The Wooing of Bessy

When Lawrence Eastman began going to see Bessy Houghton the Lynnfield
people shrugged their shoulders and said he might have picked out
somebody a little younger and prettier–but then, of course, Bessy was
well off. A two-hundred-acre farm and a substantial bank account were
worth going in for. Trust an Eastman for knowing upon which side his
bread was buttered.

Lawrence was only twenty, and looked even younger, owing to his
smooth, boyish face, curly hair, and half-girlish bloom. Bessy
Houghton was in reality no more than twenty-five, but Lynnfield people
had the impression that she was past thirty. She had always been older
than her years–a quiet, reserved girl who dressed plainly and never
went about with other young people. Her mother had died when Bessy was
very young, and she had always kept house for her father. The
responsibility made her grave and mature. When she was twenty her
father died and Bessy was his sole heir. She kept the farm and took
the reins of government in her own capable hands. She made a success
of it too, which was more than many a man in Lynnfield had done.

Bessy had never had a lover. She had never seemed like other girls,
and passed for an old maid when her contemporaries were in the flush
of social success and bloom.

Mrs. Eastman, Lawrence’s mother, was a widow with two sons. George,
the older, was the mother’s favourite, and the property had been
willed to him by his father. To Lawrence had been left the few
hundreds in the bank. He stayed at home and hired himself to George,
thereby adding slowly to his small hoard. He had his eye on a farm in
Lynnfield, but he was as yet a mere boy, and his plans for the future
were very vague until he fell in love with Bessy Houghton.

In reality nobody was more surprised over this than Lawrence himself.
It had certainly been the last thing in his thoughts on the dark,
damp night when he had overtaken Bessy walking home alone from prayer
meeting and had offered to drive her the rest of the way.

Bessy assented and got into his buggy. At first she was very silent,
and Lawrence, who was a bashful lad at the best of times, felt
tongue-tied and uncomfortable. But presently Bessy, pitying his
evident embarrassment, began to talk to him. She could talk well, and
Lawrence found himself entering easily into the spirit of her piquant
speeches. He had an odd feeling that he had never known Bessy Houghton
before; he had certainly never guessed that she could be such good
company. She was very different from the other girls he knew, but he
decided that he liked the difference.

“Are you going to the party at Baileys’ tomorrow night?” he asked, as
he helped her to alight at her door.

“I don’t know,” she answered. “I’m invited–but I’m all alone–and
parties have never been very much in my line.”

There was a wistful note in her voice, and Lawrence detecting it, said
hurriedly, not giving himself time to get frightened: “Oh, you’d
better go to this one. And if you like, I’ll call around and take
you.”

He wondered if she would think him very presumptuous. He thought her
voice sounded colder as she said: “I am afraid that it would be too
much trouble for you.”

“It wouldn’t be any trouble at all,” he stammered. “I’ll be very
pleased to take you.”

In the end Bessy had consented to go, and the next evening Lawrence
called for her in the rose-red autumn dusk.

Bessy was ready and waiting. She was dressed in what was for her
unusual elegance, and Lawrence wondered why people called Bessy
Houghton so plain. Her figure was strikingly symmetrical and softly
curved. Her abundant, dark-brown hair, instead of being parted plainly
and drawn back into a prim coil as usual, was dressed high on her
head, and a creamy rose nestled amid the becoming puffs and waves.
She wore black, as she usually did, but it was a lustrous black silk,
simply and fashionably made, with frost-like frills of lace at her
firm round throat and dainty wrists. Her cheeks were delicately
flushed, and her wood-brown eyes were sparkling under her long lashes.

She offered him a half-opened bud for his coat and pinned it on for
him. As he looked down at her he noticed what a sweet mouth she
had–full and red, with a half child-like curve.

The fact that Lawrence Eastman took Bessy Houghton to the Baileys’
party made quite a sensation at that festal scene. People nodded and
winked and wondered. “An old maid and her money,” said Milly Fiske
spitefully. Milly, as was well known, had a liking for Lawrence
herself.

Lawrence began to “go with” Bessy Houghton regularly after that. In
his single-mindedness he never feared that Bessy would misjudge his
motives or imagine him to be prompted by mercenary designs. He never
thought of her riches himself, and it never occurred to him that she
would suppose he did.

He soon realized that he loved her, and he ventured to hope timidly
that she loved him in return. She was always rather reserved, but the
few favours that meant nothing from other girls meant a great deal
from Bessy. The evenings he spent with her in her pretty sitting-room,
their moonlight drives over long, satin-smooth stretches of snowy
roads, and their walks home from church and prayer meeting under the
winter stars, were all so many moments of supreme happiness to
Lawrence.

* * * * *

Matters had gone thus far before Mrs. Eastman got her eyes opened. At
Mrs. Tom Bailey’s quilting party an officious gossip took care to
inform her that Lawrence was supposed to be crazy over Bessy Houghton,
who was, of course, encouraging him simply for the sake of having
someone to beau her round, and who would certainly throw him over in
the end since she knew perfectly well that it was her money he was
after.

Mrs. Eastman was a proud woman and a determined one. She had always
disliked Bessy Houghton, and she went home from the quilting resolved
to put an instant stop to “all such nonsense” on her son’s part.

“Where is Lawrie?” she asked abruptly; as she entered the small
kitchen where George Eastman was lounging by the fire.

“Out in the stable grooming up Lady Grey,” responded her older son
sulkily. “I suppose he’s gadding off to see Bessy Houghton again, the
young fool that he is! Why don’t you put a stop to it?”

“I am going to put a stop to it,” said Mrs. Eastman grimly. “I’d have
done it before if I’d known. You should have told me of it if you
knew. I’m going out to see Lawrence right now.”

George Eastman muttered something inaudible as the door closed behind
her. He was a short, thickset man, not in the least like Lawrence, who
was ten years his junior. Two years previously he had made a furtive
attempt to pay court to Bessy Houghton for the sake of her wealth, and
her decided repulse of his advances was a remembrance that made him
grit his teeth yet. He had hated her bitterly ever since.

Lawrence was brushing his pet mare’s coat until it shone like satin,
and whistling “Annie Laurie” until the rafters rang. Bessy had sung it
for him the night before. He could see her plainly still as she had
looked then, in her gown of vivid red–a colour peculiarly becoming to
her–with her favourite laces at wrist and throat and a white rose in
her hair, which was dressed in the high, becoming knot she had always
worn since the night he had shyly told her he liked it so.

She had played and sung many of the sweet old Scotch ballads for him,
and when she had gone to the door with him he had taken both her hands
in his and, emboldened by the look in her brown eyes, he had stooped
and kissed her. Then he had stepped back, filled with dismay at his
own audacity. But Bessy had said no word of rebuke, and only blushed
hotly crimson. She must care for him, he thought happily, or else she
would have been angry.

When his mother came in at the stable door her face was hard and
uncompromising.

“Lawrie,” she said sharply, “where are you going again tonight? You
were out last night.”

“Well, Mother, I promise you I wasn’t in any bad company. Come now,
don’t quiz a fellow too close.”

“You are going to dangle after Bessy Houghton again. It’s time you
were told what a fool you were making of yourself. She’s old enough to
be your mother. The whole settlement is laughing at you.”

Lawrence looked as if his mother had struck him a blow in the face. A
dull, purplish flush crept over his brow.

“This is some of George’s work,” he broke out fiercely. “He’s been
setting you on me, has he? Yes, he’s jealous–he wanted Bessy himself,
but she would not look at him. He thinks nobody knows it, but I do.
Bessy marry him? It’s very likely!”

“Lawrie Eastman, you are daft. George hasn’t said anything to me. You
surely don’t imagine Bessy Houghton would marry you. And if she would,
she is too old for you. Now, don’t you hang around her any longer.”

“I will,” said Lawrence flatly. “I don’t care what anybody says. You
needn’t worry over me. I can take care of myself.”

Mrs. Eastman looked blankly at her son. He had never defied or
disobeyed her in his life before. She had supposed her word would be
law. Rebellion was something she had not dreamed of. Her lips
tightened ominously and her eyes narrowed.

“You’re a bigger fool than I took you for,” she said in a voice that
trembled with anger. “Bessy Houghton laughs at you everywhere. She
knows you’re just after her money, and she makes fun–”

“Prove it,” interrupted Lawrence undauntedly, “I’m not going to put
any faith in Lynnfield gossip. Prove it if you can.”

“I can prove it. Maggie Hatfield told me what Bessy Houghton said to
her about you. She said you were a lovesick fool, and she only went
with you for a little amusement, and that if you thought you had
nothing to do but marry her and hang up your hat there you’d find
yourself vastly mistaken.”

Possibly in her calmer moments Mrs. Eastman might have shrunk from
such a deliberate falsehood, although it was said of her in Lynnfield
that she was not one to stick at a lie when the truth would not serve
her purpose. Moreover, she felt quite sure that Lawrence would never
ask Maggie Hatfield anything about it.

Lawrence turned white to the lips, “Is that true, Mother?” he asked
huskily.

“I’ve warned you,” replied his mother, not choosing to repeat her
statement. “If you go after Bessy any more you can take the
consequences.”

She drew her shawl about her pale, malicious face and left him with a
parting glance of contempt.

“I guess that’ll settle him,” she thought grimly. “Bessy Houghton
turned up her nose at George, but she shan’t make a fool of Lawrence
too.”

Alone in the stable Lawrence stood staring out at the dull red ball of
the winter sun with unseeing eyes. He had implicit faith in his
mother, and the stab had gone straight to his heart. Bessy Houghton
listened in vain that night for his well-known footfall on the
verandah.

The next night Lawrence went home with Milly Fiske from prayer
meeting, taking her out from a crowd of other girls under Bessy
Houghton’s very eyes as she came down the steps of the little church.

Bessy walked home alone. The light burned low in her sitting-room, and
in the mirror over the mantel she saw her own pale face, with its
tragic, pain-stricken eyes. Annie Hillis, her “help,” was out. She was
alone in the big house with her misery and despair.

She went dizzily upstairs to her own room and flung herself on the bed
in the chill moonlight.

“It is all over,” she said dully. All night she lay there, fighting
with her pain. In the wan, grey morning she looked at her mirrored
self with pitying scorn–at the pallid face, the lifeless features,
the dispirited eyes with their bluish circles.

“What a fool I have been to imagine he could care for me!” she said
bitterly. “He has only been amusing himself with my folly. And to
think that I let him kiss me the other night!”

She thought of that kiss with a pitiful shame. She hated herself for
the weakness that could not check her tears. Her lonely life had been
brightened by the companionship of her young lover. The youth and
girlhood of which fate had cheated her had come to her with love; the
future had looked rosy with promise; now it had darkened with dourness
and greyness.




Maggie Hatfield came that day to sew. Bessy had intended to have a
dark-blue silk made up and an evening waist of pale pink cashmere. She
had expected to wear the latter at a party which was to come off a
fortnight later, and she had got it to please Lawrence, because he had
told her that pink was his favourite colour. She would have neither it
nor the silk made up now. She put them both away and instead brought
out an ugly pattern of snuff-brown stuff, bought years before and
never used.

“But where is your lovely pink, Bessy?” asked the dressmaker. “Aren’t
you going to have it for the party?”

“No, I’m not going to have it made up at all,” said Bessy listlessly.
“It’s too gay for me. I was foolish to think it would ever suit me.
This brown will do for a spring suit. It doesn’t make much difference
what I wear.”

Maggie Hatfield, who had not been at prayer meeting the night
beforehand knew nothing of what had occurred, looked at her curiously,
wondering what Lawrence Eastman could see in her to be as crazy about
her as some people said he was. Bessy was looking her oldest and
plainest just then, with her hair combed severely back from her pale,
dispirited face.

“It must be her money he is after,” thought the dressmaker. “She looks
over thirty, and she can’t pretend to be pretty. I believe she thinks
a lot of him, though.”

For the most part, Lynnfield people believed that Bessy had thrown
Lawrence over. This opinion was borne out by his woebegone appearance.
He was thin and pale; his face had lost its youthful curves and looked
hard and mature. He was moody and taciturn and his speech and manner
were marked by a new cynicism.

* * * * *

In April a well-to-do storekeeper from an adjacent village began to
court Bessy Houghton. He was over fifty, and had never been a handsome
man in his best days, but Lynnfield oracles opined that Bessy would
take him. She couldn’t expect to do any better, they said, and she was
looking terribly old and dowdy all at once.

In June Maggie Hatfield went to the Eastmans’ to sew. The first bit of
news she imparted to Mrs. Eastman was that Bessy Houghton had refused
Jabez Lea–at least, he didn’t come to see her any more.

Mrs. Eastman twitched her thread viciously. “Bessy Houghton was born
an old maid,” she said sharply. “She thinks nobody is good enough for
her, that is what’s the matter. Lawrence got some silly boy-notion
into his head last winter, but I soon put a stop to that.”

“I always had an idea that Bessy thought a good deal of Lawrence,”
said Maggie. “She has never been the same since he left off going with
her. I was up there the morning after that prayer-meeting night people
talked so much of, and she looked positively dreadful, as if she
hadn’t slept a wink the whole night.”

“Nonsense!” said Mrs. Eastman decisively. “She would never think of
taking a boy like him when she’d turned up her nose at better men. And
I didn’t want her for a daughter-in-law anyhow. I can’t bear her. So I
put my foot down in time. Lawrence sulked for a spell, of
course–boy-fashion–and he’s been as fractious as a spoiled baby ever
since.”

“Well, I dare say you’re right,” assented the dressmaker. “But I must
say I had always imagined that Bessy had a great notion of Lawrence.
Of course, she’s so quiet it is hard to tell. She never says a word
about herself.”

There was an unsuspected listener to this conversation. Lawrence had
come in from the field for a drink, and was standing in the open
kitchen doorway, within easy earshot of the women’s shrill tones.

He had never doubted his mother’s word at any time in his life, but
now he knew beyond doubt that there had been crooked work somewhere.
He shrank from believing his mother untrue, yet where else could the
crookedness come in?

When Mrs. Eastman had gone to the kitchen to prepare dinner, Maggie
Hatfield was startled by the appearance of Lawrence at the low open
window of the sitting-room.

“Mercy me, how you scared me!” she exclaimed nervously.

“Maggie,” said Lawrence seriously, “I want to ask you a question. Did
Bessy Houghton ever say anything to you about me or did you ever say
that she did? Give me a straight answer.”

The dressmaker peered at him curiously.

“No. Bessy never so much as mentioned your name to me,” she said, “and
I never heard that she did to anyone else. Why?”

“Thank you. That was all I wanted to know,” said Lawrence, ignoring
her question, and disappearing as suddenly as he had come.

That evening at moonrise he passed through the kitchen dressed in his
Sunday best. His mother met him at the door.

“Where are you going?” she asked querulously.

Lawrence looked her squarely in the face with accusing eyes, before
which her own quailed.

“I’m going to see Bessy Houghton, Mother,” he said sternly, “and to
ask her pardon for believing the lie that has kept us apart so long.”

Mrs. Eastman flushed crimson and opened her lips to speak. But
something in Lawrence’s grave, white face silenced her. She turned
away without a word, knowing in her secret soul that her youngest-born
was lost to her forever.

Lawrence found Bessy in the orchard under apple trees that were
pyramids of pearly bloom. She looked at him through the twilight with
reproach and aloofness in her eyes. But he put out his hands and
caught her reluctant ones in a masterful grasp.

“Listen to me, Bessy. Don’t condemn me before you’ve heard me. I’ve
been to blame for believing falsehoods about you, but I believe them
no longer, and I’ve come to ask you to forgive me.”

He told his story simply and straightforwardly. In strict justice he
could not keep his mother’s name out of it, but he merely said she had
been mistaken. Perhaps Bessy understood none the less. She knew what
Mrs. Eastman’s reputation in Lynnfield was.

“You might have had a little more faith in me,” she cried
reproachfully.

“I know–I know. But I was beside myself with pain and wretchedness.
Oh, Bessy, won’t you forgive me? I love you so! If you send me away
I’ll go to the dogs. Forgive me, Bessy.”

And she, being a woman, did forgive him.

“I’ve loved you from the first, Lawrence,” she said, yielding to his
kiss.

Continue Reading

The Unforgotten One

It was Christmas Eve, but there was no frost, or snow, or sparkle. It
was a green Christmas, and the night was mild and dim, with hazy
starlight. A little wind was laughing freakishly among the firs around
Ingleside and rustling among the sere grasses along the garden walks.
It was more like a night in early spring or late fall than in
December; but it was Christmas Eve, and there was a light in every
window of Ingleside, the glow breaking out through the whispering
darkness like a flame-red blossom swung against the background of the
evergreens; for the children were coming home for the Christmas
reunion, as they always came–Fritz and Margaret and Laddie and Nora,
and Robert’s two boys in the place of Robert, who had died fourteen
years ago–and the old house must put forth its best of light and
good cheer to welcome them.

Doctor Fritz and his brood were the last to arrive, driving up to the
hall door amid a chorus of welcoming barks from the old dogs and a
hail of merry calls from the group in the open doorway.

“We’re all here now,” said the little mother, as she put her arms
about the neck of her stalwart firstborn and kissed his bearded face.
There were handshakings and greetings and laughter. Only Nanny, far
back in the shadows of the firelit hall, swallowed a resentful sob,
and wiped two bitter tears from her eyes with her little red hand.

“We’re not all here,” she murmured under her breath. “Miss Avis isn’t
here. Oh, how can they be so glad? How can they have forgotten?”

But nobody heard or heeded Nanny–she was only the little orphan
“help” girl at Ingleside. They were all very good to her, and they
were all very fond of her, but at the times of family reunion Nanny
was unconsciously counted out. There was no bond of blood to unite her
to them, and she was left on the fringe of things. Nanny never
resented this–it was all a matter of course to her; but on this
Christmas Eve her heart was broken because she thought that nobody
remembered Miss Avis.

After supper they all gathered around the open fireplace of the hall,
hung with its berries and evergreens in honour of the morrow. It was
their unwritten law to form a fireside circle on Christmas Eve and
tell each other what the year had brought them of good and ill, sorrow
and joy. The circle was smaller by one than it had been the year
before, but none spoke of that. There was a smile on every face and
happiness in every voice.

The father and mother sat in the centre, grey-haired and placid, their
fine old faces written over with the history of gracious lives. Beside
the mother, Doctor Fritz sat like a boy, on the floor, with his
massive head, grey as his father’s, on her lap, and one of his smooth,
muscular hands, that were as tender as a woman’s at the operating
table, clasped in hers. Next to him sat sweet Nora, the
twenty-year-old “baby,” who taught in a city school; the rosy
firelight gleamed lovingly over her girlish beauty of burnished brown
hair, dreamy blue eyes, and soft, virginal curves of cheek and throat.
Doctor Fritz’s spare arm was about her, but Nora’s own hands were
clasped over her knee, and on one of them sparkled a diamond that had
not been there at the last Christmas reunion. Laddie, who figured as
Archibald only in the family Bible, sat close to the inglenook–a
handsome young fellow with a daring brow and rollicking eyes. On the
other side sat Margaret, hand in hand with her father, a woman whose
gracious sweetness of nature enveloped her as a garment; and Robert’s
two laughing boys filled up the circle, looking so much alike that it
was hard to say which was Cecil and which was Sid.

Margaret’s husband and Fritz’s wife were playing games with the
children in the parlour, whence shrieks of merriment drifted out into
the hall. Nanny might have been with them had she chosen, but she
preferred to sit alone in the darkest corner of the hall and gaze with
jealous, unhappy eyes at the mirthful group about the fire, listening
to their story and jest and laughter with unavailing protest in her
heart. Oh, how could they have forgotten so soon? It was not yet a
full year since Miss Avis had gone. Last Christmas Eve she had sat
there, a sweet and saintly presence, in the inglenook, more, so it had
almost seemed, the centre of the home circle than the father and
mother; and now the December stars were shining over her grave, and
not one of that heedless group remembered her; not once was her name
spoken; even her old dog had forgotten her–he sat with his nose in
Margaret’s lap, blinking with drowsy, aged contentment at the fire.

“Oh, I can’t bear it!” whispered Nanny, under cover of the hearty
laughter which greeted a story Doctor Fritz had been telling. She
slipped out into the kitchen, put on her hood and cloak, and took
from a box under the table a little wreath of holly. She had made it
out of the bits left over from the decorations. Miss Avis had loved
holly; Miss Avis had loved every green, growing thing.

As Nanny opened the kitchen door something cold touched her hand, and
there stood the old dog, wagging his tail and looking up at her with
wistful eyes, mutely pleading to be taken, too.

“So you do remember her, Gyppy,” said Nanny, patting his head. “Come
along then. We’ll go together.”

They slipped out into the night. It was quite dark, but it was not far
to the graveyard–just out through the evergreens and along a field
by-path and across the road. The old church was there, with its square
tower, and the white stones gleaming all around it. Nanny went
straight to a shadowy corner and knelt on the sere grasses while she
placed her holly wreath on Miss Avis’s grave. The tears in her eyes
brimmed over.

“Oh, Miss Avis! Miss Avis!” she sobbed. “I miss you so–I miss you so!
It can’t ever seem like Christmas to me without you. You were always
so sweet and kind to me. There ain’t a day passes but I think of you
and all the things you used to say to me, and I try to be good like
you’d want me to be. But I hate them for forgetting you–yes, I do!
I’ll never forget you, darling Miss Avis! I’d rather be here alone
with you in the dark than back there with them.”

Nanny sat down by the grave. The old dog lay down by her side with his
forepaws on the turf and his eyes fixed on the tall white marble
shaft. It was too dark for Nanny to read the inscription but she knew
every word of it: “In loving remembrance of Avis Maywood, died January
20, 1902, aged 45.” And underneath the lines of her own choosing:

“Say not good night, but in some brighter clime
Bid me good morning.”

But they had forgotten her–oh, they had forgotten her already!

When half an hour had passed, Nanny was startled by approaching
footsteps. Not wishing to be seen, she crept softly behind the
headstones into the shadow of the willow on the farther side, and the
old dog followed. Doctor Fritz, coming to the grave, thought himself
alone with the dead. He knelt down by the headstone and pressed his
face against it.

“Avis,” he said gently, “dear Avis, I have come to visit your grave
tonight because you seem nearer to me here than elsewhere. And I want
to talk to you, Avis, as I have always talked to you every
Christmastide since we were children together. I have missed you so
tonight, dear friend and sympathizer–no words can tell how I have
missed you–your welcoming handclasp and your sweet face in the
firelight shadows. I could not bear to speak your name, the aching
sense of loss was so bitter. Amid all the Christmas mirth and good
fellowship I felt the sorrow of your vacant chair. Avis, I wanted to
tell you what the year had brought to me. My theory has been proved;
it has made me a famous man. Last Christmas, Avis, I told you of it,
and you listened and understood and believed in it. Dear Avis, once
again I thank you for all you have been to me–all you are yet. I have
brought you your roses; they are as white and pure and fragrant as
your life.”

Other footsteps came so quickly on Doctor Fritz’ retreating ones that
Nanny could not rise. It was Laddie this time–gay, careless,
thoughtless Laddie.

“Roses? So Fritz has been here! I have brought you lilies, Avis. Oh,
Avis, I miss you so! You were so jolly and good–you understood a
fellow so well. I had to come here tonight to tell you how much I miss
you. It doesn’t seem half home without you. Avis, I’m trying to be a
better chap–more the sort of man you’d have me be. I’ve given the old
set the go-by–I’m trying to live up to your standard. It would be
easier if you were here to help me. When I was a kid it was always
easier to be good for awhile after I’d talked things over with you.
I’ve got the best mother a fellow ever had, but you and I were such
chums, weren’t we, Avis? I thought I’d just break down in there
tonight and put a damper on everything by crying like a baby. If
anybody had spoken about you, I should have. Hello!”




Laddie wheeled around with a start, but it was only Robert’s two boys,
who came shyly up to the grave, half hanging back to find anyone else
there.

“Hello, boys,” said Laddie huskily. “So you’ve come to see her grave
too?”

“Yes,” said Cecil solemnly. “We–we just had to. We couldn’t go to bed
without coming. Oh, isn’t it lonesome without Cousin Avis?”

“She was always so good to us,” said Sid.

“She used to talk to us so nice,” said Cecil chokily. “But she liked
fun, too.”

“Boys,” said Laddie gravely, “never forget what Cousin Avis used to
say to you. Never forget that you have _got_ to grow up into men she’d
be proud of.”

They went away then, the boys and their boyish uncle; and when they
had gone Nora came, stealing timidly through the shadows, starting at
the rustle of the wind in the trees.

“Oh, Avis,” she whispered. “I want to see you so much! I want to tell
you all about it–about _him_. You would understand so well. He is the
best and dearest lover ever a girl had. You would think so too. Oh,
Avis, I miss you so much! There’s a little shadow even on my happiness
because I can’t talk it over with you in the old way. Oh, Avis, it was
dreadful to sit around the fire tonight and not see you. Perhaps you
were there in spirit. I love to think you were, but I wanted to see
you. You were always there to come home to before, Avis, dear.”

Sobbing, she went away; and then came Margaret, the grave, strong
Margaret.

“Dear cousin, dear to me as a sister, it seemed to me that I must come
to you here tonight. I cannot tell you how much I miss your wise,
clear-sighted advice and judgment, your wholesome companionship. A
little son was born to me this past year, Avis. How glad you would
have been, for you knew, as none other did, the bitterness of my
childless heart. How we would have delighted to talk over my baby
together, and teach him wisely between us! Avis, Avis, your going made
a blank that can never be filled for me!”

Margaret was still standing there when the old people came.

“Father! Mother! Isn’t it too late and chilly for you to be here?”

“No, Margaret, no,” said the mother. “I couldn’t go to my bed without
coming to see Avis’s grave. I brought her up from a baby–her dying
mother gave her to me. She was as much my own child as any of you. And
oh! I miss her so. You only miss her when you come home, but I miss
her all the time–every day!”

“We all miss her, Mother,” said the old father, tremulously. “She was
a good girl–Avis was a good girl. Good night, Avis!”

“‘Say not good night, but in some brighter clime bid her good
morning,'” quoted Margaret softly. “That was her own wish, you know.
Let us go back now. It is getting late.”

When they had gone Nanny crept out from the shadows. It had not
occurred to her that perhaps she should not have listened–she had
been too shy to make her presence known to those who came to Avis’s
grave. But her heart was full of joy.

“Oh, Miss Avis, I’m so glad, I’m so glad! They haven’t forgotten you
after all, Miss Avis, dear, not one of them. I’m sorry I was so cross
at them; and I’m so glad they haven’t forgotten you. I love them for
it.”

Then the old dog and Nanny went home together.

Continue Reading

The Understanding of Sister Sara

June First.

I began this journal last New Year’s–wrote two entries in it and then
forgot all about it. I came across it today in a rummage–Sara insists
on my cleaning things out thoroughly every once in so long–and I’m
going to keep it up. I feel the need of a confidant of some kind, even
if it is only an inanimate journal. I have no other. And I cannot talk
my thoughts over with Sara–she is so unsympathetic.

Sara is a dear good soul and I love her as much as she will let me. I
am also very grateful to her. She brought me up when our mother died.
No doubt she had a hard time of it, poor dear, for I never was easily
brought up, perversely preferring to come up in my own way. But Sara
did her duty unflinchingly and–well, it’s not for me to say that the
result does her credit. But it really does, considering the material
she had to work with. I’m a bundle of faults as it is, but I tremble
to think what I would have been if there had been no Sara.

Yes, I love Sara, and I’m grateful to her. But she doesn’t understand
me in the least. Perhaps it is because she is so much older than I am,
but it doesn’t seem to me that Sara could really ever have been young.
She laughs at things I consider the most sacred and calls me a
romantic girl, in a tone of humorous toleration. I am chilled and
thrown back on myself, and the dreams and confidences I am bubbling
over with have no outlet. Sara couldn’t understand–she is so
practical. When I go to her with some beautiful thought I have found
in a book or poem she is quite likely to say, “Yes, yes, but I noticed
this morning that the braid was loose on your skirt, Beatrice. Better
go and sew it on before you forget again. ‘A stitch in time saves
nine.'”

When I come home from a concert or lecture, yearning to talk over the
divine music or the wonderful new ideas with her, she will say, “Yes,
yes, but are you sure you didn’t get your feet damp? Better go and
change your stockings, my dear. ‘An ounce of prevention is worth a
pound of cure.'”

So I have given up trying to talk things over with Sara. This old
journal will be better.

Last night Sara and I went to Mrs. Trent’s musicale. I had to sing and
I had the loveliest new gown for the occasion. At first Sara thought
my old blue dress would do. She said we must economize this summer and
told me I was entirely too extravagant in the matter of clothes. I
cried about it after I went to bed. Sara looked at me very sharply the
next morning without saying anything. In the afternoon she went uptown
and bought some lovely pale yellow silk organdie. She made it up
herself–Sara is a genius at dressmaking–and it was the prettiest
gown at the musicale. Sara wore her old grey silk made over. Sara
doesn’t care anything about dress, but then she is forty.

Walter Shirley was at the Trents’. The Shirleys are a new family here;
they moved to Atwater two months ago. Walter is the oldest son and has
been at college in Marlboro all winter so that nobody here knew him
until he came home a fortnight ago. He is very handsome and
distinguished-looking and everybody says he is so clever. He plays the
violin just beautifully and has such a melting, sympathetic voice and
the loveliest deep, dark, inscrutable eyes. I asked Sara when we came
home if she didn’t think he was splendid.

“He’d be a nice boy if he wasn’t rather conceited,” said Sara.

After that it was impossible to say anything more about Mr. Shirley.

I am glad he is going to be in Atwater all summer. We have so few
really nice young men here; they go away just as soon as they grow up
and those who stay are just the muffs. I wonder if I shall see Mr.
Shirley soon again.

June Thirtieth.

It does not seem possible that it is only a month since my last entry.
It seems more like a year–a delightful year. I can’t believe that I
am the same Beatrice Mason who wrote then. And I am not, either. She
was just a simple little girl, knowing nothing but romantic dreams. I
feel that I am very much changed. Life seems so grand and high and
beautiful. I want to be a true noble woman. Only such a woman could be
worthy of–of–a fine, noble man. But when I tried to say something
like this to Sara she replied calmly:

“My dear child, the average woman is quite good enough for the average
man. If she can cook his meals decently and keep his buttons sewed on
and doesn’t nag him he will think that life is a pretty comfortable
affair. And that reminds me, I saw holes in your black lace stockings
yesterday. Better go and darn them at once. ‘Procrastination is the
thief of time.'”

Sara cannot understand.

Blanche Lawrence was married yesterday to Ted Martin. I thought it the
most solemn and sacred thing I had ever listened to–the marriage
ceremony, I mean. I had never thought much about it before. I don’t
see how Blanche could care anything for Ted–he is so stout and dumpy;
with shallow blue eyes and a little pale moustache. I must say I do
not like fair men. But there is no doubt that he and Blanche love each
other devotedly and that fact sufficed to make the service very
beautiful to me–those two people pledging each other to go through
life together, meeting its storm and sunshine hand in hand, thinking
joy the sweeter because they shared it, finding sorrow sacred because
it came to them both.

When Sara and I walked home from the church Sara said, “Well,
considering the chances she has had, Blanche Lawrence hasn’t done so
well after all.”

“Oh, Sara,” I cried, “she has married the man she loves and who loves
her. What better is there to do? I thought it beautiful.”

“They should have waited another year at least,” said Sara severely.
“Ted Martin has only been practising law for a year, and he had
nothing to begin with. He can’t have made enough in one year in
Atwater to justify him in setting up housekeeping. I think a man ought
to be ashamed of himself to take a girl from a good home to an
uncertainty like that.”

“Not if she loved him and was willing to share the uncertainty,” I
said softly.

“Love won’t pay the butcher’s bill,” said Sara with a sniff, “and
landlords have an unfeeling preference for money over affection.
Besides, Blanche is a mere child, far too young to be burdened with
the responsibilities of life.”

Blanche is twenty–two years older than I am. But Sara talks as if I
were a mere infant.

July Thirtieth.

Oh, I am so happy! I wonder if there is another girl in the world as
happy as I am tonight. No, of course there cannot be, because there is
only one Walter!

Walter and I are engaged. It happened last night when we were sitting
out in the moonlight under the silver maple on the lawn. I cannot
write down what he said–the words are too sacred and beautiful to be
kept anywhere but in my own heart forever and ever as long as I live.
And I don’t remember just what I said. But we understood each other
perfectly at last.

Of course Sara had to do her best to spoil things. Just as Walter had
taken my hand in his and bent forward with his splendid earnest eyes
just burning into mine, and my heart was beating so furiously, Sara
came to the front door and called out, “Beatrice! Beatrice! Have you
your rubbers on? And don’t you think it is too damp out there for you
in that heavy dew? Better come into the house, both of you. Walter
has a cold now.”

“Oh, we’ll be in soon, Sara,” I said impatiently. But we didn’t go in
for an hour, and when we did Sara was cross, and after Walter had gone
she told me I was a very silly girl to be so reckless of my health and
risk getting pneumonia loitering out in the dew with a sentimental
boy.

I had had some vague thoughts of telling Sara all about my new
happiness, for it was so great I wanted to talk it over with somebody,
but I couldn’t after that. Oh, I wish I had a mother! She could
understand. But Sara cannot.

Walter and I have decided to keep our engagement a secret for a
month–just our own beautiful secret unshared by anyone. Then before
he goes back to college he is going to tell Sara and ask her consent.
I don’t think Sara will refuse it exactly. She really likes Walter
very well. But I know she will be horrid and I just dread it. She will
say I am too young and that a boy like Walter has no business to get
engaged until he is through college and that we haven’t known each
other long enough to know anything about each other and that we are
only a pair of romantic children. And after she has said all this and
given a disapproving consent she will begin to train me up in the way
a good housekeeper should go, and talk to me about table linen and the
best way to manage a range and how to tell if a chicken is really a
chicken or only an old hen. Oh, I know Sara! She will set the teeth of
my spirit on edge a dozen times a day and rub all the bloom off my
dear, only, little romance with her horrible practicalities. I know
one must learn about those things of course and I do want to make
Walter’s home the best and dearest and most comfortable spot on earth
for him and be the very best little wife and housekeeper I can be when
the time comes. But I want to dream my dreams first and Sara will wake
me up so early to realities.

This is why we determined to keep one month sacred to ourselves.
Walter will graduate next spring–he is to be a doctor–and then he
intends to settle down in Atwater and work up a practice. I am sure he
will succeed for everyone likes him so much. But we are to be married
as soon as he is through college because he has a little money of his
own–enough to set up housekeeping in a modest way with care and
economy. I know Sara will talk about risk and waiting and all that
just as she did in Ted Martin’s case. But then Sara does not
understand.

Oh, I am so happy! It almost frightens me–I don’t see how anything so
wonderful can last. But it will last, for nothing can ever separate
Walter and me, and as long as we are together and love each other this
great happiness will be mine. Oh, I want to be so good and noble for
his sake. I want to make life “one grand sweet song.” I have gone
about the house today feeling like a woman consecrated and set apart
from other women by Walter’s love. Nothing could spoil it, not even
when Sara scolded me for letting the preserves burn in the kettle
because I forgot to stir them while I was planning out our life
together. Sara said she really did not know what would happen to me
some day if I was so careless and forgetful. But then, Sara does not
understand.

August Twentieth.

It is all over. Life is ended for me and I do not know how I can face
the desolate future. Walter and I have quarrelled and our engagement
is broken. He is gone and my heart is breaking.




I hardly know how it began. I’m sure I never meant to flirt with Jack
Ray. I never did flirt with him either, in spite of Walter’s unmanly
accusations. But Walter has been jealous of Jack all summer, although
he knew perfectly well he needn’t be, and two nights ago at the Morley
dance poor Jack seemed so dull and unhappy that I tried to cheer him
up a little and be kind to him. I danced with him three times and sat
out another dance just to talk with him in a real sisterly fashion.
But Walter was furious and last night when he came up he said horrid
things–things no girl of any spirit could endure, and things he could
never have said to me if he had really cared one bit for me. We had a
frightful quarrel and when I saw plainly that Walter no longer loved
me I told him that he was free and that I never wanted to see him
again and that I hated him. He glared at me and said that I should
have my wish–I never should see him again and he hoped he would never
again meet such a faithless, fickle girl. Then he went away and
slammed the front door.

I cried all night, but today I went about the house singing. I would
not for the world let other people know how Walter has treated me. I
will hide my broken heart under a smiling face bravely. But, oh, I am
so miserable! Just as soon as I am old enough I mean to go away and be
a trained nurse. There is nothing else left in life for me. Sara does
not suspect that anything is wrong and I am so thankful she does not.
She would not understand.

September Sixth.

Today I read this journal over and thought I would burn it, it is so
silly. But on second thought I concluded to keep it as a reminder of
how blind and selfish I was and how good Sara is. For I am happy again
and everything is all right, thanks to Sara. The very day after our
quarrel Walter left Atwater. He did not have to return to college for
three weeks, but he went to visit some friends down in Charlotteville
and I heard–Mollie Roach told me–Mollie Roach was always wild about
Walter herself–that he was not coming back again, but would go right
on to Marlboro from Charlotteville. I smiled squarely at Mollie as if
I didn’t care a particle, but I can’t describe how I felt. I knew then
that I had really been hoping that something would happen in three
weeks to make our quarrel up. In a small place like Atwater people in
the same set can’t help meeting. But Walter had gone and I should
never see him again, and what was worse I knew he didn’t care or he
wouldn’t have gone.

I bore it in silence for three weeks, but I will shudder to the end of
my life when I remember those three weeks. Night before last Sara came
up to my room where I was lying on my bed with my face in the pillow.
I wasn’t crying–I couldn’t cry. There was just a dreadful dull ache
in everything. Sara sat down on the rocker in front of the window and
the sunset light came in behind her and made a sort of nimbus round
her head, like a motherly saint’s in a cathedral.

“Beatrice,” she said gently, “I want to know what the trouble is. You
can’t hide it from me that something is wrong. I’ve noticed it for
some time. You don’t eat anything and you cry all night–oh, yes, I
know you do. What is it, dear?”

“Oh, Sara!”

I just gave a little cry, slipped from the bed to the floor, laid my
head in her lap, and told her everything. It was such a relief, and
such a relief to feel those good motherly arms around me and to
realize that here was a love that would never fail me no matter what I
did or how foolish I was. Sara heard me out and then she said, without
a word of reproach or contempt, “It will all come out right yet, dear.
Write to Walter and tell him you are sorry.”

“Sara, I never could! He doesn’t love me any longer–he said he hoped
he’d never see me again.”

“Didn’t you say the same to him, child? He meant it as little as you
did. Don’t let your foolish pride keep you miserable.”

“If Walter won’t come back to me without my asking him he’ll never
come, Sara,” I said stubbornly.

Sara didn’t scold or coax any more. She patted my head and kissed me
and made me bathe my face and go to bed. Then she tucked me in just as
she used to do when I was a little girl.

“Now, don’t cry, dear,” she said, “it will come right yet.”

Somehow, I began to hope it would when Sara thought so, and anyhow it
was such a comfort to have talked it all over with her. I slept better
than I had for a long time, and it was seven o’clock yesterday morning
when I woke to find that it was a dull grey day outside and that Sara
was standing by my bed with her hat and jacket on.

“I’m going down to Junction Falls on the 7:30 train to see Mr. Conway
about coming to fix the back kitchen floor,” she said, “and I have
some other business that may keep me for some time, so don’t be
anxious if I’m not back till late. Give the bread a good kneading in
an hour’s time and be careful not to bake it too much.”

That was a dismal day. It began to rain soon after Sara left and it
just poured. I never saw a soul all day except the milkman, and I was
really frantic by night. I never was so glad of anything as when I
heard Sara’s step on the verandah. I flew to the front door to let her
in–and there was Walter all dripping wet–and his arms were about me
and I was crying on the shoulder of his mackintosh.

I only guessed then what I knew later on. Sara had heard from Mrs.
Shirley that Walter was going to Marlboro that day without coming back
to Atwater. Sara knew that he must change trains at Junction Falls and
she went there to meet him. She didn’t know what train he would come
on so she went to meet the earliest and had to wait till the last,
hanging around the dirty little station at the Falls all day while it
poured rain, and she hadn’t a thing to eat except some fancy biscuits
she had bought on the train. But Walter came at last on the 7:50 train
and there was Sara to pounce on him. He told me afterwards that no
angel could have been so beautiful a vision to him as Sara was,
standing there on the wet platform with her tweed skirt held up and a
streaming umbrella over her head, telling him he must come back to
Atwater because Beatrice wanted him to.

But just at the moment of his coming I didn’t care how he had come or
who had brought him. I just realized that he was there and that was
enough. Sara came in behind him. Walter’s wet arms were about me and I
was standing there with my thin-slippered feet in a little pool of
water that dripped from his umbrella. But Sara never said a word about
colds and dampness. She just smiled, went on into the sitting-room,
and shut the door. Sara understood.

Continue Reading

The Story of Uncle Dick

I had two schools offered me that summer, one at Rocky Valley and one
at Bayside. At first I inclined to Rocky Valley; it possessed a
railway station and was nearer the centres of business and educational
activity. But eventually I chose Bayside, thinking that its country
quietude would be a good thing for a student who was making
school-teaching the stepping-stone to a college course.

I had reason to be glad of my choice, for in Bayside I met Uncle Dick.
Ever since it has seemed to me that not to have known Uncle Dick would
have been to miss a great sweetness and inspiration from my life. He
was one of those rare souls whose friendship is at once a pleasure
and a benediction, showering light from their own crystal clearness
into all the dark corners in the souls of others until, for the time
being at least, they reflected his own simplicity and purity. Uncle
Dick could no more help bringing delight into the lives of his
associates than could the sunshine or the west wind or any other of
the best boons of nature.

I had been in Bayside three weeks before I met him, although his farm
adjoined the one where I boarded and I passed at a little distance
from his house every day in my short cut across the fields to school.
I even passed his garden unsuspectingly for a week, never dreaming
that behind that rank of leafy, rustling poplars lay a veritable
“God’s acre” of loveliness and fragrance. But one day as I went by, a
whiff of something sweeter than the odours of Araby brushed my face
and, following the wind that had blown it through the poplars, I went
up to the white paling and found there a trellis of honeysuckle, and
beyond it Uncle Dick’s garden. Thereafter I daily passed close by the
fence that I might have the privilege of looking over it.

It would be hard to define the charm of that garden. It did not
consist in order or system, for there was no trace of either, except,
perhaps, in that prim row of poplars growing about the whole domain
and shutting it away from all idle and curious eyes. For the rest, I
think the real charm must have been in its unexpectedness. At every
turn and in every nook you stumbled on some miracle of which you had
never dreamed. Or perhaps the charm was simply that the whole garden
was an expression of Uncle Dick’s personality.

In one corner a little green dory, filled with earth, overflowed in a
wave of gay annuals. In the centre of the garden an old birch-bark
canoe seemed sailing through a sea of blossoms, with a many-coloured
freight of geraniums. Paths twisted and turned among flowering shrubs,
and clumps of old-fashioned perennials were mingled with the latest
fads of the floral catalogues. The mid-garden was a pool of sunshine,
with finely sifted winds purring over it, but under the poplars there
were shadows and growing things that loved the shadows, crowding about
the old stone benches at each side. Somehow, my daily glimpse of Uncle
Dick’s garden soon came to symbolize for me a meaning easier to
translate into life and soul than into words. It was a power for good
within me, making its influence felt in many ways.

Finally I caught Uncle Dick in his garden. On my way home one evening
I found him on his knees among the rosebushes, and as soon as he saw
me he sprang up and came forward with outstretched hand. He was a tall
man of about fifty, with grizzled hair, but not a thread of silver yet
showed itself in the ripples of his long brown beard. Later I
discovered that his splendid beard was Uncle Dick’s only vanity. So
fine and silky was it that it did not hide the candid, sensitive
curves of his mouth, around which a mellow smile, tinged with kindly,
quizzical humour, always lingered. His face was tanned even more
deeply than is usual among farmers, for he had an inveterate habit of
going about hatless in the most merciless sunshine; but the line of
forehead under his hair was white as milk, and his eyes were darkly
blue and as tender as a woman’s.

“How do you do, Master?” he said heartily. (The Bayside pedagogue was
invariably addressed as “Master” by young and old.) “I’m glad to see
you. Here I am, trying to save my rosebushes. There are green bugs on
’em, Master–green bugs, and they’re worrying the life out of me.”

I smiled, for Uncle Dick looked very unlike a worrying man, even over
such a serious accident as green bugs.

“Your roses don’t seem to mind, Mr. Oliver,” I said. “They are the
finest I have ever seen.”

The compliment to his roses, well-deserved as it was, did not at first
engage his attention. He pretended to frown at me.

“Don’t get into any bad habit of mistering me, Master,” he said.
“You’d better begin by calling me Uncle Dick from the start and then
you won’t have the trouble of changing. Because it would come to
that–it always does. But come in, come in! There’s a gate round here.
I want to get acquainted with you. I have a taste for schoolmasters. I
didn’t possess it when I was a boy” (a glint of fun appeared in his
blue eyes). “It’s an acquired taste.”

I accepted his invitation and went, not only into his garden but, as
was proved later, into his confidence and affection. He linked his arm
with mine and piloted me about to show me his pets.

“I potter about this garden considerable,” he said. “It pleases the
women folks to have lots of posies.”

I laughed, for Uncle Dick was a bachelor and considered to be a
hopeless one.

“Don’t laugh, Master,” he said, pressing my arm. “I’ve no woman folk
of my own about me now, ’tis true. But all the girls in the district
come to Uncle Dick when they want flowers for their little diversions.
Besides–perhaps–sometimes–”

Uncle Dick broke off and stood in a brown study, looking at an old
stump aflame with nasturtiums for fully three minutes. Later on I was
to learn the significance of that pause and reverie.

I spent the whole evening with Uncle Dick. After we had explored the
garden he took me into his house and into his “den.” The house was a
small white one and wonderfully neat inside, considering the fact that
Uncle Dick was his own housekeeper. His “den” was a comfortable place,
its one window so shadowed by a huge poplar that the room had a
grotto-like effect of emerald gloom. I came to know it well, for, at
Uncle Dick’s invitation, I did my studying there and browsed at will
among his classics. We soon became close friends. Uncle Dick had
always “chummed with the masters,” as he said, but our friendship
went deeper. For my own part, I preferred his company to that of any
young man I knew. There was a perennial spring of youth in Uncle
Dick’s soul that yet had all the fascinating flavour of ripe
experience. He was clever, kindly, humorous and, withal, so crystal
clear of mind and heart that an atmosphere partaking of childhood hung
around him.

I knew Uncle Dick’s outward history as the Bayside people knew it. It
was not a very eventful one. He had lost his father in boyhood; before
that there had been some idea of Dick’s going to college. After his
father’s death he seemed quietly to have put all such hopes away and
settled down to look after the farm and take care of his invalid
stepmother. This woman, as I learned from others, but never from Uncle
Dick, had been a peevish, fretful, exacting creature, and for nearly
thirty years Uncle Dick had been a very slave to her whims and
caprices.

“Nobody knows what he had to put up with, for he never complained,”
Mrs. Lindsay, my landlady, told me. “She was out of her mind once and
she was liable to go out of it again if she was crossed in anything.
He was that good and patient with her. She was dreadful fond of him
too, for all she did almost worry his life out. No doubt she was the
reason he never married. He couldn’t leave her and he knew no woman
would go in there. Uncle Dick never courted anyone, unless it was Rose
Lawrence. She was a cousin of my man’s. I’ve heard he had a kindness
for her; it was years ago, before I came to Bayside. But anyway,
nothing came of it. Her father’s health failed and he had to go out to
California. Rose had to go with him, her mother being dead, and that
was the end of Uncle Dick’s love affair.”

But that was not the end of it, as I discovered when Uncle Dick gave
me his confidence. One evening I went over and, piloted by the sound
of shrieks and laughter, found Uncle Dick careering about the garden,
pursued by half a dozen schoolgirls who were pelting him with
overblown roses. At sight of the master my pupils instantly became
prim and demure and, gathering up their flowery spoil, they beat a
hasty retreat down the lane.

“Those little girls are very sweet,” said Uncle Dick abruptly. “Little
blossoms of life! Have you ever wondered, Master, why I haven’t some
of my own blooming about the old place instead of just looking over
the fence of other men’s gardens, coveting their human roses?”

“Yes, I have,” I answered frankly. “It has been a puzzle to me why
you, Uncle Dick, who seem to me fitted above all men I have ever known
for love and husbandhood and fatherhood, should have elected to live
your life alone.”

“It has not been a matter of choice,” said Uncle Dick gently. “We
can’t always order our lives as we would, Master. I loved a woman once
and she loved me. And we love each other still. Do you think I could
bear life else? I’ve an interest in it that the Bayside folk know
nothing of. It has kept youth in my heart and joy in my soul through
long, lonely years. And it’s not ended yet, Master–it’s not ended
yet! Some day I hope to bring a wife here to my old house–my wife, my
rose of joy!”

He was silent for a space, gazing at the stars. I too kept silence,
fearing to intrude into the holy places of his thought, although I was
tingling with interest in this unsuspected outflowering of romance in
Uncle Dick’s life.

After a time he said gently,

“Shall I tell you about it, Master? I mean, do you care to know?”

“Yes,” I answered, “I do care to know. And I shall respect your
confidence, Uncle Dick.”

“I know that. I couldn’t tell you, otherwise,” he said. “I don’t want
the Bayside folk to know–it would be a kind of desecration. They
would laugh and joke me about it, as they tease other people, and I
couldn’t bear that. Nobody in Bayside knows or suspects, unless it’s
old Joe Hammond at the post office. And he has kept my secret, or what
he knows of it, well. But somehow I feel that I’d like to tell you,
Master.




“Twenty-five years ago I loved Rose Lawrence. The Lawrences lived
where you are boarding now. There was just the father, a sickly man,
and Rose, my “Rose of joy,” as I called her, for I knew my Emerson
pretty well even then. She was sweet and fair, like a white rose with
just a hint of pink in its cup. We loved each other, but we couldn’t
marry then. My mother was an invalid, and one time, before I had
learned to care for Rose, she, the mother, had asked me to promise
her that I’d never marry as long as she lived. She didn’t think then
that she would live long, but she lived for twenty years, Master, and
she held me to my promise all the time. Yes, it was hard”–for I had
given an indignant exclamation–“but you see, Master, I had promised
and I had to keep my word. Rose said I was right in doing it. She said
she was willing to wait for me, but she didn’t know, poor girl, how
long the waiting was to be. Then her father’s health failed
completely, and the doctor ordered him to another climate. They went
to California. That was a hard parting, Master. But we promised each
other that we would be true, and we have been. I’ve never seen my Rose
of joy since then, but I’ve had a letter from her every week. When the
mother died, five years ago, I wanted to move to California and marry
Rose. But she wrote that her father was so poorly she couldn’t marry
me yet. She has to wait on him every minute, and he’s restless, and
they move here and there–a hard life for my poor girl. So I had to
take a new lease of patience, Master. One learns how to wait in twenty
years. But I shall have her some day, God willing. Our love will be
crowned yet. So I wait, Master, and try to keep my life and soul clean
and wholesome and young for her.

“That’s my story, Master, and we’ll not say anything more about it
just now, for I dare say you don’t exactly know what to say. But at
times I’ll talk of her to you and that will be a rare pleasure to me;
I think that was why I wanted you to know about her.”

He did talk often to me of her, and I soon came to realize what this
far-away woman meant in his life. She was for him the centre of
everything. His love was strong, pure, and idyllic–the ideal love of
which the loftiest poets sing. It glorified his whole inner life with
a strange, unfailing radiance. I found that everything he did was done
with an eye single to what she would think of it when she came.
Especially did he put his love into his garden.

“Every flower in it stands for a thought of her, Master,” he said. “It
is a great joy to think that she will walk in this garden with me some
day. It will be complete then–my Rose of joy will be here to crown
it.”

That summer and winter passed away, and when spring came again,
lettering her footsteps with violets in the meadows and waking all the
sleeping loveliness of old homestead gardens, Uncle Dick’s long
deferred happiness came with her. One evening when I was in our “den,”
mid-deep in study of old things that seemed musty and unattractive
enough in contrast with the vivid, newborn, out-of-doors, Uncle Dick
came home from the post office with an open letter in his hand. His
big voice trembled as he said,

“Master, she’s coming home. Her father is dead and she has nobody in
the world now but me. In a month she will be here. Don’t talk to me of
it yet–I want to taste the joy of it in silence for a while.”

He hastened away to his garden and walked there until darkness fell,
with his face uplifted to the sky, and the love rapture of countless
generations shining in his eyes. Later on, we sat on one of the old
stone benches and Uncle Dick tried to talk practically.

Bayside people soon found out that Rose Lawrence was coming home to
marry Uncle Dick. Uncle Dick was much teased, and suffered under it;
it seemed, as he had said, desecration. But the real goodwill and
kindly feeling in the banter redeemed it.

He went to the station to meet Rose Lawrence the day she came. When I
went home from school Mrs. Lindsay told me she was in the parlour and
took me in to be introduced. I was bitterly disappointed. Somehow, I
had expected to meet, not indeed a young girl palpitating with
youthful bloom, but a woman of ripe maturity, dowered with the beauty
of harmonious middle-age–the feminine counterpart of Uncle Dick.
Instead, I found in Rose Lawrence a small, faded woman of forty-five,
gowned in shabby black. She had evidently been very pretty once, but
bloom and grace were gone. Her face had a sweet and gentle expression,
but was tired and worn, and her fair hair was plentifully streaked
with grey. Alas, I thought compassionately, for Uncle Dick’s dreams!
What a shock the change to her must have given him! Could this be the
woman on whom he had lavished such a life-wealth of love and
reverence? I tried to talk to her, but I found her shy and timid. She
seemed to me uninteresting and commonplace. And this was Uncle Dick’s
Rose of joy!

I was so sorry for Uncle Dick that I shrank from meeting him.
Nevertheless, I went over after tea, fearing that he might
misunderstand, nay, rather, understand, my absence. He was in the
garden, and he came down the path where the buds were just showing.
There was a smile on his face and the glory in his eyes was quite
undimmed.

“Master, she’s come. And she’s not a bit changed. I feared she would
be, but she is just the same–my sweet little Rose of joy!”

I looked at Uncle Dick in some amazement. He was thoroughly sincere,
there was no doubt of that, and I felt a great throb of relief. He had
found no disillusioning change. I saw Rose Lawrence merely with the
cold eyes of the stranger. He saw her through the transfiguring medium
of a love that made her truly his Rose of joy. And all was well.

They were married the next morning and walked together over the clover
meadow to their home. In the evening I went over, as I had promised
Uncle Dick to do. They were in the garden, with a great saffron sky
over them and a glory of sunset behind the poplars. I paused unseen at
the gate. Uncle Dick was big and splendid in his fine new wedding
suit, and his faded little bride was hanging on his arm. Her face was
upturned to him; it was a glorified face, so transformed by the
tender radiance of love shining through it that I saw her then as
Uncle Dick must always see her, and no longer found it hard to
understand how she could be his Rose of joy. Happiness clothed them as
a garment; they were crowned king and queen in the bridal realm of the
springtime.

Continue Reading

The Schoolmaster’s Letters

At sunset the schoolmaster went up to his room to write a letter to
her. He always wrote to her at the same time–when the red wave of the
sunset, flaming over the sea, surged in at the little curtainless
window and flowed over the pages he wrote on. The light was rose-red
and imperial and spiritual, like his love for her, and seemed almost
to dye the words of the letters in its own splendid hues–the letters
to her which she never was to see, whose words her eyes never were to
read, and whose love and golden fancy and rainbow dreams never were to
be so much as known by her. And it was because she never was to see
them that he dared to write them, straight out of his full heart,
taking the exquisite pleasure of telling her what he never could
permit himself to tell her face to face. Every evening he wrote thus
to her, and the hour so spent glorified the entire day. The rest of
the hours–all the other hours of the commonplace day–he was merely a
poor schoolmaster with a long struggle before him, one who might not
lift his eyes to gaze on a star. But at this hour he was her equal,
meeting her soul to soul, telling out as a man might all his great
love for her, and wearing the jewel of it on his brow. What wonder
indeed that the precious hour which made him a king, crowned with a
mighty and unselfish passion, was above all things sacred to him? And
doubly sacred when, as tonight, it followed upon an hour spent with
her? Its mingled delight and pain were almost more than he could bear.

He went through the kitchen and the hall and up the narrow staircase
with a glory in his eyes that thus were held from seeing his sordid
surroundings. Link Houseman, sprawled out on the platform before the
kitchen door, saw him pass with that rapt face, and chuckled. Link was
ill enough to look at any time, with his sharp, freckled features and
foxy eyes. When he chuckled his face was that of an unholy imp.

But the schoolmaster took no heed of him. Neither did he heed the girl
whom he met in the hall. Her handsome, sullen face flushed crimson
under the sting of his utter disregard, and her black eyes followed
him up the stairs with a look that was not good to see.

“Sis,” whispered Link piercingly, “come out here! I’ve got a joke to
tell you, something about the master and his girl. You ain’t to let on
to him you know, though. I found it out last night when he was off to
the shore. That old key of Uncle Jim’s was just the thing. He’s a
softy, and no mistake.”

* * * * *

Upstairs in his little room, the schoolmaster was writing his letter.
The room was as bare and graceless as all the other rooms of the
farmhouse where he had boarded during his term of teaching; but it
looked out on the sea, and was hung with such priceless tapestry of
his iris dreams and visions that it was to him an apartment in a royal
palace. From it he gazed afar on bays that were like great cups of
sapphire brimming over with ruby wine for gods to drain, on headlands
that were like amethyst, on wide sweeps of sea that were blue and far
and mysterious; and ever the moan and call of the ocean’s heart came
up to his heart as of one great, hopeless love and longing crying out
to another love and longing, as great and hopeless. And here, in the
rose-radiance of the sunset, with the sea-music in the dim air, he
wrote his letter to her.

My Lady: How beautiful it is to think that there is nothing to
prevent my loving you! There is much–everything–to prevent
me from telling you that I love you. But nothing has any right
to come between my heart and its own; it is permitted to love
you forever and ever and serve and reverence you in secret and
silence. For so much, dear, I thank life, even though the
price of the permission must always be the secret and the
silence.

I have just come from you, my lady. Your voice is still in my
ears; your eyes are still looking into mine, gravely yet half
smilingly, sweetly yet half provokingly. Oh, how dear and
human and girlish and queenly you are–half saint and half
very womanly woman! And how I love you with all there is of me
to love–heart and soul and brain, every fibre of body and
spirit thrilling to the wonder and marvel and miracle of it!
You do not know it, my sweet, and you must never know it. You
would not even wish to know it, for I am nothing to you but
one of many friends, coming into your life briefly and passing
out of it, of no more account to you than a sunshiny hour, a
bird’s song, a bursting bud in your garden. But the hour and
the bird and the flower gave you a little delight in their
turn, and when you remembered them once before forgetting,
that was their reward and blessing. That is all I ask, dear
lady, and I ask that only in my own heart. I am content to
love you and be forgotten. It is sweeter to love you and be
forgotten than it would be to love any other woman and live in
her lifelong remembrance: so humble has love made me, sweet,
so great is my sense of my own unworthiness.

Yet love must find expression in some fashion, dear, else it
is only pain, and hence these letters to you which you will
never read. I put all my heart into them; they are the best
and highest of me, the buds of a love that can never bloom
openly in the sunshine of your life. I weave a chaplet of
them, dear, and crown you with it. They will never fade, for
such love is eternal.

It is a whole summer since I first met you. I had been waiting
for you all my life before and did not know it. But I knew it
when you came and brought with you a sense of completion and
fulfilment. This has been the precious year of my life, the
turning-point to which all things past tended and all things
future must look back. Oh, my dear, I thank you for this year!
It has been your royal gift to me, and I shall be rich and
great forever because of it. Nothing can ever take it from me,
nothing can mar it. It were well to have lived a lifetime of
loneliness for such a boon–the price would not be too high. I
would not give my one perfect summer for a generation of other
men’s happiness.

There are those in the world who would laugh at me, who would
pity me, Una. They would say that the love I have poured out
in secret at your feet has been wasted, that I am a poor weak
fool to squander all my treasure of affection on a woman who
does not care for me and who is as far above me as that great
white star that is shining over the sea. Oh, my dear, they do
not know, they cannot understand. The love I have given you
has not left me poorer. It has enriched my life unspeakably;
it has opened my eyes and given me the gift of clear vision
for those things that matter; it has been a lamp held before
my stumbling feet whereby I have avoided snares and pitfalls
of baser passions and unworthy dreams. For all this I thank
you, dear, and for all this surely the utmost that I can give
of love and reverence and service is not too much.

I could not have helped loving you. But if I could have helped
it, knowing with just what measure of pain and joy it would
brim my cup, I would have chosen to love you, Una. There are
those who strive to forget a hopeless love. To me, the
greatest misfortune that life could bring would be that I
should forget you. I want to remember you always and love you
and long for you. That would be unspeakably better than any
happiness that could come to me through forgetting.

Dear lady, good night. The sun has set; there is now but one
fiery dimple on the horizon, as if a golden finger had dented
it–now it is gone; the mists are coming up over the sea.

A kiss on each of your white hands, dear. Tonight I am too
humble to lift my thoughts to your lips.

The schoolmaster folded up his letter and held it against his cheek
for a little space while he gazed out on the silver-shining sea with
his dark eyes full of dreams. Then he took from his shabby trunk a
little inlaid box and unlocked it with a twisted silver key. It was
full of letters–his letters to Una. The first had been written months
ago, in the early promise of a northern spring. They linked together
the golden weeks of the summer. Now, in the purple autumn, the box was
full, and the schoolmaster’s term was nearly ended.

He took out the letters reverently and looked over them, now and then
murmuring below his breath some passages scattered through the written
pages. He had laid bare his heart in those letters, writing out what
he never could have told her, even if his love had been known and
returned, for dead and gone generations of stern and repressed
forefathers laid their unyielding fingers of reserve on his lips, and
the shyness of dreamy, book-bred youth stemmed the language of eye and
tone.

I will love you forever and ever. And even though you know it
not, surely such love will hover around you all your life.
Like an invisible benediction, not understood but dimly felt,
guarding you from ill and keeping far from you all things and
thoughts of harm and evil!

* * * * *

Sometimes I let myself dream. And in those dreams you love me,
and we go out to meet life together. I have dreamed that you
kissed me–dreamed it so reverently that the dream did your
womanhood no wrong. I have dreamed that you put your hands in
mine and said, “I love you.” Oh, the rapture of it!

* * * * *

We may give all we will if we do not ask for a return. There
should be no barter in love. If, by reason of the greatness of
my love for you, I were to ask your love in return, I should
be a base creature. It is only because I am content to love
and serve for the sake of loving and serving that I have the
right to love you.

* * * * *

I have a memory of a blush of yours–a rose of the years that
will bloom forever in my garden of remembrance. Tonight you
blushed when I came upon you suddenly among the flowers. You
were startled–perhaps I had broken too rudely on some girlish
musing; and straightway your round, pale curve of cheek and
your white arch of brow were made rosy as with the dawn of
beautiful sunrise. I shall see you forever as you looked at
that time. In my mad moments I shall dream, knowing all the
while that it is only a dream, that you blushed with delight
at my coming. I shall be able to picture forevermore how you
would look at one you loved.

* * * * *

Tonight the moon was low in the west. It hung over the sea
like a shallop of ruddy gold moored to a star in the harbour
of the night. I lingered long and watched it, for I knew that
you, too, were watching it from your window that looks on the
sea. You told me once that you always watched the moon set. It
has been a bond between us ever since.

* * * * *

This morning I rose at dawn and walked on the shore to think
of you, because it seemed the most fitting time. It was before
sunrise, and the world was virgin. All the east was a shimmer
of silver and the morning star floated in it like a dissolving
pearl. The sea was a great miracle. I walked up and down by it
and said your name over and over again. The hour was sacred to
you. It was as pure and unspoiled as your own soul. Una, who
will bring into your life the sunrise splendour and colour of
love?

* * * * *

Do you know how beautiful you are, Una? Let me tell you, dear.
You are tall, yet you have to lift your eyes a little to meet
mine. Such dear eyes, Una! They are dark blue, and when you
smile they are like wet violets in sunshine. But when you are
pensive they are more lovely still–the spirit and enchantment
of the sea at twilight passes into them then. Your hair has
the gloss and brownness of ripe nuts, and your face is always
pale. Your lips have a trick of falling apart in a half-smile
when you listen. They told me before I knew you that you were
pretty. Pretty! The word is cheap and tawdry. You are
beautiful, with the beauty of a pearl or a star or a white
flower.

* * * * *

Do you remember our first meeting? It was one evening last
spring. You were in your garden. The snow had not all gone,
but your hands were full of pale, early flowers. You wore a
white shawl over your shoulders and head. Your face was turned
upward a little, listening to a robin’s call in the leafless
trees above you. I thought God had never made anything so
lovely and love-deserving. I loved you from that moment, Una.

* * * * *

This is your birthday. The world has been glad of you for
twenty years. It is fitting that there have been bird songs
and sunshine and blossom today, a great light and fragrance
over land and sea. This morning I went far afield to a long,
lonely valley lying to the west, girt round about with dim old
pines, where feet of men seldom tread, and there I searched
until I found some rare flowers meet to offer you. I sent them
to you with a little book, an old book. A new book, savouring
of the shop and marketplace, however beautiful it might be,
would not do for you. So I sent the book that was my mother’s.
She read it and loved it–the faded rose-leaves she placed in
it are there still. At first, dear, I almost feared to send
it. Would you miss its meaning? Would you laugh a little at
the shabby volume with its pencil marks and its rose-leaves?
But I knew you would not; I knew you would understand.

* * * * *

Today I saw you with the child of your sister in your arms. I
felt as the old painters must have felt when they painted
their Madonnas. You bent over his shining golden head, and on
your face was the mother passion and tenderness that is God’s
finishing touch to the beauty of womanhood. The next moment
you were laughing with him–two children playing together. But
I had looked upon you in that brief space. Oh, the pain and
joy of it!

* * * * *

It is so sweet, dear, to serve you a little, though it be only
in opening a door for you to pass through, or handing you a
book or a sheet of music! Love wishes to do so much for the
beloved! I can do so little for you, but that little is
sweet.

* * * * *

This evening I read to you the poem which you had asked me to
read. You sat before me with your brown head leaning on your
hands and your eyes cast down. I stole dear glances at you
between the lines. When I finished I put a red, red rose from
your garden between the pages and crushed the book close on
it. That poem will always be dear to me, stained with the
life-blood of a rose-like hour.

* * * * *

I do not know which is the sweeter, your laughter or your
sadness. When you laugh you make me glad, but when you are sad
I want to share in your sadness and soothe it. I think I am
nearer to you in your sorrowful moods.

* * * * *

Today I met you by accident at the turn of the lane. Nothing
told me that you were coming–not even the wind, that should
have known. I was sad, and then all at once I saw you, and
wondered how I could have been sad. You walked past me with a
smile, as if you had tossed me a rose. I stood and watched you
out of sight. That meeting was the purple gift the day gave
me.




* * * * *

Today I tried to write a poem to you, Una, but I could not
find words fine enough, as a lover could find no raiment
dainty enough for his bride. The old words other men have used
in singing to their loves seemed too worn and common for you.
I wanted only new words, crystal clear or coloured only by the
iris of the light, not words that have been steeped and
stained with all the hues of other men’s thoughts. So I burned
the verses that were so unworthy of you.

* * * * *

Una, some day you will love. You will watch for him; you will
blush at his coming, be sad at his going. Oh, I cannot think
of it!

* * * * *

Today I saw you when you did not see me. I was walking on the
shore, and as I came around a rock you were sitting on the
other side. I drew back a little and looked at you. Your hands
were clasped over your knees; your hat had fallen back, and
the sea wind was ruffling your hair. Your face was lifted to
the sky, your lips were parted, your eyes were full of light.
You seemed to be listening to something that made you happy. I
crept gently away, that I might not mar your dream. Of what
were you thinking, Una?

* * * * *

I must leave you soon. Sometimes I think I cannot bear it. Oh,
Una, how selfish it is of me to wish that you might love me!
Yet I do wish it, although I have nothing to offer you but a
great love and all my willing work of hand and brain. If you
loved me, I fear I should be weak enough to do you the wrong
of wooing you. I want you so much, dear!

The schoolmaster added the last letter to the others and locked the
box. When he unlocked it again, two days later, the letters were gone.

He gazed at the empty box with dilated eyes. At first he could not
realize what had happened. The letters could not be gone! He must have
made a mistake, have put them in some other place! With trembling
fingers he ransacked his trunk. There was no trace of the letters.
With a groan he dropped his face in his hands and tried to think.

His letters were gone–those precious letters, held almost too sacred
for his own eyes to read after they were written–had been stolen from
him! The inmost secrets of his soul had been betrayed. Who had done
this hideous thing?

He rose and went downstairs. In the farmyard he found Link tormenting
his dog. Link was happy only when he was tormenting something. He
never had been afraid of anything in his life before, but now
absolute terror took possession of him at sight of the schoolmaster’s
face. Physical strength and force had no power to frighten the sullen
lad, but all the irresistible might of a fine soul roused to frenzy
looked out in the young man’s blazing eyes, dilated nostrils, and
tense white mouth. It cowed the boy, because it was something he could
not understand. He only realized that he was in the presence of a
force that was not to be trifled with.

“Link, where are my letters?” said the schoolmaster.

“I didn’t take ’em, Master!” cried Link, crumpling up visibly in his
sheer terror. “I didn’t. I never teched ’em! It was Sis. I told her
not to–I told her you’d be awful mad, but she wouldn’t tend to me. It
was Sis took ’em. Ask her, if you don’t believe me.”

The schoolmaster believed him. Nothing was too horrible to believe
just then. “What has she done with them?” he said hoarsely.

“She–she sent ’em to Una Clifford,” whimpered Link. “I told her not
to. She’s mad at you, cause you went to see Una and wouldn’t go with
her. She thought Una would be mad at you for writing ’em, cause the
Cliffords are so proud and think themselves above everybody else. So
she sent ’em. I–I told her not to.”

The schoolmaster said not another word. He turned his back on the
whining boy and went to his room. He felt sick with shame. The
indecency of the whole thing revolted him. It was as if his naked
heart had been torn from his breast and held up to the jeers of a
vulgar world by the merciless hand of a scorned and jealous woman. He
felt stunned as if by a physical blow.

After a time his fierce anger and shame died into a calm desperation.
The deed was done beyond recall. It only remained for him to go to
Una, tell her the truth, and implore her pardon. Then he must go from
her sight and presence forever.

* * * * *

It was dusk when he went to her home. They told him that she was in
the garden, and he found her there, standing at the curve of the box
walk, among the last late-blooming flowers of the summer.

Have you thought from his letters that she was a wonderful woman of
marvellous beauty? Not so. She was a sweet and slender slip of
girlhood, with girlhood’s own charm and freshness. There were
thousands like her in the world–thank God for it!–but only one like
her in one man’s eyes.

He stood before her mute with shame, his boyish face white and
haggard. She had blushed crimson all over her dainty paleness at sight
of him, and laid her hand quickly on the breast of her white gown. Her
eyes were downcast and her breath came shortly.

He thought her silence the silence of anger and scorn. He wished that
he might fling himself in the dust at her feet.

“Una–Miss Clifford–forgive me!” he stammered miserably. “I–I did
not send them. I never meant that you should see them. A shameful
trick has been played upon me. Forgive me!”

“For what am I to forgive you?” she asked gravely. She did not look
up, but her lips parted in the little half-smile he loved. The blush
was still on her face.

“For my presumption,” he whispered. “I–I could not help loving you,
Una. If you have read the letters you know all the rest.”

“I have read the letters, every word,” she answered, pressing her hand
a little more closely to her breast. “Perhaps I should not have done
so, for I soon discovered that they were not meant for me to read. I
thought at first you had sent them, although the writing of the
address on the packet did not look like yours; but even when I knew
you did not I could not help reading them all. I do not know who sent
them, but I am very grateful to the sender.”

“Grateful?” he said wonderingly.

“Yes. I have something to forgive you, but not–not your presumption.
It is your blindness, I think–and–and your cruel resolution to go
away and never tell me of your–your love for me. If it had not been
for the sending of these letters I might never have known. How can I
forgive you for that?”

“Una!” he said. He had been very blind, but he was beginning to see.
He took a step nearer and took her hands. She threw up her head and
gazed, blushingly, steadfastly, into his eyes. From the folds of her
gown she drew forth the little packet of letters and kissed it.

“Your dear letters!” she said bravely. “They have given me the right
to speak out. I will speak out! I love you, dear! I will be content to
wait through long years until you can claim me. I–I have been so
happy since your letters came!”

He put his arms around her and drew her head close to his. Their lips
met.

Continue Reading

The Redemption of John Churchill

John Churchill walked slowly, not as a man walks who is tired, or
content to saunter for the pleasure of it, but as one in no haste to
reach his destination through dread of it. The day was well on to late
afternoon in mid-spring, and the world was abloom. Before him and
behind him wound a road that ran like a red ribbon through fields of
lush clovery green. The orchards scattered along it were white and
fragrant, giving of their incense to a merry south-west wind;
fence-corner nooks were purple with patches of violets or golden-green
with the curly heads of young ferns. The roadside was sprinkled over
with the gold dust of dandelions and the pale stars of wild strawberry
blossoms. It seemed a day through which a man should walk lightly and
blithely, looking the world and his fellows frankly in the face, and
opening his heart to let the springtime in.

But John Churchill walked laggingly, with bent head. When he met other
wayfarers or was passed by them, he did not lift his face, but only
glanced up under his eyebrows with a furtive look that was replaced by
a sort of shamed relief when they had passed on without recognizing
him. Some of them he knew for friends of the old time. Ten years had
not changed them as he had been changed. They had spent those ten
years in freedom and good repute, under God’s blue sky, in His glad
air and sunshine. He, John Churchill, had spent them behind the walls
of a prison.

His close-clipped hair was grey; his figure, encased in an ill-fitting
suit of coarse cloth, was stooped and shrunken; his face was deeply
lined; yet he was not an old man in years. He was only forty; he was
thirty when he had been convicted of embezzling the bank funds for
purposes of speculation and had been sent to prison, leaving behind a
wife and father who were broken-hearted and a sister whose pride had
suffered more than her heart.

He had never seen them since, but he knew what had happened in his
absence. His wife had died two months later, leaving behind her a baby
boy; his father had died within the year. He had killed them; he, John
Churchill, who loved them, had killed them as surely as though his
hand had struck them down in cold blood. His sister had taken the
baby, his little son whom he had never seen, but for whom he had
prepared such a birthright of dishonour. She had never forgiven her
brother and she never wrote to him. He knew that she would have
brought the boy up either in ignorance of his father’s crime or in
utter detestation of it. When he came back to the world after his
imprisonment, there was not a single friendly hand to clasp his and
help him struggle up again. The best his friends had been able to do
for him was to forget him.

He was filled with bitterness and despair and a gnawing hatred of the
world of brightness around him. He had no place in it; he was an ugly
blot on it. He was a friendless, wifeless, homeless man who could not
so much as look his fellow men in the face, who must henceforth
consort with outcasts. In his extremity he hated God and man, burning
with futile resentment against both.

Only one feeling of tenderness yet remained in his heart; it centred
around the thought of his little son.

When he left the prison he had made up his mind what to do. He had a
little money which his father had left him, enough to take him west.
He would go there, under a new name. There would be novelty and
adventure to blot out the memories of the old years. He did not care
what became of him, since there was no one else to care. He knew in
his heart that his future career would probably lead him still further
and further downward, but that did not matter. If there had been
anybody to care, he might have thought it worthwhile to struggle back
to respectability and trample his shame under feet that should
henceforth walk only in the ways of honour and honesty. But there was
nobody to care. So he would go to his own place.

But first he must see little Joey, who must be quite a big boy now,
nearly ten years old. He would go home and see him just once, even
although he dreaded meeting aversion in the child’s eyes. Then, when
he had bade him good-bye, and, with him, good-bye to all that remained
to make for good in his desolated existence, he would go out of his
life forever.

“I’ll go straight to the devil then,” he said sullenly. “That’s where
I belong, a jail-bird at whom everybody except other jail-birds looks
askance. To think what I was once, and what I am now! It’s enough to
drive a man mad! As for repenting, bah! Who’d believe that I really
repented, who’d give me a second chance on the faith of it? Not a
soul. Repentance won’t blot out the past. It won’t give me back my
wife whom I loved above everything on earth and whose heart I broke.
It won’t restore me my unstained name and my right to a place among
honourable men. There’s no chance for a man who has fallen as low as I
have. If Emily were living, I could struggle for her sake. But who’d
be fool enough to attempt such a fight with no motive and not one
chance of success in a hundred. Not I. I’m down and I’ll stay down.
There’s no climbing up again.”

He celebrated his first day of freedom by getting drunk, although he
had never before been an intemperate man. Then, when the effects of
the debauch wore off, he took the train for Alliston; he would go home
and see little Joey once.

Nobody at the station where he alighted recognized him or paid any
attention to him. He was as a dead man who had come back to life to
find himself effaced from recollection and his place knowing him no
more. It was three miles from the station to where his sister lived,
and he resolved to walk the distance. Now that the critical moment
drew near, he shrank from it and wished to put it off as long as he
could.

When he reached his sister’s home he halted on the road and surveyed
the place over its snug respectability of iron fence. His courage
failed him at the thought of walking over that trim lawn and knocking
at that closed front door. He would slip around by the back way;
perhaps, who knew, he might come upon Joey without running the
gauntlet of his sister’s cold, offended eyes. If he might only find
the boy and talk to him for a little while without betraying his
identity, meet his son’s clear gaze without the danger of finding
scorn or fear in it–his heart beat high at the thought.

He walked furtively up the back way between high, screening hedges of
spruce. When he came to the gate of the yard, he paused. He heard
voices just beyond the thick hedge, children’s voices, and he crept as
near as he could to the sound and peered through the hedge, with a
choking sensation in his throat and a smart in his eyes. Was that
Joey, could that be his little son? Yes, it was; he would have known
him anywhere by his likeness to Emily. Their boy had her curly brown
hair, her sensitive mouth, above all, her clear-gazing, truthful grey
eyes, eyes in which there was never a shadow of falsehood or
faltering.

Joey Churchill was sitting on a stone bench in his aunt’s kitchen
yard, holding one of his black-stockinged knees between his small,
brown hands. Jimmy Morris was standing opposite to him, his back
braced against the trunk of a big, pink-blossomed apple tree, his
hands in his pockets, and a scowl on his freckled face. Jimmy lived
next door to Joey and as a rule they were very good friends, but this
afternoon they had quarrelled over the right and proper way to
construct an Indian ambush in the fir grove behind the pig-house. The
argument was long and warm and finally culminated in personalities.
Just as John Churchill dropped on one knee behind the hedge, the
better to see Joey’s face, Jimmy Morris said scornfully:

“I don’t care what you say. Nobody believes you. Your father is in the
penitentiary.”

The taunt struck home as it always did. It was not the first time that
Joey had been twitted with his father by his boyish companions. But
never before by Jimmy! It always hurt him, and he had never before
made any response to it. His face would flush crimson, his lips would
quiver, and his big grey eyes darken miserably with the shadow that
was on his life; he would turn away in silence. But that Jimmy, his
best beloved chum, should say such a thing to him; oh, it hurt
terribly.

There is nothing so merciless as a small boy. Jimmy saw his advantage
and vindictively pursued it.

“Your father stole money, that’s what he did! You know he did. I’m
pretty glad _my_ father isn’t a thief. _Your_ father is. And when he
gets out of prison, he’ll go on stealing again. My father says he
will. Nobody’ll have anything to do with him, my father says. His own
sister won’t have anything to do with him. So there, Joey Churchill!”

“There _will_ somebody have something to do with him!” cried Joey
hotly. He slid off the bench and faced Jimmy proudly and confidently.
The unseen watcher on the other side of the hedge saw his face grow
white and intense and set-lipped, as if it had been the face of a
man. The grey eyes were alight with a steady, fearless glow.

“_I’ll_ have something to do with him. He is my father and I love him.
I don’t care what he did, I love him just as well as if he was the
best man in the world. I love him better than if he was as good as
your father, because he needs it more. I’ve always loved him ever
since I found out about him. I’d write to him and tell him so, if Aunt
Beatrice would tell me where to send the letter. Aunt Beatrice won’t
ever talk about him or let me talk about him, but I _think_ about him
all the time. And he’s going to be a good man yet, yes, he is, just as
good as your father, Jimmy Morris. I’m going to _make_ him good. I
made up my mind years ago what I would do and I’m going to do it, so
there, Jimmy.”

“I don’t see what you can do,” muttered Jimmy, already ashamed of what
he had said and wishing he had let Joey’s father alone.

“I’ll tell you what I can do!” Joey was confronting all the world now,
with his head thrown back and his face flushed with his earnestness.
“I can love him and stand by him, and I will. When he gets out of–of
prison, he’ll come to see me, I know he will. And I’m just going to
hug him and kiss him and say, ‘Never mind, Father. I know you’re sorry
for what you’ve done, and you’re never going to do it any more. You’re
going to be a good man and I’m going to stand by you.’ Yes, sir,
that’s just what I’m going to say to him. I’m all the children he has
and there’s nobody else to love him, because I know Aunt Beatrice
doesn’t. And I’m going with him wherever he goes.”




“You can’t,” said Jimmy in a scared tone. “Your Aunt Beatrice won’t
let you.”

“Yes, she will. She’ll have to. I belong to my father. And I think
he’ll be coming pretty soon some way. I’m pretty sure the time must be
‘most up. I wish he would come. I want to see him as much as can be,
’cause I know he’ll need me. And I’ll be proud of him yet, Jimmy
Morris, yes, I’ll be just as proud as you are of your father. When I
get bigger, nobody will call my father names, I can tell you. I’ll
fight them if they do, yes, sir, I will. My father and I are going to
stand by each other like bricks. Aunt Beatrice has lots of children of
her own and I don’t believe she’ll be a bit sorry when I go away.
She’s ashamed of my father ’cause he did a bad thing. But I’m not, no,
sir. I’m going to love him so much that I’ll make up to him for
everything else. And you can just go home, Jimmy Morris, so there!”

Jimmy Morris went home, and when he had gone, Joey flung himself face
downward in the grass and fallen apple blossoms and lay very still.

On the other side of the spruce hedge knelt John Churchill with bowed
head. The tears were running freely down his face, but there was a
new, tender light in his eyes. The bitterness and despair had fallen
out of his heart, leaving a great peace and a dawning hope in their
place. Bless that loyal little soul! There was something to live for
after all–there was a motive to make the struggle worthwhile. He must
justify his son’s faith in him; he must strive to make himself worthy
of this sweet, pure, unselfish love that was offered to him, as a
divine draught is offered to the parched lips of a man perishing from
thirst. Aye, and, God helping him, he would. He would redeem the
past. He would go west, but under his own name. His little son should
go with him; he would work hard; he would pay back the money he had
embezzled, as much of it as he could, if it took the rest of his life
to do so. For his boy’s sake he must cleanse his name from the
dishonour he had brought on it. Oh, thank God, there was somebody to
care, somebody to love him, somebody to believe him when he said
humbly, “I repent.” Under his breath he said, looking heavenward:

“God be merciful to me, a sinner.”

Then he stood up erectly, went through the gate and over the grass to
the motionless little figure with its face buried in its arms.

“Joey boy,” he said huskily. “Joey boy.”

Joey sprang to his feet with tears still glistening in his eyes. He
saw before him a bent, grey-headed man looking at him lovingly and
wistfully. Joey knew who it was–the father he had never seen. With a
glad cry of welcome he sprang into the outstretched arms of the man
whom his love had already won back to God.

Continue Reading

The Prodigal Brother

Miss Hannah was cutting asters in her garden. It was a very small
garden, for nothing would grow beyond the shelter of the little, grey,
low-eaved house which alone kept the northeast winds from blighting
everything with salt spray; but small as it was, it was a miracle of
blossoms and a marvel of neatness. The trim brown paths were swept
clean of every leaf or fallen petal, each of the little square beds
had its border of big white quahog clamshells, and not even a
sweet-pea vine would have dared to straggle from its appointed course
under Miss Hannah’s eye.

Miss Hannah had always lived in the little grey house down by the
shore, so far away from all the other houses in Prospect and so shut
away from them by a circle of hills that it had a seeming isolation.
Not another house could Miss Hannah see from her own doorstone; she
often declared she could not have borne it if it had not been for the
lighthouse beacon at night flaming over the northwest hill behind the
house like a great unwinking, friendly star that never failed even on
the darkest night. Behind the house a little tongue of the St.
Lawrence gulf ran up between the headlands until the wavelets of its
tip almost lapped against Miss Hannah’s kitchen doorstep. Beyond, to
the north, was the great crescent of the gulf, whose murmur had been
Miss Hannah’s lullaby all her life. When people wondered to her how
she could endure living in such a lonely place, she retorted that the
loneliness was what she loved it for, and that the lighthouse star and
the far-away call of the gulf had always been company enough for her
and always would be … until Ralph came back. When Ralph came home,
of course, he might like a livelier place and they might move to town
or up-country as he wished.

“Of course,” said Miss Hannah with a proud smile, “a rich man mightn’t
fancy living away down here in a little grey house by the shore. He’ll
be for building me a mansion, I expect, and I’d like it fine. But
until he comes I must be contented with things as they are.”

People always smiled to each other when Miss Hannah talked like this.
But they took care not to let her see the smile.

Miss Hannah snipped her white and purple asters off ungrudgingly and
sang, as she snipped, an old-fashioned song she had learned long ago
in her youth. The day was one of October’s rarest, and Miss Hannah
loved fine days. The air was clear as golden-hued crystal, and all the
slopes around her were mellow and hazy in the autumn sunshine. She
knew that beyond those sunny slopes were woods glorying in crimson and
gold, and she would have the delight of a walk through them later on
when she went to carry the asters to sick Millie Starr at the Bridge.
Flowers were all Miss Hannah had to give, for she was very poor, but
she gave them with a great wealth of friendliness and goodwill.

Presently a wagon drove down her lane and pulled up outside of her
white garden paling. Jacob Delancey was in it, with a pretty young
niece of his who was a visitor from the city, and Miss Hannah, her
sheaf of asters in her arms, went over to the paling with a sparkle of
interest in her faded blue eyes. She had heard a great deal of the
beauty of this strange girl. Prospect people had been talking of
nothing else for a week, and Miss Hannah was filled with a harmless
curiosity concerning her. She always liked to look at pretty people,
she said; they did her as much good as her flowers.

“Good afternoon, Miss Hannah,” said Jacob Delancey. “Busy with your
flowers, as usual, I see.”

“Oh, yes,” said Miss Hannah, managing to stare with unobtrusive
delight at the girl while she talked. “The frost will soon be coming
now, you know; so I want to live among them as much as I can while
they’re here.”

“That’s right,” assented Jacob, who made a profession of cordial
agreement with everybody and would have said the same words in the
same tone had Miss Hannah announced a predilection for living in the
cellar. “Well, Miss Hannah, it’s flowers I’m after myself just now.
We’re having a bit of a party at our house tonight, for the young
folks, and my wife told me to call and ask you if you could let us
have a few for decoration.”

“Of course,” said Miss Hannah, “you can have these. I meant them for
Millie, but I can cut the west bed for her.”

She opened the gate and carried the asters over to the buggy. Miss
Delancey took them with a smile that made Miss Hannah remember the
date forever.

“Lovely day,” commented Jacob genially.

“Yes,” said Miss Hannah dreamily. “It reminds me of the day Ralph went
away twenty years ago. It doesn’t seem so long. Don’t you think he’ll
be coming back soon, Jacob?”

“Oh, sure,” said Jacob, who thought the very opposite.

“I have a feeling that he’s coming very soon,” said Miss Hannah
brightly. “It will be a great day for me, won’t it, Jacob? I’ve been
poor all my life, but when Ralph comes back everything will be so
different. He will be a rich man and he will give me everything I’ve
always wanted. He said he would. A fine house and a carriage and a
silk dress. Oh, and we will travel and see the world. You don’t know
how I look forward to it all. I’ve got it all planned out, all I’m
going to do and have. And I believe he will be here very soon. A man
ought to be able to make a fortune in twenty years, don’t you think,
Jacob?”

“Oh, sure,” said Jacob. But he said it a little uncomfortably. He did
not like the job of throwing cold water, but it seemed to him that he
ought not to encourage Miss Hannah’s hopes. “Of course, you shouldn’t
think too much about it, Miss Hannah. He mightn’t ever come back, or
he might be poor.”

“How can you say such things, Jacob?” interrupted Miss Hannah
indignantly, with a little crimson spot flaming out in each of her
pale cheeks. “You know quite well he will come back. I’m as sure of it
as that I’m standing here. And he will be rich, too. People are always
trying to hint just as you’ve done to me, but I don’t mind them. I
know.”

She turned and went back into her garden with her head held high. But
her sudden anger floated away in a whiff of sweet-pea perfume that
struck her in the face; she waved her hand in farewell to her callers
and watched the buggy down the lane with a smile.

“Of course, Jacob doesn’t know, and I shouldn’t have snapped him up so
quick. It’ll be my turn to crow when Ralph does come. My, but isn’t
that girl pretty. I feel as if I’d been looking at some lovely
picture. It just makes a good day of this. Something pleasant happens
to me most every day and that girl is today’s pleasant thing. I just
feel real happy and thankful that there are such beautiful creatures
in the world and that we can look at them.”

“Well, of all the queer delusions!” Jacob Delancey was ejaculating as
he and his niece drove down the lane.

“What is it all about?” asked Miss Delancey curiously.

“Well, it’s this way, Dorothy. Long ago Miss Hannah had a brother who
ran away from home. It was before their father and mother died. Ralph
Walworth was as wild a young scamp as ever was in Prospect and a
spendthrift in the bargain. Nobody but Hannah had any use for him, and
she just worshipped him. I must admit he was real fond of her too, but
he and his father couldn’t get on at all. So finally he ups and runs
away; it was generally supposed he went to the mining country. He left
a note for Hannah bidding her goodbye and telling her that he was
going to make his fortune and would come back to her a rich man.
There’s never been a word heard tell of him since, and in my opinion
it’s doubtful if he’s still alive. But Miss Hannah, as you saw, is
sure and certain he’ll come back yet with gold dropping out of his
pockets. She’s as sane as anyone everyway else, but there is no doubt
she’s a little cracked on that p’int. If he never turns up she’ll go
on hoping quite happy to her death. But if he should turn up and be
poor, as is ten times likelier than anything else, I believe it’d most
kill Miss Hannah. She’s terrible proud for all she’s so sweet, and you
saw yourself how mad she got when I kind of hinted he mightn’t be
rich. If he came back poor, after all her boasting about him, I don’t
fancy he’d get much of a welcome from her. And she’d never hold up her
head again, that’s certain. So it’s to be hoped, say I, that Ralph
Walworth never will turn up, unless he comes in a carriage and four,
which is about as likely, in my opinion, as that he’ll come in a
pumpkin drawn by mice.”

When October had passed and the grey November days came, the glory of
Miss Hannah’s garden was over. She was very lonely without her
flowers. She missed them more this year than ever. On fine days she
paced up and down the walks and looked sadly at the drooping,
unsightly stalks and vines. She was there one afternoon when the
northeast wind was up and doing, whipping the gulf waters into
whitecaps and whistling up the inlet and around the grey eaves. Miss
Hannah was mournfully patting a frosted chrysanthemum under its golden
chin when she saw a man limping slowly down the lane.

“Now, who can that be?” she murmured. “It isn’t any Prospect man, for
there’s nobody lame around here.”




She went to the garden gate to meet him. He came haltingly up the
slope and paused before her, gazing at her wistfully. He looked old
and bent and broken, and his clothes were poor and worn. Who was he?
Miss Hannah felt that she ought to know him, and her memory went
groping back amongst all her recollections. Yet she could think of
nobody but her father, who had died fifteen years before.

“Don’t ye know me, Hannah?” said the man wistfully. “Have I changed so
much as all that?”

“Ralph!”

It was between a cry and a laugh. Miss Hannah flew through the gate
and caught him in her arms. “Ralph, my own dear brother! Oh, I always
knew you’d come back. If you knew how I’ve looked forward to this
day!” She was both laughing and crying now. Her face shone with a soft
gladness. Ralph Walworth shook his head sadly.

“It’s a poor wreck of a man I am come back to you, Hannah,” he said.
“I’ve never accomplished anything and my health’s broken and I’m a
cripple as ye see. For a time I thought I’d never show my face back
here, such a failure as I be, but the longing to see you got too
strong. It’s naught but a wreck I am, Hannah.”

“You’re my own dear brother,” cried Miss Hannah. “Do you think I care
how poor you are? And if your health is poor I’m the one to nurse you
up, who else than your only sister, I’d like to know! Come right in.
You’re shivering in this wind. I’ll mix you a good hot currant drink.
I knew them black currants didn’t bear so plentiful for nothing last
summer. Oh, this is a good day and no mistake!”

In twenty-four hours’ time everybody in Prospect knew that Ralph
Walworth had come home, crippled and poor. Jacob Delancey shook his
head as he drove away from the station with Ralph’s shabby little
trunk standing on end in his buggy. The station master had asked him
to take it down to Miss Hannah’s, and Jacob did not fancy the errand.
He was afraid Miss Hannah would be in a bad way and he did not know
what to say to her.

She was in her garden, covering her pansies with seaweed, when he
drove up, and she came to the garden gate to meet him, all smiles.

“So you’ve brought Ralph’s trunk, Mr. Delancey. Now, that was real
good of you. He was going over to the station to see about it himself,
but he had such a cold I persuaded him to wait till tomorrow. He’s
lying down asleep now. He’s just real tired. He brought this seaweed
up from the shore for me this morning and it played him out. He ain’t
strong. But didn’t I tell you he was coming back soon? You only
laughed at me, but I knew.”

“He isn’t very rich, though,” said Jacob jokingly. He was relieved to
find that Miss Hannah did not seem to be worrying over this.

“That doesn’t matter,” cried Miss Hannah. “Why, he’s my brother! Isn’t
that enough? I’m rich if he isn’t, rich in love and happiness. And
I’m better pleased in a way than if he had come back rich. He might
have wanted to take me away or build a fine house, and I’m too old to
be making changes. And then he wouldn’t have needed me. I’d have been
of no use to him. As it is, it’s just me he needs to look after him
and coddle him. Oh, it’s fine to have somebody to do things for,
somebody that belongs to you. I was just dreading the loneliness of
the winter, and now it’s going to be such a happy winter. I declare
last night Ralph and I sat up till morning talking over everything.
He’s had a hard life of it. Bad luck and illness right along. And last
winter in the lumber woods he got his leg broke. But now he’s come
home and we’re never going to be parted again as long as we live. I
could sing for joy, Jacob.”

“Oh, sure,” assented Jacob cordially. He felt a little dazed. Miss
Hannah’s nimble change of base was hard for him to follow, and he had
an injured sense of having wasted a great deal of commiseration on her
when she didn’t need it at all. “Only I kind of thought, we all
thought, you had such plans.”

“Well, they served their turn,” interrupted Miss Hannah briskly. “They
amused me and kept me interested till something real would come in
their place. If I’d had to carry them out I dare say they’d have
bothered me a lot. Things are more comfortable as they are. I’m happy
as a bird, Jacob.”

“Oh, sure,” said Jacob. He pondered the business deeply all the way
back home, but could make nothing of it.

“But I ain’t obliged to,” he concluded sensibly. “Miss Hannah’s
satisfied and happy and it’s nobody else’s concern. However, I call it
a curious thing.”

Continue Reading

The Light on the Big Dipper

“Don’t let Nellie run out of doors, Mary Margaret, and be careful of
the fire, Mary Margaret. I expect we’ll be back pretty soon after
dark, so don’t be lonesome, Mary Margaret.”

Mary Margaret laughed and switched her long, thick braid of black hair
from one shoulder to the other.

“No fear of my being lonesome, Mother Campbell. I’ll be just as
careful as can be and there are so many things to be done that I’ll be
as busy and happy as a bee all day long. Nellie and I will have just
the nicest kind of a time. I won’t get lonesome, but if I should feel
just tempted to, I’ll think, Father is on his way home. He will soon
be here.’ And that would drive the lonesomeness away before it dared
to show its face. Don’t you worry, Mother Campbell.”

Mother Campbell smiled. She knew she could trust Mary
Margaret–careful, steady, prudent little Mary Margaret. Little! Ah,
that was just the trouble. Careful and steady and prudent as Mary
Margaret might be, she was only twelve years old, after all, and there
would not be another soul besides her and Nellie on the Little Dipper
that whole day. Mrs. Campbell felt that she hardly dared to go away
under such circumstances. And yet she _must_ dare it. Oscar Bryan had
sailed over from the mainland the evening before with word that her
sister Nan–her only sister, who lived in Cartonville–was ill and
about to undergo a serious operation. She must go to see her, and
Uncle Martin was waiting with his boat to take her over to the
mainland to catch the morning train for Cartonville.

If five-year-old Nellie had been quite well Mrs. Campbell would have
taken both her and Mary Margaret and locked up the house. But Nellie
had a very bad cold and was quite unfit to go sailing across the
harbour on a raw, chilly November day. So there was nothing to do but
leave Mary Margaret in charge, and Mary Margaret was quite pleased at
the prospect.

“You know, Mother Campbell, I’m not afraid of anything except tramps.
And no tramps ever come to the Dippers. You see what an advantage it
is to live on an island! There, Uncle Martin is waving. Run along,
little mother.”

Mary Margaret watched the boat out of sight from the window and then
betook herself to the doing of her tasks, singing blithely all the
while. It was rather nice to be left in sole charge like this–it made
you feel so important and grown-up. She would do everything very
nicely and Mother would see when she came back what a good housekeeper
her daughter was.

Mary Margaret and Nellie and Mrs. Campbell had been living on the
Little Dipper ever since the preceding April. Before that they had
always lived in their own cosy home at the Harbour Head. But in April
Captain Campbell had sailed in the _Two Sisters_ for a long voyage
and, before he went, Mrs. Campbell’s brother, Martin Clowe, had come
to them with a proposition. He ran a lobster cannery on the Little
Dipper, and he wanted his sister to go and keep house for him while
her husband was away. After some discussion it was so arranged, and
Mrs. Campbell and her two girls moved to the Little Dipper. It was not
a lonesome place then, for the lobstermen and their families lived on
it, and boats were constantly sailing to and fro between it and the
mainland. Mary Margaret enjoyed her summer greatly; she bathed and
sailed and roamed over the rocks, and on fine days her Uncle George,
who kept the lighthouse on the Big Dipper, and lived there all alone,
often came over and took her across to the Big Dipper. Mary Margaret
thought the lighthouse was a wonderful place. Uncle George taught her
how to light the lamps and manage the light.

When the lobster season dosed, the men took up codfishing and carried
this on till October, when they all moved back to the mainland. But
Uncle Martin was building a house for himself at Harbour Head and did
not wish to move until the ice formed over the bay because it would
then be so much easier to transport his goods and chattels; so the
Campbells stayed with him until the Captain should return.

Mary Margaret found plenty to do that day and wasn’t a bit lonesome.
But when evening came she didn’t feel quite so cheerful. Nellie had
fallen asleep, and there wasn’t another living creature except the cat
on the Little Dipper. Besides, it looked like a storm. The harbour was
glassy calm, but the sky was very black and dour in the
northeast–like snow, thought weather-wise Mary Margaret. She hoped
her mother would get home before it began, and she wished the
lighthouse star would gleam out on the Big Dipper. It would seem like
the bright eye of a steady old friend. Mary Margaret always watched
for it every night; just as soon as the sun went down the big
lighthouse star would flash goldenly out in the northeastern sky.

“I’ll sit down by the window and watch for it,” said Mary Margaret to
herself. “Then, when it is lighted, I’ll get up a nice warm supper for
Mother and Uncle Martin.”

Mary Margaret sat down by the kitchen window to watch. Minute after
minute passed, but no light flashed out on the Big Dipper. What was
the matter? Mary Margaret began to feel uneasy. It was too cloudy to
tell just when the sun had set, but she was sure it must be down, for
it was quite dark in the house. She lighted a lamp, got the almanac,
and hunted out the exact time of sunsetting. The sun had been down
fifteen minutes!

And there was no light on the Big Dipper!

Mary Margaret felt alarmed and anxious. What was wrong at the Big
Dipper? Was Uncle George away? Or had something happened to him? Mary
Margaret was sure he had never forgotten!

Fifteen minutes longer did Mary Margaret watch restlessly at the
window. Then she concluded that something was desperately wrong
somewhere. It was half an hour after sunset and the Big Dipper light,
the most important one along the whole coast, was not lighted. What
would she do? What _could_ she do?

The answer came swift and dear into Mary Margaret’s steady, sensible
little mind. She must go to the Big Dipper and light the lamps!

But could she? Difficulties came crowding thick and fast into her
thoughts. It was going to snow; the soft broad flakes were falling
already. Could she row the two miles to the Big Dipper in the darkness
and the snow? If she could, dare she leave Nellie all alone in the
house? Oh, she couldn’t! Somebody at the Harbour Head would surely
notice that the Big Dipper light was unlighted and would go over to
investigate the cause. But suppose they shouldn’t? If the snow came
thicker they might never notice the absence of the light. And suppose
there was a ship away out there, as there nearly always was, with the
dangerous rocks and shoals of the outer harbour to pass, with precious
lives on board and no guiding beacon on the Big Dipper.

Mary Margaret hesitated no longer. She must go.

Bravely, briskly and thoughtfully she made her preparations. First,
the fire was banked and the draughts dosed; then she wrote a little
note for her mother and laid it on the table. Finally she wakened
Nellie.

“Nellie,” said Mary Margaret, speaking very kindly and determinedly,
“there is no light on the Big Dipper and I’ve got to row over and see
about it. I’ll be back as quickly as I can, and Mother and Uncle
Martin will soon be here. You won’t be afraid to stay alone, will you,
dearie? You mustn’t be afraid, because I have to go. And, Nellie, I’m
going to tie you in your chair; it’s necessary, because I can’t lock
the door, so you mustn’t cry; nothing will hurt you, and I want you to
be a brave little girl and help sister all you can.”

Nellie, too sleepy and dazed to understand very clearly what Mary
Margaret was about, submitted to be wrapped up in quilts and bound
securely in her chair. Then Mary Margaret tied the chair fast to the
wall so that Nellie couldn’t upset it. That’s safe, she thought.
Nellie can’t run out now or fall on the stove or set herself afire.

Mary Margaret put on her jacket, hood and mittens, and took Uncle
Martin’s lantern. As she went out and closed the door, a little wail
from Nellie sounded on her ear. For a moment she hesitated, then the
blackness of the Big Dipper confirmed her resolution. She must go.
Nellie was really quite safe and comfortable. It would not hurt her to
cry a little, and it might hurt somebody a great deal if the Big
Dipper light failed. Setting her lips firmly, Mary Margaret ran down
to the shore.

Like all the Harbour girls, Mary Margaret could row a boat from the
time she was nine years old. Nevertheless, her heart almost failed her
as she got into the little dory and rowed out. The snow was getting
thick. Could she pull across those black two miles between the Dippers
before it got so much thicker that she would lose her way? Well, she
must risk it. She had set the light in the kitchen window; she must
keep it fair behind her and then she would land on the lighthouse
beach. With a murmured prayer for help and guidance she pulled
staunchly away.

It was a long, hard row for the little twelve-year-old arms.
Fortunately there was no wind. But thicker and thicker came the snow;
finally the kitchen light was hidden in it. For a moment Mary
Margaret’s heart sank in despair; the next it gave a joyful bound,
for, turning, she saw the dark tower of the lighthouse directly behind
her. By the aid of her lantern she rowed to the landing, sprang out
and made her boat fast. A minute later she was in the lighthouse
kitchen.

The door leading to the tower stairs was open and at the foot of the
stairs lay Uncle George, limp and white.

“Oh, Uncle George,” gasped Mary Margaret, “what is the matter? What
has happened?”

“Mary Margaret! Thank God! I was just praying to Him to send somebody
to ‘tend the light. Who’s with you?”

“Nobody…. I got frightened because there was no light and I rowed
over. Mother and Uncle Martin are away.”

“You don’t mean to say you rowed yourself over here alone in the dark
and snow! Well, you are the pluckiest little girl about this harbour!
It’s a mercy I’ve showed you how to manage the light. Run up and start
it at once. Don’t mind about me. I tumbled down those pesky stairs
like the awkward old fool I am and I’ve broke my leg and hurt my back
so bad I can’t crawl an inch. I’ve been lying here for three mortal
hours and they’ve seemed like three years. Hurry with the light, Mary
Margaret.”

Mary Margaret hurried. Soon the Big Dipper light was once more
gleaming cheerfully athwart the stormy harbour. Then she ran back to
her uncle. There was not much she could do for him beyond covering him
warmly with quilts, placing a pillow under his head, and brewing him a
hot drink of tea.

“I left a note for Mother telling her where I’d gone, Uncle George, so
I’m sure Uncle Martin will come right over as soon as they get home.”

“He’ll have to hurry. It’s blowing up now … hear it … and snowing
thick. If your mother and Martin haven’t left the Harbour Head before
this, they won’t leave it tonight. But, anyhow, the light is lit. I
don’t mind my getting smashed up compared to that. I thought I’d go
crazy lying here picturing to myself a vessel out on the reefs.”

That night was a very long and anxious one. The storm grew rapidly
worse, and snow and wind howled around the lighthouse. Uncle George
soon grew feverish and delirious, and Mary Margaret, between her
anxiety for him and her dismal thoughts of poor Nellie tied in her
chair over at the Little Dipper, and the dark possibility of her
mother and Uncle Martin being out in the storm, felt almost
distracted. But the morning came at last, as mornings blessedly will,
be the nights never so long and anxious, and it dawned fine and clear
over a white world. Mary Margaret ran to the shore and gazed eagerly
across at the Little Dipper. No smoke was visible from Uncle Martin’s
house!

She could not leave Uncle George, who was raving wildly, and yet it
was necessary to obtain assistance somehow. Suddenly she remembered
the distress signal. She must hoist it. How fortunate that Uncle
George had once shown her how!




Ten minutes later there was a commotion over at Harbour Head where the
signal was promptly observed, and very soon–although it seemed long
enough to Mary Margaret–a boat came sailing over to the Big Dipper.
When the men landed they were met by a very white-faced little girl
who gasped out a rather disjointed story of a light that hadn’t been
lighted and an uncle with a broken leg and a sister tied in her chair,
and would they please see to Uncle George at once, for she must go
straight over to the other Dipper?

One of the men rowed her over, but before they were halfway there
another boat went sailing across the harbour, and Mary Margaret saw a
woman and two men land from it and hurry up to the house.

That is Mother and Uncle Martin, but who can the other man be?
wondered Mary Margaret.

When she reached the cottage her mother and Uncle Martin were reading
her note, and Nellie, just untied from the chair where she had been
found fast asleep, was in the arms of a great, big, brown, bewhiskered
man. Mary Margaret just gave one look at the man. Then she flew across
the room with a cry of delight.

“Father!”

For ten minutes not one intelligible word was said, what with
laughing and crying and kissing. Mary Margaret was the first to
recover herself and say briskly, “Now, _do_ explain, somebody. Tell me
how it all happened.”

“Martin and I got back to Harbour Head too late last night to cross
over,” said her mother. “It would have been madness to try to cross in
the storm, although I was nearly wild thinking of you two children.
It’s well I didn’t know the whole truth or I’d have been simply
frantic. We stayed at the Head all night, and first thing this morning
came your father.”

“We came in last night,” said Captain Campbell, “and it was pitch
dark, not a light to be seen and beginning to snow. We didn’t know
where we were and I was terribly worried, when all at once the Big
Dipper light I’d been looking for so vainly flashed out, and
everything was all right in a moment. But, Mary Margaret, if that
light hadn’t appeared, we’d never have got in past the reefs. You’ve
saved your father’s ship and all the lives in her, my brave little
girl.”

“Oh!” Mary Margaret drew a long breath and her eyes were starry with
tears of happiness. “Oh, I’m so thankful I went over. And I _had_ to
tie Nellie in her chair, Mother, there was no other way. Uncle George
broke his leg and is very sick this morning, and there’s no breakfast
ready for anyone and the fire black out … but that doesn’t matter
when Father is safe … and oh, I’m so tired!”

And then Mary Margaret sat down just for a moment, intending to get
right up and help her mother light the fire, laid her head on her
father’s shoulder, and fell sound asleep before she ever suspected
it.

Continue Reading

The Girl at the Gate

Something very strange happened the night old Mr. Lawrence died. I
have never been able to explain it and I have never spoken of it
except to one person and she said that I dreamed it. I did not dream
it … I saw and heard, waking.

We had not expected Mr. Lawrence to die then. He did not seem very ill
… not nearly so ill as he had been during his previous attack. When
we heard of his illness I went over to Woodlands to see him, for I had
always been a great favourite with him. The big house was quiet, the
servants going about their work as usual, without any appearance of
excitement. I was told that I could not see Mr. Lawrence for a little
while, as the doctor was with him. Mrs. Yeats, the housekeeper, said
the attack was not serious and asked me to wait in the blue parlour,
but I preferred to sit down on the steps of the big, arched front
door. It was an evening in June. Woodlands was very lovely; to my
right was the garden, and before me was a little valley abrim with the
sunset. In places under the big trees it was quite dark even then.

There was something unusually still in the evening … a stillness as
of waiting. It set me thinking of the last time Mr. Lawrence had been
ill … nearly a year ago in August. One night during his
convalescence I had watched by him to relieve the nurse. He had been
sleepless and talkative, telling me many things about his life.
Finally he told me of Margaret.

I knew a little about her … that she had been his sweetheart and had
died very young. Mr. Lawrence had remained true to her memory ever
since, but I had never heard him speak of her before.

“She was very beautiful,” he said dreamily, “and she was only eighteen
when she died, Jeanette. She had wonderful pale-golden hair and
dark-brown eyes. I have a little ivory miniature of her. When I die it
is to be given to you, Jeanette. I have waited a long while for her.
You know she promised she would come.”

I did not understand his meaning and kept silence, thinking that he
might be wandering a little in his mind.

“She promised she would come and she will keep her word,” he went on.
“I was with her when she died. I held her in my arms. She said to me,
‘Herbert, I promise that I will be true to you forever, through as
many years of lonely heaven as I must know before you come. And when
your time is at hand I will come to make your deathbed easy as you
have made mine. I will come, Herbert.’ She solemnly promised,
Jeanette. We made a death-tryst of it. And I know she will come.”

He had fallen asleep then and after his recovery he had not alluded to
the matter again. I had forgotten it, but I recalled it now as I sat
on the steps among the geraniums that June evening. I liked to think
of Margaret … the lovely girl who had died so long ago, taking her
lover’s heart with her to the grave. She had been a sister of my
grandfather, and people told me that I resembled her slightly. Perhaps
that was why old Mr. Lawrence had always made such a pet of me.

Presently the doctor came out and nodded to me cheerily. I asked him
how Mr. Lawrence was.

“Better … better,” he said briskly. “He will be all right tomorrow.
The attack was very slight. Yes, of course you may go in. Don’t stay
longer than half an hour.”

Mrs. Stewart, Mr. Lawrence’s sister, was in the sickroom when I went
in. She took advantage of my presence to lie down on the sofa a little
while, for she had been up all the preceding night. Mr. Lawrence
turned his fine old silver head on the pillow and smiled a greeting.
He was a very handsome old man; neither age nor illness had marred his
finely modelled face or impaired the flash of his keen, steel-blue
eyes. He seemed quite well and talked naturally and easily of many
commonplace things.

At the end of the doctor’s half-hour I rose to go. Mrs. Stewart had
fallen asleep and he would not let me wake her, saying he needed
nothing and felt like sleeping himself. I promised to come up again on
the morrow and went out.

It was dark in the hall, where no lamp had been lighted, but outside
on the lawn the moonlight was bright as day. It was the clearest,
whitest night I ever saw. I turned aside into the garden, meaning to
cross it, and take the short way over the west meadow home. There was
a long walk of rose bushes leading across the garden to a little gate
on the further side … the way Mr. Lawrence had been wont to take
long ago when he went over the fields to woo Margaret. I went along
it, enjoying the night. The bushes were white with roses, and the
ground under my feet was all snowed over with their petals. The air
was still and breezeless; again I felt that sensation of waiting …
of expectancy. As I came up to the little gate I saw a young girl
standing on the other side of it. She stood in the full moonlight and
I saw her distinctly.

She was tall and slight and her head was bare. I saw that her hair was
a pale gold, shining somewhat strangely about her head as if catching
the moonbeams. Her face was very lovely and her eyes large and dark.
She was dressed in something white and softly shimmering, and in her
hand she held a white rose … a very large and perfect one. Even at
the time I found myself wondering where she could have picked it. It
was not a Woodlands rose. All the Woodlands roses were smaller and
less double.

She was a stranger to me, yet I felt that I had seen her or someone
very like her before. Possibly she was one of Mr. Lawrence’s many
nieces who might have come up to Woodlands upon hearing of his
illness.

As I opened the gate I felt an odd chill of positive fear. Then she
smiled as if I had spoken my thought.

“Do not be frightened,” she said. “There is no reason you should be
frightened. I have only come to keep a tryst.”

The words reminded me of something, but I could not recall what it
was. The strange fear that was on me deepened. I could not speak.




She came through the gateway and stood for a moment at my side.

“It is strange that you should have seen me,” she said, “but now
behold how strong and beautiful a thing is faithful love–strong
enough to conquer death. We who have loved truly love always–and this
makes our heaven.”

She walked on after she had spoken, down the long rose path. I watched
her until she reached the house and went up the steps. In truth I
thought the girl was someone not quite in her right mind. When I
reached home I did not speak of the matter to anyone, not even to
inquire who the girl might possibly be. There seemed to be something
in that strange meeting that demanded my silence.

The next morning word came that old Mr. Lawrence was dead. When I
hurried down to Woodlands I found all in confusion, but Mrs. Yeats
took me into the blue parlour and told me what little there was to
tell.

“He must have died soon after you left him, Miss Jeanette,” she
sobbed, “for Mrs. Stewart wakened at ten o’clock and he was gone. He
lay there, smiling, with such a strange look on his face as if he had
just seen something that made him wonderfully happy. I never saw such
a look on a dead face before.”

“Who is here besides Mrs. Stewart?” I asked.

“Nobody,” said Mrs. Yeats. “We have sent word to all his friends but
they have not had time to arrive here yet.”

“I met a young girl in the garden last night,” I said slowly. “She
came into the house. I did not know her but I thought she must be a
relative of Mr. Lawrence’s.”

Mrs. Yeats shook her head.

“No. It must have been somebody from the village, although I didn’t
know of anyone calling after you went away.”

I said nothing more to her about it.

After the funeral Mrs. Stewart gave me Margaret’s miniature. I had
never seen it or any picture of Margaret before. The face was very
lovely–also strangely like my own, although I am not beautiful. It
was the face of the young girl I had met at the gate!

Continue Reading

The Fraser Scholarship

Elliot Campbell came down the main staircase of Marwood College and
found himself caught up with a whoop into a crowd of Sophs who were
struggling around the bulletin board. He was thumped on the back and
shaken hands with amid a hurricane of shouts and congratulations.

“Good for you, Campbell! You’ve won the Fraser. See your little name
tacked up there at the top of the list, bracketed off all by itself
for the winner? ‘Elliott H. Campbell, ninety-two per cent.’ A class
yell for Campbell, boys!”

While the yell was being given with a heartiness that might have
endangered the roof, Elliott, with flushed face and sparkling eyes,
pushed nearer to the important typewritten announcement on the
bulletin board. Yes, he had won the Fraser Scholarship. His name
headed the list of seven competitors.

Roger Brooks, who was at his side, read over the list aloud:

“‘Elliott H. Campbell, ninety-two.’ I said you’d do it, my boy.
‘Edward Stone, ninety-one’–old Ned ran you close, didn’t he? But of
course with that name he’d no show. ‘Kay Milton, eighty-eight.’ Who’d
have thought slow-going old Kay would have pulled up so well? ‘Seddon
Brown, eighty-seven; Oliver Field, eighty-four; Arthur McIntyre,
eighty-two’–a very respectable little trio. And ‘Carl McLean,
seventy.’ Whew! what a drop! Just saved his distance. It was only his
name took him in, of course. He knew you weren’t supposed to be strong
in mathematics.”

Before Elliott could say anything, a professor emerged from the
president’s private room, bearing the report of a Freshman
examination, which he proceeded to post on the Freshman bulletin
board, and the rush of the students in that direction left Elliott
and Roger free of the crowd. They seized the opportunity to escape.

Elliott drew a long breath as they crossed the campus in the fresh
April sunshine, where the buds were swelling on the fine old chestnuts
and elms that surrounded Marwood’s red brick walls.

“That has lifted a great weight off my mind,” he said frankly. “A good
deal depended on my winning the Fraser. I couldn’t have come back next
year if I hadn’t got it. That four hundred will put me through the
rest of my course.”

“That’s good,” said Roger Brooks heartily.

He liked Elliott Campbell, and so did all the Sophomores. Yet none of
them was at all intimate with him. He had no chums, as the other boys
had. He boarded alone, “dug” persistently, and took no part in the
social life of the college. Roger Brooks came nearest to being his
friend of any, yet even Roger knew very little about him. Elliott had
never before said so much about his personal affairs as in the speech
just recorded.

“I’m poor–woefully poor,” went on Elliott gaily. His success seemed
to have thawed his reserve for the time being. “I had just enough
money to bring me through the Fresh and Soph years by dint of careful
management. Now I’m stone broke, and the hope of the Fraser was all
that stood between me and the dismal certainty of having to teach next
year, dropping out of my class and coming back in two or three years’
time, a complete, rusty stranger again. Whew! I made faces over the
prospect.”

“No wonder,” commented Roger. “The class would have been sorry if you
had had to drop out, Campbell. We want to keep all our stars with us
to make a shining coruscation at the finish. Besides, you know we all
like you for yourself. It would have been an everlasting shame if
that little cad of a McLean had won out. Nobody likes him.”

“Oh, I had no fear of him,” answered Elliott. “I don’t see what
induced him to go in, anyhow. He must have known he’d no chance. But I
was afraid of Stone–he’s a born dabster at mathematics, you know, and
I only hold my own in them by hard digging.”

“Why, Stone couldn’t have taken the Fraser over you in any case, if
you made over seventy,” said Roger with a puzzled look. “You must have
known that. McLean was the only competitor you had to fear.”

“I don’t understand you,” said Elliott blankly.

“You must know the conditions of the Fraser!” exclaimed Roger.

“Certainly,” responded Elliott. “‘The Fraser scholarship, amounting to
four hundred dollars, will be offered annually in the Sophomore class.
The competitors will be expected to take a special examination in
mathematics, and the winner will be awarded two hundred dollars for
two years, payable in four annual instalments, the payment of any
instalment to be conditional on the winner’s attending the required
classes for undergraduates and making satisfactory progress therein.’
Isn’t that correct?”

“So far as it goes, old man. You forget the most important part of
all. ‘Preference is to be given to competitors of the name Fraser,
Campbell or McLean, provided that such competitor makes at least
seventy per cent in his examination.’ You don’t mean to tell me that
you didn’t know that!”

“Are you joking?” demanded Elliott with a pale face.

“Not a joke. Why, man, it’s in the calendar.”

“I didn’t know it,” said Elliott slowly. “I read the calendar
announcement only once, and I certainly didn’t notice that
condition.”

“Well, that’s curious. But how on earth did you escape hearing it
talked about? It’s always discussed extensively among the boys,
especially when there are two competitors of the favoured names, which
doesn’t often happen.”

“I’m not a very sociable fellow,” said Elliott with a faint smile.
“You know they call me ‘the hermit.’ As it happened, I never talked
the matter over with anyone or heard it referred to. I–I wish I had
known this before.”

“Why, what difference does it make? It’s all right, anyway. But it is
odd to think that if your name hadn’t been Campbell, the Fraser would
have gone to McLean over the heads of Stone and all the rest. Their
only hope was that you would both fall below seventy. It’s an absurd
condition, but there it is in old Professor Fraser’s will. He was rich
and had no family. So he left a number of bequests to the college on
ordinary conditions. I suppose he thought he might humour his whim in
one. His widow is a dear old soul, and always makes a special pet of
the boy who wins the Fraser. Well, here’s my street. So long,
Campbell.”

Elliott responded almost curtly and walked onward to his
boarding-house with a face from which all the light had gone. When he
reached his room he took down the Marwood calendar and whirled over
the leaves until he came to the announcement of bursaries and
scholarships. The Fraser announcement, as far as he had read it, ended
at the foot of the page. He turned the leaf and, sure enough, at the
top of the next page, in a paragraph by itself, was the condition:
“Preference shall be given to candidates of the name Fraser, Campbell
or McLean, provided that said competitor makes at least seventy per
cent in his examination.”

Elliott flung himself into a chair by his table and bowed his head on
his hands. He had no right to the Fraser Scholarship. His name was
not Campbell, although perhaps nobody in the world knew it save
himself, and he remembered it only by an effort of memory.

He had been born in a rough mining camp in British Columbia, and when
he was a month old his father, John Hanselpakker, had been killed in a
mine explosion, leaving his wife and child quite penniless and almost
friendless. One of the miners, an honest, kindly Scotchman named
Alexander Campbell, had befriended Mrs. Hanselpakker and her little
son in many ways, and two years later she had married him. They
returned to their native province of Nova Scotia and settled in a
small country village. Here Elliott had grown up, bearing the name of
the man who was a kind and loving father to him, and whom he loved as
a father. His mother had died when he was ten years old and his
stepfather when he was fifteen. On his deathbed he asked Elliott to
retain his name.

“I’ve cared for you and loved you since the time you were born, lad,”
he said. “You seem like my own son, and I’ve a fancy to leave you my
name. It’s all I can leave you, for I’m a poor man, but it’s an honest
name, lad, and I’ve kept it free from stain. See that you do likewise,
and you’ll have your mother’s blessing and mine.”

Elliott fought a hard battle that spring evening.

“Hold your tongue and keep the Fraser,” whispered the tempter.
“Campbell _is_ your name. You’ve borne it all your life. And the
condition itself is a ridiculous one–no fairness about it. You made
the highest marks and you ought to be the winner. It isn’t as if you
were wronging Stone or any of the others who worked hard and made good
marks. If you throw away what you’ve won by your own hard labour, the
Fraser goes to McLean, who made only seventy. Besides, you need the
money and he doesn’t. His father is a rich man.”




“But I’ll be a cheat and a cad if I keep it,” Elliott muttered
miserably. “Campbell isn’t my legal name, and I’d never again feel as
if I had even the right of love to it if I stained it by a dishonest
act. For it _would_ be stained, even though nobody but myself knew it.
Father said it was a clean name when he left it, and I cannot soil
it.”

The tempter was not silenced so easily as that. Elliott passed a
sleepless night of indecision. But next day he went to Marwood and
asked for a private interview with the president. As a result, an
official announcement was posted that afternoon on the bulletin board
to the effect that, owing to a misunderstanding, the Fraser
Scholarship had been wrongly awarded. Carl McLean was posted as
winner.

The story soon got around the campus, and Elliott found himself rather
overwhelmed with sympathy, but he did not feel as if he were very much
in need of it after all. It was good to have done the right thing and
be able to look your conscience in the face. He was young and strong
and could work his own way through Marwood in time.

“No condolences, please,” he said to Roger Brooks with a smile. “I’m
sorry I lost the Fraser, of course, but I’ve my hands and brains left.
I’m going straight to my boarding-house to dig with double vim, for
I’ve got to take an examination next week for a provincial school
certificate. Next winter I’ll be a flourishing pedagogue in some
up-country district.”

He was not, however. The next afternoon he received a summons to the
president’s office. The president was there, and with him was a plump,
motherly-looking woman of about sixty.

“Mrs. Fraser, this is Elliott Hanselpakker, or Campbell, as I
understand he prefers to be called. Elliott, I told your story to Mrs.
Fraser last evening, and she was greatly interested when she heard
your rather peculiar name. She will tell you why herself.”

“I had a young half-sister once,” said Mrs. Fraser eagerly. “She
married a man named John Hanselpakker and went West, and somehow I
lost all trace of her. There was, I regret to say, a coolness between
us over her marriage. I disapproved of it because she married a very
poor man. When I heard your name, it struck me that you might be her
son, or at least know something about her. Her name was Mary Helen
Rodney, and I loved her very dearly in spite of our foolish quarrel.”

There was a tremour in Mrs. Fraser’s voice and an answering one in
Elliott’s as he replied: “Mary Helen Rodney was my dear mother’s name,
and my father was John Hanselpakker.”

“Then you are my nephew,” exclaimed Mrs. Fraser. “I am your Aunt
Alice. My boy, you don’t know how much it means to a lonely old woman
to have found you. I’m the happiest person in the world!”

She slipped her arm through Elliott’s and turned to the sympathetic
president with shining eyes.

“He is my boy forever, if he will be. Blessings on the Fraser
Scholarship!”

“Blessings rather on the manly boy who wouldn’t keep it under false
colours,” said the president with a smile. “I think you are fortunate
in your nephew, Mrs. Fraser.”

So Elliott Hanselpakker Campbell came back to Marwood the next year
after all.

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