Tales of Trail and Town
Part 2 out of 4
active Lady Elfrida, assisted by the only gentleman of the party,
Peter Atherly, who, from his acquaintance with the locality, was
allowed to accompany them. The other gentlemen, who with a large
party of officers and soldiers were shooting in the vicinity, were
sufficiently near for protection. They would rejoin the ladies
"It does not seem in the least as if we were miles away from any
town or habitation," said Lady Runnybroke, complacently seating
herself on a stump, "and I shouldn't be surprised to see a church
tower through those trees. It's very like the hazel copse at
Longworth, you know. Not at all what I expected."
"For the matter of that neither are the Indians," said the Hon.
Evelyn Rayne. "Did you ever see such grotesque creatures in their
cast-off boots and trousers? They're no better than gypsies. I
wonder what Mr. Atherly can find in them."
"And he a rich man, too,--they say he's got a mine in California
worth a million,--to take up a craze like this," added the lively
Mrs. Captain Joyce, "that's what gets me! You know," she went on
confidentially, "that cranks and reformers are always poor--it's
quite natural; but I don't see what he, a rich man, expects to make
by his reforms, I'm sure."
"He'll get over it in time," said the Hon. Evelyn Kayne, "they all
do. At least he expects to get the reforms he wants in a year, and
then he's coming over to England again."
"Indeed, how very nice," responded Lady Runnybroke quickly. "Did
he say so?"
"No. But Friddy says he is."
The two officers' wives glanced at each other. Lady Runnybroke put
up her eyeglass in default of ostrich feathers, and said
didactically, "I'm sure Mr. Atherly is very much in earnest, and
sincerely devoted to his work. And in a man of his wealth and
position here it's most estimable. My dear," she said, getting up
and moving towards Mrs. Lascelles, "we were just saying how good
and unselfish your brother was in his work for these poor people."
But Jenny Lascelles must have been in one of those abstracted moods
which so troubled her husband, for she seemed to be staring
straight before her into the recesses of the wood. In her there
was a certain resemblance to the attitude of a listening animal.
"I wish Mr. Atherly was a little more unselfish to US poor people,"
said the Hon. Evelyn Kayne, "for he and Friddy have been nearly an
hour looking for a place to spread our luncheon baskets. I wish
they'd leave the future of the brown races to look after itself and
look a little more after us. I'm famished."
"I fancy they find it difficult to select a clear space for so
large a party as we will be when the gentlemen come in," returned
Lady Runnybroke, glancing in the direction of Jenny's abstracted
"I suppose you must feel like chicken and salad, too, Lady
Runnybroke," suggested Mrs. Captain Joyce.
"I don't think I quite know HOW chicken and salad feel, dear," said
Lady Runnybroke with a puzzled air, "but if that's one of your
husband's delightful American stories, do tell us. I never CAN get
Runnybroke to tell me any, although he roars over them all. And I
dare say he gets them all wrong. But look, here comes our luncheon."
Peter and Lady Elfrida were advancing towards them. The scrutiny
of a dozen pairs of eyes--wondering, mischievous, critical,
impertinent, or resentful--would have been a trying ordeal to any
errant couple; but there was little if any change in Peter's grave
and gentle demeanor, albeit his dark eyes were shining with a
peculiar light, and Lady Elfrida had only the animation, color, and
slight excitability that became the responsible leader of the
little party. They neither apologized or alluded to their delay.
They had selected a spot on the other side of the copse, and the
baskets could be sent around by the wagon; they had seen a slight
haze on the plain towards the east which betokened the vicinity of
the rest of the party, and they were about to propose that as the
gentlemen were so near they had better postpone the picnic until
they came up. Lady Runnybroke smiled affably; the only thing she
had noticed was that Lady Elfrida in joining them had gone directly
to the side of the abstracted Jenny, and placed her arm around her
waist. At which Lady Runnybroke airily joined them.
The surmises of Peter and Friddy appeared to be correct. The
transfer of the provisions and the party to the other side was
barely concluded before they could see the gentlemen coming; they
were riding a little more rapidly than when they had set out, and
were arriving fully three hours before their time. They burst upon
the ladies a little boisterously but gayly; they had had a glorious
time, but little sport; they had hurried back to join the ladies so
as to be able to return with them betimes. They were ravenously
hungry; they wanted to fall to at once. Only the officers' wives
noticed that the two files of troopers DID NOT DISMOUNT, but filed
slowly before the entrance to the woods. Lady Elfrida as hostess
was prettily distressed by it, but was told by Captain Joyce that
it was "against rules," and that she could "feed" them at the fort.
The officers' wives put a few questions in whispers, and were
promptly frowned down. Nevertheless, the luncheon was a successful
festivity: the gentlemen were loud in the praises of their gracious
hostess; the delicacies she had provided by express from distant
stations, and much that was distinctly English and despoiled from
her own stores, were gratefully appreciated by the officers of a
remote frontier garrison. Lady Elfrida's health was toasted by the
gallant colonel in a speech that was the soul of chivalry. Lord
Runnybroke responded, perhaps without the American abandon, but
with the steady conscientiousness of an hereditary legislator, but
the M. P. summed up a slightly exaggerated but well meaning episode
by pointing out that it was on occasions like this that the two
nations showed their common ancestry by standing side by side.
Only one thing troubled the rosy, excited, but still clear-headed
Friddy; the plates were whisked away like magic after each
delicacy, by the military servants, and vanished; the tables were
in the same mysterious way cleared as rapidly as they were set, and
any attempt to recall a dish was met by the declaration that it was
already packed away in the wagon. As they at last rose from the
actually empty board, and saw even the tables disappear, Lady
Elfrida plaintively protested that she felt as if she had been
presiding over an Arabian Nights entertainment, served by genii,
and she knew that they would all awaken hungry when they were well
on their way back. Nevertheless, in spite of this expedition, the
officers lounged about smoking until every trace of the festivity
had vanished. Reggy found himself standing near Peter. "You
know," he said, confidentially, "I don't think the colonel has a
very high opinion of your pets,--the Indians. And, by Jove, if the
'friendlies' are as nasty towards you as they were to us this
morning, I wonder what you call the 'hostile' tribes."
"Did you have any difficulty with them?" said Peter quickly.
"No, not exactly, don't you know--we were too many, I fancy; but,
by Jove, the beggars whenever we met them,--and we met one or two
gypsy bands of them,--you know, they seemed to look upon us as
TRESPASSERS, don't you know."
"And you were, in point of fact," said Peter, smiling grimly.
"Oh, I say, come now!" said Reggy, opening his eyes. After a
moment he laughed. "Oh, yes, I see--of course, looking at it from
their point of view. By Jove, I dare say the beggars were right,
you know; all the same,--don't you see,--YOUR people were poaching
"So we were," said Peter gravely.
But here, at a word from the major, the whole party debouched from
the woods. Everything appeared to be awaiting them,--the large
covered carryall for the guests, and the two saddle horses for Mrs.
Lascelles and Lady Elfrida, who had ridden there together. Peter,
also mounted, accompanied the carryall with two of the officers;
the troopers and wagons brought up the rear.
It was very hot, with little or no wind. On this part of the plain
the dust seemed lighter and finer, and rose with the wheels of the
carryall and the horses of the escort, trailing a white cloud over
the cavalcade like the smoke of an engine over a train. It was
with difficulty the troopers could be kept from opening out on both
sides of the highway to escape it. The whole atmosphere seemed
charged with it; it even appeared in a long bank to the right,
rising and obscuring the declining sun. But they were already
within sight of the fort and the little copse beside it. Then
trooper Cassidy trotted up to the colonel, who was riding in a
dusty cloud beside the carryall, "Captain Fleetwood's compliments,
sorr, and there are two sthragglers,--Mrs. Lascelles and the
English lady." He pointed to the rapidly flying figures of Jenny
and Friddy making towards the wood.
The colonel made a movement of impatience. "Tell Mr. Forsyth to
bring them back at once," he said.
But here a feminine chorus of excuses and expostulations rose from
the carryall. "It's only Mrs. Lascelles going to show Friddy where
the squaws and children bathe," said Lady Runnybroke, "it's near
the fort, and they'll be there as quick as we shall."
"One moment, colonel," said Peter, with mortified concern. "It's
another folly of my sister's! pray let me take it upon myself to
bring them back."
"Very well, but see you don't linger, and," turning to Cassidy, as
Peter galloped away, he added, "you follow him."
Peter kept the figures of the two women in view, but presently saw
them disappear in the wood. He had no fear for their safety, but
he was indignant at this last untimely caprice of his sister. He
knew the idea had originated with her, and that the officers knew
it, and yet she had made Lady Elfrida bear an equal share of the
blame. He reached the edge of the copse, entered the first
opening, but he had scarcely plunged into its shadow and shut out
the plain behind him before he felt his arms and knees quickly
seized from behind. So sudden and unexpected was the attack that
he first thought his horse had stumbled against a coil of wild
grapevine and was entangled, but the next moment he smelled the
rank characteristic odor and saw the brown limbs of the Indian who
had leaped on his crupper, while another rose at his horse's head.
Then a warning voice in his ear said in the native tongue:--
"If the great white medicine man calls to his fighting men, the
pale-faced girl and the squaw he calls his sister die! They are
here, he understands."
But Peter had neither struggled nor uttered a cry. At that touch,
and with the accents of that tongue in his ears, all his own Indian
blood seemed to leap and tingle through his veins. His eyes
flashed; pinioned as he was he drew himself erect and answered
haughtily in his captor's own speech:--
"Good! The great white medicine man obeys, for he and his sister
have no fear. But if the pale-face girl is not sent back to her
people before the sun sets, then the yellow jackets will swarm the
woods, and they will follow her trail to the death. My brother is
wise; let the girl go. I have spoken."
"My brother is very cunning too. He would call to his fighting men
through the lips of the pale-face girl."
"He will not. The great white medicine man does not lie to his red
brother. He will tell the pale-face girl to say to the chief of
the yellow jackets that he and his sister are with his brothers,
and all is peace. But the pale-face girl must not see the great
white medicine man in these bonds, nor as a captive! I have
The two Indians fell back. There was so much of force and dignity
in the man, so much of their own stoic calmness, that they at once
mechanically loosened the thongs of plaited deer hide with which
they had bound him, and side by side led him into the recesses of
. . . . . .
There was some astonishment, although little alarm at the fort,
when Lady Elfrida returned accompanied by the orderly who had
followed Peter to the wood, but without Peter and his sister. The
reason given was perfectly natural and conceivable. Mrs. Lascelles
had preceded Lady Elfrida in entering the wood and taken another
opening, so that Lady Elfrida had found herself suddenly lost, and
surrounded by two or three warriors in dreadful paint. They
motioned her to dismount, and said something she did not
understand, but she declined, knowing that she had heard Mr.
Atherly and the orderly following her, and feeling no fear. And
sure enough Mr. Atherly presently came up with a couple of braves,
apologized to her for their mistake, but begged her to return to
the fort at once and assure the colonel that everything was right,
and that he and his sister were safe. He was perfectly cool and
collected and like himself; she blushed slightly, as she said she
thought that he wished to impress upon her, for some reason she
could not understand, that he did not want the colonel to send any
assistance. She was positive of that. She told her story
unexcitedly; it was evident that she had not been frightened, but
Lady Runnybroke noticed that there was a shade of anxious
abstraction in her face.
When the officers were alone the colonel took hurried counsel of
them. "I think," said Captain Fleetwood, "that Lady Elfrida's
story quite explains itself. I believe this affair is purely a
local one, and has nothing whatever to do with the suspicious
appearances we noticed this afternoon, or the presence of so large
a body of Indians near Butternut. Had this been a hostile movement
they would have scarcely allowed so valuable a capture as Lady
Elfrida to escape them."
"Unless they kept Atherly and his sister as a hostage," said
"But Atherly is one of their friends; indeed he is their mediator
and apostle, a non-combatant, and has their confidence," returned
the colonel. "It is much more reasonable to suppose that Atherly
has noticed some disaffection among these 'friendlies,' and he
fears that our sending a party to his assistance might precipitate
a collision. Or he may have reason to believe that this stopping
of the two women under the very walls of the fort is only a feint
to draw our attention from something more serious. Did he know
anything of our suspicions of the conduct of those Indians this
"Not unless he gathered it from what Lord Reginald foolishly told
him. We said nothing, of course," returned Captain Fleetwood, with
a soldier's habitual distrust of the wisdom of the civil arm.
"That will do, gentlemen," said the colonel, as the officers
dispersed; "send Cassidy here."
The colonel was alone on the veranda as Cassidy came up.
"You followed Mr. Atherly to-day?"
"And you saw him when he gave the message to the young lady?"
"Did you form any opinion from anything else you saw, of his object
in sending that message?"
"Only from what I saw of HIM."
"Well, what was that?"
"I saw him look afther the young leddy as she rode away, and then
wheel about and go straight back into the wood."
"And what did you think of that?" said the colonel, with a half
"I thought it was shacrifice, sorr."
"What do you mean?" said the colonel sharply.
"I mane, sorr," said Cassidy stoutly, "that he was givin' up hisself
and his sister for that young leddy."
The colonel looked at the sergeant. "Ask Mr. Forsyth to come to me
privately, and return here with him."
As darkness fell, some half a dozen dismounted troopers, headed by
Forsyth and Cassidy, passed quietly out of the lower gate and
entered the wood. An hour later the colonel was summoned from the
dinner table, and the guests heard the quick rattle of a wagon
turning out of the road gate--but the colonel did not return. An
indefinable uneasiness crept over the little party, which reached
its climax in the summoning of the other officers, and the sudden
flashing out of news. The reconnoitring party had found the dead
bodies of Peter Atherly and his sister on the plains at the edge of
the empty wood.
The women were gathered in the commandant's quarters, and for the
moment seemed to have been forgotten. The officers' wives talked
with professional sympathy and disciplined quiet; the English
ladies were equally sympathetic, but collected. Lady Elfrida,
rather white, but patient, asked a few questions in a voice whose
contralto was rather deepened. One and all wished to "do
something"--anything "to help"--and one and all rebelled that the
colonel had begged them to remain within doors. There was an
occasional quick step on the veranda, or the clatter of a hoof on
the parade, a continued but subdued murmur from the whitewashed
barracks, but everywhere a sense of keen restraint.
When they emerged on the veranda again, the whole aspect of the
garrison seemed to have changed in that brief time. In the faint
moonlight they could see motionless files of troopers filling the
parade, the officers in belted tunics and slouched hats,--but
apparently not the same men; the half lounging ease and lazy
dandyism gone, a grim tension in all their faces, a set abstraction
in all their acts. Then there was the rolling of heavy wheels in
the road, and the two horses of the ambulance appeared. The
sentries presented arms; the colonel took off his hat; the officers
uncovered; the wagon wheeled into the parade; the surgeon stepped
out. He exchanged a single word with the colonel, and lifted the
curtain of the ambulance.
As the colonel glanced within, a deep but embarrassed voice fell
upon his ear. He turned quickly. It was Lord Reginald, flushed
"He was a friend,--a relation of ours, you know," he stammered.
"My sister would like--to look at him again."
"Not now," said the colonel in a low voice. The surgeon added
something in a voice still lower, which scarcely reached the
Lord Reginald turned away with a white face.
"Fall back there!" Captain Fleetwood rode up.
"All ready, sir."
"One moment, captain," said the colonel quietly. "File your first
half company before that ambulance, and bid the men look in."
The singular order was obeyed. The men filed slowly forward, each
in turn halting before the motionless wagon and its immobile
freight. They were men inured to frontier bloodshed and savage
warfare; some halted and hurried on; others lingered, others turned
to look again. One man burst into a short laugh, but when the
others turned indignantly upon him, they saw that in his face that
held them in awe. What they saw in the ambulance did not transpire;
what they felt was not known. Strangely enough, however, what they
repressed themselves was mysteriously communicated to their horses,
who snorted and quivered with eagerness and impatience as they rode
back again. The horse of the trooper who had laughed almost leaped
into the air. Only Sergeant Cassidy was communicative; he took a
larger circuit in returning to his place, and managed to lean over
and whisper hoarsely in the ear of a camp follower spectator, "Tell
the young leddy that the torturin' divvils couldn't take the smile
The little column filed out of the gateway into the road. As
Captain Fleetwood passed Colonel Carter the two men's eyes met.
The colonel said quietly, "Good night, captain. Let us have a good
report from you."
The captain replied only with his gauntleted hand against the brim
of his slouched hat, but the next moment his voice was heard strong
and clear enough in the road. The little column trotted away as
evenly as on parade. But those who climbed the roof of the
barracks a quarter of an hour later saw, in the moonlight, a white
cloud drifting rapidly across the plain towards the west. It was a
small cloud in that bare, menacing, cruel, and illimitable waste;
but in its breast was crammed a thunderbolt.
It fell thirty miles away, blasting and scattering a thousand
warriors and their camp, giving and taking no quarter, vengeful,
exterminating, and complete. Later there were different opinions
about it and the horrible crime that had provoked it: the opposers
of Peter's policy jubilant over the irony of the assassination of
the Apostle of Peace, Peter's disciples as actively deploring the
merciless and indiscriminating vengeance of the military; and so
the problem that Peter had vainly attempted to solve was left an
open question. There were those, too, who believed that Peter had
never sacrificed himself and his sister for the sake of another,
but had provoked and incensed the savages by the blind arrogance of
a reformer. There were wild stories by scouts and interpreters how
he had challenged his fate by an Indian bravado; how himself and
his sister had met torture with an Indian stoicism, and how the
Indian braves themselves at last in a turmoil of revulsion had
dipped their arrows and lances in the heroic heart's blood of their
victims, and worshiped their still palpitating flesh.
But there was one honest loyal little heart that carried back--
three thousand miles--to England the man as it had known and loved
him. Lady Elfrida Runnybroke never married; neither did she go
into retirement, but lived her life and fulfilled her duties in her
usual clear-eyed fashion. She was particularly kind to all
Americans,--barring, I fear, a few pretty-faced, finely-frocked
title-hunters,--told stories of the Far West, and had theories of a
people of which they knew little, cared less, and believed to be
vulgar. But I think she found a new pleasure in the old church at
Ashley Grange, and loved to linger over the effigy of the old
Crusader,--her kinsman, the swashbuckler De Bracy,--with a vague
but pretty belief that devotion and love do not die with brave men,
but live and flourish even in lands beyond the seas.
Perhaps if there was anything important in the migration of the
Maynard family to Europe it rested solely upon the singular fact
that Mr. Maynard did not go there in the expectation of marrying
his daughter to a nobleman. A Charleston merchant, whose house
represented two honorable generations, had, thirty years ago, a
certain self-respect which did not require extraneous aid and
foreign support, and it is exceedingly probable that his intention
of spending a few years abroad had no ulterior motive than pleasure
seeking and the observation of many things--principally of the
past--which his own country did not possess. His future and that
of his family lay in his own land, yet with practical common sense
he adjusted himself temporarily to his new surroundings. In doing
so, he had much to learn of others, and others had something to
learn of him; he found that the best people had a high simplicity
equal to his own; he corrected their impressions that a Southerner
had more or less negro blood in his veins, and that, although a
slave owner, he did not necessarily represent an aristocracy. With
a distinguishing dialect of which he was not ashamed, a frank
familiarity of approach joined to an invincible courtesy of manner,
which made even his republican "Sir" equal to the ordinary address
to royalty, he was always respected and seldom misunderstood. When
he was--it was unfortunate for those who misunderstood him. His
type was as distinctive and original as his cousin's, the
Englishman, whom it was not the fashion then to imitate. So that,
whether in the hotel of a capital, the Kursaal of a Spa, or the
humbler pension of a Swiss village, he was always characteristic.
Less so was his wife, who, with the chameleon quality of her
transplanted countrywomen, was already Parisian in dress; still
less so his daughter, who had by this time absorbed the
peculiarities of her French, German, and Italian governesses. Yet
neither had yet learned to evade their nationality--or apologize
Mr. Maynard and his family remained for three years in Europe, his
stay having been prolonged by political excitement in his own State
of South Carolina. Commerce is apt to knock the insularity out of
people; distance from one's own distinctive locality gives a wider
range to the vision, and the retired merchant foresaw ruin in his
State's politics, and from the viewpoint of all Europe beheld
instead of the usual collection of individual States--his whole
country. But the excitement increasing, he was finally impelled to
return in a faint hope of doing something to allay it, taking his
wife with him, but leaving his daughter at school in Paris. At
about this time, however, a single cannon shot fired at the
national flag on Fort Sumter shook the whole country, reverberated
even in Europe, sending some earnest hearts back to do battle for
State or country, sending others less earnest into inglorious
exile, but, saddest of all! knocking over the school bench of a
girl at the Paris pensionnat. For that shot had also sunk
Maynard's ships at the Charleston wharves, scattered his piled
Cotton bales awaiting shipment at the quays, and drove him, a
ruined man, into the "Home Guard" against his better judgment.
Helen Maynard, like a good girl, had implored her father to let her
return and share his risks. But the answer was "to wait" until
this nine days' madness of an uprising was over. That madness
lasted six years, outlived Maynard, whose gray, misdoubting head
bit the dust at Ball's Bluff; outlived his colorless widow, and
left Kelly a penniless orphan.
Yet enough of her country was left in her to make her courageous
and independent of her past. They say that when she got the news
she cried a little, and then laid the letter and what was left of
her last monthly allowance in Madame Ablas' lap. Madame was
devastated. "But you, impoverished and desolated angel, what of
you?" "I shall get some of it back," said the desolated angel with
ingenuous candor, "for I speak better French and English than the
other girls, and I shall teach THEM until I can get into the
Conservatoire, for I have a voice. You yourself have told papa
so." From such angelic directness there was no appeal. Madame
Ablas had a heart,--more, she had a French manageress's
discriminating instinct. The American schoolgirl was installed in
a teacher's desk; her bosom friends and fellow students became her
pupils. To some of the richest, and they were mainly of her own
country, she sold her smartest, latest dresses, jewels, and
trinkets at a very good figure, and put the money away against the
Conservatoire in the future. She worked hard, she endured
patiently everything but commiseration. "I'd have you know, Miss,"
she said to Miss de Laine, daughter of the famous house of Musslin,
de Laine & Co., of New York, "that whatever my position HERE may
be, it is not one to be patronized by a tapeseller's daughter. My
case is not such a very 'sad one,' thank you, and I prefer not to
be spoken of as having seen 'better days' by people who haven't.
There! Don't rap your desk with your pencil when you speak to me,
or I shall call out 'Cash!' before the whole class." So
regrettable an exhibition of temper naturally alienated certain of
her compatriots who were unduly sensitive of their origin, and as
they formed a considerable colony who were then reveling in the
dregs of the Empire and the last orgies of a tottering court,
eventually cost her her place. A republican so aristocratic was
not to be tolerated by the true-born Americans who paid court to De
Morny for the phosphorescent splendors of St. Cloud and the
Tuileries, and Miss Helen lost their favor. But she had already
saved enough money for the Conservatoire and a little attic in a
very tall house in a narrow street that trickled into the ceaseless
flow of the Rue Lafayette. Here for four years she trotted
backwards and forwards regularly to work with the freshness of
youth and the inflexible set purpose of maturity. Here, rain or
shine, summer or winter, in the mellow season when the large cafes
expanded under the white sunshine into an overflow of little tables
on the pavement, or when the red glow of the Brasserie shone
through frosty panes on the turned-up collars of pinched Parisians
who hurried by, she was always to be seen.
Half Paris had looked into her clear, gray eyes and passed on; a
smaller and not very youthful portion of Paris had turned and
followed her with small advantage to itself and happily no fear to
her. For even in her young womanhood she kept her child's loving
knowledge of that great city; she even had an innocent camaraderie
with street sweepers, kiosk keepers, and lemonade venders, and the
sternness of conciergedom melted before her. In this wholesome,
practical child's experience she naturally avoided or overlooked
what would not have interested a child, and so kept her freshness
and a certain national shrewd simplicity invincible. There is a
story told of her girlhood that, one day playing in the Tuileries
gardens, she was approached by a gentleman with a waxed mustache
and a still more waxen cheek beneath his heavy-lidded eyes. There
was an exchange of polite amenities.
"And your name, ma petite?"
"Helen," responded the young girl naively. "What's yours?"
"Ah," said the kind gentleman, gallantly pulling at his mustache,
"if you are Helen I am Paris."
The young girl raised her clear eyes to his and said gravely, "I
reckon your majesty is FRANCE!"
She retained this childish fearlessness as the poor student of the
Conservatoire; went alone all over Paris with her maiden skirts
untarnished by the gilded dust of the boulevards or the filth of
by-ways; knew all the best shops for her friends, and the cheapest
for her own scant purchases; discovered breakfasts for a few sous
with pale sempstresses, whose sadness she understood, and reckless
chorus girls, whose gayety she didn't; she knew where the earliest
chestnut buds were to be found in the Bois, when the slopes of the
Buttes Chaumont were green, and which was the old woman who sold
the cheapest flowers before the Madeleine. Alone and independent,
she earned the affection of Madame Bibelot, the concierge, and,
what was more, her confidence. Her outgoings and incomings were
never questioned. The little American could take care of herself.
Ah, if her son Jacques were only as reasonable! Miss Maynard might
have made more friends had she cared; she might have joined hands
with the innocent and light-hearted poverty of the coterie of her
own artistic compatriots, but something in her blood made her
distrust Bohemianism; her poverty was something to her too sacred
for jest or companionship; her own artistic aim was too long and
earnest for mere temporary enthusiasms. She might have found
friends in her own profession. Her professor opened the sacred
doors of his family circle to the young American girl. She
appreciated the delicacy, refinement, and cheerful equal
responsibilities of that household, so widely different from the
accepted Anglo-Saxon belief, but there were certain restrictions
that rightly or wrongly galled her American habits of girlish
freedom, and she resolutely tripped past the first etage four or
five flights higher to her attic, the free sky, and independence!
Here she sometimes met another kind of independence in Monsieur
Alphonse, aged twenty two, and she who ought to have been Madame
Alphonse, aged seventeen, and they often exchanged greetings on the
landing with great respect towards each other, and, oddly enough,
no confusion or distrait. Later they even borrowed each other's
matches without fear and without reproach, until one day Monsieur
Alphonse's parents took him away, and the desolated soi-disant
Madame Alphonse, in a cheerful burst of confidence, gave Helen her
private opinion of monsieur, and from her seventeen years'
experience warned the American infant of twenty against possible
One day--it was near the examination for prizes, and her funds were
running low--she was obliged to seek one of those humbler
restaurants she knew of for her frugal breakfast. But she was not
hungry, and after a few mouthfuls left her meal unfinished as a
young man entered and half abstractedly took a seat at her table.
She had already moved towards the comptoir to pay her few sous,
when, chancing to look up in a mirror which hung above the counter,
reflecting the interior of the cafe, she saw the stranger, after
casting a hurried glance around him, remove from her plate the
broken roll and even the crumbs she had left, and as hurriedly
sweep them into his pocket-handkerchief. There was nothing very
strange in this; she had seen something like it before in these
humbler cafes,--it was a crib for the birds in the Tuileries
Gardens, or the poor artist's substitute for rubber in correcting
his crayon drawing! But there was a singular flushing of his
handsome face in the act that stirred her with a strange pity, made
her own cheek hot with sympathy, and compelled her to look at him
more attentively. The back that was turned towards her was broad-
shouldered and symmetrical, and showed a frame that seemed to
require stronger nourishment than the simple coffee and roll he had
ordered and was devouring slowly. His clothes, well made though
worn, fitted him in a smart, soldier-like way, and accentuated his
decided military bearing. The singular use of his left hand in
lifting his cup made her uneasy, until a slight movement revealed
the fact that his right sleeve was empty and pinned to his coat.
He was one-armed. She turned her compassionate eyes aside, yet
lingered to make a few purchases at the counter, as he paid his
bill and walked away. But she was surprised to see that he
tendered the waiter the unexampled gratuity of a sou. Perhaps he
was some eccentric Englishman; he certainly did not look like a
She had quite forgotten the incident, and in the afternoon had
strolled with a few fellow pupils into the galleries of the Louvre.
It was "copying-day," and as her friends loitered around the easels
of the different students with the easy consciousness of being
themselves "artists," she strolled on somewhat abstractedly before
them. Her own art was too serious to permit her much sympathy with
another, and in the chatter of her companions with the young
painters a certain levity disturbed her. Suddenly she stopped.
She had reached a less frequented room; there was a single easel at
one side, but the stool before it was empty, and its late occupant
was standing in a recess by the window, with his back towards her.
He had drawn a silk handkerchief from his pocket. She recognized
his square shoulders, she recognized the handkerchief, and as he
unrolled it she recognized the fragments of her morning's breakfast
as he began to eat them. It was the one-armed man.
She remained so motionless and breathless that he finished his scant
meal without noticing her, and even resumed his place before the
easel without being aware of her presence. The noise of approaching
feet gave a fresh impulse to her own, and she moved towards him.
But he was evidently accustomed to these interruptions, and worked
on steadily without turning his head. As the other footsteps passed
her she was emboldened to take a position behind him and glance at
his work. It was an architectural study of one of Canaletto's
palaces. Even her inexperienced eyes were struck with its vigor and
fidelity. But she was also conscious of a sense of disappointment.
Why was he not--like the others--copying one of the masterpieces?
Becoming at last aware of a motionless woman behind him, he rose,
and with a slight gesture of courtesy and a half-hesitating "Vous
verrez mieux la, mademoiselle," moved to one side.
"Thank you," said Miss Maynard in English, "but I did not want to
He glanced quickly at her face for the first time. "Ah, you are
English!" he said.
"No. I am American."
His face lightened. "So am I."
"I thought so," she said.
"From my bad French?"
"No. Because you did not look up to see if the woman you were
polite to was old or young."
He smiled. "And you, mademoiselle,--you did not murmur a compliment
to the copy over the artist's back."
She smiled, too, yet with a little pang over the bread. But she
was relieved to see that he evidently had not recognized her. "You
are modest," she said; "you do not attempt masterpieces."
"Oh, no! The giants like Titian and Corregio must be served with
both hands. I have only one," he said half lightly, half sadly.
"But you have been a soldier," she said with quick intuition.
"Not much. Only during our war,--until I was compelled to handle
nothing larger than a palette knife. Then I came home to New York,
and, as I was no use there, I came here to study."
"I am from South Carolina," she said quietly, with a rising color.
He put his palette down, and glanced at her black dress. "Yes,"
she went on doggedly, "my father lost all his property, and was
killed in battle with the Northerners. I am an orphan,--a pupil of
the Conservatoire." It was never her custom to allude to her
family or her lost fortunes; she knew not why she did it now, but
something impelled her to rid her mind of it to him at once. Yet
she was pained at his grave and pitying face.
"I am very sorry," he said simply. Then, after a pause, he added,
with a gentle smile, "At all events you and I will not quarrel here
under the wings of the French eagles that shelter us both."
"I only wanted to explain why I was alone in Paris," she said, a
little less aggressively.
He replied by unhooking his palette, which was ingeniously fastened
by a strap over his shoulder under the missing arm, and opened a
portfolio of sketches at his side. "Perhaps they may interest you
more than the copy, which I have attempted only to get at this
man's method. They are sketches I have done here."
There was a buttress of Notre Dame, a black arch of the Pont Neuf,
part of an old courtyard in the Faubourg St. Germain,--all very
fresh and striking. Yet, with the recollection of his poverty in
her mind, she could not help saying, "But if you copied one of
those masterpieces, you know you could sell it. There is always a
demand for that work."
"Yes," he replied, "but these help me in my line, which is
architectural study. It is, perhaps, not very ambitious," he added
thoughtfully, "but," brightening up again, "I sell these sketches,
too. They are quite marketable, I assure you."
Helen's heart sank again. She remembered now to have seen such
sketches--she doubted not they were his--in the cheap shops in the
Rue Poissoniere, ticketed at a few francs each. She was silent as
he patiently turned them over. Suddenly she uttered a little cry.
He had just uncovered a little sketch of what seemed at first sight
only a confused cluster of roof tops, dormer windows, and chimneys,
level with the sky-line. But it was bathed in the white sunshine
of Paris, against the blue sky she knew so well. There, too, were
the gritty crystals and rust of the tiles, the red, brown, and
greenish mosses of the gutters, and lower down the more vivid
colors of geraniums and pansies in flower-pots under the white
dimity curtains which hid the small panes of garret windows; yet
every sordid detail touched and transfigured with the poetry and
romance of youth and genius.
"You have seen this?" she said.
"Yes; it is a study from my window. One must go high for such
effects. You would be surprised if you could see how different the
air and sunshine"--
"No," she interrupted gently, "I HAVE seen it."
"You?" he repeated, gazing at her curiously.
Helen ran the point of her slim finger along the sketch until it
reached a tiny dormer window in the left-hand corner, half-hidden
by an irregular chimney-stack. The curtains were closely drawn.
Keeping her finger upon the spot, she said, interrogatively, "And
you saw THAT window?"
"Yes, quite plainly. I remember it was always open, and the room
seemed empty from early morning to evening, when the curtains were
"It is my room," she said simply.
Their eyes met with this sudden confession of their equal poverty.
"And mine," he said gayly, "from which this view was taken, is in
the rear and still higher up on the other street."
They both laughed as if some singular restraint had been removed;
Helen even forgot the incident of the bread in her relief. Then
they compared notes of their experiences, of their different
concierges, of their housekeeping, of the cheap stores and the
cheaper restaurants of Paris,--except one. She told him her name,
and learned that his was Philip, or, if she pleased, Major
Ostrander. Suddenly glancing at her companions, who were
ostentatiously lingering at a little distance, she became conscious
for the first time that she was talking quite confidentially to a
very handsome man, and for a brief moment wished, she knew not why,
that he had been plainer. This momentary restraint was accented by
the entrance of a lady and gentleman, rather distingue in dress and
bearing, who had stopped before them, and were eying equally the
artist, his work, and his companion with somewhat insolent
curiosity. Helen felt herself stiffening; her companion drew
himself up with soldierly rigidity. For a moment it seemed as if,
under that banal influence, they would part with ceremonious
continental politeness, but suddenly their hands met in a national
handshake, and with a frank smile they separated.
Helen rejoined her companions.
"So you have made a conquest of the recently acquired but unknown
Greek statue?" said Mademoiselle Renee lightly. "You should take
up a subscription to restore his arm, ma petite, if there is a
modern sculptor who can do it. You might suggest it to the two
Russian cognoscenti, who have been hovering around him as if they
wanted to buy him as well as his work. Madame La Princesse is rich
enough to indulge her artistic taste."
"It is a countryman of mine," said Helen simply.
"He certainly does not speak French," said mademoiselle mischievously.
"Nor think it," responded Helen with equal vivacity. Nevertheless,
she wished she had seen him alone.
She thought nothing more of him that day in her finishing exercises.
But the next morning as she went to open her window after dressing,
she drew back with a new consciousness, and then, making a peephole
in the curtain, looked over the opposite roofs. She had seen them
many times before, but now they had acquired a new picturesqueness,
which as her view was, of course, the reverse of the poor painter's
sketch, must have been a transfigured memory of her own. Then she
glanced curiously along the line of windows level with hers. All
these, however, with their occasional revelations of the menage
behind them, were also familiar to her, but now she began to wonder
which was his. A singular instinct at last impelled her to lift her
eyes. Higher in the corner house, and so near the roof that it
scarcely seemed possible for a grown man to stand upright behind it,
was an oeil de boeuf looking down upon the other roofs, and framed
in that circular opening like a vignette was the handsome face of
Major Ostrander. His eyes seemed to be turned towards her window.
Her first impulse was to open it and recognize him with a friendly
nod. But an odd mingling of mischief and shyness made her turn away
Nevertheless, she met him the next morning walking slowly so near
her house that their encounter might have been scarcely accidental
on his part. She walked with him as far as the Conservatoire. In
the light of the open street she thought he looked pale and hollow-
cheeked; she wondered if it was from his enforced frugality, and
was trying to conceive some elaborate plan of obliging him to
accept her hospitality at least for a single meal, when he said:--
"I think you have brought me luck, Miss Maynard."
Helen opened her eyes wonderingly.
"The two Russian connoisseurs who stared at us so rudely were
pleased, however, to also stare at my work. They offered me a
fabulous sum for one or two of my sketches. It didn't seem to me
quite the square thing to old Favel the picture-dealer, whom I had
forced to take a lot at one fifteenth the price, so I simply
referred them to him."
"No!" said Miss Helen indignantly; "you were not so foolish?"
"I'm afraid what you call my folly didn't avail, for they wanted
what they saw in my portfolio."
"Of course," said Helen. "Why, that sketch of the housetop alone
was worth a hundred times more than what you"-- She stopped; she
did not like to reveal what he got for his pictures, and added,
"more than what any of those usurers would give."
"I am glad you think so well of it, for I do not mean to sell it,"
he said simply, yet with a significance that kept her silent.
She did not see him again for several days. The preparation for
her examination left her no time, and her earnest concentration in
her work fully preoccupied her thoughts. She was surprised, but
not disturbed, on the day of the awards to see him among the
audience of anxious parents and relations. Miss Helen Maynard did
not get the first prize, nor yet the second; an accessit was her
only award. She did not know until afterwards that this had long
been a foregone conclusion of her teachers on account of some
intrinsic defect in her voice. She did not know until long
afterwards that the handsome painter's nervousness on that occasion
had attracted even the sympathy of some of those who were near him.
For she herself had been calm and collected. No one else knew how
crushing was the blow which shattered her hopes and made her three
years of labor and privation a useless struggle. Yet though no
longer a pupil she could still teach; her master had found her a
small patronage that saved her from destitution. That night she
circled up quite cheerfully in her usual swallow flight to her nest
under the eaves, and even twittered on the landing a little over
the condolences of the concierge--who knew, mon Dieu! what a beast
the director of the Conservatoire was and how he could be bribed;
but when at last her brown head sank on her pillow she cried--just
But what was all this to that next morning--the glorious spring
morning which bathed all the roofs of Paris with warmth and hope,
rekindling enthusiasm and ambition in the breast of youth, and
gilding even much of the sordid dirt below. It seemed quite
natural that she should meet Major Ostrander not many yards away as
she sallied out. In that bright spring sunshine and the hopeful
spring of their youth they even laughed at the previous day's
disappointment. Ah! what a claque it was, after all! For himself,
he, Ostrander, would much rather see that satin-faced Parisian girl
who had got the prize smirking at the critics from the boards of
the Grand Opera than his countrywoman! The Conservatoire settled
things for Paris, but Paris wasn't the world! America would come
to the fore yet in art of all kinds--there was a free academy there
now--there should be a Conservatoire of its own. Of course, Paris
schooling and Paris experience weren't to be despised in art; but,
thank heaven! she had THAT, and no directors could take it from
her! This and much more, until, comparing notes, they suddenly
found that they were both free for that day. Why should they not
take advantage of that rare weather and rarer opportunity to make a
little suburban excursion? But where? There was the Bois, but
that was still Paris. Fontainebleau? Too far; there were always
artists sketching in the forest, and he would like for that day to
"sink the shop." Versailles? Ah, yes! Versailles!
Thither they went. It was not new to either of them. Ostrander
knew it as an artist and as an American reader of that French
historic romance--a reader who hurried over the sham intrigues of
the Oeil de Boeuf, the sham pastorals of the Petit Trianon, and the
sham heroics of a shifty court, to get to Lafayette. Helen knew it
as a child who had dodged these lessons from her patriotic father,
but had enjoyed the woods, the parks, the terraces, and particularly
the restaurant at the park gates. That day they took it like a boy
and girl,--with the amused, omniscient tolerance of youth for a past
so inferior to the present. Ostrander thought this gray-eyed,
independent American-French girl far superior to the obsequious
filles d'honneur, whose brocades had rustled through those
quinquonces, and Helen vaguely realized the truth of her fellow
pupil's mischievous criticism of her companion that day at the
Louvre. Surely there was no classical statue here comparable to the
All this was as yet free from either sentiment or passion, and was
only the frank pride of friendship. But, oddly enough, their mere
presence and companionship seemed to excite in others that
tenderness they had not yet felt themselves. Family groups watched
the handsome pair in their innocent confidences, and, with French
exuberant recognition of sentiment, thought them the incarnation of
Love. Something in their manifest equality of condition kept even
the vainest and most susceptible of spectators from attempted
rivalry or cynical interruption. And when at last they dropped
side by side on a sun-warmed stone bench on the terrace, and Helen,
inclining her brown head towards her companion, informed him of the
difficulty she had experienced in getting gumbo soup, rice and
chicken, corn cakes, or any of her favorite home dishes in Paris,
an exhausted but gallant boulevardier rose from a contiguous bench,
and, politely lifting his hat to the handsome couple, turned slowly
away from what he believed were tender confidences he would not
permit himself to hear.
But the shadow of the trees began to lengthen, casting broad bars
across the alle, and the sun sank lower to the level of their eyes.
They were quite surprised, on looking around a few moments later,
to discover that the gardens were quite deserted, and Ostrander, on
consulting his watch, found that they had just lost a train which
the other pleasure-seekers had evidently availed themselves of. No
matter; there was another train an hour later; they could still
linger for a few moments in the brief sunset and then dine at the
local restaurant before they left. They both laughed at their
forgetfulness, and then, without knowing why, suddenly lapsed into
silence. A faint wind blew in their faces and trilled the thin
leaves above their heads. Nothing else moved. The long windows of
the palace in that sunset light seemed to glisten again with the
incendiary fires of the Revolution, and then went out blankly and
abruptly. The two companions felt that they possessed the terrace
and all its memories as completely as the shadows who had lived and
"I am so glad we have had this day together," said the painter,
with a very conscious breaking of the silence, "for I am leaving
Helen raised her eyes quickly to his.
"For a few days only," he continued. "My Russian customers--
perhaps I ought to say my patrons--have given me a commission to
make a study of an old chateau which the princess lately bought."
A swift recollection of her fellow pupil's raillery regarding the
princess's possible attitude towards the painter came over her and
gave a strange artificiality to her response.
"I suppose you will enjoy it very much," she said dryly.
"No," he returned with the frankness that she had lacked. "I'd
much rather stay in Paris, but," he added with a faint smile, "it's
a question of money, and that is not to be despised. Yet I--I--
somehow feel that I am deserting you,--leaving you here all alone
"I've been all alone for four years," she said, with a bitterness
she had never felt before, "and I suppose I'm accustomed to it."
Nevertheless she leaned a little forward, with her fawn-colored
lashes dropped over her eyes, which were bent upon the ground and
the point of the parasol she was holding with her little gloved
hands between her knees. He wondered why she did not look up; he
did not know that it was partly because there were tears in her
eyes and partly for another reason. As she had leaned forward his
arm had quite unconsciously moved along the back of the bench where
her shoulders had rested, and she could not have resumed her
position except in his half embrace.
He had not thought of it. He was lost in a greater abstraction.
That infinite tenderness,--far above a woman's,--the tenderness of
strength and manliness towards weakness and delicacy, the
tenderness that looks down and not up, was already possessing him.
An instinct of protection drew him nearer this bowed but charming
figure, and if he then noticed that the shoulders were pretty, and
the curves of the slim waist symmetrical, it was rather with a
feeling of timidity and a half-consciousness of unchivalrous
thought. Yet why should he not try to keep the brave and honest
girl near him always? Why should he not claim the right to protect
her? Why should they not--they who were alone in a strange land--
join their two lonely lives for mutual help and happiness?
A sudden perception of delicacy, the thought that he should have
spoken before her failure at the Conservatoire had made her feel
her helplessness, brought a slight color to his cheek. Would it
not seem to her that he was taking an unfair advantage of her
misfortune? Yet it would be so easy now to slip a loving arm
around her waist, while he could work for her and protect her with
the other. THE OTHER! His eye fell on his empty sleeve. Ah, he
had forgotten that! He had but ONE arm!
He rose up abruptly,--so abruptly that Helen, rising too, almost
touched the arm that was hurriedly withdrawn. Yet in that
accidental contact, which sent a vague tremor through the young
girl's frame, there was still time for him to have spoken. But he
"Perhaps we had better dine."
She assented quickly,--she knew not why,--with a feeling of relief.
They walked very quietly and slowly towards the restaurant. Not a
word of love had been spoken; not even a glance of understanding
had passed between them. Yet they both knew by some mysterious
instinct that a crisis of their lives had come and gone, and that
they never again could be to each other as they were but a brief
moment ago. They talked very sensibly and gravely during their
frugal meal; the previous spectator of their confidences would have
now thought them only simple friends and have been as mistaken as
before. They talked freely of their hopes and prospects,--all save
one! They even spoke pleasantly of repeating their little
expedition after his return from the country, while in their secret
hearts they had both resolved never to see each other again. Yet
by that sign each knew that this was love, and were proud of each
other's pride, which kept it a secret.
The train was late, and it was past ten o'clock when they at last
appeared before the concierge of Helen's home. During their
journey, and while passing though the crowds at the station and in
the streets, Ostrander had exhibited a new and grave guardianship
over the young girl, and, on the first landing, after a
scrutinizing and an almost fierce glance at one or two of Helen's
odd fellow lodgers, he had extended his protection so far as to
accompany her up the four flights to the landing of her apartment.
Here he took leave of her with a grave courtesy that half pained,
half pleased her. She watched his broad shoulders and dangling
sleeve as he went down the stairs, and then quickly turned, entered
her room, and locked the door. The smile had faded from her lips.
Going to the window, she pressed her hot forehead against the cool
glass and looked out upon the stars nearly level with the black
roofs around her. She stood there some moments until another star
appeared higher up against the roof ridge, the star she was looking
for. But here the glass pane before her eyes became presently dim
with moisture; she was obliged to rub it out with her handkerchief;
yet, somehow, it soon became clouded, at which she turned sharply
away and went to bed.
But Miss Helen did not know that when she had looked after the
retreating figure of her protector as he descended the stairs that
night that he was really carrying away on those broad shoulders the
character she had so laboriously gained during her four years'
solitude. For when she came down the next morning the concierge
bowed to her with an air of easy, cynical abstraction, the result
of a long conversation with his wife the night before. He had
taken Helen's part with a kindly cynicism. "Ah! what would you--it
was bound to come. The affair of the Conservatoire had settled
that. The poor child could not starve; penniless, she could not
marry. Only why consort with other swallows under the eaves when
she could have had a gilded cage on the first etage?" But girls
were so foolish--in their first affair; then it was always LOVE!
The second time they were wiser. And this maimed warrior and
painter was as poor as she. A compatriot, too; well, perhaps that
saved some scandal; one could never know what the Americans were
accustomed to do. The first floor, which had been inclined to be
civil to the young teacher, was more so, but less respectful; one
or two young men were tentatively familiar until they looked in her
gray eyes and remembered the broad shoulders of the painter. Oddly
enough, only Mademoiselle Fifine, of her own landing, exhibited any
sympathy with her, and for the first time Helen was frightened.
She did not show it, however, only she changed her lodgings the
next day. But before she left she had a few moments' conversation
with the concierge and an exchange of a word or two with some of
her fellow lodgers. I have already hinted that the young lady had
great precision of statement; she had a pretty turn for handling
colloquial French and an incisive knowledge of French character.
She left No. 34, Rue de Frivole, working itself into a white rage,
but utterly undecided as to her real character.
But all this and much more was presently blown away in the hot
breath that swept the boulevards at the outburst of the Franco-
German War, and Miss Helen Maynard disappeared from Paris with many
of her fellow countrymen. The excitement reached even a quaint old
chateau in Brittany where Major Ostrander was painting. The woman
who was standing by his side as he sat before his easel on the
broad terrace observed that he looked disturbed.
"What matters?" she said gently. "You have progressed so well in
your work that you can finish it elsewhere. I have no great desire
to stay in France with a frontier garrisoned by troops while I have
a villa in Switzerland where you could still be my guest. Paris
can teach you nothing more, my friend; you have only to create now--
and be famous."
"I must go to Paris," he said quietly. "I have friends--
countrymen--there, who may want me now."
"If you mean the young singer of the Rue de Frivole, you have
compromised her already. You can do her no good."
The pretty face which he had been familiar with for the past six
weeks somehow seemed to change its character. Under the mask of
dazzling skin he fancied he saw the high cheek-bones and square
Tartar angle; the brilliant eyes were even brighter than before,
but they showed more of the white than he had ever seen in them.
Nevertheless she smiled, with an equally stony revelation of her
white teeth, yet said, still gently, "Forgive me if I thought our
friendship justified me in being frank,--perhaps too frank for my
She stopped as if half expecting an interruption; but as he
remained looking wonderingly at her, she bit her lip, and went on:
"You have a great career before you. Those who help you must do so
without entangling you; a chain of roses may be as impeding as
lead. Until you are independent, you--who may in time compass
everything yourself--will need to be helped. You know," she added
with a smile, "you have but one arm."
"In your kindness and appreciation you have made me forget it," he
stammered. Yet he had a swift vision of the little bench at
Versailles where he had NOT forgotten it, and as he glanced around
the empty terrace where they stood he was struck with a fateful
resemblance to it.
"And I should not remind you now of it," she went on, "except to
say that money can always take its place. As in the fairy story,
the prince must have a new arm made of gold." She stopped, and
then suddenly coming closer to him said, hurriedly and almost
fiercely, "Can you not see that I am advising you against my
interests,--against myself? Go, then, to Paris, and go quickly,
before I change my mind. Only if you do not find your friends
there, remember you have always ONE here." Before he could reply,
or even understand that white face, she was gone.
He left for Paris that afternoon. He went directly to the Rue de
Frivole; his old resolution to avoid Helen was blown to the winds
in the prospect of losing her utterly. But the concierge only knew
that mademoiselle had left a day or two after monsieur had
accompanied her home. And, pointedly, there was another gentleman
who had inquired eagerly--and bountifully as far as money went--for
any trace of the young lady. It was a Russe. The concierge smiled
to himself at Ostrander's flushed cheek. It served this one-armed,
conceited American poseur right. Mademoiselle was wiser in this
Ostrander did not finish his picture. The princess sent him a
cheque, which he coldly returned. Nevertheless he had acquired
through his Russian patronage a local fame which stood him well
with the picture dealers,--in spite of the excitement of the war.
But his heart was no longer in his work; a fever of unrest seized
him, which at another time might have wasted itself in mere
dissipation. Some of his fellow artists had already gone into the
army. After the first great reverses he offered his one arm and
his military experience to that Paris which had given him a home.
The old fighting instinct returned to him with a certain
desperation he had never known before. In the sorties from Paris
the one-armed American became famous, until a few days before the
capitulation, when he was struck down by a bullet through the lung,
and left in a temporary hospital. Here in the whirl and terror of
Commune days he was forgotten, and when Paris revived under the
republic he had disappeared as completely as his compatriot Helen.
But Miss Helen Maynard had been only obscured and not extinguished.
At the first outbreak of hostilities a few Americans had still kept
giddy state among the ruins of the tottering empire. A day or two
after she left the Rue de Frivole she was invited by one of her
wealthy former schoolmates to assist with her voice and talent at
one of their extravagant entertainments. "You will understand,
dear," said Miss de Laine, with ingenious delicacy, as she eyed her
old comrade's well-worn dress, "that Poppa expects to pay you
professional prices, and it may be an opening for you among our
"I should not come otherwise, dear," said Miss Helen with equal
frankness. But she played and sang very charmingly to the
fashionable assembly in the Champs Elysees,--so charmingly, indeed,
that Miss de Laine patronizingly expatiated upon her worth and her
better days in confidence to some of the guests.
"A most deserving creature," said Miss de Laine to the dowager
duchess of Soho, who was passing through Paris on her way to
England; "you would hardly believe that Poppa knew her father when
he was one of the richest men in South Carolina."
"Your father seems to have been very fortunate," said the duchess
quietly, "and so are YOU. Introduce me."
This not being exactly the reply that Miss de Laine expected, she
momentarily hesitated: but the duchess profited by it to walk over
to the piano and introduce herself. When she rose to go she
invited Helen to luncheon with her the next day. "Come early, my
dear, and we'll have a long talk." Helen pointed out hesitatingly
that she was practically a guest of the de Laines. "Ah, well,
that's true, my dear; then you may bring one of them with you."
Helen went to the luncheon, but was unaccompanied. She had a long
talk with the dowager. "I am not rich, my dear, like your friends,
and cannot afford to pay ten napoleons for a song. Like you I have
seen 'better days.' But this is no place for you, child, and if
you can bear with an old woman's company for a while I think I can
find you something to do." That evening Helen left for England
with the duchess, a piece of "ingratitude, indelicacy, and
shameless snobbery," which Miss de Laine was never weary of
dilating upon. "And to think I introduced her, though she was a
. . . . . .
It was three years after. Paris, reviving under the republic, had
forgotten Helen and the American colony; and the American colony,
emigrating to more congenial courts, had forgotten Paris.
It was a bleak day of English summer when Helen, standing by the
window of the breakfast-room at Hamley Court, and looking over the
wonderful lawn, kept perennially green by humid English skies,
heard the practical, masculine voice of the duchess in her ear at
the same moment that she felt the gentle womanly touch of her hand
on her shoulder.
"We are going to luncheon at Moreland Hall to-day, my dear."
"Why, we were there only last week!" said Helen.
"Undoubtedly," returned the duchess dryly, "and we may luncheon
there next week and the next following. And," she added, looking
into her companion's gray eyes, "it rests with YOU to stay there if
Helen stared at her protector.
"My dear," continued the duchess, slipping her arm around Helen's
waist, "Sir James has honored ME--as became my relations to YOU--
with his confidences. As you haven't given me YOURS I suppose you
have none, and that I am telling you news when I say that Sir James
wishes to marry you."
The unmistakable astonishment in the girl's eye satisfied the
duchess even before her voice.
"But he scarcely knows me or anything of me!" said the young girl
"On the contrary, my dear, he knows EVERYTHING about you. I have
been particular in telling him all I know--and some things even YOU
don't know and couldn't tell him. For instance, that you are a
very nice person. Come, my dear, don't look so stupefied, or I
shall really think there's something in it that I don't know. It's
not a laughing nor a crying matter yet--at present it's only
luncheon again with a civil man who has three daughters and a place
in the county. Don't make the mistake, however, of refusing him
before he offers--whatever you do afterwards."
"But--you are going to say that you don't love him and have never
thought of him as a husband," interrupted the duchess; "I read it
in your face,--and it's a very proper thing to say."
"It is so unexpected," urged Helen.
"Everything is unexpected from a man in these matters," said the
duchess. "We women are the only ones that are prepared."
"But," persisted Helen, "if I don't want to marry at all?"
"I should say, then, that it is a sign that you ought; if you were
eager, my dear, I should certainly dissuade you." She paused, and
then drawing Helen closer to her, said, with a certain masculine
tenderness, "As long as I live, dear, you know that you have a home
here. But I am an old woman living on the smallest of settlements.
Death is as inevitable to me as marriage should be to you."
Nevertheless, they did not renew the conversation, and later
received the greetings of their host at Moreland Hall with a
simplicity and frankness that were, however, perfectly natural and
unaffected in both women. Sir James,--a tall, well-preserved man
of middle age, with the unmistakable bearing of long years of
recognized and unchallenged position,--however, exhibited on this
occasion that slight consciousness of weakness and susceptibility
to ridicule which is apt to indicate the invasion of the tender
passion in the heart of the average Briton. His duty as host
towards the elder woman of superior rank, however, covered his
embarrassment, and for a moment left Helen quite undisturbed to
gaze again upon the treasures of the long drawing-room of Moreland
Hall with which she was already familiar. There were the half-
dozen old masters, whose respectability had been as recognized
through centuries as their owner's ancestors; there were the
ancestors themselves,--wigged, ruffled, and white-handed, by
Vandyke, Lely, Romney, and Gainsborough; there were the uniform,
expressionless ancestresses in stiff brocade or short-waisted,
clinging draperies, but all possessing that brilliant coloring
which the gray skies outside lacked, and which seemed to have
departed from the dresses of their descendants. The American girl
had sometimes speculated upon what might have been the appearance
of the lime-tree walk, dotted with these gayly plumaged folk, and
wondered if the tyranny of environment had at last subdued their
brilliant colors. And a new feeling touched her. Like most of her
countrywomen, she was strongly affected by the furniture of life;
the thought that all that she saw there MIGHT BE HERS; that she
might yet stand in succession to these strange courtiers and
stranger shepherdesses, and, like them, look down from the canvas
upon the intruding foreigner, thrilled her for a moment with a
half-proud, half-passive sense of yielding to what seemed to be her
fate. A narrow-eyed, stiff-haired Dutch maid of honor before whom
she was standing gazed at her with staring vacancy. Suddenly she
started. Before the portrait upon a fanciful easel stood a small
elaborately framed sketch in oils. It was evidently some recently
imported treasure. She had not seen it before. As she moved
quickly forward, she recognized at a glance that it was Ostrander's
sketch from the Paris grenier.
The wall, the room, the park beyond, even the gray sky, seemed to
fade away before her. She was standing once more at her attic
window looking across the roofs and chimney stacks upward to the
blue sky of Paris. Through a gap in the roofs she could see the
chestnut-trees trilling in the little square; she could hear the
swallows twittering in the leaden troughs of the gutter before her;
the call of the chocolate vender or the cry of a gamin floated up
to her from the street below, or the latest song of the cafe
chantant was whistled by the blue-bloused workman on the
scaffolding hard by. The breath of Paris, of youth, of blended
work and play, of ambition, of joyous freedom, again filled her and
mingled with the scent of the mignonette that used to stand on the
"I am glad you like it. I have only just put it up."
It was the voice of Sir James--a voice that had regained a little
of its naturalness--a calm, even lazy English voice--confident from
the experience of years of respectful listeners. Yet it somehow
jarred upon her nerves with its complacency and its utter
incongruousness to her feelings. Nevertheless, the impulse to know
more about the sketch was the stronger.
"Do you mean you have just bought it?" asked Helen. "It's not
"No," said Sir James, gratified with his companion's interest. "I
bought it in Paris just after the Commune."
"From the artist?" continued Helen, in a slightly constrained
"No," said Sir James, "although I knew the poor chap well enough.
You can easily see that he was once a painter of great promise. I
rather think it was stolen from him while he was in hospital by
those incendiary wretches. I recognized it, however, and bought
for a few francs from them what I would have paid HIM a thousand
"In hospital?" repeated Helen dazedly.
"Yes," said Sir James. "The fact is it was the ending of the usual
Bohemian artist's life. Though in this case the man was a real
artist,--and I believe, by the way, was a countryman of yours."
"In hospital?" again repeated Helen. "Then he was poor?"
"Reckless, I should rather say; he threw himself into the fighting
before Paris and was badly wounded. But it was all the result of
the usual love affair--the girl, they say, ran off with the usual
richer man. At all events, it ruined him for painting; he never
did anything worth having afterwards."
"And now?" said Helen in the same unmoved voice.
Sir James shrugged his shoulders. "He disappeared. Probably he'll
turn up some day on the London pavement--with chalks. That sketch,
by the way, was one that had always attracted me to his studio--
though he never would part with it. I rather fancy, don't you
know, that the girl had something to do with it. It's a
wonderfully realistic sketch, don't you see; and I shouldn't wonder
if it was the girl herself who lived behind one of those queer
little windows in the roof there."
"She did live there," said Helen in a low voice.
Sir James uttered a vague laugh. Helen looked around her. The
duchess had quietly and unostentatiously passed into the library,
and in full view, though out of hearing, was examining, with her
glass to her eye, some books upon the shelves.
"I mean," said Helen, in a perfectly clear voice, "that the young
girl did NOT run away from the painter, and that he had neither the
right nor the cause to believe her faithless or attribute his
misfortunes to her." She hesitated, not from any sense of her
indiscretion, but to recover from a momentary doubt if the girl
were really her own self--but only for a moment.
"Then you knew the painter, as I did?" he said in astonishment.
"Not as YOU did," responded Helen. She drew nearer the picture,
and, pointing a slim finger to the canvas, said:--
"Do you see that small window with the mignonette?"
"That was MY room. His was opposite. He told me so when I first
saw the sketch. I am the girl you speak of, for he knew no other,
and I believe him to have been a truthful, honorable man."
"But what were you doing there? Surely you are joking?" said Sir
James, with a forced smile.
"I was a poor pupil at the Conservatoire, and lived where I could
afford to live."
"And the man was"--
"Major Ostrander was my friend. I even think I have a better right
to call him that than you had."
Sir James coughed slightly and grasped the lapel of his coat. "Of
course; I dare say; I had no idea of this, don't you know, when I
spoke." He looked around him as if to evade a scene. "Ah! suppose
we ask the duchess to look at the sketch; I don't think she's seen
it." He began to move in the direction of the library.
"She had better wait," said Helen quietly.
"Until"--hesitated Helen smilingly.
"Until? I am afraid I don't understand," said Sir James stiffly,
coloring with a slight suspicion.
"Until you have APOLOGIZED."
"Of course," said Sir James, with a half-hysteric laugh. "I do.
You understand I only repeated a story that was told me, and had no
idea of connecting YOU with it. I beg your pardon, I'm sure. I
er--er--in fact," he added suddenly, the embarrassed smile fading
from his face as he looked at her fixedly, "I remember now it must
have been the concierge of the house, or the opposite one, who told
me. He said it was a Russian who carried off that young girl. Of
course it was some made-up story."
"I left Paris with the duchess," said Helen quietly, "before the
"Of course. And she knows all about your friendship with this
"I don't think she does. I haven't told her. Why should I?"
returned Helen, raising her clear eyes to his.
"Really, I don't know," stammered Sir James. "But here she is. Of
course if you prefer it, I won't say anything of this to her."
Helen gave him her first glance of genuine emotion; it happened,
however, to be scorn.
"How odd!" she said, as the duchess leisurely approached them, her
glass still in her eye. "Sir James, quite unconsciously, has just
been showing me a sketch of my dear old mansarde in Paris. Look!
That little window was my room. And, only think of it, Sir James
bought it of an old friend of mine, who painted it from the
opposite attic, where he lived. And quite unconsciously, too."
"How very singular!" said the duchess; "indeed, quite romantic!"
"Very!" said Sir James.
"Very!" said Helen.
The tone of their voices was so different that the duchess looked
from one to the other.
"But that isn't all," said Helen with a smile, "Sir James actually
"Will you excuse me for a moment?" said Sir James, interrupting,
and turning hastily to the duchess with a forced smile and a
somewhat heightened color. "I had forgotten that I had promised
Lady Harriet to drive you over to Deep Hill after luncheon to meet
that South American who has taken such a fancy to your place, and I
must send to the stables."
As Sir James disappeared, the duchess turned to Helen. "I see what
has happened, dear; don't mind me, for I frankly confess I shall
now eat my luncheon less guiltily than I feared. But tell me, HOW
did you refuse him?"
"I didn't refuse him," said Helen. "I only prevented his asking
Then Helen told her all,--everything except her first meeting with
Ostrander at the restaurant. A true woman respects the pride of
those she loves more even than her own, and while Helen felt that
although that incident might somewhat condone her subsequent
romantic passion in the duchess's eyes, she could not tell it.
The duchess listened in silence.
"Then you two incompetents have never seen each other since?" she
"But you hope to?"
"I cannot speak for HIM," said Helen.
"And you have never written to him, and don't know whether he is
alive or dead?"
"Then I have been nursing in my bosom for three years at one and
the same time a brave, independent, matter-of-fact young person and
the most idiotic, sentimental heroine that ever figured in a
romantic opera or a country ballad." Helen did not reply. "Well,
my dear," said the duchess after a pause, "I see that you are
condemned to pass your days with me in some cheap hotel on the
continent." Helen looked up wonderingly. "Yes," she continued, "I
suppose I must now make up my mind to sell my place to this gilded
South American, who has taken a fancy to it. But I am not going to
spoil my day by seeing him NOW. No; we will excuse ourselves from
going to Deep Hill to-day, and we will go back home quietly after
luncheon. It will be a mercy to Sir James."
"But," said Helen earnestly, "I can go back to my old life, and
earn my own living."
"Not if I can help it," said the duchess grimly. "Your independence
has made you a charming companion to me, I admit; but I shall see
that it does not again spoil your chances of marrying. Here comes
Sir James. Really, my dear, I don't know which one of you looks the
On their way back through the park Helen again urged the duchess to
give up the idea of selling Hamley Court, and to consent to her
taking up her old freedom and independence once more. "I shall
never, never forget your loving kindness and protection," continued
the young girl, tenderly. "You will let me come to you always when
you want me; but you will let me also shape my life anew, and work
for my living." The duchess turned her grave, half humorous face
towards her. "That means you have determined to seek HIM. Well!
Perhaps if you give up your other absurd idea of independence, I
may assist you. And now I really believe, dear, that there is that
dreadful South American," pointing to a figure that was crossing
the lawn at Hamley Court, "hovering round like a vulture. Well, I
can't see him to-day if he calls, but YOU may. By the way, they
say he is not bad-looking, was a famous general in the South
American War, and is rolling in money, and comes here on a secret
mission from his government. But I forget--the rest of our life is
to be devoted to seeking ANOTHER. And I begin to think I am not a
Helen was in no mood for an interview with the stranger, whom, like
the duchess, she was inclined to regard as a portent of fate and
sacrifice. She knew her friend's straitened circumstances, which
might make such a sacrifice necessary to insure a competency for
her old age, and, as Helen feared also, a provision for herself.
She knew the strange tenderness of this masculine woman, which had
survived a husband's infidelities and a son's forgetfulness, to be
given to her, and her heart sank at the prospect of separation,
even while her pride demanded that she should return to her old
life again. Then she wondered if the duchess was right; did she
still cherish the hope of meeting Ostrander again? The tears she
had kept back all that day asserted themselves as she flung open
the library door and ran across the garden into the myrtle walk.
"In hospital!" The words had been ringing in her ears though Sir
James's complacent speech, through the oddly constrained luncheon,
through the half-tender, half-masculine reasoning of her companion.
He HAD loved her--he had suffered and perhaps thought her false.
Suddenly she stopped. At the further end of the walk the ominous
stranger whom she wished to avoid was standing looking towards the
How provoking! She glanced again; he was leaning against a tree
and was obviously as preoccupied as she was herself. He was
actually sketching the ivy-covered gable of the library. What
presumption! And he was sketching with his left hand. A sudden
thrill of superstition came over her. She moved eagerly forward
for a better view of him. No! he had two arms!
But his quick eye had already caught sight of her, and before she
could retreat she could see that he had thrown away his sketch-book
and was hastening eagerly toward her. Amazed and confounded she
would have flown, but her limbs suddenly refused their office, and
as he at last came near her with the cry of "Helen!" upon his lips,
she felt herself staggering, and was caught in his arms.
"Thank God," he said. "Then she HAS let you come to me!"
She disengaged herself slowly and dazedly from him and stood
looking at him with wondering eyes. He was bronzed and worn; there
was the second arm: but still it was HE. And with the love, which
she now knew he had felt, looking from his honest eyes!
"SHE has let me come!" she repeated vacantly. "Whom do you mean?"
"Yes." He stopped suddenly, gazing at her blank face, while his
own grew ashy white. "Helen! For God's sake tell me! You have
not accepted him?"
"I have accepted no one," she stammered, with a faint color rising
to her cheeks. "I do not understand you."
A look of relief came over him. "But," he said amazedly, "has not
the duchess told you how I happen to be here? How, when you
disappeared from Paris long ago--with my ambition crushed, and
nothing left to me but my old trade of the fighter--I joined a
secret expedition to help the Chilian revolutionists? How I, who
might have starved as a painter, gained distinction as a partisan
general, and was rewarded with an envoyship in Europe? How I came
to Paris to seek you? How I found that even the picture--your
picture, Helen--had been sold. How, in tracing it here, I met the
duchess at Deep Hill, and learning you were with her, in a moment
of impulse told her my whole story. How she told me that though
she was your best friend, you had never spoken of me, and how she
begged me not to spoil your chance of a good match by revealing
myself, and so awakening a past--which she believed you had
forgotten. How she implored me at least to let her make a fair
test of your affections and your memory, and until then to keep
away from you--and to spare you, Helen; and for your sake, I
consented. Surely she has told this, NOW!"
"Not a word," said Helen blankly.
"Then you mean to say that if I had not haunted the park to-day, in
the hope of seeing you, believing that as you would not recognize
me with this artificial arm, I should not break my promise to her,--
you would not have known I was even living."
"No!--yes!--stay!" A smile broke over her pale face and left it
rosy. "I see it all now. Oh, Philip, don't you understand? She
wanted only to try us!"
There was a silence in the lonely wood, broken only by the trills
of a frightened bird whose retreat was invaded.
"Not now! Please! Wait! Come with me!"
The next moment she had seized Philip's left hand, and, dragging
him with her, was flying down the walk towards the house. But as
they neared the garden door it suddenly opened on the duchess, with
her glasses to her eyes, smiling.
The General Don Felipe Ostrander did not buy Hamley Court, but he
and his wife were always welcome guests there. And Sir James, as
became an English gentleman,--amazed though he was at Philip's
singular return, and more singular incognito,--afterwards gallantly
presented Philip's wife with Philip's first picture.
THE JUDGMENT OF BOLINAS PLAIN
The wind was getting up on the Bolinas Plain. It had started the
fine alkaline dust along the level stage road, so that even that
faint track, the only break in the monotony of the landscape,
seemed fainter than ever. But the dust cloud was otherwise a
relief; it took the semblance of distant woods where there was no
timber, of moving teams where there was no life. And as Sue
Beasley, standing in the doorway of One Spring House that
afternoon, shading her sandy lashes with her small red hand,
glanced along the desolate track, even HER eyes, trained to the
dreary prospect, were once or twice deceived.
It was a man's voice from within. Sue took no notice of it, but
remained with her hand shading her eyes.
"Sue! Wot yer yawpin' at thar?"
"Yawpin'" would seem to have been the local expression for her
abstraction, since, without turning her head, she answered slowly
and languidly: "Reckoned I see'd som' un on the stage road. But
'tain't nothin' nor nobody."
Both voices had in their accents and delivery something of the
sadness and infinite protraction of the plain. But the woman's had
a musical possibility in its long-drawn cadence, while the man's
was only monotonous and wearying. And as she turned back into the
room again, and confronted her companion, there was the like
difference in their appearance. Ira Beasley, her husband, had
suffered from the combined effects of indolence, carelessness,
misadventure, and disease. Two of his fingers had been cut off by
a scythe, his thumb and part of his left ear had been blown away by
an overcharged gun; his knees were crippled by rheumatism, and one
foot was lame from ingrowing nails,--deviations that, however, did
not tend to correct the original angularities of his frame. His
wife, on the other hand, had a pretty figure, which still retained--
they were childless--the rounded freshness of maidenhood. Her
features were irregular, yet not without a certain piquancy of
outline; her hair had the two shades sometimes seen in imperfect
blondes, and her complexion the sallowness of combined exposure and
She had lived there since, an angular girl of fifteen, she had been
awkwardly helped by Ira from the tail-board of the emigrant wagon
in which her mother had died two weeks before, and which was making
its first halt on the Californian plains, before Ira's door. On
the second day of their halt Ira had tried to kiss her while she
was drawing water, and had received the contents of the bucket
instead,--the girl knowing her own value. On the third day Ira had
some conversation with her father regarding locations and stock.
On the fourth day this conversation was continued in the presence
of the girl; on the fifth day the three walked to Parson Davies'
house, four miles away, where Ira and Sue were married. The
romance of a week had taken place within the confines of her
present view from the doorway; the episode of her life might have
been shut in in that last sweep of her sandy lashes.
Nevertheless, at that moment some instinct, she knew not what,
impelled her when her husband left the room to put down the dish
she was washing, and, with the towel lapped over her bare pretty
arms, to lean once more against the doorpost, lazily looking down
the plain. A cylindrical cloud of dust trailing its tattered skirt
along the stage road suddenly assaulted the house, and for an
instant enveloped it. As it whirled away again something emerged,
or rather dropped from its skirts behind the little cluster of low
bushes which encircled the "One Spring." It was a man.
"Thar! I knew it was suthin'," she began aloud, but the words
somehow died upon her lips. Then she turned and walked towards the
inner door, wherein her husband had disappeared,--but here stopped
again irresolutely. Then she suddenly walked through the outer
door into the road and made directly for the spring. The figure of
a man crouching, covered with dust, half rose from the bushes when
she reached them. She was not frightened, for he seemed utterly
exhausted, and there was a singular mixture of shame, hesitation,
and entreaty in his broken voice as he gasped out:--
"Look here!--I say! hide me somewhere, won't you? Just for a
little. You see--the fact is--I'm chased! They're hunting me
now,--they're just behind me. Anywhere will do till they go by!
Tell you all about it another time. Quick! Please do!"
In all this there was nothing dramatic nor even startling to her.
Nor did there seem to be any present danger impending to the man.
He did not look like a horse-thief nor a criminal. And he had
tried to laugh, half-apologetically, half-bitterly,--the
consciousness of a man who had to ask help of a woman at such a
She gave a quick glance towards the house. He followed her eyes,
and said hurriedly: "Don't tell on me. Don't let any one see me.
I'm trusting you.
"Come," she said suddenly. "Get on THIS side."
He understood her, and slipped to her side, half-creeping, half-
crouching like a dog behind her skirts, but keeping her figure
between him and the house as she moved deliberately towards the
barn, scarce fifty yards away. When she reached it she opened the
half-door quickly, said: "In there--at the top--among the hay"--
closed it, and was turning away, when there came a faint rapping
from within. She opened the door again impatiently; the man said
hastily: "Wanted to tell you--it was a man who insulted a WOMAN! I
went for him, you see--and"--
But she shut the door sharply. The fugitive had made a blunder.
The importation of her own uncertain sex into the explanation did
not help him. She kept on towards the house, however, without the
least trace of excitement or agitation in her manner, entered the
front door again, walked quietly to the door of the inner room,
glanced in, saw that her husband was absorbed in splicing a riata,
and had evidently not missed her, and returned quietly to her dish-
washing. With this singular difference: a few moments before she
had seemed inattentive and careless of what she was doing, as if
from some abstraction; now, when she was actually abstracted, her
movements were mechanically perfect and deliberate. She carefully
held up a dish and examined it minutely for cracks, rubbing it
cautiously with the towel, but seeing all the while only the man
she had left in the barn. A few moments elapsed. Then there came
another rush of wind around the house, a drifting cloud of dust
before the door, the clatter of hoofs, and a quick shout.
Her husband reached the door, from the inner room, almost as
quickly as she did. They both saw in the road two armed mounted
men--one of whom Ira recognized as the sheriff's deputy.
"Has anybody been here, just now?" he asked sharply.
"Seen anybody go by?" he continued.
"No. What's up?"
"One of them circus jumpers stabbed Hal Dudley over the table in
Dolores monte shop last night, and got away this morning. We
hunted him into the plain and lost him somewhere in this d----d
"Why, Sue reckoned she saw suthin' just now," said Ira, with a
flash of recollection. "Didn't ye, Sue?"
"Why the h-ll didn't she say it before?--I beg your pardon, ma'am;
didn't see you; you'll excuse haste."
Both the men's hats were in their hands, embarrassed yet gratified
smiles on their faces, as Sue came forward. There was the faintest
of color in her sallow cheek, a keen brilliancy in her eyes; she
looked singularly pretty. Even Ira felt a slight antenuptial
stirring through his monotonously wedded years.
The young woman walked out, folding the towel around her red hands
and forearms--leaving the rounded whiteness of bared elbow and
upper arm in charming contrast--and looked gravely past the
admiring figures that nearly touched her own. "It was somewhar
over thar," she said lazily, pointing up the road in the opposite
direction to the barn, "but I ain't sure it WAS any one."
"Then he'd already PASSED the house afore you saw him?" said the
"I reckon--if it WAS him," returned Sue.
"He must have got on," said the deputy; "but then he runs like a
deer; it's his trade."
The two men were delighted at this divine simplicity. "A man who
runs, jumps, climbs--and all that sort, in the circus."
"But isn't he runnin', jumpin', and climbin' away from ye now?" she
continued with adorable naivete.
The deputy smiled, but straightened in the saddle. "We're bound to
come up with him afore he reaches Lowville; and between that and
this house it's a dead level, where a gopher couldn't leave his
hole without your spottin' him a mile off! Good-by!" The words
were addressed to Ira, but the parting glance was directed to the
pretty wife as the two men galloped away.
An odd uneasiness at this sudden revelation of his wife's
prettiness and its evident effect upon his visitors came over Ira.
It resulted in his addressing the empty space before his door with,
"Well, ye won't ketch much if ye go on yawpin' and dawdlin' with
women-folks like this;" and he was unreasonably delighted at the
pretty assent of disdain and scorn which sparkled in his wife's
eyes as she added:--
"Not much, I reckon!"
"That's the kind of official trash we have to pay taxes to keep
up," said Ira, who somehow felt that if public policy was not
amenable to private sentiment there was no value in free
government. Mrs. Beasley, however, complacently resumed her dish-
washing, and Ira returned to his riata in the adjoining room. For
quite an interval there was no sound but the occasional click of a
dish laid upon its pile, with fingers that, however, were firm and
untremulous. Presently Sue's low voice was heard.
"Wonder if that deputy caught anything yet. I've a good mind to
meander up the road and see."
But the question brought Ira to the door with a slight return of
his former uneasiness. He had no idea of subjecting his wife to
another admiring interview. "I reckon I'll go myself," he said
dubiously; "YOU'D better stay and look after the house."
Her eyes brightened as she carried a pile of plates to the dresser;
it was possible she had foreseen this compromise. "Yes," she said
cheerfully, "you could go farther than me."
Ira reflected. He could also send them about their business if
they thought of returning. He lifted his hat from the floor, took
his rifle down carefully from its pegs, and slouched out into the
road. Sue watched him until he was well away, then flew to the
back door, stopping only an instant to look at her face in a small
mirror on the wall,--yet without noticing her new prettiness,--then
ran to the barn. Casting a backward glance at the diminishing
figure of her husband in the distance, she threw open the door and
shut it quickly behind her. At first the abrupt change from the
dazzling outer plain to the deep shadows of the barn bewildered
her. She saw before her a bucket half filled with dirty water, and
a quantity of wet straw littering the floor; then lifting her eyes
to the hay-loft, she detected the figure of the fugitive, unclothed
from the waist upward, emerging from the loose hay in which he had
evidently been drying himself. Whether it was the excitement of
his perilous situation, or whether the perfect symmetry of his
bared bust and arms--unlike anything she had ever seen before--
clothed him with the cold ideality of a statue, she could not say,
but she felt no shock of modesty; while the man, accustomed to the
public half-exposure in tights and spangles, was more conscious of
detected unreadiness than of shame.
"Gettin' the dust off me," he said, in hurried explanation; "be
down in a second." Indeed, in another moment he had resumed his
shirt and flannel coat, and swung himself to the floor with a like
grace and dexterity, that was to her the revelation of a descending
god. She found herself face to face with him,--his features
cleansed of dirt and grime, his hair plastered in wet curls on his
low forehead. It was a face of cheap adornment, not uncommon in
his profession--unintelligent, unrefined, and even unheroic; but
she did not know that. Overcoming a sudden timidity, she
nevertheless told him briefly and concisely of the arrival and
departure of his pursuers.
His low forehead wrinkled. "Thar's no getting away until they come
back," he said without looking at her. "Could ye keep me in here
"Yes," she returned simply, as if the idea had already occurred to
her; "but you must lie low in the loft."
"And could you"--he hesitated, and went on with a forced smile--
"you see, I've eaten nothing since last night. Could you"--
"I'll bring you something," she said quickly, nodding her head.
"And if you had"--he went on more hesitatingly, glancing down at
his travel-torn and frayed garments--"anything like a coat, or any
other clothing? It would disguise me also, you see, and put 'em
off the track."
She nodded her head again rapidly: she had thought of that too;
there was a pair of doeskin trousers and a velvet jacket left by a
Mexican vaquero who had bought stock from them two years ago.
Practical as she was, a sudden conviction that he would look well
in the velvet jacket helped her resolve.
"Did they say"--he said, with his forced smile and uneasy glance--
"did they--tell you anything about me?"
"Yes," she said abstractedly, gazing at him.
"You see," he began hurriedly, "I'll tell you how it was."
"No, don't!" she said quickly. She meant it. She wanted no facts
to stand between her and this single romance of her life. "I must
go and get the things," she added, turning away, "before he gets
"Who's HE?" asked the man.
She was about to reply, "My husband," but without knowing why
stopped and said, "Mr. Beasley," and then ran off quickly to the
She found the vaquero's clothes, took some provisions, filled a
flask of whiskey in the cupboard, and ran back with them, her mouth
expanded to a vague smile, and pulsating like a schoolgirl. She
even repressed with difficulty the ejaculation "There!" as she
handed them to him. He thanked her, but with eyes fixed and
fascinated by the provisions. She understood it with a new sense
of delicacy, and saying, "I'll come again when he gets back," ran
off and returned to the house, leaving him alone to his repast.
Meantime her husband, lounging lazily along the high road, had
precipitated the catastrophe he wished to avoid. For his slouching
figure, silhouetted against the horizon on that monotonous level,
had been the only one detected by the deputy sheriff and the
constable, his companion, and they had charged down within fifty
yards of him before they discovered their mistake. They were not
slow in making this an excuse for abandoning their quest as far as
Lowville: in fact, after quitting the distraction of Mrs. Beasley's
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