Kitty's Class Day And Other Stories
Louisa M. Alcott
Part 3 out of 5
"That's not all, is it?" asked Thorn, taking a fatherly interest in
the younger man's love passages.
"Not quite. 'Fore long, Joe whistled, and as I always take short cuts
everywhar, I put in at the back-door, jest as Kitty come trottin' out
of the pantry with a big berry-pie in her hand. I startled her, she
tripped over the sill and down she come; the dish flew one way, the
pie flopped into her lap, the juice spatterin' my boots and her clean
gown. I thought she'd cry, scold, have hysterics, or some confounded
thing or other; but she jest sat still a minute, then looked up at
me with a great blue splash on her face, and went off into the
good-naturedest gale of laughin' you ever heard in your life. That
finished me. 'Gay,' thinks I; 'go in and win.' So I did; made love
hand over hand, while I stayed with Joe; pupposed a fortnight after,
married her in three months, and there she is, a tiptop little woman,
with a pair of stunnin' boys in her arms!"
Out came a well-worn case, and Dick proudly displayed the likeness of
a stout, much bejewelled young woman with two staring infants on her
knee. In his sight, the poor picture was a more perfect work of art
than any of Sir Joshua's baby-beauties, or Raphael's Madonnas, and the
little story needed no better sequel than the young father's praises
of his twins, the covert kiss he gave their mother when he turned
as if to get a clearer light upon the face. Ashamed to show the
tenderness that filled his honest heart, he hummed "Kingdom Coming,"
relit his cigar, and presently began to talk again.
"Now, then, Flint, it's your turn to keep guard, and Thorn's to tell
his romance. Come, don't try to shirk; it does a man good to talk of
such things, and we're all mates here."
"In some cases it don't do any good to talk of such things; better let
'em alone," muttered Thorn, as he reluctantly sat down, while Flint as
With a glance and gesture of real affection, Phil laid his hand upon
his comrade's knee, saying in his persuasive voice, "Old fellow,
it _will_ do you good, because I know you often long to speak of
something that weighs upon you. You've kept us steady many a time,
and done us no end of kindnesses; why be too proud to let us give our
sympathy in return, if nothing more?"
Thorn's big hand closed over the slender one upon his knee, and the
mild expression, so rarely seen upon his face, passed over it as he
"I think I could tell you almost anything if you asked me that way,
my boy. It isn't that I am too proud,--and you're right about my
sometimes wanting to free my mind,--but it's because a man of forty
don't just like to open out to young fellows, if there is any danger
of their laughing at him, though he may deserve it. I guess there
isn't now, and I'll tell you how I found my wife."
Dick sat up, and Phil drew nearer, for the earnestness that was in
the man dignified his plain speech, and inspired an interest in his
history, even before it was begun. Looking gravely at the river and
never at his hearers, as if still a little shy of confidants, yet
grateful for the relief of words, Thorn began abruptly:--
"I never hear the number eighty-four without clapping my hand to my
left breast and missing my badge. You know I was on the police in New
York, before the war, and that's about all you do know yet. One bitter
cold night I was going my rounds for the last time, when, as I turned
a corner, I saw there was a trifle of work to be done. It was a bad
part of the city, full of dirt and deviltry; one of the streets led to
a ferry, and at the corner an old woman had an apple-stall. The poor
soul had dropped asleep, worn out with the cold, and there were her
goods left with no one to watch 'em. Somebody was watching 'em.
however; a girl, with a ragged shawl over her head, stood at the mouth
of an alley close by, waiting for a chance to grab something. I'd seen
her there when I went by before, and mistrusted she was up to some
mischief; as I turned the corner, she put out her hand and cribbed an
apple. She saw me the minute she did it, but neither dropped it nor
ran, only stood stock still with the apple in her hand till I came up.
"'This won't do, my girl,' said I. I never could be harsh with 'em,
poor things! She laid it back and looked up at me with a miserable
sort of a smile, that made me put my hand in my pocket to fish for a
ninepence before she spoke.
"'I know it won't,' she says. 'I didn't want to do it, it's so mean,
but I'm awful hungry, sir.'
"'Better run home and get your supper, then.'
"'I've got no home.'
"'Where do you live?'
"'In the street.'
"'Where do you sleep?'
"'Anywhere; last night in the lock-up, and I thought I'd get in there
again, if I did that when you saw me. I like to go there, it's warm
"'If I don't take you there, what will you do?'
"'Don't know. I could go over there and dance again as I used to, but
being sick has made me ugly, so they won't have me, and no one else
will take me because I have been there once.'
"I looked where she pointed, and thanked the Lord that they wouldn't
take her. It was one of those low theatres that do so much damage to
the like of her; there was a gambling place one side of it, an eating
saloon the other. I was new to the work then, but though I'd heard
about hunger and homelessness often enough, I'd never had this sort of
thing, nor seen that look on a girl's face. A white, pinched face hers
was, with frightened, tired-looking eyes, but so innocent! She wasn't
more than sixteen, had been pretty once, I saw, looked sick and
starved now, and seemed just the most helpless, hopeless little thing
that ever was.
"'You 'd better come to the Station for to-night, and we'll see to you
to-morrow,' says I.
"'Thank you, sir,' says she, looking as grateful as if I'd asked her
home. I suppose I did speak kind of fatherly. I ain't ashamed to say I
felt so, seeing what a child she was; nor to own that when she put her
little hand in mine, it hurt me to feel how thin and cold it was. We
passed the eating-house where the red lights made her face as rosy as
it ought to have been; there was meat and pies in the window, and the
poor thing stopped to look. It was too much for her; off came her
shawl, and she said in that coaxing way of hers,--
"'I wish you'd let me stop at the place close by and sell this;
they'll give a little for it, and I'll get some supper. I've had
nothing since yesterday morning, and maybe cold is easier to bear than
"'Have you nothing better than that to sell?' I says, not quite sure
that she wasn't all a humbug, like so many of 'em. She seemed to see
that, and looked up at me again with such innocent eyes, I couldn't
doubt her when she said, shivering with something beside the cold,--
"'Nothing but myself.' Then the tears came, and she laid her head
clown on my arm, sobbing,--'Keep me! oh, do keep me safe somewhere!'"
Thorn choked here, steadied his voice with a resolute hem! but could
only add one sentence more,--
"That's how I found my wife."
"Come, don't stop thar. I told the whole o' mine, you do the same.
Whar did you take her? how'd it all come round?"
"Please tell us, Thorn."
The gentler request was answered presently, very steadily, very
"I was always a soft-hearted fellow, though you wouldn't think it now,
and when that little girl asked me to keep her safe, I just did it.
I took her to a good woman whom I knew, for I hadn't any women folks
belonging to me, nor any place but that to put her in. She stayed
there till spring working for her keep, growing brighter, prettier,
every day, and fonder of me, I thought. If I believed in witchcraft, I
shouldn't think myself such a fool as I do now, but I don't believe in
it, and to this day I can't understand how I came to do it. To be sure
I was a lonely man, without kith or kin, had never had a sweetheart in
my life, or been much with women since my mother died. Maybe that's
why I was so bewitched with Mary, for she had little ways with her
that took your fancy and made you love her whether you would or no.
I found her father was an honest fellow enough, a fiddler in some
theatre; that he'd taken good care of Mary till he died, leaving
precious little but advice for her to live on. She'd tried to get
work, failed, spent all she had, got sick, and was going to the bad,
as the poor souls can hardly help doing with so many ready to give
them a shove. It's no use trying to make a bad job better; so the long
and short of it was, I thought she loved me; God knows I loved her!
and I married her before the year was out."
"Show us her picture; I know you've got one; all the fellows have,
though half of 'em won't own up."
"I've only got part of one. I once saved my little girl, and her
picture once saved me."
From an inner pocket Thorn produced a woman's housewife, carefully
untied it, though all its implements were missing but a little
thimble, and from one of its compartments took a flattened bullet and
the remnants of a picture.
"I gave her that the first Christmas after I found her. She wasn't as
tidy about her clothes as I liked to see, and I thought if I gave her
a handy thing like this, she'd be willing to sew. But she only made
one shirt for me, and then got tired, so I keep it like an old fool,
as I am. Yes, that's the bit of lead that would have done for me, if
Mary's likeness hadn't been just where it was."
"You'll like to show her this when you go home, won't you?" said Dick,
as he took up the bullet, while Phil examined the marred picture, and
Thorn poised the little thimble on his big finger, with a sigh.
"How can I, when I don't know where she is, and camp is all the home
The words broke from him like a sudden groan, when some old wound is
rudely touched. Both of the young men started, both laid back the
relics they had taken up, and turned their eyes from Thorn's face,
across which swept a look of shame and sorrow, too significant to be
misunderstood. Their silence assured him of their sympathy, and, as if
that touch of friendliness unlocked his heavy heart, he eased it by
a full confession. When he spoke again, it was with the calmness of
repressed emotion, a calmness more touching to his mates than the most
passionate outbreak, the most pathetic lamentation; for the coarse
camp-phrases seemed to drop from his vocabulary; more than once his
softened voice grew tremulous, and to the words "my little girl,"
there went a tenderness that proved how dear a place she still
retained in that deep heart of his.
"Boys, I've gone so far; I may as well finish; and you'll see I'm not
without some cause for my stern looks and ways; you'll pity me, and
from you I'll take the comfort of it. It's only the old story,--I
married her, worked for her, lived for her, and kept my little girl
like a lady. I should have known that I was too old and sober for a
young thing like that, for the life she led before the pinch came
just suited her. She liked to be admired, to dress and dance and make
herself pretty for all the world to see; not to keep house for a quiet
man like me. Idleness wasn't good for her, it bred discontent; then
some of her old friends, who'd left her in her trouble, found her out
when better times came round, and tried to get her back again. I was
away all day, I didn't know how things were going, and she wasn't open
with me, afraid she said; I was so grave, and hated theatres so. She
got courage finally to tell me that she wasn't happy; that she wanted
to dance again, and asked me if she mightn't. I'd rather have had her
ask me to put her in a fire, for I _did_ hate theatres, and was bred
to; others think they're no harm. I do; and knew it was a bad life for
a girl like mine. It pampers vanity, and vanity is the Devil's help
with such; so I said No, kindly at first, sharp and stern when she
kept on teasing. That roused her spirit. 'I will go!' she said, one
day. 'Not while you are my wife,' I answered back; and neither said
any more, but she gave me a look I didn't think she could, and I
resolved to take her away from temptation before worse came of it.
"I didn't tell her my plan; but I resigned my place, spent a week or
more finding and fixing a little home for her out in the wholesome
country, where she'd be safe from theatres and disreputable friends,
and maybe learn to love me better when she saw how much she was to
me. It was coming summer, and I made things look as home-like and as
pretty as I could. She liked flowers, and I fixed a garden for her;
she was fond of pets, and I got her a bird, a kitten, and a dog to
play with her; she fancied gay colors and tasty little matters, so I
filled her rooms with all the handsome things I could afford, and when
it was done, I was as pleased as any boy, thinking what happy times
we'd have together and how pleased she'd be. Boys, when I went to tell
her and to take her to her little home, she was gone."
"With those cursed friends of her; a party of them left the city just
then; she was wild to go; she had money now, and all her good looks
back again. They teased and tempted her; I wasn't there to keep her,
and she went, leaving a line behind to tell me that she loved the old
life more than the new; that my house was a prison, and she hoped I'd
let her go in peace. That almost killed me; but I managed to bear it,
for I knew most of the fault was mine; but it was awful bitter to
think I hadn't saved her, after all."
"Oh, Thorn! what did you do?"
"Went straight after her; found her dancing in Philadelphia, with
paint on her cheeks, trinkets on her neck and arms, looking prettier
than ever; but the innocent eyes were gone, and I couldn't see my
little girl in the bold, handsome woman twirling there before the
footlights. She saw me, looked scared at first, then smiled, and
danced on with her eyes upon me, as if she said,--
"'See! I'm happy now; go away and let me be.'
"I couldn't stand that, and got out somehow. People thought me mad, or
drunk; I didn't care, I only wanted to see her once in quiet and try
to get her home. I couldn't do it then nor afterwards by fair means,
and I wouldn't try force. I wrote to her, promised to forgive her,
begged her to come back, or let me keep her honestly somewhere away
from me. But she never answered, never came, and I have never tried
"She wasn't worthy of you, Thorn; you jest forgit her."
"I wish I could! I wish I could!" In his voice quivered an almost
passionate regret, and a great sob heaved his chest, as he turned his
face away to hide the love and longing, still so tender and so strong.
"Don't say that, Dick; such fidelity should make us charitable for
its own sake. There is always time for penitence, always certainty of
pardon. Take heart, Thorn, you may not wait in vain, and she may yet
return to you."
"I know she will! I've dreamed of it, I've prayed for it; every battle
I come out of safe makes me surer that I was kept for that, and when
I've borne enough to atone for my part of the fault, I'll be repaid
for all my patience, all my pain, by finding her again. She knows how
well I love her still, and if there comes a time when she is sick and
poor and all alone again, then she'll remember her old John, then
she'll come home and let me take her in."
Hope shone in Thorn's melancholy eyes, and long-suffering,
all-forgiving love beautified the rough, brown face, as he folded his
arms and bent his gray head on his breast, as if the wanderer were
The emotion which Dick scorned to show on his own account was freely
manifested for another, as he sniffed audibly, and, boy-like, drew his
sleeve across his eyes. But Phil, with the delicate perception of a
finer nature, felt that the truest kindness he could show his friend
was to distract his thoughts from himself, to spare him any comments,
and lessen the embarrassment which would surely follow such unwonted
"Now I'll relieve Flint, and he will give you a laugh. Come on, Hiram,
and tell us about your Beulah."
The gentleman addressed had performed his duty by sitting on a fence
and "righting up" his pockets, to beguile the tedium of his exile.
Before his multitudinous possessions could be restored to their native
sphere, Thorn was himself again, and on his feet.
"Stay where you are, Phil; I like to tramp, it seems like old times,
and I know you're tired. Just forget all this I've been saying, and go
on as before. Thank you, boys! thank you," and with a grasp of the two
hands extended to him, he strode away along the path already worn by
his own restless feet.
"It's done him good, and I'm glad of that; but I'd like to see the
little baggage that bewitched the poor old boy, wouldn't you, Phil?"
"Hush! here's Flint."
"What's up naow? want me tew address the meetin', hey? I'm willin',
only the laugh's ruther ag'inst me, ef I tell that story; expect
you'll like it all the better fer that." Flint coiled up his long
limbs, put his hands in his pockets, chewed meditatively for a moment,
and then began, with his slowest drawl:--
"Waal, sir, it's pretty nigh ten year ago, I was damster daown tew
Oldtaown, clos't to Banggore. My folks lived tew Bethel; there was
only the old man, and Aunt Siloam, keepin' house fer him, seein' as I
was the only chick he hed. I hedn't heared from 'em fer a long spell,
when there come a letter sayin' the old man was breakin' up. He'd said
it every spring fer a number er years, and I didn't mind it no more'n
the breakin' up er the river; not so much, jest then; fer the gret
spring drive was comin' on, and my hands was tew full to quit work all
tew oncet. I sent word I'd be 'long 'fore a gret while, and byme-by I
went. I ought tew hev gone at fust; but they'd sung aout 'Wolf!' so
often I warn't scared; an' sure 'nuff the wolf did come at last.
Father hed been dead and berried a week when I got there, and aunt
was so mad she wouldn't write, nor scurcely speak tew me for a
consider'ble spell. I didn't blame her a mite, and felt jest the wust
kind; so I give in every way, and fetched her raound. Yeou see I bed
a cousin who'd kind er took my place tew hum while I was off, an'
the old man hed left him a good slice er his money, an' me the farm,
hopin' to keep me there. He'd never liked the lumberin' bizness, an'
hankered arfter me a sight, I faound. Waal, seem' haow 'twas, I tried
tew please him, late as it was; but ef there was ennything I did
spleen ag'inst it was farmin', 'specially arfter the smart times I'd
ben hevin', up Oldtaown way. Yeou don't know nothin' abaout it; but ef
yeou want tew see high dewin's, jest hitch onto a timber-drive an' go
it daown along them lakes and rivers, say from Kaumchenungamooth tew
Punnobscot Bay. Guess yeou'd see a thing or tew, an' find livin' on a
log come as handy as ef you was born a turtle.
"Waal, I stood it one summer; but it was the longest kind of a job.
Come fall I turned contry, darned the farm, and vaowed I'd go back tew
loggin'. Aunt hed got fond er me by that time, and felt dreadful bad
abaout my leavin' on her. Cousin Siah, as we called Josiah, didn't
cotton tew the old woman, though he did tew her cash; but we hitched
along fust-rate. She was 'tached tew the place, hated tew hev it let
or sold, thought I'd go to everlastin' rewin ef I took tew lumberin'
ag'in, an' hevin' a tidy little sum er money all her own, she took
a notion tew buy me off. 'Hiram,' sez she, 'ef yeou'll stay to hum,
merry some smart girl, an' kerry on the farm, I'll leave yeou the hull
er my fortin. Ef yeou don't, I'll leave every cent on't tew Siah,
though he ain't done as waal by me as yeou hev. Come,' sez she, 'I'm
breakin' up like brother; I shan't wurry any one a gret while, and
'fore spring I dessay you'll hev cause tew rejice that yeou done as
Aunt Si counselled yeou.'
"Now, that idee kinder took me, seem' I hedn't no overpaourin' love
fer cousin; but I brewdid over it a spell 'fore I 'greed. Fin'lly, I
said I'd dew it, as it warn't a hard nor a bad trade; and begun to
look raound fer Mis Flint, Jr. Aunt was dreadf'l pleased; but 'mazin'
pertickler as tew who was goin' tew stan' in her shoes, when she was
fetched up ag'inst the etarnal boom. There was a sight er likely
womenfolks raound taown; but aunt she set her foot daown that Mis
Flint must be smart, pious, an' good-natered; harnsome she didn't say
nothin' abaout, bein' the humliest woman in the State er Maine. I hed
my own calk'lations on that p'int, an' went sparkin' two or three er
the pootiest gals, all that winter. I warn't in no hurry, fer merryin'
is an awful resky bizness; an' I wan't goan to be took in by nobuddy.
Some haouw I couldn't make up my mind which I'd hev, and kept dodgin',
all ready to slew raound, an' hitch on tew ary one that seemed
likeliest. 'Long in March, aunt, she ketched cold, took tew her bed,
got wuss, an' told me tew hurry up, fer nary cent should I hev, ef I
warn't safely merried 'fore she stepped out. I thought that was ruther
craoudin' a feller; but I see she was goan sure, an' I'd got inter a
way er considerin' the cash mine, so that it come hard to hear abaout
givin' on 't up. Off I went that evenin' an' asked Almiry Nash ef
she'd hev me. No, she wouldn't; I'd shilly-shallyed so long, she'd got
tired er waitin' and took tew keepin' company with a doctor daown ter
Banggore, where she'd ben visitin' a spell. I didn't find that as hard
a nub to swaller, as I'd a thought I would, though Almiry was the
richest, pootiest, and good-naterest of the lot. Aunt larfed waal, an'
told me tew try ag'in; so a couple er nights arfter, I spruced up, an'
went over to Car'line Miles's; she was as smart as old cheese, an'
waal off in tew the barg'in. I was just as sure she'd hev me, as I be
that I'm gittin' the rewmatiz a settin' in this ma'sh. But that minx,
Almiry, hed ben and let on abaout her own sarsy way er servin' on
me, an' Car'line jest up an' said she warn't goan to hev annybuddy's
leavin's; so daown I come ag'in.
"Things was gettin' desper't by that time; fer aunt was failin' rapid,
an' the story hed leaked aout some way, so the hull taown was gigglin'
over it. I thought I'd better quit them parts; but aunt she showed me
her will all done complete, 'sceptin the fust name er the legatee.
'There,' sez she, 'it all depends on yeou, whether that place is took
by Hiram or Josiah. It's easy done, an' so it's goan tew stan till the
last minit.' That riled me consid'able, an' I streaked off tew May
Jane Simlin's. She wan't very waal off, nor extra harnsome, but she
was pious the worst kind, an' dreadf'l clever to them she fancied.
But I was daown on my luck ag'in; fer at the fust word I spoke of
merryin', she showed me the door, an' give me to understan' that she
couldn't think er hevin' a man that warn't a church-member, that
hadn't experienced religion, or even ben struck with conviction, an'
all the rest on't. Ef anny one hed a wanted tew hev seen a walkin'
hornet's nest, they could hev done it cheap that night, as I went hum.
I jest bounced intew the kitchen, chucked my hat intew one corner,
my coat intew 'nother, kicked the cat, cussed the fire, drawed up a
chair, and set scaoulin' like sixty, bein' tew mad fer talkin'. The
young woman that was nussin' aunt,--Bewlah Blish, by name,--was a
cooking grewel on the coals, and 'peared tew understan' the mess I was
in; but she didn't say nothin', only blowed up the fire, fetched me a
mug er cider, an' went raound so kinder quiet, and sympathizing that I
found the wrinkles in my temper gettin' smoothed aout 'mazin' quick;
an' fore long I made a clean breast er the hull thing. Bewlah larfed,
but I didn't mind her doin' on't, for she sez, sez she, real sort o'
"'Poor Hiram! they didn't use yeou waal. Yeou ought to hev tried some
er the poor an' humly girls; they'd a been glad an' grateful fer such
a sweetheart as yeou be.'
"I was good-natered ag'in by that time, an' I sez, larfin' along with
her, 'Waal, I've got three mittens, but I guess I might's waal hev
'nother, and that will make two pair complete. Say, Bewlah, will yeou
"'Yes, I will.' sez she.
"'Reelly?' sez I.
"'Solemn trew,' sez she.
"Ef she'd up an' slapped me in the face, I shouldn't hev ben more
throwed aback, fer I never mistrusted she cared two chips for me. I
jest set an' gawped; fer she was 'solemn trew,' I see that with half
an eye, an' it kinder took my breath away. Bewlah drawed the grewel
off the fire, wiped her hands, an' stood lookin' at me a minnet, then
she sez, slow an' quiet, but tremblin' a little, as women hev a way er
doin', when they've consid'able steam aboard,--
"'Hiram, other folks think lumberin' has spilt yeou; _I_ don't; they
call you rough an' rewd; _I_ know you've got a real kind heart fer
them as knows haow tew find it. Them girls give yeou up so easy,
'cause they never loved yeou, an' yeou give them up 'cause you only
thought abaout their looks an' money. I'm humly, an' I'm poor; but
I've loved yeou ever sence we went a-nuttin' years ago, an' yeou shook
daown fer me, kerried my bag, and kissed me tew the gate, when all the
others shunned me, 'cause my father drank an' I was shabby dressed,
ugly, an' shy. Yeou asked me in sport, I answered in airnest; but I
don't expect nothin' unless yeou mean as I mean. Like me, Hiram, or
leave me, it won't make no odds in my lovin' of yeou, nor helpin' of
yeou, ef I kin.'
"'Tain't easy tew say haouw I felt, while she was goin' on that way,
but my idees was tumblin' raound inside er me, as ef half a dozen dams
was broke loose all tew oncet. One think was ruther stiddier 'n the
rest, an' that was that I liked Bewlah more 'n I knew. I begun tew see
what kep' me loafin' tew hum so much, sence aunt was took daown; why I
wan't in no hurry tew git them other gals, an' haow I come tew pocket
my mittens so easy arfter the fust rile was over. Bewlah _was_ humly,
poor in flesh, dreadful freckled, hed red hair, black eyes, an' a gret
mold side of her nose. But I'd got wonted tew her; she knowed my ways,
was a fust rate housekeeper, real good-tempered, and pious without
flingin' on't in yer face. She was a lonely creeter,--her folks bein'
all dead but one sister, who didn't use her waal, an' somehow I kinder
yearned over her, as they say in Scripter. For all I set an' gawped, I
was coming raound fast, though I felt as I used tew, when I was goin'
to shoot the rapids, kinder breathless an' oncertin, whether I'd come
aout right side up or not. Queer, warn't it?"
"Love, Flint; that was a sure symptom of it."
"Waal, guess 'twas; anyway I jumped up all of a sudden, ketched Bewlah
raound the neck, give her a hearty kiss, and sung aout, 'I'll dew it
sure's my name's Hi Flint!' The words was scarcely out of my maouth,
'fore daown come Dr. Parr. He' d ben up tew see aunt, an' said she
wouldn't last the night threw, prob'ly. That give me a scare er the
wust kind; an' when I told doctor haow things was, he sez, kinder
"'Better git merried right away, then. Parson Dill is tew come an' see
the old lady, an' he'll dew both jobs tew oncet.'
"'Will yeou, Bewlah?' sez I.
"'Yes, Hiram, to 'blige yeou,' sez she.
"With that, I put it fer the license; got it, an' was back in less 'n
half an haour, most tuckered aout with the flurry of the hull concern.
Quick as I'd been, Bewlah hed faound time tew whip on her best gaoun,
fix up her hair, and put a couple er white chrissanthymums intew
her hand'chif pin. Fer the fust time in her life, she looked
harnsome,--leastways _I_ thought so,--with a pretty color in her
cheeks, somethin' brighter'n a larf shinin' in her eyes, and her lips
smilin' an' tremblin', as she come to me an' whispered so's't none er
the rest could hear,--
"'Hiram, don't yeou dew it, ef yeou'd ruther not. I've stood it a gret
while alone, an' I guess I can ag'in.'
"Never yeou mind what I said or done abaout that; but we was merried
ten minutes arfter, 'fore the kitchen fire, with Dr. Parr an' aour
hired man, fer witnesses; an' then we all went up tew aunt. She was
goan fast, but she understood what I told her, hed strength tew fill
up the hole in the will, an' to say, a-kissin' Bewlah, 'Yeou'll be a
good wife, an' naow yeou ain't a poor one.'
"I couldn't help givin' a peek tew the will, and there I see not Hiram
Flint nor Josiah Flint, but Bewlah Flint, wrote every which way, but
as plain as the nose on yer face. 'It won't make no odds, dear,'
whispered my wife, peekin' over my shoulder. 'Guess it won't!' sez I,
aout laoud; 'I'm glad on't, and it ain't a cent more'n yeou derserve.'
"That pleased aunt. 'Riz me, Hiram,' sez she; an' when I'd got her
easy, she put her old arms raound my neck, an' tried to say, 'God
bless you, dear--,' but died a doin' of it; an' I ain't ashamed
tew say I boohooed real hearty, when I laid her daown, fer she was
dreadf'l good tew me, an' I don't forgit her in a hurry."
"How's Bewlah?" asked Dick, after the little tribute of respect all
paid to Aunt Siloam's memory, by a momentary silence.
"Fust-rate! that harum-scarum venter er mine was the best I ever made.
She's done waal by me, hes Bewlah; ben a grand good housekeeper, kin
kerry on the farm better 'n me, any time, an' is as dutif'l an' lovin'
a wife as,--waal, as annything that _is_ extra dutif'l and lovin'."
"Got any boys to brag of?"
"We don't think much o' boys daown aour way; they're 'mazin' resky
stock to fetch up,--alluz breakin' baounds, gittin' intew the paound,
and wurryin' your life aout somehaow 'nother. Gals naow doos waal;
I've got six o' the likeliest the is goin', every one on 'em is the
very moral of Bewlah,--red hair, black eyes, quiet ways, an' a mold
'side the nose. Baby's ain't growed yet; but I expect tew see it in a
consid'able state o' forrardness, when I git hum, an' wouldn't miss it
fer the world."
The droll expression of Flint's face, and the satisfied twang of his
last words, were irresistible. Dick and Phil went off into a shout of
laughter; and even Thorn's grave lips relapsed into a smile at the
vision of six little Flints with their six little moles. As if the
act were an established ceremony, the "paternal head" produced his
pocket-book, selected a worn black-and-white paper, which he spread in
his broad palm, and displayed with the air of a connoisseur.
"There, thet's Bewlah! we call it a cuttin'; but the proper name's a
silly-hoot, I b'leeve. I've got a harnsome big degarrytype tew hum,
but the heft on't makes it bad tew kerry raound, so I took this. I
don't tote it abaout inside my shirt, as some dew,--it ain't my way;
but I keep it in my wallet long with my other valleu'bles, and guess I
set as much store by it as ef it was all painted up, and done off to
The "silly-hoot" was examined with interest, and carefully stowed away
again in the old brown wallet, which was settled in its place with a
satisfied slap; then Flint said briskly,--
"Naouw, Phil, yeou close this interestin' and instructive meeting; and
be spry, fer time's most up."
"I haven't much to tell, but must begin with a confession which I have
often longed but never dared to make before, because I am a coward."
"Sho! who's goan to b'leeve that o' a man who fit like a wild-cat, wuz
offered permotion on the field, and reported tew headquarters arfter
his fust scrimmage. Try ag'in, Phil."
"Physical courage is as plentiful as brass buttons, nowadays, but
moral courage is a rarer virtue; and I'm lacking in it, as I'll prove.
You think me a Virginian; I'm an Alabamian by birth, and was a Rebel
three months ago."
This confession startled his hearers, as he knew it would, for he
had kept his secret well. Thorn laid his hand involuntarily upon his
rifle, Dick drew off a little, and Flint illustrated one of his own
expressions, for he "gawped." Phil laughed that musical laugh of his,
and looked up at them with his dark face waking into sudden life, as
he went on:--
"There's no treason in the camp, for I'm as fierce a Federalist as any
of you now, and you may thank a woman for it. When Lee made his raid
into Pennsylvania, I was a lieutenant in the--well, never mind what
regiment, it hasn't signalized itself since, and I'd rather not hit my
old neighbors when they are down. In one of the skirmishes during our
retreat, I got a wound and was left for dead. A kind old Quaker found
and took me home; but though I was too weak to talk, I had my senses
by that time, and knew what went on about me. Everything was in
confusion, even in that well-ordered place: no surgeon could be got at
first, and a flock of frightened women thee'd and thou'd one another
over me, but hadn't wit enough to see that I was bleeding to death.
Among the faces that danced before my dizzy eyes was one that seemed
familiar, probably because no cap surrounded it. I was glad to have
it bending over me, to hear a steady voice say, 'Give me a bandage,
quick!' and when none was instantly forthcoming to me, the young lady
stripped up a little white apron she wore, and stanched the wound in
my shoulder. I was not as badly hurt as I supposed, but so worn-out,
and faint from loss of blood, they believed me to be dying, and so did
I, when the old man took off his hat and said,--
"Friend, if thee has anything to say, thee had better say it, for thee
probably has not long to live.'
"I thought of my little sister, far away in Alabama, fancied she came
to me, and muttered, 'Amy, kiss me good-by.' The women sobbed at that;
but the girl bent her sweet compassionate face to mine, and kissed me
on the forehead. That was my wife."
"So you seceded from Secession right away, to pay for that
"No, Thorn, not right away,--to my shame be it spoken. I'll tell
you how it came about. Margaret was not old Bent's daughter, but a
Massachusetts girl on a visit, and a long one it proved, for she
couldn't go till things were quieter. While she waited, she helped
take care of me; for the good souls petted me like a baby when they
found that a Rebel could be a gentleman. I held my tongue, and behaved
my best to prove my gratitude, you know. Of course, I loved Margaret
very soon. How could I help it? She was the sweetest woman I had ever
seen, tender, frank, and spirited; all I had ever dreamed of and
longed for. I did not speak of this, nor hope for a return, because I
knew she was a hearty Unionist, and thought she only tended me from
pity. But suddenly she decided to go home, and when I ventured to wish
she would stay longer, she would not listen, and said, 'I must not
stay; I should have gone before.'
"The words were nothing, but as she uttered them the color came up
beautifully over all her face, and her eyes filled as they looked away
from mine. Then I knew that she loved me, and my secret broke out
against my will. Margaret was forced to listen, for I would not let
her go, but she seemed to harden herself against me, growing colder,
stiller, statelier, as I went on, and when I said in my desperate
"'You should love me, for we are bid to love our enemies,' she flashed
an indignant look at me and said,--
"'I will not love what I cannot respect! Come to me a loyal man, and
see what answer I shall give you.'
"Then she went away. It was the wisest thing she could have done,
for absence did more to change me than an ocean of tears, a year
of exhortations. Lying there, I missed her every hour of the day,
recalled every gentle act, kind word, and fair example she had given
me. I contrasted my own belief with hers, and found a new significance
in the words honesty and honor, and, remembering her fidelity to
principle, was ashamed of my own treason to God and to herself.
Education, prejudice, and interest, are difficult things to overcome,
and that was the hottest fight I ever passed through, for as I tell
you, I was a coward. But love and loyalty won the day, and, asking no
quarter, the Rebel surrendered."
"Phil Beaufort, you're a brick!" cried Dick, with a sounding slap on
his comrade's shoulder.
"A brand snatched from the burnin'. Hallelujah!" chanted Flint,
seesawing with excitement.
"Then you went to find your wife? How? Where?" asked Thorn, forgetting
vigilance in interest.
"Friend Bent hated war so heartily that he would have nothing to do
with paroles, exchanges, or any martial process whatever, but bade me
go when and where I liked, remembering to do by others as I had been
done by. Before I was well enough to go, however, I managed, by means
of Copperhead influence and returned prisoners, to send a letter to my
father and receive an answer. You can imagine what both contained; and
so I found myself penniless, but not poor, an outcast, but not alone.
Old Bent treated me like a prodigal son, and put money in my purse;
his pretty daughters loved me for Margaret's sake, and gave me a
patriotic salute all round when I left them, the humblest, happiest
man in Pennsylvania. Margaret once said to me that this was the time
for deeds, not words; that no man should stand idle, but serve the
good cause with head, heart, and hand, no matter in what rank; for
in her eyes a private fighting for liberty was nobler than a dozen
generals defending slavery. I remembered that, and, not having
influential friends to get me a commission, enlisted in one of her own
Massachusetts regiments, knowing that no act of mine would prove my
sincerity like that. You should have seen her face when I walked in
upon her, as she sat alone, busied with the army work, as I'd so often
seen her sitting by my bed; it showed me all she had been suffering
in silence, all I should have lost had I chosen darkness instead of
light. She hoped and feared so much she could not speak, neither could
I, but dropped my cloak, and showed her that, through love of her, I
had become a soldier of the Union. How I love the coarse blue uniform!
for when she saw it, she came to me without a word and kept her
promise in a month."
"Thunder! what a harnsome woman!" exclaimed Flint, as Phil, opening
the golden case that held his talisman, showed them the beautiful,
beloved face of which he spoke.
"Yes! and a right noble woman too. I don't deserve her, but I will. We
parted on our wedding-day, for orders to be _off_ came suddenly, and
she would not let me go until I had given her my name to keep. We were
married in the morning, and at noon I had to go. Other women wept as
we marched through the city, but my brave Margaret kept her tears till
we were gone, smiling and waving her hand to me,--the hand that wore
the wedding-ring,--till I was out of sight. That image of her is
before me day and night, and day and night her last words are ringing
in my ears,--
"'I give you freely, do your best. Better a true man's widow than a
"Boys, I've only stood on the right side for a month; I've only fought
one battle, earned one honor; but I believe these poor achievements
are an earnest of the long atonement I desire to make for
five-and-twenty years of blind transgression. You say I fight well.
Have I not cause to dare much?--for in owning many slaves, I too
became a slave; in helping to make many freemen, I liberate myself.
You wonder why I refused promotion. Have I any right to it yet? Are
there not men who never sinned as I have done, and beside whose
sacrifices mine look pitifully small? You tell me I have no ambition.
I have the highest, for I desire to become God's noblest work,--an
honest man,--living, to make Margaret happy in a love that every hour
grows worthier of her own,--dying to make death proud to take me."
Phil had risen while he spoke, as if the enthusiasm of his mood lifted
him into the truer manhood he aspired to attain. Straight and strong
he stood up in the moonlight, his voice deepened by unwonted
energy, his eye clear and steadfast, his whole face ennobled by the
regenerating power of this late loyalty to country, wife, and self,
and bright against the dark blue of his jacket shone the pictured
face, the only medal he was proud to wear.
Ah, brave, brief moment, cancelling years of wrong! Ah, fair and fatal
decoration, serving as a mark for a hidden foe! The sharp crack of a
rifle broke the stillness of the night, and with those hopeful words
upon his lips, the young man sealed his purpose with his life.
THE BARON'S GLOVES;
"All is fair in love and war."
HOW THEY WERE FOUND
"What a long sigh! Are you tired, Amy?"
"Yes, and disappointed as well. I never would have undertaken this
journey if I had not thought it would be full of novelty, romance, and
"Well, we have had several adventures."
"Bah! losing one's hat in the Rhine, getting left at a dirty little
inn, and having our pockets picked, are not what I call adventures. I
wish there were brigands in Germany--it needs something of that sort
to enliven its stupidity."
"How can you call Germany stupid when you have a scene like this
before you?" said Helen, with a sigh of pleasure, as she looked from
the balcony which overhangs the Rhine at the hotel of the "Three
Kings" at Coblentz. Ehrenbreitstein towered opposite, the broad river
glittered below, and a midsummer moon lent its enchantment to the
As she spoke, her companion half rose from the low chair where she
lounged, and showed the pretty, piquant face of a young girl. She
seemed in a half melancholy, half petulant mood; and traces of recent
illness were visible in the languor of her movements and the pallor of
"Yes, it is lovely; but I want adventures and romance of some sort
to make it quite perfect. I don't care what, if something would only
"My dear, you are out of spirits and weary now, to-morrow you'll be
yourself again. Do not be ungrateful to uncle or unjust to yourself.
Something pleasant will happen, I've no doubt. In fact, something
_has_ happened that you may make a little romance out of, perhaps, for
lack of a more thrilling adventure."
"What do you mean?" and Amy's listless face brightened.
"Speak low; there are balconies all about us, and we may be
overheard," said Helen, drawing nearer after an upward glance.
"What is the beginning of a romance?" whispered Amy, eagerly.
"A pair of gloves. Just now, as I stood here, and you lay with your
eyes shut, these dropped from the balcony overhead. Now amuse yourself
by weaving a romance out of them and their owner."
Amy seized them, and stepping inside the window, examined them by the
"A gentleman's gloves, scented with violets! Here's a little hole
fretted by a ring on the third finger. Bless me! here are the
initials, 'S.P.,' stamped on the inside, with a coat of arms below.
What a fop to get up his gloves in this style! They are exquisite,
though. Such a delicate color, so little soiled, and so prettily
ornamented! Handsome hands wore these. I'd like to see the man."
Helen laughed at the girl's interest, and was satisfied if any trifle
amused her _ennui_.
"I will send them back by the _kellner_, and in that way we may
discover their owner," she said.
But Amy arrested her on the way to the door.
"I've a better plan; these waiters are so stupid you'll get nothing
out of them. Here's the hotel book sent up for our names; let us look
among the day's arrivals and see who 'S.P.' is. He came to-day, I'm
sure, for the man said the rooms above were just taken, so we could
not have them."
Opening the big book, Amy was soon intently poring over the long list
of names, written in many hands and many languages.
"I've got it! Here he is--oh, Nell, he's a baron! Isn't that charming?
'Sigismund von Palsdorf, Dresden.' We _must_ see him, for I know he's
handsome, if he wears such distracting gloves."
"You'd better take them up yourself, then."
"You know I can't do that; but I shall ask the man a few questions,
just to get an idea what sort of person the baron is. Then I shall
change my mind and go down to dinner; shall look well about me, and if
the baron is agreeable I shall make uncle return the gloves. He will
thank us, and I can say I've known a real baron. That will be so nice
when we go home. Now, don't be duennaish and say I'm silly, but let me
do as I like, and come and dress."
Helen submitted, and when the gong pealed through the house, Major
Erskine marched into the great _salle a manger_, with a comely niece
on each arm. The long tables were crowded, and they had to run the
gauntlet of many eyes as they made their way to the head of the upper
table. Before she touched her soup, Amy glanced down the line of
faces opposite, and finding none that answered the slight description
elicited from the waiter, she leaned a little forward to examine those
on her own side of the table. Some way down sat several gentlemen, and
as she bent to observe them, one did the same, and she received an
admiring glance from a pair of fine black eyes. Somewhat abashed, she
busied herself with her soup: but the fancy had taken possession of
her, and presently she whispered to Helen,--
"Do you see any signs of the baron?"
"On my left; look at the hands."
Amy looked and saw a white, shapely hand with an antique ring on the
third finger. Its owner's face was averted, but as he conversed with
animation, the hand was in full play, now emphasizing an opinion, now
lifting a glass, or more frequently pulling at a blond beard which
adorned the face of the unknown. Amy shook her head decidedly.
"I hate light men, and don't think that is the baron, for the gloves
are a size too small for those hands. Lean back and look some four or
five seats lower down on the right. See what sort of person the dark
man with the fine eyes is."
Helen obeyed, but almost instantly bent to her plate again, smiling in
spite of herself.
"That is an Englishman; he stares rudely, says 'By Jove!' and wears no
jewelry or beard."
"Now, I'm disappointed. Well, keep on the watch, and tell me if you
make any discoveries, for I _will_ find the baron."
Being hungry, Amy devoted herself to her dinner, till dessert was on
the table. She was languidly eating grapes, while Helen talked with
the major, when the word "baron" caught her ear. The speakers sat at a
table behind her, so that she could not see them without turning quite
round, which was impossible; but she listened eagerly to the following
scrap of chat:--
"Is the baron going on to-morrow?" asked a gay voice in French.
"Yes, he is bound for Baden-Baden. The season is at its height, and he
must make his game while the ball is rolling, or it is all up with the
open-handed Sigismund," answered a rough voice.
"Won't his father pardon the last escapade?" asked a third, with a
"No, and he is right. The duel was a bad affair, for the man almost
died, and the baron barely managed to get out of the scrape through
court influence. When is the wedding to be?"
"Never, Palsdorf says. There is everything but love in the bargain,
and he swears he'll not agree to it. I like that."
"There is much nobleness in him, spite of his vagaries. He will sow
his wild oats and make a grand man in time. By the by, if we are going
to the fortress, we must be off. Give Sigismund the word; he is dining
at the other table with Power," said the gay voice.
"Take a look at the pretty English girl as you go by; it will do your
eyes good, after the fat Frauleins we have seen of late," added the
Three gentlemen rose, and as they passed Amy stole a glance at them;
but seeing several pairs of eyes fixed on herself, she turned away
blushing, with the not unpleasant consciousness that "the pretty
English girl" was herself. Longing to see which Sigismund was, she
ventured to look after the young men, who paused behind the man with
the blond beard, and also touched the dark-eyed gentleman on the
shoulder. All five went down the hall and stood talking near the door.
"Uncle, I wish to go," said Amy, whose will was law to the amiable
major. Up he rose, and Amy added, as she took his arm, "I'm seized
with a longing to go to Baden-Baden and see a little gambling. You are
not a wild young man, so you can be trusted there."
"I hope so. Now you are a sensible little woman, and we'll do our best
to have a gay time. Wait an instant till I get my hat."
While the major searched for the missing article the girls went on,
and coming to the door, Amy tried to open it. The unwieldy foreign
lock resisted her efforts, and she was just giving it an impatient
little shake, when a voice said behind her,--
"Permit me, mademoiselle;" at the same moment a handsome hand turned
the latch, the flash of a diamond shone before her, and the door
"_Merci, monsieur_," she murmured, turning as she went out; but Helen
was close behind her, and no one else to be seen except the massive
major in the rear.
"Did you see the baron?" she whispered eagerly, as they went
"No; where was he?"
"He opened the door for me. I knew him by his hand and ring. He was
close to you."
"I did not observe him, being busy gathering up my dress. I thought
the person was a waiter, and never looked at him," said Helen, with
"How unfortunate! Uncle, you are going to see the fortress; we don't
care for it; but I want you to take these gloves and inquire for Baron
Sigismund Palsdorf. He will be there with a party of gentlemen. You
can easily manage it, men are so free and easy. Mind what he is like,
and come home in time to tell me all about it."
Away went the major, and the cousins sat on the balcony enjoying the
lovely night, admiring the picturesque scene, and indulging in
the flights of fancy all girls love, for Helen, in spite of her
three-and-twenty years, was as romantic as Amy at eighteen. It was
past eleven when the major came, and the only greeting he received was
the breathless question,--
"Did you find him?"
"I found something much better than any baron, a courier. I've wanted
one ever since we started; for two young ladies and their baggage are
more than one man can do his duty by, Karl Hoffman had such excellent
testimonials from persons I know, that I did not hesitate to engage
him, and he comes to-morrow; so henceforth I've nothing to do but
devote myself to you."
"How very provoking! Did you bring the gloves back?" asked Amy, still
absorbed in the baron.
The major tossed them to her, and indulged in a hearty laugh at her
girlish regrets; then bade them good-night, and went away to give
orders for an early start next morning.
Tired of talking, the girls lay down in the two little white beds
always found in German hotels, and Amy was soon continuing in sleep
the romance she had begun awake. She dreamed that the baron proved to
be the owner of the fine eyes; that he wooed and won her, and they
were floating down the river to the chime of wedding-bells.
At this rapturous climax she woke to find the air full of music, and
to see Helen standing tall and white in the moonlight that streamed in
at the open window.
"Hush, hide behind the curtains and listen; it's a serenade,"
whispered Helen, as Amy stole to her side.
Shrouded in the drapery, they leaned and listened till the song ended,
then Amy peeped; a dark group stood below; all were bareheaded, and
now seemed whispering together. Presently a single voice rose, singing
an exquisite little French canzonet, the refrain of which was a
passionate repetition of the word "_Amie_." She thought she recognized
the voice, and the sound of her own name uttered in such ardent tones
made her heart beat and her color rise, for it seemed to signify that
the serenade was for them. As the last melodious murmur ceased, there
came a stifled laugh from below, and something fell into the balcony.
Neither dared stir till the sound of departing feet reassured them;
then creeping forward Amy drew in a lovely bouquet of myrtle, roses,
and great German forget-me-nots, tied with a white ribbon and
addressed in a dashing hand to _La belle Helene_.
"Upon my life, the romance has begun in earnest," laughed Helen,
as she examined the flowers. "You are serenaded by some unknown
nightingale, and I have flowers tossed up to me in the charming old
style. Of course it is the baron, Amy."
"I hope so; but whoever it is, they are regular troubadours, and I'm
delighted. I know the gloves will bring us fun of some kind. Do you
take one and I'll take the other, and see who will find the baron
first. Isn't it odd that they knew our names?"
"Amy, the writing on this card is very like that in the big book. I
may be bewitched by this mid-summer moonlight, but it really is very
like it. Come and see."
The two charming heads bent over the card, looking all the more
charming for the dishevelled curls and braids that hung about them as
the girls laughed and whispered together in the softly brilliant light
that filled the room.
"You are right; it is the same. The men who stared so at dinner are
gay students perhaps, and ready for any prank. Don't tell uncle, but
let us see what will come of it. I begin to enjoy myself heartily
now--don't you?" said Amy, laying her glove carefully away.
"I enjoyed myself before, but I think '_La belle Helene_' gives an
added relish to life, _Amie_," laughed Nell, putting her flowers in
water; and then both went back to their pillows, to dream delightfully
KARL, THE COURIER
"Three days, at least, before we reach Baden. How tiresome it is that
uncle won't go faster!" said Amy, as she tied on her hat next morning,
wondering as she did so if the baron would take the same boat.
"As adventures have begun, I feel assured that they will continue to
cheer the way; so resign yourself and be ready for anything," replied
Helen, carefully arranging her bouquet in her travelling-basket.
A tap at the door, which stood half open, made both look up. A tall,
brown, gentlemanly man, in a gray suit, with a leathern bag slung over
his shoulder, stood there, hat in hand, and meeting Helen's eyes,
bowed respectfully, saying in good English, but with a strong German
"Ladies, the major desired me to tell you the carriage waits."
"Why, who--" began Amy, staring with her blue eyes full of wonder at
He bowed again, and said, simply,--
"Karl Hoffman, at your service, mademoiselle."
"The courier--oh, yes! I forgot all about it. Please take these
Amy began to hand him her miscellaneous collection of bags, books,
shawls and cushions.
"I'd no idea couriers were such decent creatures," whispered Amy, as
they followed him along the hall.
"Don't you remember the raptures Mrs. Mortimer used to have over their
Italian courier, and her funny description of him? 'Beautiful to
behold, with a night of hair, eyes full of an infinite tenderness, and
a sumptuous cheek.'"
Both girls laughed, and Amy averred that Karl's eyes danced with
merriment as he glanced over his shoulder, as the silvery peal sounded
"Hush! he understands English; we must be careful," said Helen, and
neither spoke again till they reached the carriage.
Everything was ready, and as they drove away, the major, leaning
luxuriously back, exclaimed,--
"Now I begin to enjoy travelling, for I'm no longer worried by
the thought of luggage, time-tables, trains, and the everlasting
perplexity of thalers, kreutzers, and pfenniges. This man is a
treasure; everything is done in the best manner, and his knowledge of
matters is really amazing."
"He's a very gentlemanly-looking person," said Amy, eying a decidedly
aristocratic foot through the front window of the carriage, for Karl
sat up beside the driver.
"He _is_ a gentleman, my dear. Many of these couriers are well born
and educated, but, being poor, prefer this business to any other, as
it gives them variety, and often pleasant society. I've had a long
talk with Hoffman, and find him an excellent and accomplished fellow.
He has lost his fortune, it seems, through no fault of his own, so
being fond of a roving life, turned courier for a time, and we are
fortunate to have secured him."
"But one doesn't know how to treat him," said Helen. "I don't like
to address him as a servant, and yet it's not pleasant to order a
"Oh, it will be easy enough as we go on together. Just call him
Hoffman, and behave as if you knew nothing about his past. He begged
me not to mention it, but I thought you'd like the romance of the
thing. Only don't either of you run away with him, as Ponsonby's
daughter did with her courier, who wasn't a gentleman, by the way."
"Not handsome enough," said Amy. "I don't like blue eyes and black
hair. His manners are nice, but he looks like a gipsy, with his brown
face and black beard: doesn't he, Nell?"
"Not at all. Gipsies haven't that style of face; they are thin, sharp,
and cunning in feature as in nature. Hoffman has large, well-moulded
features, and a mild, manly expression, which gives one confidence in
"He has a keen, wicked look in his blue eyes, as you will see, Nell.
I mean mischievously, not malignantly wicked. He likes fun, I'm sure,
for he laughed about the 'sumptuous cheek' till his own were red,
though he dared not show it, and was as grave as an owl when we met
uncle," said Amy, smiling at the recollection.
"We shall go by boat to Biebrich, and then by rail to Heidelberg. We
shall get in late to-morrow night, but can rest a day, and then on to
Baden. Here we are; now make yourselves easy, as I do, and let Karl
take care of everything."
And putting his hands in his pockets, the major strolled about the
boat, while the courier made matters comfortable for the day. So
easily and well did he do his duty, that both girls enjoyed watching
him after he had established them on the shady side of the boat, with
camp-stools for their feet, cushions to lean on, books and bags laid
commodiously at hand.
As they sailed up the lovely Rhine they grew more and more
enthusiastic in their admiration and curiosity, and finding the meagre
description of the guide-books very unsatisfactory, Amy begged her
uncle to tell her all the legends of picturesque ruin, rock and river,
as they passed.
"Bless me, child, I know nothing; but here's Hoffman, a German born,
who will tell you everything, I dare say. Karl, what's that old castle
up there? The young ladies want to know about it."
Leaning on the railing, Hoffman told the story so well that he was
kept explaining and describing for an hour, and when he went away to
order lunch, Amy declared it was as pleasant as reading fairy tales to
listen to his dramatic histories and legends.
At lunch the major was charmed to find his favorite wines and dishes
without any need of consulting dictionary or phrase-book beforehand,
or losing his temper in vain attempts to make himself understood.
On reaching Biebrich, tired and hungry, at nightfall, everything was
ready for them, and all went to bed praising Karl, the courier, though
Amy, with unusual prudence, added,--
"He is a new broom now; let us wait a little before we judge."
All went well next day till nightfall, when a most untoward accident
occurred, and Helen's adventures began in earnest. The three occupied
a _coupe_, and being weary with long sitting, Helen got out at one of
the stations where the train paused for ten minutes. A rosy sunset
tempted her to the end of the platform, and there she found, what
nearly all foreign railway stations possess, a charming little garden.
Amy was very tired, rather cross, and passionately fond of flowers, so
when an old woman offered to pull a nosegay for "the gracious lady,"
Helen gladly waited for it, hoping to please the invalid. Twice the
whistle warned her, and at last she ran back, but only in time to see
the train move away, with her uncle gesticulating wildly to the guard,
who shook his stupid German head, and refused to see the dismayed
young lady imploring him to wait for her.
Just as the train was vanishing from the station, a man leaped from
a second-class carriage at the risk of his neck, and hurried back to
find Helen looking pale and bewildered, as well she might, left alone
and moneyless at night in a strange town.
"Mademoiselle, it is I; rest easy; we can soon go on; a train passes
in two hours, and we can telegraph to Heidelberg that they may not
fear for you."
"Oh, Hoffman, how kind of you to stop for me! What should I have done
without you, for uncle takes care of all the money, and I have only my
Helen's usual self-possession rather failed her in the flurry of the
moment, and she caught Karl's arm with a feminine little gesture of
confidence very pleasant to see. Leading her to the waiting-room, he
ordered supper, and put her into the care of the woman of the place,
while he went to make inquiries and dispatch the telegram. In half an
hour he returned, finding Helen refreshed and cheerful, though a trace
of anxiety was still visible in her watchful eyes.
"All goes excellently, mademoiselle. I have sent word to several posts
along the road that we are coming by the night train, so that Monsieur
le Major will rest tranquil till we meet. It is best that I give you
some money, lest such a mishap should again occur; it is not likely so
soon; nevertheless, here is both gold and silver. With this, one can
make one's way everywhere. Now, if mademoiselle will permit me to
advise, she will rest for an hour, as we must travel till dawn. I will
keep guard without and watch for the train."
He left her, and having made herself comfortable on one of the sofas,
she lay watching the tall shadow pass and repass door and window, as
Karl marched up and down the platform, with the tireless tramp of a
sentinel on duty. A pleasant sense of security stole over her, and
with a smile at Amy's enjoyment of the adventure when it was over,
Helen fell asleep.
A far-off shriek half woke her, and starting up, she turned to meet
the courier coming in to wake her. Up thundered the train, every
carriage apparently full of sleepy passengers, and the guard in a
state of sullen wrath at some delay, the consequences of which would
fall heaviest on him.
From carriage to carriage hurried Karl and his charge, to be met with
everywhere by the cry, "All full," in many languages, and with every
aspect of inhospitality. One carriage only showed two places; the
other seats were occupied by six students, who gallantly invited the
lady to enter. But Helen shrunk back, saying,--
"Is there no other place?"
"None, mademoiselle; this, or remain till morning," said Karl.
"Where will you go if I take this place?"
"Among the luggage,--anywhere; it is nothing. But we must decide at
"Come with me; I'm afraid to be locked in here alone," said Helen,
"Mademoiselle forgets I am her courier."
"I do not forget that you are a gentleman. Pray come in; my uncle will
"I will," and with a sudden brightening of the eyes, a grateful
glance, and an air of redoubled respect, Hoffman followed her into the
They were off at once, and the thing was done before Helen had time
to feel anything but the relief which the protection of his presence
The young gentlemen stared at the veiled lady and her grim escort,
joked under their breath, and looked wistfully at the suppressed
cigars, but behaved with exemplary politeness till sleep overpowered
them, and one after the other dropped off asleep to dream of their
Helen could not sleep, and for hours sat studying the unconscious
faces before her, the dim landscape flying past the windows, or forgot
herself in reveries.
Hoffman remained motionless and silent, except when she addressed
him, wakeful also, and assiduous in making the long night as easy as
It was past midnight, and Helen's heavy eyelids were beginning to
droop, when suddenly there came an awful crash, a pang of mortal fear,
then utter oblivion.
As her senses returned she found herself lying in a painful position
under what had been the roof of the car; something heavy weighed
down her lower limbs, and her dizzy brain rung with a wild uproar of
shrieks and groans, eager voices, the crash of wood and iron, and the
shrill whistle of the engine, as it rushed away for help.
Through the darkness she heard the pant as of some one struggling
desperately, then a cry close by her, followed by a strong voice
exclaiming, in an agony of suspense,--
"My God, will no one come!"
"Hoffman, are you there?" cried Helen, groping in the gloom, with a
thrill of joy at the sound of a familiar voice.
"Thank heaven, you are safe. Lie still. I will save you. Help is
coming. Have no fear!" panted the voice, with an undertone of fervent
gratitude in its breathless accents.
"What has happened? Where are the rest?"
"We have been thrown down an embankment. The lads are gone for help.
God only knows what harm is done."
Karl's voice died in a stifled groan, and Helen cried out in alarm,--
"Where are you? You are hurt?"
"Not much. I keep the ruins from falling in to crush us. Be quiet,
they are coming."
A shout answered the faint halloo he gave as if to guide them to the
spot, and a moment after, five of the students were swarming about the
wreck, intent on saving the three whose lives were still in danger.
A lamp torn from some demolished carriage was held through an opening,
and Helen saw a sight that made her blood chill in her veins. Across
her feet, crushed and bleeding, lay the youngest of the students, and
kneeling close beside him was Hoffman, supporting by main strength a
mass of timber, which otherwise would fall and crush them all. His
face was ghastly pale, his eyes haggard with pain and suspense, and
great drops stood upon his forehead. But as she looked, he smiled with
"Bear up, dear lady, we shall soon be out of danger. Now, lads, work
with a will; my strength is going fast."
They did work like heroes, and even in her pain and peril, Helen
admired the skill, energy, and courage of the young men, who, an hour
ago, had seemed to have no ideas above pipes and beer. Soon Hoffman
was free, the poor senseless youth lifted out, and then, as tenderly
as if she were a child, they raised and set her down, faint but
unhurt, in a wide meadow, already strewn with sad tokens of the wreck.
Karl was taken possession of as well as herself, forced to rest a
moment, drink a cordial draught from some one's flask, and be praised,
embraced, and enthusiastically blessed by the impetuous youths.
"Where is the boy who was hurt? Bring him to me. I am strong now.
I want to help. I have salts in my pocket, and I can bind up his
wounds," said Helen, soon herself again.
Karl and Helen soon brought back life and sense to the boy, and never
had human face looked so lovely as did Helen's to the anxious comrades
when she looked up in the moonlight with a joyful smile, and softly
"He is alive."
For an hour terrible confusion reigned, then the panic subsided a
little, and such of the carriages as were whole were made ready to
carry away as many as possible; the rest must wait till a return train
could be sent for them.
A struggle of course ensued, for every one wished to go on, and fear
made many selfish. The wounded, the women and children, were taken, as
far as possible, and the laden train moved away, leaving many anxious
Helen had refused to go, and had given her place to poor Conrad,
thereby overwhelming his brother and comrades with gratitude. Two went
on with the wounded lad; the rest remained, and chivalrously devoted
themselves to Helen as a body-guard.
The moon shone clearly, the wide field was miles from any hamlet,
and a desolate silence succeeded to the late uproar, as the band of
waiters roamed about, longing for help and dawn.
"Mademoiselle, you shiver; the dew falls, and it is damp here; we must
have a fire;" and Karl was away to a neighboring hedge, intent on
warming his delicate charge if he felled a forest to do it.
The students rushed after him, and soon returned in triumph to build
a glorious fire, which drew all forlorn wanderers to its hospitable
circle. A motley assemblage; but mutual danger and discomfort produced
mutual sympathy and good will, and a general atmosphere of friendship
pervaded the party.
"Where is the brave Hoffman?" asked Wilhelm, the blond student, who,
being in the Werther period of youth, was already madly in love with
Helen, and sat at her feet catching cold in the most romantic manner.
"Behold me! The little ones cry for hunger, so I ransack the ruins and
bring away my spoils. Eat, Kinder, eat and be patient."
As he spoke Karl appeared with an odd collection of baskets, bags, and
bottles, and with a fatherly air that won all the mothers, he gave
the children whatever first appeared, making them laugh in spite of
weariness and hunger by the merry speeches which accompanied his
"You too need something. Here is your own basket with the lunch I
ordered you. In a sad state of confusion, but still eatable. See,
it is not bad," and he deftly spread on a napkin before Helen cold
chicken, sandwiches, and fruit.
His care for the little ones as well as for herself touched her and
her eyes filled, as she remembered that she owed her life to him, and
recalled the sight of his face in the overturned car.
Her voice trembled a little as she thanked him, and the moonlight
betrayed her wet eyes. He fancied she was worn out with excitement and
fatigue, and anxious to cheer her spirits, he whispered to Wilhelm and
"Sing, then, comrades, and while away this tedious night. It is hard
for all to wait so long, and the babies need a lullaby."
The young men laughed and sang as only German students can sing,
making the night musical with blithe drinking songs, tender love-lays,
battle-hymns, and Volkslieder sweeter than any songs across the water.
Every heart was cheered and warmed by the magic of the music, the
babies fell asleep, strangers grew friendly, fear changed to courage,
and the most forlorn felt the romance of that bivouac under the summer
Dawn was reddening the east when a welcome whistle broke up the camp.
Every one hurried to the railway, but Helen paused to gather a handful
of blue forget-me-nots, saying to Hoffman, who waited with her wraps
on his arm,--
"It has been a happy night, in spite of the danger and discomfort. I
shall not soon forget it; and take these as a souvenir."
He smiled, standing bare-headed in the chilly wind, for his hat was
lost, his coat torn, hair dishevelled, and one hand carelessly bound
up in his handkerchief. Helen saw these marks of the night's labors
and perils for the first time, and as soon as they were seated desired
to see his hand.
"It is nothing,--a scratch, a mere scratch, I give you my word,
mademoiselle," he began, but Wilhelm unceremoniously removed the
handkerchief, showing a torn and bleeding hand which must have been
Helen turned pale, and with a reproachful glance skilfully bound it up
again, saying, as she handed a silken scarf to Wilhelm,--
"Make of that a sling, please, and put the poor hand in it. Care must
be taken, or harm will come of it."
Hoffman submitted in bashful silence, as if surprised and touched by
the young lady's interest. She saw that, and added gratefully,--
"I do not forget that you saved my life, though you seem to have done
so. My uncle will thank you better than I can."
"I already have my reward, mademoiselle," he returned, with a
respectful inclination and a look she could neither understand nor
The excitement and suspense of the major and Amy can be imagined when
news of the accident reached them. Their gratitude and relief were
intense when Helen appeared next morning, with the faithful Hoffman
still at his post, though no longer able to disguise the fact that he
was suffering from his wound.
When the story had been told, Karl was put under the surgeon's care,
and all remained at Heidelberg for several days to rest and recover.
On the afternoon of the last day the major and young ladies drove off
to the castle for a farewell view. Helen began to sketch the great
stone lion's head above the grand terrace, the major smoked and
chatted with a party of English artists whom he had met, and Amy,
with a little lad for a guide, explored the old castle to her heart's
The sun set, and twilight began to fall when Helen put up her pencils,
and the major set off to find Amy, who had been appearing and
disappearing in every nook and cranny of the half-ruined castle.
Nowhere could he find her, and no voice answered when he called. The
other visitors were gone, and the place seemed deserted, except by
themselves and the old man who showed the ruins.
Becoming alarmed lest the girl had fallen somewhere, or lost her way
among the vaults where the famous Tun lies, the major called out old
Hans with his lantern, and searched high and low.
Amy's hat, full of flowers and ferns, was found in the Lady's Walk, as
the little terrace is called, but no other trace appeared, and Helen
hurried to and fro in great distress, fearing all manner of dangers.
Meanwhile Amy, having explored every other part of the castle, went to
take another look at the Tun, the dwarf, and the vaults.
Now little Anderl, her guide, had a great fear of ghosts, and legions
were said to haunt the ruins after nightfall, so when Amy rambled on
deeper and deeper into the gloom the boy's courage ebbed away with
every step; yet he was ashamed to own his fear, seeing that she had
Amy wanted to see a certain cell, where a nun was said to have pined
to death because she would not listen to the Margraf's love. The
legend pleased the romantic girl, and forgetful of waning daylight,
gathering damps, and Anderl's reluctant service, she ran on, up steps
and down, delighted with little arched doors, rusty chains on the
walls, glimpses of sky through shattered roofs, and all manner of
mysterious nooks and corners. Coming at last to a narrow cell, with a
stone table, and heavy bolts on the old door, she felt sure this was
poor Elfrida's prison, and called Anderl to come on with his candle,
for the boy had lighted one, for his own comfort rather than hers. Her
call was unanswered, and glancing back, she saw the candle placed on
the ground, but no Anderl.
"Little coward, he has run away," she said, laughing; and having
satisfied her curiosity, turned to retrace her steps,--no easy task to
one ignorant of the way, for vault after vault opened on both sides,
and no path was discernible. In vain she tried to recall some
landmark, the gloom had deepened and nothing was clear. On she
hurried, but found no opening, and really frightened, stopped at last,
calling the boy in a voice that woke a hundred echoes. But Anderl had
fled home, thinking the lady would find her way back, and preferring
to lose his kreutzers to seeing a ghost.
Poor Amy's bewilderment and alarm increased with every moment's delay,
and hoping to come out somewhere, she ran on till a misstep jostled
the candle from her hand and extinguished it.
Left in the dark, her courage deserted her, and she screamed
desperately, like a lost child, and was fast getting into a state of
frantic terror, when the sound of an approaching step reassured her.
Holding her breath, she heard a quick tread drawing nearer, as if
guided by her cries, and, straining her eyes, she caught the outline
of a man's figure in the gloom.
A sensation of intense joy rushed over her, and she was about to
spring forward, when she remembered that as she could speak no German
how could she explain her plight to the stranger, if he understood
neither French nor English?
Fear took possession of her at the thought of meeting some rough
peasant, or some rollicking student, to whom she could make no
intelligible appeal or explanation.
Crouching close against the wall, she stood mute till the figure was
very near. She was in the shadow of an angle, and the man paused, as
if looking for the person who called for help.
"Who is lost here?" said a clear voice, in German.
Amy shrunk closer to the wall, fearing to speak, for the voice was
that of a young man, and a low laugh followed the words, as if the
speaker found the situation amusing.
"Mortal, ghost or devil, I'll find it," exclaimed the voice, and
stepping forward, a hand groped for and found her.
"Lottchen, is it thou? Little rogue, thou shalt pay dearly for leading
me such a chase."
As he spoke he drew the girl toward him, but with a faint cry, a vain
effort to escape, Amy's terror reached its climax, and spent with
fatigue and excitement, she lost consciousness.
"Who the deuce is it, then? Lottchen never faints on a frolic. Some
poor little girl lost in earnest. I must get her out of this gloomy
place at once, and find her party afterward."
Lifting the slight figure in his arms, the young man hurried on, and
soon came out through a shattered gateway into the shrubbery which
surrounds the base of the castle.
Laying her on the grass, he gently chafed her hands, eying the pale,
pretty face meantime with the utmost solicitude.
At his first glimpse of it he had started, smiled and made a gesture
of pleasure and surprise, then gave himself entirely to the task of
recovering the poor girl whom he had frightened out of her senses.
Very soon she looked up with dizzy eyes, and clasping her hands
imploringly, cried, in English, like a bewildered child,--
"I am lost! Oh, take me to my uncle."
"I will, the moment you can walk. Upon my soul, I meant to help you
when I followed; but as you did not answer, I fancied it was Lottchen,
the keeper's little girl. Pardon the fright I've caused you, and let
me take you to your friends."
The true English accent of the words, and the hearty tone of sincerity
in the apology, reassured Amy at once, and, rising, she said, with a
faint smile and a petulant tone,--
"I was very silly, but my guide ran away, my candle went out, I lost
the path, and can speak no German; so I was afraid to answer you at
first; and then I lost my wits altogether, for it's rather startling
to be clutched in the dark, sir."
"Indeed it is. I was very thoughtless, but now let me atone for
it. Where is your uncle, Miss Erskine?" asked the stranger, with
"You know my name?" cried Amy in her impulsive way.
"I have that happiness," was the answer, with a smile.
"But I don't know _you_, sir;" and she peered at him, trying to see
his face in the darkness, for the copse was thick, and twilight had
come on rapidly.
"Not yet; I live in hope. Shall we go? Your uncle will be uneasy."
"Where are we?" asked Amy, glad to move on, for the interview was
becoming too personal even for her, and the stranger's manner
fluttered her, though she enjoyed the romance of the adventure
"We are in the park which surrounds the castle. You were near the
entrance to it from the vaults when you fainted."
"I wish I had kept on a little longer, and not disgraced myself by
such a panic."
"Nay, that is a cruel wish, for then I should have lost the happiness
of helping you."
They had been walking side by side, but were forced to pause on
reaching a broken flight of steps, for Amy could not see the way
"Let me lead you; it is steep and dark, but better than going a long
way round through the dew," he said, offering his hand.
"Must we return by these dreadful vaults?" faltered Amy, shrinking
"It is the shortest and safest route, I assure you."
"Are you sure you know the way?"
"Quite sure. I have lived here by the week together. Do you fear to
"No; but it is so dark, and everything is so strange to me. Can we get
down safely? I see nothing but a black pit."
And Amy still hesitated, with an odd mixture of fear and coquetry.
"I brought you up in safety; shall I take you down again?" asked the
stranger, with a smile flickering over his face.
Amy felt rather than saw it, and assuming an air of dignified
displeasure, motioned him to proceed, which he did for three steps;
then Amy slipped, and gladly caught at the arm extended to save her.
Without a word he took her hand and led her back through the labyrinth
she had threaded in her bewilderment. A dim light filled the place,
but with unerring steps her guide went on till they emerged into the
Major Erskine's voice was audible, giving directions to the keeper,
and Helen's figure visible as she groped among the shadows of the
ruined chapel for her cousin.
"There are my friends. Now I am safe. Come and let them thank you,"
cried Amy, in her frank, childlike warmth of manner.
"I want no thanks--forgive me--adieu," and hastily kissing the little
hand that had lain so confidingly in his, the stranger was gone.
Amy rushed at once to Helen, and when the lost lamb had been welcomed,
chidden, and exulted over, they drove home, listening to the very
brief account which Amy gave of her adventure.
"Naughty little gad-about, how could you go and terrify me so,
wandering in vaults with mysterious strangers, like the Countess of
Rudolstadt. You are as wet and dirty as if you had been digging a
well, yet you look as if you liked it," said Helen, as she led Amy
into their room at the hotel.
"I do," was the decided answer, as the girl pulled a handkerchief off
her head, and began to examine the corners of it. Suddenly she uttered
a cry and flew to the light, exclaiming,--
"Nell, Nell, look here! The same letters, 'S.P.,' the same coat of
arms, the same perfume--it was the baron!"
"What? who? are you out of your mind?" said Helen, examining the
large, fine cambric handkerchief, with its delicately stamped initials
under the stag's head, and three stars on a heart-shaped shield.
"Where did you get it?" she added, as she inhaled the soft odor of
violets shaken from its folds.
Amy blushed and answered shyly, "I didn't tell you all that happened
before uncle, but now I will. My hat was left behind, and when I
recovered my wits after my fright, I found this tied over my head. Oh,
Nell, it was very charming there in that romantic old park, and going
through the vaults with him, and having my hand kissed at parting. No
one ever did that before, and I like it."
Amy glanced at her hand as she spoke, and stood staring as if struck
dumb, for there on her forefinger shone a ring she had never seen
"Look! look! mine is gone, and this in its place! Oh, Nell, what shall
I do?" she said, looking half frightened, half pleased.
Helen examined the ring and shook her head, for it was far more
valuable than the little pearl one which it replaced. Two tiny
hands of finest gold were linked together about a diamond of great
brilliancy; and on the inside appeared again the initials, "S.P."
"How did it happen?" she asked, rather sternly.
"Upon my word, I don't know, unless he put it on while I was stupidly
fainting. Rude man, to take advantage of me so. But, Nell, it is
splendid, and what _shall_ I do about it?"
"Tell uncle, find out the man and send back his things. It really is
absurd, the manner in which German boys behave;" and Helen frowned,
though she was strongly tempted to laugh at the whole thing.
"He was neither a German nor a boy, but an English gentleman, I'm
sure," began Amy, rather offended.
"But 'S.P.' is a baron, you know, unless there are two Richmonds in
the field," broke in Helen.
"I forgot that; never mind, it deepens the mystery; and after this
performance, I'm prepared for any enormity. It's my fate; I submit."
said Amy, tragically, as she waved her hand to and fro, pleased with
the flash of the ring.
"Amy, I think on the whole I won't speak to uncle. He is quick to take
offence, especially where we are concerned. He doesn't understand
foreign ways, and may get into trouble. We will manage it quietly
"Karl is discreet; we will merely say we found these things and wish
to discover the owner. He may know this 'S.P.' and, having learned his
address, we can send them back. The man will understand; and as we
leave to-morrow, we shall be out of the way before he can play any new
"Have in Karl at once, for if I wear this lovely thing long I shall
not be able to let it go at all. How dared the creature take such a
liberty!" and Amy pulled off the ring with an expression of great
"Come into the _salon_ and see what Karl says to the matter. Let me
speak, or you will say too much. One must be prudent before--"
She was going to say "servants," but checked herself, and substituted
"strangers," remembering gratefully how much she owed this man.
Hoffman came, looking pale, and with his hand in a sling, but was as
gravely devoted as ever, and listened to Helen's brief story with
"I will inquire, mademoiselle, and let you know at once. It is easy to
find persons if one has a clue. May I see the handkerchief?"
Helen showed it. He glanced at the initials, and laid it down with a
"The coat-of-arms is English, mademoiselle."
"Are you sure?"
"Quite so; I understand heraldry."
"But the initials stand for Sigismund Palsdorf, and we know he is a
German baron," broke in Amy, forgetting prudence in eagerness.
"If mademoiselle knows the name and title of this gentleman it will
not be hard to find him."
"We only fancy it is the same because of the initials. I dare say it
is a mistake, and the man is English. Inquire quietly, Hoffman, if
you please, as this ring is of value, and I wish to restore it to its
owner," said Helen, rather sharply.
"I shall do so, mademoiselle," and with his gentlemanly bow, the
courier left the room.
"Bless me, what's that?" cried Amy, a moment afterward, as a ringing
laugh echoed through the corridor,--a laugh so full of hearty and
infectious merriment that both girls smiled involuntarily, and Amy
peeped out to see who the blithe personage might be.
An old gentleman was entering his room near by, and Karl was just
about to descend the stairs. Both looked back at the girlish face
peeping at them, but both were quite grave, and the peal of laughter
remained a mystery, like all the rest of it.
Late in the evening Hoffman returned to report that a party of young
Englishmen had visited the castle that afternoon, and had left by
the evening train. One of them had been named Samuel Peters, and he,
doubtless, was the owner of the ring.
A humorous expression lurked in the couriers eye as he made his
report, and heard Amy exclaim, in a tone of disgust and comical
"Samuel Peters! That spoils all the romance and dims the beauty of the
diamond. To think that a Peters should be the hero to whom I owe my
safety, and a Samuel should leave me this token of regard!"
"Hush, Amy," whispered Helen. "Thanks, Hoffman; we must wait now for
chance to help us."
A POLISH EXILE
"Room for one here, sir," said the guard, as the train stopped at
Carlsruhe next day, on its way from Heidelberg to Baden.
The major put down his guide-book, Amy opened her eyes, and Helen
removed her shawl from the opposite seat, as a young man, wrapped in
a cloak, with a green shade over his eyes, and a general air of
feebleness, got in and sank back with a sigh of weariness or pain.
Evidently an invalid, for his face was thin and pale, his dark hair
cropped short, and the ungloved hand attenuated and delicate as a
woman's. A sidelong glance from under the deep shade seemed to satisfy
him regarding his neighbors, and drawing his cloak about him with a
slight shiver, he leaned into the corner and seemed to forget that he
was not alone.
Helen and Amy exchanged glances of compassionate interest, for women
always pity invalids, especially if young, comely and of the opposite
sex. The major took one look, shrugged his shoulders, and returned
to his book. Presently a hollow cough gave Helen a pretext for
discovering the nationality of the newcomer.
"Do the open windows inconvenience you, sir?" she asked, in English.
No answer; the question evidently unintelligible.
She repeated it in French, lightly touching his cloak to arrest his
Instantly a smile broke over the handsome mouth, and in the purest
French he assured her that the fresh air was most agreeable, and
begged pardon for annoying them with his troublesome cough.
"Not an invalid, I hope, sir?" said the major, in his bluff yet kindly
"They tell me I can have no other fate; that my malady is fatal; but I
still hope and fight for my life; it is all I have to give my country
A stifled sigh and a sad emphasis on the last word roused the sympathy
of the girls, the interest of the major.
He took another survey, and said, with a tone of satisfaction, as
he marked the martial carriage of the young man, and caught a fiery
glance of the half-hidden eyes,--
"You are a soldier, sir?"
"I was; I am nothing now but an exile, for Poland is in chains."
The words "Poland" and "exile" brought up all the pathetic stories of
that unhappy country which the three listeners had ever heard, and won
their interest at once.
"You were in the late revolution, perhaps?" asked the major, giving
the unhappy outbreak the most respectful name he could use.
"From beginning to end."
"Oh, tell us about it; we felt much sympathy for you, and longed to
have you win," cried Amy, with such genuine interest and pity in her
tone, it was impossible to resist.
Pressing both hands upon his breast, the young man bent low, with a
flush of feeling on his pale cheek, and answered eagerly,--
"Ah, you are kind; it is balm to my sore heart to hear words like
these. I thank you, and tell you what you will. It is but little that
I do, yet I give my life, and die a long death, instead of a quick,
brave one with my comrades."
"You are young to have borne a part in a revolution, sir," said the
major, who pricked up his ears like an old war-horse at the sound of
"My friends and myself left the University at Varsovie, as volunteers;
we did our part, and now all lie in their graves but three."
"You were wounded, it seems?"
"Many times. Exposure, privation, and sorrow will finish what the
Russian bullets began. But it is well. I have no wish to see my
country enslaved, and I can no longer help her."
"Let us hope that a happier future waits for you both. Poland loves
liberty too well, and has suffered too much for it, to be kept long in
Helen spoke warmly, and the young man listened with a brightening
"It is a kind prophecy; I accept it, and take courage. God knows I
need it," he added, low to himself.
"Are you bound for Italy?" said the major, in a most un-English fit of
"For Geneva first, Italy later, unless Montreaux is mild enough for me
to winter in. I go to satisfy my friends, but doubt if it avails."
"Where is Montreaux?" asked Amy.
"Near Clarens, where Rousseau wrote his Heloise, and Vevay, where
so many English go to enjoy Chillon. The climate is divine for
unfortunates like myself, and life more cheap there than in Italy."
Here the train stopped again, and Hoffman came to ask if the ladies
At the sound of his voice the young Pole started, looked up, and
exclaimed, with the vivacity of a foreigner, in German,--
"By my life, it is Karl! Behold me, old friend, and satisfy me that it
is thyself by a handshake."
"Casimer! What wind blows thee hither, my boy, in such sad plight?"
replied Hoffman, grasping the slender hand outstretched to him.
"I fly from an enemy for the first time in my life, and, like all
cowards, shall be conquered in the end. I wrote thee I was better, but
the wound in the breast reopened, and nothing but a miracle will save
me. I go to Switzerland; and thou?"
"Where my master commands. I serve this gentleman, now."
"Hard changes for both, but with health thou art king of
circumstances, while I?--Ah well, the good God knows best. Karl, go
thou and buy me two of those pretty baskets of grapes; I will please
myself by giving them to these pitying angels. Speak they German?"
"One, the elder; but they understand not this rattle of ours."
Karl disappeared, and Helen, who _had_ understood the rapid dialogue,
tried to seem as unconscious as Amy.
"Say a friendly word to me at times; I am so homesick and
faint-hearted, my Hoffman. Thanks; they are almost worthy the lips
that shall taste them."
Taking the two little osier baskets, laden with yellow and purple
clusters, Casimer offered them, with a charming mixture of timidity
and grace, to the girls, saying, like a grateful boy,--
"You give me kind words and good hopes; permit that I thank you in
this poor way."
"I drink success to Poland." cried Helen, lifting a great, juicy grape
to her lips, like a little purple goblet, hoping to hide her confusion
under a playful air.
The grapes went round, and healths were drunk with much merriment,
for in travelling on the Continent it is impossible for the gruffest,
primmest person to long resist the frank courtesy and vivacious chat
The major was unusually social and inquisitive, and while the soldiers
fought their battles over again the girls listened and took notes,
with feminine wits on the alert to catch any personal revelations
which might fall from the interesting stranger. The wrongs and
sufferings of Poland were discussed so eloquently that both young
ladies were moved to declare the most undying hatred of Russia,
Prussia, and Austria, the most intense sympathy for "poor Pologne."
All day they travelled together, and as Baden-Baden approached, they
naturally fell to talking of the gay place.
"Uncle, I must try my fortune once. I've set my heart upon it, and
so has Nell. We want to know how gamblers feel, and to taste the
fascination of the game which draws people here from all parts of
Europe," said Amy, in her half-pleading, half-imperious way.
Back to Full Books