Frances Waldeaux, by Rebecca Harding Davis
Part 3 out of 3
stones by the edge of the water, chattering and singing,
tossing the soap from one to another.
There was a sudden silence. "Here she is again," they
whispered, as a slight, delicate woman crossed the bridge
with steady steps.
"She is blind and deaf," said old Barbe. "I met her an
hour ago and asked her whom she sought. She did not see
nor hear me, but walked straight on."
Oliver Bauzy was lounging near, as usual, watching his
"She is English. What does she know of your Breton talk?
I speak English and French--I!" he bragged, and walking
up to Mrs. Waldeaux, he flourished his ragged hat,
smiling. "Is madame ill? She has walked far," he said
The English words seemed to waken her. "It is always the
town," looking around bewildered. "The people--houses.
I think I am not well. If I could find the woods----"
Bauzy had but a hazy idea of her meaning, but he nodded
gravely. "She is a tourist. She wants to go out of
Vannes--to see the chateaux, the dolmens. I'm her man.
I'll drive her to Larmor Baden," he said to his wife. "I
have to go there to-day, and I may as well make a franc
or two. Keep her until I bring the voiture."
But Frances stood motionless until the old wagon rattled
up to the water's edge.
"She has a dear old face," Bauzy's wife whispered.
"She is blind and deaf, I tell you," old Barbe grumbled,
peering up at her. "Make her pay, Oliver, before you
Bauzy nodded, and when Frances was seated held out his
"Twenty francs," he said.
She opened her bag and gave them to him.
"She must be folle!" he said uneasily. "I feel like a
thief. Away with you, Babette!" as a pretty baby ran up
to him. "You want to ride? That is impossible.
Unless, indeed, madame desires it?" lifting the child to
place her on the seat. Babette laughed and held out her
But Mrs. Waldeaux shrank back, shuddering. "Take her
away," she whispered. "She must not touch me!"
The mother seized the child, and the women all talked
vehemently at once. Oliver climbed into the voiture
and drove off in silence. When he looked around
presently he saw that the woman's face was bloodless, and
a cold sweat stood on it.
He considered a while. "You want food," he said, and
brought out some hard bread and a jug of Normandy cider.
Frances shook her head. She only spoke once during the
morning, and then told him something about a woman "whom
no child could touch. No man or woman could touch her as
long as she lived. Not even her son."
As Bauzy could make nothing of this, he could only nod
and laugh civilly. But presently he, too, grew silent,
glancing at her uncomfortably from time to time.
They drove through great red fields of sarasson,
hedged by long banks of earth, which were masses of
golden gorse and bronzed and crimson ferns. The sun
shone, the clover-scented air was full of the joyous
buzzing of bees and chirp of birds.
"It is a gay, blessed day!" Bauzy said, thanks to the
good God! "He waited anxiously for her reply, but she
stared into the sunshine and said nothing.
Larmor Baden is a lonely little cluster of gray stone
huts on the shore of the Morbihan sea. Some of Bauzy's
friends lounged smiling up to welcome him, waving their
wide black hats with velvet streamers, and bowing low to
the lady. Oliver alighted with decision. One thing he
knew: He would not drive back with her. Something was
amiss. He would wash his hands of her.
"Here, madame, is Vincent Selo, paysageur," he said
rapidly in French. "He has a good boat. He will take
you where you desire. Sail with her to Gavr' Inis," he
said to Selo, "and bring her back at her pleasure.
Somebody can drive her back to Vannes, and don't
overcharge her, you robbers!"
"Gavr' Inis?" Frances repeated.
"It is an island in the sea yonder, madame. A quiet
place of trees. When there was not a man in the world,
evil spirits built there an altar for the worship of the
devil. No men could have built it. There are huge
stones carried there from the mountains far inland, that
no engine could lift. It is a great mystery."
"It is the one place in the world, people say,"
interrupted Selo, lowering his voice, "where God never
has been. A dreadful place, madame!"
Frances laughed. "That is the place for me," she said to
Selo. "Take me there."
The old man looked at her with shrewd, friendly eyes, and
then beckoned Bauzy aside.
"Who is she? She has the bearing of a great lady, but
her face hurts me. What harm has come to her?"
"How do I know?" said Bauzy. "Go for your boat. The sea
Late in the afternoon M. Selo landed his strange
passenger upon the pebbly beach of the accursed island.
He led her up on the rocks, talking, and pointing across
"Beyond is the Atlantic, and on yonder headland are the
great menhirs of Carnac--thirty thousand of them, brought
there before Christ was born. But the Evil One loves
this island best of all places. It has in it the mystery
of the world. Come," he said, in an awed voice. "It is
He crossed to the hill, stooped, and entered a dark cave
about forty feet long, which was wholly lined with huge
flat rocks carved with countless writhing serpents. As
Frances passed they seemed to stir and breathe beside
her, at her feet, overhead. The cave opened into a
sacrificial chamber. The reptiles grew gigantic here,
and crowded closer. Through some rift a beam of
melancholy light crept in; a smell of death hung in the
thick, unclean air.
Selo pointed to a stone altar. "It was there they killed
their victims," he whispered, and began to pray
anxiously, half-aloud. When he had finished, he hurried
back, beckoning to her to come out.
"Go," she said. "I will stay here."
"Then I will wait outside. This is no place for
Christian souls. But we must return soon, madame.
My little girl will be watching now for me."
When he was gone she stood by the altar. This island of
Gavr' Inis was one of the places to which she and George
had long ago planned to come. She remembered the very
day on which they had read the legend that on this altar
men before the Flood had sacrificed to the god of Murder.
"I am the murderer now, and George knows it," she said
quietly. But she was cold and faint, and presently began
to tremble weakly.
She went out of the cave and stood on the beach. "I want
to go home, George," she said aloud. "I want to be
Frances Waldeaux again. I'm sure I didn't know it was in
me to do that thing."
There was no answer. She was alone in the great space of
sky and sea. The world was so big and empty, and she
alone and degraded in it!
"I never shall see George again. He will think of me
only as the woman who killed his wife," she thought.
She went on blindly toward the water, and stood there a
Then, in the strait of her agony, there came to Frances
Waldeaux, for the first time in her life, a perception
that there was help for her in the world, outside of her
own strength. Her poor tortured wits discerned One, more
real than her crime, or George, or the woman that she had
killed. It was an old, hackneyed story, that He knew
every man and woman in the world, that He could help
them. She had heard it often.
Was there any thing in it? Could He help her?
Slowly, the nervous twitching of her body quieted, her
dulled eyes cleared as if a new power of sight were
coming to them.
After a long time she heard steps, and Selo calling. She
The murder was known. They were coming to arrest her.
What did it matter? She had found help.
Selo came up excitedly.
"It is another boat, English folk also, that comes to
She turned and waited.
And then, coming up the hill, she saw George, and
with him--Lisa! Lisa, smiling as she talked.
They ran to meet her with cries of amazement. She
staggered back on the rock.
"You are not dead? Lisa----"
"Dead? Poor lady!" catching her in her arms. "Some
water, George! It is her head. She has been too much
When Frances opened her eyes she was lying on the grass,
her children kneeling beside her. She caught Lisa's arm
in both hands and felt it: then she sat up.
"I must tell you what I did--before you speak to me."
"Not now," said Lisa. "You are not well. I am going to
be your nurse. The baby has made me a very good nurse,"
and she stooped again over Frances, with kind, smiling
Selo came to wile George up to the mysterious cave, but
Lisa impatiently hurried them to the beach. "Caves and
serpent worshippers truly!" she cried. "Why, she has not
seen Jacques!" and when, in the boat, George, who was
greatly alarmed, tried to rouse his mother from her
silent stupor, Lisa said gayly, "She will be herself
again as soon as she sees HIM."
When they reached Larmor Baden, she despatched George in
search of Colette and the child, and she went into the
church. It was late, and the village women sat on the
steps gossipping in the slanting sunlight. There is
nothing in their lives but work and the church; and when,
each day, they have finished with one they go to the
Frances followed her. The sombre little church was
vacant. She touched Lisa on the shoulder.
"There is something I must tell you," she said. "You
would not let me touch the child, if you knew it."
She stooped and spoke a few sentences in a vehement
whisper, and then leaned back, exhausted, against the
Lisa drew back. Her lips were white with sudden fright,
but she scanned Mrs. Waldeaux's face keenly.
"You were in Vannes last night? You tried---- My God,
I remember! The tisane tasted queerly, and I threw it
out." She walked away for a moment, and then turning,
said, "You called my mother a vile woman once. But SHE
would not have done that thing!
"No," said Frances, not raising her head. "No."
Lisa stood looking at her as she crouched against the
wall. The fierce scorn slowly died out of her eyes. She
was a coarse, but a good-natured, woman. An awful
presence, too, walked with her always now, step by step,
and in that dread shadow she saw the things of life more
justly than we do.
She took Frances by the hand at last. "You were not
quite yourself, I think," she said quietly. "I have
pushed you too hard. George has told me so much about
you! If we could be together for a while, perhaps we
should love each other a little. But there is no time
now----" She turned hastily, and threw herself down
before a crucifix.
After a long time she went out to the vestibule, where
she found Frances, and said, with an effort to be
cheerful and matter-of-fact, "Come, now, let us talk like
reasonable people. A thing is coming to me which comes
to every-body. I'm not one to whine. But it's the
child--I don't think any baby ever was as much to a woman
as Jacques is to me. I suppose God does not think I am
fit to bring him up. Sit down and let me tell you
all about it."
They sat on the steps, talking in a low tone. Frances
cried, but Lisa's eyes were quite dry and bright. She
rose at last.
"You see, there will be no woman to care for him, if you
do not. There he is with Colette." She ran down, took
the baby from the bonne, and laid him in Frances's
Mrs. Waldeaux looked down at him. "George's son," she
whispered, "George's boy!"
"He is very like George and you," Lisa answered. "He is
"Yes, I see."
She held him close to her breast as they drove back to
Vannes. George whistled and sang on the box. He was
very light of heart to have her with him again.
He looked impatiently at an ancient village through which
they passed, with its towers, and peasants in strange
garbs, like the pictures in some crusading tale.
"Now that we have mother, Lisa," he said, "we'll go
straight back home. I am tired of mediaeval times.
I must get to work for this youngster."
Lisa did not speak for a moment. "I should like to stay
in Vannes a little longer," she said. "I did not tell
you, but--my mother is buried there. That was why I
came; I should like to be with her."
"Why, of course, dear. As long as you like," he said
"I will not detain you long. Perhaps only a week or
two," she said.
He nodded, and began to whistle cheerfully again.
Frances looked at Lisa, and her eyes filled with tears.
It was a pitiful tragedy!
But the poor girl was quite right not to worry George
until the last moment. She was blocking his way--ruining
his life, and God was taking her away so that she could
no longer harm him.
And yet--poor Lisa!
They drove on. The sun warmed the crimson fields, and
the birds chirped, and this was George's child creeping
close to her breast. It stirred there a keen pang of
Surely He had forgiven her.
A month later a group of passengers in deep mourning
stood apart on the deck of the Paris as she left the
dock at Liverpool. It was George Waldeaux, his mother,
and little Jacques with his nurse. Mrs. Waldeaux was
looking at Clara and her girls, who were watching her
from the dock. They had come to Vannes when Lisa died,
and had taken care of her and the baby until now.
Frances had cried at leaving them, but George stood with
his back to them moodily, looking down into the black
"It seems but a few days since we sailed from New York on
the Kaiser Wilhelm," he said, "and yet I have lived out
all my life in that time."
"All? Is there nothing left, George?" his mother said
"Oh, of course, you are always a good companion, and
there is the child----" He paused. The fierce passions,
the storms of delight and pain of his life with Lisa
rushed back on him. "I will work for others, and wear
out the days as I can," he said. "But life is over for
me. The story is told. There are only blank pages now
to the end."
He turned his dim eyes toward the French coast. She knew
that they saw the little bare grave on the hill in
Vannes. "I wish I could have seen something green
growing on it before I left her there alone!" he
"Her mother's grave was covered with roses----" Frances
answered quickly. "They will creep over to her.
She is not alone, George. I am glad she was laid by her
mother. She loved her dearly."
"Yes. Better than any thing on earth," he responded
A few moments later the ship swung heavily around.
"We are going! Mrs. Waldeaux cried, waving her hand.
"Won't you look at Clara and Lucy, George? They have been
so good to us. If Lucy had been my own child, she could
not have been kinder to me."
Mr. Waldeaux turned and raised his crepe-bound hat,
looking at Lucy in her soft gray gown vaguely, as he
might at a white gull dropped on the shore.
"I suppose I never shall see her again," said his mother.
"Clara tells me she is besieged by lovers. She is
going to marry a German prince, probably."
"That would be a pity," George said, with a startled
glance back at the girl.
"Good-by, my dear!" Mrs. Waldeaux leaned over the
bulwark. "She is beautiful as an angel! Good-by, Lucy!
God bless you! she sobbed, kissing her hand.
Mr. Waldeaux looked steadily at Lucy. "How clean she
is!" he said.
When the shore was gone he walked down the deck,
conscious of a sudden change in himself. He was wakening
out of an ugly dream. The sight of the healthy little
girl, with her dewy freshness and blue eyes, full of
affection and common sense, cheered and heartened him.
He did not know what was doing it, but he threw up his
head and walked vigorously. The sun shone and the cold
wind swept him out into a dim future to begin a new life.
George Waldeaux took his mother and boy back to the old
homestead in Delaware. They arrived at night, and early
the next morning he rowed away in his bateau to some of
his old haunts in the woods on the bay, and was seen no
more that day.
"He is inconsolable!" his mother told some of her old
neighbors who crowded to welcome her. "His heart is in
that grave in Vannes."
The women listened in surprise, for Frances was not in
the habit of exploiting her emotions in words.
"We understood," said one of them, with a sympathetic
shake of the head, "that it was a pure love match. Mrs.
George Waldeaux, we heard, was a French artist of
Frances moved uneasily. "I never thought her--but I
can't discuss Lisa!" She was silent a moment. "But as
for her social position"--she drew herself up
stiffly, fixing cold defiant eyes on her questioner--"as
for her social position," she went on resolutely, "she
was descended on one side from an excellent American
family, and on the other from one of the noblest houses
When they were gone she hugged little Jacques
passionately as he lay on her lap. "That is settled for
you!" she said.
When George came back in the evening, he found her
walking with the boy in her arms on the broad piazzas.
"I really think he knows that he has come home, George!"
she exclaimed. "See how he laughs! And he liked the
dogs and horses just as Lisa thought he would. I am glad
it is such a beautiful home for him. Look at that slope
to the bay! There is no nobler park in England! And the
house is as big as most of their palaces, and much more
"Give the child to Colette, mother, and listen to me.
Now that I have settled you and him here, I must go and
earn your living."
She followed him into the hall.
"I leave you to-morrow. There is no time to be lost."
"You are going back to art, George?"
Frances grew pale. She thought she had torn open his
"I did not mean to remind you of--of----"
"No, it isn't that!"
He scowled at the fire. Art meant for him his own
countless daubs, and the sickening smell of oily paints
and musk, and soiled silk tea gowns, and the whole
slovenly, disreputable scramble of Bohemian life in
"I loathe art!" he said, with a furious blow at the
smouldering log in the fireplace, as if he struck these
things all down into the ashes with it.
"Will you go back into the Church, dear?" his mother
"Most certainly, no!" he said vehemently. "Of all mean
frauds the perfunctory priest is the meanest. If I
could be like one of the old holy gospellers--then indeed!"
He was silent a moment, and then began to stride up and
down the long hall, his head thrown back, his chest
"I have a message for the world, mother."
"I am sure of it," she interrupted eagerly.
"But I must deliver it in my own way. I have lost two
years. I am going to put in big strokes of work now. In
the next two years I intend to take my proper place in my
own country. I will find standing room for George
Waldeaux," with a complacent smile. "And in the
meantime, of course, I must make money enough to support
you and the boy handsomely. So you see, mother," he
ended, laughing, "I have no time to lose."
"No, George!" It was the proudest moment of her life.
How heroic and generous he was!
She filled his pocket-book the next day, when he went to
New York to take the world by the throat. It was really
not George Waldeaux's fault that she filled it.
Nor was it his fault that during the next two years the
world was in no hurry to run to his feet, either to learn
of him, or to bring him its bags of gold. The little man
did his best; he put his "message," as he called it, into
poems, into essays, into a novel. Publishers thanked him
effusively for the pleasure of reading them,
and--sent them back. The only word of his which reached
the public was a review of the work of a successful
author. It was so personal, so malignant, that George,
when he read it, writhed with shame and humiliation. He
tore the paper into fragments.
"Am I so envious and small as that! Before God, no words
of mine shall ever go into print again!" he said, and he
kept his word.
He came down every month or two to his mother.
"Why not try teaching, George?" she said anxiously.
"These great scholars and scientific men have places and
reputations which even you need not despise."
He laughed bitterly. "I tried for a place as tutor in a
third-class school, and could not pass the examinations.
I know nothing accurately. Nothing."
It occurred to him to go into politics and help reform
the world by routing a certain Irish boss. He made a
speech at a ward meeting, and broke down in the middle of
it before the storm of gibes and hootings.
"What was the matter?" he asked a friend, whose face was
red with laughter.
"My dear fellow, you shouldn't lecture them! You're not
the parson. They resent your air of enormous
superiority. For Heaven's sake, don't speak again--in
It is a wretched story. There is no need of going into
the details. There was no room for him. He tried in
desperation to get some foothold in business. The times
were hard that winter, which of course was against him.
Besides, his critical, haughty air naturally did not
prepossess employers in his favor when he came to ask for
At the end of the second year the man broke down.
"The work of the world," he told Frances, "belongs to
specialists. Even a bootblack knows his trade. I know
nothing. I can do nothing. I am a mass of flabby
Every month she filled his pocket-book. She found at
last that he did not touch the money. He sold his
clothes and his jewelry to keep himself alive while he
tramped the streets of New York looking for work. He
starved himself to make this money last. His flesh was
lead-colored from want of proper food, and he
staggered from weakness. "`He that will not work neither
let him eat,'" he said grimly.
It was about this time that Miss Vance came home. Mrs.
Waldeaux in a moment of weakness gave her a hint of his
"Is the world blind," she cried, "to deny work to a man
of George's capacity? What does it mean?"
Clara heard of George's sufferings with equanimity. "The
truth is," she said, when she told the story to Miss
Dunbar, "Frances brought that boy up to believe that he
was a Grand Llama among men. There is no work for Grand
Llamas in this country, and when he understands that he
is made of very ordinary clay indeed, he will probably be
of some use in the world."
Lucy was watering her roses. "It is a matter of
indifference to me," she said, "what the people of New
York think of Mr. Waldeaux."
Clara looked at her quickly. "I do not quite catch your
meaning?" she said.
But Lucy filled her can, and forgot to answer.
Clara had brought Miss Dunbar back and established her in
her own house near Weir, under the care of a deaf widowed
aunt. Dunbar Place was a stately colonial house, set in
a large demesne, and all Kent County waited breathless to
know what revelations the heiress would make to it, in
the way of equi-pages, marqueterie furniture, or Paris
Mrs. Waldeaux found Lucy one day, a month after her
arrival, seated at her sewing on the broad, rose-covered
piazza, looking as if she never had left it.
"Have you come to stay now, my dear," she said, "or will
"Oh, that is an old story," interrupted Clara. "Lucy
handed the little prince over to Jean Hassard, who
married him after he had a long fight with her father
about her dot. He won the dot, but Count Odo is now
the head of the house. Jean, I hear, is in Munich
fighting her way up among the Herrschaft."
"Jean has good fighting qualities," Lucy said. "She will
"I had a letter from her to-day," said Miss Vance.
"Here it is. She says, `I mean to rebuild the Schloss,
and I have put a stop to the soap-boiling business. I
will have no fumes of scorching fat in our ancestral
halls. Four of the princesses live with us here in the
flat. Gussy Carson from Pond City is staying with me
now. We have an American tea every Wednesday. Gus
receives with me.'"
"Poor princesses!" said Lucy.
Miss Vance folded the letter with a complacent nod. "I
am glad that Jean is settled so satisfactorily," she
said. "As for Lucy----"
No one answered. Lucy threaded her needle.
"I start next week to Chicago, did you know, Frances?
The Bixbys--two orphan heiresses--wish me to take them to
Australia, coming back by India. And I suppose," she
said, rising impatiently, "if I were to stay away forty
years I should find Lucy when I came back, with white
hair maybe, but sitting calmly sewing, not caring whether
there was a man in the world or not!"
Lucy laughed, but did not even blush.
Mrs. Waldeaux presently said good-by, and Clara went home
with her to spend the night. Lucy was left alone upon
the piazza. It was there that George Waldeaux saw her
This had been the hardest day of his life. He rose that
morning telling himself with an oath that he would earn
the money to buy his own food or never eat again. His
mother had sent him a cheque by post. He tore it up and
went out of his cheap lodging-house without breakfast.
There was a queer change in him--a sudden lofty
independence--a sudden loathing of himself. He knew now
that it was not in him to do good work in the world, but
at least he would pay his own way. He had been a mass of
vanity and now he was so mean in his own eyes that he
shrank from the passers-by. Perhaps the long strain had
damaged the gray matter of the brain, or some nervous
centre--I do not know what change a physician would have
found in him, but the man was changed.
A clerk was needed in a provision shop on Green
Street. George placed himself in the line of dirty,
squalid applicants. The day was hot, the air of the shop
was foul with the smells of rotting meat and vegetables.
He felt himself stagger against a stall. He seemed to be
asleep, but he heard the butchers laughing. They called
him a drunken tramp, and then he was hurled out on the
"Too much whiskey for this time o' day!" a policeman
said, hauling him to his feet.
"Move along, young man!"
Whiskey? That was what he wanted. He turned into a shop
and bought a dram with his last pennies. It made him
comfortable for a few hours, then he began to cry and
swear. George Waldeaux had never been drunk in his life.
The ascetic, stainless priest in him stood off and looked
at this dog of the gutter with his obscene talk, and then
came defeat of soul and body.
"I give up!" he said quietly. "I'll never try again."
He wandered unconsciously to the ferry and, having his
yearly book of tickets in his pocket, took the train for
home from force of habit. He left the cars at a
station several miles from Weir, and wandered across the
country. Just at sundown, covered with mud and weak from
hunger and drunkenness, he crossed the lawn before Lucy's
house and, looking up, saw her.
He had stumbled into a world of peace and purity! A soft
splendor filled the sky and the bay and the green slopes,
with their clumps of mighty forest trees. The air was
full of the scents of flowers and the good-night song of
happy birds. And in the midst of it all, lady of the
great domain, under her climbing rose vines, sat the
young, fair woman, clad in some fleecy white garments,
her head bent, her blue eyes fixed on the
George stopped, sobered by a sudden wrench of his heart.
There was the world to which he belonged--there! His
keen eye noted every delicate detail of her beauty and of
her dress. He was of her sort, her kind--he, kicked into
the gutter from that foul shop as a tramp!
This is what I have lost! his soul cried to him.
He had not as yet recognized Lucy. But now she saw him,
and with a little inarticulate cry like that of a
bird, she flew down the steps. "Ah! It is you!" she
said. "I thought you would come to welcome me some
Her voice was like a soft breath; her airy draperies blew
against him. It was as if a wonderful, beautiful dream
were folding him in--and in.
He drew back. "I am not fit, Miss Dunbar. I did not
know you were here. Why--look at me!"
"Oh! You are ill! You have had an accident!" she cried.
She had laid her little white fingers on his hand and
now, feeling it burn and tremble at her touch, she caught
it in both of her own and drew him into the house.
"Mr. Waldeaux," she said to a servant who appeared,
"has had a fall. Bring him water and towels. Take care
of him, Stephen." She spoke quietly, but her voice
trembled with fright.
The man led George to an inner room.
"Were you thrown, sir?" he asked sympathetically.
George hesitated. "Yes, I was thrown," he said grimly.
He made himself clean in angry haste, taking the
whisk from the man and brushing off the dry mud with a
Lucy came to meet him, with a pale, anxious smile. "You
must not go without a cup of hot coffee," she said,
leading him to a lounge in the hall. It was very sweet
to be treated like a sick man!
"And God knows I am sick, body and soul!" he thought,
Beside the lounge was a little table with one cover. He
noted with keen pleasure the delicate napery, the silver
candlesticks, the bowl of roses, with which the
substantial meal was set out. Lucy waited on him with
the quick intelligence of a trained nurse. She scarcely
spoke, yet her every motion, as she served him, seemed a
caress. When he had finished he began to stammer out his
"No," she said, rising decisively. "You are too weak to
talk to me to-night, Mr. Waldeaux. The coupe is at the
door. John will drive you home. You need sleep now."
As he sank down into the luxurious cushions and drove
away through the twilight, he saw the little white figure
in the door, and the grave wistful face looking after
"Did she suspect!" he suddenly cried, starting up.
But George Waldeaux never knew how much Lucy suspected
Meanwhile Mrs. Waldeaux's mare had jogged on leisurely,
dragging her mistress and Miss Vance home through the
shady country lanes.
"Phebe is old," apologized Frances. "She really is a
retired car horse."
"You used to take pride in your horses, Frances?"
"Yes." Mrs. Waldeaux added after a pause. "My income is
small. Of course George soon will be coining money, but
just now---- The peach crop failed this year too. And
I save every dollar for Jack's education."
"But what of the jokes for the New York paper? They were
"Oh, I gave them up long ago." She glanced around
cautiously. "Never speak of that, Clara. I would not
have George know for the world; I never would hold up my
head if he knew that I was `Quigg.'"
Miss Vance gave a contemptuous sniff, but Mrs. Waldeaux
went on eagerly, "I have a plan! You know that
swampy tract of ours near Lewes? When I have enough
money I'll drain it and lay out a summer
resort--hotels--cottages. I'll develop it as I sell the
lots. Oh, Jack shall have his millions yet to do great
work in the world!" her eyes sparkling. "Though perhaps
he may choose to strip himself of everything to give to
the poor, like Francis d'Assisi! That would be best of
all. It's not unlikely. He is the most generous boy!"
"Stuff!" said Miss Vance. "St. Francis, indeed! I
observe, by the way, that he crosses himself after his
meals. Are you making a Romanist of the child? And you
speak French to him, too?"
Mrs. Waldeaux's color rose. "His mother was French and
Catholic," she said. "I will not have Lisa forgotten."
They went on in silence. Miss Vance was lost in thought.
Was George Waldeaux equally eager to keep his wife's
memory alive? Now that the conceit had been beaten out
of him, he would not make a bad husband. And her child
Lucy had always--esteemed him highly.
The next day was Sunday. George jumped out of bed with
the dawn. He whistled and sang scraps of songs as he
took his bath. The sun shone. What a full, happy world
it was, anyhow! And he had given up the game last night?
Why, life was just beginning for him! He was nothing but
a boy--not yet thirty. He would make a big success soon,
and then try to win--to win---- He stopped, breathless,
looking into the distance, and his eyes slowly grew wet
with passion and longing.
He left the house and struck across the country through
the woodland and farms. He did not know why he went--he
had to go. When he reached the Dunbar woods, he stood in
the thicket for hours, watching the house. She came out
at last and sat down on the steps to play with the dog.
Last night in her white, delicate beauty she had not
seemed real--she was far off, like an angel coming down
into his depths of misery.
But to-day she sat on the steps in her pretty blue gown,
and laughed and rolled Tramp over, and sung snatches of
songs, and was nothing but a foolish girl. For so many
years he had been thinking of work and money-making and
bosses. All of that mean drudgery fell out of sight now.
He was a man, young, alone, on fire with hope and
passion. His share of life had been mean and pinched;
yonder was youth and gladness and tranquillity. The
world was empty, save for themselves. He was here, and
there was the one woman in it--the one woman.
He looked at his tanned, rough fingers. Last night she
had folded them in her two soft little hands, and drawn
him on--on into home!
He would go up to her now and tell her----
George pushed aside the bushes, but at that moment Lucy
rose and went into the house. After a moment he crossed
the lawn and sat down on the piazza, calling the dog to
him. She would come back soon. Tramp's head rested on
his knee as he stroked it. It was here her hand had
touched it--and here----
The scent of roses was heavy in the sunshine, the bees
hummed; he sat there in a hazy dream, waiting for
the door to open and the joy of his life to begin.
He was dragged roughly enough out of his dream.
Miss Dunbar's landau drove to the door to take her to
church. George looked up, carelessly noting how quiet
and perfectly appointed it was, from the brown liveries
of the negro coachman and footman to the trappings on the
black ponies. There were no horses of such high breed in
Delaware. He stood up suddenly, his jaws pale as if he
had been struck. What money there was in it! He had
forgotten. She was a great heiress.
She came out at the moment. He scanned her fiercely, the
plain, costly gown, the ruby blazing on her ungloved
hand. Then he glanced down at his own shabby Sunday
suit. She was the richest woman in Delaware, and he had
not a dollar in his pocket, and no way to earn one.
He went up to her, courteously took her hand when she
held it out, blushing and dimpling, bowed to her aunt,
saying that he had merely walked over to put her into her
carriage, and, having shut the door, looked after
them, hat in hand, smiling when she glanced shyly back at
Then he laughed loudly. If he had the salary that she
paid her negro driver he would be lucky! And he had
meant to marry her. He laughed again and took his way
His mother was waiting to give George his breakfast.
Whether he chose to lie in bed until noon or to walk
twenty miles at dawn, she smiled a joyful approval. But
neither the crisp toast, nor the fried chicken, nor any
of her funny stories, would penetrate the blackness of
"Oh, by the way!" she said; "here is a letter that came
by last night's mail. I forgot to give it to you."
He glanced at the envelope. "Great Heavens! It is life
and death to me, and you forget it to tell Jack's pert
sayings!" He read the letter and threw it down.
"What is it, George?" she asked humbly.
"Burnett & Hoyle offer me a place in their house."
"Mr. Hoyle is an old friend of mine. I wrote to him.
What is the salary, George?"
"Forty dollars a week. I could earn more as a
coachman--for some rich heiress."
"But George dear---- It would be a beginning. They are
brokers, and there are so many short cuts to fortune in
that business! Do try it, my son."
"Of course I'll try it. Do you think I'm a fool? It
will keep me from starving. But I want something else in
life than to be kept from starving, mother."
He stretched out his arms with a groan, and walked to the
window. She followed him with wretched, comprehending
eyes. Why did not Lucy give him her fortune? Any woman
would be honored who could give George her fortune.
"I always have heard that brokers know the short cuts to
wealth," she said calmly. "You go on the Street some
day, and come back a millionaire."
"That is a woman's idea of business. Instead, I will sit
on a high stool and drudge all day, and on Saturday get
my wages, and after three or four years I'll make a fight
for ten dollars more a week, and thank God if I get it.
`A short cut to fortune!'"
Mrs. Waldeaux carefully averted her eyes from him. "You
may marry," she said, "and it may happen that your
wife also will have some little income----"
"Mother! Look at me!" he interrupted her sternly. "I
will never be dependent on my wife, so help me God! "
"No, George, no! Of course not. Don't speak so loud.
Only, I thought if she had a small sum of her own, she
would feel more comfortable, that's all."
In spite of his ill temper George threw himself into his
work with zeal. After a couple of months he came home
for a day. He was dressed with the quiet elegance which
once had been so important in his eyes.
His mother noted it shrewdly. "A man has more courage to
face life, decently clothed," she said to herself.
He did not come again until winter. Lucy happened to be
spending the day with Mrs. Waldeaux. There were no
liveried servants, no priceless rings, no Worth gown in
sight. She was just the shy, foolish girl whom he had
once for an hour looked upon as his wife. George talked
about Wall Street to her, being now wise as to stocks;
took her out sleighing, and when in the evening she
took Jack in her arms and sang him to sleep, sat
listening with his head buried in his hands. Mrs.
Waldeaux carried the boy up to bed, and Lucy and George
were left alone. They talked long and earnestly.
"She consulted me about her affairs," he said, after she
was gone, his eyes shining.
"I am afraid she does not understand business!" Mrs.
Waldeaux replied anxiously.
"Oh, like a woman! That is, not at all. Her whole
property is in the hands of The Consolidated Good Faith
Companies. I reminded her of the old adage, `Never put
all of your eggs into one basket.'"
"But that is so sound a basket, George!"
"Yes. It is thought so," with a shrug.
"Poor child! She needs a guardian to advise her."
Waldeaux's countenance grew black. "She should employ an
attorney. It certainly will never be my duty to advise
Miss Dunbar," he retorted irritably.
George showed himself shrewd and able in his work. Mr.
Hoyle was a powerful backer. Before spring his
salary was doubled. But what was that? The gulf between
him and the great heiress gaped, impassable.
Lucy spent much time with her old friend, and Frances at
last broke the silence concerning him.
"The boy never before knew what love was. And it is you
that he loves, child."
"He has not told me so," said Lucy coldly.
"No. And never will. It is your wealth that makes him
dumb. I wish it was gone," said Frances earnestly.
"Gone. You would be so happy. What is money compared to
"George's wife?" Lucy laughed.
"Yes. George's wife. I know what he is worth," his
mother said boldly. "You might give it away?" looking
eagerly in the girl's face. "In charity."
"I might do so," said Miss Dunbar tranquilly.
One morning in April Mrs. Waldeaux saw George coming up
from the station. She ran to meet him.
He was pale and breathless with excitement. "What is it?
What has happened?" she cried.
"Hush--h! Come in. Shut the door. No one must hear.
The Consolidated Companies have failed. They have robbed
"Well, George? What have we---- Oh, Lucy!"
"Yes, Lucy! She is ruined! She has nothing. It was all
there." He paced up and down, hoarse with agitation and
triumph. "She mustn't know it, mother, until she is safe
in another home."
"Oh, surely you understand! Here--if she will come.
Poor little girl! She has not a dollar! I am getting a
big salary. I can work for you all. My God! I will
have her at last! Unless---- Perhaps she won't come!
Mother, do you think she will come?" He caught her arm,
his jaws twitched, the tears stood in his eyes, as when
he used to come to her with his boyish troubles.
"How can I tell?" said Frances. "Go and ask her."
In July Miss Vance returned unexpectedly. Her charges
had tired of travel, and turned their backs upon India.
She dropped them in Chicago, and came to Weir for rest.
The evening of her arrival she strolled with Frances
through the park, listening to the story of George's
sudden wooing, and the quiet, hurried wedding.
"It had to be quiet and hurried," said Mrs. Waldeaux, "in
order to keep her ignorant of her change of fortune. He
took her to the Virginia mountains, so that no newspapers
could reach her. They are coming to-morrow. It won't
trouble her to hear that her money is gone when she is
here with us all, at home. As for me," she went on
excitedly, "I am beginning to advertise the summer
resort. I must put my hand to the plough. I don't mean
that she shall miss any comfort or luxury as George's
Miss Vance looked at her. "Frances, give up your
planning and working. Let George work for you and his
wife," she said curtly. "It is time for you to stop and
"And why should I stop and rest, Clara?" said Frances,
"Surely you know, dear. You are not as young as you once
were. Your eyes are weak, and your hearing is a little
Frances threw out her hand eagerly. "You think I am
growing old! It is only my eyes and ears that are
wearing out. _I_ am not deaf nor blind," she said
earnestly. "_I_ am not old. I find more fun and flavor
in life now than I did at sixteen. If I live to be
seventy, or a hundred, I shall be the same Frances Wal-
Clara gave an annoyed shrug. "But really, _I_ make the
thought of death my constant companion. And you are
older than I."
"`After the busy day
Comes the calm sleep of night,'"
she quoted, with a sententious sigh.
"Calm and sleep do not appear to me to be the highest
conditions of life. No! I will not be set aside, even
when I am dead, like a burned-out candle!" The
indignant tears stood in her eyes. "Why, even in that
other world I shall not be a barren stock, thank God! I
have given a family to mankind. To watch a long line of
your descendants at work, to see in them your own
thoughts and your own soul reaching out, live powers
through all eternity--I often think of it. That will
be--not calm nor sleep."
Miss Vance touched Mrs. Waldeaux's arm affectionately.
"What a queer idea, Frances. Well, I never argue, you
know. Drop in the harness, if you choose. Let us go in
now. It is chilly."
The older woman looked after her, and smiled
good-humoredly. After a moment she raised her hand,
examining it attentively. Her hand had been very
beautiful in shape, white and dimpled, and she had been
vain enough to wear fine rings. Now it was yellow and
wrinkled. The great emerald looked like a bit of glass
"Yes, I see," she said, with a miserable little laugh,
and then stood looking out into the far distance. "But
_I_ am not growing old." She spoke aloud, as if to one
who stood apart with her and could understand.
"Even out in that other world I shall not be only a
mother. I shall be me. ME!" touching her breast.
"After a million of years--it will still be me."
There stirred within the lean body and rheumatic limbs
depths of unused power, of thought, of love and passion,
and, deeper than all, awful possibilities of change.
"I have it in me still to be worse than a
murderer," she thought, with whitening face.
She stood a long time, alone. A strange content and
light came slowly into her face. "Come what will, I
shall never be left to myself again," she said at last,
speaking to a Friend whom she had found long ago.
Then she went in search of the boy. "Come, Jack," she
said cheerfully, "there are busy days before us."
George and Lucy that evening reached Dover, prettiest of
American towns. They strolled down the shaded street out
into a quiet country lane. Lucy sat down upon a fallen
tree, and George threw himself upon the grass beside her.
"To-morrow we shall be at home," she said, pushing his
hair back. "Do you know that your profile is absolutely
Greek?" Her eyes half closed critically. "Yes, we shall
be at home about eleven o'clock. I wrote to Stephen to
order all the dishes that you like for luncheon. Your
mother and Jack are coming. It will be such a gay, happy
He took her hand. He would tell her now. It would not
distress her. The money weighed for nothing in her life.
He was her world; he knew that.
"Lucy!" he said.
She turned, startled at his grave tone. The color rose
in her delicate little face, and there was a keen flash
of intelligence in her blue eyes. It vanished, and they
were only blue and innocent.
"Lucy, would you be willing to come to my house? To take
it for home? To be a poor man's wife, there? God knows
I'll try to make you happy in it."
"No," she said gently. "That is your mother's home. She
has made it. It is not fair to bring young queen bees
into the old queen's hive. We will live at your
house, Dunbar Place, George."
"It is not mine nor yours!" George broke out. "Oh, my
darling, I have hidden something from you. It is all
gone. Your property, income, every thing! The Consolidated
Consolidated Companies failed. Their depositors are ruined."
"Yes, I know," said Lucy, brushing a fallen leaf from her
gown. "But they had no control over my affairs. I
withdrew them from their management in February."
George started up. "Then you--you are a great heiress still?"
"No." She rose, holding out her hands, laughing. "My
husband, I believe, is a rich man, and I shall have what
he gives me."
But he did not hear her. He walked away down the road,
shaken by a dumb fury. He had been tricked! Who had
Then he heard a miserable sob and turned. Great God!
Was any thing on earth so dear as that little woman
standing there? She was crying! Had he struck her? He
was a brute. What had he done?
He ran to her, and taking her outstretched hands, kissed
"They are mine--mine!" he whispered, and knew nothing beyond.
They walked together like two happy children down the
shady lane toward the golden sunset. The money was forgotten.
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