The Purple Heights
Marie Conway Oemler

Part 6 out of 6

Hayden kept discreetly in the background. He behaved beautifully.
But he knew that Anne was going to marry him. Jason and Marcia knew
it. Anne herself knew it. Now that the war was on, a good many of
his plans would have to be postponed, but when Anne had secured her
freedom, and things had righted themselves, they two would take up
life as he wished to live it. All the women of his family had
occupied prominent social positions: _his_ wife should surpass them
all. She should be the acknowledged leader, the most brilliant
figure of her day. Nothing less than this would satisfy him.

For all his esthetic tastes, Hayden was an immensely able and
capable man of business. He had not the warmth of heart that at
times obscured Jason Vandervelde's judgment, nor the touch of
unworldliness that marked the behavior of the Champneys men.
His intellect had a cold, clear brilliancy, diamond-bright,
diamond-hard; to this he added tact, and the power of organizing and
directing and of getting results. In certain crises such men are

Hayden hated war. It was, so to speak, an uncouth and barbarous
gesture, a bestial and bellowing voice. He felt constrained to offer
his services, and even before America became actually involved he
was able to render valuable aid. There were delicate and dangerous
missions where his tact, his diplomacy, and his shrewd, cold,
unimpassioned intelligence won the stakes for which he played. This
in itself was good; but for the time being it took him away from
Anne. He saw her only occasionally. She, like him, was immersed in
work. Once or twice he was able to snatch her from the thick of
things and carry her off with him to lunch or to dinner. She enjoyed
these small oases in the desert of work. She liked to watch his
clever, composed face, to listen to his modulated voice. The serene
ease of his manner soothed her. She was tremendously proud of
Hayden. She was glad he cared for her. This seemed to her an
excellent foundation for their marriage. They would please and
interest each other; neither would be bored! And when, leaning
across the table one day at lunch, he looked at her with unwonted
fire in his quiet eyes, and said in a low voice: "Just as soon as
this business is finished, as soon as we've cleaned up the mess, I'm
going to claim you, Anne. It's all I can do to wait!" Anne met his
eyes, smiled slightly, and nodded. A faint flush rose to her cheek,
and a deeper one rose to his. For a moment he touched her hand.

"You understand you are promised to me," he said. "If I dared show
you what I really feel, Anne--" and he glanced around the crowded
dining-room, and smiled.

She smiled in return, tranquilly. She was not stirred. His touch had
no power to thrill her. She was comfortably content that things
should be as they were, that was all. Yet her very lack of emotion
added to her charm for him. He disliked emotional women. Excess of
affection would have bored him. It smacked of crudeness, and he had
an epicurean distaste for crudeness.

Busy as he was, he found time to select the ring he wished her to
wear. He was fastidious and hyper-critical to a degree, and he
wished her ring to suit her, to be flawless. It was really a work
of art, and Anne Champneys wondered at her own coolness when she
received the exquisite jewel. She understood his feeling, she
appreciated the beauty of the gem, yet it left her unmoved. It
gratified her woman's vanity; it did not stir her to one
heart-throb. She accepted it, not indifferently, but placidly.
After a while she would accept a plain gold ring from him just as
placidly. This was her fate. She did not quarrel with it.

Marcia watched her pleasedly. She loved Anne Champneys, she admired
Hayden exceedingly, and that they should marry each other seemed
natural and inevitable. Hayden was just the man she would have
chosen for Anne. Even the fact that Jason wasn't altogether happy
about it couldn't dampen Marcia's delight in the affair. Jason would
come around, in time. He was too fond of Anne not to.

"Well, you're free," he had told Anne, the day that the Champneys
marriage was declared null and void, and both parties had received
the right to remarry, as a matter of course. "You are free. I'm sure
I hope you won't regret it!"

"Why should I regret it?" wondered Anne, good-humoredly. But the big
man shook his head, remembering Chadwick Champneys.

Hayden had become more and more involved in war work; he was in
constant demand, he was sent hither and thither to attend to this
and that troublesome affair. Twice he had to go abroad. At home,
Anne's work called her into the homes of soldiers; she came in close
contact with the families of the men who were fighting, and what she
saw she was never able to forget. She got down to bed-rock. Her own
early life made her acutely understanding. Where Marcia would have
been blind, Anne saw; where the woman who had never known poverty
and hardship would have remained deaf, the woman who had slaved in
the Baxters' kitchen, who had been an overworked, unloved child in
bondage, heard, and understood to the core of her soul what she was
hearing. These voices from the depths were not inarticulate to Anne!

When Berkeley came back from his second voyage abroad, he was more
impatient than she had ever seen him. The end was in sight then, as
he knew, and he saw no reason for further delay. He urged Anne to
marry him. Why should they waste time? When he consulted Marcia, she
agreed with him. Everybody, she said, was getting married. Why
shouldn't he and Anne? Already the rumor of their engagement had
crept out. There were hints of it in the social chatter of the
papers. Why not announce it formally, and have the marriage follow

But Anne Champneys found herself in a curious mood. The nervous
strain of war work, perhaps, was accountable. She meant to marry
Berkeley; but she didn't want to marry him at once. She did not
object to having their engagement announced. He could shout it
from the housetops if that pleased him. But in the meanwhile
she wanted a little rest, a little freedom. She wished to be
fetterless, free to come and go as she pleased. No work, no
interviews, no photographers, no weary hours with dressmakers and
tailors. No envy because Berkeley Hayden was going to marry her,
no wearisome comments, idle flattery hiding spite, no gossip
violating all privacies. A raging impatience against it all
assailed her. It seemed to her that she had never been allowed
really to think or to act for herself disinterestedly, that she
had never been free. Always she had been in bondage! Oh, for just
a little hour of freedom, in the open, to be just as ordinary and
inconspicuous as in her heart of hearts she would have preferred
to be, left to herself!

Marcia said her nerves were unstrung, and no wonder, considering
how she'd worked, and what she'd seen. Jason came vigorously to her
rescue. He advised her to go off somewhere and get acquainted with
herself. To drop out of things for a while, and treat herself to the
rest she needed. Cut and run! Scuttle for cover!

"You've been overdoing things, of course. You've been Lady
Bountiful, and first-aider, and last-leaver. Like the Lord and a
thumping good lie, you've been a very present help in time of
trouble. But there's such a thing as being too steady on the job.
You need a change of people, scene, and mind. Take it."

This conversation occurred on a morning in his office, where she had
gone on some slight business, and with concern he had noticed her
tired eyes. At his advice she brightened.

"Marcia thinks I should marry Berkeley, immediately, and let him
take me away, but--"

"But you aren't ready to rush into matrimony just yet?" Vandervelde
growled. "I should think you wouldn't be! If Hadyen's managed to
exist this long without a wife, I take it for granted he can exist
unwed a little longer. You are certain you mean to marry him?"

"Oh, yes, I am certain I mean to marry him," said Anne, flatly. "But
I--that is, not so soon."

"I think I understand, Anne," said the big man, kindly. "Look here,
you just tell 'em all to wait! Tell 'em you're tired. Then you pick
yourself up and light out for a while, by yourself. Chuck the
madding throng and all that, Anne, and beat it for the open!"

"Oh, how I wish I could!" she sighed. "You don't know how I long for
a chance to be just me by myself! I want to stay with people who
have never heard the name of Champneys or Hayden and who wouldn't
care if my name happened to be Mudd! I want plain living and plain
thinking and plain people. I--I'll come back to--everything I should
come back to, afterward. But first I want to be free! Just for a
little while I want to be free!"

"But how could you manage it?" mused Vandervelde. "The lady who
divorced Peter Champneys and is going to marry Berkeley Hayden can't
pick herself up 'unbeknownst' and hope to get away with it. Not in
these days of good reporting! You're copy, you understand."

"But I don't want to be Mrs. Peter Champneys! I don't want to be the
woman Berkeley Hayden's going to marry! I want to be just me!" she
cried. "I want to go to some place where nobody's ever heard either
of those names! Some little place where there are water and
trees--and not much else. Like, say,--Jason! Do you remember that
place you found, in Maine, I think? You _babbled_ about it. Said you
were going to go there if ever you wanted to get out of the world.
Said it was Eden before the serpent entered. Where's that place,
Jason? Why can't I go there, just as myself--" she paused, and
looked at him hopefully.

"I don't see why you can't," said he, cheerfully.

And so Anne, who didn't wish to be Mrs. Peter Champneys, or the
woman whom Berkeley Hayden was to marry, or anybody but herself,
came to the out-of-the-way nook on the Maine shore, and was welcomed
by the Widow Thatcher.

She found the place idyllic. She liked its skies unclouded by smoke,
translucent skies in which silver mountains of clouds reared
themselves out of airy continents that shifted and drifted before
the wind. She liked its clean, pure, untainted air. And she liked
contact with these simple souls, men who labored, women who knew
birth and death and were not afraid of either. It came to her that
her own contacts with and concepts of life--and death--had always,
been more or less artificial. Perhaps these simple and laborious
folk had the substance of things of which she and her sort had but
the shadow. And then she asked herself: Well, but couldn't one,
anywhere, in any circumstances, make life real for oneself, meet
facts unafraid? Get at the truths, somehow? That's what she had to
find out!

And of a sudden she had been answered. The reality, the truth, the
real meaning of life was made plain to her when a man she didn't
know, and yet knew to the last fiber of her soul, had paused to look
into her eyes.

For two or three days she went no further than the rambling garden
at the back of the house. She tried to read, and couldn't. From
every page those eyes looked at her. There was more in that
remembered glance than in any book ever written, and she was torn
between the desire to meet it again and the fear of meeting it.

On the night of the third day she sat with her elbows on her
windowsill, looking out at the moonlight night. A sweet wind touched
her face, like the breath of love. There arose the scent of quiet
places, of trees and flowers and herbs, mingled with the vast
breathing of the sea. And she thought the sea called to her, an
imperious and yet caressing voice in the night. She stirred
restlessly. Down there on the shore-line, where she had met him, the
rocks would glint with silvery reflections, the water would come
fawning to one's feet, the wind would pounce upon one like a rough
lover. She stirred restlessly. The small bedroom seemed to hold her
like a cage. And again the sea called, a wild and compelling voice.

Her blood stirred to the magic of the night. Her eyes gleamed, her
cheek reddened. She listened for a moment, intently. The Widow
Thatcher slept the sleep of the good housekeeper. No one was
stirring. She could have the night, the wind, the sea, to herself.
Noiselessly she stole downstairs and let herself out.

Out there, with the scent of the summer night greeting her, with
bushes brushing her lightly with their green fingers, her heart
leaped joyously. She flung her arms over her head and went running
down the path to the water, a tall white figure with flying hair.
Then she turned the small headland, and the village dropped behind
her. Overhead the big gold lamp of the moon lighted shore and sea.
And here came the sea-wind, bracing, strong, and sweet. At the rush
of it she laughed aloud, and the wind seized upon her laughter and
tossed it into the night like airy bells.

She slackened her wild race when she neared the great boulders
shutting in the little narrow path where she had met him, and stood
flushed, panting, her shining glance uplifted, her bright hair
framing the sweetness of her face. And even as she paused, he
stepped out of the shadow and confronted her. As if he had been
awaiting her. As if he had known she must come. He said, in a voice
vibrant with fierce joy:

"It is You!"

She answered, in a shaking tone, like a child: "Yes, I had to come,"
and stood there looking at him, face uplifted, lips apart.

He drew nearer. "Why?" said he, in a whisper. "Why?"

She did not reply. For a long moment they regarded each other,
passion-pale in the moonlight.

"Was it because--you knew I must be here!" he asked.

Her hands went to her leaping heart. She had no faintest notion of
concealing the truth, for there was no coquetry in her. These two
facing each other were as honest as the rocky coast, as unabashed as
the wind. They had no more thought of subterfuges and conventions
than the sea had. They were as real as nature itself.

He bent upon her his compelling glance, which seemed to lift her as
upon golden pinions. She was thrillingly conscious of his nearness.

"You knew I would be here?" he repeated.

She drew a deep breath. "Yes!" she sighed.

And at that, inevitably, irresistibly, they rushed together. He
caught her in a mighty embrace and she gave him back his kiss with a
heavenly shamelessness, a glorious passion, naive and pure. It was
as if she were born anew in the fire of his lips. For she was sure,
with a crystal clarity. This man whose heart beat against hers was
her high destiny. Body and soul, she was his. His kiss was the
chrism of life. And he, fallen into the same divine lunacy, was
equally sure. He had been born a man to hold this strong sweet body
in his arms, to meet this spirit that complemented his own. Not in
high and lonely altitudes whose cold stillness chilled the heart,
but by simple paths to peace, in a simple and passionate woman's
love, could he gain the purple heights!



He had said quietly: "You are going to marry me!"

And she had replied, as if there could be no possible doubt about

"Yes, I am going to marry you."

"Because you love me better than anything or anybody else in all the
world, even as I love you."

"Because I love you better than anything or anybody else in all the
world," she repeated.

"So far, so good. When, Beloved Lady?"

At that she hesitated for a space and fell silent. He pressed her
head closer, and bending his tall head laid his cheek to hers.


"Presently. But before that, dearest and best of men, there are so
many, many things I wish to tell you, so many things I wish you to
know! I wish you to know me. Everything about me! For once upon a
time there was a sad, neglected child, a piteous child I must make
you acquainted with. There was an ignorant and undisciplined young


She nodded sorrowfully. His clasp tightened. He slipped a hand
beneath her chin, tilted her face upward, and kissed her eyes that
had suddenly filled with tears, her lips that quivered.

"Beloved Lady, I understand: for there was once upon a time a sad,
neglected child, an ugly little lad, barefooted and poverty-stricken
after his mother's death. There was an ignorant and undisciplined

"You?" Her arms went around him protectingly, in a mothering and
tender clasp.

"Who else? And being very ignorant indeed, he sold himself into
bondage for a mess of pottage, and was thrall for weary years. He
got exactly what he paid for. And life was ashes upon his head and
wormwood in his mouth, and his heart was empty in his breast,
because he snatched at shadows. And then one day the door of his
prison was opened by the keeper, and he said, 'Now I am free!' But
it was his fate to go down into hell for a season. There were times
when he asked himself, 'Why don't I blow out my brains and escape?'
Nothing but the simple faith and heroism of common men about him
saved him from despair. One day a blinded soldier said, 'See for
us!' So he began to see,--but still without hope, still without
happiness, until he came here and found--_you_." His voice was
melted gold.

She had listened breathlessly. And after a pause she asked:

"Who was--the keeper of his prison?"

"The woman to whom he had been married."

Her arms fell from him. She tried to draw herself away, but he held
her all the closer.

"Do not think unkindly of her. I don't think she really knew she
was an ogress! After all, she did unlock the door and say, 'Go!'
And--well, here I am, darling woman. And I'm going to marry _you_!"

"Did you _never_ love her?"

"Never. I was so frightfully unhappy that the best I could do was
not to hate her. I'm afraid she hated me--poor ogress! Well! That's
all over and done with. Like an evil dream. I'm here, and _you_'re
going to marry me." Very gently he drew her arms around him again.
"Ah, hold fast to me! Hold fast! I have waited for you so long, I
need you so much!" he breathed.

"I don't seem able to help myself!" she sighed. And she asked
seriously: "What do the people who love you most call you when they
speak to you?"

The brown and bearded faces of comrades rose before him, their
voices sounded in his ears.


"Pierre," said she, bravely, as if to call him by his name
emboldened her, "I too have been freed from a hateful marriage.
Sometime I will tell you all about it. But--oh, do not let us talk
about it now! I cannot bear to think of him! I cannot bear to have
his shadow, even, fall upon me now, or come near _you_!" That
gangling bridegroom in his ill-fitting suit, with his wincing mouth,
his eyes full of disgust and aversion, his air of a man sentenced to
death--or marriage with herself--came before her, and she shivered.

Despite her words a horrible jealousy of that unknown man assailed
him. He asked fiercely:

"You loved him, once?"

"Oh, no! Oh, no! Never! I--why, Pierre, until you came, I didn't
even know what love meant! Once that ignorant, undisciplined girl I
spoke of, thought she loved a boy. She didn't. She loved the idea of
love. And once again, Pierre, because my life was so empty, and
because I didn't know any better, I thought I should be willing to
marry somebody else. I thought that somebody else could fill my
life. But now I know that could never be. You are here."

He looked at her with infinite tenderness. There were things he,
too, would have to tell her, by and by. And he was sure that the
woman whose coming little Denise had seemed to foreknow, would
understand. He said gravely:

"Yes, we have found each other. That is all that really matters.
Nothing, nobody else, counts with you and me." And then, of a
sudden, he laughed happily: "And, Beloved Lady, I do not know your
name! I can't call you 'Mrs. Riley,' can I? By what name, then,
shall the one who loves you most call you?"

"Anne." And she asked eagerly: "Do you like it?"

He started. Anne! Strange that the name that had been his chiefest
unhappiness should now become his chiefest joy! Strange that he
hadn't guessed Anne could be the most beautiful of all names for a
woman! Like it? Of course he liked it! Wasn't it hers?

"Anne, you haven't yet said when you will marry me."

"Oh, but you are sure of _that_!" she parried.

"I am so sure of it that I am quite capable of taking you by the
hair and dragging you off to the parson's, if you try to make me
wait. Anne! Remember that ever since I was that barefooted, lonely
child I have been waiting for you. My dear, I need you so greatly!"

She said passionately: "You cannot need me as I need you. You are
yourself. You couldn't be anything else. You were you before you
ever saw me. But I--I couldn't be my real self until you came and
looked at me and kissed me."

He felt humble, and reverent, and at the same time exultant. When
she said presently, "I must go now," he released her reluctantly.
They walked hand in hand, pausing at the small headland beyond which
the village came in sight. She took both his hands and held them
against her breast.

"You are my one man. I love you so much that I am going to give my
whole life into your hands, as fully and as freely as I shall some
day give my spirit into the hands of God. But, Pierre, there are
those who have been very, very kind to me, those to whom I
owe--well, explanations. When I have made those explanations
and--and settled my accounts,--then all the rest of my life is

"You are very, very sure, Anne?" His voice was wistful.

"My love for you," she said proudly, "is the one great reality. I
am surer of that than I have ever been of anything in this world."
And she stood there looking at him with her heart in her eyes. Of a
sudden, with a little cry, she pulled his head down to her, kissed
him upon the mouth, pushed him from her, and fled.

When she reached her room again, she couldn't sleep, but knelt by
her window and watched the skies pale and then flush like a young
girl's face, and the morning-star blaze and pale, and the sun come
up over a bright and beautiful world in which she herself was, she
felt, new-born. Far in the background of things, unreal as a dream,
hovered the unlovely figure of Nancy Simms, and nearer, but still
almost as unreal, the bright, cold figure of Anne Champneys, that
Anne Champneys who had wished to marry Berkeley Hayden to gratify
pride and ambition. The woman kneeling by the window, watching the
glory of the morning, looked back upon those two as a winged
butterfly might remember its caterpillar crawlings.

All that glittering life Anne Champneys had planned for herself?
Swept away as if it had been a bit of tinsel! Money? Position? She
laughed low to herself. She didn't care whether her man had
possessions or lacked them. All she asked was that he should
be himself--and hers. All that Milly had been to Chadwick
Champneys--the passionate lover, the perfect comrade, the friend
nothing daunted, no wind of fortune could change--Anne could be,
would be to Pierre.

There was but one shadow upon her new happiness: she hated to
disappoint Marcia. Marcia had set her heart upon the Hayden
marriage. It was toward that consummation, so devoutly to be hoped,
that Marcia had planned. And just when that plan was nearing
perfection Anne was going to have to frustrate it. She hated to hurt
Hayden himself, and the thought of his angry disappointment was
painful to her. She _liked_ Hayden. She would always like him. But
she couldn't marry him. To marry Hayden, loving Pierre, would have
been to work them both an irremediable injury. A sort of horror of
what she had been about to do came upon her. The bare thought of it
made her recoil.

Her native shrewdness told her that Hayden's immense pride would
come to his aid. The fact that she had dared to desire somebody
else, to prefer another to his lordly self would be enough to prove
to Hayden that she wasn't worthy of his affections. He would feel
that he had been deceived in her. She couldn't help hoping that he
wouldn't altogether despise her. She hoped that Marcia wouldn't be
too angry to forgive her. And then her thoughts merged into a
prayer: Oh dear God, help her to make Pierre happy, to grow to his
stature, to be worthy of him!

* * * * *

Back there on the beach he lay with his head in his arms, humble
before the power and the glory that had come to him. This, this was
the face he had always sought, the beauty that had so long eluded
him! Beauty, mere physical beauty, appealed to him as it always
appeals to an artist, but it had never had the power to hold him
for any length of time. It had palled upon him. To satisfy his
demand, beauty must have upon it the ineffable imprint of the soul.
This woman's face was as baffling, as inexplicable, in its way, as
was Mona Lisa's. One wasn't sure that she was beautiful; one was
only sure that she was unforgetable, and that after other faces had
faded from the memory, hers remained to haunt the heart. And that
red hair of hers, like the hair of a Norse sun-goddess!

He fell into pleasant dreams. He was going to take her down south
with him; he wanted her to see that little brown house in South
Carolina, to know the tide-water gurgling in the Riverton coves, and
mocking-birds singing to the moonlit night, and the voice of the
whippoorwill out of the thickets. She must know the marshes, and the
live-oaks hung with moss. All the haunts of his childhood she should
know, and old Emma Campbell would sit and talk to her about his
mother. They would stay in the little house hallowed by his mother's
mild spirit. And he would show her that first sketch of the Red
Admiral. And afterward they two would plan how to make the best use
of the Champneys money. He was very, very sure of her sympathy and
her understanding. Why, you couldn't look into her eyes without
knowing how exquisite her sympathy would be!

He was so stirred, so thrilled, that the creative power that had
seemed to fail him, that had left him so emptily alone these many
bitter months, came to him with a rush. He got to his feet and went
tramping up and down the strip of shore, his eyes clouded with
visions. Before his mind's eye the picture he meant to paint took
shape and form and color. And as he walked home he whistled like a
happy boy.

He had brought his materials along with him as a matter of habit.
With his powers at high tide, in the first glamour of a great
passion, he set himself to work next morning to portray her as his
heart knew her.

He worked steadily, stopping only when the light failed. He was so
absorbed in his task that he forgot his body. But Grandma Baker was
a wise old woman, and she came at intervals and forced food upon
him. Then he slept, and awoke with the light to rush back to his
work. His old rare gift of visualizing a face in its absence had
grown with the years; and this was the face of all faces. There was
not a shade or a line of that face he didn't know. And after a while
she appeared upon his canvas, breathing, immensely alive, with the
inmost spirit of her informing her gray-green eyes, her virginal
mouth, her candid and thoughtful brow. There she stood, Anne as
Peter Champneys knew and loved her.

He had done great work in his time. But this was painted with the
blood of his heart. This was his high-water mark. It would take its
place with those immortal canvases that are the slow accretions of
the ages, the perfectest flowerings of genius. He was swaying on his
feet when he painted in the Red Admiral. Then he flung himself upon
his bed and slept like a dead man.

When he awoke, she seemed to be a living presence in his room. He
gasped, and sat with his hands between his knees, staring at her
almost unbelievingly. He looked at the Red Admiral above his
signature, and fetched a great, sighing breath.

"We've done it at last, by God!" said he, soberly. "Fairy, we've
reached the heights!"

But when he appeared at the breakfast-table Grandma Baker regarded
him with deep concern.

"My land o' love!" she exclaimed. "Why, you look like you been
buried and dug up!"

"Permit me," said he, politely, "to congratulate you upon your
perspicacity. That is exactly what happened to me."

"Eh!" said Grandma, setting her spectacles straight on her old nose.

"And let me add: It's worth the price!" said the resurrected one,
genially. "Grandma Baker, were _you_ very much in love?"

"Abner tried his dumdest to find that out," said Grandma Baker. "He
was the plaguedest man ever was for wantin' to know things, but
somehow I sort o' didn't want him changed any. You got ways put me
mightily in mind o' Abner." The old eyes were very sweet, and a
wintry rose crept into her withered cheek. She added: "I know what's
ailin' _you_, young man! Lord knows I hope you'll be happy as Abner
and me was!"

He went back to his room and communed with his picture. It was the
sort that, if you stayed with it a little while, _liked_ to commune
with you. It would divine your mood, and the eyes followed you with
an uncanny understanding, the smile said more than any words could
say. You almost saw her eyelids move, her breast rise and fall to
her breathing. The man trembled before his masterpiece.

His heart swelled. He exulted in his genius, a high gift to be laid
at the feet of the beloved. All he had, all he could ever be,
belonged to her. She had called forth his best. He said to her
painted semblance:

"You are my first love-gift. I am going to send you to her, and
she'll know she hasn't given her love, her beauty, her youth, to an
unworthy or an obscure lover. She's given herself to me, Peter
Champneys, and because she loves me I'll give her a name she can
wear like a crown: I'll set her upon the purple heights!"

She was at the far end of the Thatcher garden, behind the house and
hidden from it, when he arrived with the canvas, which he hadn't
dared entrust to any other carrier--he was too jealously careful of
it. No, he told Mrs. Thatcher, it wasn't necessary to disturb her
guest. Just allow him to place the canvas in Mrs. Riley's
sitting-room. She would find it there when she returned.

Mrs. Thatcher complied willingly enough. She liked the tall,
black-bearded man whom shrewd old Grandma Baker couldn't praise

"Excuse me for not goin' up with you, on account of my hands bein'
in the mixin'-bowl. It's a picture, ain't it? You just step right
upstairs and set it on the mantel or anywheres you like. I'll tell
her you been here."

And so he placed it on the mantel, where the north light fell full
upon it, waved his hand to it, and went away. It would tell her all
that was in his heart for her. It would explain himself. The Red
Admiral would assure that!

Anne had been having rather a troublesome time. She had written to
Marcia and to Berkeley Hayden the night before, and the letters had
been posted only that morning. She had had to be very explicit, to
make her position perfectly plain to them both, and the letters had
not been easy to write. But when she had finally written them, she
had really succeeded in explaining her true self. There was no doubt
as to her entire truthfulness, or the finality of this decision of
hers. When she posted those letters, she knew that a page of her
life had been turned down, the word "Finis" written at the bottom of
it. She had tossed aside a brilliant social career, a high position,
a great fortune,--and counted it all well lost. Her one regret was
to have to disappoint Marcia. She loved Marcia. And she hoped that
Berkeley wouldn't despise her.

She was agitated, perturbed, and yet rapturously happy. She wished
to be alone to hug that happiness to her heart, and so she had gone
out under the apple-trees at the far end of the Thatcher orchard,
and lay there all her long length in the good green grass. The place
was full of sweet and drowsy odors. Birds called and fluted.
Butterflies and bees came and went. She had never felt so close to
Mother Earth as she did to-day, never so keenly sensed the joy of
being alive.

After a while she arose, reluctantly, and went back to the house and
her rooms. She was remembering that she hadn't yet written to Jason,
and she wanted Jason to know. Inside her sitting-room door she
stopped short, eyes widened, lips fallen apart. On the mantel,
glowing, jewel-like in the clear, pure light, herself confronted
her. Herself as a great artist saw and loved her.

She stood transfixed. The sheer power and beauty of the work, that
spell which falls upon one in the presence of all great art, held
her entranced. Her own eyes looked, at her as if they challenged
her; her own smile baffled her; there was that in the pictured face
which brought a cry to her lips. Oh, was she so fair in his eyes?
Only great love, as well as great genius, could have so portrayed

This was herself as she might be, grown finer, and of a larger
faith, a deeper and sweeter charity. A sort of awe touched her. This
man who loved her, who had the power of showing her herself as she
might pray to become, this wonderful lover of hers, was no mere
amateur with a pretty gift. This was one of the few, one of the

And then she noticed the Red Admiral in the corner. She stared at it
unbelievingly. That butterfly! Why--why--She had read of one who
signed with a butterfly above his name pictures that were called
great. A thought that made her brain swim and her heart beat
suffocatingly crashed upon her like a clap of thunder. She walked
toward the mantel like one in a daze, until she stood directly
before the painting.

And it was his butterfly. And under it was his name: _Peter
Devereaux Champneys_.

The room bobbed up and down. But she didn't faint, she didn't
scream. She caught hold of the mantel to steady herself. She
wondered how she hadn't known; she had the same sense of wild
amazement that must fill one who has been brought face to face with
a stupendous, a quite impossible miracle. Such a thing couldn't
happen: and yet it is so! And oddly enough, out of this welter of
her thoughts, there came to her memory a screened bed in a hospital
ward, and a dying gutter-girl looking at her with unearthly eyes and
telling her in a thin whisper:

"I wanted to see if you was good enough for _him_. You ain't. But
remember what I'm tellin' you--you could be."

Pierre--Peter Champneys! She slipped to her knees and hid her face
in her shaking hands. Peter Champneys! As in a lightning flash she
saw him as that girl Gracie had seen him. Pierre--Pierre, with his
eyes of an archangel, his lips that were the chrism of life--_this_
was Peter Champneys! And she had hated him, let him go, all
unknowing, she had wished to put in _his_ place Berkeley Hayden. The
handsome, worldly figure of Hayden seemed to dwindle and shrink.
Pierre stood as on a height, looking at her steadfastly. Her head
went lower. Tears trickled between her fingers.

_You ain't good enough for him, but you could be_.

"I can be, I can be! Oh, God, I can be! Only let him love me--when
he knows!"

She heard Mrs. Thatcher's voice downstairs, after a while. Then a
deeper voice, a man's voice, with a note of impatience and eagerness
in it.

"No, don't call her. I'll go right on up," said the voice, over the
feminine apologies and protests. "I have to see her--I must see her
now. No, I can't wait."

Somebody came flying up the steps. She hadn't closed her door, and
his tall figure seemed to fill it. He stopped, with a gasp, at sight
of the weeping woman kneeling before the picture on the mantel.

"Anne!" he cried. "Anne!" And he would have raised her, but she
clung to his knees, lifting her tear-stained face, her eyes full of
an adoration that would never leave them until life left them.

"Peter!" she cried. "Peter! That--that butterfly! I know now,

Again he tried to raise her, but she clasped his knees all the

"You mean you know my name is really Peter Champneys, dearest?"

But she caught his hands. "Peter, Peter, don't you understand?" she
cried, laughing and weeping. "I--I'm the ogress! I'm Nancy Simms!
I'm Anne Champneys!"

He looked from her to her portrait and back again. He gave a great
ringing cry of, "My wife!" and lifted her in a mighty grip that
swept her up and into his arms. "My wife!" he cried. "My wife!"

Undoubtedly the Red Admiral was a fairy!

* * * * *

On a certain morning Mr. Jason Vandervelde was sitting at his desk,
disconnectedly dictating a letter to his secretary. He was finding
it very difficult to fix his mind upon his correspondence. What the
mischief was happening up there in Maine, anyhow? She hadn't written
for some time; and he hadn't had a word from Peter Champneys. And
when Marcia came home and found out he'd been meddling--well, the
meddler would have to pay the fiddler, that's all!

The office boy came in with a telegram. Mr. Vandervelde paused in
his dictation, tore open the envelop, and read the message. And then
the horrified secretary saw an amazing and an awesome sight. Mr.
Jason Vandervelde bounced to his feet as lightly as though he had
been a rubber ball, and performed a solemnly joyful dance around his
office. His eyeglasses jigged on his nose, a lock of his sleekly
brushed hair fell upon his forehead. Meeting the fixed stare of the
secretary, he winked! And with a sort of elephantine religiosity he
finished his amazing measure, caught once more the glassy eye of the
secretary, and panted:

"King David danced before the ark--of the Lord. For which
reason--your salary is raised--from to-day."

He stopped then, snatched the telegram off his desk, and read it

We have met and I have married my wife. Anne sends love.
Thank you and God bless you, Vandervelde!

"Put up that note-book. Take a day off. Go and enjoy yourself. Be
happy!" said Vandervelde to the secretary. Then he snatched up the
desk telephone.

"The florist's? Yes? How soon can you get six dozen bride roses up
here, to Mr. Vandervelde's office? Yes, this is Mr. Vandervelde
speaking. You can? Well, there's a thumping tip for somebody who
knows how to rush! Half an hour? Thank you. I'll wait for 'em here."

He hung up the receiver and turned his beaming countenance to the
stunned secretary. His eyes twinkled like little blue stars, the
corners of his mouth curled more than usual.

"Anne and Peter Champneys have been and gone and married each
other!" he chuckled. "I'm going to take a carful of bride roses
around to the Champneys house and put 'em under old Chadwick
Champneys's portrait!"



Back to Full Books