AUTHOR OF THE FAITH DOCTOR, THE HOOSIER SCHOOLMASTER, ROXY, ETC.
NEW YORK D. APPLETON AND COMPANY 1893
COPYRIGHT, 1893, BY EDWARD EGGLESTON.
All rights reserved.
ELECTROTYPED AND PRINTED AT THE APPLETON PRESS, U.S.A.
The once famous Mrs. Anne Grant—known in literature as Mrs. Grant of Laggan—spent part of her childhood in our New York Albany, then a town almost wholly given to traffic with the aborigines. To her we owe a description of the setting out of the young American-Dutch trader to ascend the Mohawk in a canoe, by laborious paddling and toilsome carrying round rifts and falls, in order to penetrate to the dangerous region of the tribes beyond the Six Nations. The outfit of this young "bushloper," as such a man was called in the still earlier Dutch period, consisted mainly of a sort of cloth suited to Indian wants. But there were added minor articles of use and fancy to please the youth or captivate the imagination of the women in the tribes. Combs, pocket mirrors, hatchets, knives, jew's-harps, pigments for painting the face blue, yellow, and vermilion, and other such things, were stored away in the canoe, to be spread out as temptations before the eyes of some group of savages rich in a winter's catch of furs. The cloths sold by the traders were called duffels, probably from the place of their origin, the town of Duffel, in the Low Countries. By degrees the word was, I suppose, transferred to the whole stock, and a trader's duffels included all the miscellany he carried with him. The romantic young bushloper, eager to accumulate money enough to marry the maiden he had selected, disappeared long ago from the water courses of northern New York. In his place an equally interesting figure—the Adirondack guide—navigates single-handed the rivers and lakes of the "North Woods." By one of those curious cases of transference that are often found in etymology, the guide still carries duffels, like his predecessor; but not for Indian trading. The word with him covers also an indefinite collection of objects of manifold use—camp utensils, guns, fishing tackle, and whatnots. The basket that sits in his light boat to hold his smaller articles is called a duffel basket, as was the basket of sundries in the trader's canoe, I fancy. If his camp grows into a house frequented by sportsmen, there will be a duffel room to contain all manner of unclassified things.
Like the trader of old New York, I here open my kit of duffels. I have selected from the shorter tales written by me since I began to deal in the fancy wares of a writer of fiction only such as seem to have elements of permanent interest. I find their range to be wide. They cover many phases of human nature; they describe life in both the eighteenth and the nineteenth centuries; they are of the East and of the West, of the North, the Middle, and the South. Group or classify them I can not; they are too various. Some were written long ago, in my younger manner, and in the tone prevailing among the story-writers of those days. Opinions and sentiments are inextricably interwoven with some of these earlier stories that do not seem to be mine to-day. But a man in his fifties ought to know how to be tolerant of the enthusiasms and beliefs of a younger man. I suspect that the sentiment I find somewhat foreign to me in the season of cooler pulses, and the situations and motives that seem rather naive now, had something to do with the acceptability of the stories. The popularity of these early tales in their day encouraged me to go on, and a little later to set up in more permanent and wholesale business as a novelist. To certain of these stories of my apprenticeship I have appended dates to explain allusions in the text. Other stories there are here, that are of recent production, and by these I am willing to be judged. The variety in subject, manner, date, location, makes proper to them the title I have chosen—a good word with a savor of human history and an odor of the New World about it; a word yet in living use in this region of lakes and mountains. I am not without hope that some of my duffels will please.
If formal dedications were not a little old-fashioned, I should give myself the pleasure of writing on one of these pages the name of my friend Mr. Richard Watson Gilder. I have read with delight and sincere admiration the poems that have given him fame, but they need no praise of mine. The occasion of my mentioning his name here is more personal—it was by his solicitation that I was seduced, nearly a quarter of a century ago, into writing my earliest love story. I may say, perhaps without pushing the figure too far, that on his suggestion I first embarked in the light canoe of a dealer in duffels.
JOSHUA'S ROCK, LAKE GEORGE, 1893.
SISTER TABEA 1
THE REDEMPTIONER 27
A BASEMENT STORY 64
THE GUNPOWDER PLOT 91
THE STORY OF A VALENTINE 114
HULDAH, THE HELP 128
THE NEW CASHIER 149
TALKING FOR LIFE 185
THE CHRISTMAS CLUB 228
Two weather-beaten stone buildings at Ephrata, in Pennsylvania, remain as monuments on this side of the water of the great pietistic movement in Germany in the early part of the eighteenth century. One of these was called Bethany, the other Sharon. A hundred and thirty or forty years ago there were other buildings with these, and the softening hand of time had not yet touched any of them. The doorways were then, as now, on the ground level, the passages were just as narrow and dusky, the cells had the same little square windows to let in the day. But the stones in that day had a hue that reminded one of the quarry, the mortar between them was fresh, the shingles in the roof had gathered no moss and very little weather stain; the primeval forests were yet within the horizon, and there was everywhere an air of newness, of advancement, and of prosperity about the Dunkard Convent. One sees now neither monks nor nuns in these narrow hallways; monks and nuns are nowhere about Ephrata, except in the graveyard where all the brethren of Bethany, and all the sisters who once peopled Sharon, sleep together in the mold. But in the middle of the eighteenth century their bare feet shuffled upon the stairs as, clad in white hooded cloaks descending to the very ground, they glided in and out of the low doors, or assembled in the little chapel called "Zion" to attend service under the lead of their founder, Conrad Beissels. In the convent, where he reigned supreme, Beissels was known as Brother Friedsam; later he was reverently called Father Friedsam Gottrecht, a name that, like all their convent names, had plenty of mystical significance attached to it.
But monks and nuns are men and women; and neither cloister life, nor capuchin hoods and cloaks, nor bare feet, nor protracted midnight services, can prevent heartburnings and rivalries, nor can all of these together put down—what is most to be dreaded in a monastery—the growth of affection between man and woman. What could be done to tame human nature into submission, to bring it to rejoice only in unearthly meditations, and a contented round of self-denial and psalm-singing, Brother Friedsam had tried on his followers with the unsparing hand of a religious enthusiast. He had forbidden all animal food. Not only was meat of evil tendency, but milk, he said, made the spirit heavy and narrow; butter and cheese produced similar disabilities; eggs excited the passions; honey made the eyes bright and the heart cheerful, but did not clear the voice for music. So he approved chiefly of those plain things that sprang direct from the earth, particularly of potatoes, turnips, and other roots, with a little bread soup and such like ghostly diet. For drink he would have nothing but what he called "innocent clear water," just as it flowed from the spring.
But even a dish of potatoes and turnips and beets and carrots, eaten from wooden trenchers, without milk or butter or meat, was not sufficient to make the affections and passions of men and women as ethereal as Friedsam wished. He wedded his people in mystic marriage to "the Chaste Lamb," to borrow his frequent phrase. They sang ecstatically of a mystical city of brotherly and sisterly affection which they, in common with other dreamers of the time, called Philadelphia, and they rejoiced in a divine creature called in their mystical jargon Sophia, which I suppose meant wisdom, wisdom divorced from common sense. These anchorites did not eschew social enjoyment, but held little love feasts. The sisters now invited the brethren, and next the brethren entertained the sisters—with unbuttered parsnips and draughts of innocent clear water, no doubt.
That which was most remarkable at Ephrata, and that out of which grows my story, was the music. Brother Friedsam, besides his cares of organization, finance, and administration, and his mystical theological speculations, was also a poet. Most of the songs sung in the little building called "Zion" were written by him—songs about "the lonesome turtledove in the wilderness," that is, the Church; songs in praise of the mystical marriage of virgins with the chaste Lamb; songs about the Philadelphian brotherhood of saints, about the divine Sophia, and about many other things which no man can understand, I am sure, until he has first purified himself from the gross humors of the flesh by a heavenly diet of turnips and spring water. To the brethren and sisters who believed their little community in the Pennsylvania woods to be "the Woman in the Wilderness" seen by St. John, these words represented the only substantial and valuable things in the wide universe; and they sang the songs of Conrad Beissels with as much fervor as they could have sung the songs of heaven itself. Beissels—the Friedsam of the brotherhood—was not only the poet but the composer of the choral songs, and a composer of rare merit. The music he wrote is preserved as it was copied out with great painstaking by the brethren and sisters. In looking over the wonderful old manuscript notebook, the first impression is one of delight with the quaint symbolic illuminations wrought by the nuns of Ephrata upon the margins. But those who know music declare that the melodies are lovely, and that the whole structure of the harmonies is masterful, and worthy of the fame they had in the days when monks and nuns performed them under the lead of Brother Friedsam himself. In the gallery of Zion house, but concealed from the view of the brethren, sat the sisterhood, like a company of saints in spotless robes. Below, the brethren, likewise in white, answered to the choir above in antiphonal singing of the loveliest and most faultless sort. Strangers journeyed from afar over rough country roads to hear this wonderful chorus, and were moved in the depths of their souls with the indescribable sweetness and loftiness of the music, and with the charm and expressiveness of its rendering by these pale-faced other-worldly singers.
But their perfection of execution was attained at a cost almost too great. Brother Friedsam was a fanatic, and he was also an artist. He obliged the brethren and sisters to submit to the most rigorous training. In this, as in religion, he subordinated them to his ideals. He would fain tune their very souls to his own key; and he exacted a precision that was difficult of attainment by men and women of average fallibility and carelessness. The men singers were divided into five choruses of five persons each; the sisters were classified, according to the pitch of their voices, into three divisions, each of which sang or kept silent, according to the duty assigned to it in the notebook. At the love-feasts these choruses sat side by side at the table, so as to be ready to sing together with perfect precision whenever a song should be announced. At the singing school Brother Friedsam could not abide the least defect; he rated roundly the brother or sister who made any mistake; he scourged their lagging aspirations toward perfection. If it is ever necessary to account for bad temper in musicians, one might suggest that the water-gruel diet had impaired his temper and theirs; certain it is that out of the production of so much heavenly harmony there sprang discord. The brethren and sisters grew daily more and more indignant at the severity of the director, whom they reverenced as a religious guide, but against whom, as a musical conductor, they rebelled in their hearts.
The sisters were the first to act in this crisis. At their knitting and their sewing they talked about it, in the kitchen they discussed it, until their hearts burned within them. Even in illuminating the notebook with pretty billing turtledoves, and emblematic flowers such as must have grown in paradise, since nothing of the sort was ever known in any earthly garden—even in painting these, some of the nuns came near to spoiling their colors and blurring their pages with tears.
Only Margaretha Thome, who was known in the convent as Sister Tabea, shed no tears. She worked with pen and brush, and heard the others talk; now and then, when some severe word of Brother Friedsam's was repeated, she would look up with a significant flash of the eye.
"The Hofcavalier doesn't talk," said Sister Thecla. This Thecla had given the nickname of "Hofcavalier" (noble courtier), to Tabea at her first arrival in the convent on account of her magnificent figure and high carriage.
"You shouldn't give nicknames, Sister Thecla."
The last speaker was a sister with an austere face and gray eyes which had no end of cold-blooded religious enthusiasm in them.
"I need not give you a nickname," retorted Thecla to the last speaker; "Brother Friedsam did that when he called you Jael. You are just the kind of person to drive a tent-nail through a man's head."
"If he were the enemy of the Church of God," said Jael, in a voice as hard as it was sincere.
Then the talk drifted back to the singing school and Brother Friedsam's severity.
"But why doesn't the Hofcavalier speak?" again persisted Thecla.
"When the Hofcavalier speaks, it will be to Brother Friedsam himself," answered Tabea.
The temerity of this proposition took Thecla's breath, but it set the storm a-going more vigorously than before among the sisterhood, who, having found somebody ready to bell the cat, grew eager to have the cat belled. Only Sister Jael, who for lack of voice was not included in either of the three choruses of the sisterhood, stoutly defended Brother Friedsam, thinking, perhaps, that it was not a bad thing to have the conceit of the singers reduced; indeed, she was especially pleased that Tabea, the unsurpassed singer of the sisters' gallery, should have suffered rebuke.
At length it was agreed that Tabea should tell Brother Friedsam that the sisters did not intend to go to singing school again.
Then Tabea lifted up her dark head and regarded the circle of women in white garments about her.
"You are all brave now, but when Brother Friedsam shakes his finger at you, you will every one of you submit as though you were a set of redemptioners bought with his money. When I tell Brother Friedsam that I shall not come to singing school, I shall stick to it. He may get his music performed by some one else. He will not call me a 'ninny' again."
"There spoke the Hofcavalier," giggled Thecla.
"Sister Tabea," said Jael, "if you go on as you are going, you will end by leaving the convent and breaking your vows. Mark my words."
"I am going to finish this turtledove first, though," said Tabea gayly.
It was finally agreed that if Tabea would speak to the director on behalf of the sisterhood, the sisters would resolutely stand by their threat, and that they would absent themselves from Brother Friedsam's music drills long enough to have him understand that they were not to be treated like children. To the surprise of all, Tabea left her work at once, covered up her head with the hood attached to her gown, and sought the lodge of Brother Friedsam, which stood between Bethany and Sharon.
When Tabea was admitted to the cell, and stood before the revered Friedsam, she felt an unexpected palpitation. Nor was Beissels any more composed. He could never speak to this girl without some mental disturbance.
"Brother Friedsam," she said, "I am sent by the sisters to say that they are very indignant at your treatment of them in the rehearsals, and that they are not going to attend them hereafter."
Beissels's sensitive lips quivered a moment; this sudden rebellion surprised him, and he did not at first see how to meet it.
"You suggested this course to them, I suppose?" he said after a pause.
"No, Brother Friedsam, I had nothing to do with it until now. But I think they are right, and I hope they will keep to their word. You have been altogether too hard on us."
The director made no reply, but wearily leaned his pale, refined face upon his hand and looked up at Tabea. This look of inquiry had something of unhappiness in it that touched the nun's heart, and she was half sorry that she had spoken so sharply. She fumbled for the wooden latch of the door presently, and went out with a sense of inward defeat and annoyance.
"The Hofcavalier does not come back with head in the air," murmured Thecla. "A bad sign."
"I gave the message," said Sister Tabea, "and Brother Friedsam did not say whether the four parts sung by the men would be sufficient or not. But I know very well what he will do; he will coax you all back within a week."
"And you will leave the convent and break your vows; mark my words," said Sister Jael with sharpness.
"It will be after I get this page finished, I tell you," said Tabea. But she did not seem in haste to finish the page, for, not choosing to show how much she had been discomposed by Brother Friedsam's wistful and inquiring look, she gathered up her brush, her colors, and the notebook page on which she had been at work, and went up the stairs alongside the great chimney, shutting herself in her cell.
Once there, the picture of Friedsam's face came vividly before her. She recalled her first meeting with him at her mother's house on the Wissahickon, and how her heart had gone out to the only man she had ever met whose character was out of the common. I do not say that she had consciously loved him as she listened to him, sitting there on the homemade stool in her mother's cabin and talking of things beyond comprehension. But she could have loved him, and she did worship him. It was the personal fascination of Brother Friedsam and her own vigorous hatred of the commonplace that had led her three years before to join the sisterhood in the Sharon house. She did not know to what degree a desire for Beissels's companionship had drawn her to accept his speculations concerning the mystical Sophia and the Philadelphian fellowship. But the convent had proved a disappointment. She had seen little of the great Brother Friedsam, and he had given her, instead of friendly notice and approval, only a schoolmaster's scolding now and then for slight faults committed in singing a new piece.
As she sat there in gloomy meditation Jael's evil prediction entered her mind, and she amused herself with dreams of what might take place if she should leave the convent and go out into the world again.
In putting away her papers a little note fell out.
"The goose is at it again," she said.
She had that day received some blank paper from the paper mill of the community, and Daniel Scheible had put this little love letter into the package of which he was the bearer. He had sent such letters before, and Tabea, though she had not answered them, had kept them, partly because she did not wish to inform those in authority of this breach of rule, partly because so much defiance of the law of the place gave a little zest to a monotonous life, and partly because she was a young woman, and therefore not displeased with affection, even from a youth in whom she had no more than a friendly interest.
Scheible's parents had been Dunkards, persecuted in Europe, who had sought refuge from their troubles by the bad expedient of taking ship for Philadelphia, with an understanding that they were, according to custom, to be sold for a term of years to pay the fare. Among a multitude who died on the passage from the overcrowding and bad food were Daniel's father and mother, and the little lad was sold for the rest of his minority to pay his own fare as well as that of the dead members of his family. As a promising boy, he had been bought by the Ephrata brotherhood and bred into the fraternity. With the audacity of youth he had conceived a great passion for Tabea, and now that his apprenticeship was about to expire he amused her with surreptitious notes. To-day, for the first time, Tabea began to think of the possibility of marrying Scheible, chiefly, perhaps, from a vague desire to escape from the convent, which could not but be irksome to one of her spirit. Scheible was ambitious, and it was his plan, as she knew, to go to Philadelphia to make his fortune; and she and he together, what might they not do? Then she laughed at herself for such a day dream, and went out to do her share of household duties, singing mellifluously, as she trod barefoot through the passages, a mystic song of hope and renunciation:
"Welt, packe dich; Ich sehne mich Nur nach dem Himmel. Denn droben ist Lachen und Lieben und Leben; Hier unten ist Alles dem Eiteln ergeben."
Which rendered may read:
"World, get you gone; I strive alone To attain heaven. There above is laughter, life, and love; Here below one must all vanity forego."
But though to-day she sang of the laughter that is above, she was less unworldly on the morrow. Brother Friedsam, as she had foreseen, began to break down the rebellion about the singing school. He was too good a strategist to attack the strong point of the insurrection first. He began with good-natured Thecla, who could laugh away yesterday's vexations, and so one by one he conquered the opposition in detail. He shrank from assailing the Hofcavalier until he should have won the others, knowing well the obstinacy of her resolution. And when all the rest had yielded he still said nothing to Tabea, either because he deemed it of no use, or because he thought neglect might do her rebellious spirit good. But if this last were his plan, he had miscalculated the vigor of her determination.
"Do you know," said the good-hearted, gossipy little Sister Persida, coming into Tabea's cell two or three days later, "that the sisters have all yielded to Brother Friedsam? He coaxed and managed them so, you know. Has he talked to you?"
"You'll have to give up when he does. Nobody can resist Brother Friedsam."
"You always scare me so, Sister Tabea; I wouldn't dare hold up my head as you do."
But when Persida had gone out the high head of the Hofcavalier went down a little. She felt that the man whom she in some sort worshiped had put upon her a public slight. He did not account it worth his while to invite her to return. She had missed her chance to refuse. Just what connection Brother Friedsam's slight had with Daniel Scheible's love letters I leave the reader to determine. But in her anger she fished these notes out of a basket used to hold her changes of white raiment, and read them all over slowly, line by line, and for the first time with a lively interest in their contents. They were very ingenious; and they very cleverly pictured to her the joys of a home of her own with a devoted husband. She found evidences of very amiable traits in the writer. But why should I trace in detail the curious but familiar process by which a girl endows a man with all the qualities she wishes him to possess?
The very next day Scheible, who had been melancholy ever since he began to send to Tabea letters that brought no answer, was observed to be in a mood so gleeful that his companions in the paper mill doubted his sanity. The fountain of this joy was a note from Tabea stowed away in the pocket of his gown. She had not signed it with her convent title, but with the initials M. T., for her proper name, Margaretha Thome. There were many fluctuations in Tabea's mind and many persuasive notes from Scheible before the nun at length promised to forsake the convent, now grown bitter to her, for the joys of a home. Even then Daniel could not help feeling insecure in regard to a piece of good fortune so dazzling, and he sent note after note to urge her to have the day for the wedding fixed.
Meantime the young man created but little sensation by leaving the mill, as his term of apprenticeship had expired, and he had never professed much attachment to the brotherhood.
Sister Tabea had persistently omitted the rehearsals, and so the grand chorals were now given on the Sabbaths without her voice, and Jael felt no little exultation at this state of things. At length, after much wavering, Tabea made a final resolution to leave the convent, and to accept the love of the adventurous youth who had shown so persistent an affection for her.
As soon as the day of the wedding was arranged by means of the surreptitious notes which she continued to exchange with Scheible, she prepared to leave Sharon and Ephrata. But nothing could be farther from her plans than the project proposed by her lover that she should elope with him at night. Tabea meant to march out with all her colors flying.
First of all she went to see the sinister prophetess, Sister Jael.
"I've finished that turtledove, Sister Jael, and now I am going to leave the sisterhood and marry Daniel Scheible."
Nothing is so surprising to a prophet as the fulfillment of his most confident prediction. Jael looked all aghast, and her face splintered into the most contradictory lines in the effort to give expression to the most conflicting emotions.
"I'm astonished at you," she said reprovingly, when she got breath.
"Why, I thought you expected it," replied Tabea.
"Will you break your vow?"
"Yes. Why shouldn't a woman break a vow made by a girl? And so, good-by, Sister Jael. Can't you wish me much joy?"
But Jael turned sharply away in a horror that could find no utterance.
Thecla laughed, as was her wont, and wished Tabea happiness, but intimated that Daniel was a bold man to undertake to subdue the Hofcavalier. Sister Persida's woman's heart was set all a-flutter, and she quite forgot that she was trying to be a nun, and that she belonged to the solitary and forsaken turtledove in the wilderness. She whispered in Tabea's ear: "You'll look so nice when you're married, dear, and Daniel will be so pleased, and the young men will steal your slipper off your foot at the dinner table, and how I wish I could be there to see you married! But oh, Tabea! I don't see how you dare to face them all! I'd just run away with all my might if I were in your place."
And so each one took the startling intelligence according to her character, and soon all work was suspended, and every inmate of Sharon was gathered in unwonted excitement in the halls and the common room.
When Tabea passed out of the low-barred door of Sharon she met the radiant face of Scheible, who had tied his two saddle horses a little way off.
"Come quickly, Tabea," he said with impatience.
"No, Daniel; it won't do to be rude. I must tell Brother Friedsam good-by."
"No, don't," said Daniel, turning pale with terror. "If you go in to see the director you will never come with me."
"Why won't I?" laughed the defiant girl.
"He's a wizard, and has charms that he gets out of his great books. Don't go in there; you'll never get away."
Daniel held to the Pennsylvania Dutch superstitions, but Tabea only laughed, and said, "I am not afraid of wizards." She looked the Hofcavalier more than ever as she left the trembling fellow and went up to the door of Brother Friedsam's lodge.
"She isn't afraid of the devil," muttered Scheible.
Tabea knocked at the door.
"Come in and welcome, whoever thou art," said the director within.
But when she had lifted the latch and pushed back the door, squeaking on its wooden hinges, Tabea found that Friedsam was engaged in some business with the prior of the convent, the learned Dr. Peter Miller, known at Ephrata as Brother Jabez. Friedsam did not at first look up. The delay embarrassed her; she had time to see, with painful clearness, all the little articles in the slenderly furnished room. She noticed that the billet of wood which lay for a pillow, according to the Ephrata custom, on a bare bench used for a bed, was worn upon one side with long use; she saw how the bell rope by means of which Friedsam called the brethren and sisters to prayers at any hour in the night, hung dangling near the bench, so that the bell might be pulled on a sudden inspiration even while the director was rising from his wooden couch; she noted the big books; and then a great reverence for his piety and learning fell upon her, and a homesick regret; and Scheible and the wedding frolic did not seem so attractive after all. Nevertheless she held up her head like a defiant Hofcavalier.
After a time Brother Jabez, with a kind greeting, passed her, and the director, looking up, said very gently:
"I wish you a very good day, Sister Tabea."
"I am no longer Sister Tabea, but Margaretha Thome. I have said adieu to all in Sharon, and now I come to say good-by to Brother Friedsam. I am going to lay aside these garments and marry Daniel Scheible."
She held out her hand, but Friedsam was too much stunned to see it.
"You have broken your vow! You have denied the Lord!"
There was no severity in his despondent rebuke; it had the vibration of an involuntary cry of surprise and pain.
Tabea was not prepared for this. Severity she could have defied; but this cry of a prophet awakened her own conscience, and she trembled as if she had been in the light of a clear-seeing divine judgment.
"You can speak so, Brother Friedsam, for you have no human weaknesses. I am not suited to a convent; I never can be happy here. I am not submissive. I want to be necessary to somebody. Nobody cares for me here. You do not mind whether I sing in the chorals or not, and you will be better pleased to have me away, and I am going." Then, finding that the director remained silent, she said, with emotion: "Brother Friedsam, I have a great reverence for you, but I wish you knew something of the infirmities of a heart that wants to love and to be loved by somebody, and then maybe you would not think so very hardly of Tabea after she has gone."
There was a tone of beseeching in these last words which Tabea had not been wont to use.
The director looked more numb now than ever. Tabea's words had given him a rude blow, and he could not at once recover. His lips moved without speaking, and his face assumed a look betokening inward suffering.
"Great God of wisdom, must I then tell her?" said Friedsam when he got breath. He stood up and gazed out of the square window in indecision.
"Tabea," he said presently, turning full upon her and looking into her now pale face upturned to the light, "I thought my secret would die in my breast, but you wring it from me. You say that I have no infirmities—no desire for companionship like other men or women. It is the voice of Sophia, the wisdom of the Almighty, that bids me humble myself before you this day."
Here he paused in visible but suppressed emotion. "These things," he said, pointing to his wooden couch, "these hardships of the body, these self-denials of my vocation, give me no trouble. I have one great soul-affliction, and that is what you reproach me for lacking, namely, the longing to love and to be loved. And that trial you laid upon me the first time I saw your face and heard your words in your mother's house on the Wissahickon. O Tabea, you are not like the rest! you are not like the rest! Even when you go wrong, it is not like the rest. It is the vision of the life I might have led with such a woman as you that troubles my dreams in the night-time, when, across the impassable gulf of my irrevocable vow, I have stretched out my hands in entreaty to you."
This declaration changed instantly the color of Tabea's thoughts of life. Daniel Scheible and his little love scrawls seemed to her lofty spirit as nothing now that she saw herself in the light thrown upon her by the love of the great master whose spirit had evoked Ephrata, and whose genius uttered itself in angelic harmonies. She loathed the little life that now opened before her. There seemed nothing in heaven or earth so desirable as to possess the esteem of Friedsam. But she stood silent and condemned.
"I have had one comfort," proceeded Brother Friedsam after a while. "When I have perceived your strength of character, when I have heard your exquisite voice uttering the melodies with which I am inspired, I have thought my work was sweeter because Tabea shared it, and I have hoped that you would yet more and more share it as years and discipline should ripen your spirit."
The director felt faint; he sat down and looked dejectedly into the corner of the room farthest away from where Tabea stood. He roused himself in a few moments, and turned about again, to find Tabea kneeling on the flagstones before him.
"I have denied the Lord!" she moaned, for her judgment had now come completely round to Friedsam's standpoint. His condemnation seemed bitterer than death. "Brother Friedsam, I have denied the Lord!"
Friedsam regarded the kneeling figure for a moment, and then he reached out his hands, solemnly placing them on her head with a motherly tenderness, while a tremor went through his frame.
"Thou, dear child, shalt do thy first work over again," he said. "Thou shalt take a new vow, and when thou art converted then shalt thou, like Peter, strengthen the others." And, withdrawing his hands, he said: "I will pray for you, Tabea, every night of my life when I hear the cock crow."
Tabea rose up slowly and went out at the door, walking no longer like a Hofcavalier, but like one in a trance. Dimly she saw the sisters standing without the door of Sharon; there was Thecla, with half-amused face, and there was Persida, curious as ever; there were Sister Petronella and Sister Blandina and others, and behind all the straight, tall form of austere Jael. Without turning to the right or to the left, Tabea directed her steps to the group at the door of Sharon.
"No! no! come, dear Tabea!" It was the voice of Daniel Scheible, whose existence she had almost forgotten.
"Poor Daniel!" she said, pausing and looking at him with pity.
"Don't say 'Poor Daniel,' but come."
"Poor boy!" said Tabea.
"You are bewitched!" he cried, seizing her and drawing her away. "I knew Friedsam would put a charm on you."
She absently allowed him to lead her a few steps; then, with another look full of tender pity and regret at his agitated face, she extricated herself from his embrace and walked rapidly to the door. Quickening her steps to escape his pursuing grasp, she pushed through the group of sisters and fled along the hallway and up the stairs, closing the door of her cell and fastening down the latch.
Scheible, sure that she was under some evil spell, rushed after her, shook himself loose from the grip of Sister Jael, who sought to stop him, and reached the door of Tabea's cell. But all his knocking brought not one word of answer, and after a while Brother Jabez came in and led the poor fellow out, to the great grief of Sister Persida, who in her heart thought it a pity to spoil a wedding.
The sisters who came to call Tabea to supper that evening also failed to elicit any response. Late in the night, when she had become calm, Tabea heard the crowing of a cock, and her heart was deeply touched at the thought that Friedsam, the revered Friedsam, now more than ever the beloved of her soul, was at that moment going to prayer for the disciple who had broken her vow. She rose from her bench and fell on her knees; and if she mistook the mingled feelings of penitence and human passion for pure devotion, she made the commonest mistake of enthusiastic spirits.
But she was not left long to doubt that Friedsam had remembered her; by the time that the cock had crowed the second time the sound of the monastery bell, the rope of which hung just by Friedsam's bedside, broke abruptly into the deathlike stillness, calling the monks and nuns of Ephrata to a solemn night service. Tabea felt sure that Friedsam had called the meeting at this moment by way of assuring her of his remembrance.
Daniel Scheible, who had wandered back to the neighborhood in the aimlessness of disappointment, heard the monastery bell waking all the reverberations of the forest, and saw light after light twinkle from the little square windows of Bethany and Sharon; then he saw the monks and nuns come out of Bethany and Sharon, each carrying a small paper lantern as they hastened to Zion. The bell ceased, and Zion, which before had been wrapped in night, shone with light from every window, and there rose upon the silence the voices of the choruses chanting an antiphonal song; and disconsolate Scheible cursed Friedsam and Ephrata, and went off into outer darkness.
When the first strophe had been sung below, and the sweet-voiced sisters caught up the antistrophe, Brother Friedsam, sitting in the midst, listened with painful attention, vainly trying to detect the sound of Tabea's voice. But when the second strophe had been sung, and the sisters began their second response, a thrill of excitement went through all as the long-silent voice of Sister Tabea rose above the rest with even more than its old fervor and expression.
And the next Saturday—for the seventh day was the Ephrata Sabbath—Tabea took a new, solemn, and irrevocable vow; and from that time until the day of her death she was called Sister Anastasia—the name signifying that she had been re-established. What source of consolation Anastasia had the rest never divined. How should they guess that alongside her religious fervor a human love grew ethereally like an air plant?
NOTE.—Much of this little story is fact. I have supplied details, dialogue, and passion. For the facts which constitute the groundwork I am chiefly indebted to Dr. Oswald W. Seidensticker's very valuable monograph entitled "Ephrata, eine amerikanische Klostergeschichte." The reader will find a briefer account of the monastery from the same learned and able writer in The Century magazine for December, 1881.
A STORY IN THREE SCENES.
The stories we write are most of them love stories; but in the lives of men there are also many stories that are not love stories: some, truly, that are hate stories. The main incident of the one I am about to tell I found floating down from the eighteenth century on the stream of Maryland tradition. It serves to present some of our forefathers, not as they seem in patriotic orations and reverent family traditions, but as they appear to a student of the writings and prints of their own age.
The time was a warm autumn day in the year 1751. The place was a plantation on the Maryland shore of the Potomac. A planter of about thirty years of age, clad in buckskin shortclothes, sat smoking his pipe, after his noonday meal, in the wide entry that ran through his double log house from the south side to the north, the house being of the sort called alliteratively "two pens and a passage." The planter's wife sat over against him, on the other side of the passage, carding home-grown cotton wool with hand cards. He had placed his shuck-bottom chair so as to see down the long reach to the eastward, where the widening Potomac spread itself between low-lying banks, with never a brown hill to break the low horizon line. Every now and again he took his cob pipe from his mouth, and scanned the distant water wistfully.
"I know what you're looking for, Mr. Browne," said his wife, as she reversed her hand cards and rubbed the carded cotton between the smooth backs of the two implements to make it into a roll for spinning. "You're looking to see the Nancy Jane come sailing into the river one of these days."
"That's just what I'm looking after," he answered.
"Why should you care?" she said. "You don't expect her to fetch you a new bonnet and a hoop skirt seven feet wide." She laughed merrily at her own speech, which, after all, was but a trifling exaggeration of the width of a hoop skirt in that time.
Sanford Browne did not laugh, but took his pipe from his mouth, and stood up a moment, straining his sight once more against the distant horizon, where the green-blue water of the wide estuary melted into the blue-green of the sky with hardly a line of demarcation. Then he sat down and took a dry tobacco leaf lying on a stool beside him and crushed it to powder by first chafing it between his open hands and then grinding it in the palm of his left hand, rubbing it with the thumb of his right in a mortar-and-pestle fashion.
"I've a good deal more reason to look for the Nancy Jane than you have, Judy. I wrote my factor, you know, to find some trace of my father and mother, or of my sister Susan, if it took the half of my tobacco crop. I hope he'll find them this time." Saying this, he filled his cob pipe with the powdered tobacco, and then rose and walked into the large western room of the house, which served for kitchen and dining-room. It was also the weaving-room, and the great heavy-beamed loom stood in the corner. At the farther end was the vast, smoke-blackened stone fireplace, with two large rude andirons and a swinging crane. A skillet and a gridiron stood against the jamb on one side, a hoe for baking hoe cakes and a little wrought-iron trivet were in order on the other. The breakfast fire had burned out; only the great backlog, hoary with gray ashes, lay slumbering at the back of the fireplace. The planter poked the drift of ashes between the andirons with a green oak stick until he saw a live coal shining red in the gray about it. This he rolled out upon the hearth, and then took it between thumb and finger and deposited it within the bowl of his pipe by a deft motion, which gave it no time to burn him.
Having got his pipe a-going, he strolled back into the wide passage and scanned the horizon once more. Judith Browne did not like to see her husband in this mood. She knew well how vain every exercise of her wifely arts of diversion would prove when he once fell into this train of black thoughts; but she could not refrain from essaying the hopeless task by holding up her apron of homespun cloth full of cotton rolls, pretty in their whiteness and roundness and softness, meantime coquettishly turning her still girlish head on one side, and saying: "Now, Mr. Browne, why don't you praise my cotton? Did you ever see better carding than that?"
The young planter took a roll of the cotton in his hands, holding it gingerly, and essaying absentmindedly to yield to his wife's mood. Just at that moment Sanford Browne the younger, a boy about eight years of age, came round the corner of the house and stood in front of his father, with his feet wide apart, feeling among the miscellanies in the bottom of his pocket for a periwinkle shell.
"How would you like to have him spirited away by a crimp, Judy?" demanded the husband, replacing the cotton and pointing to the lad.
"I should just die, dear," said Judy Browne in a low voice.
"That's what happened to my mother, I suppose," said Browne. "I hope she died; it would be too bad to think that she had to live all these twenty-two years imagining all sorts of things about her lost little boy. I remember her, Judy, the day I saw her last. I went out of a side street into Fleet Street, and then I grew curious and went on out through Temple Bar into the road they call the Strand. I did not know how far I had gone from the city until I heard the great bell of St. Martin's in the Fields chiming at five o'clock. I turned toward the city again, but stopped along the way to look at the noblemen's houses. Somehow, at last I got into Lincoln's Inn Fields and could not tell which way to go. Just then a sea captain came up to me, and, pretending to know me, told me he would fetch me to my father. I went with him, and he got me into a boat and so down to his ship below the bridge. The ship was already taking aboard a lot of kids and freewillers out of the cook houses, where some of them had been shut up for weeks. I cried and begged for my father, but the captain only kicked and cuffed me. It was a long and wretched voyage, as I have told you often. I was brought here and sold to work with negroes and convicts. I don't so much mind the beatings I got, or the hard living, but to think of all my mother has suffered, and that I shall never see her or my father again! If I ever lay eyes on that Captain Lewis, he will go to the devil before he has time to say any prayers."
"I'd like to shoot him," said the boy, in sympathy with his father's mood. "I'll kill him when I get big enough, pappy." And he went off to seek the bow and arrow given him by an Indian who lingered in the region once occupied by his tribe.
"Never mind," said the wife, stroking her husband's arm, "you are getting rich now, and your hard times are over."
"Yes, but everybody will always remember that I was a bought redemptioner, and your folks will hardly ever forgive you for marrying me."
"Oh, yes, they will some day. If you keep on as lucky as you are, I shall live in a bigger house than any of them, and drive to church behind six horses. That'll make a great difference. If the Nancy Jane fetches me a London bonnet and a wide, wide petticoat such as the Princess Augusta wears, so that I can brush against the pews on both sides with my silk frock when I go down the aisle, my folks will already begin to think that Sanford Browne is somebody," and she made little motions of vanity as she fancied her entrance into Duck Creek parish church on the Sunday after the arrival of the tobacco ship, arrayed in imitation of the Princess of Wales, the news of whose recent widowhood had not yet reached Judy Browne.
"There comes the Nancy Jane now," called the boy from the dooryard, pointing to a sloop on the other side of the wide estuary, bowling in with topsail and jib furled, and her rusty mainsail bellying under pressure of a wind dead aft.
"That's not the Nancy Jane," said the father; "only a sloop. But I don't know whose. Oh, yes; it must be that Yankee peddler back again. There's his codfish ensign at his masthead. He's making for the other side now, but he'll come over here to sell his rum and kickshaws before he goes out."
"Hello, Mr. Browne!" It was a voice coming from the river in front of the house. The owner of the voice was concealed by some bushes at the margin of the water.
"Hello!" answered Browne to the invisible caller. "Is that you, Mr. Wickford?"
"I've got some letters for you, Mr. Browne," came back from the water. "The Nancy Jane ran in on the east wind this morning before daylight, and anchored in the little oyster bay below Manley's. She brings news that the Prince of Wales died last Spring. I happened to come past there this morning, and I brought some things Captain Jackson had for you. I reckon there's something pretty here for Mrs. Browne, too. Send one of your boys down."
"I'll come myself," said Browne, going down the bank, followed eagerly by the little Sanford, who had also his interest in the arrival of the parcels from London. There came after them presently a lithe young negro boy of fifteen, not yet two years out of Africa. He was clad in nothing but his native blackness, which was deemed sufficient for a half-grown negro in that day. Mrs. Browne had sent black Jocko after the others with orders to bring up her things "without waiting for the gentlemen to get done talking."
But the gentlemen did not talk very long. The neighbor was desirous of getting on to have the first telling of the news about the death of Prince Frederick, and Mr. Browne was impatient to open the packet from his factor.
"Good-by, Mr. Wickford. Come down and see us some time, and bring all your family," he called as the neighbor's canoe shot away in answer to the lusty paddle strokes of his men.
"I reckon we'll come, sir," answered the receding neighbor. "My wife'll want to see what Mrs. Browne got from London. Tell Mrs. Browne we're afraid she'll be too fine to know her neighbors when she puts on her new bonnet."
The last words of this neighborly chaff were shouted over a wide sheet of water, and Sanford Browne, halfway up the bank, made no reply, but went back to his chair in the passage and opened his packet. Kid that he had been, Browne had contrived to learn to read and write from a convict bought for a schoolmaster by the planter to whom Browne had been sold. This lettered rogue took pity on the kidnaped child, and gave him lessons on nights and Sunday, because he was well born and not willing to sink to the condition of the servants about him.
Browne found his factor's letter occupied at the outset with an account of the tobacco market and congratulations on the high price obtained for the last year's crop. Then the factor proceeded to give a bill of sales, and then a list of things purchased for Browne and his family, with the price set down for the hoop skirt and the new bonnet and the silk frock, as well as for a cocked hat and dress periwig necessary to Sanford Browne's increasing dignity, and some things for the little Sanford. Browne studied each successive page of the letter in hope of finding a word on the subject in which he was most deeply interested, stopping reluctantly now and then to look up when his wife would break in with:
"Mr. Browne! Mr. Browne! won't you just look this way a minute? Isn't this fine?"
"Yes, Judy; it surely is," he would say absently, keeping his thumb on the place in the factor's letter, and resuming his reading as soon as possible, without having any definite idea of what Mrs. Judith had been showing him.
On the very last page he found these words:
"I have made most diligent searche for your family as you required butt I have not discovered muche that will be to your satisfaction. I send you, Sir, a coppie of certain things sette down in the Parish Register of St. Clement Danes, wch I thoughte most like to be of interest to you. Bye these you will discover that Walter Sanford Browne was born the 27 daye of the moneth of Febuarie 1721—wch will no doubt give you exacte knowledge of your owne age. The father and mother of Walter Sanford Browne bore the names Walter and Susan respectively wch is a fact that will not be indifferent to you I suppose. I finde that Walter Browne aforesd, who is sette down a scrivener, was married at this same church of St. Clements on the 22 daye of Marche in the year 1720 to Anne Sanford of the same parish. Theire daughter Susan was borne in Aprill 1725, as you will see by this transcripte made by the clarke of the parish. The clarke cannot discover any further mencion of this familie nor of the name of Sanford in this register downe to this present time, from wch he deems it is to be inferred that sd. Walter Browne long since removed out of that parish, in particular as the present wardens and sidesmen of the parish afresd do not know any man of that name now residente there. It is a probabilitie that yr. father has removed to one of the plantations. I have made public advertisement in the Gazettes for your father or any neare kinsman but w'out any successe whatsoever."
There followed a memorandum of pounds, shillings, and pence paid to the "clarke" of the parish of St. Clement Danes, of money paid for advertisements in the gazettes, and of expenses incurred in further searches made by a solicitor. That was all—the end of hope to Sanford Browne. He went into the sitting-room and put the factor's letter into a little clothespress that stood beside the chimney, and then strode out into the air, giving no heed to Judith, who had gone up the stairs at the side of the passage, and come down again wearing a hideous pannier petticoat under her new frock. She guessed her husband's disappointment, and, though she longed for a word of admiration, or at least of wondering attention, for her square-rigged petticoat, she thought best to be content with the excited prattle of her maid, a young bond-servant bought off the Nancy Jane the year before.
"Here, Jocko," said Browne, standing in front of his house and calling to the Adamite negro lad, "you go and call Bob, and get the sloop ready. I'm going down to the ship."
"Get sloop, massa?" said the negro, speaking English with difficulty. "Massa say sloop?"
Sanford Browne looked at the black figure inquiringly. It was not often that poor, cringing Jocko ventured to question him. "Yes, sloop," he said with an emphasis born of his irritating disappointment.
"Much great big wind blow—blow right up river. Tack, tack, all day," muttered the black boy timidly.
"You're right," said the planter, who had not observed that the strong wind would be dead ahead all the way to the anchorage. "Tell Bob to put the canoe in the water." And then to himself: "The negro is no fool."
"Bob, Bob, massa him want can-noo go see great big ship mighty quick."
"Come, Sanford; you may go too," said the planter to his son. "We'll carry the fowling piece: there'll be ducks on the water."
The time is the same day, and the place the deck of the Nancy Jane, at anchor. The captain is giving orders to the cook: "I want a good bowl of bumbo set here on deck against the planters come aboard." Then turning to the mate: "Have the decks squeegeed clean, an' everything shipshape. Put the rogues in as good garb as you can. You'll find a few wigs in a box in my cabin. But these on the likeliest, and make 'em say they're mechanics, or merchants' clerks, and housemaids. Tell 'em if they don't put out a good foot and get off our hands soon we'll tie 'em up and make 'em understand that it's better to lie to a planter than to stick on shipboard too long. Make the women clean themselves up and look tidy like ancient housemaids, and don't allow any nonsense. Tell 'em if they swear or quarrel while the planters are aboard they'll get a cat-o'-nine-tails well laid on. We've got to make 'em more afraid of the ship than they are of the plantations."
The convicts were in the course of an hour or two ranged up against the bulwarks forward, and they were with much effort sufficiently browbeaten to bring them into some kind of order.
"They're a sorry lot of Newgate birds," said the captain to the mate. "I'm afraid we'll have a time of it before we change 'em off for merchantable tobacco. Here, you Cappy," he said to one of the older convicts. "Look here! Don't you tell anybody to-day that you're a seaman. They'll swear you are a pirate, and that you'll be off with one of their country sloops, and go a-blackbearding it down the coast. You're to be a schoolmaster to-day."
"I can't read much, and I can't hardly write a word," said the man, a burly fellow of about sixty, whose heavy jaws and low brows would look brutal in spite of the brand-new periwig put on him that very morning to make him salable.
"That don't matter," said the captain. "You're schoolmaster enough for a tobacco country. You can navigate a ship by the sun and compass, and that's education enough. If you go and let it out that you're a sailor, I'll—well, you've been a captain or mate, and you know devilish well what I'll do with you. I'll serve you as you have served many a poor devil in your time."
Then, catching sound of a quarrel between two of the women, the captain called the mate, and said: "Give both of the wenches a touch off with your rope's end. Don't black their eyes or hit 'em about the face, but let 'em just taste the knot once over the shoulders to keep 'em peaceable. Be in haste, or they'll scratch one another's eyes."
The mate proceeded to salute the two women with a sharp blow apiece of the knotted rope, and thus changed their rising fury into sullenness.
Planters came and went during the forenoon, and cross-questioned the convicts, threatening to make it hard for them if they did not tell the truth. The visitors drank the captain's bumbo, but the convicts were slow of sale. Some of the planters announced their intention not to buy any more convicts, meaning for the future to purchase only freewillers, or bond servants voluntarily selling themselves, and some had made up their minds not to buy any more Christian servants at all, but to stock their places with blacks.
It was mid-afternoon when Sanford Browne arrived in his dugout, propelled against a head wind and heavy seas by Bob, the white redemptioner, and Jocko, the negro boy. The planter himself sat astern steering, with little Sanford crouched between his knees. Leaving the two servants in the canoe, the planter and his son went aboard the ship, while the convicts crowded against the guard rail to get a look at the naked figure of Jocko, his black skin being a novel sight to their English eyes.
There was recognition between the captain of the Nancy Jane, who had sailed to the Potomac for many years, and Sanford Browne. While the two stood in conversation by the bowl of strong rum punch, little Sanford strolled about the deck, shyly scrutinizing the faces of the convicts and being scrutinized by them. The women tried to talk with him, but their rather battered countenances frightened the boy, and he slipped away. At last he planted himself before old Cappy, whose bronzed face under a new powdered wig produced a curious effect.
"Where did you come from?" demanded the child, with awakened curiosity.
The would-be schoolmaster started at this question, gazed a moment at the child, and said, "God!" between his teeth.
"Lawr! 'e's one uv yer scholars, Cappy," said one of the women, in derision. "Ye'll be a-l'arnin' 'im lots uv words 'e ain't never 'eerd uv afore. Yer givin' the young un a prime lesson in swearin' to begin."
But Cappy made no reply. He only looked more eagerly at the child, and wiped his brow with his sleeve, disarranging his periwig in doing so. Then, changing the form of his exclamation but not its meaning, he muttered, "The devil!"
"W'atever's the matter?" said the woman. "You're fetching in God an' the devil both. Is the young un one uv yer long-lost brothers, Cappy?"
"What's your name?" demanded Cappy of the boy, without heeding the woman's gabble.
The perspiration stood in beads on the man's forehead, and the veins were visibly distended. "Looks like as if he hadn't got any bigger in more'n twenty years," he soliloquized. Then he said to the boy in an eager whisper, for his voice was dry and husky, "What's yer pappy's name, lad?"
"He's Sanford Browne, too. That's him a-talking to Captain Jackson at t'other end of the ship. He was stole when he was a little boy by a mean old captain, and brought over here and sold, just like you folks," and the lad made the remark general by looking around him. "He's got rich now, and he's got more'n a thousand acres of land," said the little Sanford, boastfully, thinking perhaps that his father's success might encourage the woe-begone set before him. "But I reckon that mean old captain'll ketch it if pappy ever sets eyes on to him," he added.
"Lawr! now w'atever's the matter uv you, Cappy?" put in the woman again. "A body'd think you must 'a' been that very cap'n yer own self."
The man turned fiercely upon the garrulous woman and seized her throat with his left hand, while he threatened her with a clenched fist and growled like a wild beast. "Another word of that, Poll, and I'll knock the life out of you."
Poll gave a little shriek, which brought the mate on the scene with his threatening rope's end, and restored Cappy to a sort of self-control, though with a strange eagerness of terror his eyes followed the frightened lad as he retreated toward his father.
The planter, after discussing with Captain Jackson the death of the Prince of Wales in the preceding March, was explaining to the captain that he did not mean to buy any more white servants. The blacks were better, and were good property, while the black children added to a planter's estate. White servants gave you trouble, and in four or seven years at most their time expired, and you had to break in new ones. But still, if he could pick up a fellow that would know how to sail his sloop in a pinch, he might buy.
"There's one, now," said Captain Jackson; "that chap leaning on the capstan; he's been a captain, I believe."
"How'd they come to convict a captain?" demanded the planter, laughing. "We planters have always thought that all captains were allowed to steal a little."
"They mustn't steal from their owners," said Captain Jackson good-naturedly. "Passengers and shippers we do clip a little when we can, but that old fool must have tried to get something out of the owners of the ship. He's too old to run away now, or cut up any more deviltry. Go and talk with him."
"What's his bob-wig for?"
"Oh, that's some of my mate's nonsense. He thought planters wouldn't want to buy a seaman, so he rigged the old captain up like a schoolmaster, and told him to say that he had always taught arithmetic. He'll tell you he's a schoolmaster, according to the mate's commands; but he isn't. He's been a ship's captain, I believe, and he helped me take observations on the voyage, and he seemed to know the river when he got in last night."
There ensued some talk as to how many hogsheads of tobacco the convict was worth, and then Browne went forward to inspect the man and question him.
"What's your name?" said the planter.
"James Palmer," said Cappy, with his head down.
"Lawr!" muttered Polly under her breath.
"What's your business?"
"Come, don't lie to me," said Browne. "You are a sailor, or a captain maybe."
This set the old fellow to trembling visibly, and Polly again said "Lawr!" loud enough for him to hear it and give her one fierce glance that quieted her.
"Who said I was a sailor, sir?"
"That's because you want a sailor," stammered the convict. "Mighty little I ever knew about a ship till I got aboard this thing. Captain would 'a' told you I was a carpenter or a preacher if he thought that was what you wanted."
The man spoke gaspingly, and a dim sense of having known him began to make its way into the mind of the planter. He was going to ask him where he had taught school, but all at once a rush of memories crowded his mind, and a strange suspicion came to him. He stood silent and staring at the convict half a minute. Then he walked round him, examining him from this side and that.
"Let me see your left hand, you villain!" he muttered, approaching the man.
The convict had kept his left hand shoved down under his belt. He shook now as with an ague, and made no motion.
"Out with it!" cried the planter.
Slowly the old man drew out his hand, showing that one joint of the little finger was gone.
"You liar!" said the planter, at the same time pulling the bob-wig from the convict's head, and flinging it on the deck. "Your name is not James Palmer, but Jim Lewis, Captain Jim Lewis of the Red Rose—'Black Jim,' as everybody called you behind your back!"
Here Poll broke out again with "Lawr!" while Sanford Browne paused, fairly choked with emotion. Then he began again in a low voice:
"You thought I wouldn't know you. I've been watching out for you these ten years, to send you to hell with my own hands! You robbed my poor mother of her boy." The wretch cowered beneath the planter's gaze, and essayed to deny his identity, but his voice died in his throat. Browne at length turned on his heel, and strode rapidly toward the captain.
"I'll take him at the price you fixed," he called out as he advanced.
The captain wondered what gold mine Browne had discovered in Cappy to make him so eager to accept the first price named. He for his part was equally eager to be rid of a convict whom he regarded as rather a dangerous man, so he said promptly, "He belongs to you," and shook hands according to the custom in "closing a bargain."
A moment later Black Jim Lewis, having regained his wits, rushed up to the captain entreating hoarsely not to be sold to Browne. "Now, don't let him have me, Captain Jackson; for God's sake, don't, now! He's my enemy. He'll beat me and starve me to death. I'm one of your own kind; I'm a sea captain, and it's a shame for you, a sea captain too, to sell me to a man that hates me and only wants to make me miserable. I'm ruinated anyhow, and you ought to take some pity on me."
This plea for a freemasonry among sea captains had influence with the captain of the Nancy Jane. But he said, "W'y, Jim Lewis, I've sold to you the best master in the province of Maryland. You don't know when you're well off. Mr. Browne feeds his people well, and he never beats 'em bad, like the rest."
"I tell you, he'll flay me alive, that man will! You'd better shoot me dead and put me out of misery."
While the wretch was making this appeal, Browne was silently engaged in emptying the priming of his flintlock fowling piece, picking open the tube, and then filling the pan with fresh powder from the horn at his side. When he had closed the pan, he struck the stock of the gun one or two blows to shake the powder well down into place, that the gun might not miss fire. Then turning to the captain, he said, "A bargain is a bargain."
Then to the convict he said: "Black Jim Lewis, you belong to me. Get into that boat, or it'll be worse for you," and he slowly raised the snaphance with his thumb on the hammer.
Lewis had aged visibly in ten minutes. With trembling steps he walked to the ship's side, and clambered over the bulwarks into the dugout. The boy followed, and then the master took his seat in the stern, with his flintlock fowling piece within reach.
"My dead body'll float down here past the Nancy Jane," said Jim Lewis to the captain; "and I'll ha'nt your ship forever—see if I don't!" He half rose and waved his hand threateningly as he said this in a hoarse, sepulchral voice.
"Mr. Browne," interposed the captain of the Nancy Jane, as the lifted canoe paddles were ready to dip into the water, "don't be too hard on the old captain. You see how old and shaken he is. You'll show moderation, now, won't you?"
"I'll care for him," answered Browne unbendingly. "Away with the canoe! Good-by, captain. My tobacco will be ready for you."
And Poll, the convict, as she leaned over the rail and watched the fast-receding canoe pitching up and down on the seas, said, "Lawr!"
The time is the late afternoon of the same day, and the place is again Sanford Browne's plantation.
Judith Browne, having exhausted her experiments on the frock, the bonnet, and the hoop petticoat bought for her in London and sent like the proverbial pig in a poke, had taken to watching the Yankee peddling sloop, which, having lain for an hour at Patterson's on the Virginia shore, was now heading for the Browne place. It was pretty to see the sloop heel over under a beam wind and shoot steadily forward, while the waves dashed fair against her weather side and splashed the water from time to time to the top of her free board. It was a pleasant sight to mark her approach by the gradual increase in her size and the growing distinctness with which the details of her rigging could be made out. At length, when her bow appeared to Judith Browne to be driving so straight on the bank that nothing could prevent the vessel's going ashore Captain Perkins called to his only man, standing at the helm, "Hard down!" and the sloop swung her nose into the waves, and gracefully rounded head into the wind just in time to lie close under the bank, rocking fore and aft like a duck. As soon as she had swung into the wind enough for her sail to flap, the captain called to the boy who was the third member of the crew to let go the halyards; and as the sail ran rattling down, the captain heaved the anchor at the bow with his own hands. Then a plank was run out, a line made fast forward, and Perkins climbed the bank and greeted Mrs. Browne. His manner combined strangely the heartiness of the seaman with the sinuous deference of the peddler. His speech was that which one hears only in the most up-country New England regions and among London small shopkeepers. The uttering of his vowel sounds taper end first greatly amused his customers in the Chesapeake regions, while their abrupt clipping of both vowels and liquids was equally curious to Perkins, who regarded all people outside of New England as natives to be treated with condescending kindness alike for Christian and for business reasons, and as people who were even liable to surprise him by the possession of some rudimentary virtues in spite of their unlucky outlandishness.
"Glad to see yeh again, Mis' Braown," he said when he reached the top of the bank. "Where's Mr. Braown?"
"He's gone down to the Nancy Jane. Won't you come in, Captain Perkins? Come in and sit down a while."
"Wal, yes. And how's your little gal?" Seeing a dubious look on Mrs. Browne's face, he said: "Or is it a boy, now? I call at so many houses I git confused. Fine child, I remember."
"The lad's gone off with his father," said Judith, giving Perkins a seat in the passage.
After more preliminary talk the peddler got to his main point, that he had lots of nice notions and things this year cheaper'n they could be had in London. All the folks agreed that his things were "cheaper, considerin' quality, Mis' Braown, than you could git 'em in London."
Judith knew by experience that his things were neither very good nor very cheap, but her only chance in life to know anything of the delights of shopping lay in the coming of peddling sloops. One might order a frock, a bonnet, or a petticoat from London, but one must wait nearly a year till the tobacco ship returned to get what had been sent for. It was better to be cheated a little in order to get the pleasure of making up her mind and then changing it, of fancying herself possessor now of this and now of that, and finally getting what she liked best after having had the usufruct of the whole stock. She was soon examining the goods that Perkins's boy had brought up to her—fancy things for herself and young Sanford, and coarse cloth for her servants. She concluded nothing about staple trading till her husband should return; for prices were to be fixed on the corn and bacon which must be paid in exchange. But there were articles that she craved, and of which she preferred not to speak to her husband, for a while at least, and these she paid for from her little hoard of pieces of eight, or Spanish dollars. The change she made in fractions of these coins—actual quarters of dollars cut like pieces of pie. These were tested in Perkins's little money scales. Less than a quarter of a dollar was usually disregarded in the South; and as for Perkins, he never seemed to have any fractional silver to give back in change, but always proposed some little article that he would put in at cost just to fill up to the value of a piece of eight.
* * * * *
Paddling with the wind, Sanford Browne's cedar canoe made good speed, and as the sun was setting and the wind falling it glided past the Yankee sloop into shoal water farther up, where its inmates disembarked, and beached their craft.
Sanford Browne walked rapidly up the bank, followed by his son, the servants, and the old convict. He approached Perkins and greeted him, but in a manner not cordial and hardly courteous. He looked at Judith so severely that she fancied him offended with her. She reflected quickly that he could not have known anything of her surreptitious trading with the peddler. Uriah Perkins concluded that a storm was brewing between husband and wife, and found it necessary to return to the sloop to make her fast astern, against the turn of the tide and the veering of the wind.
When Perkins had disappeared, Sanford Browne pointed to the convict and said slowly and with fierceness:
"Judy, that's the man. That's Black Jim Lewis, that stole me away from home and sold me for a redemptioner. Jocko, go fetch the manacles."
Judith stood speechless. It was a guiding maxim with her that women should not meddle with men's business, and it was an article of faith that whatever her husband did was right. She sympathized with his resentment against the man who had kidnaped him. But the sight of the terror-stricken face of the cowardly brute smote her woman's heart with pity as the manacles were put on the convict's wrists.
"See that he doesn't get away," said Browne to Bob.
"He can't pound his corn with them things," said Bob, pointing to the handcuffs. "Shall I get him some meal?"
"Not to-night," said Browne. "He didn't give me a crust to eat the first night I was on ship. Turn about's fair play, Captain Lewis. Take him to the quarters."
When the convict found himself manacled, his terror increased. He pulled away from Bob and approached Browne.
"Let me speak a word, master," he began tremulously. "I'm all broke up and ruinated, anyhow. I know the devil must 'a' been in me the day I took you away. I've thought of it many a time, and I've said, 'Jim Lewis, something dreadful'll come to you for stealin' a good little boy that way.'" Here he paused. Then he resumed in a still more broken voice: "When I was put on to a transport to come to this country I remembered you, and I says, 'That's what's come of it.' Soon as I saw that little fellow, the very picture of you the day when I coaxed you away, I says to myself, 'O my God, I'm done fer now! I'm ruinated for a fact; I might as well be in hell as in Maryland.' But, master, if you'll only have just a little pity on an old man that's all broke up and ruinated, I'll—I'll—be a good servant to you. I promise you, afore Almighty God. Don't you go and be too hard on a poor ruinated old man. I'm old—seems to me I'm ten year older than I wuz afore I saw you this mornin'. I know you hate me. You've got strong reasons to hate me. I hate myself, and I keep sayin' to myself, says I, 'Jim Lewis, what an old devil you are!' But please, master, if you won't be too hard on me, I think I'll be better. I can't live long nohow. But——"
"There, that'll do," said Browne.
"Please, Mr. Browne," interposed Judy.
"Lewis, do you remember when you woolded a sailor's head?" demanded the planter.
"I don't know, master. I have done lots of things a little hard. Sailors are a hard lot."
"If you'd had pity on that poor sailor when he begged for mercy, I'd have pity on you to-night But I cried over that sailor that you wouldn't have mercy on, and now I can't pity you a bit. You've made your own bed. Your turn has come."
Saying this, Sanford Browne went into the house, while the old sea captain followed Bob in a half-palsied way round the south end of the house toward the servants' quarters, muttering, "Well, now, Jim Lewis, you're done fer."
"Mr. Browne, what are you going to do with that old man?" asked Judy, with more energy than she usually showed in speaking to her husband.
"I don't know, Judy. Something awful, I reckon." Browne could not make up his mind to any distinct act of cruelty beyond sending the convict supperless to bed.
"I don't like you to be so hard on an old man. I know he's bad—as bad as can be, but that's no reason why you should be bad."
"I wouldn't be bad, Judy. Just think how he sold me, like Joseph, away from my family!"
"But Joseph wasn't really very unkind to his brothers, Mr. Browne; and you won't be too hard on the poor old wretch, now will you?"
"Judy, I mean to make him suffer. When I think of my mother, and all she must have suffered, I haven't a drop of pity in me. He's got to suffer for his crimes now. That's what he was thrown into my hands for, I reckon, Judy."
"Then you won't be the man you have been. Time and again you've bought some poor kid from a hard master like old Hoak, to save him from suffering. Now you'll get to be hard and hateful like old Hoak yourself."
"Judy, remember my mother."
"Do you think your mother, if she is alive, would like to think of your standing over that old wretch while he was whipped and whipped and washed with salt water, maybe? If your mother has lived, she has been kept alive just by thinking what a good boy you were; and she says to herself, 'My Sanford wouldn't hurt anything. If he was run off to the plantations, he has grown to be the best man in all the country.' Do you think she'd like to have you turn a kind of public whipper or hangman for her sake?"
Browne looked at his wife in surprise. Her eyes flashed as she spoke, and the little womanly body, whose highest flight had seemed to end in a London frock and petticoat, had suddenly become something much more than he had fancied possible to her. She had taken the first place, and he felt himself overshadowed. He looked up at her with a sort of reverence, but he held stubbornly to a purpose that had been ossifying for twenty years.
"That's all well enough for a woman, Judy. But you know that any other man would do just what I am going to do, under the same circumstances. I don't like to do what you don't want me to do, but I sha'n't let old Lewis off. I reckon he'll find my hand hard on him as long as he holds out. Any other man would do just the same, Judy."
Judith Browne stood still and looked at her husband in silence. Then she spoke in a repressed voice:
"Sanford Browne, what do you talk to me that way for? Any other man might worry this old wretch out of his life, but you won't do it. What did I marry you for? Why did I leave my father's house to take you, a poor redemptioner just out of your time? It was because you weren't like other men. I knew you were kind and good-hearted when other men were cruel and unfeeling. From that day to this you have never made me sorry that I left home and turned my father against me. But if you do this thing you have in mind to a poor old wretch that can't help himself, then you won't be Sanford Browne any more. You'll have that old man's blood on your hands, and Judy will never get over being sorry that she left her friends to go with you." The woman's voice had broken as she spoke these last words, and now she broke down completely, and sobbed a little.
"What shall I do, Judy?" said her husband softly. "God knows, if I keep him in sight I shall kill him some day."
"Sell him. Sell him right off. There's Captain Perkins coming up the bank now."
"You sell him, Judy. Perkins has things you want. I give Lewis to you. Make any trade you please." Then, as his wife moved away, he followed her, and said in a smothered voice: "Sell him quick, Judy. Don't stand on the price. Get him out of sight before I kill him."
Judith went out to meet the peddling captain, who was now strolling toward the house in hope of an invitation to supper, knowing that Mrs. Browne's biscuit and fried chicken were better than the salt pork and hoecake cooked by the boy on the sloop. The wind had fallen, and the water view was growing dim in the gloaming. Judith explained to the peddler that the convict her husband had bought proved to be an old enemy of his. She stammered a little in her endeavor not to betray the real reasons for selling him, and Perkins, who was proud of his own penetration, inferred that Browne was afraid of his life if he should keep the new servant. He saw in this an unexpected chance for profit. When Mrs. Browne offered to sell him if Perkins would take him to the eastern shore or some other place away off, he said that servants wuz a thing he didn't deal in—a leetle dangerous at sea where the crew wuz so small as his. Hard to sell an old fellow; the planters wanted young men. But he wanted to accommodate, you know, an' seein' as how Mis' Braown had been a good customer, he would do what he could. He would have to make a run over to the eastern shore perticular to sell this man. Folks on the eastern shore didn't buy much. Hadn't sold 'em a hat, for instance. They all wore white cotton caps, men an' women; an' they made the caps themselves out of cotton of their own raisin'. But, as he wuz a-sayin', Mis' Braown had been a good customer, an' he wanted to accommodate. But he'd have to put the price low enough so as he wouldn't be poorer by the trade. Thus he faced about on his disjunctive conjunction, now this way, now that, until he had time to consider what was the very lowest figure he could offer as a basis for his higgling. He couldn't offer much, but he would give a price which he named in pieces of eight, stipulating that he should pay it in goods. He saw in this a chance for elastic profits in both directions.
Judith hardly gave a thought to the price he named; but as soon as she perceived that he had disentangled himself from his higgling preamble so far as to offer a definite sum, she accepted it.
This lack of hesitation on her part disconcerted the peddler, who had a feeling that a bargain made without preliminary chaffering had not been properly solemnized. He was suspicious now that he was the victim of some design.
"That is to say, Mis' Braown, I only dew this to accommodate ole friends. It ain't preudent to make such a trade in the dark. I'll dew it if I find the man sound in wind and limb, and all satisfactory, when I come to look him over."
"Of course that's what I mean," said Judith. "Now come in and take supper with us, captain," she continued, her voice still in a quiver with recent emotions.
"Well, I don't keer if I dew, jest fer to bind the bargain, you knaow. I told the boy I'd be back, but I reckon they won't wait long. Ship folks don't wait much on nobody."
Judith turned toward the house, followed by the peddler. Sanford Browne was still sitting in the entry just as Judith had left him, surprised and in a sense paralyzed by the sudden and effective opposition which his wife had offered to the gratification of his only grudge.
"Mr. Browne!" called Judith, almost hysterically, her tense nerves suddenly shaken again. "What's that? Something's happened down at the quarters."
Looking through the wide passage into the dim twilight beyond, she could see running figures like shadows approaching the house. Sanford Browne rose at his wife's summons in time to meet the convict Lewis, still manacled, as he rushed into the passage at the back of the house and dashed out again at the front. Browne attempted to arrest his flight, crying out, as he made an effort to seize him, "Stop, you old villain, or I'll kill you!" But the momentum of the flying figure rendered Browne's grasp ineffectual, and in a moment he was out of doors, just as Bob and Jocko and the other servants entered the passage in a pell-mell pursuit.
As the running man emerged from the darkness of the passage, Perkins, thinking his profit in jeopardy, threw himself athwart his path, and cried: "Here! Where be you a-goin' so fast with them things on your wrist?"
"To hell and damnation!" yelled Lewis, striking the peddler fair in the breast with both manacled hands, and sending him rolling on the ground.
The convict did not pause a moment in his flight, but, with the whole pack in full cry after him, dashed onward to the bank and down it. Before any of his pursuers could lay hands on him he was aboard the sloop.
"Ketch him! Ketch him!" cried Captain Perkins, once more on his feet, and giving orders from the top of the bank.
The cabin boy had just emerged from the cabin to call the man to supper. He and the sailor tried hard to seize the fleeing man, but Captain Lewis swerved to one side and ran round the gunwale of the sloop with both men after him. When he reached the stern he leaped beyond their reach, and plunged head first into the water, sinking out of sight where the fast-ebbing tide was now gurgling round the rudder.
In vain the boy and the sailorman looked with all their might at the place where he had gone down; in vain they poked a long pole into the water after him; in vain did Bob and Jocko paddle in the canoe all over the place where Black Jim Lewis had sunk.
Perkins took the precaution, before descending the bank, to say: "You'll remember, Mis' Braown, that I only bought him on conditions, and stipple-lated I wuz to be satisfied when I come to look him over. 'Tain't no loss of mine." This caveat duly lodged, he descended to the deck of his sloop, where he found the cabin boy shaking as with an ague.
"What be you a-trimblin' abaout, naow? Got a fever 'n' agur a'ready? Y' ain't afeard of a dead man, be yeh, Elkanah?"
"I don't noways like the idear," said Elkanah, "of sleepin' aboard, an' him dead thar by his own will, a-layin' closte up to the sloop."
"He ain't nowher's nigh the sloop," responded Perkins. "This ebb-tide's got him in tow, an' he'll be down layin' ag'in' the Nancy Jane afore mornin'. That's the ship he'll ha'nt, bein' kind uv used to her."
Browne had remained standing at the top of the bank, without saying a single word. He turned at last, and started slowly toward the house. Judith, forgetting her invitation to the peddler, went after her husband and took his hand.
"I'm so glad he's dead," said she. "I know the cruel man deserved his fate. He'll be off your mind, now, dear; and nobody can say you did it."
A BASEMENT STORY.
It was one of those obscure days found only on the banks of Newfoundland. There was no sun, and yet no visible cloud; there was nothing, indeed, to test the vision by; there was no apparent fog, but sight was soon lost in a hazy indefiniteness. Near objects stood out with a distinctness almost startling. The swells ran high without sufficient provocation from the present wind, and attention was absorbed by the tremendous pitching of the steamer's bow, the wide arc described by the mainmast against no background at all, and by the smoky and bellying mainsail, kept spread to hold the vessel to some sort of steadiness in the waves. There was no storm, nor any dread of a storm, and the few passengers who were not seasick in stateroom bunks below, or stretched in numb passivity on the sofas in the music saloon, were watching the rough sea with a cheerful excitement. In the total absence of sky and the entire abolition of horizon the eye rejoiced, like Noah's dove, to find some place of rest; and the mainsail, smoky like the air, but cutting the smoky air with a sharp plane, was such a resting place for the vision. This sail and the reeky smokestack beyond, and the great near billows that emerged from time to time out of the gray obscurity—these seemed to save the universe from chaos. On such a day the imagination is released from bounds, individuality is lost, and space becomes absolute—the soul touches the poles of the infinite and the unconditioned.
I do not pretend that such emotions filled the breasts of all the twenty passengers on deck that day. One man was a little seasick, and after every great rushing plunge of the steamer from a billow summit into a sea valley he vented his irritation by wishing that he had there some of the poets that—here he paused and gasped as the ship balanced itself on another crest preparatory to another shoot down the flank of a swell, while the screw, thrown clean out of the water, rattled wildly in the unresisting air and made the ship quiver in every timber—some of those poets, he resumed with bitterer indignation, that sing about the loveliness of the briny deep and the deep blue—but here an errant swell hit the vessel a tremendous blow on the broadside, making her roll heavily to starboard, and bringing up through the skylights sounds of breaking goblets thrown from the sideboards in the saloon below, while the passenger who hated marine poetry was capsized from his steamer chair and landed sprawling on the deck. A small group of young people on the forward part of the upper deck were passing the day in watching the swells and forecasting the effect of each upon the steamer, rejoicing in the rush upward followed by the sudden falling downward, much as children enjoy the flying far aloft in a swing or on a teetering see-saw, to be frightened by the descent. Some of the young ladies had books open in their laps, but the pretense that they had come on deck to read was a self-deluding hypocrisy. They had left their elderly relatives safely ensconced in staterooms below, and had worked their way up to the deck with much care and climbing and with many lurches and much grievous staggering, not for the purpose of reading, but to enjoy the society of other young women, and of such young men as could sit on deck. When did a young lady ever read on an ocean steamer, the one place where the numerical odds are reversed and there are always found two gallant young men to attend each young girl? This merry half dozen, reclining in steamer chairs and muffled in shawls, breathed the salt air and enjoyed the chaos into which the world had fallen. On this deck, where usually there was a throng, they felt themselves in some sense survivors of a world that had dropped away from them, and they enjoyed their social solitude, spiced with apparent peril that was not peril.
The enthusiastic Miss Sylvia Thorne, who was one of this party, was very much interested in the billows, and in the attentions of a student who sat opposite her. From time to time she remarked also on some of the steerage passengers on the deck below; particularly was she interested in a young girl who sat watching the threatening swells emerge from the mist. Miss Sylvia spoke to the young lady alongside of her about that interesting young girl in the steerage, but her companion said she had so much trouble with the Irish at home that she could not bear an Irish girl even at sea. Her mother, she went on to say, had hired a girl who had proved most ungrateful, she had—but here a scream from all the party told that a sea of more than usual magnitude was running up against the port side. A minute later and all were trying to keep their seats while the ship reeled away to starboard with vast momentum, and settled swiftly again into the trough of the sea.
Miss Thorne now wondered that the sail, which did not flap as she had observed sails generally do, in poems, did not tear into shreds as she had always known sails to do in novels when there was a rough sea. But the blue-eyed student, having come from a fresh-water college, and being now on a homeward voyage, knew all about it, and tried to explain the difference between a sea like this and a storm or a squall. He would have become hopelessly confused in a few minutes more had not a lucky wave threatened to capsize his chair and so divert the conversation from the sail to himself. And just as Sylvia was about to change back to the sail again for the sake of relieving his embarrassment, her hat strings, not having been so well secured as the sail, gave way, and her hat went skimming down to the main deck below, lodged a minute, and then took another flight forward. It would soon have been riding the great waves on its own account, a mark for curious sea gulls and hungry sharks to inspect, had not the Irish girl that Sylvia had so much admired sprung to her feet and seized it as it swept past, making a handsome "catch on the fly." A sudden revulsion of the vessel caused her to stagger and almost to fall, but she held on to the hat as though life depended on it. The party on the upper deck cheered her, but their voices could hardly have reached her in the midst of the confused sounds of the sea and the wind.
The student, Mr. Walter Kirk, a large, bright, blond fellow, jumped to his feet and was about to throw himself over the rail. It was a chance to do something for Miss Thorne; he felt impelled to recover her seventy-five-cent hat with all the abandon of a lover flinging himself into the sea to rescue his lady-love. But a sudden sense of the ludicrousness of wasting so much eagerness on a hat and a sudden lurch of the ship checked him. He made a gesture to the girl who held the hat, and then ran aft to descend for it. The Irish girl, with the curly hair blown back from her fair face, started to meet Mr. Kirk, but paused abruptly before a little inscription which said that steerage passengers were not allowed aft. Then turning suddenly, she mounted a coil of rope, and held the hat up to Miss Thorne.
"There's your hat, miss," she said.
"Thank you," said Sylvia.
"Sure you're welcome, miss," she said, not with a broad accent, but with a subdued trace of Irish in the inflection and idiom.
When the gallant Walter Kirk came round to where the girl, just dismounted from the cordage, stood, he was puzzled to see her without the hat.
"Where is it?" he asked.
"The young lady's got it her own self," she replied.
Kirk felt foolish. Had his chum come down over the rail for it? He would do something to distinguish himself. He fumbled in his pockets for a coin to give the girl, but found nothing smaller than a half sovereign, and with that he could ill afford to part. The girl had meanwhile turned away, and Kirk had nothing left but to go back to the upper deck.