At the Mercy of Tiberius
Augusta Evans Wilson
Part 10 out of 11
beyond the mountains; and that he sometimes crossed, searching for
stray cattle. That is the history of my sketch, and since I am
indebted to you for its recovery, I regret for your sake that it is
"It was last August that you made the sketch?"
"Last August. And now may I ask, to whom my thanks are due?"
"I am merely an humble member of a sisterhood of working women, and
my name could possess no interest for you. I owe you an apology for
trespassing upon your time, and prying into the mysteries of your
portfolio; but the beauty of your sketch, and its startling
resemblance to one in whom I have long felt an interest, must plead
my pardon. I am grateful, sir, for your courtesy, and will detain
you no longer."
He bowed profoundly; she bent her head, and walked quickly away,
keeping her face lowered, dreading observation.
For the first time since her trial and conviction, a sensation of
perfect tranquillity shed rest upon her anxious and foreboding
heart. Bertie was safe from capture, on foreign soil; and the
testimony of the traveller that he prayed in the solitude of the
wilderness, brought her the comforting assurance, that the fires of
remorse had begun the purification of his sinful soul from the crime
that had blackened so many lives. Trained in his early youth at a
Jesuit College, his sympathies had ever been with the priesthood to
whom his tutors belonged; and his sister readily understood how
swiftly he fled to their penitential, expiatory system, when the
blood of his grandfather had stained his hands, and the scouts of
the law hunted him to desert wilds.
Vain of the personal beauty that had always distinguished him, she
comprehended the keenness of the humiliation, which would goad him
to screen in a cloister, the facial mutilation, that punished him
more excruciatingly than hair shirt, or flagellation. Beyond the
reach of extradition (as she fondly hoped), inviolate beneath the
cowl of some Order which, in protecting his body, essayed also to
cleanse, regenerate and sanctify his imperilled soul, could she not
now dismiss the tormenting apprehension that sleeping or waking had
persistently dogged her, since the day when she saw the fuchsias on
the handkerchief, and the mother-of-pearl grapes on the sleeve
button, in the penitentiary cell?
In a crisis of dire extremity, overborne by adversity, terrified by
the realization of human helplessness, we fly to God, and barter by
promise all our future, for the boon of temporary succor.
How different, how holy the mood that brings us in tearful gratitude
to dedicate our lives to His service, when having abandoned all
hope, His healing hand lifts us out of long agony into unexpected
When an ignominious death stared this woman in the face, she had
cried to her God: "Though You slay me, yet will I trust You!" and
to-night she bowed her head in prayer, thankful that the uplifted
hand held no longer a dagger, but had fallen tenderly in
Far away in the heart of the city, the clock in its granite tower
was striking two; yet Beryl knelt at her oriel window, with her arms
crossed on the wide sill, and her eyes fixed upon the shimmering
sea, where a soft south wind ruffled it into ridges of silver,
beneath a full May moon. Beyond those silent waters, hidden in some
lonely, snow-girt eyry, where perhaps the muffled thunder of the
Pacific responded to the midnight chants of his oratory, dwelt
Bertie; and to touch his hand once more, to hear from his own lips
that he had made his peace with God, to kiss him good-bye seemed all
that was left for accomplishment.
Poor and unknown, she lacked apparently every means requisite for
this attainment; but faith, patience, and courage were hers. Daily
work for daily wage was the present duty; and in God's good time she
would find her brother. How, or when, so expensive and difficult a
quest could be successfully prosecuted, disquieted her not; she had
learned to labor and to trust; she remembered: "Their strength is to
The symphony of her life was set in minors, yet subtle and perfect
was the harmony that dwelt therein; and because she had sternly shut
love out of her lonely heart, she kept votive lights burning
ceaselessly on the cold altar of duty. The solitary red rose of
happiness that might have brightened and perfumed her thorny path,
she had cut off, ere the bud expanded, and offered it as a loyal
tribute to broaden the garland that crowned Miss Gordon. At the
mandate of conscience, she had unmurmuringly surrendered this
precious blossom, but memory was tantalizingly tenacious; and in
sorrowful hours of sore temptation, the brave, pure soul came
swiftly to the rescue of famishing heart: "What? Is it so hard for
us to keep the Ten Commandments? Do we covet our neighbor's lover?"
In the garden of earthly existence, some are ordained to bloom as
human plantae tristes, shedding their delicate aroma like the
"Pretty-by-nights", only when the glory of the day is done, and
twilight shadows coax open their pure hearts.
To-night she seemed cradled in the arms of peace, soothed by an
unfaltering trust that whispered:
"Would I could wish my wishes all to rest;
And know to wish the wish, that were the best."
While her lips moved in a prayer for Bertie, she fell asleep; like a
child at ease, after long paroxysms of pain. When she awoke, the
lilacs were swinging their purple thuribles filled with dew, in
honor of the new day; a silvery mist, tinged here and there with the
pale pink hue of an almond blossom, wavered and curled over the
quiet lake, and a robin red-breast, winging his way from the orange
and jasmine boughs of the far sweet South, rested on the ivied wall,
and poured out his happy heart in a salutatory to the rising sun.
"I fear, my sister, that you have made a great mistake in refusing
an offer of marriage, which almost any woman might be proud to
Sister Ruth closed her writing desk, and looked at Beryl over her
"Why should you infer that any such proposal has been made to me?"
"Simply because I know all that has occurred, and my cousin writes
me that you decline to marry him. If you had intended to remain here
and identify yourself with this institution, I could better
understand your motives in rejecting a man who offers you wealth,
good looks, a stainless reputation, an honored name, and the best
possible social position."
"All of which tempt me in no degree. Mr. Brompton is doubtless
everything you consider him; lives in a brown stone palace, is an
influential and respected citizen, but comparatively, we are
strangers. He bought my pictures, took a fleeting fancy to my face,
and to my great surprise, indulged in a romantic whim. What does he
comprehend of my past? How little he understands the barrier that
shuts me out from the lot of most women."
"He is fully acquainted with every detail of your life that has been
confided to me, or discovered by the public; and he has studied and
admired you ever since you came to dwell among us. In view of your
very peculiar history, you must admit that his affection is
certainly strong. If you married him, your past would be effectually
"I have no desire to blot it out, and though misfortune overshadowed
my name, it is the untarnished legacy my father left me, and I hold
it very sacred; wrap it as a mantle about me. When suspicion of any
form of disgrace falls upon a woman, it is as though some delicate
flower had been thrust too close to a scorching fire; and no matter
how quickly or how far removed, no matter how heavy the dews that
empearl it, how fresh and cool the wind that sweeps over it, how
bright the sun that feeds its pulses,--the curled petals are never
smoothed, the hot blasts leaves its ineffaceable blight. To me, the
thought of marriage comes no more than to one who knows death sits
waiting only for the setting of the sun, to claim his own. That
phase of life is as inaccessible and uninviting to me, as Antartic
circumpolar lands; and even in thought, I have no temptation to
explore it. My future and my past are so interblended, that I could
as easily tear out my heart and continue to breathe, as attempt to
separate them. I have a certain work to do, and its accomplishment
bars all other paths."
"Does the nature of that work involve vows of celibacy?"
"Sometimes fate decrees for us, allowing no voluntary vows. How soon
the path to my work will open before me, I cannot tell; but the day
must come, and like a pilgrim girded, I wait and watch."
"Can you find elsewhere a nobler field of work than surrounds you
"Certainly not, and some dross of selfishness mingles with the
motives that will ultimately bear me beyond these hallowing
precincts; yet a day may come, when having fulfilled a sacred duty,
I shall travel back, praying you to let me live, and work, and die
"My sister, your patient submission, your tireless application, have
endeared you to me; and I should grieve to lose you from our little
gray band, where your artistic labors have reflected so much credit
on the 'Home'."
"Thank you, Sister Ruth; praise from fellow toilers is praise
indeed, and the greatest blessing one human being can bestow upon
another, I owe to you; the blessing of being helped to procure work,
which enables me to help myself. If I leave the 'Anchorage' for a
season, it will be on an errand such as Noah's dove went forth from
refuge to perform; and when I return with my olive branch, the
deluge of my life will have spent its fury, and I shall rest in
peace where the ark is anchored."
"Do you imagine that desertion from our ranks will be so readily
condoned? Drum-head court martial obtains here."
"Would you call it desertion, if seizing the flag of duty that
floats over us here, I forsook the camp only long enough to scout on
a dangerous outpost, to fight single-handed a desperate battle! If I
fell, the folds of our banner would shroud me; if I conquered, would
you not all greet me, when weary and worn I dragged myself back to
the ranks? Some day, when I tap at the ark window, you will open
your arms and take me in; for then my earthly mission will have
ended, and the smoke of the accepted sacrifice will linger in my
"Meantime, to-day's duties demand attention. I have a note from
Cyril Brompton requesting that special courtesy be shown by us to
his friend, the new Bishop, who is in the city, and who desires to
inspect the 'Anchorage'. Cyril declines escorting the party, because
he finds it painful to meet you now, and he wishes particularly that
you should show your own department. I shall not be able to climb to
the third story, while my ankles are so swollen, so I must deputize
you to do the honors on your floor. Hold yourself in readiness, if I
should send for you, and do not forget to give the Bishop a package
of the new prospectus of the art school. That basket of orchids must
be delivered before five o'clock. Sister Joanna said you detained
her to make a sketch of it."
"I had almost finished when you summoned me. Send her up for the
basket in half an hour."
The long studio was deserted, and very quiet on that sultry Saturday
afternoon in midsummer, and the drowsy air was laden with fragrance
from the pots of white carnations, massed on the iron balcony, upon
which the tall, plate glass windows opened to the north. Down the
centre of the apartment ran a table covered with oil cloth, and on
the walls hung pictures in oil, water-color, crayon, while upon
brackets and pedestals were mounted plaster casts, terra cotta
heads, a few bronzes, and some hammered brass plaques. In the
corners of the room, four marvels of taxidermy contributed brilliant
colors mixed on the feathered palettes of a pea-fowl, a scarlet
flamingo, a gold and a silver pheasant, all perched on miniature
mounds, built of curious specimens of rock, of shells, coral and
The slow, languid swish, swish of the waters stirred by a passing
steamer, broke on the cliff beyond the wall; and along the sky line
where lake and atmosphere melted insensibly into blue distance,
great cumulus copper-colored clouds hooded with salmon-tinted folds,
tipped here and there with molten silver, shadowed with pearly
hollows, hung entranced by their own image, over the inland sea that
gleamed like a mirror.
At the end of the studio, near the open windows, Beryl had placed
the plateau basket of orchids on the table; and she stood before an
easel, transferring to the surface of a concave brass plaque, the
fluted outlines of the scarlet and orange ribbons, the vivid green,
purple and golden-brown lips, the rose velvet cups, the tender
canary-hued calyxes of the glistening floral mass, whose aroma
seemed a panting breath from equatorial jungles. Having secured the
strange forms of these vegetable simulacra of the insect world, she
replaced the sheathing of tissue paper around the gorgeous mosaic of
color; and just then, Sister Joanna threw open the door, and ushered
in a party of visitors, consisting of two gentlemen and a lady. One
was Mr. Kendall, a member of the Chapter of Trustees.
"Good evening, Sister. Bishop Douglass, of our State, and Miss
Gordon, from the South. I have been boasting to them of the perfect
success of the 'Anchorage', as an industrial institution. Will you
show us some of the work done in this department?"
As on a swiftly revolving wheel, Beryl saw the black eyes and gold-
rimmed spectacles of Leighton Douglass; the shield-shaped amethyst
ring on his broad, white hand; the slender figure by his side,
draped in some soft brown tint of surah silk, the blond hair, the
wide, startled hazel eyes of Leo, who made a step forward, then
The gaze of the visitors was fastened upon the superb form wearing
the gray garb of flannel, with snowy fluted frills at the rounded
wrists and throat, and a ruffled white muslin mob cap crowning rich
waves of bronze hair, that framed a beautiful pale face, whose gray
eyes kept always the soft shadow of their long jet lashes.
Only half a minute sufficed to gird Beryl, and with no hint of
recognition in her tranquil countenance, she moved forward, opened
the drawers, and spread out for inspection various specimens of
drawing and painting, in all stages of advancement.
A crimson tide overflowed Leo's cheeks, but accepting the cue of
silence, she refrained from any manifestation of previous
acquaintance; and bending over the pictures, listened to the grave,
sweet voice that briefly, though courteously answered all inquiries
concerning the school, hours of classes, tuition fees, remunerative
rates paid for designs for carpets, wall papers and decorative
upholstering. Unrolling from a wooden cylinder a strip of thick
paper, two yards long and twenty inches wide, she displayed an
elaborate arabesque pattern done in sepia for a sgraffito frieze,
sixteenth century, which had been ordered by the architect of the
new "Museum of Art".
"A bit of your favorite Florentine facade," said the Bishop,
addressing his cousin, and peering closely at the scroll work.
"In this corner of the world, one scarcely expects a glimpse of
Andrea Feltrini," answered Leo, avoiding the necessity of looking at
Beryl, by glancing at Mr. Kendall.
"What are your sources of information?" inquired Bishop Douglass.
"We have a carefully selected collection of engravings, and a few
good sketches and cartoons; moreover, some of our Sisterhood have
been in Italy."
In attempting to roll the strip, it slipped from her fingers. Both
women stooped to catch it, and their hands met. Looking into Leo's
eyes, Beryl whispered: "See me alone." Then she rewound the paper,
restored its oil silk cover, and shut the drawer.
"Do you find that the demand for purely ornamental work renders this
department self-sustaining?" asked Leighton Douglass.
"I think the experience of the 'Anchorage' justifies that belief;
especially since the popularization of so-called 'Decorative Art',
which projects the useful into the realm of the beautiful; and by
lending the grace of ornament to the strictly utilitarian, dims the
old line of demarcation."
"We are particularly interested in acquiring accurate knowledge on
this subject, because Miss Gordon hopes to establish a similar
institution near her home in the South; where so many of our
countrywomen, rendered destitute in consequence of the late war,
need training which will enable them to do faithful remunerative
work, without compromising their feminine refinement. While in
Europe she inspected various industrial organizations; saw
Kaiserswerth, and the Training Schools for Nurses, even the Swedish
'Naas Slojd', and her visit here is solely to verify the flattering
accounts she has received of the success of the eclectic system of
the 'Anchorage'. The South is so rich in fine materials that appear
to offer a premium for carving, that we wish to investigate this
branch of 'decorative' labor, and hope you can help us by some
"Within the past twelve months, we have commenced the experiment of
wood work; make all the utensils we need, and one of our patrons
secured for us some models from the school you mentioned near
Gothenburg. As yet we have received only two orders; one for a base
in walnut for a baptismal font; the other an oak triptych frame for
a choir in a Minnesota church. The carving is a distinct branch,
that does not belong to my department; but if you will knock at the
arched door on the right hand side of the hall, Sister Katrina, who
has charge of that work, will take pleasure in exhibiting the
process. Mr. Kendall knows the 'Anchorage' so well, he needs no
guide to the work-rooms. Permit me to offer you some copies of our
new prospectus, and also a photograph of this building, as a slight
souvenir of your visit here."
She fitted papers and picture into a square envelope stamped with an
anchor in red ink, and handing it to Miss Gordon, walked to the door
and opened it. On the threshold Leo turned, and looked intently into
"Are you sufficiently at leisure to allow me a little further
conversation this afternoon; or shall I call again?"
"I am entirely at your service, and shall gladly furnish any
information you may desire. Our matron has placed my time at your
"Mr. Kendall, if you will kindly accompany the Bishop to the wood-
carving room, I can remain here a little while, to ask Sister some
questions, which would scarcely interest you gentlemen. I will join
you there, very soon. Leighton, please get an estimate of the cost
of the necessary outfit, and talk with Mr. Kendall concerning the
feasibility of sending one of our women here for a year."
Closing the door, Beryl put out both hands, and took Leo's. She
stood a moment, holding them in a tight clasp.
"Thank you, for considerately withholding a recognition that would
have embarrassed me. I hoped that the habit of our Order would in
some degree disguise me, yet, at a glance you knew me."
"Shall I infer that your history is unknown here?"
"Sister Ruth, our Matron, is thoroughly acquainted with my past
life, but she kindly respects my sorrows, and deems it unnecessary
to publish the details among the Sisterhood. Do you know me so
little, that you imagine I am capable of abusing the confidence of
the head of an establishment which mercifully shelters an outcast?"
She stepped back, and motioned her visitor to a seat near the
"I should be very reluctant to ascribe any unworthy motive to you;
therefore I fail to understand why you desire to preserve your
incognito, especially since the signal vindication of your
innocence. The news of the extraordinary discovery of the picture on
the glass, and of your complete acquittal, even of suspicion, gave
me so much pleasure that I should have written you my hearty
congratulations, had I been able to obtain your address."
"I felt assured you would rejoice with me; and because I hold your
good opinion so valuable, let me say that my happiness in the
unexpected vindication of my character was enhanced by the proud
consciousness that in your estimation I needed none. When the
blackness of an intolerable shame overshadowed me, you groped your
way to the dungeon, and held out your hands in confidence and
sympathy. All the world suspected; you trusted me. You offered your
noble name as bond, and made a place for me at your own sacred
hearthstone. Do you think I can ever forget the blessedness of the
balm that your faith in me poured into my crushed, despairing heart?
Do you doubt that no sun sets, without seeing me on my knees,
praying God's blessing of perfect happiness for you? What would I
not do--what would I not suffer--to secure your peace, and to prove
Her voice vibrated like the silver string of a deep violon-cello,
and Leo, gazing up into the misty splendor of the beautiful sad
eyes, ceased to wonder at the fascination which she had exerted over
Mr. Dunbar. Unintentionally this woman's face had marred her life;
had unwittingly stolen her lover's heart; yet she believed no
treachery sullied the pure perfection of the soft red lips, and
Leo's generous nature rose above the narrow limits of ordinary
feminine jealousy. Had she doubted for an instant the theory that
Beryl was heroically suffering the penalty of a crime, in order to
screen her guilty lover, some suspicion of the truth might have
dawned upon her.
"Suppose I intend to put your gratitude to the test? You have
exaggerated the debt which you acknowledge; are you prepared to
cancel it? If I say to you, because I believed in you, trusted you,
will you repay me now, by granting a favor which I shall ask?"
"I think Miss Gordon could express no wish that I would not gladly
execute, in order to promote her happiness."
"Will you come back to X----and help me to establish a home for
women, who are destitute alike of money and of family ties? When you
preside over it I shall be haunted by no fears of failure. Once, I
gave you my sympathy; now, when I need help, will you give me
Beryl shivered, and looked wonderingly at her companion. Was she
indeed so unsuspicious of the quicksand on which stood the fair
temple of her hopes in marriage?
"O, Miss Gordon! That is the one thing, in all the world, that for
your sake as well as mine, I could never do. No, no; impossible."
"Why, not for my sake, since I desire it so earnestly?"
A bright flush had risen in Leo's cheeks, and she threw back her
small head challengingly.
For a moment Beryl wavered. Could she bear to wound that proud
"Go back to X----? To X----! It would be a renewal of my martyrdom,
and I should only be a stumbling block in the scheme you
contemplate. You do not understand, perhaps; but believe me, I prove
my gratitude by refusing your kind offer."
"I think I understand; and if I am willing to run the risk, what
"Do not ask me the impossible. The very atmosphere of X----would
numb me, destroy all capability of usefulness, by reviving harrowing
"Had not every shadow of suspicion vanished, and the entire
community manifested delight in your triumphant innocence, I should
never have suggested a return to the scene of your sufferings.
Certainly, I cannot press the payment of a debt, which you
volunteered to cancel; but I am sorry your refuse to oblige me."
There was a starry sparkle in the soft hazel eyes, and an
involuntary and unconscious hardening of her lips, as Leo rose.
"It is hard, Miss Gordon, to be always misunderstood; but sometimes
duty points to lines that subject us to harsh and bitter censure. I
bear ever a heavy burden; do not increase my load by condemning me
as ungrateful, God knows, you hold a warm and a holy place in my
heart, and your happiness is more to me than my own; yet the one
thing you ask, my conscience forbids."
"How long have you been here?"
"It will be two years to-morrow since I entered these peaceful
"Then your probation ends, and you become permanently a Sister of
"Not yet. I have been permitted to earn my daily bread here, upon
conditions somewhat at variance with the regulations that usually
govern the institution. I have not applied for admission to
permanent membership, because my stay is contingent upon
circumstances, which may call me hence to-morrow; which may never
arise to beckon me away. Sister Ruth generously allows me the
latitude of choice; not for my own sake, but for that of a friend,
whose influence secured my admission. After a while, when I have
finished my work, I hope to come back; to spend the residue of my
earthly days, and to die here, a faithful Umilta Sister of the
'Anchorage', which opened its arms when I was a needy and desolate
"The peace of your new life is certainly reflected in your face.
Patience has had its perfect work; and that 'peace that passeth all
understanding' is the reward granted you."
Leo held out her hand, and Beryl took it between both hers.
"Dear Miss Gordon, grapes yield no wine until they are crushed,
trampled, bereft of bloom, of rounded symmetry, of beautiful color;
but the Lord of the Vineyard is entitled to His own. I was a very
proud, self-reliant girl, impatient of poverty, daringly ambitious;
and what I deemed a cruel fate, threw me into the vat, to be trodden
under foot. It may be, that when the ferment ends, and time mellows
all, the purple wine of my bruised and broken life may be accounted
worthy the seal of a sacramental sacrifice. I have ceased to
question, to struggle, to plan. Like a blind child, fearing to
stumble into ruin, I stand, and stretch out my hands to Him, who has
led me safely through deep waters, along frightful gorges. Each day
brings its work, which I strive worthily to accomplish; but my aim
is to lay my heart, mind, soul, my stubborn will, all in God's
hands. You think peace the summum bonum? Sometimes we obtain it by
an ignominious surrender, when we should possess it by conquest.
'Peace of mind is a beautiful and heavenly thing; but even peace of
mind may become an idol; and there is perhaps no idol to which women
bow down more passionately.' For this reason, I am waiting for the
drum beat of duty, and my march may begin at any moment. I asked to
see you alone, in order to beg that you will increase my debt of
obligations, by promising to reveal to no one the place of my
retreat. Accident has betrayed to you that which I am anxious to
keep secret; and I trust you will tell no one where you met me."
"Why should you hide, as though you were a culprit? You have been so
completely exonerated from the imputation of guilt which once hung
over you, that you owe it to yourself to front the gaze of the world
fearlessly. What have you to dread?"
"The failure of something, which, though its accomplishment costs me
very dear, I shall not relax my efforts to promote. I am trying to
be loyal to my duty, even when the command is to strangle my own
weak heart. You do not, cannot understand. God grant you never will.
There are reasons why it is best for me to live in strict seclusion,
for the present. Those reasons I can explain neither to you, nor to
any other human being; and yet, I ask you to respect them, and to
keep my secret. You trusted me in the terrible exigencies of the
past; and you must trust me now, for--oh! God knows--I do indeed
deserve your confidence."
She raised the hand folded in her own, and bowed her head upon it.
"You have my promise. Without your permission, I will mention our
meeting to no one. I trust you; and perhaps if you would trust me, I
might render you some aid."
"The day may come, when I can find it compatible with duty to tell
you the secret of my life. In future years, when you are a happy
wife, I shall by God's help be able to seek you and your husband,
and thank you both for many kindnesses. I pray that you may be as
happy as you deserve."
There was no tremor in the voice that answered quickly.
"If you refer to Mr. Dunbar, you have been led astray by the gossip
in X----. Once, there seemed a probability that our lives might be
united; but long ago, we found that ardent friendship could not take
the place of love; and rather more than three years have passed
since we have even seen each other."
With a startled movement Beryl dropped her companion's fingers, and
laid a hand on her shoulder.
"Oh! do not tell me that you have broken your engagement!"
The two looked steadily at each other, and while Leo's proud face
gave no hint of pain or embarrassment, Beryl's blanched, quivered.
"How did you know that any engagement ever existed?"
"All X----knew it. Mrs. Singleton and Sister Serena told me."
"I dissolved that engagement before I went to Europe."
"Then you rashly wrecked your beautiful future. Why did you cast him
off? He would have made you happy; he is worthy, I think, even of
"Yes, he is worthy, I believe, of any woman whom he may really love;
but my happiness is not in his keeping, and my future holds, I
trust, something much brighter than our marriage would hate proved
"You have thrown away the substance for the shadow. Before it is too
late, reconsider your decision; give him an opportunity to reinstate
himself in your affection. You have both been so kind to me, that I
have hoped you would find life long happiness in each other."
"Dismiss that delusion. His path and mine diverge more and more, and
we no longer dwell in the same State. He has inherited a large
amount of property in Louisiana, and now lives in New Orleans; hence
you can readily perceive how far apart the currents of our lives
have drifted. I rejoice in my freedom; and he, I suspect, is not
inconsolable for my loss."
Through Beryl's whirling brain darted the recollection of a rumor,
that Leighton Douglass was suitor for his cousin's hand; and that
Miss Dent favored the alliance. Was the solution of Miss Gordon's
cold, calm indifference to be found in the presence and devotion of
the Bishop? Could he have supplanted Mr. Dunbar in her affection?
Had the world swung from its moorings? What meant the light that
broke upon her, as if the walls of heaven had fallen, and let all
the glory out?
After a moment she said, solemnly:
"I pray God to overrule all earthly things, for your welfare, for
your heart's truest happiness; and for the realization of your
dearest hopes. When my mission has been accomplished, and duty lifts
her seal from my lips, I may try to see you once more, and explain
the necessity that forced me to seek seclusion."
"I believe I understand; and I trust your reward will not be
delayed. You and I can lean with confidence upon the wisdom and the
mercy of the God we worship; but each must serve out His appointed
time of bondage in the Egypt of suffering, in the famine of the
desert; and must drink at Marah, before the blessing of the manna,
the grapes of Eshcol, the roses of Sharon. If ever you should need
an earthly friend, remember me; and if all other refuge fail you, my
home can be always yours."
Hand in hand they walked to the door, and Leo pitied the future of
this woman, whose lover was a wandering outlaw, with a price set
upon his head; and beneath her gray flannel habit, Beryl's heart was
torn with conflicting emotions, as she watched the placid, proud
face, that showed no vestige of the storm of disappointment which
had stranded her sweetest hope in life.
"Good-bye, Beryl; God keep you in His tender care."
"Good-bye, dear Miss Gordon. I will pray for your happiness, so long
as I live."
She stooped, drew Leo's hands to her face, pressed her trembling
lips twice upon them; then turned quickly, and locked herself in the
Is it true, that "Orestes and Pylades have no sisters?"
A Persian proverb tells us: "A stone that is fit for the wall is not
left in the way." Strong artistic aspirations will plough through
arid sands, leap across bottomless chasms, toil over bristling
obstacles, climb bald, freezing crags to reach that shining plateau,
where "beauty pitches her tents", and the Ideal beckons. Favorable
environment is the steaming atmosphere that fosters, forces and
develops germs which might not survive the struggle against adverse
influences, in uncongenial habitat; but nature moulds some types
that attain perfection through perpetual elementary warfare which
hardens the fibre, and strengthens the hold; as in those invincible
algx towering in the stormy straits of Tierra del Fuego, swept from
Antartic homes toward the equator,--defying the fierce flail of surf
that pulverizes rock, "Breed is stronger than pasture; and no matter
how savage a stepmother the circumstances of life may prove, the
inherited psychological strain will sometimes dominate, and triumph."
According to the Talmud: "A myrtle, even in a desert, remains a
From her tenth year, Beryl had begun to build her castle in the
Spain of Art; daubed its walls with wonderful frescoes, filled its
echoing corridors with heroic men and lovely women of the classic
ages; and through its mullioned windows looked into an enchanted
land, clothed with that witching "light that never was on sea or
land". When all else on earth was sombre and dun-hued, sunlight and
moonlight still gilded those magical towers. In darkest nights,
through hissing rain and hurtling hail, she caught the glitter of
its starry vanes smiling through murkiness, and above the wail and
sob of the storms that had swept over the waste places of her youth,
she heard the divine melodies which the immortal harper, Hope,
played always in the marvellous palace of the Muses.
In early girlhood she had followed her father into the solemn
mysteries of Greek Tragedy; and in that vast white temple dedicated
to the inexorable Fates, where predestined victims moved like marble
images to their immolation, her own plastic nature had been moulded
in unison with the classic cult. Among the throng of Attic types, an
immortal statue of filial devotion and sisterly love had attracted
her irresistibly, and to Antigone she rendered the homage of a
boundless admiration, an unwavering fealty.
Intellectually, humanity cleaves to idolatry; and each of us
worships in the Pantheon, where our favorite divinities in
literature crowd the niches. To become a skilful artist, and paint
the portrait of Antigone, vas the ambition that had shaped and
colored Beryl's young dreams, long ere she suspected that a mournful
parallelism in fate would consign her to a living tomb more
intolerable than that devised by Theban Creon.
Our grandest pictures, statues, poems, are not the canvas, the
marble, the bronze, and the gilded vellum, that the world handles,
criticises, weighs, buys and sells, accepts with praise, or rejects
with anathema. Invisible and inviolate, imagination, keeps our best,
our ideals, locked in the cerebrum cells of "gray matter", which we
are pleased to call our workshop.
What art gallery, what library can rival the sublime and beautiful
images that crowd the creased and folded labyrinth of the human
brain; as far beyond the ken and analysis of the biologist's
microscope, as some remote nebulae shining in blue gulfs of
interstellar space, that no telescopic Jense can ever discover, even
as a faint blur of silvery mist upon the black velvet vault that
suns and planets spangle?
In some degree, Beryl's artistic dream had been realized; and the
study of years slowly flowered into a large painting, which
represented Antigone standing beside the heap of dust, strewn
reverently to sepulchre the form dimly outlined at her feet. The
sullen red sunset of a tempestuous day flared from the horizon,
across a desolate plain; showed the city walls in the background,
the hungry vultures poised high above the dead, the marauding dogs
crouched in the wind-swept sand, watching their banquet, decreed by
the king. The dust had been scattered from a black vase that bore on
its front, in a circular medallion, the lurid head of grinning
Hecate; and the last rite to appease the unquiet manes was performed
by the uplifted right arm that poured libations from a burnished
brass urn, held aloft over the pall of earth that denned the figure
beneath. The left hand was stretched, not heavenward, but
shieldingly over the mound, and in the beautiful, stern face bent a
little downward in invocation of the infernal gods, one read sublime
self-surrender, grief for Oedipus, regret for Hasmon, farewell to
life,--mingled with exultant consciousness that a successful
sacrifice had been accomplished for Polynices, and that the spirit
of the brother rested in peace.
The soul of the artist seemed to look triumphantly through the
solemn, purplish blue eyes of the young martyr, and Beryl knew that
her own heart beat under the pamted folds of the diploidion; that
she had epitomized in a symbolic picture, the history of her own
The canvas had been framed and hung at the art exhibition of the new
"Museum", opened in September; and only the "U" traced in one corner
beneath an anchor, indicated that it was the work of the Umilta
The public peered, puzzled, shook its sapient head, shrugged its
authoritative shoulders, and sundry criticisms crept into the
journals; but the prophet was judged in "his own country"; and home
work, according to universal canons, rarely finds favor among home
awarding committees, whose dulness its uncomprehended excellence
One censured vehemently the masonry of the city wall; another
deplored pathetically the "defective foreshortening of a dog's
shoulders"; the picture "lacked depth of tone"; the "coloring was
too bizarre", the "tints too neutral".
Like chemicals tested in a laboratory, or like Pharaoh's lean kine,
each objection devoured the preceding one; and unanimity of blame
assaulted only one salient point on the entire canvas: the red
sandals of the Greek girl--upon which outraged good taste fell with
Undismayed, Beryl withdrew her picture, erased the ciphers in the
corner, and shipped it to New York to Doctor Grantlin, who had
recently returned from Europe; requesting him to place it at a
picture dealer's on Broadway, and to withhold the name of its birth-
Two weeks later, a popular journal published an elaborate
description of "A painting supposed to have been obtained abroad by
a New York collector, who merited congratulation upon possession of
a masterpiece, which recalled the marvellous technique of Gerome,
the atmosphere of Jules Breton, the rich, mellow coloring, and
especially the scrupulous fidelity of archaic detail, which
characterized Alma Tadema; and was conspicuously manifest in the red
shoes so distinctively typical of Theban women".
Mr. Kendall caused this article to be copied into the leading
newspaper of his own city; and the first mail, thereafter, carried
to New York an offer of eight hundred dollars for the painting, from
the President of the "Museum" Directors, who had been so shocked by
the unknown significance of the "red shoes". After a few days, it
was generally known, but mentioned with bated breath, that the
"Antigone" had been bought by a wealthy Philadelphian, who paid for
it two thousand dollars, and hung it in his gallery, where Fortunys,
Madrazos, and Diazs ornamented the walls.
Why should journeying abroad to render "Caesar's things" to foreign
Caesars, demand such total bankruptcy that we must needs repudiate
the just debts of home creditors, whose chimneys smoke just beyond
the fence that divides us? De mortuis nil nisi bonum is a
traditional and sacred duty to departed workers; but does it exhaust
human charity, or require contemptuous crusade against equally
honest, living toilers? Are antiquity and foreign birthplace
imperatively essential factors in the award of praise for even
faithful and noble work? We lament the caustic moroseness of
embittered Schopenhauer, brooding savagely over his failure to
secure contemporaneous recognition; yet after all, did he malign his
race, or his age, when, in answer to the inquiry where he desired to
be buried, he scornfully exclaimed: "No matter where; posterity will
It was on the 26th of October, a week subsequent to the receipt of
the letter which contained the check sent in payment for the
picture, that Beryl sat down on the stone sill of her oriel window,
to rest in the seclusion of her room, after the labors of the day.
It was the anniversary of her ill-starred visit to X----, and
melancholy memories had greeted her at dawn, clung to her skirts,
chanted their dismal refrain, and renewed the pain which time had in
some degree dulled. Four years ago she had felt her mother's
feverish lips on hers, in a parting kiss, and four years ago to-day
the sun of her girlhood had passed suddenly into total eclipse.
Since then, moving in a semi-twilight, suffering had prematurely
aged her, and she had schooled herself to expect no star, save that
of duty, to burn along her lonely path. To-day, she thought of the
pride her picture would have aroused in her devoted father; of the
comforts the money would have purchased for her invalid mother; of
the pleasure, success as an artist would have brought to her own
ambitious soul, if only it had not come so many years too late. What
crown could fame bring to one, dwelling always in the chill shadow
of a terrible shame? The glory of noble renown could never gild a
name that had answered at the convicts' roll call; a name which, at
any moment, Bertie's arrest might drag back to the disgrace of
Of all mocking fiends, the arch torturer is that hand which draws
aside the black curtain of grim actuality, and shows us the
wonderful realm of "might have been", where lost hopes blossom
eternally, and the witchery of hallowed illusions is never
Wearily Beryl closed her eyes, as though the white lids availed to
shut out visions, tantalizing as the dream of bubbling springs, and
palm-fringed isles of dewy verdure, to the delirious traveller dying
of thirst, in the furnace blasts of mid-desert.
If she had defied her mother's wishes, and refused to go to X--? How
different the world would seem to her; but, what was a world worth,
that had never known Mr. Dunbar?
Over burning ploughshares she had walked to meet one destined to
stir to its depths the slumbering sea of her tenderest love; and to
forego the pain, would she relinquish the recompense?
During the months that elapsed after Leo's visit to the "Anchorage",
Beryl had surrendered her heart to the great happiness of dwelling,
unrebuked by conscience, upon the precious assurance that the love
of the man whom she had so persistently defied and shunned, was
irrevocably hers. The sharpest pain that can horrow womanhood,
springs from the contemplation of the superior right of another to
the object of her affection; and though honor coerces submission to
the just claims of a rival, renunciation of the beloved entails
pangs that no anaesthetic has power to quiet.
After the long struggle to aid Miss Gordon's accepted lover in
keeping his vows of loyalty, the discovery of his freedom, and the
belief that Bishop Douglass had supplanted him in the affection of
her generous benefactress, had brought to Beryl an exquisite
release; sweet as the spicy breath of the tropics wafted suddenly to
some stranded, frozen Arctic voyager. Heroic and patient, keeping
her numb face steadfastly turned to the pole star of duty, where the
compass of conscience pointed--was the floe ice on which she had
been wrecked, drifting slowly, imperceptibly, yet surely down to the
purple warmth of the Gulf Stream, dotted with swelling sails of
rescue? Like oceanic streams meeting, running side by side,
freighted with cold for the equatorial caldrons, with heat for the
poles, are not the divinely appointed currents of mercy and of
affliction, God's agents of compensation, to equalize the destinies
We rail at Fate as triple monsters; but sometimes it happens, that
the veil of inscrutability floats aside, for an instant, and we
catch a glimpse of the radiant smile of an infinite love.
Hope had set in Beryl's sky, but a tender afterglow held off the
coming night, when she thought of the face that had bent so
yearningly above her, of the passionate voice and the thrilling
touch that were now her most precious memories. The pearl which Miss
Gordon had cast away as worthless, the discarded convict might
surely, without sin, claim as her own for ever. To-day an intense
longing to see him once more, to hear from his lips praise of her
"Antigone", disturbed the tranquillity that was spreading its robes
of minever over a stony path; but she put aside the temptation.
To the Sisterhood of the "Anchorage" she had given one-half the
proceeds of the picture sale; and the remainder would enable her at
last to renew the search for her unhappy brother. So vague were the
topographical lines furnished by the English tourist, that
prosecuting her quest in the remote wilderness of mountains, which
wore their crown of snow, seemed a reckless waste of hope, time and
money; nevertheless, she must make the attempt. She knew that a
gigantic railway system was crawling like an anaconda under rocky
ranges, over foaming rivers, stretching its sinuous steel trail from
Bay of Chaleur to Georgia Gulf; with termini that saw the sun rise
from the Atlantic Ocean, and watched its setting in the red glory of
the far Pacific; and perhaps steam shovels, and iron tight-ropes
might furnish her facilities on her long journey.
Winter would soon overtake her, and in the inhospitable region where
her brother had been surprised at his prayers, how could a lonely
woman travel without protection? Doubt, apprehension flitted as ill-
boding birds of night, flapping dusky wings to hide the signal
beacon, which love and duty swung to and fro; yet the yearning to
see her brother's face again, dwarfed all barriers, and she trusted
On a chair near her, lay, on this afternoon, a map which for many
days she had been studying; and opening it once more, she ran a
finger along the dotted lines, mentally debating whether it would be
best to go by rail to Ottawa, by water to Sault St. Marie, whence
the new railway could be easily reached, or whether the most direct
route would be via St. Paul to Winnepeg. When she left the
"Anchorage", her destination must remain a secret; hence she could
ask no counsel. In view of approaching cold weather, economy of time
seemed imperative; and she resolved to buy a railway ticket to
Fargo, where she could elude suspicion, should the threatened
invisible detective "shadow" her; and whence another Pacific highway
offered egress to western wilds. With this definite conclusion she
closed the map, and a moment later, some one knocked at her door.
She went forward, and met Sister Katrina, a robust dame of forty
years, blond as Gerda; with the "light of the glowworm's tails" in
her golden-lashed violet eyes, and the "ruby spots of the cowslip's
leaves" on her full, frank lips.
"Will you sit a while with me? There is still a half hour, before
your evening work begins in the carving shop. Come in."
"I am sorry I have not time now, to indulge myself in such luxury as
a chat with you always proves. I came to beg the loan of your India
ink copy of the marble screens at Agra; which I have an idea would
be very effective done in cherry, for the panels under the new
bookcases we are designing for the library."
"The copy is up stairs in the studio; but I shall be glad to get it
"No; with your permission I can help myself, and I am going up there
now, for some red chalk. I know exactly where to find the picture,
because I was examining it two days ago. What think you of my idea?"
"I am afraid you will find cherry too dark. A lighter wood, I think,
would be better adapted to the exceeding delicacy of the design."
"Wait till I cut out a sample scroll, and we will talk it over.
Sister Ruth asked me to hand to you this paper, which contains a
very complimentary notice of your lovely picture. I read it as I
came up, and congratulate you on all the fine things said. You
scarcely know how proud we feel of our Sister's work. Thanks for the
use of the drawing."
She smiled, nodded and closed the door; and when her bright cheery
countenance vanished, it seemed as though a film of cloud had
drifted across the sun.
Beryl went back to a low chair in front of the window, and opened
the paper, which chanced to be the New York "Herald." Unfolding it
to hunt the designated article, her glance fell accidentally upon
the personal column. Her heart leaped, then almost ceased beating,
as she read:
"Important. Bertie will meet Gigina in the Museum at Niagara Falls,
Canada side, any day during the last week in October."
Two years and a half had almost gone by since she inserted the
advertisement, to which this was evidently a reply. Long ago she had
ceased to expect any tidings through this channel; but the seed sown
in faith, watered by tears, and guarded by continual prayer had
stirred to life; blossomed in the sunshine of God's pitying smile,
and after weary waiting, the ripe fruit fell at her feet. How fair
and smooth, rosy and fragrant it appeared to her famishing heart?
How opportune the guiding hand that pointed her way, when cross
roads baffled her. Two days later, she would have been journeying
away from the coveted goal. Now the tide of battle was turning. Had
the stars rolled back on their courses to rescue Sisera?
How long the happy woman sat there, exulting in the mellowness of
the perfect fruit of patience, she never knew.
Day died slowly; the vivid crimson and dazzling gold that fired the
West were reflected in the tranquil bosom of the lake, faded into
the tender pale rose of the sacred lotus, into the exquisite tints
that gild the outer petals of a daffodil, the heart of buttercups;
and then, robed in faintest violet powdered with silvery dust, the
vast pinions of Crepuscule spread over sky and water, fanning into
full flame the glittering sparks of planets and constellations that
lighted the chariot course of the coming moon.
Across the sleeping lake hurried a north wind, on its long journey
to blow open the snowy camellias folded close in the heart of the
South, and under his winged sandals the waters crimped, rippled,
swelled into wavelets that played their minor adagio in nature's
nocturn, as their foam fingers fell on the pebbles that fringed the
beach. From the deck of a schooner anchored off shore, floated the
deep voice of a man singing Schubert's "Ave Maria"; and far, far
away over the weird waste of waters, where a buoy marked a sunken
wreck, its red beacon burned like the eye of Polyphemus, crouching
in darkness, watching to surprise Galatea.
The penetrating chill of the night air aroused Beryl from her
profound trance; and lighting the gas over her dressing table, she
re-read the magical words that had transformed her narrow world.
This was Monday the 26th, and next Saturday was the limit of the
proposed interview. One day must suffice for necessary preparation,
and starting by early morning express on Wednesday, she would arrive
in time to keep the tryst that involved so much. She cut out the
notice that was merely a sentence in the page of social
hieroglyphics, where no key fitted more than one paragraph, and
forgetting the criticism on her picture, she went swiftly down
The members of the Sisterhood were at supper, and she waited at the
refectory door for an opportunity to meet the matron.
On the platform raised in the centre of the long room, sat the
reader for the day, Sister Agatha; a plump, florid young woman, with
bright black eyes, and a voice sweet and strong as the flute stop of
an organ. The selection that evening had been from "Agate Windows"
and "Ice Morsels", and the closing words were:
"Alpine flowers are warmed by snow; the summer beauty of our hills,
and the autumn fertility of our valleys, have been caused by the
cold embrace of the glacier; and so, by the chill of trial and
sorrow, are the outlines of Christian character moulded and
beautified. And we, who recognize the loving kindness as well as the
power of God in what may seem the harsher and more forbidding
agencies of nature, ought not to be weary and faint in our minds, if
over our own warm human life, the same kind pitying Hand should
sometimes cause His snow of disappointment to fall like wool, and
cast forth His ice of adversity like morsels; knowing that even by
these unlikely means, shall ultimately be given to us also, as to
nature, the beauty of Sharon, and the peace of Carmel!"
Somewhere in the apartment, a bell tapped. All rose, and each head
in the gray ranks bowed, while "thanks" were offered; then amid a
subdued murmur of conversation, the Sisterhood filed out, gathered
in groups, separated for various duties.
"Sister Ruth, may I see you alone?" asked Beryl, touching her arm in
"This is the night for the examination of accounts, of last week's
expenses, and I shall be busy with Sister Elena, our book-keeper;
moreover, I promised to look over the linen closet of the Infirmary,
with Sister Consuelo, whose demands are like those of the daughter
of the horse-leech. Is your business urgent?"
"Yes; but I will not detain you more than ten minutes."
"Very well, come to my cabinet."
The place designated was a pigeon box in size, and adjoined the
reception room on the first floor. Two desks packed with papers,
three chairs and a picture of Elijah and the ravens, constituted the
furniture. The matron brightened the light, seated herself and
looked at her companion.
"Well. What can I do for you? Why, Sister? Something has happened;
your face is all aglow, your eyes are great stars."
"Yes; a heavy burden I have long borne is slipping from my heart,
and after the pressure it rebounds. I have told you that my stay
here was contingent on events which I could not control; that at any
moment I might consider it incumbent upon me to go away into the
world; therefore, I could bind myself by no compact to remain
permanently in the 'Anchorage'. The time has come; the drum taps, I
must march away."
"And you are so glad to leave us?" said the matron, gazing in wonder
at the radiant face, usually so impassive and cold with its locked
lips, and grave, sad, downcast eyes.
"No, glad only in the occasion that calls me; regretting that duty
separates me temporarily from the Sisterhood, who so mercifully
opened their arms, when I had no spot in all the wide world where I
could lay my head, but the sod on my mother's grave. This blessed
haven is for those whose first duty in life summons them nowhere
beyond its walls. If conscience bade you leave these peaceful and
hallowed halls, for work far more difficult, would you hesitate to
obey? It is safer and less arduous to keep step with the main army;
but some must perish on picket duty, and is the choice ours, when an
order details us?"
"Who signed your order?"
Sister Ruth took off her spectacles, and bent closer, with a
keenness of scrutiny, that was unflatteringly suspicious.
"My dear mother."
"I understood that you had been an orphan for years?"
"Yes, for four wretched, lonely and terrible years; but no tomb is
deep enough to shut in the voice that uttered our mother's last
wishes; and all time cannot hush the sound of the command, cannot
hide the beloved hand that pointed to the path she asked us to
follow. When my mother kissed me good-bye, she blessed me, because
of a promise I gave her; and Heaven means to me the place where I
can look into her sainted face, and tell her 'Hold me close to your
tender heart, for oh! I have indeed kept my word. Your little girl
obeyed your last command.'" Her voice trembled, and she passed one
hand over her eyes for an instant.
"Sister Ruth, the opportunity has arrived, and I go to execute the
last clause of a sacred order. When I shall have finished my
mission, I shall want to come back home. Oh! you see? I call it
home. For where else can I ever have a home, till I join my father
and mother? If I should come back and ask you to take me for the
remainder of my life, as a sister worker, will you let me die with
the 'anchor' on my breast? I shall be as worthy of your confidence
then, as I am now."
"Where are you going?"
"I hoped that you would not ask me, because I cannot tell you now.
Will you not trust me?"
"Your extremely cautious reticence makes it difficult; and I have
always known that some distressing mystery brought you here."
"Confidence that defies suspicious appearances is precious indeed;
but confidence that crumbles like Jericho's walls at the blast of
Joshua's trumpets, is as worthless a sham as a cable whose strands
part at the first taut strain. Sister Ruth, there are reasons why I
go away alone, to an unknown destination; and I am about to tax
your trust yet more severely, when I tell you that I need the
disguise of the 'Umilta' uniform. I ask your permission to wear it
during my absence."
The matron shook her head.
"Surely, Sister Ruth, you cannot think it possible that I should
bring discredit upon this dear gray flannel, which I hold as sacred
as priestly vestments?"
She laid her cheek against her own shoulder, with a caressing
motion, and passed her fingers softly across her sleeve.
"My young sister, to some extent I am responsible for those who wear
the 'Umilta' gray. If I allowed you to carry our badge under such
peculiar circumstances beyond the limits of my supervision, I should
hazard too much; should deserve the severity of the censure I most
certainly should receive, if any disaster brought reproach upon our
spotless record as an institution. It was not designed as a disguise
in which to masquerade for unknown purposes."
Beryl put up both hands, pressing her pretty white cap close to her
ears; and her lips trembled, as was their wont, when she was
"Do not discrown me. My father's Beryl will never sully your pure
record; and it would be as impossible for me to disgrace your
uniform, as defile my mother's shroud. Grant me the protection of
this consecrated garb."
"No. The 'Anchorage' must remain as heretofore, like Caesar's wife."
"Although I have lived here so long, how little you know me."
"Very true, my Sister; therefore, as custodian of the interests of
our little community, I must not put them in jeopardy. When do you
expect to take your departure?"
"Wednesday, at 6 A.M., on the express for New York."
"Have you received letters?"
"No, Sister. Doctor Grantlin is the only person who writes to me,
and as his letters are always addressed to your care, I receive them
from your hands."
"How long do you propose to stay in New York?"
"I am not going to New York, and I know not how long I may be
detained; but I desire to return without needless delay."
"Then you want your money."
"Give me to-morrow five hundred dollars, and keep the remainder
until I come, or until you hear from me. Please say that I have gone
on a journey to fulfil a pledge made years ago; and try not to show
the Sisters that you have no confidence in me. That--would rob my
home-coming of half its pleasure. If any unforeseen accident should
keep me away, should cut short a life which has overflowed with
great sorrow, then retain the money and the pictures I leave behind;
and believe that I died, as I have lived, not unworthy of all thy
kindness and true charity this dear sacred 'Anchorage' has shown to
me. Sister Elena is impatient; I hear her walking up and down the
floor. While I am absent, Sister Katrina, and especially Sister
Anice, can take my place in the Art School; and all my orders were
finished last week, except the mirror for Mrs. St. Clair. She wished
it framed in scarlet bignonias, and as the painting is more than
half done, Sister Anice can easily complete it. I will not detain
you longer. Good-night, Sister Ruth."
No sleep visited Beryl, and as she lay at two o'clock, watching the
shimmer of the moonlight reflected from the tossing waves upon the
panes of her wide window, where the tangled mesh of quivering rays
coiled, uncoiled, glided hither and yon like golden serpents, she
heard the click of the key, and the turning of the knob in a door,
which opened from the alcove into an adjoining room. That apartment
was reserved as a guest chamber; had been unoccupied for months; and
puzzled by the sound, Beryl sat up in her bed and listened. The blue
folds of the drapery hanging over the alcove arch, were drawn aside,
and Sister Ruth, wrapped in a trailing dressing-gown, held up a
small lamp and peered cautiously around.
"What is the matter, Sister?"
"Did I frighten you? I came this way rather than knock at the other
door, because Sister Frances is on watch to-night; and though she is
a dear good soul, she is afflicted with an undue share of the
feminine frailty, curiosity, and I prefer that no one should canvass
my unseasonable visit to you. Do not get up."
She put the brass lamp on a chair, and sat down on the edge of the
"Our conversation has disquieted me, and I cannot sleep. Long ago,
for my own sake, I made a rule by which to govern my judgment of my
fellow beings; and it amounts to this: where I cannot be sure of
evil in others, I give them the benefit of the doubt, and sincerely
endeavor to think the best. I have watched you very closely. There
is much that I cannot understand; much that it appears strange you
should hesitate to explain; yet in these years I have had no cause
to question your truthfulness, and that is the basis of all human
worth. We profess to live here as one family, as sisters, holding
each other in love, charity and trust; yet in searching myself to-
night, I fear I have gone astray. I have pondered and prayed over
this matter, and my heart yearns toward you. I feel as I fancy a
mother might, who had too hastily slapped the face of her child;
and, my sister, I have come to say, forgive me, if I too harshly
refused your request, if I wounded you."
She held out her hand, but Beryl did not see it; she had covered her
face, and unable to speak she leaned forward and laid her head on
the matron's lap. Gently the thin fingers stroked the shining hair,
until they were drawn down and pressed to the girl's lips.
"Again, I asked myself, whether my decision had not been inspired by
an overweening pride in the public estimation of our home; rather
than by an unselfish regard for the welfare and peace of mind of one
of its members? What will the world think of us, must be
subordinated to, what is the best for my young sister, whose cross
it is my duty to lighten? I cannot bear to give you up; and I shall,
I will trust you. Wear the 'gray' armor, and remember, if any blot
stain it, you will bring disgrace upon a holy cause; you will be the
first to stain the Umilta uniform; and I shall be blamed, for
reposing confidence in one who betrayed us to public scorn. My
Sister Beryl, I give you 'the gray'. God grant it may shelter you
from harm, and bring you home to fill my place with honor, when I
have passed into the eternal Anchorage."
Over the region of the great lakes, her favorite haunt, hung the
enchanted stillness, the misty glamour of the purple-cloaked witch--
Indian Summer; whose sorcery veiled the dazzling face of the sun,
and changed the silver lustre of Selene into the vast, solemn red
blot that stared wonderingly at its own weird image in the glassy
Wrapped in that soft, sweet haze, which like the eider down of
charity smooths all roughness, rounds all angles, the world of shore
and lake presented a magical panorama of towns and villages, herds
of cattle, flocks of sheep, spires of churches, masts of vessels,--
all flashing past the open window of the car, where Beryl sat,
watching the shadows lengthen as the long train thundered eastward,
and the tree dials marked the hour record on the golden brown
When the goal is in sight, do we dwell on the hazard, the strained
muscles, the blistered feet, and the fierce thirst the long race-
course cost us? Who know that they are weary and spent, while the
prize brightens, nears as they stretch panting to grasp it?
The certainty of meeting her brother, the anticipation of all that
she felt assured he would promise concerning his future, when he
learned the severity of the ordeal which she had endured in his
behalf, blotted out the costliness of the accomplishment. Like that
glorious violet haze of Indian Summer, which was drawing its
opalescent drapery along the vanishing iron railway track blackened
with cinders, and softly shrouding the grim outlines of wreck, that
told where a vessel had foundered on the lake in the early autumn
gale, an overruling Providence seemed shedding peace even upon her
troubled past. In the swift flash of the divine fire that sanctified
the accepted sacrifice, she was too dazzled to remember the moan of
the slaughtered victim, the agony of the death struggle; and now,
her thoughts spanned the gulf of time, and painted the eternal
reunion of the broken and dishonored family group.
From these comforting reflections she was aroused by a piercing cry
that made her spring forward, and scan the crowd of human faces
collected close to the rails, at a small town where the cars had
On a side track in front of her window, was a train which had just
dashed in from Buffalo, and amid the surging mass of jeering
spectators, two officers stepped down from the platform, each with a
hand on the arm of a man, who was heavily handcuffed. At the sight,
a white-haired, withered woman leaning from a carriage and staring
with horror-haunted eyes, had screamed, and was falling back
"That is his mother. Poor thing, why did they let her come? He is
her only boy," said a man to his comrade, who stood near Beryl's
"What is the matter?" asked a gentleman, sitting immediately in
front of her.
"Two of our officers winged a bird, who thought it was safe flying
over yonder, with the lake between him and the county jail. Canada
is handy hunting-ground, when the game happens to be runaway
thieves; and we have bagged one. He was the cashier of our Savings
Bank, and not satisfied with tampering with the books, and forcing
balances, he finally robbed the vault of a lot of gold, and flew
across the line. His wife met him at St. Catherine's, and he met the
iron bracelets he was dodging."
The train moved on, and once more Beryl heard the howling of the
wolves, that she had hoped were left forever behind; that now seemed
in full cry bearing down upon their prey. Should she return to the
"Anchorage", and advertise Bertie's danger? So vague were her ideas
relative to the limits of extradition, that she had regarded Canada
as a city of refuge; considered its protection of United States'
criminal fugitives as efficacious, as meeting a Vestal Priestess on
the way to his execution, proved in rescuing a Roman malefactor from
the penalty of violated law; but this shred of comfort had parted,
when most she required its aid.
"Yes, I understand extradition provisions have been arranged, which
are bound to have a wholesome effect; especially in this section,
where it is so easy to slip across the lakes any dark night. I am
told nearly all felonies will be embraced now--from murder to
burglary--and that Her Majesty's Secretaries are more willing to aid
our officers, than was the case a few years ago, when no end of
quibbling tied up justice."
The gentlemen on the seat in front of her, moved away to the smoking
car; and the woman in gray listened to the creak and whirr of the
wheel of torturing dread, upon which some malignant fate once more
bound her. Bertie had been safe in his mountain fastness, until her
ill-starred advertisement coaxed him within reach of the police
Briareus. Could she discern the hand of merciful warning in this
fortuitous meeting with a captured culprit; which so vividly
recalled the maddening incidents of her return to X---, when the
sheriff had hurried her from the car? A sickening terror seized her,
and along the expanse of pearly mist that united earth and sky, in
tke snowy fringe of ripples breaking their teeth on the shelving
beach, she seemed to read the doom of her stratagem written in words
"Go where you may, but I give you fair warning you cannot escape me;
and the day on which you meet that guilty vagabond, you betray him
to the scouts of justice."
Far away, among the orange groves of Louisiana, would he forget his
threat, or fail to execute it? On and on darted the train; people
laughed and talked; a tired baby swayed from side to side on the
nurse's knees, crooned herself to sleep; and a canary in a cage
covered with pink net, broke suddenly into a spasm of trills and
It was almost four o'clock when the dull roar of Niagara set the air
a tremble, and the few remaining passengers left the train. The
little town was unusually quiet and deserted, the tide of summer
travel having ebbed; and not until the crystal fingers of the ice
fairy had built her wonderful Giralda out of foam and spray, would
that of Winter tourists begin to flow.
Leaving her trunk at the "baggage room" of the station, Beryl
engaged a carriage driver to take her to the Suspension Bridge.
Drawing her gray bonnet and veil as far as possible over her face,
she paid the toll, and noticed that the keeper peered curiously at
her, and muttered something in an undertone to a man wearing a
uniform, who turned and stared at her.
She hurried away along that iron mesh swinging high in air like a
vast spider web, spun from shore to shore across the swirling,
snarling caldron of hissing waters. Was the officer the wary spider
watching her movements, waiting to slip down the metal snare, and
devour her hopes? Her heart beats sounded as the heavy thuds of a
drum; the rush of dire forebodings drowned even the roar of the
Falls, and the magnificence of the spectacle vanished before the
awful realization of the danger to which she had invited Bertie.
The bridge was deserted; no human being was visible; and now and
then she glanced back over her shoulder, dreading she knew not what
form of pursuit. At last her flying feet touched British soil, but
she knew now, that neither Bezer nor yet Shechcm lay before her; and
no sign-post rose to welcome her, with the "Refuge--Refuge"--the
water and the bread appointed of old, for spent fugitives. Canada
was an ambush that, despite all caution, might betray her. Against
the last rail of the bridge she leaned, tried to steady her nerves;
and put up one passionate prayer:
"Turn not Thy face from me, O my God! in this last hour! Guide me
aright. Overrule all my mistakes, and save my repentant brother."
On the wide gallery of the "Clifton House" stood a gardener engaged
in removing the flower baskets that hung between the columns; and as
he paused in his work, to observe the quaint gray figure below, she
asked, in a voice that was strained beyond its customary sweetness:
"Please direct me to the Museum."
"Follow the street along the cliff, and you can't miss it. Behind
those trees yonder, on the right hand side. To the best of my
belief, it is shut up this week."
Turning south, she walked more leisurely, lest undue haste should
excite suspicion; and all the solemn sublimity of the scene
confronted her. The green crescent of the Horseshoe blanched to
foam, as it leaped to the stony gulf below, the wreaths of mist
floating up, gilded by the sunshine; the maddened rush of the
tossing, frothing, whirling rapids seething like melted gold as the
western radiance smote the bubbling surface; the scarlet flakes of
foliage clinging to the trees on Goat Island, and far above, on the
wooded height beyond, the picturesque outlines of the Convent,
lifting its belfry against the azure sky. As doomed swimmers lost in
those rapids, swept head downward to destruction, nearing the last
wild plunge catch the glimmer of that consecrated tower held aloft,
so to Beryl's eyes it now seemed a symbol of comfort; and faith once
more girded her.
A woman wearing a blue plaid handkerchief tied over her head and
knotted under her chin, and carrying a basket of red apples on one
arm, while with the other she led a lowing cow along the dusty road,
paused at a signal, in front of the gray clad stranger.
"Which is the Museum?"
"Yonder, where the goats are huddled."
The building was closed, but in those days a garden lay to the north
of it; and a small gate that gave admittance to seats and flowers
connected with the Museum, now stood open.
The walks were strewn with pale yellow poplar leaves, and bordered
with belated pink hollyhocks, and crimson chrysanthemums blighted by
frost, shivering in their death chill; and from a neighboring willow
stripped of curtaining foliage, a lonely bird piped its plaintive
threnody, for the loss of one summer's mate. At the extremity of the
little garden, under shelter of an ancient, gnarled tree, that
screened a semicircular seat from the observation of those passing
on the street, Beryl sat down to rest; to collect her thoughts.
In the solitude, she threw back her veil, leaned her head against
the trunk of the tree where wan lichens made a pearly cushion, and
shut her eyes. The afternoon was wearing away; a keen wind shook the
bare boughs; only the ceaseless, unchanging chant of waters rose
from the vast throat of nature, invoking its God.
She heard no footsteps; but some strange current attacked her veins,
thrilled along her nerves, strung as taut as the wires of a harp,
and starting up she became aware that a man was standing on the
clover sward close to her. A dark brown overcoat, a broad brimmed,
soft wool hat, drawn as a mask down to the bridge of the nose, and a
bare hand covering the mouth, was all she saw.
Stretching out her arms, she sprang to meet him:
"O Bertie! At last! At last!"
The figure drew back slightly, lifted his hat; and where she had
expected to see her brother's golden curls, the crisp, black locks
of Mr. Dunbar met her gaze.
She staggered, and sank back on the bench; the realization of
Bertie's peril throttling the joy that leaped up in her heart, at
sight of the beloved features.
"I am here. I come as promptly to fulfil my promise as you to keep
your tryst. Do you understand me so little, that you doubted my
Her bonnet had slipped back, and as all the chastened beauty of her
face framed in the dainty cap, became fully exposed, a heavy sigh
escaped him, and he set his teeth, like one nerved to endure
For months he had nourished the germ of a generous purpose, had
tried to accustom himself to the idea of ultimately surrendering
her; but in her presence, a certain bitter fury swept away the
wretched figment, and he remembered only how fair, how holy, how
dear she was to him. Once more the cry of his famishing heart was:
"Death may part us. I swear no man's arms ever shall."
"Why waylay and torment me? Have I not suffered enough at your
hands? Between me and mine not even you can come."
"Take care! For your sake I am here, hoping to spare you some pangs;
to allow you at least an opportunity to see him--"
"What have you done? Don't tell me I am too late. Where is he? Oh!
where--where is he?"
She had sprung up, and her hands closed around his arm, shaking it
in the desperation of her dread; while her voice quivered under the
strain of a conjecture that Bertie had already been arrested.
"Where is your chivalrous, courageous, unselfish, devoted lover? To
ascertain exactly where he skulks, is my mission to Canada; for I
thought I had schooled myself to bear the pain of--"
"What do you mean? What have you done with my Bertie? Oh--"
She threw herself suddenly on her knees, held up her hands, and a
wailing cry broke the stillness:
"Save him, Mr. Dunbar! You will break my heart if you bring ruin
upon his dear head. He is all I have on earth, he is my own brother!
My brother! my brother!"
The blood ebbed from his face; the haughty mouth twitched in a
sudden spasm, and he put his hand over his eyes.
Could she adopt this ruse to thwart pursuit of the man whom she
idolized? For half a moment he stood, with whitened lips; then
stooped, took the face of the kneeling woman in his palms, and
"My brother. Do you understand at last, why I must save him? Why you
must help me to screen him from ruin?"
"Great God! After all, what a blind fool I have been!"
He raised her, placed her on the bench; sat down and leaned his head
on his hand. To Beryl, the silence that followed was an excruciating
torture, beyond even her power of endurance.
"Do not keep me in suspense. Where is Bertie? Let me see him, if he
"He is not here. It was to assist you in finding him, that I enticed
"You enticed me?"
"I put the advertisement in the 'Herald', knowing that if you
chanced to see it, all the legions of Satan could not keep you away.
I have been here since Sunday, waiting and watching. I was obliged
to see you, for your own sake, as well as to satisfy my longing to
look once more into your face; and I felt assured the magnetic name
of 'Bertie' would draw you here swiftly."
"Then it was only a snare, that advertisement? Oh! you are cruel!"
"Not to you. It was to promote your peace of mind, by enabling you
to meet the man who, I supposed was your lover, that I invited you
to this place. Mark you, only to see, never to marry him."
"Where is he?"
"Exactly where, I do not yet know; but very soon you shall learn."
"Is he in peril?"
"Not from arrest at present, by human officers of retributive
"He is not coming here?"
"How did you learn his name?"
"I suspected that the advertisement you published in the "Herald"
after leaving X---, was a clue that would aid me. I clung to it, for
I was sure it referred to the man whom I have hunted so
"You have something to tell me. Be merciful, and end my suspense."
"First, answer one question. Why did you conceal from me the fact
that you had a brother? Why did you allow me to suffer from a false
theory, that you knew made my life a slow torture?"
He leaned nearer, and under the blue fire of his eager eyes, the
blood mounted into her pale cheeks.
"My motive belongs to a past, with which I trust I have done
forever; and you have no right to violate its buried ashes."
"I must, and I will have all the truth, cost what it may. Between
you and me, no spectre of mystery shall longer stalk. If you had
trusted me, and confessed the facts before the trial, you would have
muzzled me effectually, and prevented the employment of detectives
whom I have hissed on your brother's track. Why did you lead me
astray, and confirm my suspicion that you were shielding a lover?"
"I was innocent; but my name, my father's honored name, was in
jeopardy of dishonor, and to protect it, I would not undeceive you.
Had my brother been convicted, the established guilt would have
tarnished forever our only legacy, all that father left to Bertie
and to me--his spotless name."
"You are quibbling. Did you shield the family name by enduring the
purgatory of seeing your own on the list of penitentiary convicts?
You deliberately fastened the odium of the crime upon your father's
daughter; and you knew, you understood perfectly, that by
strengthening my erroneous supposition, you were lashing me to a
pursuit of the person, whom you could have best protected by frankly
telling me all. If he is really your brother, what did you expect to
accomplish by fostering my belief that he was your lover?"
"Mr. Dunbar, spare me this inquisition. Release me from the rack of
suspense. Tell me why you set this snare, baited with Bertie's
"I must first end my own suspense. If you wish to find the man, you
tell me is your brother, I will aid you only when you have bared
your heart to me. You had some powerful incentive unrevealed. I will
know exactly, why you made me suffer all these years, the pangs of a
devouring jealousy, keener than a vulture's talons."
With crimson cheeks, and shy, averted eyes, she sat trembling;
unconsciously locking and unlocking her fingers. Her head drooped,
and the voice was a low flutter:
"If I had told you that the handkerchief was one I gave to my
brother, because he fancied the gay border, and that the pipe
belonged to my dear father, and if you had known that for more than
a year before I went to X---no tidings from that brother had reached
me, would you have kept my secret, when you saw my life laid in the
scales held by the jury? Suppose they had condemned me to death? I
expected that fate; but knowing the truth, would you have permitted
the execution of that sentence?"
"Certainly not; and you understand why I should never have allowed
"I knew that in such an emergency I could not trust you."
Five minutes passed, while he silently sought to unravel the web;
and Beryl dared not meet his gaze.
"You had some stronger motive, else you would have confessed all,
when I started to Dakota. Anxiety for your brother's safety would
have unsealed your lips. What actuated you then? I mean to know
"Miss Gordon was my friend. She showed me kindness which I could
"Miss Gordon is a very noble woman, kinder to all the world than to
herself; but did gratitude to her involve sacrifice of me?"
"You were betrothed. I owed it to her, to keep you loyal to your
vows, as far as my power extended. I tried faithfully to guard her
happiness, while endeavoring to shield my brother."
"Knowing you had all my heart, you dared not let me learn that the
rival existed only in my imagination? loyal soul! Did you deem it a
kindness to aid in binding her to an unloving husband? Her womanly
instincts saved her from that death in life; and years ago, she set
us both free. She wears no willows, let me tell you; and those who
should know best, think that before very long she will sail for
Europe as wife of Governor Glenbeigh, the newly appointed minister
to Z---, a brilliant position, which she will nobly grace. She will
be happier as Glenbeigh's wife than I could possibly have made her;
for he loves her as she deserves to be loved. So, for Miss Gordon's
sake, you immolated me?"
Only the pathetic piping of the lonely bird made answer.
Like the premonitory thrill that creeps through forest leaves,
before the coming burst of a tempest, he seemed to tremble slightly;
his tone had a rising ring, and a dark flush stained his swarthy
face, deepened the color in his brilliant eyes.
"Oh, my white rose! A wonderful fragrance of hope steals into the
air; a light breaks upon my dreary world that makes me giddy! Can it
be possible that you--"
He paused, and she covered her face with her hands.
"Beryl, you are the only woman I have ever loved. You came suddenly
into my life, as an irresistible incarnation of some fateful
witchery that stole and fired my heart, subverted all my plans, made
havoc of lifelong hopes, dominated my will, changed my nature;
overturned the cool selfishness on the altar of my worship, and set
up your own image in a temple, swept, garnished, and sanctified
forever by your in-dwelling. You have cost me stinging humiliation,
years of regret, of bitter disappointment; and the ceaselessly
gnawing pain of a jealous dread that despite my vigilance, another
man might some day possess you. I have money, influence,
professional success, gratified ambition, and enviable social
eminence; I have all but that which a man wants most, the one woman
in the great wide world whom he loves truly, loves better than he
loves himself; and who holds his heart in the hollow of her hand. I
want my beautiful, proud, pure, stately white rose. I want my Beryl.
I will have my own."
He had risen, stood before her; took the hands that veiled her
countenance, and drew her to her feet.
"You have been loyal to parents, to brother, to friends, to duty; be
loyal now to your own heart; answer me truly. What did you mean when
you once said, with a mournful pathos I cannot forget: 'We love not
always whom we should, or would, were choice permitted us?' You
defied me that day, and prayed God to bless your lover; taunted me
with words that have made days dreary, nights hideous: 'To whom I
have given my whole deep heart, you shall never know.' Did you mean-
-ah--will you tell me now?"
She bent her head till it almost touched him, but no answer came.
"You will not? I swear you shall; else I shall hope, believe, know
beyond all doubt, that during these years, I have not been the only
sufferer; and that loyal as was your soul, your rebel heart is as
truly mine, as all my deathless love is surely yours."
She tried to withdraw her hands; but his hold tightened, and
infinite exultation rang in his voice.
"My darling! My darling--you dare not deny it? I shall wear my white
rose to make all the future sweet with a blessed love; but have you
no word of assurance for my hungry ears? Is my darling too proud?"
He raised her hands, laid her arms around his neck, and folded very
close to his heart, the long coveted prize.
"My Beryl, it was a stubborn battle, but Lennox Dunbar claims his
own; and will hold her safe forever. Will you be loyal to your
Was it a white or a crimson rose that hid its lovely petals against
his shoulder, and whispered with lips that his kiss had rouged:
"Have I ever been allowed a choice? Was I not foredoomed to be
always at the mercy of Tiberius?"
The little garden was growing dusky, the gilded mist waving its
spectral banners over the thundering cataract, had whitened as the
sun went down behind the wooded crest that barred the western sky
line; and the shimmering gold on the heaving, whirling current of
the Rapids faded to leaden tints, flecked with foam, as like a
maddened suitor, parted by Goat Island from its beloved, it rushed
to plunge into the abyss, where the silvery bridal veil shook her
signal, and all the roaring gorge filled with purple gloom.
Mr. Dunbar drew his companion's hand under his arm, and led her
toward the Clifton House.
"You and I have done with shadows. On the heights yonder, the sun
still shines. Up there waits one, who will tell you that which he
refuses to divulge to any one else. Ten days ago my agents notified
me that a man was searching for Mrs. Brentano and her daughter Beryl
in New York; and that he had gone to X---, where he spent several
days in consultation with the Catholic priest. Singleton sent me a
telegram, and I reached X---in time to accompany the stranger back
to New York. To me he admits only, that he lives in Montreal; and is
the bearer of a message, the import of which, sacred promises
prevent him from revealing to any one but Miss Brentano. He is an
elderly man, and so wary, no amount of dexterity can circumvent his
caution. Very complex and inexplicable motives brought me here;
chiefly the longing to see you, to learn your retreat, your mode of
existence; and also the intention to exact one condition, before I
made it possible for you to find the object of your search. When you
had given me your promise not to marry him, it was my purpose to
allow you one final meeting; and if you forfeited your compact, the
dungeon and the gallows awaited him. Love makes women martyrs; they
are the apostles of the gospel of altruism. Love revives in men of
my stamp, the primeval and undifferentiated tiger. When I think of
all that you have endured, of how nearly I lost you, my snowdrop, do
you wonder I shall hasten to set you in the garden of my heart, and
shelter your dear head from every chill wind of adversity?"
They had passed through a gate, crossed a lawn, and reached a long,
steep flight of steps leading straight up the face of a cliff, to
the grounds attached to a villa. With her hand clasped tightly in
his, Mr. Dunbar and Beryl slowly mounted the abrupt stairway, and
when they gained the elevated terrace, a man who was walking up and
down the sward, came quickly forward.
Pressing her fingers tenderly, Mr. Dunbar released her hand.
"When your interview is ended, come to me yonder at the side gate,
where I have a carriage to take you over the bridge. Father Beckx,
this is Miss Brentano. I leave her in your care."
The sun was sending his last level shafts of light from the edge of
the sky, when a man dressed in long black vestments, a raven-haired,
raven-eyed, thin lipped and clean shaven personage, with a placid
countenance as coldly irresponsive as a stone mask, sat down on the
top step of the long stairs, beside the woman in gray, whose eager
white face was turned to meet his, in breathless and mute
The lingering twilight held at bay slowly marching night; the sunset
glory streamed up almost to the zenith in bands of amethyst and
faint opaline green, like the far reaching plumes of an archangel's
pinions beating the still, crystal air. Later, the vivid orange of
the afterglow burned with a transient splendor, as the dying smile
of a day that had gone to its eternal grave; and all the West was
one vast evening primrose of palest gold sprinkled with star dust,
when Beryl went slowly to join the figure pacing restlessly in front
of the gate.
Across the grassy lawn he came to meet her. In mute surrender she
lifted her arms, laid her proud head, with its bared wealth of
burnished bronze hair, down on his shoulder, and wept passionately.
When he had placed her in the carriage, and held her close to his
heart, with his dark cheek resting on hers, where tears still
trickled, he whispered:
"How much are you willing to tell me?"
"Only that I must start at once on a long, lonely journey to a
desolate retreat, in mountain solitudes; far away in the wilderness
of the Northwest. Bertie is there; and I must see him once more."
"How soon do you wish to start?"
"Within the next three days."
"You must wait one week. I cannot go before that time."
"Do you suppose I shall allow you to travel there without me? Do you
imagine I shall ever lose sight of you, till the vows are uttered
that make you my wife? You cannot see your brother's face, until you
have first looked into your husband's. In one week I can arrange to
go, to the ends of the earth if you will; but you will meet your
brother only when you are Beryl Dunbar."
"No--no! You forget, ah!--You forget. I have worn the penitentiary
homespun, and the brand of the convict seared my fair name, scarred
all my life. The wounds will heal, but time can never efface the
hard lines of the cicatrice; and I could not bear to mar the lustre
of your honored name by--"
"Hush!--hush. It is ungenerous in you to wound me so sorely. When I
remember the fiery furnace through which my wife walked unscorched,
with such sublime and patient heroism, is it possible that I should
forget whose rash hand, whose besotted idiocy consigned her to the
awful ordeal? Out of the black shadow where I thrust you, sprang the
halo that glorifies you. How often, in the silence of my sleepless
nights, have I heard the echo of your wild, despairing cry: 'You
have ruined my life!' Oh, my darling! If you withhold yourself, if
you cast me away, you will indeed ruin mine. If you could realize
how I wince at the recollection of your suffering, you would not
cruelly remind me of my own accursed work."
"If the soul of my brother be ransomed thereby, I shall thank you,
even for all that X---cost me. The world knows now, that no
suspicion clings to me; but, Mr. Dunbar, the disgrace blots forever
the dear name I tried to shield; and my vindication only blackens
"The world will never know. Your sad secret shall be kept, and my
name shall wrap you in ermine, and my love make your future redeem
the past. Having found my darling, can I afford to run the risk of
losing her? You belong to me, and I will not trust you out of my
sight, until the law gives me a husband's claim. The mother of one
of my oldest friends is boarding here in Niagara. I will commit you
to her care until to-morrow; then some church will furnish an altar
where you shall pledge me your loyalty."
"Impossible! To-night a train will take me to Buffalo, where I can
catch the express going West. There are reasons why I must make no
delay; must hasten back to explain many things to the Matron of the
Sisterhood, where I have dwelt so safely and so peacefully since I
"Give me the reasons. 'Impossible' ne me dites jamais ce bete de
mot!' Give me your reasons."
His arm tightened around her.
"Then you shall not leave me. I will endure no more mysteries."
"Mr. Dunbar, I wear the uniform of a celibate Order of Gray Sisters;
and the matron trusted me in an unusual degree, when she consented
that I should undertake this journey on a secret mission. I came to
Niagara, as I supposed, to keep an appointment with my brother, and
I met you. If I lingered one instant here, it might reflect some
discredit upon this dear gray garb, which all hold so
irreproachable. Sister Ruth trusted me. I cannot, I will not, even
in the smallest iota, appear to betray her confidence; and I must go
at once, and go as I came--alone. Bid the driver take me to the
railway station, and you must remain in the carriage. I can have no
escort. Your presence would subject me to criticism, and I will
guard the 'gray' that so mercifully guarded me."
"Beryl, are you trying to elude me?"
"I am faithfully trying to keep my compact with Sister Ruth. Here is
a card bearing the exact address of the 'Anchorage'. I am going
there as quickly as possible, to make speedy arrangements for my
long journey West, to that place almost within sound of the Pacific
"Put your hand in mine. Promise me before God, that you will not
vanish from me; that you will not leave the 'Anchorage' until I come
and see you there."
"I promise; but time presses. I must hasten to find Bertie."
"Do you know exactly where to go?"
"Yes. I have minute directions written down."
"Wait until I come. I trust you to keep your promise. Ah! after to-
day, I could not bear to lose my 'Rosa Alba.' God make me more
worthy of my loyal and beautiful darling. After all, not Alcestis,
White and still, lay the world of the far Northwest, wrapped in
peace as profound as that which reigned in primeval ages; when
ancestral Nahuas, dragging their sleds across frozen Behring
Straits, or cast amid other drift of the Japanese current upon the
strange new Pacific shore, climbed the mountains, and fell on their
faces before the sun, whose worshippers have sacrificed in all
If civilization be the analogue of geologic accretion, how tortuous
is the trend and dip of the ethnological strata, how abrupt the
overlapping of myths. How many aeons divided the totem coyote from
the she-wolf of Romulus and Remus? Which is the primitive and parent
flame, the sacred fire of Pueblo Estufas, of Greek Prytaneum, of
Roman Vesta, of Persian Atish-khudahs? If the Laurentian system be
the oldest upheaval of land, and its "dawn animal" the first
evolution of life that left fossil footprints, where are all the
missing links in ethnology, which would save science that rejects
Genesis--the paradox of peopling the oldest known continent by
immigration from those incalculably younger?
Winter had lagged, loath to set his snow shoes upon the lingering,
diaphanous train of Indian Summer, but December was inexorable, and
the livery of ice glittered everywhere in the mid-day sun.
Along a well-worn bridle trail, now slippery as glass, winding
around the base of crags, through narrow gorges that almost
overarched, leaving a mere skylight of intense blue to mark the way,
moved a party of four persons in single file, slowly ascending a
steep spiral. In advance, mounted on a black pony, was a cowled
monk, whose long, thin profile suggested that of Savonarola; and
just behind him rode a Canadian half-breed guide, with the copperish
red of aboriginal America on his high cheek bones, and the warm glow
of sunny France in his keen black eyes. Guiding his horse with the
left hand, his right led the dappled mustang belonging to the third
figure; a tall, broad-shouldered man wearing an overcoat that
reached to his knees, who walked with his hand on the bridle bit of
a white mule, whereon sat a woman, wrapped in silver fox furs from
throat to feet. A cap or hood of the same soft, warm material was
worn over her head, where a roll of dark auburn hair coiled at the
back; and around her white temples clustered rings and tendrils of
the glossy bronze locks that contrasted so singularly with the black
arch of the brows, and the fringe that darkened the luminous gray
One month had elapsed since the Umilta Sisters of the "Anchorage",
following Sister Ruth, walked in the star-lit dawn of a November
day, to a neighboring church, and watched Doctor Grantlin lead down
the aisle, a pale, trembling woman whose hand he placed in that of
the man, waiting in front of the altar. The Sisterhood had listened
to the solemn words of the marriage service, the interchange of
vows, and the benediction, while priestly hands were laid tapon two
When the rising sun greeted the husband and wife, they were speeding
westward, on the first stage of their long journey.
To-day, the quest would end; and into Beryl's face had crept the
wistful yearning that was a reflection of that strange blending of
patience and longing, which made her so beautiful in her husband's
eyes; so strong in faith, so serene in waiting resignation. Suddenly
the monk drew rein, threw up his drooping head, and listened. Clear
and sweet as the silvery chime of bells ringing in happy dreams,
floated through the crystal air the sound of the Angelus; and
fainter and fainter fell the echoes, dying in immeasurable distance.
Low bent the shaven head, and through brown, fingers stole the
consecrated beads, while with closed eyes the prayers were uttered;
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