An American Politician
F. Marion Crawford
Part 4 out of 5
plain matter, too, and not the least taste of dishonesty in it, at all.
I've been thinking I'd make you senator if you'll agree to go against free
trade, and that's just what I'll do, and no more."
"It is impossible for me to make such a bargain, Mr. Ballymolloy. After
your exposition of the importance of truth I am surprised that you should
expect me to belie my whole political life. As I have told you, I am
prepared to support laws to protect iron as much as is necessary. Free
trade nowadays does not mean cutting away all duties; it means a proper
adjustment of them to the requirements of our commerce. A proper
adjustment of duties could not possibly be interpreted to mean any injury
to the iron trade. You may rely upon that, at all events."
"Oh, and I'm sure I can," said Ballymolloy incredulously, and he grew, if
possible, redder in the face than nature and the action of alcohol had
made him. "And I'm not only sure of it, but I'll swear it's gospel truth.
But then, you know, I'm of opinion that by the time you've done reforming
the other things, the reformed gentlemen won't like it, and then they'll
just turn round and eat you up unless you reform us too, and that just
means the ruin of us."
"Come now, Mr. Ballymolloy, that is exaggeration," said John. "If you will
listen to me for a moment"--
"I haven't got the time, sir, and that's all about it. If you'll protect
our interests and promise to do it, you'll be senator. The election is
coming on, Mr. Harrington, and I'd be sorry to see you thrown out."
"Mr. Ballymolloy, I had sincerely hoped that you would support me in this
matter, but I must tell you once more that I think you are unreasonable. I
vouch for the sufficient protection of your interests, because it is the
belief of our party that they need protection. But it is not necessary for
you to have an anti-reform senator for that purpose, in the first place;
and secondly, the offer of a seat in the Senate would never induce me to
change my mind, nor to turn round and deny everything that I have said and
written on the subject."
"Then that is your last word of all, Mr. Harrington?" said Ballymolloy,
heaving his heavy body out of the easy-chair. But his voice, which had
sounded somewhat irate during the discussion, again rolled out in
"Yes, Mr. Ballymolloy, that is all I have to say."
"And indeed it's not so very bad at all," said Patrick. "You see I just
wanted to see how far you were likely to go, because, though I'm a good
Democrat, sir, I'm against free trade in the main points, and that's just
the truth. But if you say you will stand up for iron right through, and
use your best judgment, why, I guess you'll have to be senator after all.
It's a great position, Mr. Harrington, and I hope you'll do honor to it."
"I hope so, indeed," said John. "Can I offer you a glass of wine, or
anything else, Mr. Ballymolloy?"
"Indeed, and it's dirty weather, too," said Patrick. "Thank you, I'll take
a little whiskey."
John poured out a glass.
"You won't let me drink alone, Mr. Harrington?" inquired Patrick, holding
his tumbler in his hand. To oblige him, after the manner of the country,
John poured out a small glass of sherry, and put his lips to it.
Ballymolloy drained the whiskey to the last drop.
"You were not really thinking I would vote for Mr. Jobbins, were you now,
Mr. Harrington?" he asked, with a sly look on his red face.
"I always hope that the men of my party are to be relied upon, Mr.
Ballymolloy," said John, smiling politely.
"Very well, they are to be relied upon, sir. We are, every man of us, to
the last drop of Christian blood in our blessed bodies," said Patrick,
with a gush of patriotic enthusiasm, at the same time holding out his
heavy hand. Then he took his leave.
"You had better have said 'to the last drop of Bourbon whiskey in the
blessed bottle!'" said John to himself when his visitor was gone. Then he
sat down for a while to think over the situation.
"That man will vote against me yet," he thought.
He was astonished to find himself nervous and excited for the first time
in his life. With characteristic determination he went back to his desk,
and continued the letter which the visit of the Irish elector had
Meanwhile Mr. Patrick Ballymolloy was driven to the house of the
Republican candidate, Mr. Jobbing.
Sybil was right when she said the family politics at the Wyndhams' were
disturbed. Indeed the disturbance was so great that Mrs. Wyndham was
dressed and down-stairs before twelve o'clock, which had never before
occurred in the memory of the oldest servant.
"It is too perfectly exciting, my dears," she exclaimed as Joe and Sybil
entered the room, followed--at a respectful distance by Ronald. "I can't
stand it one minute longer! How do you do, Mr. Surbiton?"
"What is the latest news?" asked Sybil.
"I have not heard anything for ever so long. Sam has gone round to see--
perhaps he will be back soon. I do wish we had 'tickers' here in the
house, as they do in New York; it _is_ such fun watching when
anything is going on."
She walked about the room as she talked, touching a book on one table and
a photograph on another, in a state of great excitement. Ronald watched
her in some surprise; it seemed odd to him that any one should take so
much interest in a mere election. Joe and Sybil, who knew her better, made
themselves at home.
It appeared that although Sam had gone to make inquiries, it was very
improbable that anything would be known until late in the afternoon. There
was to be a contest of some sort, but whether it would end in a single
day, or whether Ballymolloy and his men intended to prolong the struggle
for their own ends, remained to be seen.
Meanwhile Mrs. Wyndham walked about her drawing-room descanting upon the
iniquities of political life, with an animation that delighted Joe and
"Well, there is nothing for it, you see," she said at last. "Sam evidently
does not mean to come home, and you must just stay here and have some
lunch until he does."
The three agreed, nothing loath to enjoying one another's company. There
is nothing like a day spent together in waiting for an event, to bring out
the characteristics of individuals. Mrs. Wyndham fretted and talked, and
fretted again. Joe grew silent, pale, and anxious as the morning passed,
while Sybil and Ronald seemed to enjoy themselves extremely, and talked
without ceasing. Outside the snow fell thick and fast as ever, and the
drifts rose higher and higher.
"I do wish Sam would come back," exclaimed Mrs. Wyndham at last, as she
threw herself into an easy-chair, and looked at the clock.
But Sam did not come, nevertheless, and Joe sat quietly by the fire,
wishing she were alone, and yet unwilling to leave the house where she
hoped to have the earliest information.
The two who seemed rapidly growing indifferent to the issue of the
election were Sybil and Ronald, who sat together with a huge portfolio of
photographs and sketches between them, laughing and talking pleasantly
enough. Joe did not hear a word of their conversation, and Mrs. Wyndham
paid little attention to it, though her practiced ears could have heard it
all if need be, while she herself was profoundly occupied with some one
The four had a somewhat dreary meal together, and Ronald was told to go
into Sam's study and smoke if he liked, while Mrs. Wyndham led Joe and
Sybil away to look at a quantity of new things that had just come from
Paris. Ronald did as he was bid and settled himself for an hour, with a
plentiful supply of newspapers and railroad literature.
It was past three o'clock when Sam Wyndham entered the room, his face wet
with the snowflakes and red with excitement.
"Hollo!" he exclaimed, seeing Ronald comfortably ensconced in his favorite
easy-chair. "How are you?"
"Excuse me," said Ronald, rising quickly. "They told me to come in here
after lunch, and so I was waiting until I was sent for, or told to come
"Very glad to see you, any way," said Sam cordially. "Well, I have been to
hear about an election--a friend of ours got put up for senator. But I
don't expect that interests you much?"
"On the contrary," said Ronald, "I have heard it so much talked of that I
am as much interested as anybody. Is it all over?"
"Oh yes, and a pretty queer business it was. Well, our friend is not
"Has Mr. Harrington been defeated?" asked Ronald quickly.
"It's my belief he has been sold," said Sam. "But as I am a Republican
myself and a friend of Jobbins, more or less, I don't suppose I feel so
very bad about it, after all. But I don't know how my wife will take it,
I'm sure," said Sam presently. "I expect we had better go and tell her,
"Then he has really lost the election?" inquired Ronald, who was not
altogether sorry to hear it.
"Why, yes--as I say, Jobbins is senator now. I should not wonder if
Harrington were a good deal cut up. Come along with me, now, and we will
tell the ladies."
The three ladies were in the drawing-room. Mrs. Wyndham and Joe sprang to
their feet as Sam and Ronald entered, but Sybil remained seated and merely
looked up inquiringly.
"Oh now, Sam," cried Mrs. Wyndham, in great excitement, "tell us all about
it right away. We are dying to know!"
Joe came close to Mrs. Wyndham, her face very pale and her teeth clenched
in her great anxiety. Sam threw back the lapels of his coat, put his
thumbs in the armholes of his broad waistcoat, and turned his head
slightly on one side.
"Well," he said slowly, "John's wiped out."
"Do you mean to say he has lost the election?" cried Mrs. Wyndham.
"Yes--he's lost it. Jobbins is senator."
"Sam, you are perfectly horrid!" exclaimed his spouse, in deepest
Josephine Thorn spoke no word, but turned away and went alone to the
window. She was deathly pale, and she trembled from head to foot as she
clutched the heavy curtain with her small white fingers.
"Poor Mr. Harrington!" said Sybil thoughtfully. "I am dreadfully sorry."
Mr. and Mrs. Wyndham and Ronald moved toward the fire where Sybil was
sitting. No one spoke for a few seconds. At last Mrs. Wyndham broke out:
"Sam, it's a perfect shame!" she said. "I think all those people ought to
be locked up for bribery. I am certain it was all done by some horrid
stealing, or something, now, was not it?"
"I don't know about that, my dear," said Sam reflectively. "You see they
generally vote fair enough in these things. Well, may be that fellow
Ballymolloy has made something out of it. He's a pretty bad sort of a
scamp, any way, I expect. Sorry you are so put out about it, but Jobbins
is not so very bad, after all."
Sybil suddenly missed Joe from the group, and looked across to where she
stood by the window. A glance told her that something was wrong, and she
rose from her seat and went to her friend. The sight of Josephine's pale
face frightened her.
"Joe, dear," she said affectionately, "you are ill--come to my room."
Sybil put one arm round her waist and quietly led her away. Ronald had
watched the little scene from a distance, but Mr. and Mrs. Wyndham
continued to discuss the result of the election.
"It is exactly like you, Sam, to be talking in that way, instead of
telling me just how it happened," said Mrs. Wyndham. "And then to say it
is not so very bad after all!"
"Oh, I will tell you all about it right away, my dear, if you'll only give
me a little time. You're always in such an immense fever about everything
that it's perfectly impossible to get along."
"Are you going to begin?" said Mrs. Wyndham, half vexed with her husband's
"Well, as near as I can make out it was generally thought at the start
that John had a pretty good show. The Senate elected him right away by a
majority of four, which was so much to the good, for of course his friends
reckoned on getting him in, if the Senate hadn't elected him, by the
bigger majority of the House swamping the Senate in the General Court. But
it's gone just the other way."
"Whatever is the General Court?" asked Ronald, much puzzled.
"Oh, the General Court is when the House and the Senate meet together next
day to formally declare a senator elected, if they have both chosen the
same man, or to elect one by a general majority if they haven't."
"Yes, that is it," added Mrs. Wyndham to Ronald, and then addressing her
husband, "Do go on, Sam; you've not told us anything yet."
"Well, as I said, the Senate elected John Harrington by a majority of
four. The House took a long time getting to work, and then there was some
mistake about the first vote, so they had to take a second. And when that
was done Jobbins actually had a majority of eighteen. So John's beaten,
and Jobbins will be senator anyhow, and you must just make the best you
can out of it."
"But I thought you said when the House and the Senate did not agree, the
General Court met next day and elected a senator?" asked Ronald again;
"and in that case Mr. Harrington is not really beaten yet."
"Well, theoretically he's not," said Sam, "because of course Jobbins is
not actually senator until he has been elected by the General Court, but
the majority for him in the House was so surprisingly large, and the
majority for John so small in the Senate, and the House is so much larger
than the Senate, that the vote to-morrow is a dead sure thing, and Jobbins
is just as much senator as if he were sitting in Washington."
"I suppose you will expect me to have Mr. Jobbins to dinner, now. I think
the whole business is perfectly mean!"
"Don't blame me, my dear," said Sam calmly. "I did not create the
Massachusetts Legislature, and I did not found the State House, nor
discover America, nor any of these things. And after all, Jobbins is a
very respectable man and belongs to our own party, while Harrington does
not. When I set up creating I'll make a note of one or two points, and
I'll see that John is properly attended to."
"You need not be silly, Sam," said Mrs. Wyndham. "What has become of those
"They went out of the room some time ago," said Ronald, who had been
listening with much amusement to the description of the election. He was
never quite sure whether people could be serious when they talked such
peculiar language, and he observed with surprise that Mr. and Mrs. Wyndham
talked to each other in phrases very different from those they used in
Sybil had led Joe away to her room. She did not guess the cause of Joe's
faintness, but supposed it to be a momentary indisposition, amenable to
the effects of eau-de-cologne. She made her lie upon the great cretonne
sofa, moistening her forehead, and giving her a bottle of salts to smell.
But Joe, who had never been ill in her life, recovered her strength in a
few minutes, and regaining her feet began to walk about the room.
"What do you think it was, Joe, dear?" asked Sybil, watching her.
"Oh, it was nothing. Perhaps the room was hot, and I was tired."
"I thought you looked tired all the morning," said Sybil, "and just when I
looked at you I thought you were going to faint. You were as pale as
death, and you seemed holding yourself up by the curtains."
"Did I?" said Joe, trying to laugh. "How silly of me! I felt faint for a
moment--that was all. I think I will go home."
"Yes, dear--but stay a few minutes longer and rest yourself. I will order
a carriage--it is still snowing hard." Sybil left the room.
Once alone, Joe threw herself upon the sofa again. She would rather have
died than have told any one, even Sybil Brandon, that it was no sickness
she felt, but only a great and overwhelming disappointment for the man she
Her love was doubly hers--her very own--in that it was fast locked in her
own heart, beyond the reach of any human being to know. Of all that came
and went about her, and flattered her, and strove for her graces, not one
suspected that she loved a man in their very midst, passionately,
fervently, with all the strength she had. Ronald's suspicions were too
vague, and too much the result of a preconceived idea, to represent
anything like a certainty to himself, and he had not mentioned them to
If anything can determine the passion of love in a woman, it is the great
flood of sympathy that overflows her heart when the man she loves is hurt,
or overcome in a great cause. When, for a little moment, that which she
thinks strongest and bravest and most manly is struck down and wounded and
brought low, her love rises up and is strong within her, and makes her
more noble in the devotion of perfect gentleness than a man can ever be.
"Oh, if only he could have won!" Joe said again and again to herself. "If
only he could have won, I would have given anything!"
Sybil came back in a few moments, and saw Joe lying down, still white and
apparently far from well. She knelt upon the floor by her side and taking
her hands, looked affectionately into her face.
"There is something the matter," she said. "I know--you cannot deceive me
--there is something serious the matter. Will you tell me, Joe? Can I do
anything at all to help you?" Joe smiled faintly, grateful for the
sympathy and for the gentle words of her friend.
"No, Sybil dear. It is nothing--there is nothing you can do. Thanks,
dearest--I shall be very well in a little while. It is nothing, really. Is
the carriage there?"
A few minutes later, Joe and Ronald were again at Miss Schenectady's
house. Joe recovered her self-control on the way, and asked Ronald to come
in, an invitation which he cheerfully accepted.
John Harrington had spent the day in a state of anxiety which was new to
him. Enthusiastic by nature, he was calm by habit, and he was surprised to
find his hand unsteady and his brain not capable of the intense
application he could usually command. Ten minutes after the results of the
election were known at the State House, he received a note from a friend
informing him with expressions of hearty sympathy how the day had gone.
The strong physical sense of pain which accompanies all great
disappointments, took hold of him, and he fell back in his seat and closed
his eyes, his teeth set and his face pale with the suffering, while his
broad hands convulsively grasped the heavy oaken arms of his chair.
It may be that this same bodily agony, which is of itself but the gross
reflection in our material selves of what the soul is bearing, is a
wholesome provision that draws our finer senses away from looking at what
might blind them altogether. There are times when a man would go mad if
his mind were not detached from its sorrow by the quick, sharp beating of
his bodily heart, and by the keen torture of the physical body, that is
like the thrusting of a red-hot knife between breastbone and midriff.
The expression "self-control" is daily in the blatant mouths of preachers
and moralists, the very cant of emptiness and folly. It means nothing, nor
can any play of words or cunning twisting of conception ever give it
meaning. For the "self" is the divine, imperishable portion of the eternal
God which is in man. I may control my limbs and the strength that is in
them, and I may force under the appetites and passions of this mortal
body, but I cannot myself, for it is myself that controls, being of nature
godlike and stronger than all which is material. And although, for an
infinitely brief space of time, I myself may inhabit and give life to this
handful of most changeable atoms, I have it in my supreme power and choice
to make them act according to my pleasure. If I become enamored of the
body and its ways, and of the subtleties of a fleeting bodily
intelligence, I have forgotten to control those things; and having
forgotten that I have free will given me from heaven to rule what is mine,
I am no longer a man, but a beast. But while I, who am an immortal soul,
command the perishable engine in which I dwell, I am in truth a man. For
the soul is of God and forever, whereas the body is a thing of to-day that
vanishes into dust to-morrow; but the two together are the living man. And
thus it is that God is made man in us every day.
All that which we know by our senses is but an illusion. What is true of
its own nature, we can neither see, nor hear, nor feel, nor taste. It is a
matter of time, and nothing more, and whatever palpable thing a man can
name will inevitably be dissolved into its constituent parts, that these
may again agglomerate into a new illusion for future ages. But that which
is subject to no change, nor disintegration, nor reconstruction, is the
immortal truth, to attain to a knowledge and understanding of which is to
be saved from the endless shifting of the material and illusory universe.
John Harrington lay in his chair alone in his rooms, while the snow
whirled against the windows outside and made little drifts on the sills.
The fire had gone out and the bitter storm beat against the casements and
howled in the chimney, and the dusk of the night began to mingle with the
thick white flakes, and brought upon the solitary man a great gloom and
horror of loneliness. It seemed to him that his life was done, and his
strength gone from him. He had labored in vain for years, for this end,
and he had failed to attain it. It were better to have died than to suffer
the ignominy of this defeat. It were better never to have lived at all
than to have lived so utterly in vain. One by one the struggles of the
past came up to him; each had seemed a triumph when he was in the glory of
strength and hope. The splendid aims of a higher and nobler government,
built by sheer truth and nobility of purpose upon the ashes and dust of
present corruption, the magnificent purity of the ideal State of which he
had loved to dream--all that he had thought of and striven after as most
worthy of a true man to follow, dwindled now away into a hollow and
mocking image, more false than hollowness itself, poorer and of less
substance than a juggler's show.
He clasped his hands over his forehead, and tried to think, but it was of
no use. Everything was vague, broken, crushed, and shapeless. Faces seemed
to rise to his disturbed sight, and he wondered whether he had ever known
these people; a ghastly weariness as of death was upon him, and his arms
fell heavily by his sides. He groaned aloud, and if in that bitter sigh he
could have breathed away his existence he would have gladly done it.
Some one entered the room, struck a match, and lit the gas. It was his
servant, or rather the joint servant of two or three of the bachelors who
lived in the house, a huge, smooth-faced colored man.
"Oh, excuthe _me_, Mister Harrington, I thought you wath out, Thir.
There's two o' them notes for you."
John roused himself, and took the letters without a word. They were both
addressed in feminine handwriting. The one he knew, for it was from Mrs.
Wyndham. The other he did not recognize. He opened Mrs. Wyndham's first.
"DEAR MR. HARRINGTON,--Sam and I are very much put out about it, and
sympathize most cordially. We think you might like to come and dine this
evening, if you have no other invitation, so I write to say we will be all
alone and very glad to see you. Cordially yours,
"P.S. Don't trouble about the answer."
John read the note through and laid it on the table. Then he turned the
other missive over in his fingers, and finally tore open the envelope.
It ran as follows:--
"MY DEAR MR. HARRINGTON,--Please don't be surprised at my writing to you
in this way. I was at Mrs. Wyndham's this afternoon and heard all about
it, and I must write to tell you that I am very, _very_ sorry. It is
too horrible to think how bad and wicked and foolish people are, and how
they invariably do the wrong thing. I cannot tell you how sorry we all
are, because it is just such men as you who are most needed nowadays,
though of course I know nothing about politics here. But I am quite sure
that all of them _will live to regret it_, and that you will win in
the end. Don't think it foolish of me to write, because I'm so angry that
I can't in the least help it, and I think everybody ought to.
"Yours in sincerity,"
John read Joe's note many times over before he quite realized what it
contained. It seemed at first a singular thing that she should have
written to him, and he did not understand it. He knew her as an
enthusiastic and capricious girl who had sometimes laughed at him, and
sometimes treated him coldly; but who, again, had sometimes talked with
him as though he were an old friend. He called to mind the interest she
had taken in his doings of late, and how she had denounced Vancouver as
his enemy, and he thought of the long conversation he had had with her on
the ice under the cold moonlight. He thought of many a sympathetic glance
she had given when he spoke of his aims and intentions, of many a gentle
word spoken in praise of him, and which at the time he had taken merely as
so much small, good-natured flattery, such as agreeable people deal out to
each other in society without any thought of evil nor any especial meaning
of good. All these things came back to him, and he read the little note
again. It was a kindly word, nothing more, penned by a wild, good-hearted
girl, in the scorn of consequence or social propriety. It was nothing but
And yet, there was something more in it all--something not expressed in
the abbreviated words and hurriedly-composed sentences, but something that
seemed to struggle for expression. John's experience of womankind was
limited, for he was no lady's man, and had led a life singularly lacking
in woman's love or sentiment, though singularly dependent on the
friendship of some woman. Nevertheless he knew that Joe's note breathed
the essence of a sympathy wider than that of mere every-day acquaintance,
and deeper, perhaps, than that of any friendship he had known. He could
not have explained the feeling, nor reasoned upon it, but he knew well
enough that when he next met Joe it would be on new terms. She had
declared herself his friend in a way no longer mistakable, for she must
have followed her first impulse in writing such a note, and the impulse
must have been a strong one.
For a while he debated whether to answer the note or not, almost
forgetting his troubles in the tumult of new thoughts it had suggested to
him. A note, thought he, required an answer, on general principles--but
such a note as this would be better answered in person than by any pen and
paper. He would call and see Joe, and thank her for it. But, again, he
knew he could not see her until the next day, and that seemed a long time
to wait. It would not have been long under ordinary circumstances, but in
this case it seemed to him an unreasonable delay. He sat down and took a
pen in his fingers.
"Dear Miss Thorn"--he began, and stopped. In America it is more formal to
begin without the preliminary "my;" in England the "my" is indispensable,
unless people are on familiar terms. John knew this, and reflected that
Joe was English. While he was reflecting his eye fell upon a heap of
telegraph blanks, and he remembered that he had not given notice of his
defeat to the council. He pushed aside the note paper and took a form for
a cable dispatch. In a moment Joe was forgotten in the sudden shock that
brought his thoughts back to his position. He wrote out a simple message
addressed to Z, who was the only one of the three whom he officially knew.
But when he had done that, he fell to thinking about Joe again, and
resolved to write the note.
"MY DEAR MISS THORN,--I cannot allow your very friendly words to remain
unanswered until tomorrow. It is kind of you to be sorry for the defeat I
have suffered, it is kinder still to express your sympathy so directly and
so soon. Concerning the circumstances which brought the contest to such a
result, I have nothing to say. It is the privilege of elective bodies to
choose as they please, and indeed, that is the object of their existence.
No one has any right to complain of not being elected, for a man who is a
candidate knows from the first what he is undertaking, and what manner of
men he has to deal with. Personally, I am a man who has fought a fight and
has lost it, and however firmly I still believe in the cause which led me
to the struggle, I confess that I am disappointed and disheartened at
being vanquished. You are good enough to say you believe I shall win in
the end; I can only answer that I thank you very heartily indeed for
saying so, though I do not think it is likely that any efforts of mine
will be attended with success for a long time.
"Believe me, with great gratitude,
"Very sincerely yours,
It was a longer note than he had meant to write, in fact it was almost a
letter; but he read it over and was convinced he had said what he meant to
say, which was always the principal consideration in such matters.
Accordingly the missive was dispatched to its destination. As for Mrs.
Wyndham, John determined to accept her invitation, and to answer it in
person by appearing at the dinner-hour. He would not let any one think he
was so broken-hearted as to be unable to show himself. He was too strong
for that, and he had too much pride in his strength.
He was right in going to Mrs. Wyndham's, for she and her husband were his
oldest friends, and he understood well enough what true hearts and what
honest loyalty lie sometimes concealed in the bosoms of those brisk,
peculiar people, who seem unable to speak seriously for long about the
most serious subjects, and whose quaint turns of language seem often so
unfit to express any deep feeling. But while he talked with his hosts his
own thoughts strayed again and again to Joe, and he wondered what kind of
woman she really was. He intended to visit her the next day.
The next day came, however, and yet John did not turn his steps up the
hill towards Miss Schenectady's house. It was a cloudless morning after
the heavy storm, and the great drifts of snow flashed like heaps of
diamonds in the sun. All the air was clear and cold, and the red brick
pavements were spotted here and there with white patches left from the
shovels of the Irishmen. Sleighs of all sizes were ploughing their way
hither and thither, breaking out a track in the heavy mass that encumbered
the streets. Every one was wrapped in furs, and every one's face was red
with the smarting cold.
Joe stayed at home until mid-day, when she went to a luncheon-party of
young girls. As usual, they had been sewing for the poor, but Joe thought
that she was not depriving the poor people of any very material assistance
by staying away from the more industrious part of the entertainment. The
sewing they all did together in a morning did not produce results whereby
even the very smallest baby could have been clothed, and the part effected
by each separate damsel in this whole was consequently somewhat
insignificant. Joe would have stayed at home outright had the weather not
been so magnificent, and possibly she thought that she might meet John
Harrington on her way to the house of her friend in Dartmouth Street.
Fate, however, was against her, for she had not walked thirty yards down
the hill before she was overtaken by Pocock Vancouver. He had been
standing in one of the semi-circular bay windows of the Somerset Club, and
seeing Joe coming down the steep incline, had hurriedly taken his coat and
hat and gone out in pursuit of her. Had he suspected in the least how Joe
felt toward him, he would have fled to the end of the world rather than
"Good morning, Miss Thorn," he said, walking rapidly by her side and
taking off his hat, "how very early you are to-day."
"It is not early," said Joe, looking at him coldly, "it is nearly one
"It would be called early for most people," said Vancouver; "for Mrs.
Wyndham, for instance."
"I am not Mrs. Wyndham," said Joe.
"I am going to see Harrington," remarked Vancouver, who perceived that Joe
was not in a good humor. "I am afraid he must be dreadfully cut up about
"So you are going to condole with him? I do not believe he is in the least
disturbed. He has far too much sense."
"I fancy the most sensible man in the world would be a trifle annoyed at
being defeated in an election, Miss Thorn," said Vancouver blandly. "I am
afraid you are not very sorry for him. He is an old friend of mine, and
though I differ from him in politics, very passively, I cannot do less
than go and see him, and tell him how much I regret, personally, that he
should be defeated."
Joe's lip curled in scorn, and she flushed angrily. She could have struck
Vancouver's pale face with infinite pleasure and satisfaction, but she
said nothing in immediate answer.
"Do you not think I am right?" asked Vancouver. "I am sure you do; you
have such a good heart." They passed Charles Street as he was speaking,
and yet he gave no sign of leaving her.
"I am not sure that I have a good heart, and I am quite sure that you are
utterly wrong, Mr. Vancouver," said Joe, in calm tones.
"Really? Why, you quite surprise me, Miss Thorn. Any man in my place
"Most men in your place would avoid Mr. Harrington," interrupted Joe,
turning her clear brown eyes full upon him. Had she been less angry she
would have been more cautious. But her blood was up, and she took no
thought, but said what she meant, boldly.
"Indeed, Miss Thorn," said Vancouver, stiffly, "I do not understand you in
the least. I think what you say is very extraordinary. John Harrington has
always been a friend of mine."
"That may be, Mr. Vancouver, but you are certainly no friend of his," said
Joe, with a scornful laugh.
"You astonish me beyond measure," rejoined Pocock, maintaining his air of
injured virtue, although he inwardly felt that he was in some imminent
danger. "How can you possibly say such a thing?"
Joe could bear it no longer. She was very imprudent, but her honest anger
boiled over. She stopped in her walk, her back against the iron railings,
and she faced Vancouver with a look that frightened him. He was forced to
stop also, and he could not do less than return her glance.
"Do you dare to stand there and tell me that you are Mr. Harrington's
friend?" she asked in low distinct tones. "You, the writer of articles in
the 'Daily Standard,' calling him a fool and a charlatan? You, who have
done your very best to defeat him in this election? Indeed, it is too
absurd!" She laughed aloud in utter scorn, and then turned to continue her
Vancouver turned a shade paler than was natural with him, and looked down.
He was very much frightened, for he was a coward.
"Miss Thorn," he said, "I am sorry you should believe such calumnies. I
give you my word of honor that I have never either written or spoken
against Mr. Harrington. He is one of my best friends."
Joe did not answer; she did not even look at him, but walked on in
silence. He did not dare to speak again, and as they reached the corner of
the Public Garden he lifted his hat.
"I am quite sure that you will find you have misjudged me, Miss Thorn," he
said, with a grieved look. "In the mean while I wish you a very good
"Good-morning," said Joe, without looking at him; and she passed on, full
of indignation and wrath.
To tell the truth, she was so much delighted at having spoken her mind for
once, that she had not a thought of any possible consequences. The delight
of having dealt Vancouver such a buffet was very great, and she felt her
heart beat fast with a triumphant pleasure.
But Vancouver turned and went away with a very unpleasant sensation in,
him. He wished with all his might that he had not left the comfortable bay
window of the Somerset Club that morning, and more than all he wished he
could ascertain how Joe had come to know of his journalistic doings. As a
matter of fact, what she had said concerning Pocock's efforts against John
in the election had been meant in a most general way. But Vancouver
thought she was referring to his interview with Ballymolloy, and that she
understood the whole matter. Of course, there was nothing to be done but
to deny the accusations from beginning to end; but they nevertheless had
struck deep, and he was thoroughly alarmed. When he left the club he had
had no intention of going to see Harrington; the idea had formed itself
while talking with her. But now, again, he felt that he could not go. He
had not the courage to face the man he had injured, principally because he
strongly suspected that if Joe knew what he had done, John Harrington most
likely knew it too.
He was doubly hit. He would have been less completely confused and
frightened if the attack had come from Sybil Brandon; but he had had vague
ideas of trying to marry Joe, and he guessed that any such plan was now
hopelessly out of the question. He turned his steps homeward, uncertain
what to do, and hoping to find counsel in solitude.
He took up the letters and papers that lay on his study table, brought by
the mid-day post. One letter in particular attracted his attention, and he
singled it out and opened it. It was dated from London, and had been
twelve days on its way.
"MY DEAR VANCOUVER,
"Enclosed please find Bank of England Post Note for your usual quarterly
honorarium, L1250. My firm will address you upon the use to be made of the
Proxies lately sent you for the ensuing election of officers of the
Pocahontas and Dead Man's Valley R. R., touching your possession of which
I beg to reiterate the importance of a more than Masonic discretion. I
apprehend that unless the scattered shares should have been quickly
absorbed for the purpose of obtaining a majority, these Proxies will
enable you to control the election of the proper ticket. If not, and if
the Leviathan should decline the overtures that will be made to him during
his summer visit to London, I should like your estimate of five thousand
shares more, to be picked up in the next three months, which will assure
our friends the control. Should the prospective figure be too high, we may
elect to sell out, after rigging the market for a boom.
"In either event there will be lots of pickings in the rise and fall of
the shares for the old joint account, which has been so profitable because
you have so skillfully covered up your tracks.
"P. S. The expectations of the young lady about whom you inquire are
involved in such a tangle of conditions as could only have occurred to the
excited fancy of an old Anglo-Indian. He left about twenty lacs of rupees
in various bonds--G. I. P. and others--to his nephew, Ronald Surbiton, and
to his niece jointly, provided that they marry each other. If they do not,
one quarter of the estate is to go to the one who marries first, and the
remaining three quarters to the other. The estate is in the hands of
trustees, who pay an allowance to the heirs. In case they marry each
other, the said heirs have power to dispose by will of the inheritance.
Otherwise the whole of it reverts to the last survivor, and at his or her
death it is to be devoted to founding a home for superannuated
Vancouver read the letter through with care, and held it a moment in his
hand. Then he crushed it angrily together and tossed it into the fire. It
seemed as though everything went wrong with him to-day. Not only was no
information concerning Joe of any use now. It would be a hard thing to
disabuse her of the idea that he had written those articles. After all,
though, as he thought the matter over, it could be only guess-work. The
manuscripts had always gone through the post, signed with a feigned name,
and it was utterly impossible that the editor himself could know who had
written them. It would be still more impossible, therefore, for any one
else to do more than make a guess. It is easy to deny any statement,
however correct, when founded on such a basis. But there was the other
thing: Joe had accused him of having opposed John's election to the best
of his ability. No one could prove that either. He had even advised
Ballymolloy to vote for John, in so many words. On the whole, his
conscience was clear enough. Vancouver's conscience was represented by all
those things which could by any possibility be found out; the things that
no one could ever know gave him no anxiety. In the present case the first
thing to be done was plainly to put the whole blame of the articles on the
shoulders of some one else, a person of violent political views and very
great vanity, who would be greatly flattered at being thought the author
of anything so clever. That would not be a difficult task. He would broach
the subject to Mrs. Wyndham, telling her that the man, whoever he should
be, had told him in strictest confidence that he was the writer. Vancouver
would of course tell it to Mrs. Wyndham as a state secret, and she would
tell some one else--it would soon be public property, and Joe would hear
of it. It would be easy enough to pitch upon some individual who would not
deny the imputation, or who would deny it in such a way as to leave the
impression on the public mind unchanged, more especially as the articles
had accomplished the desired result.
The prime cause of all this, John Harrington himself, sat in his room,
unconscious, for the time, of Vancouver's existence. He was in a state of
great depression and uncertainty, for he had not yet rallied from the blow
of the defeat. Moreover he was thinking of Joe, and her letter lay open on
the table beside him. His whole heart went out to her in thanks for her
ready sympathy, and he had almost made up his mind to go and see her, as
he had at first determined to do.
He would have laughed very heartily at the idea of being in love, for he
had never thought of himself in such a position. But he realized that he
was fond of Josephine Thorn, that he was thinking of her a great deal, and
that the thought was a comfort to him in his distress. He knew very well
that he would find a great rest and refreshment in talking to her at
present, and yet he could not decide to go to her. John was a man of calm
manner and with plenty of hard, practical sense, in spite of the great
enthusiasm that burned like a fire within him, and that was the mainspring
of his existence. But like all orators and men much accustomed to dealing
with the passions of others, he was full of quick intuitions and instincts
which rarely betrayed him. Something warned him not to seek her society,
and though he said to himself that he was very far from being in love, the
thought that he might some day find that he wished to marry her presented
itself continually to his mind; and since John had elected to devote
himself to celibacy and politics, there was nothing more repugnant to his
whole life than the idea of marriage.
At this juncture, while he was revolving in his mind what was best to be
done, a telegram was brought to him. It was from Z, and in briefest terms
of authority commanded John to hold himself ready to start for London at a
moment's notice. It must have been dispatched within a few hours after
receiving his own message of the night before, and considering the
difference of time, must have been sent from London early in the
afternoon. It was clearly an urgent case, and the supreme three had work
for John to do, even though he had not been made senator.
The order was a great relief. It solved all his uncertainty and scattered
all his doubts to the wind. It gave him new courage and stimulated his
curiosity. Z had only sent for him twice before, and then only to call him
from Boston or New York to Washington. It was clear that something of very
great importance was likely to occur. His energy returned in full, with
the anticipation of work to do and of a journey to be made, and before
night he was fully prepared to leave on receipt of his orders. His box was
packed, and he had drawn the money necessary to take him to London.
As for Joe, he could go and see her now if he pleased. In twenty-four
hours he might be gone, never to see her again. But it was too late on
that day--he would go on the following morning.
It was still the height of the Boston season, which is short, but merry
while it lasts. John had a dinner-party, a musical evening, and a ball on
his list for the evening, and he resolved that he would go to all three,
and show himself bravely to the world. He was full of new courage and
strength since he had received Z's message, and he was determined that no
one should know what he had suffered.
The dinner passed pleasantly enough, and by ten o'clock he was at the
musical party. There he found the Wyndhams and many other friends, but he
looked in vain for Joe; she was not there. Before midnight he was at the
dance, pushing his way through crowds of acquaintances, stumbling over
loving couples ensconced on the landings of the stairs, and running
against forlorn old ladies, whose mouths were full of ice-cream and their
hearts of bitterness against the younger generation; and so, at last, he
reached the ball-room, where everything that was youngest and most fresh
was assembled, swaying and gliding, and backing and turning in the easy,
graceful half-walk, half-slide of the Boston step.
As John stood looking on, Joe passed him, leaving the room on Mr. Topeka's
arm. There was a little open space before her in the crowd, and Pocock
Vancouver darted out with the evident intention of speaking to her. But as
she caught sight of him she turned suddenly away, pulling Mr. Topeka round
by his arm. It was an extremely "marked thing to do." As she turned she
unexpectedly came face to face with John, who had watched the maneuver.
The color came quickly to her face, and she was slightly embarrassed;
nevertheless she held out her hand and greeted John cordially.
"I am so glad to have found you," said John to Josephine, when the latter
had disposed of Mr. Topeka. They had chosen a quiet corner in a dimly-
lighted room away from the dancers. "But I suppose it is useless to ask
you for a dance?"
"No," said Joe, looking at her card; "I always leave two dances free in
the middle of the evening in case I am tired. We will sit them out."
"Thank you," said John, looking at her. She looked pale and a little
tired, but wonderfully lovely. "Thank you," he repeated, "and thank you
also for your most kind note."
"I wish I could tell you better how very sorry I am," said Joe,
impulsively. "It is bad enough to look on and see such things done, but I
should think you must be nearly distracted."
"I think I was at first," said John, simply. "But one soon grows used to
it. Man is a vain animal, and I suppose no one could lose a fight as I
have without being disappointed."
"If you were not disappointed it would be a sign you did not really care,"
answered Joe. "And of course you must care--a great, great deal. It is a
loss to your cause, as well as a loss to yourself. But you cannot possibly
give it up; you will win next time."
"Yes," said John, "I hope I shall win some day." But his voice sounded
uncertain; it lacked that determined ring that Joe loved so well. She felt
as she sat beside him that he was deeply hurt and needed fresh
encouragement and strength to restore him to his old self. She longed to
help him and to rouse him once more to the consciousness of power and the
hope of victory.
"It is my experience," said she with an air of superiority that would have
been amusing if she had spoken less earnestly--"it is my experience that
one should never think of anything in which one has come to grief. I know,
when one is going at a big thing--a double post and rails with a ditch, or
anything like that, you know--it would never do to remember that you have
come off at the same thing or at something else before. When a man is
always remembering his last tumble he has lost his nerve, and had better
give up hunting altogether. Thinking that you may get an ugly fall will
not help you over anything."
"No," said John, "that is very true."
"You must forget all about it and begin again. You have missed one bird,
but you are a good shot, and you will not miss the next."
"You are a most encouraging person, Miss Thorn," said John with a faint
smile. "But you know the only test of a good shot is that one hits the
mark. I have missed at the first trial, and that is no reason why I should
not miss at the second, too."
"You are disappointed and unhappy now," said Joe, gently. "It is very
natural indeed. Anybody would feel like that. But you must not believe in
yourself any less than your friends believe in you."
"I fancy my friends do not all think alike," answered John. "But I am
grateful to you for what you say."
He was indeed grateful, and the soothing sound of her gentle voice was the
best refreshment for his troubled spirit. He thought for a moment how
brave a man could be with such a woman by his side; and the thought
pleased him, the more because he knew that it could not be realized. They
sat in silence for a while, contented to be together, and in sympathy. But
before long the anxiety for the future and the sense of his peculiar
position came over John again.
"Do you know," he said, "there are times when I regret it all very much? I
never told any one so before--perhaps I was never so sure of it as I have
been since this affair."
"What is it that you regret so much?" asked Joe, softly. "It is a noble
"It is, indeed, if only a man knows how to live it," answered John. "But
sometimes I think I do not. You once said a very true thing to me about it
all. Do you remember?"
"No; what was it?"
"You said I should not succeed because I am not enough of a partisan, and
because every one is a partisan here."
"Did I? Yes, I remember saying it," answered Joe, secretly pleased that he
should not have forgotten it. "I do not think it is so very true, after
all. It is true to-day; but it is for men like you to set things right, to
make partisanship a thing of the past. Men ought to make laws because they
are just and necessary, not in order that they may profit by them at the
expense of the rest of the world. And to have such good laws men ought to
choose good men to represent them."
"There is no denying the truth of that," said John. "That is the way to
construct the ideal republic. It would be the way to do a great many ideal
things. You need only persuade humanity to do right, and humanity will do
it. Verily, it is an easy task!" He laughed, a little bitterly.
"It is not like you to laugh in that way," said Joe, gravely.
"No; to tell the truth, I am not overmuch inclined to laugh at anything
to-day, excepting myself, and I dare say there are plenty of people who
will do that for me without the asking. They will have no chance when I am
Joe started slightly.
"Gone?" she repeated. "Are you going away?"
"It is very likely," said John. "A friend of mine has warned me to be
ready to start at a moment's notice on very important business."
"But it is uncertain, then?" asked Joe, quickly. She had turned very white
in an instant, and she looked straight across the little room and pulled
nervously at her fan. She would not have dared to let her eyes meet John's
at that moment.
"Yes, rather uncertain," answered John. "But he would not have sent me
such a warning unless it were very likely that he would really want me."
Joe was silent; she could not speak.
"So you see," continued Harrington, "I may leave to-morrow, and I cannot
tell when I may come back. That is the reason I was glad to find you here.
I would have called to-day, if it had been possible, after I got the
message." He spoke calmly, not dreaming of the storm of fear and passion
he was rousing in the heart of the fair girl beside him.
"Where--where are you going?" asked Joe in a low voice.
"Probably to England," said John.
Before the words were out of his mouth he turned and looked at her,
suddenly realizing the change in her tones. But she had turned away from
him. He could see the quiver of her lips and the beating throb of her
beautiful throat; and as he watched the outline of her cheek a tear stole
slowly over the delicate skin, and trembled, and fell upon her white neck.
But still she looked away.
Ah, John Harrington, what have you done? You have taken the most precious
and pure thing in this world, the thing men as brave as you have given
their heart's best blood to win and have perished for failing, the thing
which angels guard and Heaven has in its keeping--the love of a good and
noble woman. It has come into your hands and you do not want it. You
hardly know it is yours; and if you fully knew it you would not know what
You are innocent, indeed; you have done nothing, spoken no word, given no
look that, in your opinion, your cold indifferent opinion, could attract a
woman's love. But the harm is done, nevertheless, and a great harm too.
When you are old and sensible you will look back to this day as one of
sorrow and evil, and you will know then that all greatness and power and
glory of realized ambition are nothing unless a man have a woman's love.
You will know that a man who cannot love is blind to half the world he
seeks to conquer, and that a man who cannot love truly is no true man, for
he who is not true to one cannot be true to many. That is the sum and
reckoning of what love is worth.
But John knew of nothing beyond friendship, and he could not conceive how
friendship could turn into anything else. When he saw the tear on
Josephine Thorn's cheek he was greatly disturbed, and vaguely wondered
what in the world he should do. The idea that any woman could care enough
for him to shed a tear when he left her had never crossed his mind; even
now, with the actual fact before his eyes, he doubted whether it were
possible. She was ill, perhaps, and suffering pain. Pshaw! it was absurd,
it could not be that she cared so much for him.
Seeing she did not move, he sat quite still for a while. His usual tact
had deserted him in the extremity of the situation. He revolved in his
mind what was best to say. It was safest to suppose that Joe was ill, but
he would say something indifferent, in order to see whether she recovered,
before he suggested that he might be of assistance.
"It is cold here," he remarked, trying to speak as naturally as possible.
"Would you not like to take a turn, Miss Thorn?"
Joe moved a little. She was deadly pale, and in the effort she had made to
control her feelings she was unconscious of the tears in her eyes.
"Oh no, thanks," she faltered, "I will not dance just now." She could not
John made up his mind.
"You are ill, Miss Thorn," he said anxiously. "I am sure you are very far
from well. Let me get you something, or call your aunt. Shall I?"
"Oh no--don't--that is--please, I think so. I will go home."
John rose quickly, but before he reached the door she called him back.
"Mr. Harrington, it is nothing. Please sit down."
John came back and did as he was bid, more and more surprised and
"I was afraid it was something serious," he said nervously, for he was
Joe laughed, a bitter, harsh little laugh, that was bad to hear. She was
making a great effort, but she was strong, and bravely forced back her
"Oh no! I was only choking," she said. "I often do. Go on, please, with
what you were saying. Why are you going away so suddenly?"
"Indeed," answered John, "I do not know what the business is. I am going
if I am required, simply because my friend wants me."
"Do you mean to say," asked Joe, speaking more calmly, "that you will pack
up your belongings and go to the end of the world whenever a friend asks
you to? It is most tremendously obliging, you know."
"Not for any friend," John replied. "But I would most certainly do it for
this particular one."
"You must be very fond of him to do that," said Joe.
"I am under great obligations to him, too. He is certainly the most
important man with whom I have any relations. We can trust each other-it
would not do to endanger the certainty of good faith that exists between
"He must be a very wonderful person," said Joe, who had grown quite calm
by this time. "I should like to know him."
"Very possibly you may meet him, some day. He is a very wonderful person
indeed, as you say. He has devoted fifty years of his life and strength to
the unremitting pursuit of the best aim that any man can set before him."
"In other words," said Joe, "he is your ideal. He is what you hope to be
at his age. He must be very old."
"Yes, he is old. As for his representing my ideal, I think he approaches
more nearly to it than any man alive. But you would probably not like
"He belongs to a class of men whom old-world people especially dislike,"
answered John. "He does not believe in any monarchy, aristocracy, or
distinction of birth. He looks upon titles as a decaying institution of
barbarous ages, and he confidently asserts that in two or three
generations the republic will be the only form of social contract known
amongst the inhabitants of the civilized world."
John was watching Joe while he spoke. He was merely talking because it
seemed necessary, and he saw that in spite of her assumed calm she was
still greatly agitated. She seemed anxious, however, to continue the
"It is absurd," said she, "to say that all men are born equal."
"Everything depends on what you mean by the word 'equal.' I mean by it
that all men are born with an equal claim to a share in all the essential
rights of free citizenship. When a man demands more than that, he is
infringing on the rights of others; when he is content with less, he is
allowing himself to be robbed."
"But who is to decide just how much belongs to each man?" asked Joe,
leaning back wearily against the cushions. She wished now that she had
allowed him to call her aunt. It was a fearful strain on her faculties to
continue talking upon general subjects and listening to John Harrington's
calm, almost indifferent tones.
"The majority decides that," said John.
"But a majority has just decided that you are not to be senator," said
Joe. "According to you they were right, were they not?"
"It is necessary that the majority should be free," said John, "and that
they should judge of themselves, each man according to his honest belief.
Majorities with us are very frequently produced by a handful of dishonest
men, who can turn the scale on either side, to suit their private ends. It
is the aim we set before us to protect the freedom of majorities. That is
the true doctrine of a republic."
"And for that aim," said Joe, slowly, "you would sacrifice everything?"
"Yes, indeed we would," said John, gravely. "For that end we will
sacrifice all that we have to give--the care for personal satisfaction,
the hope of personal distinction, the peace of a home and the love of a
wife. We seek neither distinction nor satisfaction, and we renounce all
ties that could hamper our strength or interfere with the persevering and
undivided attention we try to give to our work."
"That is a magnificent programme," said Joe, somewhat incredulously. "Do
you not think it is possible sometimes to aim too high? You say 'we seek,'
'we try,' as though there were several of you, or at least, some one
besides yourself. Do you believe that such ideas as you tell me of are
really and seriously held by any body of men?"
Nothing had seemed too high to Josephine an hour earlier, nothing too
exalted, nothing so noble but that John Harrington might do it, then and
there. But a sudden change had come over her, the deadly cold phase of
half melancholy unbelief that often follows close upon an unexpected
disappointment, so that she looked with distaste on anything that seemed
so full of the enthusiasm she had lost. The tears that bad risen so
passionately to her dimmed eyes were suddenly frozen, and seemed to flow
back with chilling force to her heart. She coldly asked herself whether
she were mad, that she could have suffered thus for such a man, even ever
so briefly. He was a man, she said, who loved an unattainable, fanatic
idea in the first place, and who dearly loved himself as well for his own
fanaticism's sake. He was a man in whom the heart was crushed, even
annihilated, by his intellect, which he valued far too highly, and by his
vanity, which he dignified into a philosophy of self-sacrifice. He was
aiming at what no man can reach, and though he knew his object to be
beyond human grasp, he desired all possible credit for having madly
dreamed of anything so high. In the sudden revulsion of her strong
passion, she almost hated him, she almost felt the power to refute his
theories, to destroy his edifice of fantastic morality, and finally to
show him that he was a fool among men, and doubly a fool, because he was
not even happy in his own folly.
Joe vaguely felt all this, and with it she felt a sense of shame at having
so nearly broken down at the news that he was going away. He had thought
she was ill; most assuredly he could not have guessed the cause of what he
had seen; but nevertheless she had suffered a keen pain, and the tears had
come to her eyes. She did not understand it. He might leave her now, if he
pleased, and she would not care; indeed, it would be rather a relief if he
would go. She no longer asked what she was to him, she simply reflected
that, after all was said, he was nothing to her. She felt a quick
antagonism to his ideas, to his words, and to himself, and she was willing
to show it. She asked him incredulously whether his ideas were really held
"It makes little difference," answered John, "whether they are many or few
who think as I do, and I cannot tell how many there may be. The truth is
not made truth because many people believe it. The world went round, as
Galileo knew, although he alone stood up and said it in the face of
mankind, who scoffed at him for his pains."
"In other words, you occupy the position of Galileo," suggested Joe,
"Not I," said John; "but there are men, and there have been men, in our
country who know truths as great as any he discovered, and who have spent
their lives in proclaiming them. I _know_ that they are right, and
that I am right, and that, however we may fail, others will succeed at
last. I know that, come what may, honor and truth and justice will win the
day in the end!" His gray eyes glittered as he spoke, and his broad white
hands clasped nervously together in his enthusiasm. He was depressed and
heartsick at his failure, but it needed only one word of opposition to
rouse the strong main thought of his life into the most active expression.
But Joe sat coldly by, her whole nature seemingly changed in the few
minutes that had passed.
"And all this will be brought about by the measures you advocated the
other day," said she with a little laugh. "A civil service, a little
tariff reform--that is enough to inaugurate the reign of honor, truth, and
John turned his keen eyes upon hers. He had begun talking because she had
required it of him, and he had been roused by the subject. He remembered
the sympathy she had given him, and he was annoyed at her caprice.
"Such things are the mere passing needs of a time," he said. "The truth,
justice, and honor, at which you are pleased to be amused, would insure
the execution at all times of what is right and needful. Without a
foundation composed of the said truth, justice, and honor, to get what is
right and needful is often a matter so stupendous that the half of a
nation's blood is drained in accomplishing the task, if even it is
accomplished after all. I see nothing to laugh at."
Indeed, Joe was only smiling faintly, but John was so deeply impressed and
penetrated by the absolute truth of what he was saying, that he had
altogether ceased to make any allowances for Joe's caprice of mood or for
the disturbance in her manner that he had so lately witnessed. He was
beginning to be angry, and she had never seen him in such a mood.
"The world would be a very nice tiresome place to live in," she said, "if
every one always did exactly what is absolutely right. I should not like
to live among people who would be always so entirely padded and lined with
goodness as they must be in your ideal republic."
"It is a favorite and characteristic notion of modern society to associate
goodness with dullness, and consequently, I suppose, to connect badness
with all that is gay, interesting, and diverting. There is nothing more
perverted, absurd, and contemptible than that notion in the whole history
of the world."
John was not gentle with an idea when he despised it, and the adjectives
fell in his clear utterance like the blows of a sledge-hammer. But as the
idea he was abusing had been suggested by Joe, she resented the strong
"I am flattered that you should call anything I say by such bad names,"
she said. "I am not good at arguing and that sort of thing. If I were I
think I could answer you very easily. Will you please take me back to my
aunt?" She rose in a somewhat stately fashion.
John was suddenly aware that he had talked too much and too strongly, and
he was very sorry to have displeased her. She had always let him talk as
he pleased, especially of late, and she had almost invariably agreed with
him in everything he said, so that he had acquired too much confidence. At
all events, that was the way he explained to himself the present
"Please forgive me, Miss Thorn," he said humbly, as he gave her his arm to
leave the room. "I am a very sanguine person, and I often talk great
nonsense. Please do not be angry." Joe paused just as they reached the
"Angry? I am not angry," she said with sudden gentleness. "Besides, you
know, this is--you are really going away?"
"I think so," said John.
"Then, if you do," she said with some hesitation--"if you do, this is
good-by, is it not?"
"Yes, I am afraid it is," said John; "but not for long."
"Not for long, perhaps," she answered; "but I would not like you to think
I was angry the very last time I saw you."
"No, indeed. I should be very sorry if you were. But you are not?"
"No. Well then"--she held out her hand--"Good-by, then." She had almost
hated him a few minutes ago. Half an hour earlier she had loved him. Now
her voice faltered a little, but her face was calm.
John took the proffered hand and grasped it warmly. With all her caprice,
and despite the strange changes of her manner toward him, she had been a
good friend in a bad time during the last days, and he was more sorry to
leave her than he would himself have believed.
"Good-by," he said, "and thank you once more, with all my heart, for your
friendship and kindness." Their hands remained clasped for a moment; then
she took his arm again, and he led her out of the dimly-lighted sitting-
room back among the brilliant dancers and the noise and the music and the
A change has come over Boston in four months, since John Harrington and
Josephine Thorn parted. The breath of the spring has been busy everywhere,
and the haze of the hot summer is ripening the buds that the spring has
brought out. The trees on the Common are thick and heavy with foliage, the
Public Garden is a carpet of bright flowers, and on the walls of Beacon
Street the great creepers have burst into blossom and are stretching long
shoots over the brown stone and the iron balconies. There is a smell of
violets and flowers in the warm air, and down on the little pond the swan-
shaped boats are paddling about with their cargoes of merry children and
calico nursery-maids, while the Irish boys look on from the banks and
throw pebbles when the policemen are not looking, wishing they had the
spare coin necessary to embark for a ten minutes' voyage on the mimic sea.
Unfamiliar figures wander through the streets of the West End, and more
than half the houses show by the boarded windows and doors that the owners
are out of town.
The migration of the "tax-dodgers" took place on the last day of April;
they will return on the second day of December, having spent just six
months and one day in their country places, whereby they have shifted the
paying of a large proportion of their taxes to more economical regions. It
is a very equitable arrangement, for it is only the rich man who can save
money in this way, while his poorer neighbor, who has no country-seat to
which he may escape, must pay to the uttermost farthing. The system
stimulates the impecunious to become wealthy and helps the rich to become
richer. It is, therefore, perfectly good and just.
But Boston is more beautiful in the absence of the "tax-dodger" than at
any other season. There is a stillness and a peace over the fair city that
one may long for in vain during the winter. Business indeed goes on
without interruption, but the habitation of the great men of business
knows them not. They come up from their cool bowers by the sea, in special
trains, in steamers, and in yachts, every morning, and early in the
afternoon they go back, so that all day long the broad streets at the west
are quiet and deserted, and seem to be basking in the sunshine to recover
from the combined strain of the bitter winter and the unceasing gayety
that accompanies it.
In the warm June weather Miss Schenectady and Joe still linger in town.
The old lady has no new-fangled notions about taxes, and though she is
rich and has a pretty place near Newport, she will not go there until she
is ready, no, not for all the tax-gatherers in Massachusetts. As for Joe,
she does not want to go away. Urgent letters come by every mail entreating
her to return to England in time for a taste of the season in London, but
they lie unanswered on her table, and often she does not read more than
half of what they contain. The books and the letters accumulate in her
room, and she takes no thought whether she reads them or not, for the time
is weary on her hands and she only wishes it gone, no matter how.
Nevertheless she will not go home, and she even begs her aunt not to leave
She is paler than she was and her face looks thin. She says she is well
and as strong as ever, but the elasticity is gone from her step, and the
light has faded in her brown eyes, so that one might meet her in the
street and hardly know her. As she sits by the window, behind the closed
blinds, the softened light falls on her face, and it is sad and weary.
It was not until John Harrington was gone that she realized all. He had
received the message he expected early on the morning after that memorable
parting, and before mid-day he was on his way. Since then she had heard no
word of tidings concerning him, save that she knew he had arrived in
England. For anything she knew he might even now be in America again, but
she would not believe it. If he had come back he would surely have come to
see her, she thought. There were times when she would have given all the
world to look on his face again, but for the most part she said to herself
it was far better that she should never see him. Where was the use?
Joe was not of the women who have intimate confidants and can get rid of
much sorrow by much talking about it. She was too proud and too strong to
ask for help or sympathy in any real distress. She had gone to Sybil
Brandon when she was about to tell Ronald of her decision, because she
thought that Sybil would be kind to him and help him to forget the past;
but where she herself was alone concerned, she would rather have died many
deaths than confess what was in her heart.
She had gone bravely through the remainder of the season, until all was
over, and no one had guessed her disappointment. Such perfect physical
strength as hers was not to be broken down by the effort of a few weeks,
and still she smiled and talked and danced and kept her secret. But as the
long months crawled out their tale of dreary days, the passion in her soul
spread out great roots and grew fiercely against the will that strove to
break it down. It was a love against which there was no appeal, which had
taken possession silently and stealthily, with no outward show of wooing
or sweet words; and then, safe within the fortress of her maidenly soul,
it had grown up to a towering strength, feeding upon her whole life, and
ruthlessly dealing with her as it would. But this love sought no
confidence, nor help, nor assistance, being of itself utterly without
hope, strong and despairing.
One satisfaction only she had daily. She rejoiced that she had broken away
from the old ties, from Ronald and from her English life. To have found
herself positively loving one man while she was betrothed to another would
have driven her to terrible extremity; the mere idea of going back to her
mother and to the old life at home with this wild thought forever gnawing
at her heart was intolerable. She might bear it to the end, whatever the
end might be, and in silence, so long as none of her former associations
made the contrast between past and present too strong. Old Miss
Schenectady, with her books and her odd conversation, was as good a
companion as any one, since she could not live alone. Sybil Brandon would
have wearied her by her sympathy, gentle and loving as it would have been;
and besides, Sybil was away from Boston and very happy; it would be
unkind, as well as foolish, to disturb her serenity with useless
confidences. And so the days went by and the hot summer was come, and yet
Joe lingered in Boston, suffering silently and sometimes wondering how it
would all end.
Sybil was staying near Newport with her only surviving relation, an uncle
of her mother. He was an old man, upward of eighty years of age, and he
lived in a strange old place six or seven miles from the town. But Ronald
had been there more than once, and he was always enthusiastic in his
description of what he had seen, and he seemed particularly anxious that
Joe should know how very happy Sybil was in her country surroundings.
Ronald had traveled during the spring, making short journeys in every
direction, and constantly talking of going out to see the West, a feat
which he never accomplished. He would go away for a week at a time and
then suddenly appear again, and at last had gravitated to Newport. Thence
he came to town occasionally and visited Joe, never remaining more than a
day, and sometimes only a few hours. Joe was indifferent to his comings
and goings, but always welcomed him in a friendly way. She saw that he was
amusing himself, and was more glad than ever that the relations formerly
existing between them had been so opportunely broken off. He had never
referred to the past since the final interview when Joe had answered him
by bursting into tears, and he talked about the present cheerfully enough.
One morning he arrived without warning, as usual, to make one of his short
visits. Joe was sitting by the window dressed all in white, and the
uniform absence of color in her dress rather exaggerated the pallor of her
face than masked it. She was reading, apparently with some interest, in a
book of which the dark-lined binding sufficiently declared the sober
contents. As she read, her brows bent in the effort of understanding,
while the warm breeze that blew through the blinds fanned her tired face
and gently stirred the small stray ringlets of her soft brown hair. Ronald
opened the door and entered.
"Oh, Ronald!" exclaimed Joe, starting a little nervously, "have you come
up? You look like the sunshine. Come in, and shut the door." He did as he
was bidden, and came and sat beside her.
"Yes, I nave come up for the day. How are you, Joe dear? You look pale. It
is this beastly heat--you ought to come down to Newport for a month. It is
utterly idiotic, you know, staying in town in this weather."
"I like it," said Joe. "I like the heat so much that I think I should be
cold in Newport. Tell me all about what you have been doing."
"Oh, I hardly know," said Ronald. "Lots of things."
"Tell me what you do in one day--yesterday, for instance. I want to be
amused this morning."
"It is not so very amusing, you know, but it is very jolly," answered
Ronald. "To begin with, I get up at unholy hours and go and bathe in the
surf at the second beach. There are no end of a a lot of people there even
at that hour."
"Yes, I dare say. And then?"
"Oh, then I go home and dress: and later, if I do not ride, I go to the
club--casino, I beg its pardon!--and play tennis. They play very decently,
some of those fellows."
"Are there any nice rides?"
"Just along the roads, you know. But when you get out to Sherwood there
are meadows and things--with a brook. That is very fair."
"Do you still go to Sherwood often? How is Sybil?"
"Yes," said Ronald, and a blush rose quickly to his face, "I often go
there. It is such a queer old place, you know, full of trees and old
summer-houses and graveyards--awfully funny."
"Tell me, Ronald," said Joe, insisting a little, "how is Sybil?"
"She looks very well, so I suppose she is. But she never goes to anything
in Newport; she has not been in the town at all yet, since she went to
stay with her uncle."
"But of course lots of people go out to see her, do they not?"
"Oh, well, not many. In fact I do not remember to have met any one there,"
answered Ronald, as though he were trying to recall some face besides Miss
Brandon's. "Her uncle is such an odd bird, you have no idea."
"I do not imagine you see very much of him when you go out there," said
Joe, with a faint laugh.
"Oh, I always see him, of course," said Ronald, blushing again. "He is
about a hundred years old, and wears all kinds of clothes, and wanders
about the garden perpetually. But I do not talk to him unless I am driven
"Which does not occur often," interrupted Joe.
"Oh, well, I suppose not very often. Why should it?"
Ronald was visibly embarrassed. Joe watched him with a look of amusement
on her face; but affectionately, too, as though what he said pleased her
as well as amused her. There was a short pause, during which Ronald rubbed
his hat slowly and gently. Then he looked up suddenly and met Joe's eyes;
but he turned away again instantly, blushing redder than ever.
"Ronald," Joe said presently, "I am so glad."
"Glad? Why? About what?"
"I am glad that you like her, and that she likes you. I think you like her
very much, Ronald."
"Oh yes, very much," repeated Ronald, trying to seem indifferent.
"Do you not feel as though we were much more like brother and sister now?"
asked Joe, after a little while.
"Oh, much!" assented Ronald. "I suppose it is better, too, though I did
not think so at first."
"It is far better," said Joe, laying her small, thin hand across her
cousin's strong fingers and pressing them a little. "You are free now, and
you will probably be very happy before long. Do you not think so?" she
asked, looking affectionately into his eyes.
"I hope so," said Ronald, with a last attempt at indifference. Then
suddenly his face softened, and he added in a gentler tone, "Indeed, Joe,
I think I shall be very happy soon."
"I am so glad," said Joe again, still holding his hand, but leaning her
head back wearily in the deep chair. "There is only one thing that
"What is that?"
"That horrid will," said Joe. "I am sure we could get it altered in some
"We never thought about it before, Joe. Why should we think about it now?
It seems to me it is a very good will as things have turned out."
"But, my dear boy," said Joe, "if you are married to Sybil Brandon, you
will need ever so much money."
Ronald blushed again.
"I have not asked her to marry me," he said quickly.
"That makes no difference at all," replied Joe. "As I was saying, when you
have married her you will need money."
"What an idea!" exclaimed Ronald, indignantly. "As if any one wanted to be
rich in order to be happy. Besides, between what I have of my own, and my
share of the money, there is nearly four thousand a year; and then there
is the place in Lanarkshire for us to live in. As if that were not
"It is not so very much, though," said Joe, reflecting. "I do not think
Sybil has anything at all. You will be as poor as two little church mice;
but I will come and stay with you sometimes," Joe added, laughing, "and
help you about the bills."
"The bills would take care of themselves," said Ronald, gravely. "They
always do. But whatever happens, Joe, my home is always yours. You will
always remember that, will you not?"
"Dear Ronald," answered his cousin affectionately, "you are as good as it
is possible to be--you really are."
"Ronald," said Joe, after a pause, "I have an idea."
He looked at her inquiringly, but said nothing.
"I might," she continued, smiling at the thought--"I may go and marry
first, you know, after all, and spoil it."
"But you will not, will you? Promise me you will not."
"I wish I could," said Joe, "and then you could have the money"--
"But I would not let you," interrupted Ronald. "I would go off and get
married by license, and that sort of thing."
"Without asking Miss Brandon?" suggested Joe.
"Nonsense!" ejaculated Ronald, coloring for the twentieth time.
"I think we are talking nonsense altogether," said Joe, seriously. "I do
not think, indeed I am quite sure, I shall never marry."
"How absurd!" cried Ronald. "The idea of your not marrying. It is
The name of John Harrington was on his lips, but he checked himself. John
was gone abroad, and with more than usual tact, Ronald reflected that, if
Joe had really cared for the man, an allusion to him would be unkind. But
Joe only shook her head, and let her cousin's words pass unanswered.
She had long suspected, from Ronald's frequent allusions to Sybil, which
were generally accompanied by some change of manner, that he was either
already in love with the fair American girl, or that he soon would be, and
the acknowledgment she had now received from himself gave her infinite
pleasure. In her reflections upon her own conduct she had never blamed
herself, but she had more than once thought that he was greatly to be
pitied. To have married him six months ago, when she was fully conscious
that she did not love him, would have been very wrong; and to have gone
back at a later period, when she realized that her whole life was full of
her love for John Harrington, would have been a crime. But in spite of
that she was often very sorry for Ronald, and feared that she had hurt his
happiness past curing. Now, therefore, when she saw how much he loved
another, she was exceedingly glad, for she knew that the thing she had
done had been wholly good, both for him and for her.
They soon began to talk of other things, but the conversation fell back to
the discussion of Newport, and Joe learned with some surprise that Pocock
Vancouver assiduously cultivated Ronald's acquaintance, and was always
ready to do anything in the world that Ronald desired. It appeared that
Vancouver lent Ronald his horses at all times, and was apparently
delighted when Ronald would take a mount and stay away all day. The young
Englishman, of course, was not loath to accept such offers, having a
radical and undisguised contempt for hired horseflesh, and as Sybil lived
several miles out of town, it was far the most pleasant plan to ride out
to her, and after spending the day there, to ride back in the evening,
more especially as it cost him nothing.
Joe was on the point of making some remark upon Vancouver, which would
very likely have had the effect of cooling the intimacy between him and
Ronald; but she thought better of it, and said nothing. Ronald had had no
part in all the questions connected with John's election, and knew nothing
of what Vancouver had done in the matter. It was better on many grounds
not to stir up fresh trouble, and so long as Vancouver's stables afforded
Ronald an easy and economical means of locomotion from Newport to the
house of the woman he loved, the friendship that had sprung up was a
positive gain. She could not understand the motives that prompted
Vancouver in the least. He had made more than one attempt to regain his
position with her after the direct cut he had sustained on the evening
when she parted with John; but Joe had resolutely set her face against
him. Possibly she thought Vancouver might hope to regain her good opinion
by a regular system of kindness to Ronald; but it hardly seemed to her as
though such a result would reward him for the pains of his diplomacy.
Meanwhile it would be foolish of her to interfere with any intimacy which
was of real use to Ronald in his suit.
As a matter of fact, Vancouver was carrying out a deliberate plan, and one
which was far from ill-conceived. He had not been so blind as not to
suspect Joe's secret attachment for John, when she was willing to go to
such lengths in her indignation against himself for being John's enemy.
But he had disposed of John, as he thought, by assisting, if not actually
causing, his defeat. He imagined that Harrington had gone abroad to
conceal the mortification he felt at having lost the election, and he
rightly argued that for some time Joe would not bestow a glance upon any
one else. In the mean time, however, he was in possession of certain
details concerning Joe's fortune which could be of use, and he accordingly
set about encouraging Ronald's affections in any direction they might
take, so long as they were not set upon his cousin. He was not surprised
that Ronald should fall in love with Sybil, though he almost wished the
choice could have fallen upon some one else, and accordingly he did
everything in his power to make life in Newport agreeable for the young
Englishman. It was convenient in some respects that the wooing should take
place at so central a resort; but had the case been different, Vancouver
would not have hesitated to go to Saratoga, Lenox, or Mount Desert, in the
prosecution of his immediate purpose, which was to help Ronald to marry
any living woman rather than let him return to England a bachelor.
When Ronald should be married, Joe would be in possession of three
quarters of her uncle's money--a very considerable fortune. If she was
human, thought Vancouver, she would be eternally grateful to him for
ridding her of her cousin, whom she evidently did not wish to marry, and
for helping her thereby to so much wealth. He reflected that he had been
unfortunate in the time when he had decided to be a candidate for her
hand; but whatever turn affairs took, no harm was done to his own
prospects by removing Ronald from the list of possible rivals. He was
delighted at the preference Surbiton showed for Sybil Brandon, and in case
Ronald hesitated, he reserved the knowledge he possessed of her private
fortune as a final stimulus to his flagging affections. Hitherto it had
not seemed necessary to acquaint his friend with the fact that Sybil had
an income of some thirty thousand dollars yearly--indeed, no one seemed to
know it, and she was supposed to be in rather straitened circumstances.
As for his own chances with Joe, he had carefully hidden the tracks of his
journalistic doings in the way he had at once proposed to himself when Joe
attacked him on the subject. A gentleman had been found upon whom he had
fastened the authorship of the articles in the public estimation, and the
gentleman would live and die with the reputation for writing he had thus
unexpectedly obtained. He had ascertained beyond a doubt that Joe knew
nothing of his interview with Ballymolloy, and he felt himself in a strong
Pocock Vancouver had for years taken an infinite amount of pains in
planning and furthering his matrimonial schemes. He was fond of money; but
in a slightly less degree he was fond of all that is beautiful and
intelligent in woman; so that his efforts to obtain for himself what he
considered a perfect combination of wit, good looks, and money, although
ineffectual, had occupied a great deal of his spare time very agreeably.
Sherwood was a very old place. It had been built a hundred years at least
before the Revolution in the days when the States had English governors,
and when its founder had been governor of Rhode Island. His last
descendant in the direct line was Sybil Brandon's great-uncle.
The old country-seat was remarkable chiefly for the extent of the gardens
attached to the house, and for the singularly advanced state of
dilapidation in which everything was allowed to remain. Beyond the gardens
the woods stretched down to the sea, unpruned and thick with a heavy
undergrowth; from the road the gardens were hidden by thick hedges, and by
the forbidding gray front of the building. It was not an attractive place
to look at, and once within the precincts there was a heavy sense of
loneliness and utter desolation, that seemed to fit it for the very home
The damp sea air had drawn green streaks of mould downwards from each
several jointing of the stones; the long-closed shutters of some of the
windows were more than half hidden by creepers, bushy and straggling by
turns, and the eaves were all green with moss and mould. From the deep-
arched porch at the back a weed-grown gravel walk led away through
untrimmed hedges of box and myrtle to an ancient summer-house on the edge
of a steep slope of grass. To right and left of this path, the rose-trees
and box that had once marked the gayest of flower gardens now grew in such
exuberance of wild profusion that it would have needed strong arms and a
sharp axe to cut a way through. Far away on a wooded knoll above the sea
was the old graveyard, where generations of Sherwoods lay dead in their
quiet rest, side by side.
But for a space in every year the desolation was touched with the breath
of life, and the sweet June air blew away the mould and the smell of
death, and the wild flowers and roses sprang up joyfully in the wilderness
to greet the song-birds and the butterflies of summer. And in this copious
year a double spring had come to Sherwood, for Sybil Brandon had arrived
one day, and her soft eyes and golden hair had banished all sadness and
shadow from the old place. Even the thin old man, who lived there among
the ghosts and shadows of the dead and dying past, smoothed the wrinkles
from his forehead, forgetting to long selfishly for his own death, when
Sybil came; and with touching thoughtfulness he strove to amuse her, and
to be younger for her sake. He found old garments of a gayer time, full
thirty years hidden away in the great wardrobes up-stairs, and he put them
on and wore them, though they hung loosely about his shaken and withered
frame, lest he should be too sad a thing for such young eyes to look upon.
Then Ronald came one day, and the old man took kindly to him, and bade him
come often. In the innocence of his old age it seemed good that what youth
and life there was in the world should come together; and Ronald treated
him with a deference and respect to which he had long been unused.
Moreover, Ronald accepted the invitation given him and came as often as he
pleased, which, before long, meant every day. When he came in the morning
he generally stayed until the evening, and when he came in the afternoon
he always stayed as long as Sybil would let him, and rode home late
through the misty June moonlight pondering on the happiness the world had
suddenly brought forth for him who had supposed, but a few months ago,
that all happiness was at an end.
Six months had gone by since Ronald had first seen Sybil, and he had
changed in that time from boy to man. Looking back through the past years
he knew that he was glad Joe had not married him, for the new purpose of
his new life was to love and marry Sybil Brandon. There was no doubt in
his mind as to what he would do; the strong nature in him was at last
roused, and he was capable of anything in reason or without it to get what
Some one has said that an Englishman's idea of happiness is to find
something he can kill and to hunt it. That is a metaphor as well as a
fact. It may take an Englishman half a lifetime to find out what he wants,
but when he is once decided he is very likely to get it, or to die in the
attempt. The American is fond of trying everything until he reaches the
age at which Americans normally become dyspeptic, and during his
comparatively brief career he succeeds in experiencing a surprising
variety of sensations. Both Americans and English are tenacious in their
different ways, and it is certain that between them they have gotten more
things that they have wanted than any other existing nation.
What most surprised Ronald was that, having made up his mind to marry
Sybil, he should not have had the opportunity, or perhaps the courage, to
tell her so. He remembered how easily he had always been able to speak to
Joe about matrimony, and he wondered why it should be so hard to approach
the subject with one whom he loved infinitely more dearly than he had ever
loved his cousin. But love brings tact and the knowledge of fitness,
besides having the effect of partially hiding the past and exaggerating
the future into an eternity of rose-colored happiness; wherefore Ronald
supposed that everything would come right in time, and that the time for
everything to come right could not possibly be very far off.
On the day after he had seen Joe in Boston he rode over to Sherwood in the
morning, as usual, upon one of Vancouver's horses. He was lighter at heart
than ever, for he had somewhat dreaded the revelation of his intentions to
Joe; but she had so led him on and helped him that it had all seemed very
easy. He was not long in reaching his destination, and having put his
horse in the hands of the single man who did duty as gardener, groom, and
dairyman for old Mr. Sherwood, he entered the garden, where he hoped to
meet Sybil alone. He was not disappointed, for as he walked down the path
through the wilderness of shrubbery he caught sight of her near the
summer-house, stooping down in the act of plucking certain flowers that
She, too, was dressed all in white, as he had seen his cousin on the
previous day; but the difference struck him forcibly as he came up and
took her outstretched hand. They had changed places and character, one
could almost have thought. Joe had looked so tired and weary, so "wilted,"
as they say in Boston, that it had shocked Ronald to see her. Sybil, who
had formerly been so pale and cold, now was the very incarnation of life;
delicate and exquisitely fine in every movement and expression, but most
thoroughly alive. The fresh soft color seemed to float beneath the
transparent skin, and her deep eyes were full of light and laughter and
sunshine. Ronald's heart leaped in his breast for love and pride as she
greeted him, and his brow turned hot and his hands cold in the confusion
of his happiness.
"You have been away again?" she asked presently, looking down at the wild
white lilies which she had been gathering.
"Yes, I was in Boston yesterday," answered Ronald, who had immediately
begun to help in plucking the flowers. "I went to see Joe. She looks
dreadfully knocked up with the heat, poor child."
And so they talked about Joe and Boston for a little while, and Sybil sat
upon the steps of the summer-house on the side where there was shade from
the hot morning sun, while Ronald brought her handfuls of the white
lilies. At last there were enough, and he came and stood before her. She
was so radiantly lovely as she sat in the warm shade with the still
slanting sunlight just falling over her white dress, he thought her so
super-humanly beautiful that he stood watching her without thinking of
speaking or caring that she should speak to him. She looked up and smiled,
a quick bright smile, for she was woman enough to know his thoughts. But
she busied herself with the lilies and looked down again.
"Let me help you," said Ronald suddenly, kneeling down before her on the
"I don't think you can--very much," said Sybil, demurely. "You are not
very clever about flowers, you know. Oh, take care! You will crush it--
give it back to me!"
Ronald had taken one of the lilies and was smelling it, but it looked to
Sybil very much as though he were pressing it to his lips. He would not
give it back, but held it away at arm's length as he knelt. Sybil made as
though she were annoyed.
"Of course," said she, "I cannot take it, if you will not give it to me."
Ronald gently laid the flower in her lap with the others. She pretended to
take no notice of what he did, but went on composing her nosegay.
"Miss Brandon"--began Ronald, and stopped.
"Well?" said Sybil, without looking up.
"May I tell you something?" he asked.
"That depends," said Sybil. "Is it anything very interesting?"
"Yes," said Ronald. There seemed to be something the matter with his
throat all at once, as though he were going to choke. Sybil looked up and
saw that he was very pale. She had never seen him otherwise than ruddy
before, and she was startled; she dropped the lilies on her knees and
looked at him anxiously. Ronald suddenly laid his hands over hers and held
them. Still she faced him.
"I am very unworthy of you--I know I am-but I love you very, very much."
He spoke distinctly enough now, and slowly. He was as white as marble, and
his fingers were cold, and trembled as they held hers.
For an instant after he had spoken, Sybil did not move. Then she quietly
drew back her hands and hid her face in a sudden, convulsive movement.
She, too, trembled, and her heart beat as though it would break; but she
said nothing. Ronald sprang from the ground and kneeled again upon the
step beside her; very gently his arm stole about her and drew her to him.
She took one hand from her face and tried to disentangle his hold, but he
held her strongly, and whispered in her ear,--
"Sybil, I love you--do you love me?"
Sybil made a struggle to rise, but it was not a very brave struggle, and
in another moment she had fallen into his arms and was sobbing out her
whole love passionately.
"Oh, Ronald, you mu--must not!" But Ronald did.
Half an hour later they were still sitting side by side on the steps, but
the storm of uncertainty was passed, and they had plighted their faith for
better and for worse, for this world and the next. Ronald had foreseen the
event, and had hoped for it as he never had hoped for anything in his
life; Sybil had perhaps guessed it; at all events, now that the supreme
moment was over, they both felt that it was the natural climax to all that
had happened during the spring.
"I think," said Sybil, quietly, "that we ought to tell my uncle at once.
He is the only relation I have in the world."
"Oh yes, of course," said Ronald, holding her hand. "That is, you know, I
think we might tell him after lunch. Because I suppose it would not be the
right thing for me to stay all day after he knows. Would it?"
"Why not?" asked Sybil. "He must know it soon, and you will come to-
"To-morrow, and the next day, and the day after that, and always," said
Ronald, lovingly. "But he will not like it, I suppose."
"Why not?" asked Sybil, again.
"Because I am poor," said Ronald, quietly. "You know I am not rich at all,
Sybil dearest. We shall have to be very economical, and live on the place
in Scotland. But it is a very pretty place," he added, reassuringly.
Sybil flushed a little. He did not know, then, that she had a fortune of
her own. It was a new pleasure. She did not say anything for a moment.
"Do you mind very much, dearest?" asked Ronald, doubtfully. "Do you think
it would bore you dreadfully to live in the country?"
Sybil hesitated before she answered. She hardly knew whether to tell him
or not, but at last she decided it would be better.
"No, Ronald," said she, smiling a little; "I like the country. But, you
know, we can live anywhere we please. I am rich, Ronald--you did not know
Ronald started slightly. It was indeed an unexpected revelation.
"Really?" he cried. "Oh, I am so glad for you. You will not miss anything,
then. I was so afraid."
That evening Ronald telegraphed to Joe the news of his engagement, and the
next day he wrote her a long letter, which was more remarkable for the
redundant passion expressed than for the literary merit of the expression.
It seemed far easier to write it since he had seen her and talked with her
about Sybil, not because he felt in the least ashamed of having fallen in
love within six months of the dissolution of his former engagement with
Joe, but because it seemed a terribly difficult thing to speak to any one
about Sybil. Ronald was very far from being poetical, or in any way given
to lofty and medieval reflections of the chivalric sort, but he was a very
honest fellow, loving for the first time, and he understood that his love
was something more to be guarded and respected than anything that had yet
come into his life; wherefore it seemed almost ungentlemanly to speak
When Joe received the intelligence her satisfaction knew no bounds, for
although she had guessed that the climax of the affair was not far off,
she had not expected it so very soon. Had she searched through the whole
of her acquaintance at home and in America she could have found no one
whom she considered more fit to be Ronald's wife, and that alone was
enough to make her very happy; but the sensation of freedom from all
further responsibility to Ronald, and the consciousness that every
possible good result had followed upon her action, added so much to her
pleasure in the matter, that for a time she utterly forgot herself and her
own troubles. She instantly wrote a long and sympathetic letter to Ronald,
and another to Sybil.
Sybil replied at once, begging Joe to come and spend a month at Sherwood,
or as much time as she was able to give.
"I expect you had best go," remarked Miss Schenectady. "It is getting
pretty hot here, and you look quite sick."
"Oh no, I am very well," said Joe; "but I think I will go for a week or
"Well, if you find you are going to have a good time, you can always stay,
any way," replied the old lady. "I think if I were you I would take some
books and a Bible and a pair of old boots."
Miss Schenectady did not smile, but Joe laughed outright.
"A Bible and a pair of old boots!" she cried.
"Yes, I would," said her aunt. "Old Tom Sherwood cannot have seen a Bible
for fifty years, I expect, and it might sort of freshen him up." The old
lady's eye twinkled slightly and the corners of her mouth twitched a
little. "As for the old boots, if you conclude to go, you will want them,
for you will be right out in the country there."
Joe laughed again, but she took her aunt's advice; and on the following
day she reached Newport, and was met by Sybil and Ronald, who conveyed her
to Sherwood in a thing which Joe learned was called a "carryall."
Late in the afternoon, when Ronald was gone, the two girls sat in an angle
of the old walls, looking over the sea to eastward. The glow of the
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