa.”
A certain look of alarm deepened on the doctor’s face after that. He busied himself in his laboratory for a week. Then a new novel fell in his way, and he began to take Anne to the theatre in the evenings, finding that as to melodrama her taste needed training, and then a great event occurred, which drove germ culture quite out of his head.
During this winter Mr. Mears, the humanitarian, had been urging upon the Northern people his pet scheme for establishing colonies from the surplus population of their cities in the cheap lands of the South. He insisted, as our readers doubtless will remember, that these wildernesses could be made at small cost to blossom into creamery farms and chicken factories, whereby New York toughs and Chicago anarchists would speedily be converted into mild, church-going citizens.
Major Patton, the railway king, was one of Mr. Mears’s enthusiastic supporters, and offered him a special train for a tour of inspection through the South. The major invited a few of his own friends to accompany them. Among them were Doctor Warrick, his daughters, and Mrs. Dane.
Mildred returned unexpectedly at this juncture. Anne, who had been tramping over the hills one afternoon, came home late in a heavy rain, and saw through the window a plump little woman in pale blue, quietly seated by the fire, sewing. She threw up the window and rushed in, followed by the driving gust.
“Oh, my darling!” she screamed. “Oh, Milly! Is it really you—you?” She threw herself on her knees, hugging her sister, looking up into her pleased, smiling face, stroking her soft cheeks. “Five years! Yes, five years, that I haven’t had you!” she cried.
“We will always have each other now,” said Milly gently, kissing her on the forehead. “Close the window, Peter, please. Don’t be so nervous, my dear. I am afraid I have startled you. I really arrived at Luxborough this morning, but I had to establish Mrs. Joyce comfortably before I came home.”
“I—I have so much to say to you,” stammered Anne, rising discomfited, she knew not why.
“Of course you have.” Milly stood on tip-toe to kiss her cheek again. “But dinner will be ready in twenty minutes. Run now and dress. You are very wet.”
Anne turned at the door to look at her again, but Milly did not see her. She was patting the rain spots on her gown with her handkerchief.
There were a thousand things which Anne had been keeping through these years to tell to Mildred. Was she not her own, only sister?
Neither that day, nor any day did the time come to them. Milly never “talked things over.” Anne’s return, the doctor’s surrender of his practice, the long journey which they were soon to make, were accepted without comment as matters of course. After her arrival the house grew neat, the meals shrank into mere morsels, and preparations for the journey were made in the same calm silence. Anne felt her own passionate spurts of energy feeble and ridiculous beside the steady progress of this fair, low-voiced girl, who handled the worst difficulties of life as if they were bits of a dissected map; a touch of her firm white fingers, and they fell into order.
After five weeks’ delay Mr. Mears announced that he was ready to start. He had asked Brooke Calhoun to go with him. He needed a practical farmer to pronounce upon soils, methods of tillage, etc.
“You are young, Calhoun,” he said; “but there is not a farmer in Pennsylvania for whose judgment I have more respect.”
Brooke laughed. “Of course, you know, Mr. Mears,” he said, “that it is the biggest chance that ever has come into my life. I never have had time or money to study soils or crops outside of this State. For that reason you make a mistake in taking me. I know nothing about rice or sugar culture. I’ll go farther,” raising his voice when Mr. Mears would have spoken, “and say honestly that I think you are making a worse mistake in trying to rescue New York thieves or paupers by dumping them out in the country. Farmers are made, not born. A clever pick-pocket is not necessarily a successful or a moral potato grower.”
Mr. Mears smiled. He had an obstinate feminine smile. “We won’t argue, Calhoun. I never argue. I know I am right in this. In any case come with me, and keep me from going too far astray. It is settled, eh?”
Brooke hesitated. “I will give you my answer to-morrow.”
Mr. Mears had a womanish dislike to being balked in a pet plan. He knew that the liberal salary offered was of weight with Calhoun. “I don’t know why you hesitate,” he said peevishly. “That model little farm of yours ought to run without you for a few weeks.”
“Oh, that would be all right! My men are competent.”
“You have neither wife nor mother to consult.”
“No. It’s my brother,” said Brooke.
“Edward? Nonsense! He is not a child. Much more a man of the world than you are. Do you mean to say he can’t live a month without you? Why, he has been four years abroad.”
“Yes,” said Brooke. They walked on in silence for a few minutes. “I really can’t decide without seeing Edward,” he said abruptly. “You will hear from me in the morning.” He turned into a shop to avoid further discussion, and Mr. Mears, shrugging his shoulders, went on.
Mrs. Dane, in the afternoon of the same day, drove out to The Oaks to talk over the preparations for the journey.
A light snow whitened the fields. Mrs. Dane hurried gladly from the gray cold without into the wide, warmly colored room. A log burned on the hearth. Before one of the windows a handsome blond young man, in a loose corduroy jacked, was perched on a high stool, painting, while Anne posed for him on a sofa, wrapped in a red shawl. She sprang up to meet her cousin, while the artist bowed impatiently and waited, scowling, his brush suspended over the canvas.
“Ah, Edward Calhoun? Sorry to interrupt the sitting!” said Mrs. Dane briskly. “I will sit here by the fire until I thaw. I came to look after your arrangements, my dear.”
“Oh, they are all made!” said Anne. “Milly has set the house in order, and started papa on his farewell visits. She is over at Joyce House now. She gives every afternoon to that poor old woman. Will you not go on, Edward?”
“No,” scraping the paint from his palette impatiently. “It is impossible now. The light has changed. You have lost the expression. Oh, it does not matter!” He hesitated a moment and then dashed his brush across the picture. “You are not to blame, Mrs. Dane,” in answer to her cry of horror. “It is I. An artist could take up the idea again. But a poor dauber like me is dependent on the fire of the moment. The fire is such a poor flicker that it soon goes out!” with a bitter laugh.
Mrs. Dane had a long acquaintance with Edward and his griefs. “Patience, my dear boy!” she said. “We all know that some day you will do immortal work. You have sent your ‘Twilight at Carnac’ on to New York?”
“He painted it out yesterday,” said Anne. “And his great ‘Annunciation’ he slashed out of the frame the day before.”
“Laugh, if you feel like it.” The young fellow was very pale. “The joke for you is death to me. I waken every morning thinking, ‘To-day I will do great work.’ I do it, and it is trash! I’ve no chance here,” he went on irritably. “The light is hard; every thing in this country is so abominably crude and raw. If I could have stayed in Persia! I was mastering color there, when the rheumatism seized me. It was my usual luck!” with a grim shrug.
“Poor boy!” said Mrs. Dane anxiously. “Why don’t you paint your cousin Mildred? You have beauty there surely, pure and simple.”
“Yes, the beauty of a bit of bisque china! Now, Anne,” scanning the girl critically through his half-shut eyes, “Anne is like a twilight study by Corot—it only suggests—— But what infinite meanings, possibilities—“
“He has found the possibility of every character in history and fiction in me,” Anne said, reddening and laughing. “One day I am Joan listening to the angels, and the next Becky Sharp. Ned is especially unhappy this evening,” looking at him as she would at a fretful child, “because Brooke has had this offer to go with Mr. Mears.”
“You think I am base enough to begrudge Brooke his chance? Thank God, I am not selfish! Nobody can accuse me of that. But now, Mrs. Dane,” turning to her with a nervous laugh, “confess that it is a little hard! The southern warmth, and color, and landscape are exactly what I want for my art. That good honest soul Brooke does not know one color from another. He sees nothing but lumber and crops in Nature. Yet—he goes, and I stay on the farm! I am so tired of that neat house, and the meals like clock-work, and Brooke’s eternal drudge drudge, that if I could turn tramp and take to the road, it would be my salvation!”
Mildred had entered during this tirade, and waited until it was finished. “Brooke is coming through the orchard in great haste, Edward,” she said.
The lad’s face lighted, as it always did at the sight of his brother. “Brooke always rushes along, his nose in the air as if he had just had good news and was in a hurry to tell it,” he said laughing, and went to meet him.
Mrs. Dane looked after him eagerly. He was the only man of genius that she knew. “Edward is always most interesting to me,” she said, “most interesting! He has undoubtedly had hard measure in the world.”
“Do you think so, cousin Julia?” said Milly softly. She had not quite lost her lisp.
“I certainly do. Here are two sons of the same father. Brooke’s mother has a fortunate: Edward’s not a penny. Brooke has hard common-sense and business ability to earn money. Edward, who has none, with his genius and sensitive nature is helpless. I have no doubt, too, that he has much to bear from his domineering brother. The old story of the iron and porcelain pot! I consider it extremely selfish in Brooke to accept the offer and leave his brother behind.”
“Papa told me that he declined it this morning,” said Anne. “He saw how it discouraged Ned.”
“Declined it! Really? Well, of course he was right. But such an opportunity will never come in his way again. Declined it? Rather Quixotic and young to do that. At least so John Mears will think.”
The door was flung open and Brooke burst in. “It’s all right! Great news! I beg your pardon, Mrs. Dane, I did not see you. I’ve just had a note from Mr. Mears asking me to bring Ned. He says he probably can be of use drawing maps, if they decide upon any sites. Of course Ned will pay his own expenses. You can be perfectly comfortable on that score, old fellow. But Mears’s letter is most considerate and hearty. I feel as if I could shout!” he said, laughing, his face red. “Such a lark for us all!” He was watching Anne, but when she did not look at him he turned to Edward. “You can bathe your soul in heat and color now, boy.”
“Have you accepted for me?” said Edward coldly.
“Why, no; the note has just come. But I am going at once to see him.”
“You can tell him, then, that I shall not go to draw his maps! What does he take me for? Any high-school boy can draw maps! Answer the man civilly. But let him understand that he has made a mistake!”
“Don’t be too hard upon him, Edward,” said Anne, who was watching him with cool amusement, as he pulled his long beard through his trembling fingers.
“Oh, it is the American idea of art! I am not angry! I only pity his ignorance.”
“All right!” said Brooke good-humoredly. “Come, Ned. Drive home with me. We will talk it over as we go.”
While they waited for the sleigh Mrs. Dane talked of farming to Brooke. She prided herself upon the tact with which she always could aim her conversation directly at each man’s specialty.
But Brooke, while he talked to her dogmatically of draught-horses, was furtively watching Anne. He had been in Ohio, and had seen her but once or twice since her return. He had an intense curiosity about her. She held herself aloof from him, while all the rest of the world, as he saw, even to the horses and dogs, easily made friends with her. What did it mean? Was it only the prudish school-training?
She had been a frank, ill-mannered, hot-tempered child. But he had found something in his little comrade which no other person ever had given him. Since this reticent, grave young woman had come back to The Oaks, Calhoun felt that something had gone out of his life, which he might never find again. Whenever he spoke to her, he knew that he was groping in search of it.
He suddenly quitted Mrs. Dane and crossed the room to her.
“I shall be sorry if I cannot take this journey with you,” he said abruptly. “You see I don’t know you any more. Sometimes I think that my little play-fellow has gone out of the world. I want to find her.”
“Ah?” said Anne coldly. “I thought that your interest in this expedition lay in rice-culture and cattle?”
“Yes, of course,” said the young farmer eagerly. “I always have contended that Holsteins will not find the grass in the far South succulent enough to—— But what do you care for Holsteins?”
Anne lifted her eyebrows, with a shrug, and at the moment Edward called his brother. “What an ass I am!” thought Brooke angrily, as he went out. “She will think that I am more interested in cattle than in her! Well, I don’t know; perhaps I am!” laughing, as he jumped into the sleigh and waved his hat to her in the window.
Anne stood looking gravely after him. The last six weeks had been heavy with disappointment for her. She had left school eager to see the great struggles that were going on in the world. Out there she supposed every man was striving to win fame, to help humanity. Life was a sort of hurdle race, a series of victorious leads to triumph. Now it was Brooke, who, long ago, had planted this idea in her mind. He was the only man except Colonel Newcome whom she had ever really known. She had been his little adopted sister for years. The big lubberly collegian had poured out his most secret ambitions to her. She was looking now at the very bench under the oaks where they used to sit and plan how he would be a great lawyer, an orator, a statesman. He might have been any of these things. Her eyes softened with tender feeling. In all the years in which she had been gone, she had been planning what he might be.
She shrugged her shoulders contemptuously. He was—nothing! A ploughman, content with his turnips and pigs! She remembered how frantic he used to be to fight for some great cause. Slavery was abolished, the Union was saved; but there was surely other great work to do?
Anne had come home on fire with these thoughts. But nobody else was on fire. Her father’s noble example interested nobody—not even Milly. Old Luxborough knew of no great purpose in life except to keep strangers out of the Monthly Club. Milly’s purpose was to hold her footing with the dull patricians on top of the hill, and to make her way among the dull parvenues at the foot, with as little expense as possible. There must be a bigger life than this somewhere in the world! Old Luxborough was stifling, clammy, a graveyard!
Anne played Chopin softly as the twilight gathered, the hot, angry moisture rising to her eyes. Presently her father and Mr. Mears came into the room. She turned civilly, and after a while listened. Mr. Mears was talking of a proposed Reformatory on the Lusk system.
This man had noble purposes! She looked at him eagerly, seeing as for the first time his lean, ascetic figure and pale, vague eyes. St. Augustine must have looked like that when he walked into the great Council singing the Te Deum, leaving paganism behind! To save thousands of neglected children—that was a different thing from Holstein cattle!
Mr. Mears, turning suddenly, saw the pleading eyes and quivering lips of the young girl. What a breathless interest she took in his plan! He directed his explanations entirely to her while he stayed, and went away with a pleasant sense of encouragement. This fresh, childish enthusiasm was certainly a relief after the daily sharp criticisms of his elderly woman colleagues on the board! He wished vaguely that he had a sister or an aunt or—something, like the younger Miss Warrick; and then remembered with a little shock of pleasure that she was going South with her father.
Anne went back to Chopin, but oddly enough it said nothing to her of the Lusk system. The most melancholy strain expressed only sharp dislike of Brooke Calhoun. She would never change her opinion of him! Anne knew that she was apt to change her opinions. At school she had vehemently sided by turns with the abolitionists and slave-holders, aristocrats and anarchists. But there was one kind of man for whom she had no sympathy nor use. The grub, the earthworm. She was quite sure of herself on that point.
Milly told her presently that Brooke was coming to breakfast the next morning.
“I do not wish to see him at breakfast or at any other time,” said Anne tartly.
Indeed, her antipathy to Brooke Calhoun, when she went to bed that night, was so virulent and strong that it seemed to have given a new stability to her character.
IN the meantime Brooke whistled to his horses and bowled cheerfully along. He was a stout, warm-blooded fellow; and, whenever a blast of sleet struck their faces, he whistled more loudly, and told Ned again that it was a glorious day.
“You are ready to shout in all kinds of weather,” grumbled Edward, who was always too hot or too cold. “This air is death to me. Heavens! To think that you will pluck roses out of doors next week!” He waited for Brooke to answer, and when he said nothing, went on in an authoritative tone. “Understand me, Brooke, you are to go with Mears. I will not permit you to remain with me. If the man had not insulted me, I should have been happy to go, God knows! Well, he probably estimated me at my true value. I am a poor creature, as far as art goes. But a drawer of maps——“
“I can’t discuss it with this wind in my face,” said Brooke cheerfully. “I’m starving, too. The thing will be plainer to us after supper.”
The road wound through the rich farms of Delaware County, and Brooke met several of his neighbors. They halted to give him bits of news about the rise in school taxes or the water famine. They touched their hats coolly to the young man beside him. There was a general belief that Calhoun was spoiling the lad. One woman, in a sleigh that passed them, spoke of his singular beauty.
“Yes,” said her father, “Ned has an uncommon face. He was painted once in Rome as Apollo, and he has been posing as some Greek god ever since.”
Ned certainly was not unconscious of the effect of his fine head rising out of the rich furs in which he had wrapped himself, nor of the girl’s admiring glances. The talk of the farmers grew intolerable after that.
He remembered how he and some of the men from the Latin quarter used to explore the environs of Paris. Different evening drives, those! At every turn their keen eyes detected a fine shadow, a subtle color, or some picturesque grace or squalor. These Americans had no ideas beyond sugar-corn or calves. Even Brooke!
“Get on, man!” he said irritably. “Damn it, get on!”
“I must stop at this house. Phipps! Hello! Just a moment, Ned. About those pigs?”
The pig question consumed twenty minutes. Edward sat in sullen silence until they reached home.
The farm-house was aglow with comfort, firelight shone in every window. Savory smells stole out into the frosty air. The old house, in which six generations of the Dacres had lived and died, stood on one of the lower spurs of the Alleghany Mountains. Like most Colonial farmhouses in Pennsylvania it was built of rough blocks of gray stone, square and solid, with afterthoughts of offices and store-rooms growing out of the sides. Rain and lichen had mellowed the walls into warm saffron and yellow tints; the American ivy muffled the sides and the steep roof, green or blood-red most of the year.
Inside of the house were no modern prettinesses: the ceilings were low, the rooms large. Even in July logs shouldered in the huge fireplaces. There was an atmosphere of large, happy content about the place which did not suit Edward’s mood. He swore now at the boys who rushed out to take the horses, and kicked the way through the dogs that barked a welcome. Brooke lingered, laughing and talking to them all. He always welcomed himself home with fresh delight, if he had been gone but a day.
He had seen English manors and Colorado ranches, but in his secret soul he thought them mean compared to his old house, and rich little farm, which the mother whom he had loved so much had given him.
In the fulness of his good humor her blurted out this opinion when they were seated at supper. Edward stared at him.
“I should not select this assortment of corn-ricks and barns as the ideal home,” he said dryly.
Brooke laughed, and recommended the steak. He felt it to be natural that Ned, with his poetic temperament, should be fretful: it was as natural too, that he should always be the victim of Ned’s ill temper as that he should be wet when it rained. Nobody was to blame.
“Nothing that I say goes through his rhinoceros hide!” thought Edward. Yet it was this blind good humor which made Brooke necessary to him. He pushed away his plate and watched him make a hearty meal, with the contemptuous affection which he might feel for a dog.
“Of course they all will blame me for hindering you from going with Mears,” he said presently, in an aggrieved tone. “I suppose it would be a profitable trip to you?”
“There are plenty of profits to be made at home. Some more coffee, Dolly.”
“You’ll kill yourself eating such heavy suppers. I ought to say for you to go. But I cannot stay here alone. I simply cannot. You are the back-bone of my life, Brooke.”
“Glad of it, boy,” said his brother, glancing at him affectionately.
“I’ve no doubt Milly and Anne regard me as a miserable drag on you,” he said, giving a dog who fawned on him an angry kick. “And so I have been. I see it. I’m not ungrateful.”
“I’m not ungrateful,” raising his voice. “I never had a cent of my own, and I have spent your money like water. Those years in Paris, and that trip to Persia, must have cost you a pretty penny. You never could afford decent clothes for yourself. And the bric-a-brac and rugs and pictures I brought back! Why, the duties you paid on them in New York ran up into the thousands. I’ve been a whelp—a damnably selfish whelp.”
“Once for all, Ned,” said Brooke sternly, “there can be no question of money between you and me. If you had it and I had not, I would come to you for it. God has given you a great talent, and what is our money for but to develop it. Let me never hear of this again.” He walked nervously across the room, and coming back, laid his hand on the lad’s shoulder. “Why, Ned, you’re—you’re my brother,” he said, his heavy face contracting.
Ned nodded, laughing excitedly. “That’s so! And you’re only just to me, old man, when you say that if I had the money I’d spend it on you. Thank God, there’s not a mean bone in my body! I value money no more than dust—dust! I’ll repay you some day. When I paint my great picture I’ll put your name with my own in the corner. You shall have the credit of it through all time. About that picture, by the way; I’ve an idea——“
Brooke sat down, lighted his pipe, called the dogs to him, and listened while Ned dilated on Breton peasants and Alpine sunsets. He stopped abruptly. “I know what you think!” he exclaimed. “That I should find subjects at home? Lay the foundations of an American art, vigorous and novel? I agree with you.”
“I know nothing about art,” said Brooke cautiously.
“I have often thought of it. It is the short cut to success.” He was silent a while, then jumped up impatiently.
“But what can I do here? How can I paint American scenery shut into this little farm? Brooke, listen to reason. We are wasting our lives in these potato-fields. You as much as I. Let us quit them!”
“Quit the farm?” Brooke looked at him sharply. Most of his evenings were spent in listening placidly to Ned’s wild schemes. But this was earnest.
“Yes, quit the farm. I never could understand why you were on it. When I went abroad you were studying law. Your heart was in that. When I came back you were absorbed by Rutabagas and oats.”
“I don’t dislike farming, and I am satisfied with the old home,” said Brooke evasively.
“Ah? I am not, then. Listen to reason. Rent the place. Then we shall be free-footed. You can practice law in New York, and I can travel and study American scenery. What do you think?”—breathlessly. “What do you say to that?”
Brooke’s countenance clouded. “You have forgotten one thing,” he said, forcing a laugh. “How are we to live in the meantime? It would require years for me to gain a practice in New York.”
“Why, your income——“ exclaimed Ned, with an amazed stare. “Your mother left you a fortune.”
“A very small one,” said Brooke hastily. “Besides the farm I had a few railway bonds. I have sold them.”
“You have nothing but this farm?”
“Not a dollar. And I have to work it myself to make it pay.”
“The bonds should have kept you until you had made your footing sure in your profession,” Edward said authoritatively. He walked up and down with a puzzled face while Brooke watched him furtively. “I’m afraid,” he said, stopping abruptly, “that you managed badly, old man. I never should have suspected you of extravagance, though.”
Brooke laughed, with sudden relief, and lighted his pipe, which had gone out. “What is done is done. I must stick to the Ruta-bagas, you see.”
Edward sat down, holding his head between his hands, in gloomy silence. Suddenly he started up. ‘I have it! You said I would pay my own expenses with Mears? Why not give me the same amount and let me go alone? To my mother’s people in Louisiana? By all reports the Soudés are a good stock—wroth knowing. I could study the scenery on the Gulf! By George, Brooke, that’s a great idea! I would have no end of a good time. It would set you free to go with Mears. Though he’s a cad. But if you like him—— Why do you look so grumpy about it? You object? I wish you to be satisfied,” he said, hesitating. “What’s wrong, then? Where’s the difficulty? Oh, I see”—rising with an angry laugh. “New Orleans is not a Sunday-school! I may play euchre? This is a little too much, Brooke! You know that I have outgrown that folly. Come now, old fellow, don’t draw the reins too tight. I’m not built like you.”
Calhoun did not speak for a minute. “No,” he said, “and I have no right to dictate to you.”
“Good! I’ll promise you—any thing! What a glorious idea it was! Why, I’ll bring you home studies that—you’ll see! It won’t cost any more than staying at home either.”
Brooke nodded. “Let me know in the morning how much you will need.”
“I’ll tell you now. I’ll make an estimate. I like to be accurate about money. I’ll sum up my necessary expenses”—taking out a pencil and paper anxiously. “Of course I’ll take a little over; just a margin in case of accident. One likes to feel secure. I need not use it, you know.”
“Don’t stint yourself, Ned. We have plenty for that.” He filled his pipe and sauntered out to the porch, laughing to himself. Of course the money would fly like leaves before the wind, but it would be almost against Ned’s will. He was considerate; he would be a miser with his brother’s money—if he could.
Brooke strolled up and down in high good humor, glancing in at Ned and his anxious calculations as an indulgent mother might have done.
The boy would make his southern studies, perhaps paint his great picture now.
“Then,” thought Brooke, “he will be happy at last. He will stand on his own feet.” For he always supposed that Ned’s chronic miseries grew out of his dislike to be a burden on him.
Brooke, who had no taste for self-sacrifice, was heartily glad that he was free to go. “The journey,” he reflected, “will be of enormous value to me in my business. And——“ His eyes grew bright and tender as he thought of two months of daily life with his little comrade.
ANNE awoke often that night, to tell herself that she would not go down to breakfast. She would make it a rule for life now not to hold any hypocritical parley with people who were uncongenial to her.
But very early in the morning she stepped out on the porch where Milly was feeding the pigeons.
“Anne! Why do you wear your best merino in the morning?” she exclaimed.
“Quite right, my child!” cried the doctor. “That crimson is a fine bit of color. I hunger for color! These hills are so gray and dull! But peaceful—peaceful! Now the Southern mountains are full of sadness and unrest—like man’s ineffectual strivings heavenward. They depress you. But in these hills there is a fat, well-fed content; d’ye see what I mean, Nancy? Satisfied, phlegmatic, like their Dutch owners. Like our good Brooke coming younger.”
“I really don’t understand what you mean, papa,” said Milly. “Southern men do not strive for heaven any more than Pennsylvanians, and nobody’s strivings need be ineffectual who follows the teachings of the Bible and Prayer Book. As for Brooke, I am glad that one of the Warrick family is well-fed and content.”
“So am I. I have a great respect for Brooke. He is making money out of his calves, no doubt. I hoped once for better things from him than money or calves, but—that fellow has not a single aspiration!”
“Much better without them,” Milly said, watching him as he sprang from his horse and crossed the lawn, waving his hat and calling out that he was to go, after all. The doctor ran to meet him, delighted. Nobody could long be ill tempered with the sensible, affectionate fellow. Even Anne’s dignity relaxed when he wrung both her hands, declaring, “I shall be with you for two months—two months!” She smiled, but checked herself, and sat down beside him at the table, with a severe face.
“This makes the thing complete!” said the doctor. “I could not have gone at any other time, you know—but having just given up my practice—you received my circular in Ohio, Calhoun?”
“I did, and was much surprised by it.”
“Yes. Every body was surprised. I may say that that announcement took the medical profession unawares, like a blow between the eyes. Even Milly, here, was greatly surprised. I determined on the course after consultation with Anne, and at once issued the circulars. On reflection, it does seem, sometimes, as if I had been rash. My income, outside of my practice, is really very small. And here are the girls—“
“But you thought it expedient to give it up?”
“No. I can’t say that Anne and I considered it in the light of expediency at all”—knitting his brows anxiously. “Ever since Davaine began his work in 1850, I have been experimenting. I am a mere amateur in science, but Anne thinks that I shall become more; that I am upon the verge of a great discovery which will benefit all mankind. Now, I could not experiment and practice medicine at once. Just at the critical moment for my microbes a flood of neuralgic women or croupy infants would set in, and there was an end!”
Mr. Calhoun’s dark face flushed. “It was Anne, then, who persuaded you to leave her and Milly with a pittance, in order that you might make a great scientific discovery! It was like her!” He gave a short laugh. After a moment he turned to Mildred, his eyes twinkling.
“And what did you think, Milly, when you came home? You pay the monthly bills, I think?”
Milly shot a warning glance at her father’s vague, troubled face, and said sweetly:
“Whatever dear papa decides is best. And besides,” lifting her delicate eyebrows, “it was done. Anne moves like a cyclone. I never fight against what is done.”
“Poor little thing!” thought Calhoun, looking at her tenderly. He was used to the horrors of coal and meat bills, and no money in the purse. And this soft creature would be so helpless before such trouble!
“Papa,” twittered Milly’s sweet voice, “papa tells me that he hopes to discover the cholera bacillus and to inoculate for that disease. So when the cholera comes to this country, he will make immense sums inoculating for—“
“God bless me!” shouted the doctor. “Do you expect me to take a fee, child? You are like Simon, wanting to sell the gift of God for money!”
“I was only joking, papa,” she said.
The doctor hastily changed the subject. Milly sat silent, watching him with a bewildered look, as a physician might a mad patient.
When they rose from the table Anne hurried out of the room. The doctor laid his hand on Brooke’s arm. “Of course,” he said, “practical men will call me a fool in that matter. But there are higher objects in life that money-grubbing, thank God! Besides, I am not going to let the girls starve. Reports of my experiments will be well paid for—if one must take a paying view of it!” His thin nostrils dilated with a fine scorn. “I expect letters to-day from a publisher. By the way, that fellow Peter has not gone for the mail. You’ll excuse me, Brooke?” and he hurried away, twitching his gray mustache.
Mr. Calhoun looked at Mildred. “It is more serious than I thought,” he said. “What can you do?”
Mildred came closer to him. “It is not as serious as you suppose,” she said, in a low voice. “Papa’s paying practice never was large. It was nearly all gone now. He did not see that, dear soul; but I saw it. He had plenty of work which paid him nothing. Now, he is done with paupers. If he writes about his vibrios and things, it will bring in more money than they did, and if he should make this discovery, it would help our social standing outside of Luxborough enormously. The distinction of learning pushes a family forward almost as fast as capital.” She was silent a moment, her forehead knitted anxiously. “I can manage for a year or two,” she said at last. “We have a certain income, and the rates of living are lower this year—beef is but sixteen cents a pound, and flour——“ She checked off item after item on her little fingers.
“You poor child!” said Brooke.
“Oh, I have been going through a narrow alley for years! It costs to keep in the front of Luxborough society, I can tell you. To have dinners and receptions that are both charming and—cheap! What should I do without you, cousin Brooke? I run to you with all my troubles!” She looked up at him with pleading eyes.
“Poor little girl!” Calhoun thought her the most guileless of women. She had the habit of carrying the flighty vagaries of her father and Anne to him, as one would carry a fault watch to an expert, to be regulated. In fact it was a relief for her to bare now and then her anxious little soul, whose movements were so carefully hidden, before the kind eyes of this reasonable cousin.
“I have to make Anne’s way in society now,” she said. “She will not lift a finger to help herself.”
“No,” laughed Calhoun. “I believe that.”
“No. Anne’s intellect is not acute. I shall have to manage without help for a year or two.”
“What help will you have then?”
Milly, who never blushed, grew scarlet; her eyes dropped. “Some door always opens to those who wait,” she said at last, smiling.
Brooke felt that a blank wall had suddenly risen between them. He talked uncomfortably of the weather, and, after glancing around, vainly searching for a glimpse of a crimson gown, bade her good-by.
As soon as he was gone, Anne reappeared.
“You are very confidential with Brooke,” she said. “He is a most uncongenial person, I think.”
“He is very kind; the only one of the Warrick connection that I knew who has common-sense. He has just promised to buy my beef at wholesale prices. He is very useful to me.”
“Yes, he is quite competent to buy beef,” said Anne. “But he will not be useful to me. He does not interest me in the least.”
Milly left the room, but Anne stood by the window. He was crossing the lawn. The man was utterly unworthy! He had chosen low, ignoble work. How strong he was! What a hearty, kind voice, even when he talked to the dogs!
If he was only the old Brooke, who used to hold her hand and comfort her.
She needed comfort now. She knew that her life was to be a total failure.
Anne’s mother, at eighteen, had a definite work and hope before her. The work was to learn how to keep a house; the hope was for a husband, children, and a house to keep. But Anne, at eighteen, belonged to another generation. The doctrine that work for the public was the highest duty for women had begun to creep into sight in this country. She had been taught that a woman must hunt for a nobler errand than to marry and bear children. These were accidental, secondary tasks. If she had lived now, she would probably have had the prevalent desire for notoriety and mistaken it for an inspiration, and have written an indecent novel to set forth a great truth, or rushed before the public to show how feebly she could kick against Christianity, or marriage, or the Tyrant Man.
But the old decorous trammels were still upon her, and her soul was devout.
“Here am I,” she used to pray, upon her knees, every day. “What wilt thou have me to do?”
There really seemed nothing for her to do. She meant to compose an oratorio which was to lift up all starved souls. But she never could get through with her scales correctly. She began two long poems, but her grammar always failed her at a pinch.
A month ago the butcher’s boy had sprained his leg and was laid up. Here was her opportunity. Every morning she tramped through the snow to his house, her eyes shining, her heart thumping with zeal. “He that shall save a soul from death,” she used to whisper to herself in awe. She had Tom at advantage. He could not budge, his legs being in splints, while she lectured him.
But Tom was cured. He had brought the chops for breakfast just now, swearing as hard as ever. It hurt the girl like a blow. Would God have none of her help? or was that lower class really no better than the brutes?
Once she would have gone to Brooke to make it all clear. Bah! She turned angrily from the window. Was she to make a man her guide and confessor because he had broad shoulders and eyes that held her, and hurt her as they held?
She went down to Mildred. The house was in order, the trunks and satchels piled in the hall. Milly was quietly seated at her desk, daintily dressed, her curly hair knotted high from her white neck. She nodded when Anne asked if every thing was done, and ran to meet the doctor, who came puffing in, out of breath, from the frosty air. “Sit down, dear papa!” she cooed. “You are worn out with this preparation! Here is a cup of hot bouillon.”
“I do feel utterly tired out,” said the little doctor, with a groan of exhaustion.
“But really, sir,” said Anne, standing bolt upright before him, “you and I have done nothing. Milly has had all the work and worry. She always has them.”
The doctor set down the bowl angrily.
“Mildred, have you been doing menial work? I gave all necessary orders to the servants. We may be poor; but the women of my family shall never labor, please God!”
“Of course not, dear,” said Milly, stroking his grizzled hair. “Et moi, je suis Papillon! You shall work, and I will be Papillon to the end of the chapter.”
He rose, grumbling, and went out into the hall.
“Now, I’ve no patience with that!” said Anne. “You a butterfly! You carry the whole family. You work like any grub. Why do you fool him so?”
“Because! Oh, you do not understand men. They want to manage—to be at the head. Well, why not let them think that they are at the head? Papa thinks he is keeping us in idleness as his ancestors did their daughters. And he shall think it!” Her pink cheeks paled a little. “I love my father, Anne, and I’d lie every hour of the day to make him happy.”
Anne laughed, with a shrug, and said nothing.
“If I could make papa into an energetic business man, then indeed!” said Milly. “But I haven’t lived twenty-two years without finding out that you must take folks as God saw fit to make them, and do the best you can with them.” She sat down again to her accounts, and presently closed the book, with a nod of satisfaction. She had a surplus from last quarter, in spite of the money flung away on science books, tubes, and microscopes. It surely would not be long before her father would discover something. “And I’ll see that he has his royalty on the ‘gifts of God’!” she thought. “Dear me!” she said aloud, “what is papa doing now? He has not looked at his tubes nor written a line for two days. What is it, dear?” she said affectionately, when he came in.
“I am looking—something I have mislaid—“
“Some of your notes? Are you at work now on your papers on etching, darling? Or on germs?”
The doctor grumbled an answer between his teeth. It was, in fact, “Esmond” which he could not find, which he was rereading for the twentieth time. “Well!” he sighed, “I’ll go back to my grind,” and toiled up the stairway. Milly called out that she would gladly take notes for him, but he thanked her, and hastily shut the door. “Milly’s a sweet girl,” he groaned, “but she certainly does drive like the devil. Where is that book?”
He could not find it, and appeared again in the hall. “Going out, papa?” said Mildred.
“Going to church, my dear.” The doctor polished his high hat and drew on his worn gloves. “It is St. Thomas’s day, you know?”
“No, I did not know.”
Milly considered herself a good Christian. No storm could keep her out of the pew on Sunday morning, and she paid promptly their assessment of church dues. But churchgoing on week days in her opinion argued a disordered intellect. The doctor bustled about the room uneasily.
“Daughter? my dear?”
“What is it, papa?”
“The—the collection? For the hospital, you know? I really—I am quite out of money——“
Milly opened her desk, turned her few notes over wistfully, and at last gave him, smiling, a scrip note for twenty-five cents, kissed him, and hurry him out of the door. Then the smile faded.
“People will think it is a dollar, perhaps,” she reflected. ‘St. Thomas, indeed! What right has the Church to take me by the throat for money in that way? As if people at my age did not know how their twenty-five cents for charity should go!”
The doctor trotted down the muddy hill, keeping a close watch on his polished boots. He began to plan how some day he would send turkeys and ice cream to every hospital in town. Other people could send meats and bread on Christmas. “I’ll surprise them with something to make their mouths water on common days.” He entered the church, his eyes twinkling as he saw himself carving the turkeys and giving out the candy, for he had no idea of being anonymous in this thing. He liked to be praised and thanked. In this glow of benevolence the shin-plaster in his pocket felt small and cold and greasy.
The girls stood together on the porch, watching him. It was a cold, sparkling morning, the air full of vigor: the bare trees glittered with rime; the river flashed out between its hummocks of muddy ice; the red blood showed in the maples. The world to Anne breathed out a sudden new splendor; even the clouds swept over the hills as if hurrying to some wide life beyond. She looked down to where the crocuses were planted in the garden, her eyes slowly gathering tears as they saw the raised mound.
“I ought to have gone with father,” she said. “I thought I’d begin the Spanish grammar to-day. What do I want with Spanish? It is just this crazy, longing to do—something. If I were a boy, I’d run away to sea!”
Milly looked at her, perplexed.
“I’m a fool!” Anne broke out. “I ought to be satisfied. This dear old house, and you keeping every thing so comfortable, and papa doing a great work for humanity! Very few women have such a full, happy life.” Her breath came short; she stood silent.
Mildred watched her. The sudden throbbing of her own heart choked her. Was not the girl right after all? Had not her dead mother talked in just that way? But to get money, to rule in society——
Yet they had a happy home. They had enough. Her father’s and Anne’s wants were few. Simple food and clothes, a few good books, a few good friends. Why not sit down with them in quiet?
A sudden loathing of the sham fashionable life which she had tried to lead overpowered her. The imitation Persian rugs, the terrapin made from mutton, the Warrick crest emblazoned on plated dishes—all her frantic efforts to vie with the women yonder who had millions pressed upon her; her soul for the moment was filled with disgust.
But she rallied. Why should she not eat real terrapin from solid silver, like these others? “Why should I wear this coarse homespun?” Milly demanded of herself savagely. “Velvet is softer. Why should Anne and I creep through life afoot, without great houses, and carriages, and pearl necklaces and winters in Paris, if I can get these things for us?”
All the little envies and rages of her life against richer women flamed up in her breast at the moment. But she answered Anne presently, with the usual slow lisp.
“You are quite right, dear. Of course we are greatly blessed. Yet there are few good things in the world which I should like you and papa to have. I mean to try to give them to you.”
A man in a sleigh at the moment turned into the avenue.
“Who is that?” said Anne, seeing her sister’s startled look.
“One of Mrs. Joyce’s men. Something is wrong.”
“I thought you bade her good-by this morning?”
“I did. I thought I had arranged every thing,” said Mildred anxiously. “I left written directions for servants, nurse—every-body.”
“Papa tells me,” said Anne, “that you have cared for her all of the years that I have been gone as if you were her daughter.”
Milly’s laugh had a bitter tang. “Not all daughters would——“ she began, but checked herself. “She is very old and very ill, and she is one of our blood, Anne,” she said meekly.
Anne suddenly stooped and kissed her. “You are the best woman that ever lived, Milly!” she said energetically. “My idea of a saint is not a starved ghost with lilies and a halo, but a plump little woman in blue serge.”
“Hush!” said Milly sharply. She was silent a moment, and then added gayly, “Mrs. Joyce owns a mountain tract in Carolina. She wants us to visit it when we are there, and bring her Doctor Mears’s estimate of its value. They say,” she continued, her blue eyes kindling and the red deepening in her cheeks, “that the mountains in it are full of iron and corundum. The farming lands in the valleys are rich: there are mineral springs, mica mines. They have found gold and rubies—oh! it is a principality in fairy-land!” She ended with a shrill, nervous laugh. “Rattlesnakes and moonshines hold it now. But one could easily drive them off!”
“Has she ever seen it?”
“Seen it? No! She cannot even name a tenth of the things that she owns! Shares in silver mines in Montana, in wheat farms in Minnesota—in banks—in railways——“ She stopped, craning her neck forward, her eyes half closed, drawing her breath with a whistling sound through her narrow lips.
“Milly!” cried Anne, amazed. “What are you thinking of?”
“I?” recovering herself. “Nothing. Poor Mrs. Joyce! She will not have these things but a year or two longer. Ah, here is Paterson. A note for me?” She read it hastily. “I will go. Wait, Paterson, until I bring my wraps.”
Anne followed her. “Is she worse?”
“No. But she writes in an odd way. Affectionately. She is never affectionate. She wants something. Perhaps she wishes me to give up going with you?”
“Mildred! You will not do that? You are not her slave.”
“Hush-h! I will do it, if she asks it.”
“Why must papa’s wishes and mine be sacrificed to Mrs. Joyce’s whims?”
“Because——“ Milly looked keenly at her sister. Then she said gently: “She is very old and ill, dear. It is my duty.”
It was but a short drive to the Joyce House. Mildred entered the door, and passed through lofty halls and rooms where the plenishing told of the taste and wealth of many generations. Mildred knew the value of each picture and cabinet. She had had time to learn it. One corps after another of cooks, footmen, and nurses in these years had found Mrs. Joyce’s rule intolerable and left her. But Milly stayed. She could not ask for her wages and go.
She found the mistress of the house in her wheel-chair beside her bed. She was an old woman, made enormous by disease. Her broad flat face, from the same cause, resembled an immovable mask of yellow wax, in which her small black eyes moved incessantly, hungry, challenging.
“Are you worse, cousin?” said Milly tenderly.
The negro nurse, a large, powerful woman in white cap and apron, drew back into a corner, seizing a moment’s relief.
“No, I’m no worse. Unless the devil has possession of me more entirely than usual,” said Mrs. Joyce, with a barking laugh, in which, had Milly the ears to hear, there was a certain miserable pathos below the ill temper.
“You should not slander yourself so,” she said amiably, with a perfunctory smile. “I thought perhaps you meant to bid me to stay? That you could not spare me?”
“Not spare you? Bah! There is nobody and nothing that I cannot spare. You will be more useful to me there than here, if you get proper estimates of the capabilities of that land from these men. Go and bring me some broth. No, Jane,” as the negro started forward. “Miss Warrick will go.” After the broth had been brought and taken, she leaned back, yawning. “I really don’t know why I sent for you. You’ve done all you had to do, and said all there is to say. You can tell Jane again about that night draught. She makes it too hot.”
“I will, dear.”
“I’m a great deal worse,” Mrs. Joyce went on fretfully. “Not since morning. I told you that. But since last month. These queer flutters in my mind—I am certainly growing weaker every day. You will not find me here, Mildred, when you come back.”
“Let me stay then, darling,” said Mildred, in a voice which, in spite of herself, was tired and bored.
“Yes, I’ll be gone! And even Jane will say, ‘A good riddance!’”
“Don’t hurt me so, dear cousin,” Milly murmured, kneeling before her and caressing one of her great hands. “Don’t talk of leaving me.” She managed to force the water into her eyes, but it was hard to wring it out. She had heard of this fast approaching death for so many years!
Mrs. Joyce was watching her keenly. The cold wintry daylight struck full on the rose-tinted face.
“Wait!” said Mrs. Joyce. “Don’t go! Stay where you are. Mildred——“ She leaned forward, her eyes searching the fair, sweet countenance upturned to hers with a fierce eagerness. Milly was bewildered and annoyed. She wanted something from her? This was why she had sent for her. But what?
It seemed as if all of the years in which they had been together had led to this moment. The clammy hand trembled in Milly’s firm little fingers, the coarse mouth quivered. Out of the intolerable solitude of her great age, without a friend and without a God, with the chill of death on her, she turned to this girl for—what?
Milly smiled sweetly. “Is there any thing I can do for you, dear?” she said, in her amiable little pipe.
Another breathless pause.
Then Mrs. Joyce pushed her back roughly. “You? Nothing! There is nobody! I drove them all away long ago.” She leaned back, closing her eyes, while Mildred stared perplexed, at her bald head and waxed face. What did the woman want? In what had she failed?
Mrs. Joyce then gave herself up to unusual ill temper, and during the next hour spared Milly no menial service. When Jane interposed, declaring that “de wohk wan’t fit foh de young lady,” her mistress smiled grimly.
“The young lady loves to wait on her ‘dear cousin,’” she said.
At last Mildred closed the door of the Joyce house behind her. Her habit of feeling was naturally kind and amiable, but she would have been glad just then to see this old woman lying dead before her. As she passed the negro maids she thought they eyed her with contempt. She grew very pale, and her teeth chattered as with cold.
“I am a servant, too—unpaid!” she said.
On the road Mrs. Judge Hayes passed her in her victoria, her men in livery. Milly bowed and smiled sweetly and walked on, still smiling mechanically. Some day, she too—she would not always trudge in the dust! Her liveries, her horses should take the lead, in Luxborough. Some day——
But the price to pay was heavy—heavy!
OF all the little company who journeyed through the South with Doctor Mears, Anne found most keen pleasure in the adventure. Every-body was kind to the shy, dark little schoolgirl, who was so ready to help and so quick to catch a joke. She was perpetually meeting, too, remarkable people. Mildred, who never saw any thing remarkable in any body, was bored by her excitement, and Anne soon learned to keep it to herself.
This certainly was an enchanting world! The demonstrative Southerners paid such homage to her father’s learning and to Mildred’s ‘ravishing beauty.’ Anne felt that she belonged to a royal race; her heart glowed when she awoke each day, warm and comfortable within her.
She had satisfaction, too, in showing Brooke Calhoun her disapproval of him and his ignoble life. True, she was not sure that he perceived her contempt. Whenever they made a halt he was engrossed with Doctor Mears and committees, and, she fancied, avoided her. Very well; she was glad that he knew how obnoxious he was to her. But—did he know it? He ate heartily; she heard him singing in the smoking car sometimes, and he was eager enough, examining soils and minerals, smelling and tasting them.
She raged at herself that she could not rid her mind of him as the weeks went by. Mankind was a hazy whole to her. Why should she listen to catch this one man’s bass voice in the noisy throng on the platforms, or watch to find into which car he was going, or concern herself about the ugly bend on his nose, or the mole on his hand? She was amazed and ashamed within herself at these things. The whole trend of her teaching at school had been toward the great work waiting for her somewhere in the world; her own hot ambition pushed her on the same road. So did all the talk of Professor Mears, and he talked much to Anne, on a wide range of subjects, from the proper treatment of the insane to tobacco culture. What had Brooke’s mole or crooked nose to do with these things? Or with her?
Nothing at all. She knew that so certainly that, when she accidentally met him one day face to face, she only bowed, not being able to speak, and hurried away, shivering with sudden cold.
“She treats you,” said Milly, who was with him, “as if you were her one enemy in the world.”
Calhoun nodded, smiling good-humoredly.
“Are you to blame?” Milly scanned his face sharply.
“No!” But he said no more, and soon left her. Going into her car, he seated himself behind Anne, and for a long time watched the thin childish profile turned toward the window. He wondered stupidly why she disliked him. He had tamed a dog once that had taken an unreasonable dislike to him. Nothing living loved him as Wolf did now. If—his eyes kindled.
Brooke looked at his watch. At Mobile he surely would find letters from Ned. He had heard but twice from him, each time by wire, asking for more money. Was he working so hard? Paints—models—these things were costly. Or was he?—Brooke pulled his coat over his ears and fell into anxious thought, in which his little comrade had no share. Mr. Mears came up to talk of the Alabama Black Belt, but Calhoun answered curtly and soon left the car.
Mr. Mears took the Black Belt to Anne. Fortunately, he never wanted an answer. She looked at him as if she were drinking in his words.
“I could have loved a hunchback and murderer, if he had wooed me so. It was worth while to be a woman then,” thought Anne, lifting her head haughtily. “But now men think of their cows or fertilizers for twenty-four hours of the day, and of a woman about ten minutes.”
Brooke found no letters at Mobile. But his relief was great when one of the first men whom he met at the Battle House proved to be a cousin of Edward’s—John Soudé, from Louisiana. Soudé was a tall, robust young fellow, evidently used to fill a very big place in a very little world. His broad negro inflections made his slow talk almost unintelligible to the Pennsylvanian.
“Edward Calhoun? Why, certainly. He is recuperating now, sir, at Le Reve des Eaux, our old plantation, on the Gulf. A lee-tle tired—ennuyeux—en voila tout! He will be well taken care of, I assure you. My father, General Gaspard Soudé, is there, and my cousin Theresa, of whom you no doubt have heard. Probably the most charming woman in the South. And you are his brother?” shaking both his hands. “You must meet all my friends in Mobile!”
“Is Edward at work? Painting?” asked Calhoun anxiously.
“Painting? Possibly—if that amuses him. But the shooting at the plantation is fine. The general, no doubt, will urge that upon him.”
“All right!” said Brooke. He was much comforted. Mr. Soudé, seeing him smile, insisted upon drinking some very black brandy at once to Edward’s health.
The Northern guests received much hospitality from the best people in Mobile; more effusive perhaps because of the memories of the war, which were still bitter and poignant. Balls and dinner parties were given to them, and young Soudé met them at many of his friends’ houses.
“I am glad to do it,” he said to Louis Choteaud, a former brother-at-arms who was with him. “I never met a Yankee, except in the field or in gambling dens at Natchez, until Edward Calhoun came. I should like to see what the decenter class in the North is like.”
A day or two later he told M. Choteaud that he was much impressed by Doctor Warrick. “He is a gentleman, Louis, wherever he had the misfortune to be born. I shrewdly suspect that he is one of the foremost of Northern statesmen. Why, sir, he repudiates carpet-baggers! He is going to induce his friends to invest in Southern industries.”
“I should guess from his costume,” said Choteaud dryly, “that it is friends’ capital which he will invest.”
Mr. Soudé, who was a big, slow man, stared down, bewildered, at his companion. Louis’s sharp little gibes always amazed him. The man’s wizened face actually grew like a ferret’s when he so far forgot himself.
“I fail to perceive,” said John gravely, “how the fact of his position in life is affected by his clothes or his money.”
“Ah-h? We shall not quarrel about him. You always had queer likings. I did not expect you to adopt a comrade of that species, however. Ohé!” with a suspicious laugh. “He has two daughters—not ugly!”
“I did not observe them” said John.
“So much the better!” though Louis. Any adventurer could impose upon poor credulous John. He was a child—a lamb! Yet Choteaud, with this pitying contempt, had an awed respect for his friend as a man of genius. There were thousands of men who could fight for the South; but he knew only one who could write for her. He had been going about Mobile for days, telling every-body that John was the author of those brilliant papers now appearing in the Picayune, descriptive of the hunting and fishing in the Gulf States. “The finest bits of word-painting, sir, in our literature!” He was especially pleased to trumpet these masterpieces to the Northerners. The North had been insolent long enough with its Irvings and its Hawthornes! Now it would be forced to recognize men of real genius in the South land!
That very afternoon Louis met Doctor Warrick and his daughters driving out to Spring Hill, and eagerly joined them. He soon managed to tell the doctor of Mr. Soudé’s pleasure in his liberal sentiments.
“Soudé?” said the doctor eagerly. “I remember! Tall dark young fellow, with a tremendous laugh? And he is ready to bury the hatchet, eh? Good! It only needs the combination of a few leading men to bring the country into peace and prosperity. I am working to that end, Monsieur Choteaud!” And the little man puffed and frowned anxiously.
“John Soudé’s aid will be of immense importance in calming the South,” said Louis, pushing his horse closer. “A man of great power, sir!” touching his forehead. “The Soudés have been a ruling family since the days of Bienville. Men of master minds and enormous estates!” cried Louis, in crescendo.
At these words Milly suddenly leaned forward listening eagerly; and M. Choteaud pranced to her side of the carriage to pour forth laudations of his friend, whose verses Mildred praised warmly.
At the next turn of the road Fate brought them up against the poet, who was on horseback. M. Choteaud proudly presented him to Miss Warrick.
The carriage had stopped before a mass of live-oaks. Before this sombre background, John saw a small face of dazzling fairness looking up timidly to his own. Mildred’s lap was heaped with pink blossoms. John spoke but a word or two, and rode on. But the pale, scented flowers, and the meek face went with him.
He began to think of the sweet dunce, Cordelia, and of hidden snow-drops. These were the kind of ideas out of which he pieced his poetry, for the newspapers.
“That scared little girl is very sweet,” said Louis presently. “But I like a woman with more knowledge of the world. Her sister, now?”
“Was there another?” said John.
“Mildred,” said Anne, when the man left them, “how could you praise those verses? They were pure bombast, and you know it.”
“Hush-h, Anne. No, I don’t think they were all bombast. And if I did, I need not shout it out on the highway. They were pretty imitations of Poe!”
“Poe! Cannot the man see that Poe’s work was done once and for all? Poe could not found a school.”
“Oh, my dear! Somebody will hear you!” She glanced at the hedges. “Mr. Poe was a man of great ability. He could have found a school, I’m sure, if he had wished to teach.”
Anne laughed. “And as for this man Soudé,” she laughed, “I have read his letters. They are turgid and commonplace. Yet they call him the Scott of Louisiana.”
“Very well, dear,” said Milly soothingly.
“No, it is not well at all! How are the Southern people to have a literature if they set up such cheap gods as that? They fall in adoration before every man or woman who writes tawdry verses as they might before a saint who worked miracles.”
“Don’t be blasphemous. Why are you so aggressive with these people? They have been so hospitable! We have hardly had to pay for a meal since we came to Mobile. Yet you differ with every Southerner you meet on every point.”
“Why do they differ with me? Can’t they see what is right?” She checked herself to watch the off horse, while her father jerked and scolded, growing red.
“Give him the whip, papa!” shouted Anne. “He’ll have us in the bay! Here, I’ll take the reins!”
“Keep your seat!” thundered the doctor.
Anne seized the whip and gave the vicious brute the needed cut. When he trotted quietly again, the doctor said, in an aggrieved tone, “I know I am an ignorant man in your opinion. But I did think I knew how to drive. These old Southern statesmen,” he added, with a forced laugh, “consult me about the management of the country, but you won’t trust me to drive you to town.”
“Papa, dear, we would trust you to drive us to the world’s end!” cried Milly anxiously.
“I wouldn’t, when he pulls the off horse like that,” said Anne doggedly. There was a long silence after that. But presently the doctor glanced back, and Anne, her face scarlet and the tears starting, scrambled up to the front seat and whispered to him, crying and kissing his hand. In a few minutes the doctor’s face was beaming, and they both were laughing as usual at their own bad jokes.
Milly, leaning back, watched them, wondering why, with these incessant squabbles, they were such close comrades. She, who never broke the peace, was outside of the alliance. The gentle little woman had found Anne a heavy burden to carry on this journey. Traveling had brought out her crude opinions and her dogmatic certainty that she was always right. Milly thought it hard that her father should prefer this uncomfortable child as a companion to the daughter who for eight years had carried the family on her poor little shoulders.
Milly’s brain suffered a strange revolution that afternoon. She suddenly loathed this eternal plotting and managing! She felt strangely alone and neglected. Some women did not need to work, or plan, or think of social success or money. They simply sat tranquil, and were—loved.
She leaned back upon the cushions as they sped swiftly on. On one side the air stirred the trees drowsily, on the other the bright wide deeps of water softly lapped the beach: the sunshine held all in its warm grasp. Through it, there came to her again the flash of dark eyes, startled, enraptured by the sight of her—her. There was in them the promise of something which life never yet had given her. Milly’s brain was sharp and practical, addicted to dealing with bills and other small hard facts. But this new fantasy warmed her shrewd thoughts as the golden sunshine did the hard pebbles yonder. She lay back silent, a smile on her half open lips, her soft blue eyes moist. When Anne spoke to her, the voice sounded far-off. Some power, delicate and more vague than any dream, held her. Could they not leave her with it, in peace?
As they neared the city the doctor saw the lank figure of Professor Mears racing on before them, his light hair flying in the wind.
“Hello, Mears!” he called. “Let us drive you into town. Here is a seat beside my daughter.”
Mildred roused herself, and made room for him beside her. The professor settled himself, well pleased. Anne was his companion, but he approved of the elder Miss Warrick. He felt her guileless, transparent character to be very sweet and restful. She was most anxious now to hear about his work.
“Yes,” he responded to her soft questionings, “I talked to-day with several influential men; effectively, I hope. But capitalists are as shy of philanthropic schemes here as in the North.”
“There is a Mr. Soudé here,” timidly suggested Milly. “I hear that he has a wide newspaper influence, and large property. Is that true?
“John Soudé, you mean. He could be of use in Louisiana! But that is too far South for a colony. The climate—“ and he discussed climate in every phase while Milly listened with rapt attention.
When he had ended, she said, “Mr. Soudé’s plantations are in Louisiana then? Cotton or sugar? I have heard that his wealth is something fabulous?”
“Oh, I don’t think of buying land there. My field is in Kentucky.”
“Assuredly, the first colony must be in Kentucky. Oh, if it only succeeds!” clasping her little hands. “Then you think,” after a pause, “that the reports of this Mr. Soudé’s wealth are exaggerated?”
“No, I fancy not. The plantations are on the Gulf. There was a Victor Soudé, a brilliant lawyer in New Orleans. I knew him at the Virginia springs. He ranked as a Crœsus then. He was killed in the war, I believe, and this lad is his son or nephew—heir probably, in either case.”
Miss Warrick’s eyes were wandering indifferently. “Now,” she cried, when he paused, “tell me what men you can count on in Mobile.”
They talked earnestly until they reached the Battle House. The professor then rushed away to find Major Patton and to ask him to remain in Mobile another week.
“Why, this morning you were eager to push on! What has happened?”
“Nothing. But it has been suggested to me that Mobile will probably be the largest seaport in the South, and that I can find employment here in the future for many workmen. I have still much to do here.”
That night Doctor Warrick told his daughters that Professor Mears would detain the party a week longer in Mobile.
“I thought he would,” said Milly quietly.
DURING the week that followed, Mr. Soudé met Miss Warrick at one or two dances. The plump little girl was, he decided, vapid and commonplace. In fact, John liked bold effects. He adored Hugo and Dumas; he used coarse perfumes; he cared for no music but that of a brass band; he often warmed his black costume with a red necktie or purple fez and nodded delighted approval as he looked in the glass. Naturally he preferred picturesque women; poseurs who could take and hold the centre of the stage. However, he danced once with Mildred and found her light in motion as a bird. But he saw that she was too timid and too young to make her way among these experienced matrons and maids with whom he flirted habitually, whispering dangerous nothings to each, his blood rising for the moment hot and thick in his veins.
“Why does that little Warrick girl muffle herself up to the chin?” M. Choteaud said one evening.
“Damnation! You would not have her undress like these others!” cried John. It was as if Louis had asked a child to sing an indecent song.
“The woman is nothing to you. Why do you attack me about her?” retorted Louis.
Soudé did not know why. It was a mere masculine instinct. She was so helpless—so altogether a woman.
But it did not occur to him to dance with her again; and, if she had left Mobile, he would have forgotten her as soon as he would a dog that he had noticed kindly.
In fact John was not a marrying man, nor a man about whom there is any story worth the telling. Some of his comrades in the New Orleans clubs were, as one might say, perpetual heroes. That was their métier. Dort, for example—all the work knew of Dort’s hopeless passion; and Senile, once a priest and now an atheist; and D’Orveto, fighting his way up against an incurable disease. These men played out their dismal tragedy of life in full view of the town, cheered by its sympathy or applause.
But John Soudé had no play to play. He was as idle, happy-go-lucky a fellow as could be found in the Gulf States. He had never been troubled by a religious doubt in his head nor a keen emotion in his heart. Even as a motherless boy, running wild with the negroes over the plantation, he had borne the diseases and discomforts of childhood with the lazy indifference of a good-humored dog, an indifference which might grow out of high courage or brutal stupidity.
As for love—“I had a thousand grand passions when I was young,” he was used to say. “But I am thirty-six now. I love all women alike.”
Nothing could make him see ugly teeth or tricky ways in any woman. At the Mardis Gras balls he was just as likely to waltz with old fat Miss Lachean as with one of the débutantes.
Sometimes indeed, after dinner, he would tell the story of his grandfather, Mad Jean Larouche, who, finding that the woman he worshipped was listening to another lover, picked her up one day as she was walking in the street in Charleston, threw her into his gig, drove to the house of the nearest clergyman, called him out, and with one pistol at the head of the parson and another at the head of his bride, then and there married her.
“And I am told that it was a divinely happy marriage,” John would say, thoughtfully. “He adored her, gentlemen.”
Something in this story always fired his slow blood. If he could find an exquisite creature like that and win her in such fashion! Yet when his cousin, Miss Soudé, once asked him the truth of this old story, he denied that he knew it. It was not fit for her pure ears!
Sometimes he would ruminate vaguely on the chance of his marrying that rich Cuban widow, or a certain stout heiress whom he knew in Savanna. If he did that, he could always smoke the best cigars, and the dear old general could stop the mouths of that hungry pack of tradesmen.
But he was always ashamed when these mean fancies nibbled at his ordinary calm content, and regarded them as vulgar baits of the devil; just as he was sometimes tempted to call for made drinks instead of brandy or whiskey straight.
It was from M. Choteaud that Miss Warrick gradually obtained the facts of Soudé’s history. He also gave her copies of John’s letters in the Picayune. She read one of them aloud to Anne one morning—the account of the sudden death of a child in a train, but broke down and could not finish it.
Anne looked at her in amazement. Milly’s tears were always ready. But her sister had never seen her sob in that fashion. She took the paper and finished the story, amused at the faulty grammar. But she too felt a lump in her throat before she had finished it.
There was a lawn party that afternoon and a dance at night at one of the large houses upon the bay. Mr. Soudé arrived late, and found that some of the guests had wandered out upon the half-ruined galleries, and to the lawns slowing down to the beach. The sun was hidden by a silvery fog, a damp wind stirred the blossoms of the magnolias and the veils of gray moss upon the trees. There was a hush in the air, a sad significance of decay under all the soft splendor, which touched Soudé, who was easily moved by the moods of nature. He wandered down alone to the beach. In the far distance the heaving plane of water was covered by dull mists, out of which white sails flashed and disappeared. Suddenly he started forward.
A woman was walking out upon a rotten pier, her eyes fixed upon the distant sails, unconscious that the timbers were crumbling beneath her. The water below was deep and slimy.
John climbed out on a beam below her. “Don’t look down!” he shouted. “Give me your hand! Quick! There!”
He caught her just as the timbers fell with a crash into the water.
“Why, bless my soul! Miss Warrick! What on earth—? Don’t cry! You are safe. You poor child!” He seated her and stood between her and the house. He wanted to take care of the poor little thing himself. He could hardly keep from stroking her soft fair hair.
At last she controlled herself and looked up. “You have saved my life.”
“Nonsense! Nothing of the kind! You might have been a little wet.” He dropped down on the grass beside her. There was an awkward silence. He was thinking, as he watched her askance, “She thinks I saved her life. And so I did. Very cleverly done, too, John, my boy!” He said aloud, formally, “I hardly hoped to meet you again, Miss Warrick.”
“No; but I hoped to see you.” She was making a great effort to control her voice: her little clenched hands rested on her knees, her anxious eyes were fixed on his. “There is something I wish you to do, Mr. Soudé. Very important.”
“Me? Now, what can that be?” He smiled kindly down on her upturned face. What a sweet, babyish creature she was!
“I wish you,” she said earnestly, “to come to the old town in Pennsylvania where we live. To write about it. It is an historic place. And the hills are very beautiful. I have read your letters, Mr. Soudé.”
“Oh! That nonsense!” The big fellow grew hot from head to foot. He shouted out a laugh, and instantly was dumb and solemn.
“Oh, yes! I have read them,” said Milly, with a grave little nod. “Why should not our hills be given a place in literature? That last letter, Mr. Soudé! That story of the baby! I used to think the death of Paul Dombey the finest thing in the English language, until—that dear baby!” She stopped, with a sob.
John shuffled uneasily. His heart gave great thumps of delight. “Ah, that little incident?” he managed to say with dignified composure. “It was true. Any body could have described it.”
“Any body?” She turned her mild, reproachful eyes on him. Tears stood in them. A woman’s tears always unnerved Soudé, and it was his own genius that had drawn these from the child. Child—yes! But what an intellect she had! What unerring perception! He stared at the drop of salt water creeping down into her round chin. Some day a man would kiss the tears from her sweet face, he thought, a strange tremor passing through him.
Soudé had always spoken of his work with a shy sensitiveness. He was not sure whether he had earned immortality or only made a fool of himself.
But now while Milly kept up a gentle patter of questions, certainty blazed upon him. This fire within him was genius! He stood upon the same plane as Shakespeare, Gayarré, Christian Reid! And this innocent girl had been the first to detect it.
Do not set John down as a vain fool. He had put into these poor letters and verses his secret thoughts—his best. The woman who understood them was no alien. She trod a hidden path straight to his heart.
They walked side by side, for a long time, under the live-oaks. The sunset threw a daffodil glow above the mist; at their side the waves muttered to them, like cautious whispers: from a ship far out on the bay came the melancholy notes of a French horn.
Mr. Soudé was skilled in flirtation with all kinds of women, from school-girls to hardened widows. But it did not once occur to him that this Northern girl could be complimented or wooed. He felt such a strange respect for her that, when he talked to her, his tongue grew stiff; his arms and legs lumbering and heavy.
THERE was to be a dance in the evening, and the girls flocked to their chambers to change their gowns. Doctor Warrick stopped Anne as she hurried past him in the hall.
“David Plunkett has come,” he said anxiously. “I met him at the hotel. He heard we were in Mobile, and ran down from New York on his special car.”
“Just what one would expect from him,” said Anne angrily. “I shall not tell Milly that he is here. Let her have her dance in comfort.”
“Why should David make her dance uncomfortable? If a woman dislikes the presence of a man, she can easily dismiss him,” said her father.
“Yes. But Milly——“ Anne checked herself. She was not at all sure that Milly would deal so promptly with the young man whose wealth gave him such large space in the world.
She passed on to her room. Milly joined her, and sweetly declining the aid of the chattering mulatto maids, shut the door upon them.
“They would tell all Mobile that we have no maid of our own,” she said.
“What if they did?” said Anne. “But I do not want them. I never wish to see one of that color again.” She perched herself lazily in the window-seat, while Milly rapidly unpacked their satchel.
“I had great hopes of the negroes before I came South,” continued Anne. “I thought of teaching in the freedmen’s schools at Port Royal—— You did not know that, Mildred?”
“Oh, yes, I did. Pins? Yes, here they are.”
“I am wretchedly disappointed in them,” continued Anne. “A human being just given freedom ought to be full of the highest ambition. But a good fat meal and finery—that is all they think of.”
“Really, you have not spoken to a dozen of them since you came to the South,” said Mildred placidly. “When you were twelve, you intended to go out to India, as a missionary. You wanted to see the temples and queer dresses. A good many other nervous women want adventure in a picturesque country and think it is a Heavenly Call to preach the Gospel,” she said with a laugh, shaking out her snowy ball-dress. “Papa told me yesterday that you wanted to go into the freedmen’s schools. He was miserable enough. But I said, ‘Don’t worry. She has been planning heroic flights since she was born. But when the time comes, down she falls flat.’”
Anne laughed, but said nothing. If she had fallen when she had tried to rise, it was the fall that hurt her, not Milly’s little gibes. How could poor little Milly understand?
The next moment she jumped from her perch. “Just look at the carving of this bed,” she cried excitedly. “And this crucifix! I was told that the mistress of this house six years ago was the owner of a thousand slaves. She has not a dollar now. I wish papa would spend the winter in Mobile. I love these Southern women—they are so thoroughbred, so helpless. I know I could teach them our practical ways.”
“Anne, you have not brought the waist of your dress!” interrupted Milly, in dismay.
Anne ran to her, held up the crimson skirt and stared at it. “Too bad! Too bad!” she said, her lips quivering. “Well, I don’t care for the dance. I’ll sit here until you are ready to go home.”
“Nonsense! Wait, let me think,” said Miss Warrick. She did not scold. She never had scolded in her life, and besides, nothing that Anne did ever surprised her.
“That black silk fits you exquisitely,” she said anxiously. “What a noble figure you have, child!” She passed her hand caressingly over her sister’s shoulders. “If I had any waist at all! Sit down, I will put your hair into high puffs. And for your neck——“
Anne pulled out some fresh linen.
“Collar and cuffs at a dance! Absurd! I brought the old lace fichu. I can arrange it as a high ruff. You will look like Mary Stuart.”
Anne smiled complacently into the glass. She was quite willing to look like Mary Stuart. Milly skilfully rolled her dark hair about her face with many affectionate pats and admiring nods.
She had intended that lace to give the final touch of meaning to her own clinging drapery. So much might depend on her looks, to-night of all nights! She finished her work, and surveyed her sister’s head with genuine admiration.
“Ah, you dear thing!” she said, kissing her. “You can wear the linen collar, after all, Anne.”
Milly was dumb with anxiety as she dressed herself. Anne watched her with amazement rushing nervously about, for Miss Warrick was a reticent woman, even in her motions. No human being ever guessed what Milly thought of Milly. She was dissatisfied with herself now. She knotted the curly hair high, and lowered it to her neck. She trailed roses over her breast and threw them away. At last she lifted the candles high and breathlessly scanned herself in the mirror.
“Ah! how stout and vulgar!” she said, shivering.
Mrs. Dane tapped at the door. “Come, girls! Oh, my dear!” surveying Milly with delight. “You certainly are an exquisite creature, Mildred. Heavens, Anne! Black and linen! Why did you let her make herself such an object?”
“Oh, come! Let us go down. I will explain presently,” Milly said, running toward the stairway. Then she shrank behind Mrs. Dane, lingering. She never had been diffident for a minute in her life. But now she was afraid. She panted for breath.
Doctor Warrick met them at the foot of the staircase. Anne went with her father into a ball-room, as unconscious of the observant crowd as if they were trunks of trees, but Milly clung to Mrs. Dane’s arm.
“One minute, cousin Julia. Give me a minute.”
“Yes, come aside. I must tell you. David Plunkett is in the room. He found that you were here and asked me to bring him.”
“To bring him?” repeated Milly in a dazed tone. “Here?”
“Yes. It is a bold move. He is very much in earnest, Mildred,”—looking at her curiously, as they entered the room. “He makes his money, I hear, by bold movements. Toujours l’audace  usually wins in finance—or in love.”
But Milly, cool on the instant, turned from her to meet her hostess and made no answer. M. Choteaud and some other men crowded around her.
Milly smiled sweetly up in their faces, but her fierce little brain was busy elsewhere.
There was the hideous creature in the doorway, eyeing her, as he might a horse he thought of buying. Cousin Julia would be glad to do the selling. She looked at Mrs. Dane and hated her. She was a worldly, wicked woman, who cared for nothing but money!
Money was nothing in this life, Mildred told herself in her dumb rage—nothing!
A soft, pleasant warmth crept over the little woman; her eyes glowed. There was no need that she should be sold, thank God! At home they had enough—enough!
Who would care for luxuries when they could have that which was coming to her soon? She knew that it was coming. Why, a woman could live in a hut, if—— The men buzzed around her, but she saw only a look which once had fallen on her. It seemed as if she had been all of her life waiting for that look. If he would come now—if he would dance with her! Milly felt that she could die to-morrow just to have him touch her once and know that he belonged to her—to her.
He was coming in! Milly turned her back on the door and in a moment floated away in a waltz, smiling indifferently on him as she passed.
MR. SOUDÉ was startled to find a crowd of vassals about Miss Warrick. He had looked upon her as his own discovery.
He was staring at them angrily when Louis touched him. “Let us be off to Orleans to-morrow, John. There is nothing to keep us here.”
“No. I’m ready.”
“How well that little Northern girl dresses up to her character! Lace and roses. You never see her in jetty armor or tailor-made gowns. Her curly head and thick lashes make me feel as if I must stroke her, like any other little furry, stupid creature.”
“Stupid?” Soudé laughed. But he would not discuss her with poor Louis. He must bid her good-by, if he were going to Orleans in the morning. But the sight of that crowd of men around her shook his decision about going back to Orleans in the morning.
Not being able to come near her he went to her father, who was in a corner looking over some engravings. He found a singular charm in the little man’s prattle about epidemics and a vegetable diet, though it reached him as through a fog. Ha! what was that he was saying?
“And if you should come to the North, you will find plenty of material for your pen in Philadelphia. Birthplace of the Nation, you know. We live in a suburban town. A shabby old Colonial house, but you will find a welcome in it.”
“I thank you,” Soudé said stiffly, bowing low. He was amazed. Why had he been chosen out of the mob of dancing, brandy-drinking young Southerners for this favor? Had she prompted her father to—— Did the girl really care for him so much? He glanced at her, on fire with delight and conceit and some other passion which he did not recognize.
“Dear child! As innocent as a babe! But really—a Northern woman?” he thought, biting his mustache. He turned again eagerly to the doctor. Heretofore he had thought his father’s friends, the old French cotton planters on the Gulf, the finest gentlemen in the world. But this little man, with his bristling white whiskers and military air, was, John thought, the most patrician figure that he had ever seen. He heard the doctor urge a dozen other Mobilians with their families to spend next summer with him, and though Soudé secretly felt snubbed, his respect for him increased.
He lent an attentive ear as the doctor talked of the engravings, handling them tenderly, as a mother would her infant.
“Ah, how satisfactory these are, Mr. Soudé! Mastery lines there! You have some fine collections in the South. In Richamond I saw an undoubted example of the early work of Vertrie—undoubted.”
“I know very little about those black-and-white things,” said John. “A good portrait in oils, now—I have a friend, an amateur, who can knock you off a likeness in half an hour.”
“Oh, yes!” said the doctor hastily. “You like color. You are of the age to like it. You live. What have you to do with faded etchings? Leave them to us old fellows, who—do not live.”
Soudé stared at him, bewildered. “Oh? certainly! I suppose,” after a pause, “your own collective is very fine?”
“No. I only own one good print. That is a treasure. I am a poor man, Mr. Soudé. But my love for engravings brings me in great pleasure. All the dealers in the cities know me, and when they have rare proofs to sell send me catalogues. Then I go to see them, and mark on the catalogues the ones I should buy if I had the money. It is very pleasant! I always keep the catalogues.”
“Say, doc!” interrupted a young man who had been standing unnoticed beside him; “show me the catalogue next time there is a sale, and by gosh! you shall have the pick of them!”
“Thank you, David” said the doctor, with a flicker of a smile. “Mr. Soudé, may I make Mr. Plunkett known to you? One of our foremost business men in Pennsylvania.”
The doctor a moment afterward extricated himself from the crowd, and left the young men together.
Plunkett was a huge, shapeless lad, badly dressed by a London tailor in the extreme fashion. As he waddled to a seat, something about him suggested to John that Nature had started to make a man and left the job incomplete. His neat little feet were too small for the mass they carried; a faint line of down struggled irresolutely over his wide upper lip; now and then a manly, sonorous tone broke into his piping treble, or a look of keen intelligence peered out of his watery eyes like cray-fish from a pool, to disappear suddenly and leave unmeaning vacancy.
“Hoh!” he said, nodding kindly as he looked after the doctor. “The old man undervalues himself. The Warricks are poor, but what of that? Money isn’t the only valuable goods in the market, I say. They have had scholarship and gentility for generations, and I don’t rate them things low, sir. No, I don’t! Though of course a sharp-witted American with a good bank account can afford to do without them.” As he spoke he clawed complacently at his flabby chin. “I for one appreciate them in the old doc, sir, or in any man. You take Dave Plunkett’s word, there’s things of more value than money in the world.”
Mr. Soudé paid no attention to him. He was watching his chance to penetrate the black ring of men around a little white figure at the other side of the room.
“Some of your Southern women are infernally pretty, d’ye know?” continued Plunkett. “Yes, I think so, really.”
“They are grateful to you,” said Soudé, scowling at him.
“A little lean, hey? Too much chalk and rouge on ‘em, too. But they light up well, hu! hu!”
Plunkett always ended with a fat, complacent chuckle, which gave you the impression that he was chewing and gorging the subject. After a leisurely survey of the women who lighted up well, he turned, and seeing his companion’s fixed gaze, followed it.
He gave an annoyed grunt, and his eyes suddenly had the watchful stare of a dog that had hidden a bone which he feared would be taken from him.
They were playing a waltz. Mr. Soudé crossed the room. A flash of angry intelligence glinted into Plunkett’s eyes. “It’s Milly! I hit the bull’s-eye! He’s going straight to her!” he said to himself. He stood in the way of the dancers, his hands thrust into his pockets, staring at Milly. Another man would have concealed his dismay, but David never concealed any thing. He pursued his object as a hound its prey, unconscious of lookers-on.
Soudé did not ask Milly to dance. When she glanced shyly up at him, he had a mad impulse to snatch this innocent child to his arms and carry her away our to sight of the coarse crowd. He stammered a word or two and stood still, looking at her. At least he would not go spinning around with her before this miserable mob!
“It is very quiet on the veranda,” he said. “Will you walk through this dance with me?”
She laid her hand timidly on his arm, and they went out. As they walked to and fro, on one side were the windows of the ball-room, with their flashes of color and light, and on the other the heavy night, with the mysterious waste of star-lit water quivering yonder on the horizon.
David Plunkett stationed himself on one of the windows, where he could catch glimpses of the two figures passing in the darkness. Once the light fell full upon them. Plunket drew a startled breath. He had never seen Milly’s face look like that, so happy, so—honest. “The little devil’s telling the truth now, for once in her life,” thought David. What hold could this strange man have on her?
“He is coarse and dingy as his own mulattoes,” was his verdict, glancing complacently at his own pasty, broad face in a mirror. Then he looked from the refection of his bulky, dwarfish body to the shapely figure disappearing in the shadows.
“Dave Plunkett has a better card than figure to play,” he thought, with a grim smile. “Let her have her fun out to-night! When it comes to marryin’ she’ll tramp him down as if he was a spider—if he’s poor.”
Meanwhile partners whose names were on her card searched wildly for Miss Warrick, but she was not to be found. David saw that she and Soudé were sitting in a hidden recess of the veranda. He caught the man’s tones in a long monologue. Milly was silent. Such an escapade by the correct, conventional Miss Warrick was equal to an outbreak of madness in another woman.
Was she mad?
David’s countenance grew more leaden in hue. “I’m not afraid,” he told himself. “After all these years! All Luxborough believes that she will marry me when I ask her. What right has she to fool with that man, damn her!”
He went to the supper-room and drank a glass of brandy, but it did not warm him. His blood was like ice.
Milly was in the ball-room when he went back, chattering gayly to Mr. Soudé, her blushing, sweet face aglow with delight. John observed that when she saw Plunkett she stammered, and held her roses to her lips, looking over them at him with a sudden terror. But David made no motion to come near her, and in a few moments she left the room with her father.
Soudé turned to watch David with jealous curiosity. He saw that the huge lad was treated with homage by the Northerners. Old men bowed respectfully when he spoke to them, and women, when they danced or sang, glanced at him for approval.
“Who is that brute?” he asked Choteaud.
“Brute indeed! But I hear that he is a suitor of Miss Warrick’s, and that he is worth thirty millions.”
Soudé laughed. “And what would she care for his thirty millions?” he said.
ANNE, as she went into the ball-room that evening, had a sudden access of disgust at fashionable life. What a decorated pen it was, full of adult human beings capering absurdly about! Milly laughed at her wish to teach the freedmen or the pariahs in India: but Milly never had understood her. Professor Mears recognized the immortal longings in her. He was a man: men had the chance to make great sacrifices, to rise to great heights in life.
The room was filled with smiling people who all knew each other. She stood beside her father behind a large table covered with engravings.
Now, in spite of her spiritual ambitions, Anne, since she was a baby, had expected to be crowned sometime a queen of love and beauty. What if she were homely and awkward? Sometime, somehow, there would come for her a sunburst of triumph when all the world would wonder. She liked to fancy crowds of lovers abased before her, and she turning haughtily away.
It might be to-night——
The violins played a waltz. The other girls were led out by eager partners.
“Nobody is going to ask me to dance!”
Her heart gave great throbs, her face burned. She fancied that the Southern girls, for whom her heart had ached with sympathy just now, glanced at her with an amazed pity in their eyes, as she stood fumbling the prints. Anne caught fragments of their conversation with their partners. How insipid it was!
“I am not stupid! I am a clever woman!” she thought indignantly. “I know more than most of these men. Why do they neglect me? Am I so hideous?” glancing in a mirror at the dark, eager face. She tried to drag up Epictetus to comfort her.
“What matters any thing that can happen to me, if my soul is above it?”
But her soul just now would have none of Epictetus. She looked at her sister surrounded by a crowd of men. She nodded gayly to Anne, who smiled bravely back. Thank Heaven, Milly was not neglected!
“Why are you not dancing, my dear?” said the doctor. “Young blood should be young.”
“This child’s blood is young.” It was Professor Mears who spoke, smiling kindly down on her. Anne grew red, guilty. If this wisest of men knew that she was wretched because nobody had asked her to dance! She knew that he had been born heir to a life of luxury and ease, and had chosen to spend it in hard labor for others. She burned with contempt of herself. But high purposes nauseated her to-night. Professor Mears, his mouth a little one, was standing, his pale, vacant eyes fixed upon her sad, pleading face. The thought came to him again—what a companion would this sensitive creature be to him when he was fagged to death by bureaux of charities!
Brooke Calhoun saw some such meaning in his foggy gaze. He suddenly crossed the room. “Will you come with me to supper, Anne?” he asked abruptly, offering his arm.
Anne took it, her eyes sparking. “Oh, yes, indeed!” she said. Then the recollection that this man was obnoxious to her put her joy to flight. No doubt he came because he pitied her: he had seen that no girl in the room was so neglected as she.
“Have you met any of these lovely Southern girls?” she asked, hesitating.
“I don’t wish to meet any body but you,” he said simply. “Will you have oysters?”
He did pity her; he had seen how she was ignored by the men—had noted angrily her dingy gown and crooked collar. “Poor little girl! I wish her mother was here!” he thought, with a tug at his heart.
He found a table in a corner and placed her beside it, brought a foot-stool and shawl to keep away the draught. Then he heaped her plate and, sitting opposite, watched her contentedly. The honest fellow liked to feed any creature that he loved. And this was his little playfellow—his own, for a minute, for the first time in many years.
Anne was warm and happy. She had not known that she was so hungry. She had never been so taken care of—like a helpless little queen.
Brooke told a great many funny stories, at which they both laughed till the tears came, and then they discussed certain dogs and horses dear to them both years ago. High purposes, pariahs, and Epictetus all retreated out of sight. She forgot that this man had sold his birthright for a mess of pottage. This was Brooke, her old comrade again—Brooke.
But he was not eating any thing, she saw anxiously. And the drive would be long into town. She sprinkled salt on his oysters and herself put the sugar into his coffee, and as she reached forward to give the cup to him, it flashed upon her how homelike was the little table, with its cups for two—she looked up, red and trembling, and met Brooke’s laughing eyes.
In old times they had an odd habit of thinking together. She began to talk incoherently of Professor Mears’s great schemes. Brooke did not seem to listen. His eyes shone, looking at something which she did not see. It was the little breakfast at the farm, with the fire crackling and the sun shining in at the windows and the little table laid—for two.
Could it ever be? Was it possible? Why was it not possible? He answered her vaguely, scarcely knowing what she said:
“A wise man? Oh yes! Young, too, to have achieved so much.”
“I wonder,” said Anne, moving restlessly under his steady gaze, “why he never married? A woman who could throw herself into his work would be of great use in the world.”
“Use?” Brooke laughed. “If I were Professor Mears I would not marry a woman to be a charitable agent. She should be just—my wife.”
It was the commonplace idea of a commonplace man; the kind of idea which Anne always trampled underfoot with fierce contempt. But now she rose unsteadily, pale and breathless. Brooke had not looked at her; yet it seemed, when he spoke, as if he had taken her in his arms and kissed her.
He led her out into the corridor. He did not know what he was doing nor where he was going; but he felt that of all his warm, comfortable life, this was the moment most keen with happiness. He was possessed with the thought of the old fields and the old house at home—the pleasant centre of this pleasant world. If he could seize her and put her into it for life! Had the good God any such wonderful thing as that in keeping for him?
The new delirious thrill of passion which shook him was, it is true, mixed with thoughts of the house and cornfields and cows, but Anne did not know that, which was perhaps as well.
He halted beside a window, poring hungrily over her face in the moonlight.
“My little comrade! you were gone from me so long.” he said. “It has been lonely.”
“You could not have missed me,” she faltered. “You had your brother and your work.”
“Yes, of course. I have been very happy with Ned and the farm. I’m afraid,” looking at her anxiously, “that you don’t appreciate Ned?”
“Oh, thoroughly!” said Anne, with a short laugh.
“If you don’t like him it is because you don’t understand him. I hope I can make you know him some day, if——“
He did not finish the sentence.
“I think, said Anne, trying to speak carelessly, “I understand Edward—and you.”
“Perhaps so. Your intuitions were keen, even as a child. You were appallingly clever. I have always been afraid that you would outgrow me, do you know?” His dark face burned; he leaned over her. “In all the years that you were gone, I used to winder whether, when you came back, you would give me again——“
She drew back, looking around to escape. If she could fly and hide somewhere! She trembled with dread. Yet she did not move an inch. What was it he asked her to give? What?
Her eyes, her whole life, hung upon his lips. She could not breathe, waiting for him to speak. She saw, far off in the bay, a white sail flicker up out of the mist and slowly disappear; but still there was silence.
Until an hour ago Calhoun had never know what it was he wanted from this woman. But he knew now. He had needed it when he was a boy—when he was a man. Bare and poor enough life had been without it.
It was coming now! She would give it to him. He saw it in her eyes. He would take her to the dear old farm—he would be her drudge—her slave——
The honest fellow choked when he tried to speak, the water stood in his eyes.
“Anne,” he said, laughing hoarsely, “you see. I am as blundering and slow as ever.”
“Calhoun!” called a voice behind him. “Ah, here you are!” David Plunkett came down the corridor. “Here is a telegram which has just been sent out from town for you. No bad news, I hope? Open it, man! From New Orleans—Ned, probably.”
David, who always had a childish curiosity about the affairs of others, watched Brooke keenly as he read the despatch.
“What is it? Is he dead?”
“No. He—needs me. I must go to him at once. If there is a train to-night——“
His eyes were fixed on Anne as he led her back to the ball-room. She was not deceived by his mechanical answer. He had had a blow. It had struck hard and deep. “Deeper than any thought of me,” she thought bitterly, as she hurried to her father.
Brooke stood motionless a moment, looking steadily at her. Beneath his trouble he was in a dull rage with himself. He was so paltering and slow! He had always been slow. It was unstable, feather-headed Ned, after all, who had always made his life; pushed him here and there—as now. He turned, without a word of farewell, and left the house. Plunkett followed him.
“Is Edward dead, Calhoun?” he said.
Brooke handed him the despatch. David mumbled it over, half aloud:
“I have broken my promise. I have ruined you. To-night ends all.”
He folded the yellow slip carefully and gave it back.
“Been gambling, eh?”
“I don’t know. What does that matter? He means suicide.”
“Stuff! Threatened men live long, especially when they threaten themselves. But you must go to him, or he’ll make himself the talk of New Orleans somehow. There is no train to-night, but my car is here. I’ll send you down by special. Not a word! Easiest thing in the world. Brace up, Calhoun.”
“I’ve neglected the boy lately. I’ve not written regularly——“
“More likely you’ve been too indulgent. Ned’s a shallow fellow, and he needs a tight rein. Here’s my trap. I’ll drive you in.”
Brooke had a vague comfort in the presence of the shrewd, huge lad, who, whenever he saw men or beast in trouble, was the kindest of human beings, though he usually drove the victim mad with fuss and dogmatism.
They bowled along the wide shell road without speaking.
“Ned’s a sheer idiot as regards money,” Plunkett said at last. “I would not lend him a dollar. But if you need any, Brooke, telegraph me. I’ll see you through the scrape. And,” he added in a louder voice, cracking the whip pompously, “I’ll not charge you one darned cent of interest, either. Heh? What d’ye say?”
“I shall not need it. I have property to cover Ned’s losses. But I’ll not forget that you offered it, Dave.”
Special trains do not take the road at a moment’s notice. Hours passed while Plunkett gave orders and Brooke paced up and down the platform at the station.
Doctor Warrick and John Soudé came to him, but he scarcely understood what they said.
“I hear that your brother is ill or in trouble?” Soudé asked anxiously. “Is he in New Orleans? Has he left the Reve des Eaux?”
“Yes. I suspect that he has incurred heavy debts in the city.”
“Oh, is that all? He was playing high. That was why my father urged him to go to the plantation. All fair and among gentlemen, you know, but our men play better than Edward.”
“I am going to satisfy them” replied Calhoun irritably.
“Of course,” said Soudé, smiling. “One can give a cursed tradesman the go by, but debts of honor must be paid, more’s the pity!”
Doctor Warrick drew Brooke aside and excitedly pressed into his hand a hundred-dollar bill. “Take it, my dear boy. I wish I had more,” he whispered. “I can borrow from Mears until I reach home. They cannot have fleeced the poor lad of more than that.”
Brooke thrust it back. “No—no! It isn’t money—if I find him alive”—he gasped.
Plunkett, the next moment, hurried him into the car and waved good-by while the train steamed down the track.
“If he finds him alive?” stammered the doctor, staring after the vanishing car. “Has poor Edward been driven to despair? Do you think he will attempt his life?”
“No such good luck!” replied David promptly. “Go home, sir, and to bed in peace. Ned Calhoun will devil his brother until he is gray. That sort live long.”
Mr. Soudé offered his arm to the doctor, and led him homeward with the most reverent deference. He, too, took a consolatory view of the situation.
“I cannot imagine,” he said gravely, “that any rational man would end his life because he could not pay his debts: and Edward Calhoun impressed me as a most rational and practical man.”
Meanwhile Brooke was whirled along through the gathering darkness.
The chance that he would find his brother dead had stunned him at first. But when he had time to think, this chance, even to Brooke, seemed improbable. Ned was one of those men who delight to dance the skeletons in their lives daily before their friends, and he had threatened suicide ever since his first whipping at school.
“I’m not really afraid of that,” Brooke said half aloud, glancing miserably around the empty car. “But—ruin?”
There was in fact but one way to pay the debts in New Orleans.
“The farm must go: the farm must go.” He said this over a dozen times, trying to make himself understand it. He got up, and walked unsteadily up and down the car.
“The farm must go. After that, Ned and I must depend on my labor from day to day.”
Hitherto, Brooke had believed in a brilliant future always at hand for his brother—fame, fortune. To-night, this fond dream vanished like a wrack of cloud. He saw Ned as he was, a dead weight, to be lifted and carried to the end—or to be left to perish by the road.
He walked up and down, up and down, looking at the ugly facts steadily. Brooke had no sickly love of martyrdom. If he could win that dear child yonder, and take her to the old house which was almost as dear to him as she, no man on God’s earth would be more content.
It would only hurt himself if he gave her up. She had but a childish friendship for him. Professor Mears was more of a companion for her. He stopped for moment, and then fell again into his slow walk.
No, he could not do both. He could not put the burden of Ned’s life on any woman’s shoulders.
He sat down, wiping the cold sweat from his face. “It must be Ned and I alone,” he said, with a long breath. “There will be no place for any other comrade.”
When the train rolled into the station at New Orleans, a lank figure rushed up to it, and a pale unshaven face was thrust into the windows.
“Thank God, you have come!” Edward cried, wringing his hands. “Twice I have had the muzzle of this pistol on my forehead, but I could not die without your forgiveness.”
“Give me the pistol now, Ned.” Brooke uncocked it and dropped it into his pocket. They walked out of the station, Edward glancing wildly from side to side, muttering that there were “other ways—other ways.”
“How fat and composed you look!” he broke out presently, savagely. “The same complacent smile you had at home, while I’ve been in hell—hell!”
“We’ll try and bring things straight now, Ned,” said Brooke quietly. “It doesn’t matter how either of us look. Where is your room? We must go somewhere to talk over this smatter.”
“You’re in a devilish hurry to look into my shortcomings,” said Edward, with a bitter laugh. “One thing you must understand. These men must be paid. They are gentleman. I want no sanctimonious can’t either—or trying to dodge a gambling debt. You must lend me plenty of money. You needn’t be afraid. I’ll pay you.” His voice rose to a shill shriek.
They were crossing Canal Street. The fruiterers, arranging their baskets on the banquette, stopped to listen.
“They shall be paid. Come on.”
“How will you raise the money?”
“I will sell the farm.”
“Thank God for that! I hate that old house, and the cursed cows and pigs.” In a few minutes he said, “Forgive me, Brooke. I know you like the place. Mortgage it. I’ll pay you the money to redeem it as soon as I get to work. One picture will buy a dozen such farms.”
He walked a few paces and stopped again. “I’ve had no money since Tuesday,” he stammered. “I’m faint. If I had some food, I should not be so nearly mad.”
“Hungry! Great Heavens! Come, boy, come!” But when Brooke with a shocked face dragged him toward a café, Ned hesitated.
“Mme. Eugènie’s is just around the corner,” he said. “You really ought to taste her crab patés. This way, Brooke.”
When they were seated at a dainty table, a pot of flowers in the centre, the French waiter bowing, menu in hand, Ned flirted his napkin open, with a sudden beaming smile.
“That place you were plunging into was good enough. But I do like sparkling glass and roses, and all this sort of thing. It’s weak, I suppose, but I can’t help it.”
“No,” said Brooke. “You can’t help it. It was born in you. I understand.”
And he too smiled.
1. The Key of Calmar, the Kalmar Nyckel, was the ship the settlers of New Sweden used to travel to North America in 1638. ↩
2. William Penn (1644-1718) founded the Pennsylvania colony in the 1680s. ↩
3. Burke’s Peerage, founded by John Burke in 1826, and Debrett’s Peerage and Baronetage, named for John Debrett, who succeeded John Almon as editor of The New Peerage in 1790, are guides to genealogy. ↩
4. Dolley Madison (1768-1849), First Lady from 1809-1817 and socialite. Eleanor Custis Lewis (1779-1852), granddaughter of Martha Washington. ↩
5. Sophie of Württemberg (1818-1877) was Queen of the Netherlands. ↩
6. Dutch: “House in the Woods,” the royal palace of the Netherlands. ↩
7. April 9, 1865 General Robert E. Lee of the Confederate States Army surrendered to Lieutenant General Ulysses S. Grant at Appomattox, one mark of the end the Civil War. ↩
8. Brass dogs, or andirons, are metal supports that hold wood in fireplaces. ↩
9. Columns sculpted into female figures, of Greek etymology. ↩
10. Misprinted in original as “Brooks.” ↩
11. A meatloaf-like dish of Pennsylvania Dutch origin made of pork scraps, cornmeal, flour, and spices. ↩
12. Presumably an engraving by Italian artist Raffaello Sanzio Morghen (1758-1833). ↩
13. Marie Joseph Paul Yves Roche Gilbert du Motier, Marquis de Lafayette (1757-1834), a French aristocrat, fought for the Continental Army in the American Revolutionary War. ↩
14. That is, a Catholic. ↩
15. Nainsook is a soft, lightweight muslin cloth. A wrapper is a loose-fitting dress used for housework throughout the 19th century, which became popular and fashionable for entertaining visitors in the 1890s. ↩
16. A crisp, crimped fabric worn to designate mourning. ↩
17. President Abraham Lincoln (1809-1865) was assassinated at Ford's Theatre in Washington D.C. on April 14, 1865. ↩
18. Thomas à Kempis’s devotional book, The Imitation of Christ, published by the Pickerings in the nineteenth century. ↩
19. French, to be overweight. ↩
20. Eskimo in English (Esquimaux in French) refers to the indigenous peoples of the Arctic, including the Inuit of many parts of northern North America and Greenland and the Yupik of parts of Alaska and of Siberia. ↩
21. A town that has also been the sometimes residence of French royalty, located about 50 miles south of Paris. ↩
22. A traditional French beef stew. ↩
23. Richard Hooker (1554-1600), a theologian and priest of the Church of England, whom poet William Cowper called “judicious” in 1632. ↩
24. Unglazed pottery. ↩
25. Jean-Baptiste-Camille Corot (1796-1875), a French landscape painter and printmaker. ↩
26. Saint Joan of Arc (c. 1412-1431). ↩
27. A cynical character from William Makepeace Thackerey’s Vanity Fair (1847-48). ↩
28. Augustine of Hippo (354-430) was a Christian theologian and philosopher, as well as a bishop in Numidia, a former Roman province in what is now Algeria and parts of Tunisia. ↩
29. An early Christian hymn of praise formerly ascribed to St. Augustine. ↩
30. Frédéric François Chopin (1810-1849), a significant Polish composer and pianist of the Romantic age. ↩
31. A card game involving trumps. ↩
32. Casimir Davaine (1812-1882), a French microbiologist. ↩
33. Likely a reference to Acts 8:9-24. ↩
34. A genus of bacteria, some forms of which cause food sickness. ↩
35. French, literally: And me, I am Butterfly! ↩
36. The History of Henry Esmond (1852), a historical novel by William Makepeace Thackery (1811-1863). ↩
37. St. Thomas the Apostle’s Day—or Doubting Thomas—is celebrated on December 21 traditionally and on July 3 by Roman Catholics. ↩
38. A very hard mineral, used as an abrasive, gemstones (such as rubies and sapphires), etc. ↩
39. A region of Alabama named for its rich soils. The Black Belt also historically refers to the large African-American population in this region, which finds its origins in the enslaved people who worked the cotton plantations that proliferated here. ↩
40. Likely Edwin Thomas Booth (1833-1893) in William Shakespeare’s Richard III, a traveling American actor who typically performed in Shakespearean plays. Brother to John Wilkes Booth, who assassinated President Abraham Lincoln. ↩
41. Lady Anne Neville, who later becomes Queen to Richard III. ↩
42. American authors, Washington Irving (1783-1859) of New York and Nathaniel Hawthorne (1804-1864) of Massachusetts. ↩
43. Youngest daughter of the king in William Shakespeare’s King Lear. ↩
44. American author and poet, Edgar Allan Poe (1809-1849). ↩
45. Scottish author of international acclaim, Sir Walter Scott (1771-1832). ↩
46. Crœsus, King of Lydia from 560-547 B.C.E., signifies a wealthy man. ↩
47. French authors Victor Hugo (1802-1885) and Alexandre Dumas (1802-1870). ↩
48. Protagonist of Charles Dickens’s serial novel Dombey and Son (1846-48). ↩
49. Charles Étienne Arthur Gayarré (1805-1895), New-Orleans-born historian, author of 1846 Histoire de la Louisiane. ↩
50. Prolific North Carolinian author Frances Christine Fisher Tiernan (1846-1920), whose pen name was Christian Reid. ↩
51. A fichu is a small triangular shawl, which was often used to fill in a low neckline. Mary Stuart, or Mary, Queen of Scots (1542-1587), was the Queen of Scotland from 1542 to 1567, and was accused of and executed for treason under Queen Elizabeth. ↩
52. French, literally “always audacity.” ↩
53. Epictetus (55-135 C.E.) was a Greek philosopher of Stoicism. ↩
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