Transcriber's Note: The images for this text were scanned from the 1894 edition.
Mary E. Wilkins
Harper & Brothers Publishers; New York: 1900
Pembroke was originally intended as a study of the human will in several New England characters, in different phases of disease and abnormal development, and to prove, especially in the most marked case, the truth of a theory that its cure depended entirely upon the capacity of the individual for a love which could rise above all considerations of self, as Barnabas Thayer's love for Charlotte Barnard finally did.
While Barnabas Thayer is the most pronounced exemplification of this theory, and while he, being drawn from life, originally suggested the scheme of the study, a number of the other characters, notably Deborah Thayer, Richard Alger, and Cephas Barnard, are instances of the same spiritual disease. Barnabas to me was as much the victim of disease as a man with curvature of the spine; he was incapable of straightening himself to his former stature until he had laid hands upon a more purely unselfish love than he had ever known, through his anxiety for Charlotte, and so raised himself to his own level.
When I make use of the term abnormal, I do not mean unusual in any sense. I am far from any intention to speak disrespectfully or disloyally of those stanch old soldiers of the faith who landed upon our inhospitable shores and laid the foundation, as on a very rock of spirit, for the New England of to-day; but I am not sure, in spite of their godliness, and their noble adherence, in the face of obstacles, to the dictates of their consciences, that their wills were not developed past the reasonable limit of nature. What wonder is it that their descendants inherit this peculiarity, though they may develop it for much less worthy and more trivial causes than the exiling themselves for a question of faith, even the carrying-out of personal and petty aims and quarrels?
There lived in a New England village, at no very remote time, a man who objected to the painting of the kitchen floor, and who quarrelled furiously with his wife concerning the same. When she persisted, in spite of his wishes to the contrary, and the floor was painted, he refused to cross it to his dying day, and always, to his great inconvenience, but probably to his soul's satisfaction, walked around it.
A character like this, holding to a veriest trifle with such a deathless cramp of the will, might naturally be regarded as a notable exception to a general rule; but his brethren who sit on church steps during services, who are dumb to those whom they should love, and will not enter familiar doors because of quarrels over matters of apparently no moment, are legion. Pembroke is intended to portray a typical New England village of some sixty years ago, as many of the characters flourished at that time, but villages of a similar description have existed in New England at a much later date, and they exist to-day in a very considerable degree. There are at the present time many little towns in New England along whose pleasant elm or maple shaded streets are scattered characters as pronounced as any in Pembroke. A short time since a Boston woman recited in my hearing a list of seventy-five people in the very small Maine village in which she was born and brought up, and every one of the characters which she mentioned had some almost incredibly marked physical or mental characteristic.
However, this state of things—this survival of the more prominent traits of the old stiff-necked ones, albeit their necks were stiffened by their resistance of the adversary—can necessarily be known only to the initiated. The sojourner from cities for the summer months cannot often penetrate in the least, though he may not be aware of it, the reserve and dignified aloofness of the dwellers in the white cottages along the road over which he drives. He often looks upon them from the superior height of a wise and keen student of character; he knows what he thinks of them, but he never knows what they think of him or themselves. Unless he is a man of the broadest and most democratic tendencies, to whom culture and the polish of society is as nothing beside humanity, and unless he returns, as faithfully as the village birds to their nests, to his summer home year after year, he cannot see very far below the surfaces of villages of which Pembroke is typical. Quite naturally, when the surfaces are broken by some unusual revelation of a strongly serrate individuality, and the tale thereof is told at his dinner-table with an accompaniment of laughter and exclamation-points, he takes that case for an isolated and by no means typical one, when, if the truth were told, the village windows are full of them as he passes by.
However, this state of things must necessarily exist, and has existed, in villages which, like Pembroke, have not been brought much in contact with outside influences, and have not been studied or observed at all by people not of their kind by birth or long familiarity. In towns which have increased largely in population, and have become more or less assimilated with a foreign element, these characters do not exist in such a large measure, are more isolated in reality, and have, consequently, less claim to be considered types. But there have been, and are to-day in New England, hundreds of villages like Pembroke, where nearly every house contains one or more characters so marked as to be incredible, though a writer may be prevented, for obvious reasons, from mentioning names and proving facts.
There is often to a mind from the outside world an almost repulsive narrowness and a pitiful sordidness which amounts to tragedy in the lives of such people as those portrayed in Pembroke, but quite generally the tragedy exists only in the comprehension of the observer and not at all in that of the observed. The pitied would meet pity with resentment; they would be full of wonder and wrath if told that their lives were narrow, since they have never seen the limit of the breadth of their current of daily life. A singing-school is as much to them as a symphony concert and grand opera to their city brethren, and a sewing church sociable as an afternoon tea. Though the standard of taste of the simple villagers, and their complete satisfaction therewith, may reasonably be lamented, as also their restricted view of life, they are not to be pitied, generally speaking, for their unhappiness in consequence. It may be that the lack of unhappiness constitutes the real tragedy.
At half-past six o'clock on Sunday night Barnabas came out of his bedroom. The Thayer house was only one story high, and there were no chambers. A number of little bedrooms were clustered around the three square rooms—the north and south parlors, and the great kitchen.
Barnabas walked out of his bedroom straight into the kitchen where the other members of the family were. They sat before the hearth fire in a semi-circle—Caleb Thayer, his wife Deborah, his son Ephraim, and his daughter Rebecca. It was May, but it was quite cold; there had been talk of danger to the apple blossoms; there was a crisp coolness in the back of the great room in spite of the hearth fire.
Caleb Thayer held a great leather-bound Bible on his knees, and was reading aloud in a solemn voice. His wife sat straight in her chair, her large face tilted with a judicial and argumentative air, and Rebecca's red cheeks bloomed out more brilliantly in the heat of the fire. She sat next her mother, and her smooth dark head with its carven comb arose from her Sunday kerchief with a like carriage. She and her mother did not look alike, but their motions were curiously similar, and perhaps gave evidence to a subtler resemblance in character and motive power.
Ephraim, undersized for his age, in his hitching, home-made clothes, twisted himself about when Barnabas entered, and stared at him with slow regard. He eyed the smooth, scented hair, the black satin vest with a pattern of blue flowers on it, the blue coat with brass buttons, and the shining boots, then he whistled softly under his breath.
"Ephraim!" said his mother, sharply. She had a heavy voice and a slight lisp, which seemed to make it more impressive and more distinctively her own. Caleb read on ponderously.
"Where ye goin', Barney?" Ephraim inquired, with a chuckle and a grin, over the back of his chair.
"Ephraim!" repeated his mother. Her blue eyes frowned around his sister at him under their heavy sandy brows.
Ephraim twisted himself back into position. "Jest wanted to know where he was goin'," he muttered.
Barnabas stood by the window brushing his fine bell hat with a white duck's wing. He was a handsome youth; his profile showed clear and fine in the light, between the sharp points of his dicky bound about by his high stock. His cheeks were as red as his sister's.
When he put on his hat and opened the door, his mother herself interrupted Caleb's reading.
"Don't you stay later than nine o'clock, Barnabas," said she.
The young man murmured something unintelligibly, but his tone was resentful.
"I ain't going to have you out as long as you were last Sabbath night," said his mother, in quick return. She jerked her chin down heavily as if it were made of iron.
Barnabas went out quickly, and shut the door with a thud.
"If he was a few years younger, I'd make him come back an' shut that door over again," said his mother.
Caleb read on; he was reading now one of the imprecatory psalms. Deborah's blue eyes gleamed with warlike energy as she listened: she confused King David's enemies with those people who crossed her own will.
Barnabas went out of the yard, which was wide and deep on the south side of the house. The bright young grass was all snowed over with cherry blossoms. Three great cherry-trees stood in a row through the centre of the yard; they had been white with blossoms, but now they were turning green; and the apple-trees were in flower.
There were many apple-trees behind the stone-walls that bordered the wood. The soft blooming branches looked strangely incongruous in the keen air. The western sky was clear and yellow, and there were a few reefs of violet cloud along it. Barnabas looked up at the apple blossoms over his head, and wondered if there would be a frost. From their apple orchard came a large share of the Thayer income, and Barnabas was vitally interested in such matters now, for he was to be married the last of June to Charlotte Barnard. He often sat down with a pencil and slate, and calculated, with intricate sums, the amounts of his income and their probable expenses. He had made up his mind that Charlotte should have one new silk gown every year, and two new bonnets—one for summer and one for winter. His mother had often noted, with scorn, that Charlotte Barnard wore her summer bonnet with another ribbon on it winters, and, moreover, had not had a new bonnet for three years.
"She looks handsomer in it than any girl in town, if she hasn't," Barnabas had retorted with quick resentment, but he nevertheless felt sensitive on the subject of Charlotte's bonnet, and resolved that she should have a white one trimmed with gauze ribbons for summer, and one of drawn silk, like Rebecca's, for winter, only the silk should be blue instead of pink, because Charlotte was fair.
Barnabas had even pondered with tender concern, before he bought his fine flowered satin waistcoat, if he might not put the money it would cost into a bonnet for Charlotte, but he had not dared to propose it. Once he had bought a little blue-figured shawl for her, and her father had bade her return it.
"I ain't goin' to have any young sparks buyin' your clothes while you are under my roof," he had said.
Charlotte had given the shawl back to her lover. "Father don't feel as if I ought to take it, and I guess you'd better keep it now, Barney," she said, with regretful tears in her eyes.
Barnabas had the blue shawl nicely folded in the bottom of his little hair-cloth trunk, which he always kept locked.
After a quarter of a mile the stone-walls and the spray of apple blossoms ended; there was a short stretch of new fence, and a new cottage-house only partly done. The yard was full of lumber, and a ladder slanted to the roof, which gleamed out with the fresh pinky yellow of unpainted pine.
Barnabas stood before the house a few minutes, staring at it. Then he walked around it slowly, his face upturned. Then he went in the front door, swinging himself up over the sill, for there were no steps, and brushing the sawdust carefully from his clothes when he was inside. He went all over the house, climbing a ladder to the second story, and viewing with pride the two chambers under the slant of the new roof. He had repelled with scorn his father's suggestion that he have a one-story instead of a story-and-a-half house. Caleb had an inordinate horror and fear of wind, and his father, who had built the house in which he lived, had it before him. Deborah often descanted indignantly upon the folly of sleeping in little tucked-up bedrooms instead of good chambers, because folks' fathers had been scared to death of wind, and Barnabas agreed with her. If he had inherited any of his father's and grandfather's terror of wind, he made no manifestation of it.
In the lower story of the new cottage were two square front rooms like those in his father's house, and behind them the great kitchen with a bedroom out of it, and a roof of its own.
Barnabas paused at last in the kitchen, and stood quite still, leaning against a window casement. The windows were not in, and the spaces let in the cool air and low light. Outside was a long reach of field sloping gently upward. In the distance, at the top of the hill, sharply outlined against the sky, was a black angle of roof and a great chimney. A thin column of smoke rose out of it, straight and dark. That was where Charlotte Barnard lived.
Barnabas looked out and saw the smoke rising from the chimney of the Barnard house. There was a little hollow in the field that was quite blue with violets, and he noted that absently. A team passed on the road outside; it was as if he saw and heard everything from the innermost recesses of his own life, and everything seemed strange and far off.
He turned to go, but suddenly stood still in the middle of the kitchen, as if some one had stopped him. He looked at the new fireless hearth, through the open door into the bedroom which he would occupy after he was married to Charlotte, and through others into the front rooms, which would be apartments of simple state, not so closely connected with every-day life. The kitchen windows would be sunny. Charlotte would think it a pleasant room.
"Her rocking-chair can set there," said Barnabas aloud. The tears came into his eyes; he stepped forward, laid his smooth boyish cheek against a partition wall of this new house, and kissed it. It was a fervent demonstration, not towards Charlotte alone, nor the joy to come to him within those walls, but to all life and love and nature, although he did not comprehend it. He half sobbed as he turned away; his thoughts seemed to dazzle his brain, and he could not feel his feet. He passed through the north front room, which would be the little-used parlor, to the door, and suddenly started at a long black shadow on the floor. It vanished as he went on, and might have been due to his excited fancy, which seemed substantial enough to cast shadows.
"I shall marry Charlotte, we shall live here together all our lives, and die here," thought Barnabas, as he went up the hill. "I shall lie in my coffin in the north room, and it will all be over," but his heart leaped with joy. He stepped out proudly like a soldier in a battalion, he threw back his shoulders in his Sunday coat.
The yellow glow was paling in the west, the evening air was like a cold breath in his face. He could see the firelight flickering upon the kitchen wall of the Barnard house as he drew near. He came up into the yard and caught a glimpse of a fair head in the ruddy glow. There was a knocker on the door; he raised it gingerly and let it fall. It made but a slight clatter, but a woman's shadow moved immediately across the yard outside, and Barnabas heard the inner door open. He threw open the outer one himself, and Charlotte stood there smiling, and softly decorous. Neither of them spoke. Barnabas glanced at the inner door to see if it were closed, then he caught Charlotte's hands and kissed her.
"You shouldn't do so, Barnabas," whispered Charlotte, turning her face away. She was as tall as Barnabas, and as handsome.
"Yes, I should," persisted Barnabas, all radiant, and his face pursued hers around her shoulder.
"It's pretty cold out, ain't it?" said Charlotte, in a chiding voice which she could scarcely control.
"I've been in to see our house. Give me one more kiss. Oh, Charlotte!"
"Charlotte!" cried a deep voice, and the lovers started apart.
"I'm coming, father," Charlotte cried out. She opened the door and went soberly into the kitchen, with Barnabas at her heels. Her father, mother, and Aunt Sylvia Crane sat there in the red gleam of the firelight and gathering twilight. Sylvia sat a little behind the others, and her face in her white cap had the shadowy delicacy of one of the flowering apple sprays outside.
"How d'ye do?" said Barnabas in a brave tone which was slightly aggressive. Charlotte's mother and aunt responded rather nervously.
"How's your mother, Barnabas?" inquired Mrs. Barnard.
"She's pretty well, thank you."
Charlotte pulled forward a chair for her lover; he had just seated himself, when Cephas Barnard spoke in a voice as sudden and gruff as a dog's bark. Barnabas started, and his chair grated on the sanded floor.
"Light the candle, Charlotte," said Cephas, and Charlotte obeyed. She lighted the candle on the high shelf, then she sat down next Barnabas. Cephas glanced around at them. He was a small man, with a thin face in a pale film of white locks and beard, but his black eyes gleamed out of it with sharp fixedness. Barnabas looked back at him unflinchingly, and there was a curious likeness between the two pairs of black eyes. Indeed, there had been years ago a somewhat close relationship between the Thayers and the Barnards, and it was not strange if one common note was repeated generations hence.
Cephas had been afraid lest Barnabas should, all unperceived in the dusk, hold his daughter's hand, or venture upon other loverlike familiarity. That was the reason why he had ordered the candle lighted when it was scarcely dark enough to warrant it.
But Barnabas seemed scarcely to glance at his sweetheart as he sat there beside her, although in some subtle fashion, perhaps by some finer spiritual vision, not a turn of her head, nor a fleeting expression on her face, like a wind of the soul, escaped him. He saw always Charlotte's beloved features high and pure, almost severe, but softened with youthful bloom, her head with fair hair plaited in a smooth circle, with one long curl behind each ear. Charlotte would scarcely have said he had noticed, but he knew well she had on a new gown of delaine in a mottled purple pattern, her worked-muslin collar, and her mother's gold beads which she had given her.
Barnabas kept listening anxiously for the crackle of the hearth fire in the best room; he hoped Charlotte had lighted the fire, and they should soon go in there by themselves. They usually did of a Sunday night, but sometimes Cephas forbade his daughter to light the fire and prohibited any solitary communion between the lovers.
"If Barnabas Thayer can't set here with the rest of us, he can go home," he proclaimed at times, and he had done so to-night. Charlotte had acquiesced forlornly; there was nothing else for her to do. Early in her childhood she had learned along with her primer her father's character, and the obligations it imposed upon her.
"You must be a good girl, and mind; it's your father's way," her mother used to tell her. Mrs. Barnard herself had spelt out her husband like a hard and seemingly cruel text in the Bible. She marvelled at its darkness in her light, but she believed in it reverently, and even pugnaciously.
The large, loosely built woman, with her heavy, sliding step, waxed fairly decisive, and her soft, meek-lidded eyes gleamed hard and prominent when her elder sister, Hannah, dared inveigh against Cephas.
"I tell you it is his way," said Sarah Barnard. And she said it as if "his way" was the way of the King.
"His way!" Hannah would sniff back. "His way! Keepin' you all on rye meal one spell, an' not lettin' you eat a mite of Injun, an' then keepin' you on Injun without a mite of rye! Makin' you eat nothin' but greens an' garden stuff, an' jest turnin' you out to graze an' chew your cuds like horned animals one spell, an' then makin' you live on meat! Lettin' you go abroad when he takes a notion, an' then keepin' you an' Charlotte in the house a year!"
"It's his way, an' I ain't goin' to have anything said against it," Sarah Barnard would retort stanchly, and her sister would sniff back again. Charlotte was as loyal as her mother; she did not like it if even her lover intimated anything in disfavor of her father.
No matter how miserable she was in consequence of her acquiescence with her father's will, she sternly persisted.
To-night she knew that Barnabas was waiting impatiently for her signal to leave the rest of the company and go with her into the front room; there was also a tender involuntary impatience and longing in every nerve of her body, but nobody would have suspected it; she sat there as calmly as if Barnabas were old Squire Payne, who sometimes came in of a Sabbath evening, and seemed to be listening intently to her mother and her Aunt Sylvia talking about the spring cleaning.
Cephas and Barnabas were grimly silent. The young man suspected that Cephas had prohibited the front room; he was indignant about that, and the way in which Charlotte had been summoned in from the entry, and he had no diplomacy.
Charlotte, under her calm exterior, grew uneasy; she glanced at her mother, who glanced back. It was to both women as if they felt by some subtle sense the brewing of a tempest. Charlotte unobtrusively moved her chair a little nearer her lover's; her purple delaine skirt swept his knee; both of them blushed and trembled with Cephas's black eyes upon them.
Charlotte never knew quite how it began, but her father suddenly flung out a dangerous topic like a long-argued bone of contention, and he and Barnabas were upon it. Barnabas was a Democrat, and Cephas was a Whig, and neither ever forgot it of the other. None of the women fairly understood the point at issue; it was as if they drew back their feminine skirts and listened amazed and trembling to this male hubbub over something outside their province. Charlotte grew paler and paler. She looked piteously at her mother.
"Now, father, don't," Sarah ventured once or twice, but it was like a sparrow piping against the north wind.
Charlotte laid her hand on her lover's arm and kept it there, but he did not seem to heed her. "Don't," she said; "don't, Barnabas. I think there's going to be a frost to-night; don't you?" But nobody heard her. Sylvia Crane, in the background, clutched the arms of her rocking-chair with her thin hands.
Suddenly both men began hurling insulting epithets at each other. Cephas sprang up, waving his right arm fiercely, and Barnabas shook off Charlotte's hand and was on his feet.
"Get out of here!" shouted Cephas, in a hoarse voice—"get out of here! Get out of this house, an' don't you ever darse darken these doors again while the Lord Almighty reigns!" The old man was almost inarticulate; he waved his arms, wagged his head, and stamped; he looked like a white blur with rage.
"I never will, by the Lord Almighty!" returned Barnabas, in an awful voice; then the door slammed after him. Charlotte sprang up.
"Set down!" shouted Cephas. Charlotte rushed forward. "You set down!" her father repeated; her mother caught hold of her dress.
"Charlotte, do set down," she whispered, glancing at her husband in terror. But Charlotte pulled her dress away.
"Don't you stop me, mother. I am not going to have him turned out this way," she said. Her father advanced threateningly, but she set her young, strong shoulders against him and pushed past out of the door. The door was slammed to after her and the bolt shot, but she did not heed that. She ran across the yard, calling: "Barney! Barney! Barney! Come back!" Barnabas was already out in the road; he never turned his head, and kept on. Charlotte hurried after him. "Barney," she cried, her voice breaking with sobs—"Barney, do come back. You aren't mad at me, are you?" Barney never turned his head; the distance between them widened as Charlotte followed, calling. She stopped suddenly, and stood watching her lover's dim retreating back, straining with his rapid strides.
"Barney Thayer," she called out, in an angry, imperious tone, "if you're ever coming back, you come now!"
But Barney kept on as if he did not hear. Charlotte gasped for breath as she watched him; she could scarcely help her feet running after him, but she would not follow him any farther. She did not call him again; in a minute she turned around and went back to the house, holding her head high in the dim light.
She did not try to open the door; she was sure it was locked, and she was too proud. She sat down on the flat, cool door-stone, and remained there as dusky and motionless against the old gray panel of the door as the shadow of some inanimate object that had never moved.
The wind began to rise, and at the same time the full moon, impelled softly upward by force as unseen as thought. Charlotte's fair head gleamed out abruptly in the moonlight like a pale flower, but the folds of her mottled purple skirt were as vaguely dark as the foliage on the lilac-bush beside her. All at once the flowering branches on a wide-spreading apple-tree cut the gloom like great silvery wings of a brooding bird. The grass in the yard was like a shaggy silver fleece. Charlotte paid no more attention to it all than to her own breath, or a clock tick which she would have to withdraw from herself to hear.
A low voice, which was scarcely more than a whisper, called her, a slender figure twisted itself around the front corner of the house like a vine. "Charlotte, you there?" Charlotte did not hear. Then the whisper came again. "Charlotte!"
Charlotte looked around then.
A slender white hand reached out in the gloom around the corner and beckoned. "Charlotte, come; come quick."
Charlotte did not stir.
"Charlotte, do come. Your mother's dreadful afraid you'll catch cold. The front door is open."
Charlotte sat quite rigid. The slender figure began moving towards her stealthily, keeping close to the house, advancing with frequent pauses like a wary bird. When she got close to Charlotte she reached down and touched her shoulder timidly. "Oh, Charlotte, don't you feel bad? He'd ought to know your father by this time; he'll get over it and come back," she whispered.
"I don't want him to come back," Charlotte whispered fiercely in return.
Sylvia stared at her helplessly. Charlotte's face looked strange and hard in the moonlight. "Your mother's dreadful worried," she whispered again, presently. "She thinks you'll catch cold. I come out of the front door on purpose so you can go in that way. Your father's asleep in his chair. He told your mother not to unbolt this door to-night, and she didn't darse to. But we went past him real still to the front one, an' you can slip in there and get up to your chamber without his seeing you. Oh, Charlotte, do come!"
Charlotte arose, and she and Sylvia went around to the front door. Sylvia crept close to the house as before, but Charlotte walked boldly along in the moonlight. "Charlotte, I'm dreadful afraid he'll see you," Sylvia pleaded, but Charlotte would not change her course.
Just as they reached the front door it was slammed with a quick puff of wind in their faces. They heard Mrs. Barnard's voice calling piteously. "Oh, father, do let her in!" it implored.
"Don't you worry, mother," Charlotte called out. "I'll go home with Aunt Sylvia."
"Oh, Charlotte!" her mother's voice broke in sobs.
"Don't you worry, mother," Charlotte repeated, with an unrelenting tone in the comforting words. "I'll go right home with Aunt Sylvia. Come," she said, imperatively to her aunt, "I am not going to stand here any longer," and she went out into the road, and hastened down it, as Barnabas had done.
"I'll take her right home with me," Sylvia called to her sister in a trembling voice (nobody knew how afraid she was of Cephas); and she followed Charlotte.
Sylvia lived on an old road that led from the main one a short distance beyond the new house, so the way led past it. Charlotte went on at such a pace that Sylvia could scarcely keep up with her. She slid along in her wake, panting softly, and lifting her skirts out of the evening dew. She was trembling with sympathy for Charlotte, and she had also a worry of her own. When they reached the new house she fairly sobbed outright, but Charlotte went past in her stately haste without a murmur.
"Oh, Charlotte, don't feel so bad," mourned her aunt. "I know it will all come right." But Charlotte made no reply. Her dusky skirts swept around the bushes at the corner of the road, and Sylvia hurried tremulously after her.
Neither of them dreamed that Barnabas watched them, standing in one of the front rooms of his new house. He had gone in there when he fled from Cephas Barnard's, and had not yet been home. He recognized Charlotte's motions as quickly as her face, and knew Sylvia's voice, although he could not distinguish what she said. He watched them turn the corner of the other road, and thought that Charlotte was going to spend the night with her aunt—he did not dream why. He had resolved to stay where he was in his desolate new house, and not go home himself.
A great grief and resentment against the whole world and life itself swelled high within him. It was as if he lost sight of individual antagonists, and burned to dash life itself in the face because he existed. The state of happiness so exalted that it became almost holiness, in which he had been that very night, flung him to lower depths when it was retroverted. He had gone back to first causes in the one and he did the same in the other; his joy had reached out into eternity, and so did his misery. His natural religious bent, inherited from generations of Puritans, and kept in its channel by his training from infancy, made it impossible for him to conceive of sympathy or antagonism in its fullest sense apart from God.
Sitting on a pile of shavings in a corner of the north room, he fairly hugged himself with fierce partisanship. "What have I done to be treated in this way?" he demanded, setting his face ahead in the darkness; and he did not see Cephas Barnard's threatening countenance, but another, gigantic with its vague outlines, which his fancy could not limit, confronting him with terrible negative power like a stone image. He struck out against it, and the blows fell back on his own heart.
"What have I done?" he demanded over and over of this great immovable and silent consciousness which he realized before him. "Have I not kept all thy commandments from childhood? Have I ever failed to praise thee as the giver of my happiness, and ask thy blessing upon it? What have I done that it should be taken away? It was given to me only to be taken away. Why was it given to me, then?—that I might be mocked? Oh, I am mocked, I am mocked!" he cried out, in a great rage, and he struck out in the darkness, and his heart leaped with futile pain. The possibility that his misery might not be final never occurred to him. It never occurred to him that he could enter Cephas Barnard's house again, ask his pardon, and marry Charlotte. It seemed to him settled and inevitable; he could not grasp any choice in the matter.
Barnabas finally threw himself back on the pile of shavings, and lay there sullenly. Great gusts of cold wind came in at the windows at intervals, a loose board somewhere in the house rattled, the trees outside murmured heavily.
"There won't be a frost," Barnabas thought, his mind going apace on its old routine in spite of its turmoil. Then he thought with the force of an oath that he did not care if there was a frost. All the trees this spring had blossomed only for him and Charlotte; now there was no longer any use in that; let the blossoms blast and fall!
Sylvia Crane's house was the one in which her grandmother had been born, and was the oldest house in the village. It was known as the "old Crane place." It had never been painted, it was shedding its flapping gray shingles like gray scales, the roof sagged in a mossy hollow before the chimney, the windows and doors were awry, and the whole house was full of undulations and wavering lines, which gave it a curiously unreal look in broad daylight. In the moonlight it was the shadowy edifice built of a dream.
As Sylvia and Charlotte came to the front door it seemed as if they might fairly walk through it as through a gray shadow; but Sylvia stooped, and her shoulders strained with seemingly incongruous force, as if she were spending it to roll away a shadow. On the flat doorstep lay a large round stone, pushed close against the door. There were no locks and keys in the old Crane place; only bolts. Sylvia could not fasten the doors on the inside when she went away, so she adopted this expedient, which had been regarded with favor by her mother and grandmother before her, and illustrated natures full of gentle fallacies which went far to make existence comfortable.
Always on leaving the house alone the Crane women had bolted the side door, which was the one in common use, gone out the front one, and laboriously rolled this same round stone before it. Sylvia reasoned as her mother and grandmother before her, with the same simplicity: "When the stone's in front of the door, folks must know there ain't anybody to home, because they couldn't put it there if they was."
And when some neighbor had argued that the evil-disposed might roll away the stone and enter at will, Sylvia had replied, with the innocent conservatism with which she settled an argument, "Nobody ever did."
To-night she rolled away the stone to the corner of the door-step, where it had lain through three generations when the Crane women were at home, and sighed with regret that she had defended the door with it. "I wish I hadn't put the stone up," she thought. "If I hadn't, mebbe he'd gone in an' waited." She opened the door, and the gloom of the house, deeper than the gloom of the night, appeared. "You wait here a minute," she said to Charlotte, "an' I'll go in an' light a candle."
Charlotte waited, leaning against the door-post. There was a flicker of fire within. Then Sylvia held the flaring candle towards her. "Come in," she said; "the candle's lit."
There was a bed of coals on the hearth in the best room; Sylvia had made a fire there before going over to her sister's, but it had burned low. The glow of the coals and the smoky flare of the candle lighted the room uncertainly, scattering and not dispelling the shadows. There was a primly festive air in the room. The flag-bottomed chairs stood by twos, finely canted towards each other, against the wall; the one great hair-cloth rocker stood ostentatiously in advance of them, facing the hearth fire; the long level of the hair-cloth sofa gleamed out under stiff sweeps of the white fringed curtains at the window behind it. The books on the glossy card-table were set canting towards each other like the chairs, and with their gilt edges towards the light. And Sylvia had set also on the table a burnished pitcher of a rosy copper-color full of apple blossoms.
She looked at it when she had set the candle on the shelf. It seemed to her that all the light in the room centred on it, and it shone in her eyes like a copper lamp.
Charlotte also glanced at it. "Why, Richard must have come while you were over to our house," she said.
"It don't make any odds if he did," returned Sylvia, with a faint blush and a bridle. Sylvia was much younger than her sister. Standing there in the dim light she did not look so much older than her niece. Her figure had the slim angularity and primness which are sometimes seen in elderly women who are not matrons, and she had donned a little white lace cap at thirty, but her face had still a delicate bloom, and the wistful wonder of expression which belongs to youth.
However, she never thought of Charlotte as anything but a child as compared with herself. Sylvia felt very old, and the more so that she grudged her years painfully. She stirred up the fire a little, holding back her shiny black silk skirt carefully. Charlotte stood leaning against the shelf, looking moodily down at the fire.
"I wouldn't feel bad if I was you, Charlotte," Sylvia ventured, timidly.
"I guess we'd better go to bed pretty soon," returned Charlotte. "It must be late."
"Had you rather sleep with me, Charlotte, or sleep in the spare chamber?"
"I guess I'll go in the spare chamber."
"Well, I'll get you a night-gown."
Both of their faces were sober, but perfectly staid. They bade each other good-night without a quiver; but Charlotte, after she had said her dutiful and unquestioning prayer, and lay folded in Sylvia's ruffled night-gown in the best bed, shook with great sobs. "Poor Barney!" she kept muttering. "Poor Barney! poor Barney!"
The doors were all open, and once she thought she heard a sob from below, then concluded she must be mistaken. But she was not, for Sylvia Crane was lamenting as sorely as the younger maiden up-stairs. "Poor Richard!" she repeated, piteously. "Poor Richard! There he came, and the stone was up, and he had to go away."
The faces which were so clear to the hearts of both women, as if they were before their eyes, had a certain similarity. Indeed, Richard Alger and Barnabas Thayer were distantly related on the mother's side, and people said they looked enough alike to be brothers. Sylvia saw the same type of face as Charlotte, only Richard's face was older, for he was six years older than she.
"If I hadn't put the stone up," she moaned, "maybe he would have thought I didn't hear him knock, an' he'd come in an' waited. Poor Richard, I dunno what he thought! It's the first time it's happened for eighteen years."
Sylvia, as she lay there, looked backward, and it seemed to her that the eighteen years were all made up of the Sunday nights on which Richard Alger had come to see her, as if they were all that made them immortal and redeemed them from the dead past. She had endured grief, but love alone made the past years stand out for her. Sylvia, in looking back over eighteen years, forgot the father, mother, and sister who had died in that time; their funeral trains passed before her eyes like so many shadows. She forgot all their cares and her own; she forgot how she had nursed her bedridden mother for ten years; she forgot everything but those blessed Sunday nights on which Richard Alger had come. She called to mind every little circumstance connected with them—how she had adorned the best room by slow degrees, saving a few cents at a time from her sparse income, because he sat in it every Sunday night; how she had had the bed which her mother and grandmother kept there removed because the fashion had changed, and the guilty audacity with which she had purchased a hair-cloth sofa to take its place.
That adorning of the best room had come to be a religion with Sylvia Crane. As faithfully as any worshipper of the Greek deity she laid her offerings, her hair-cloth sofa and rocker, her copper-gilt pitcher of apple blossoms, upon the altar of love.
Sylvia recalled, sobbing more piteously in the darkness, sundry dreams, which had never been realized, of herself and Richard sitting side by side and hand in hand, as confessed lovers, on that sofa. Richard Alger, during all those eighteen years, had never made love to Sylvia, unless his constant attendance upon Sabbath evenings could be so construed, as it was in that rural neighborhood, and as Sylvia was fain to construe it in her innocent heart.
It is doubtful if Sylvia, in her perfect decorum and long-fostered maiden reserve, fairly knew that Richard Alger had never made love to her. She scarcely expected her dreams of endearments to be realized; she regarded them, except in desperate moods, with shame. If her old admirer had, indeed, attempted to sit by her side upon that hair-cloth sofa and hold her hand, she would have arisen as if propelled by stiff springs of modest virtue. She did not fairly know that she was not made love to after the most honorable and orthodox fashion without a word of endearment or a caress; for she had been trained to regard love as one of the most secret of the laws of nature, to be concealed, with shamefaced air, even from herself; but she did know that Richard had never asked her to marry him, and for that she was impatient without any self-reserve; she was even confidential with her sister, Charlotte's mother.
"I don't want to say anything outside," she once said, "but I do think it would be a good deal better for him if we was settled down. He ain't half taken care of since his mother died."
"He's got money enough," returned Mrs. Barnard.
"That can't buy everything."
"Well, I don't pity him; I pity you," said Mrs. Barnard.
"I guess I shall get along a while longer, as far as that goes," Sylvia had replied to her sister, with some pride. "I ain't worried on my account."
"Women don't worry much on their own accounts, but they've got accounts," returned Mrs. Barnard, with more contempt for her sister than she had ever shown for herself. "You're gettin' older, Sylvy."
"I know it," Sylvia had replied, with a quick shrinking, as if from a blow.
The passing years, as they passed for her, stung her like swarming bees, with bitter humiliation; but never for herself, only for Richard. Nobody knew how painfully she counted the years, how she would fain have held time back with her thin hands, how futilely and pitifully she set her loving heart against it, and not for herself and her own vanity, but for the sake of her lover. She had come, in the singleness of her heart, to regard herself in the light of a species of coin to be expended wholly for the happiness and interest of one man. Any depreciation in its value was of account only as it affected him.
Sylvia Crane, sitting in the meeting-house of a Sunday, used to watch the young girls coming in, as radiant and flawless as new flowers, in their Sunday bests, with a sort of admiring envy, which could do them no harm, but which tore her own heart.
When she should have been contrasting the wickedness of her soul with the grace of the Divine Model, she was contrasting her fading face with the youthful bloom of the young girls. "He'd ought to marry one of them," she thought; "he'd ought to, by good rights." It never occurred to Sylvia that Richard also was growing older, and that he was, moreover, a few years older than she. She thought of him as an immortal youth; his face was the same to her as when she had first seen it.
When it came before a subtler vision than her bodily one, there in the darkness and loneliness of this last Sunday night, it wore the beauty and innocent freshness of a child. If Richard Alger could have seen his own face as the woman who loved him saw it, he could never have doubted his own immortality.
"There he came, an' the stone was up, an' he had to go away," moaned Sylvia, catching her breath softly. Many a time she had pitied Richard because he had not the little womanly care which men need; she had worried lest his stockings were not darned, and his food not properly cooked; but to-night she had another and strange anxiety. She worried lest she herself had hurt him and sent him home with a heavy heart.
Sylvia had gone about for the last few days with her delicate face as irresponsibly calm as a sweet-pea; nobody had dreamed of the turmoil in her heart. On the Wednesday night before she had nearly reached the climax of her wishes. Richard had come, departing from his usual custom—he had never called except on Sunday before—and remained later. It was ten o'clock before he went home. He had been very silent all the evening, and had sat soberly in the great best rocking-chair, which was, in a way, his throne of state, with Sylvia on the sofa on his right. Many a time she had dreamed that he came over there and sat down beside her, and that night it had come to pass.
Just before ten o'clock he had arisen hesitatingly; she thought it was to take leave, but she sat waiting and trembling. They had sat in the twilight and young moonlight all the evening. Richard had checked her when she attempted to light a candle. That had somehow made the evening seem strange, and freighted with consequences; and besides the white light of the moon, full of mystic influence, there was something subtler and more magnetic, which could sway more than the tides, even the passions of the human heart, present, and they both felt it.
Neither had said much, and they had been sitting there nearly two hours, when Richard had arisen, and moved curiously, rather as if he was drawn than walked of his own volition, over to the sofa. He sank down upon it with a little cough. Sylvia moved away a little with an involuntary motion, which was pure maidenliness.
"It's getting late," remarked Richard, trying to make his voice careless, but it fell in spite of him into deep cadences.
"It ain't very late, I guess," Sylvia had returned, tremblingly.
"I ought to be going home."
Then there was silence for a while. Sylvia glanced sidewise, timidly and adoringly, at Richard's smoothly shaven face, pale as marble in the moonlight, and waited, her heart throbbing.
"I've been coming here a good many years," Richard observed finally, and his own voice had a solemn tremor.
Sylvia made an almost inarticulate assent.
"I've been thinking lately," said Richard; then he paused. They could hear the great clock out in the kitchen tick. Sylvia waited, her very soul straining, although shrinking at the same time, to hear.
"I've been thinking lately," said Richard again, "that—maybe—it would be wise for—us both to—make some different arrangement."
Sylvia bent her head low. Richard paused for the second time. "I have always meant—" he began again, but just then the clock in the kitchen struck the first stroke of ten. Richard caught his breath and arose quickly. Never in his long courtship had he remained as late as that at Sylvia Crane's. It was as if a life-long habit struck as well as the clock, and decided his times for him.
"I must be going," said he, speaking against the bell notes. Sylvia arose without a word of dissent, but Richard spoke as if she had remonstrated.
"I'll come again next Sunday night," said he, apologetically.
Sylvia followed him to the door. They bade each other good-night decorously, with never a parting kiss, as they had done for years. Richard went out of sight down the white gleaming road, and she went in and to bed, with her heart in a great tumult of expectation and joyful fear.
She had tried to wait calmly for Sunday night. She had done her neat household tasks as usual, her face and outward demeanor were sweetly unruffled, but her thoughts seemed shivering with rainbows that constantly dazzled her with sweet shocks when her eyes met them. Her feet seemed constantly flying before her into the future, and she could scarcely tell where she might really be, in the present or in her dreams, which had suddenly grown so real.
On Sunday morning she had curled her soft fair hair, and arranged with trepidation one long light curl outside her bonnet on each side of her face. Her bonnet was tied under her chin with a green ribbon, and she had a little feathery green wreath around her face inside the rim. Her wide silk skirt was shot with green and blue, and rustled as she walked up the aisle to her pew. People stared after her without knowing why. There was no tangible change in her appearance. She had worn that same green shot silk many Sabbaths; her bonnet was three summers old; the curls drooping on her cheeks were an innovation, but the people did not recognize the change as due to them. Sylvia herself had looked with pleased wonder at her face in the glass; it was as if all her youthful beauty had suddenly come up, like a withered rose which is dipped in a vase.
"I sha'n't look so terrible old side of him when I go out bride," she reflected, happily, smiling fondly at herself. All the way to meeting that Sunday morning she saw her face as she had seen it in the glass, and it was as if she walked with something finer than herself.
Richard Alger sat with the choir in a pew beside the pulpit, at right angles with the others. He had a fine tenor voice, and had sung in the choir ever since he was a boy. When Sylvia sat down in her place, which was in full range of his eyes, he glanced at her without turning his head; he meant to look away again directly, so as not to be observed, but her face held him. A color slowly flamed out on his pale brown cheeks; his eyes became intense and abstracted. A soprano singer nudged the girl at her side; they both glanced at him and tittered, but he did not notice it.
Sylvia knew that he was looking at her, but she never looked at him. She sat soberly waving a little brown fan before her face; the light curls stirred softly. She wondered what he thought of them; if he considered them too young for her, and silly; but he did not see them at all. He had no eye for details. And neither did she even hear his fine tenor, still sweet and powerful, leading all the other male voices when the choir stood up to sing. She thought only of Richard himself.
After meeting, when she went down the aisle, several women had spoken to her, inquired concerning her health, and told her, with wondering eyes, that she looked well. Richard was far behind her, but she did not look around. They very seldom accosted each other, unless it was unavoidable, in any public place. Still, Sylvia, going out with gentle flounces of her green shot silk, knew well that Richard's eyes followed her, and his thought was close at her side.
After she got home from meeting that Sunday, Sylvia Crane did not know how to pass the time until the evening. She could not keep herself calm and composed as was her wont on the Sabbath day. She changed her silk for a common gown; she tried to sit down and read the Bible quietly and with understanding, but she could not. She turned to Canticles, and read a page or two. She had always believed loyally and devoutly in the application to Christ and the Church; but suddenly now, as she read, the restrained decorously chanting New England love-song in her maiden heart had leaped into the fervid measures of the oriental King. She shut the Bible with a clap. "I ain't giving the right meaning to it," she said, sternly, aloud.
She put away the Bible, went into the pantry, and got out some bread and cheese for her luncheon, but she could eat nothing. She picked the apple blossoms and arranged them in the copper-gilt pitcher on the best-room table. She even dusted off the hair-cloth sofa and rocker, with many compunctions, because it was Sunday. "I know I hadn't ought to do it to-day," she murmured, apologetically, "but they do get terrible dusty, and need dusting every day, and he is real particular, and he'll have on his best clothes."
Finally, just before twilight, Sylvia, unable to settle herself, had gone over to her sister's for a little call. Richard never came before eight o'clock, except in winter, when it was dark earlier. There was a certain half-shamefaced reserve about his visits. He knew well enough that people looked from their windows as he passed, and said, facetiously, "There goes Richard Alger to court Sylvy Crane." He preferred slipping past in a half-light, in which he did not seem so plain to himself, and could think himself less plain to other people.
Sylvia, detained at her sister's by the quarrel between Cephas and Barnabas, had arisen many a time to take leave, all palpitating with impatience, but her sister had begged her, in a distressed whisper, to remain.
"I guess you can get along without Richard Alger one Sunday evening," she had said finally, quite aloud, and quite harshly. "I guess your own sister has just as much claim on you as he has. I dunno what's going to be done. I don't believe Charlotte's father will let her in the house to-night."
Poor Sylvia had sunk back in her chair. To her sensitive conscience the duty nearest at hand seemed always to bark the loudest, and the precious moments had gone by until she knew that Richard had come, found the stone before the door, and gone away, and all her sweet turmoil of hope and anticipation had gone for naught.
Sylvia, lying there awake that night, her mind carrying her back over all that had gone before, had no doubt that this was the end of everything. Not originally a subtle discerner of character, she had come insensibly to know Richard so well that certain results from certain combinations of circumstances in his life were as plain and inevitable to her as the outcome of a simple sum in mathematics. "He'd got 'most out of his track for once," she groaned out softly, "but now he's pushed back in so hard he can't get out again if he wants to. I dunno how he's going to get along."
Sylvia, with the roof settling over her head, with not so much upon her few sterile acres to feed her as to feed the honey-bees and birds, with her heart in greater agony because its string of joy had been strained so high and sweetly before it snapped, did not lament over herself at all; neither did she over the other woman who lay up-stairs suffering in a similar case. She lamented only over Richard living alone and unministered to until he died.
When daylight came she got up, dressed herself, and prepared breakfast. Charlotte came down before it was ready. "Let me help get breakfast," she said, with an assumption of energy, standing in the kitchen doorway in her pretty mottled purple delaine. The purple was the shade of columbine, and very becoming to Charlotte. In spite of her sleepless night, her fine firm tints had not faded; she was too young and too strong and too full of involuntary resistance. She had done up her fair hair compactly; her chin had its usual proud lift.
Sylvia, shrinking as if before some unseen enemy as she moved about, her face all wan and weary, glanced at her half resentfully. "I guess she 'ain't had any such night as I have," she thought. "Girls don't know much about it."
"No, I don't need any help," she replied, aloud. "I 'ain't got anything to do but to stir up an Injun cake. You've got your best dress on. You'd better go and sit down."
"It won't hurt my dress any." Charlotte glanced down half scornfully at her purple skirt. It had lost all its glory for her. She was not even sure that Barney had seen it.
"Set down. I've got breakfast 'most ready," Sylvia said, again, more peremptorily than she was wont, and Charlotte sat down in the hollow-backed cherry rocking-chair beside the kitchen window, leaned her head back, and looked out indifferently between the lilac-bushes. The bushes were full of pinkish-purple buds. Sylvia's front yard reached the road in a broad slope, and the ground was hard, and green with dampness under the shade of a great elm-tree. The grass would never grow there over the roots of the elm, which were flung out broadly like great recumbent limbs over the whole yard, and were barely covered by the mould.
Across the street, seen under the green sweep of the elm, was an orchard of old apple-trees which had blossomed out bravely that spring. Charlotte looked at the white and rosy masses of bloom.
"I guess there wasn't any frost last night, after all," she remarked.
"I dunno," responded Sylvia, in a voice which made her niece look around at her. There was a curious impatient ring in it which was utterly foreign to it. There was a frown between Sylvia's gentle eyes, and she moved with nervous jerks, setting down dishes hard, as if they were refractory children, and lashing out with spoons as if they were whips. The long, steady strain upon her patience had not affected her temper, but this last had seemed to bring out a certain vicious and waspish element which nobody had suspected her to possess, and she herself least of all. She felt this morning disposed to go out of her way to sting, and as if some primal and evil instinct had taken possession of her. She felt shocked at herself, but all the more defiant and disposed to keep on.
"Breakfast is ready," she announced, finally; "if you don't set right up an' eat it, it will be gettin' cold. I wouldn't give a cent for cold Injun cake."
Charlotte arose promptly and brought a chair to the table, which Sylvia always set punctiliously in the centre of the kitchen as if for a large family.
"Don't scrape your chair on the floor that way; it wears 'em all out," cried Sylvia, sharply.
Charlotte stared at her again, but she said nothing; she sat down and began to eat absently. Sylvia watched her angrily between her own mouthfuls, which she swallowed down defiantly like medicine.
"It ain't much use cookin' things if folks don't eat 'em," said she.
"I am eating," returned Charlotte.
"Eatin'? Swallowin' down Injun cake as if it was sawdust! I don't call that eatin'. You don't act as if you tasted a mite of it!"
"Aunt Sylvy, what has got into you?" said Charlotte.
"Got into me? I should think you'd talk about anything gettin' into me, when you set there like a stick. I guess you 'ain't got all there is to bear."
"I never thought I had," said Charlotte.
"Well, I guess you 'ain't."
They went on swallowing their food silently; the great clock ticked slowly, and the spring birds called outside; but they heard neither. The shadows of the young elm leaves played over the floor and the white table-cloth. It was much warmer that morning, and the shadows were softer.
Before they had finished breakfast, Charlotte's mother came, advancing ponderously, with soft thuds, across the yard to the side door. She opened it and peered in.
"Here you be," said she, scanning both their faces with anxious and deprecating inquiry.
"Can't you come in, an' not stand there holdin' the door open?" inquired Sylvia. "I feel the wind on my back, and I've got a bad pain enough in it now."
Mrs. Barnard stepped in, and shut the door quickly, in an alarmed way.
"Ain't you feelin' well this mornin', Sylvy?" said she.
"Oh yes, I'm feelin' well enough. It ain't any matter how I feel, but it's a good deal how some other folks do."
Sarah Barnard sank into the rocking-chair, and sat there looking at them hesitatingly, as if she did not dare to open the conversation.
Suddenly Sylvia arose and went out of the kitchen with a rush, carrying a plate of Indian cake to feed the hens. "I can't set here all day; I've got to do something," she announced as she went.
When the door had closed after her, Mrs. Barnard turned to Charlotte.
"What's the matter with her?" she asked, nodding towards the door.
"I don't know."
"She ain't sick, is she? I never see her act so. Sylvy's generally just like a lamb. You don't s'pose she's goin' to have a fever, do you?"
"I don't know."
Suddenly Charlotte, who was still sitting at the table, put up her two hands with a despairing gesture, and bent her head forward upon them.
"Now don't, you poor child," said her mother, her eyes growing suddenly red. "Didn't he even turn round when you called him back last night?"
Charlotte shook her bowed head dumbly.
"Don't you s'pose he'll ever come again?"
Charlotte shook her head.
"Mebbe he will. I know he's terrible set."
"Who's set?" demanded Sylvia, coming in with her empty plate.
"Oh, I was jest sayin' that I thought Barney was kinder set," replied her sister, mildly.
"He ain't no more set than Cephas," returned Sylvia.
"Cephas ain't set. It's jest his way."
Sylvia sniffed. She looked scornfully at Charlotte, who had raised her head when she came in, but whose eyes were red. "Folks had better been created without ways, then," she retorted. "They'd better have been created slaves; they'd been enough sight happier an' better off, an' so would other folks that they have to do with, than to have so many ways, an' not sense enough to manage 'em. I don't believe in free-will, for my part."
"Sylvy Crane, you ain't goin' to deny one of the doctrines of the Church at your time of life?" demanded a new voice. Sylvia's other sister, Hannah Berry, stood in the doorway.
Sylvia ordinarily was meek before her, but now she faced her. "Yes, I be," said she; "I don't approve of free-will, and I ain't afraid to say it."
Sylvia had always been considered very unlike Mrs. Hannah Berry in face and character. Now, as she stood before her, a curious similarity appeared; even her voice sounded like her sister's.
"What on earth ails you, Sylvy?" asked Mrs. Berry, ignoring suddenly the matter in hand.
"Nothin' ails me that I know of. I don't think much of free-will, an' I ain't goin' to say I do when I don't."
"Then all I've got to say is you'd ought to be ashamed of yourself. Why, I should think you was crazy, Sylvy Crane, settin' up yourself agin' the doctrines of the Word. I'd like to know what you know about them."
"I know enough to see how they work," returned Sylvia, undauntedly, "an' I ain't goin' to pretend I'm blind when I can see."
Sylvia's serene arc of white forehead was shortened by a distressed frown, her mild mouth dropped sourly at the corners, and the lips were compressed. Her white cap was awry, and one of yesterday's curls hung lankly over her left cheek.
"You look an' act like a crazy creature," said Hannah Berry, eying her with indignant amazement. She walked across the room to another rocking-chair, moving with unexpected heaviness. She was in reality as stout as her sister Sarah Barnard, but she had a long, thin, and rasped face, which misled people.
"Now," said she, looking around conclusively, "I ain't come over here to argue about free-will. I want to know what all this is about?"
"All what?" returned Mrs. Barnard, feebly. She was distinctly afraid of her imperious sister, yet she was conscious of a quiver of resentment.
"All this fuss about Barney Thayer," said Hannah Berry.
"How did you hear about it?" Mrs. Barnard asked with a glance at Charlotte, who was sitting erect with her cheeks very red and her mouth tightly closed.
"Never mind how I heard," replied Hannah. "I did hear, an' that's enough. Now I want to know if you're really goin' to set down like an old hen an' give up, an' let this match between Charlotte an' a good, smart, likely young man like Barnabas Thayer be broken off on account of Cephas Barnard's crazy freaks?"
Sarah stiffened her neck. "There ain't no call for you to speak that way, Hannah. They got to talkin' over the 'lection."
"The 'lection! I'd like to know what business they had talkin' about it Sabbath night anyway? I ain't blamin' Barnabas so much; he's younger an' easier stirred up; but Cephas Barnard is an old man, an' he has been a church-member for forty year, an' he ought to know enough to set a better example. I'd like to know what difference it makes about the 'lection anyway? What odds does it make which one is President if he rules the country well? An' that they can't tell till they've tried him awhile anyway. I guess they don't think much about the country; it's jest to have their own way about it. I'd like to know what mortal difference it's goin' to make to Barney Thayer or Cephas Barnard which man is President? He won't never hear of them, an' they won't neither of them make him rule any different after he's chose. It's jest like two little boys—one wants to play marbles 'cause the other wants to play puss-in-the-corner, an' that's all the reason either one of 'em's got for standin' out. Men ain't got any too much sense anyhow, when you come right down to it. They don't ever get any too much grown up, the best of 'em. I'd like to know what Cephas Barnard has got to say because he's drove a good, likely young man like Barnabas Thayer off an' broke off his daughter's match? It ain't likely she'll ever get anybody now; young men like him, with nice new houses put up to go right to housekeepin' in as soon as they are married, don't grow on every bush. They ain't quite so thick as wild thimbleberries. An' Charlotte ain't got any money herself, an' her father ain't got any to build a house for her. I'd like to know what he's got to say about it?"
Mrs. Barnard put up her apron and began to weep helplessly.
"Don't, mother," said Charlotte, in an undertone. But her mother began talking in a piteous wailing fashion.
"You hadn't ought to talk so about Cephas," she moaned. "He's my husband. I guess you wouldn't like it if anybody talked so about your husband. Cephas ain't any worse than anybody else. It's jest his way. He wa'n't any more to blame than Barney; they both got to talkin'. I know Cephas is terrible upset about it this mornin'; he 'ain't really said so in so many words, but I know by the way he acts. He said this mornin' that he didn't know but we were eatin' the wrong kind of food. Lately he's had an idea that mebbe we'd ought to eat more meat; he's thought it was more strengthenin', an' we'd ought to eat things as near like what we wanted to strengthen as could be. I've made a good deal of bone soup. But now he says he thinks mebbe he's been mistaken, an' animal food kind of quickens the animal nature in us, an' that we'd better eat green things an' garden sass."
"I guess garden sass will strengthen the other kind of sass that Cephas Barnard has got in him full as much as bone soup has," interrupted Hannah Berry, with a sarcastic sniff.
"I dunno but he's right," said Mrs. Barnard. "Cephas thinks a good deal an' looks into things. I kind of wish he'd waited till the garden had got started, though, for there ain't much we can eat now but potatoes an' turnips an' dandelion greens."
"If you want to live on potatoes an' turnips an' dandelion greens, you can," cried Hannah Berry; "What I want to know is if you're goin' to settle down an' say nothin', an' have Charlotte lose the best chance she'll ever have in her life, if she lives to be a hundred—"
Charlotte spoke up suddenly; her blue eyes gleamed with steely light. She held her head high as she faced her aunt.
"I don't want any more talk about it, Aunt Hannah," said she.
"I don't want any more talk about it."
"Well, I guess you'll have more talk about it; girls don't get jilted without there is talk generally. I guess you'll have to make up your mind to it, for all you put on such airs with your own aunt, who left her washin' an' come over here to take your part. I guess when you stand out in the road half an hour an' call a young man to come back, an' he don't come, that folks are goin' to talk some. Who's that comin' now?"
"It's Cephas," whispered Mrs. Barnard, with a scared glance at Charlotte.
Cephas Barnard entered abruptly, and stood for a second looking at the company, while they looked back at him. His eyes were stolidly defiant, but he stood well back, and almost shrank against the door. There seemed to be impulses in Hannah's and Sylvia's faces confronting his.
He turned to his wife. "When you comin' home?" said he.
"Oh, Cephas! I jest ran over here a minute. I—wanted to see—if—Sylvy had any emptins. Do you want me an' Charlotte to come now?"
Cephas turned on his heel. "I think it's about time for you both to be home," he grunted.
Sarah Barnard arose and looked with piteous appeal at Charlotte.
Charlotte hesitated a second, then she arose without a word, and followed her mother, who followed Cephas. They went in a procession of three, with Cephas marching ahead like a general, across the yard, and Sylvia and Hannah stood at a window watching them.
"Well," said Hannah Berry, "all I've got to say is I'm thankful I 'ain't got a man like that, an' you ought to be mighty thankful you 'ain't got any man at all, Sylvy Crane."
When Cephas Barnard and his wife and daughter turned into the main road and came in sight of the new house, not one of them appeared to even glance at it, yet they all saw at once that there were no workmen about, and they also saw Barnabas himself ploughing with a white horse far back in a field at the left of it.
They all kept on silently. Charlotte paled a little when she caught sight of Barney, but her face was quite steady. "Hold your dress up a little higher; the grass is terrible wet," her mother whispered once, and that was all that any of them said until they reached home.
Charlotte went at once up-stairs to her own chamber, took off her purple gown, and hung it up in her closet, and got out a common one. The purple gown was part of her wedding wardrobe, and she had worn it in advance with some misgivings. "I dunno but you might jest as well wear it a few Sundays," her mother had said; "you're goin' to have your silk dress to come out bride in. I dunno as there's any sense in your goin' lookin' like a scarecrow all the spring because you're goin' to get married."
So Charlotte had put on the new purple dress the day before; now it looked, as it hung in the closet, like an effigy of her happier self.
When Charlotte went down-stairs she found her mother showing much more spirit than usual in an altercation with her father. Sarah Barnard stood before her husband, her placid face all knitted with perplexed remonstrance. "Why, I can't, Cephas," she said. "Pies can't be made that way."
"I know they can," said Cephas.
"They can't, Cephas. There ain't no use tryin'. It would jest be a waste of the flour."
"Why can't they, I'd like to know?"
"Folks don't ever make pies without lard, Cephas."
"Why don't they?"
"Why, they wouldn't be nothin' more than— You couldn't eat them nohow if they was made so, Cephas. I dunno how the sorrel pies would work. I never heard of anybody makin' sorrel pies. Mebbe the Injuns did; but I dunno as they ever made pies, anyway. Mebbe the sorrel, if it had some molasses on it for juice, wouldn't taste very bad; I dunno; but anyway, if the sorrel did work, the other wouldn't. I can't make pies fit to eat without any lard or any butter or anything any way in the world, Cephas."
"I know you can make 'em without," said Cephas, and his black eyes looked like flint. Mrs. Barnard appealed to her daughter.
"Charlotte," said she, "you tell your father that pies can't be made fit to eat without I put somethin' in 'em for short'nin'."
"No, they can't, father," said Charlotte.
"He wants me to make sorrel pies, Charlotte," Mrs. Barnard went on, in an injured and appealing tone which she seldom used against Cephas. "He's been out in the field, an' picked all that sorrel," and she pointed to a pan heaped up with little green leaves on the table, "an' I tell him I dunno how that will work, but he wants me to make the pie-crust without a mite of short'nin', an' I can't do that nohow, can I?"
"I don't see how you can," assented Charlotte, coldly.
Cephas went with a sudden stride towards the pantry. "I'll make 'em myself, then," he cried.
Mrs. Barnard gasped, and looked piteously at her daughter. "What you goin' to do, Cephas?" she asked, feebly.
Cephas was in the pantry rattling the dishes with a fierce din. "I'm a-goin' to make them sorrel pies myself," he shouted out, "if none of you women folks know enough to."
"Oh, Cephas, you can't!"
Cephas came out, carrying the mixing-board and rolling-pin like a shield and a club; he clapped them heavily on to the table.
Mrs. Barnard stood staring aghast at him; Charlotte sat down, took some lace edging from her pocket, and began knitting on it. She looked hard and indifferent.
"Oh, Charlotte, ain't it dreadful?" her mother whispered, when Cephas went into the pantry again.
"I don't care if he makes pies out of burrs," returned Charlotte, audibly, but her voice was quite even.
"I don't b'lieve but what sorrel would do some better than burrs," said her mother, "but he can't make pies without short'nin' nohow."
Cephas came out of the pantry with a large bowl of flour and a spoon. "He 'ain't sifted it," Mrs. Barnard whispered to Charlotte, as though Cephas were not there; then she turned to him. "You sifted the flour, didn't you, Cephas?" said she.
"You jest let me alone," said Cephas, grimly. "I'm goin' to make these pies, an' I don't need any help. I've picked the sorrel, an' I've got the brick oven all heated, an' I know what I want to do, an' I'm goin' to do it!"
"I've got some pumpkin that would make full as good pies as sorrel, Cephas. Mebbe the sorrel will be real good. I ain't sayin' it won't, though I never heard of sorrel pies; but you know pumpkin is good, Cephas."
"I know pumpkin pies have milk in 'em," said Cephas; "an' I tell you I ain't goin' to have anything of an animal nature in 'em. I've been studyin' into it, an' thinkin' of it, an' I've made up my mind that I've made a mistake along back, an' we've ate too much animal food. We've ate a whole pig an' half a beef critter this winter, to say nothin' of eggs an' milk, that are jest as much animal as meat, accordin' to my way of thinkin'. I've reasoned it out all along that as long as we were animals ourselves, an' wanted to strengthen animal, that it was common-sense that we ought to eat animal. It seemed to me that nature had so ordered it. I reasoned it out that other animals besides man lived on animals, except cows, an' they, bein' ruminatin' animals, ain't to be compared to men—"
"I should think we'd be somethin' like 'em if we eat that," said Mrs. Barnard, pointing at the sorrel, with piteous sarcasm.
"It's the principle I'm thinkin' about," said Cephas. He stirred some salt into the flour very carefully, so not a dust fell over the brim of the bowl.
"Horses don't eat meat, neither, an' they don't chew their cuds," Mrs. Barnard argued further. She had never in her life argued with Cephas; but sorrel pies, after the night before, made her wildly reckless.
Cephas got a gourdful of water from the pail in the sink, and carried it carefully over to the table. "Horses are the exception," he returned, with dignified asperity. "There always are exceptions. What I was comin' at was—I'd been kind of wrong in my reasonin'. That is, I 'ain't reasoned far enough. I was right so far as I went."
Cephas poured some water from the gourd into the bowl of flour and began stirring.
Sarah caught her breath. "He's makin'—paste!" she gasped. "He's jest makin' flour paste!"
"Jest so far as I went I was right," Cephas resumed, pouring in a little more water with a judicial air. "I said Man was animal, an' he is animal; an' if you don't take anything else into account, he'd ought to live on animal food, jest the way I reasoned it out. But you've got to take something else into account. Man is animal, but he ain't all animal. He's something else. He's spiritual. Man has command over all the other animals, an' all the beasts of the field; an' it ain't because he's any better an' stronger animal, because he ain't. What's a man to a horse, if the horse only knew it? but the horse don't know it, an' there's jest where Man gets the advantage. It's knowledge an' spirit that gives Man the rule over all the other animals. Now, what we want is to eat the kind of things that will strengthen knowledge an' spirit an' self-control, because the first two ain't any account without the last; but there ain't no kind of food that's known that can do that. If there is, I 'ain't never heard of it."
Cephas dumped the whole mass of paste with a flop upon the mixing-board, and plunged his fists into it. Sarah made an involuntary motion forward, then she stood back with a great sigh.
"But what we can do," Cephas proceeded, "is to eat the kind of things that won't strengthen the animal nature at the expense of the spiritual. We know that animal food does that; we can see how it works in tigers an' bears. Now, it's the spiritual part of us we want to strengthen, because that is the biggest strength we can get, an' it's worth more. It's what gives us the rule over animals. It's better for us to eat some other kind of food, if we get real weak and pindlin' on it, rather than eat animal food an' make the animal in us stronger than the spiritual, so we won't be any better than wild tigers an' bears, an' lose our rule over the other animals."
Cephas took the rolling-pin and brought it heavily down upon the sticky mass on the board. Sarah shuddered and started as if it had hit her. "Now, if we can't eat animal food," said Cephas, "what other kind of food can we eat? There ain't but one other kind that's known to man, an' that's vegetable food, the product of the earth. An' that's of two sorts: one gets ripe an' fit to eat in the fall of the year, an' the other comes earlier in the spring an' summer. Now, in order to carry out the plans of nature, we'd ought to eat these products of the earth jest as near as we can in the season of 'em. Some had ought to be eat in the fall an' winter, an' some in the spring an' summer. Accordin' to my reasonin', if we all lived this way we should be a good deal better off; our spiritual natures would be strengthened, an' we should have more power over other animals, an' better dispositions ourselves."
"I've seen horses terribly ugly, an' they don't eat a mite of meat," said Sarah, with tremulous boldness. Her right hand kept moving forward to clutch the rolling-pin, then she would draw it back.
"'Ain't I told ye once horses were the exceptions?" said Cephas, severely. "There has to be exceptions. If there wa'n't any exceptions there couldn't be any rule, an' there bein' exceptions shows there is a rule. Women can't ever get hold of things straight. Their minds slant off sideways, the way their arms do when they fling a stone."
Cephas brought the rolling-pin down upon the paste again with fierce impetus. "You'll break it," Sarah murmured, feebly. Cephas brought it down again, his mouth set hard; his face showed a red flush through his white beard, the veins on his high forehead were swollen and his brows scowling. The paste adhered to the rolling-pin; he raised it with an effort; his hands were helplessly sticky. Sarah could restrain herself no longer. She went into the pantry and got a dish of flour, and spooned out some suddenly over the board and Cephas's hands. "You've got to have some more flour," she said, in a desperate tone.
Cephas's black eyes flashed at her. "I wish you would attend to your own work, an' leave me alone," said he. But at last he succeeded in moving the rolling-pin over the dough as he had seen his wife move it.
"He ain't greasin' the pie-plates," said Sarah, as Cephas brought a piece of dough with a dexterous jerk over a plate; "there ain't much animal in the little mite of lard it takes to grease a plate."
Cephas spread handfuls of sorrel leaves over the dough; then he brought the molasses-jug from the pantry, raised it, and poured molasses over the sorrel with an imperturbable air.
Sarah watched him; then she turned to Charlotte. "To think of eatin' it!" she groaned, quite openly; "it looks like p'ison."
Charlotte made no response; she knitted as one of the Fates might have spun. Sarah sank down on a chair, and looked away from Cephas and his cookery, as if she were overcome, and quite done with all remonstrance.
Never before had she shown so much opposition towards one of her husband's hobbies, but this galloped so ruthlessly over her own familiar fields that she had plucked up boldness to try to veer it away.
Somebody passed the window swiftly, the door opened abruptly, and Mrs. Deborah Thayer entered. "Good-mornin'," said she, and her voice rang out like a herald's defiance.
Sarah Barnard arose, and went forward quickly. "Good-mornin'," she responded, with nervous eagerness. "Good-mornin', Mis' Thayer. Come in an' set down, won't you?"
"I 'ain't come to set down," responded Deborah's deep voice.
She moved, a stately high-hipped figure, her severe face almost concealed in a scooping green barege hood, to the centre of the floor, and stood there with a pose that might have answered for a statue of Judgment. She turned her green-hooded head slowly towards them all in turn. Sarah watched her and waited, her eyes dilated. Cephas rolled out another pie, calmly. Charlotte knitted fast; her face was very pale.
"I've come over here," said Deborah Thayer, "to find out what my son has done."
There was not a sound, except the thud of Cephas's rolling-pin.
"Mr. Barnard!" said Deborah. Cephas did not seem to hear her.
"Mr. Barnard!" she said, again. There was that tone of command in her voice which only a woman can accomplish. It was full of that maternal supremacy which awakens the first instinct of obedience in man, and has more weight than the voice of a general in battle. Cephas did not turn his head, but he spoke. "What is it ye want?" he said, gruffly.
"I want to know what my son has done, an' I want you to tell me in so many words. I ain't afraid to face it. What has my son done?"
Cephas grunted something inarticulate.
"What?" said Deborah. "I can't hear what you say. I want to know what my son has done. I've heard how you turned him out of your house last night, and I want to know what it was for. I want to know what he has done. You're an old man, and a God-fearing one, if you have got your own ideas about some things. Barnabas is young, and apt to be headstrong. He ain't always been as mindful of obedience as he might be. I've tried to do my best by him, but he don't always carry out my teachin's. I ain't afraid to say this, if he is my son. I want to know what he's done. If it's anything wrong, I shall be jest as hard on him as the Lord for it. I'm his mother, but I can see his faults, and be just. I want to know what he has done."
Charlotte gave one great cry. "Oh, Mrs. Thayer, he hasn't done anything wrong; Barney hasn't done anything wrong!"
But Deborah quite ignored her. She kept her eyes fixed upon Cephas. "What has my son done?" she demanded again. "If he's done anything wrong I want to know it. I ain't afraid to deal with him. You ordered him out of your house, and he didn't come home at all last night. I don't know where he was. He won't speak a word this mornin' to tell me. I've been out in the field where he's to work ploughin', and I tried to make him tell me, but he wouldn't say a word. I sat up and waited all night, but he didn't come home. Now I want to know where he was, and what he's done, and why you ordered him out of the house. If he's been swearin', or takin' anything that didn't belong to him, or drinkin', I want to know it, so I can deal with him as his mother had ought to deal."
"He hasn't been doing anything wrong!" Charlotte cried out again; "you ought to be ashamed of yourself talking so about him, when you're his mother!"
Deborah Thayer never glanced at Charlotte. She kept her eyes fixed upon Cephas. "What has he done?" she repeated.
"I guess he didn't do much of anything," Mrs. Barnard murmured, feebly; but Deborah did not seem to hear her.
Cephas opened his mouth as if perforce. "Well," he said, slowly, "we got to talkin'—"
"Talkin' about what?"
"About the 'lection. I think, accordin' to my reasonin', that what we eat had a good deal to do with it."
"I think if you'd kept your family on less meat, and given 'em more garden-stuff to eat Barney wouldn't have been so up an' comin'. It's what he's eat that's made him what he is."
Deborah stared at Cephas in stern amazement. "You're tryin' to make out, as near as I can tell," said she, "that whatever my son has done wrong is due to what he's eat, and not to original sin. I knew you had queer ideas, Cephas Barnard, but I didn't know you wa'n't sound in your faith. What I want to know is, what has he done?"
Suddenly Charlotte sprang up, and pushed herself in between her father and Mrs. Thayer; she confronted Deborah, and compelled her to look at her.
"I'll tell you what he's done," she said, fiercely. "I know what he's done; you listen to me. He has done nothing—nothing that you've got to deal with him for. You needn't feel obliged to deal with him. He and father got into a talk over the 'lection, and they had words about it. He didn't talk any worse than father, not a mite. Father started it, anyway, and he knew better; he knew just how set Barney was on his own side, and how set he was on his; he wanted to pick a quarrel."
"Charlotte!" shouted Cephas.
"You keep still, father," returned Charlotte, with steady fierceness. "I've never set myself up against you in my whole life before; but now I'm going to, because it's just and right. Father wanted to pick a quarrel," she repeated, turning to Deborah; "he's been kind of grouty to Barney for some time. I don't know why; he took a notion to, I suppose. When they got to having words about the 'lection, father begun it. I heard him. Barney answered back, and I didn't blame him; I would, in his place. Then father ordered him out of the house, and he went. I don't see what else he could do. And I don't blame him because he didn't go home if he didn't feel like it."
"Didn't he go away from here before nine o'clock?" demanded Deborah, addressing Charlotte at last.
"Yes, he did, some time before nine; he had plenty of time to go home if he wanted to."
"Where was he, then, I'd like to know?"
"I don't know, and I wouldn't lift my finger to find out. I am not afraid he was anywhere he hadn't ought to be, nor doin' anything he hadn't ought to."
"Didn't you stand out in the road and call him back, and he wouldn't come, nor even turn his head to look at you?" asked Deborah.
"Yes, I did," returned Charlotte, unflinchingly. "And I don't blame him for not coming back and not turning his head. I wouldn't if I'd been in his place."
"You'll have to uphold him a long time, then; I can tell you that," said Deborah. "He won't never come back if he's said he won't. I know him; he's got some of me in him."
"I'll uphold him as long as I live," said Charlotte.
"I wonder you ain't ashamed to talk so."
"I am not."
Deborah looked at Charlotte as if she would crush her; then she turned away.
"You're a hard woman, Mrs. Thayer, and I pity Barney because he's got you for a mother," Charlotte said, in undaunted response to Deborah's look.
"Well, you'll never have to pity yourself on that account," retorted Deborah, without turning her head.
The door opened softly, and a girl of about Charlotte's age slipped in. Nobody except Mrs. Barnard, who said, absently, "How do you do, Rose?" seemed to notice her. She sat down unobtrusively in a chair near the door and waited. Her blue eyes upon the others were so intense with excitement that they seemed to blot out the rest of her face. She had her blue apron tightly rolled about both hands.
Deborah Thayer, on her way to the door, looked at her as if she had been a part of the wall, but suddenly she stopped and cast a glance at Cephas. "What be you makin'?" she asked, with a kind of scorn at him, and scorn at her own curiosity.
Cephas did not reply, but he looked ugly as he slapped another piece of dough heavily upon a plate.
Deborah, as if against her will, moved closer to the table and bent over the pan of sorrel. She smelled of it; then she took a leaf and tasted it, cautiously. She made a wry face. "It's sorrel," said she. "You're makin' pies out of sorrel. A man makin' pies out of sorrel!"
She looked at Cephas like a condemning judge. He shot a fiery glance at her, but said nothing. He sprinkled the sorrel leaves in the pie.
"Well," said Deborah, "I've got a sense of justice, and if my son, or any other man, has asked a girl to marry him, and she's got her weddin' clothes ready, I believe in his doin' his duty, if he can be made to; but I must say if it wa'n't for that, I'd rather he'd gone into a family that was more like other folks. I'm goin' to do the best I can, whether you go half way or not. I'm goin' to try to make my son do his duty. I don't expect he will, but I shall do all I can, tempers or no tempers, and sorrel pies or no sorrel pies."
Deborah went out, and shut the door heavily after her.
After Deborah Thayer had shut the door, the young girl sitting beside it arose. "I didn't know she was in here, or I wouldn't have come in," she said, nervously.
"That don't make any odds," replied Mrs. Barnard, who was trembling all over, and had sunk helplessly into a rocking-chair, which she swayed violently and unconsciously.
Cephas opened the door of the brick oven, and put in a batch of his pies, and the click of the iron latch made her start as if it were a pistol-shot.
Charlotte got up and went out of the room with a backward glance and a slight beckoning motion of her head, and the girl slunk after her so secretly that it seemed as if she did not see herself. Cephas looked sharply after them, but said nothing; he was like a philosopher in such a fury of research and experiment that for the time he heeded thoroughly nothing else.
The young girl, who was Rose Berry, Charlotte's cousin, followed her panting up the steep stairs to her chamber. She was a slender little creature, and was now overwrought with nervous excitement. She fairly gasped for breath when she sat down in the little wooden chair in Charlotte's room. Charlotte sat on the bed. The two girls looked at each other—Rose with a certain wary alarm and questioning in her eyes, Charlotte with a dignified confidence of misery.
"I didn't sleep here last night," Charlotte said, at length.
"You went over to Aunt Sylvy's, didn't you?" returned Rose, as if that were all the matter in hand.
Charlotte nodded, then she looked moodily past her cousin's face out of the window.
"You've heard about it, I suppose?" said Charlotte.
"Something," replied Rose, evasively.
"I don't see how it got out, for my part. I don't believe he told anybody."