The Begum's Daughter

XXVII.

VROUW LYSBETH WICKOFF was, in her own way, as interesting as her cousin, Madam Van Cortlandt, although, being but a farmer’s wife, she lacked something of the grand air of her kinswoman. Let it not be thought, however, that the good widow was wanting in presence. Credible tradition represents her as of a strictly imposing personality : her ample figure, aside from the impressiveness which belongs to mere areadisplacement, had a suggestion of seasoned energy ; her rounded shoulders, of fardels borne ; her big seamed hands, of the plough-handle, which at need she had not shrunk from griping, and of the lesser mattock ; while her shrewd, resolute face, with its ingrained weatherworn bloom, was saved from hardness by touches of womanly sympathy and mother-kindliness.

If these various marks of individuality be thought insufficient to justify her high standing as a leader in the little village of Vlacktebos, where she lived, let it be added that Vrouw Wickoff was mistress of a comfortable estate, comprising a snug homestead and a large farm under good cultivation.

That Dame Lysbeth dwelt alone was no fault of her own ; for her husband had died in the course of nature, and of her two children, Grietje, her daughter, had married a young minister, whom the Chassis had recently called back to Amsterdam, while Marten, her son, had gone to be a sea-captain in command of a goodly bark which his fond mother had built for him with her own dowry increased by years of hoardings.

But the widow did not suffer herself to mope under this desertion of kith and kin. There was in her none of the fibre that gathers moss. She was not of the sort to let her limbs stiffen, her blood stagnate, and her feelings grow morbid, knitting stockings in the chimney-nook, while there was so much stirring work at hand to be done.

Seldom need the born toiler go in search of a vineyard, and Vrouw Lysbeth found ample scope for her energies in lending a helpful hand to Dominie Varick with his struggling little church, in works of benevolence among her neighbors, and in the care of her own people and estate.

In this last field she had already gained an enviable repute, not only as a prudent huysvrouw, but as a cunning tiller of the soil. There was an air of order, industry, and thrift about the widow’s messuage which roiled the gall of divers small-minded fellow-cultivators in the town, who were loath to confess that a woman could outstrip them in good husbandry. Whether it was from prodigality in manuring, judgment in planting, or care in harvesting, there was no gainsaying the result. It was common talk that the Wickoff farm was better managed than during old Marten’s life ; it was plain enough, too, that its owner was beforehand with the world, and no thanks to anybody but herself.

Notwithstanding this bustling and successful life, Dame Lysbeth did not suffer her social interests and sympathies to languish. She was a woman and a mother, and it may be safely assumed that many a stifled yearning stirred her ample bosom, unknown by the world, as she sat of an evening by her well-winged hearth.

Deep and genuine was the good woman’s joy, therefore, on receiving one day a letter from cousin Gertryd, saying that Steenie, who had been lying for weeks at death’s door from a lung fever, brought on by reckless exposure at the time of the late executions, was now convalescent, that the doctor had ordered him sent to the country and turned out to pasture like a colt, and that thereupon nothing would serve the junker’s whim but going to Vlacktebos.

Cousin Lysbeth, be it said, lost no time in sending back a cordial answer, and straightway bestirred herself to make ready for the invalid, who had been aforetime a frequent visitor at her house, and who, indeed, after her own little brood, stood highest in her favor.

The widow’s dwelling, without and within, had a winning air of homeliness. The house looked not so much like something built as like something which had grown out of the ground. Long, low, and rambling, it had a grotesque resemblance to a big mushroom, with its heavy roof sweeping in a curved line from the ridge-pole almost to the ground, save where, in front, it was poked up, visor-fashion, to give place to the broad front stoop, which, with its comfortable benches and riot-running vines, seemed to woo the dusty wayfarer to rest and coolness. The heavy wooden shutters, pierced with crescent-shaped slits to let in the light, were, day-times, swung back and fastened by long, twisted, S-shaped irons. In the gable abutting upon the highway might be found evidences of the solidity and age of the homestead in the massive stone masonry supporting the base of the chimney, and in the rude iron figures, giving the date of construction, imbedded in the rough-cast of the upper wall. At the corners stood two large casks to catch the rain-water. Over against the back door was a detached kitchen for the slaves, while on a plateau below the level of the house a line of out-buildings, including two roomy barns, surrounded an ample cow-yard, in one corner of which bubbled a never-failing spring.

It was early summer; the bustle of planting was over, the house had been cleaned from cellar to garret, and the widow was in the best possible trim for company.

The visitor did not wait for a second bidding. He came riding up to the door on a pillion one afternoon, accompanied by one of his father’s clerks and his old negro nurse.

Notwithstanding the care taken in his removal, he was a good deal shaken by the undue exertion. The hospitable look of the old house, the motherly figure of cousin Lysbeth in her white cap and homespun petticoat, standing in the doorway, with both her arms extended in widest welcome, brought a smile to his tired eyes, and he suffered himself to be lifted down like a child and led into the cozy parlor, where be could scarcely walk upright without bumping his towering head.

He looked around the room with a convalescent gleam of satisfaction to find nothing displaced from its old-time order : the wide fireplace filled with fresh oak-boughs; the shining andirons; the pale pink hearth-tiles; the two snowy goose-wings standing upright on either hand ; the floor sanded in the familiar waving pattern; the dark old cupboard in the corner on its huge ball-feet; the low, straight-backed chair at the window with its puffy feather cushion, and the silk patchwork bag hanging from the back filled with unfinished knitting; the little table holding the big Amsterdam Bible with its burnished clasps; the two old prints on the Wainscoted wall, depicting terrific naval battles won by noted Dutch admirals, which no doubt inspired young Marten with bis wild longing for a seafaring life; the sacred guest-bed, in a deep niche at the end of the room, supporting, on its four fluted posts, a tester hung with gay chintz to match the counterpane and the covering of the padded old comfort-chair standing hard by in the corner.

At the first glance of her experienced eye, cousin Lysbeth saw the state her patient was in, and assumed masterful control of him. Asking no questions, she took off his wraps, settled him in the big chair, peremptorily forbade him to move or to talk, and, beckoning his attendants, went away to the kitchen. Coming back after a little with a glass of wine and a toothsome morsel, and finding the junker too tired to eat, she promptly put him to bed, darkened the room, and left him to sleep. Finding, on a second visit, a half hour afterward, that he was staring awake and in a high fever, she posted off one of her slaves to New Utrecht for Dr. Staats, and in the mean time administered an herb draught of her own brewing.

Although nominally in the next village, the Staats farm was, in point of fact, not far away ; for Vrouw Lysbeth herself lived close upon the boundary line. Near or far, the doctor took his time, and chose not to come until the next day, when he found the junker somewhat revived after a good night’s sleep.

While studying his patient’s symptoms, the doctor talked in a neighborly way with Vrouw Wickoff about the planting of corn, the promise of calves, the fattening of pigs, and the like farmer’s gossip. The patient listened with an air of deep content. It was part of the cure, this country talk ; he assimilated it as a tonic ; its earthy, out-of-door tone accorded so perfectly with notes of crowing cocks, of lowing cattle, with snatches of bird-song and the whole full-throated chorus of field and barn-yard.

In due time the doctor took his leave, promising to send some medicine of his own compounding; vastly better, of course, than cousin Lysbeth’s draught, for it had a villainous taste and a Latin name rotundly accented on the antepenult.

Cousin Lysbeth cared not a fig for the Latin or the doctor’s wise look, only in the case of Gertryd’s child she chose not to take any chances. She failed not, however, to vent sundry sarcasms on doctors in general when the medicine failed to arrive, and she perforce had recourse again to the despised herb tea.

Next day, thanks to nature and cousin Lysbeth, the patient was so much improved that he begged to be taken out; and his nurse, being happily a believer in fresh air and sunshine, lost no time in bringing forth the big chair to the most sheltered corner of the stoop, where, having tucked in her charge with the responsible air of one conscious of skill and well content at having an occasion to display it, went away to her dairy.

Entrance to Vrouw Wickoff’s dairy was forbidden to all the world save one or two discreet women-servants. Naturally, this spot more than any other in the house was the object of her jealous care, as it was the source of her highest triumph as a huysvrouw. The very approach to it on a summer’s day was refreshing, with its cool air, its delicious fragrance of fresh butter and new curds. Once past the threshold, the widow gave herself up with professional gravity to its cares and duties : skimming the thick yellow cream with her own hands ; peeping with jealous eye, from time to time, into the deep churn which a stout negress pumped up and down ; adjusting the press upon the green cheeses; scanning with sharp eye the stone-flagged floor, the whitewashed walls, the wellscrubbed shelves, lest haply a stray insect or floating speck of dirt smirch the awful purity of the odorous cell.

Meantime, Steenie, left to himself upon the stoop, watched the white clouds sail up the sky, watched the waving tree-tops, or followed the humming-birds among the flower-beds; listening the while to the chit-chat of the robins in the orchard, the tinkling warble of the bobolink in the distant meadow, the crickets in the blooming clover, and through all and over all the soughing accompaniment of the summer breeze.

Soothed by these combined influences, the junker was fast nodding off to sleep, when he was aroused by the sharp clatter of a horse’s feet close by in the highway. The noise stopped at his kinswoman’s gate. Then followed a murmur of voices and a burst of laughter, and the next minute, with romping step, a girl came dashing around the corner, cleared with a bound the three broad stone doorsteps, and was about to lay hold of the knocker, when she saw him and drew back.

“ Catalina ! ”

The smile faded from her lips ; she caught anew her spent breath, and with swift hand adjusted her disordered dress.

“ I thought you were in bed,” she said, and looked away with an air of embarrassment.

“ I am sorry not to be sick enough to suit you.”

Casting a look askance at his wasted figure, she reddened at the reproach.

“ I am come — my father sent me — to bring you some medicine.”

“ So ! You are very good. Stay ! draw up yonder bench. Medicine ! Sit you down now, and tell me about it.”

It was still the same old tone of goodhumored condescension, as to a child. The little frown and slight drawing up of her figure, by which she mutely protested against this persistent insinuation of infancy, were lost upon the languid junker.

“ Vrouw Wickoff is within ? ” she asked, ignoring the invitation.

“ Yes,” he answered, with a look of amusement at the little snub, “but she likes not to be interrupted at her buttermaking. See, here is a bench.”

“ I — my sister is waiting at the gate, on a pillion.”

“ Go fetch her in straightway. Cousin Lysbeth will be glad to have you at dinner. You may tie the horse.”

“ Thank you much, but we have to go to the dominie’s. I cannot stay,” moving away, then stopping and hesitating. “ Here is the medicine.”

“ You may put it on the bench, since you will not stay.”

“ These powders are to he taken once in four hours, and” —

The junker shook his head peevishly.

— “and a spoonful of this,” holding out a vial, “ on going to bed.”

“ I cannot remember all that,” closing his eyes weariedly.

“ ’T is to be well shaken before using, and ” —

“ Go tell it to cousin Lysbeth,” moving impatiently in his chair, and groaning as if in pain.

“ You want something ? ”

“ If I had anybody to attend me.”

She stood looking at him with a comical mixture of compassion and irritation.

“ If it be — I will — what is it ? ”

“ A draught of syllabub.”

“ I will call Vrouw Wickoff.”

“ There is no need ; ‘t is on the table within, — the blue jug.”

She went quickly and brought the draught, which he barely tasted.

“ Is that all ? ” she asked, as he handed back the jug.

“ No.”

She looked a little exasperated.

“The flies are biting me.”

“If I knew where a fan was to be had ! ”

He waved his hand toward the parlor. She hastened away, and came back directly with a partridge-tail, spread, and finished at the node with a bit of ribbon.

What with her impatience and his nerveless grasp, the fan fell between them ; whereupon, reaching forward to pick it up, he lost his balance and toppled forward in a heap to the floor. With a look of alarm and sympathy she sprang to help him, which she could do only by actually lifting him in her arms. Hardly was he seated in the chair, however, when, with a deep blush, she cleared herself from this involuntary embrace, darted into the house, found the pantry, handed the medicine to the astonished Vrouw Wickoff, repeated the directions in a breathless tone, and was away around the back of the house like a whirlwind.

The clatter of horse’s feet in the road was the first notice Steenie had of her going.

Breathing the pure country air and fed upon cousin Lysbeth’s goodies, Steenie presently began to pick up. A very unexpected token of good-will came to him one morning in the shape of a note from the begum, tendering him, with many superfluous compliments, the use of her palanquin during his convalescence. On the heels of the bearer of the note, that there might be no room for declining, came the airy little vehicle itself.

Cousin Lysbeth was at first in much doubt about trusting her patient’s neck in such an outlandish conveyance, but one or two trial trips silenced her objections.

Thenceforth, accordingly, Steenie took an outing every day. Lying at length, with the curtains thrown back, and borne along by two stout men, he visited all his favorite haunts in the country-side.

More from habit than the expectation of bagging any game, he took along his gun, and swept with roving eye the sideway coverts on the march.

One day, having had the good luck to shoot an overbold rabbit, and coming soon after to a pretty opening in the woods, the fancy seized him to picnic on the spot and cook his own dinner.

So sending home one of his bearers for a basket of necessaries and the other in search of water, he busied himself in making a fire and dressing the rabbit.

Wearied by the unaccustomed effort, he threw himself down on the palanquin to watch the flames curl and crackle among the dry boughs he had heaped together. In this quiet pastime he was presently disturbed by outcries for help, mingled, as it seemed, with the snarling of enraged beasts.

Without thought of the consequences, he loudly replied. Encouraged by his answer, the cries turned in his direction ; they sounded nearer and nearer, and directly, with a prodigious rustling of leaves and snapping of twigs, out from a neighboring thicket rushed Catalina and her shepherd dog closely pursued by a bristling wolf. Although covered with blood and much worsted by the fray, the dog turned back at every few steps to renew the contest, thus giving his mistress a chance to gain ground which she failed not to improve.

Next to the French and the Indians, wolves ranked as the greatest pest of the early colonists. They were, however, held in contempt rather than dread, inasmuch as they seldom or never attacked human beings save where, as in this case, they were baited into a pursuing rage by dogs or sportsmen.

Like other youths of the day, Steenie had often hunted them, and now without alarm sat up on his couch, reached for his gun, and leveled it at the approaching beast. Directly he remembered that the precious charge had been wasted upon the rabbit. It was too late to mend the matter. Failing other missiles, he discharged at the enemy an ineffectual oath.

Meantime, Catalina, in an agony of fright, came rushing towards him, and took refuge behind the palanquin. The plucky dog, making a last stand in defense of his mistress, was overpowered and disabled, while, with an intent and unamiable expression, the wolf came bounding towards the palanquin.

Clubbing his gun, Steenie made a show of resistance, but, staggered by the onset of the beast, he was thrown back upon the couch, where he saved his throat only by the intervention of a plump cushion.

This, however, was but a makeshift; he had no strength to struggle with the brute ; there was no help at hand ; it was in all respects an unpleasant moment.

Happily, like other moments, it proved of limited duration. Directly he was vaguely conscious of an odor of smoke and singed hair in the palanquin. With a howl of pain the wolf dashed out. The junker feebly raised himself. There stood Catalina, quaking with terror, yet holding the exasperated beast at bay with a flaming brand. Again the unwary sportsman aimed a feeble blow with the butt of his flint-lock. Again the wolf turned upon him. Again Catalina interposed with her brand ; whereupon, taking the hint, Steenie snatched a brand himself from the coals. Thus making common cause, they backed upon the fire and kept the wolf at bay. Opportunely, the slave sent for water appeared, bearing a dripping birch-bark measure. Steenie shouted to him. The man dropped his water, crept up softly behind, and with a powerful blow from a stout club laid the beast lifeless.

Exhausted by excitement and unusual exertion, Steenie, without a word, threw himself on the palanquin.

“ You are hurt — he tore you — you are bleeding ! Oh, I was the cause of it! ” cried Catalina, rushing to his side. “Cato, where is Kouba? Kouba! Kouba ! How dare you bring him so far from home ? Get water — do you see how white he is ? Kouba! Kouba, I say ! Where is Kouba ? ”

The slave explained that his fellow had been sent back on an errand.

“ I will take his place, then.”

The man stared.

“ Come, get to your poles! We must carry him home ! ”

“ Stop ! Hold, I say ! I am not hurt. You shall not.”

The feeble voice from within was unheeded.

In obedience to an imperative gesture from his mistress, the slave took his place, and despite all objections, protests, and threats from their passenger they set forth.

The road was none of the best, but happily the distance was not great, and by dint of frequent stops — during which the passenger showed symptoms of violence — the inexperienced young bearer stuck to her task with a staying power one would scarcely have expected, till they reached the highway, where the returning Kouba met and relieved her of the task.

Next day, what with the fatigue and excitement, the convalescent showed himself the worse for the adventure, and cousin Lysbeth accordingly kept him in bed.

To this hard discipline the patient yielded with sorry grace, as he lay among his pillows sniffing the fresh air which floated in through the open window, listening with eager ears to the varied sounds of life from without, and watching with wistful eyes the sunbeams which, streaming through the casement, lighted up here and there a tiny cresset among the grains of sand, and left a track of splendor along the jeweled floor.

In the course of the morning cousin Lysbeth was called to the door by a visitor, who would not heed the slave’s bidding to enter. Through the open window the junker overheard, without scruple, bits of their talk.

“ I trust he is none the worse for it? ”

“ Yes, but he is,” answered downright Dame Lysbeth.

“ Surely he is not brought to bed again ? ”

The patient’s face wore a look of amused interest at the anxious tone of the inquiry.

“ That is he.”

“ But — ’t is not for long, think you?”

“ God knows ! ”

The patient well-nigh betrayed himself by laughing aloud at this gloomy description of his state, thereby losing several sentences which followed. The next words that came to him were in the firm tones of cousin Lysbeth.

“ You had best come in and see him yourself.”

“ No, no! ” was the nervous answer.

“ What message will you please to leave ? ”

“ I — I — none at all.”

“ I will say only you came to ask.”

“ I am come to do nothing of the sort.”

The sharp tone of this retort clearly puzzled the matter-of-fact huysvrouw not a little, who asked bluntly, —

“ For what, then, do you call me from my work and waste my time here ?”

“ I was passing, and — and stopped to — ask after your health.”

“ For me ! best thanks ! I never had a sick hour since Martie was born.”

“ I am glad, and I hope your family will soon be as well. Good-day, huysvrouw.”

Uttering her parting salutation in a tone of stilted dignity, the visitor went her way.

Steenie, as it proved, suffered no lasting ill-effects from his adventure ; it was only cousin Lysbeth’s love of discipline which kept him housed for a day or two. He was soon on his feet, stronger than ever ; so strong, in fact, that he declined the further use of the palanquin in a polite note which speedily brought the owner herself to wait upon him.

This visit proved, on more accounts than one, a notable experience. The begum had been invested with a new and indefinable interest ever since the wedding feast. Nor was her behavior on this occasion of a sort to lessen the impression.

For the first few minutes Steenie busied himself studying her very striking physical traits, as she exchanged greetings with his cousin. The two, as they sat before him, were at the poles of contrast. The delicacy of build, the elegance of dress and manner, the suggested subtlety of mind in every look and tone of the Oriental, could not on the round earth have found a better foil than in the massive bulk, the steady dignity, the simplicity of garb, and the uncompromising straightforwardness of the Dutch huysvrouw.

The junker’s musings were presently interrupted by his visitor.

“And you, Mynheer,— I am glad from the heart to see you win back your health.”

Steenie bowed and murmured thanks.

“ But when you are quite well, then,” insinuatingly, “ you will fly away.”

“ That will not be for a good while yet,” spoke up cousin Lysbeth, “ if he shows not better sense in taking care of himself.”

“ Your cousin would like well to keep you, I am sure.”

“ No, she will be glad to be rid of me ; I make too much trouble.”

The visitor directed a puzzled, inquiring look at Vrouw Wickoff.

Cousin Lysbeth wagged her head, but would not be drawn into a disclaimer.

“ You should rather come to live with her forever,” went on the visitor, turning with watchful eyes from one to the other. “ ’T is sad to be alone, and here there is land, good land for fine plantations, where a junker may come and make a home of his own.”

“ ’T is a good place to visit,” said Steenie, with mock reserve, but directing at the same time a grateful glance at his kinswoman.

“ But you have always the thought of going back ? ”

Steenie nodded.

“ It must be, then, the heart is left yonder.” The suggestion was accompanied by a searching glance and a quick withdrawal of the eyes.

A look of pain crossed the junker’s face, and he became abstracted. Cousin Lysbeth noted the effect of the remark upon her patient, and, however much at a loss to account for it, instantly changed the subject.

“ Your daughter is well, after all that the other day ? ”

“ She is well,” answered the begum, with a perplexed look.

“ ’T is a mercy they were not both torn in pieces,” went on cousin Lysbeth.

Thu begum turned from one to the other, with eyes full of the curiosity she thought it not polite to put into words.

“ And carrying that — that thing such a distance, — 't was the work of a man ! ”

The listener bowed, with a blank expression.

“ And after all she did, I warrant me the heedless boy yonder has not thanked her yet.”

Aroused from his musings by this direct reference to himself, Steenie reviewed with a mind - flash the words which had been passing through his ears, and said quickly, —

“ She would give me no chance.”

By this time the begum’s curiosity had reached a painful pitch, when cousin Lysbeth, suddenly fathoming her bewildered look, cried, —

“ She did not tell you ! ”

The begum shook her head.

“ Go on you, now, and tell her,” said the dame to her cousin.

The story lost nothing in the grateful junker’s recital. The begum’s dark skin flushed as she listened ; her breathless interest in the account constantly belying the affected indifference of her comments.

“ It is nothing ; but what danger for you ! So ! you then saved her life as well. on were weak, yes, yes — Catalina pitied you, she has a good heart — 't is nothing—yes, Catalina is brave — you were an old friend, she knew you yonder— 't is nothing — yet I am glad — yes, she is so shy — I will tell her — yes — all your thanks, but you must come yourself. Good-by — I keep you too long — I forget — forgive me ! Madam, I await a visit from you ; you will bring Mynheer. He should stay by you yet for a good while. I hope we shall see you many times. Good-by.”

Steenie stared after their strange visitor, as deeply perplexed as cousin Lysbeth herself at her sudden agitation and abrupt departure.

XXVIII.

The begum had made a shrewd guess as to the drift of Steenie’s yearnings. Long before cousin Lysbeth pronounced him well enough to go, his thoughts were plainly turning homeward, as appeared by divers toilfully composed and carefully sealed letters which he found means of sending up to town by the hands of neighboring farmers going to market. Getting back not a single word in return, he presently fell to moping. Vigilant cousin Lysbeth took alarm, and cast about for ways and means to distract his thoughts. She set him to mending tools and harness, sent him on readymade errands, took him afield when overlooking the slaves, made him cast up farm accounts gathered here and there from chalked memoranda on the kitchen wall and the barn doors. Not that her own faithful memory needed any such mechanical aid, but because she was hard pushed to find fit work for a town-bred junker. Driven to straits, she one day took him to wait upon the Staatses, where the begum’s marked chagrin at her daughter’s absence greatly puzzled both her visitors.

All resources having been exhausted to content her homesick guest, cousin Lysbeth was fain at last to let him go, which she did with much reluctance and repeated warnings against youthful imprudence.

Arriving home, Steenie found in the outward aspect of the town an air of bustle and prosperity which it had never worn under Leisler ; but from certain remarks exchanged between his father and mother at the supper-table, he drew a moral not to take for gold all that glittered.

The new governor, as it appeared, far from fulfilling the high hopes which his Coming had aroused, had already slipped from the heroic niche in which he had been too hastily enshrined; while from certain dark hints let drop by his father, the watchful junker surmised that the violent measures wherewith the new administration had been inaugurated, instead of proving of wholesome efficacy, had spread far and wide the poison of a deeper disaffection.

The following morning, Madam Van Cortlandt stood upon the stoop when her son came out and passed down the steps. As a woman of the world, she let no trace of any thought or feeling stir her impassive face while noting the carefulness of his toilet, — his holiday coat, silk small-clothes, lace ruffles, and shining shoe-buckles. Whatever conclusions, indeed, she may have formed from his premature return home, from the loss of his habitual cheerfulness or the object of his present errand, she kept her own counsels, and with wise restraint bided her time.

As for Steenie, he was too preoccupied to think of small politics at the moment, to think of any disguise of his mood or purposes. Greeting his mother, therefore, dutifully yet mechanically, he went his way to the well-known brick house in the Strand.

Arrived at the door, however, he was seized with a passing agitation, — a natural result, perhaps, of some weeks of doubts and misgivings. Pausing at the bottom of the steps, he seemed not able to summon resolution to go in. After a moment’s hesitation he turned and walked along to the Waterpoort, where he again came to a halt. Lingering here for several moments, he presently whirled about as if with a sudden return of firmness, briskly retraced his steps, mounted the stairs, and nervously sounded the knocker.

On being shown in, he found the little parlor empty ; the windows shut, and the room darkened. An ominous silence, indeed, brooded over the whole house, as though the shadow of the late tragedy still lay dark and heavy upon the once bustling and happy home.

It seemed an age to the impatient junker before Hester appeared. He was shocked into uttering an exclamation at the change in her. It was not only that her bloom was gone, that she had lost contour, that her old look of serenity was wanting ; here was another individuality. He was not of an age or experience for subtle theorizing. That such a sudden and violent development of latent traits could take place in a fleshand-blood fellow-creature as would dominate her known and normal characteristics was a thing as unknown in his experience as it was undreamed of in his philosophy. Happily or unhappily, the thought did not even occur to him. He hastened with outstretched arms to meet his sweetheart. Regarding him with lack-lustre eyes, in which was no gleam of welcome, she endured his embrace without returning it. Fondly, eagerly, pityingly, he looked into her eyes. Their glance was petrifying, the old stony stare of the dungeon-cell.

“ Hester, poor child ! dear girl!”

He repeated the phrases over and over again, with every appealing and tender inflection. It was all he seemed able to say.

He led her presently to a chair. She sat down with an air of sufferance, as if waiting for him to have done. He was painfully discomfited; he tried to speak, but his voice stuck in his throat. Indeed, it was plain he was at an utter loss what to say. With whatever doubts and misgivings, he had come clearly enough expecting to resume their old relations. He was bewildered at finding it impossible,— at finding that the physical contiguity from which he had hoped so much brought no nearness ; that between himself and this young creature who had grown to seem a part of his very being there had mysteriously intervened a yawning gulf, across which his piping human voice availed not to reach, and his pigmy arms stretched forth in vain to grasp back his treasure.

Unconsciously he grew old in heart and brain, as he sat staring at his dumb companion, while the interminable minutes dragged along.

Had that blighting shadow fallen also upon him ? Not unnaturally the thought occurred to him and haunted him, till it seemed as if he were indeed wrestling with some malign influence ambushed there in the darkened room.

“ Hester, poor child ! dear girl! ” he kept repeating, as one who talks in sleep.

On a sudden impulse he took her hands ; they rested cold and limp in his grasp, but it gave him courage to go on.

“ I have been down with a fever. I was sent away to get well — down to cousin Lysbeth’s — it was a long time— I wrote you letters.”

She nodded, without raising her eyes from their fixed stare at the floor.

“ And I thought of you, poor girl, all the time. It was hard to be so long away, but now I am well, now I am come back to stay ; we shall be happy again. Do not shake your head, darling. Look at me ; smile at me as you used to. Remember we have each other yet. Come, Hester, — listen to me, dear girl. Think how happy we used to be. We may be again, — why not ? We have done no wrong to any one. When this — this awful — shall pass away, we may be happy again. Take comfort, Hester. Think not upon all that too much; think of the old times ; think I am here, — that I am faithful to you, and ” —

He stopped. Her lips moved; he leaned forward eagerly to catch her words, which came husky and grating, as from a voice unused for years.

“ We are attainted ! ”

He studied her face with a puzzled look, as if she had spoken without sense. It was a full minute before he fathomed her meaning.

“ And what then ? Is it your fault ? Is it for anything you have done ? Does it make you anything other than what you were, — my own dear, faithful sweetheart ! ”

She shook her head, as if he were talking idly.

“ It takes away your goods and estates. I am sorry for your mother, your brother and sisters, but you need think nothing of that ; I shall have enough for both. Shake not your head, darling.”

“ We are attainted ! ” she said again, with the same barrenness of hope.

He released her hands, and cast himself back in his chair with a sigh of discouragement.

As they sat thus in silence, a door opened below-stairs, and the voice of her younger sister was heard softly calling to Hester. Realizing the uselessness of prolonging the interview, Steenie rose at once to go. She made no protest, but mechanically extended her hand. He put it aside, and took her tenderly in his arms.

“ You are not well, poor child ! You have not recovered from that— You will be better when I come again. I will come soon, darling. Good-by! Goodby! ”

Pausing upon the stoop to shut the door gently behind him, the junker heard a strange voice in the garden, and, glancing over the wall, saw Parent walking with Cobus, among the vegetables. In the disturbed state of his feelings, it is doubtful whether the incident made even a passing impression upon Ins mind.

Next morning, overhearing his father express a purpose of sending a messenger to Hartford on important business, Steenie was somewhat startled at the suggestion of his own name by his mother, who urged it upon her husband with characteristic persistence. As for Steenie, he seemed at first not much pleased with the notion, but on a little reflection assented with a show of cheerfulness, not quite realizing the probable length of his absence.

He made no attempt to see Hester again before going; indeed, the importance and responsibility of his new duties distracted his mind for the moment from thoughts of her. It proved business of a sort to try his metal. Realizing now the cause of his father’s hesitation in committing it to hands so young and unskilled, he resolved to justify the confidence reposed in him.

Without mishap or adventure, he reached his destination, and acquitted himself creditably of his errand. The result was duly made known at home. At the end of several weeks, expecting daily his recall, he was met by a courier from his father with congratulations upon his success, accompanied by minutes of some other matters of moment in the Massachusetts, confided to his management at his mother’s instance.

Despite this flattering commendation and the natural gratification at succeeding in his first mission, it was nevertheless with a feeling of keen disappointment that the junker turned his face towards Boston ; and in the answer sent back to his father there was, mingled with many dutiful expressions, an unconscious little touch of resentment at his mother’s interference.

The matter in the Massachusetts, as it proved, admitted not of such dispatch as the former. He was delayed many weeks, chafing at obstacles which he had not foreseen and could not surmount, so that before he again reached home several months had elapsed.

As he neared the city, his impatience to arrive became quite uncontrollable. Outstripping his escort, he cruelly spurred his jaded horse, to gain, needlessly, as it seemed. a few useless hours, and enter the town before nightfall. So, too, without any more tangible excuse, he went a foolish, roundabout course, in order to go in by way of the Waterpoort and ride along the Strand.

Passing the little brick house, he came almost to a halt, scanning with painful eagerness the door, the jealously shut windows, and every dumb brick, for some intelligence of Hester. Seeing no sign of life, the remembrance of his last visit perhaps recurred to him, for he repressed a shudder as he looked away.

Turning into the dock, he was aroused from his gloomy preoccupation by a sight which sent the spurs into his horse’s sides, so that the poor brute reared and cavorted, despite his spent condition. There, at a few paces distant, looking calmly towards him, stood Hester, attended by Barent Rhynders. She showed no surprise at his sudden appearance, but, returning his agitated greeting by a grave courtesy, passed along as if they had parted but yesterday.

Various adroit measures adopted by Madam Van Cortlandt, next morning, proved unavailing to keep her son at home. As soon as breakfast was over, without a minute’s delay he proceeded to the Strand.

He found Hester in the garden with her sister. The latter ran away, but Hester came directly to meet him, with something of her old-time manner. His face brightened at once, its anxious look giving place to one of extreme agitation. He fairly stammered in his first hurried greeting.

“ It is a long — long time — I thought not to be gone so far, else I — it was business of moment — I could not come — you understood, I hope, I could not — I wrote you by every band — if you had the letters, you know why I was so neglectful, as it seemed.”

“ Yes,” she said, with a little movement to free herself from his embrace, “ I had the letters. I was glad to hear you were in health and well quit of your business.”

He looked confounded at her tone. It was that of one who turns aside from an absorbing purpose to answer a child. It was many minutes before he could rally self-possession to go on, as they walked back and forth, back and forth, between the rows of currant bushes.

Breaking free at last from the constraint which seemed every moment weighing down upon him with deadlier force, he suddenly stopped, and cried with impetuous directness : —

“ Hester, what is between us? What is it, I say ? A terrible trial has come upon you. You suffered cruelly. I suffered too, in thinking of your pain, in seeing you crushed under such affliction. I have waited long for the wound to heal. It was a grievous wound, but I was not the cause of it. I have done you no wrong. I have been faithful to you through all. You are pledged to me. I am come at last to claim you! ”

She made a movement as if to speak, but he went on with added vehemence :

“ ’T is time we stopped dwelling upon the past and turned to the future. We cannot amend the wrong that has been done ; we must bethink us how to make the best of the life that is left us.”

They had reached the bottom of the garden, and turned to come back. Her attitude, standing before him in the path as if barring the way ; her utterance, slow at first, but gathering impetus as she went on ; her controlled manner and measured tones, all combined to give a memorable emphasis to her answer. Meantime, to her astonished hearer, her expression seemed visibly to change, as she talked, from the callowness of youth to the maturity of middle age. It was as if a mask had dropped, showing how suffering had developed the woman, morally and mentally, with the ripening efficacy of years.

“ Amend the wrong ! No ! Neither can we avenge crime, nor wash out the stain of blood-guiltiness that lies upon the heads of those yonder, nor call back martyred men from the grave ! Vengeance is for God ; He has said it! ”

The tone in which the words were uttered might have startled her hearer, had he not been so impressed with the transformation wrought in the speaker herself that he scarcely heeded her words.

“ Such part of the wrong we may not amend,” she went on, “ but we may amend such as lies in the power of man. We may wipe out the blot put upon the names of the dead. We may show their innocence to the world. We may have their memory restored to honor in men’s mouths. We may wipe out the taint that has been put upon their innocent wives and children.”

Awed by this sudden revelation of character, the junker stood for a space helplessly staring; it was only when the prolonged silence became painful that he made a blundering attempt to speak.

“ I thought not that — that you would take the matter so much to heart, Hester — I — I ” — he floundered, realizing, perhaps, that this was an unhappy beginning. “ I hope you may gain your end, — ’t is just you should ; but — but touching yourselves, I hope this blow may not fall so heavily as you fear.”

“ ’T is for mother we fear.”

“ Surely, after so grievous an affliction, she will be suffered to live in peace.”

“ How and where ? She is driven from home already.”

“ You will quit this house ? ”

“ What choice have we ? They turn us out; ’t is a favor we have been suffered to stay these few weeks while mother kept her bed, brought to the very door of death by their doings. Better for her she had died! ”

“ Good God ! ’t will surely not be pushed ; ’t is wanton cruelty ; if it were but made known to his Excellency ” —

“ Think you we would ask mercy of that butcher ? ” she broke in, almost fiercely.

“ What then, my poor girl, will you do ? ”

“ Sister Walters will take us in till Cobus has a hearing of his Majesty. He has gone to England ; he will make known all this wickedness to the king.”

“ But if he fail ? Your brother is young and unused to courts.”

“ He will not fail; if his Majesty be a man, and not a monster, he cannot but listen.”

“ My poor Hester, ’t is hard to get speech with the king; one must have influence at court; there are a thousand difficulties in the way ; his Majesty is plagued with much business.”

“ If he will not hear, be can read, at least. Cobus has it all writ down in petitions signed by a hundred names of good, God-fearing men.

“ A flood of petitions pour into the royal closet every day ; the king has not time for half of them. He hands them over to his ministers. These gentlemen are not fond of giving themselves pains. They take their own time ; they hear all sides of the story ; they put the business off from time to time ; new matters arise, public needs which claim a preference. Years go by ; suitors grow old and gray and faint-hearted, and give up the hopeless quest. I would not discourage you by this gloomy picture ; I would but save you from disappointment.”

“ We shall bide our time,” she said resolutely, " and give them no peace till our suit is granted.”

“ But I — we — where is my part in all this waiting? I might aid ; I would fain help in anything I may,” he added, in a halting way. “ I might at least be of comfort to you. Surely we need not await the issue of all this. We are pledged for better or worse ; not for one day, but for life. We may be married all the same ; you will not be less dutiful as a daughter that you have become a wife.”

She hesitated ; for the first time, it seemed, a moment’s thought of him crossed her mind. There was a touch of commiseration in the look she turned upon him ; her voice softened, but in no whit abated its tone of inflexible resolution, as she answered, —

“ Never will I give a thought to marriage until this wrong be amended.”

A deep flush overspread his face. He stood looking steadily at her until it slowly faded, giving place to a pallor which made his sun-browned cheeks look russet-hued.

“ Never ? ”

“ Never ! ”

The word fell from her lips like an iron bolt, but no bolt ever moulded could have dealt him such a blow. Large beads of moisture gathered on his forehead, and slowly trickled over his temples, as he stood with clenched hands and lips tight pressed, like one controlling himself under some physical pang.

Her eyes were turned away, perhaps purposely, to avoid witnessing the effect of her words. Each must have felt there was no more to be said. The painful silence which ensued was broken by the sound of some commotion at the house, — the sound of hurrying feet and some one calling. Hester turned to look. Her sister came hurrying down the path, followed by Vrouw Leisler crying, with awe-stricken looks, —

“ My child, my child, it has come at last! Your father is avenged !”

“ What ? ”

“ He is dead, — that wicked man.”

“ Who ? ”

“ The governor ! ”

“ God’s hand is in it! ”

XXIX.

The stir caused in the community by the death of Governor Sloughter was due not so much to grief felt for the defunct as to anxiety regarding the character and policy of his successor. This question, indeed, so engrossed the attention of all those in any way connected with the administration that for a while nothing else was thought of.

There is, therefore, less ground for surprise that Madam Van Cortlandt did not at once remark her son’s sudden despondeney. Once returned to home duties, however, the watchful matron was not long blind to tho matter. Without troubling herself overmuch to account for it, she recognized the need of some timely intervention, and with a mother’s license took measures accordingly. No treatment, it would seem, could have been better suited to the case than that adopted, — of sending him off on a trip to the West Indies with his cousin, Captain Marten Wickoff.

Steenie made no objection, nor expressed any gratification. He merely assented, and looked on in apathy while his energetic mother made all the arrangements for the voyage. Bluff Captain Marten had many private interviews with his kinswoman, and was doubtless given a hint as to the trouble from her point of view. Between them they kept secret the day and hour of sailing, so that the unsuspicious junker was hustled on board the bark early one morning, before any “ compunctious visitings of nature ” could interfere with their resolve.

Captain Marten faithfully followed his private instructions. No leisure was given his young cousin for indulging in morbid fancies. He was kept hard at work and fed upon plain fare, until he came gradually to find in the free, wholesome life, so varied by chance and peril, the solace felt by many another worldsick wretch before him. Moreover, the voyage was destined to be savored by a sort of sea-spice he little dreamed of. Two days out from Sandy Hook a sail hove in sight, which behaved in a way not at all satisfactory to Captain Marten. After studying the stranger for a long time in silence, on a sudden he threw down his glass and flew about with very unusual activity. Ordering all sail on and the decks cleared, he presently directed the crew to make ready to throw over the cargo or stand to their guns, as the case required.

Steenie heard all this with a little creeping of the flesh. Heretofore a pirate had been merely a bugbear ; he now saw the fabulous monster realized. As in the nursery tales pirates are always burned, sunk, or brought to some condign end, he felt no doubt of the issue in this case, and, arming himself with a cutlass, longed to come to close quarters. His enthusiasm, however, was somewhat dampened by the captain’s blunt answer to his questioning as to the result of such a proximity.

“Do! damn ’em! They’d sink the ship, and make every mother’s son of us walk the plank ! ”

In view of this very uncomfortable probability, the valiant landsman straightway developed more interest in the captain’s policy of “showing his heels. ”

Thanks to his stout vessel and good seamanship, the prudent captain at last succeeded in outstripping his enemy, and escaping with the loss of only a small part of his cargo.

Matters had come to such a pass that this experience, far from being unusual, was accepted as one of the ordinary perils of the sea ; and although the rest of the voyage was accomplished in safety, they learned, on arriving at St. Kitt’s, of a large Spanish galleon which had been sunk in plain sight of the town by the rakish stranger who had given them chase ; and coming ashore, they found the most absorbing topic among sailors and merchants was the doings of these hold bandits, — all of which made a profound impression upon Steenie’s mind, as will presently appear.

If no other gain came from the voyage, Madam Van Cortlandt noted with silent satisfaction its effect upon her son’s health. Madam naturally enough concluded that one who could eat and sleep like this sun-bronzed junker was no longer a fit subject for anxiety. That she pushed further her conclusions, and founded upon this experience certain sweeping and unsafe generalizations, was the fault of her temperament. Lest any undue prejudice attach to her on account of it, let it be remembered that dogmatism is for the most part harmless ; that it is always amusing, and indeed, viewed aright, is not without a certain ethical value.

Nobody in the world, perhaps, was more perfectly aware of madam’s limitations than her own silent and conservative husband. At the same time, nobody listened to her with greater deference. When, therefore, upon this occasion, she emphatically pronounced her conclusions upon youthful affairs of the heart, and the proper treatment of them after the fashion of croup and measles, he dryly coughed, without committing himself by an assent.

Steenie, meanwhile, unconscious of being an object of concern, felt himself under no obligation to confirm his mother’s theories, but went his own gait, in a state of apathy not to be easily distinguished from content.

Returning in this listless mood from a long ride northward upon the island. about a week after his landing, he was aroused by a sound of somebody running after him, and presently a breathless voice was heard calling him by name :

“ Mynheer — Mynheer Stephanus ! ”

Turning, he saw Tryntie hurrying with might and main to overtake him.

“ You, vrouw ? I’m glad to see you.”

“ Ei, Myn-Mynheer ! ” she gasped, coming up. “ I thought never to see ye again. They — they said ye’d gone beyond sea.”

“ So I did, and have come home again. How is Ripse these days ? ”

“ The schelmje ! — he grows like a weed.”

“ And Rip ? ”

“ Ever the same; he is away at the market, or he’d be glad of a sight o’ ye. But I have n’t run the breath out o’ my body to tell my own affairs; I’ve something for ye.”

“ So ! ”

“ ’T is yonder in the house ; ye went so fast I could n’t stay to bring it, but if ye’ll turn back ” —

“ What is it, then ? ”

The dame looked cautiously about, and lowered her voice.

“ A letter ! ”

“ For me ? ”

“ Ye ’ll need no help to guess who sends it.”

It would have puzzled keener wits than Tryntie’s to say whether the change which took place in the listener’s countenance was due to pleasure or pain. Staring at her a moment while recovering from his astonishment, he said gravely,

“ I will go.”

Walking his horse to keep pace with the panting vrouw, he did not exchange another word with her, however, until they came to the house. Everything there looked much the same: the geese feeding on the green ; the little stoop with its well-scrubbed benches ; the tulipbeds, now filled with summer flowers ; Ripse, much grown, in a little round cap, and a grotesque frock made from an old doublet of his father’s, chasing the poultry with a stick, — all might have awakened old remembrances in the junker’s bosom, if he had not been too preoccupied to take note of anything.

Tryntie did not keep him waiting; she came out unfolding a long piece of clean linen, from which she produced the precious letter.

Steenie took it, and, gazing at it a full minute in an abstracted way, rode off without breaking the seal, or even giving the little vrouw a word of thanks for her pains.

It was only when quite alone upon the highway that, dropping the reins upon his horse’s neck, he read the letter. He read it. indeed, over and over again. Who will say he had not cause ?

HONORED FREND, — It has come upon me sence seeing you I made an unfit answer to what you said to me meant in all love and kindness. Truely I have no cause to give any butt kind words as I have no other butt kind thouts towards you. My mind as you know was full off other things as God our Heavenly Father knows full well it had call to be.

For that I was always a stubborn and undutifull child to that dere and blissed martyr we have lost I am now arroused to a sinse of my great sin and wickedness and from this out must ever strive to make what poor amends in me lye in following his example and heeding his counsells remembered in my mind.

After some note taken off my feelings I find them still turned towards you much as of old butt my sinses are benumbed as it where and all within me seems awry. I am like a plant trod to earth and lift myself feebly from the dust all bruised and warped as I must never again expect to stand upright. See then what need I have to commend myself to God’s Mercy by putting away all weak and foolish desires off my own heart and yield my thouts and strenth to lifting up from the foul mire and making clear off smirch the memory of that blissed one I held in such small esteem whiles living. Praying you then to think me not so much unmindfull off your true affection as pledged to a duty which holds me heart and soul
Your humble ser’t
HESTER LEISLER.

The reader was recalled to himself by his horse stopping before the city gate. Thrusting the letter into his pocket, he gathered up the reins, and, by the shortest way, proceeded to the little house in the Strand. He found it shut and deserted. He stared about in dismay. The house in its desolation rose before him a dumb but eloquent accuser, afflicting him with a sense of personal guiltiness.

He sat for a space as not knowing what to do; then bethinking him of Tryntie, turned and rode back to the bouwerie. The evening was warm, the door and windows stood open, and through the still air the discordant voice of the little huysvrouw was heard getting Ripse ready for bed.

Steenie stopped. Perhaps it was the song which reminded him of that time long ago when he first came to the bouwerie. Surely Tryntie’s voice was one upon which to found a remembrance. Whatever the impulse, he yielded to it, and lingered at the door. Quite absorbed in her task, Tryntie held the fat, half-naked young one on her knee, beguiling him into spasms of laughter by some nursery trick, as she alternately slipped on and pulled off his bit of a night-gown, singing the while with unmodulated vigor,—

“ Duur zat een Aapje op een stokje
Achter myn moeder’s kenken deur
Hy had een gnatje in syn rokje
Duur stok dat schelmje syn kopje deur.”

Waiting patiently until the game was ended and Ripse tucked into his cradle, Steenie presented himself, and, making known his errand, learned that Vrouw Leisler and her family were scattered among their friends and relatives, and that Hester was visiting Catalina at New Utrecht.

Madam Van Cortlandt was equally surprised and pleased, next morning, when Steenie announced his purpose of making a visit to Vlacktebos. She lost no time in making up a hamper of town delicacies, and sent him off with a redundancy of messages common to that time of infrequent intercourse.

The visit was a joyful surprise to cousin Lysbeth. She stood by chance on the stoop as Steenie came around the corner of the house, just before supper, and grasped him in her heartiest fashion. He was even more welcome than usual, for he brought the latest news from her darling Marten, and gave her, as they sat on the stoop in the evening, an account of his voyage, together with many details of her son’s daily life, of which she had little notion.

Cousin Lysbeth was naturally interested and puzzled, next morning, when, directly after breakfast, her kinsman announced his intention of going to New Utrecht. She kept her firm lips shut, however, and asked no question ; and as for Steenie, if by chance it occurred to him that his doings might awaken curiosity, he showed no disposition to gratify it.

Arrived at the doctor’s door, he beheld a well-known person sitting in the cool shadow of the stoop, whom, from his disconcerted look, it was plain he had not thought of encountering.

“ You are very welcome, Mynheer,” said the lady, with a profound obeisance, blinking away industriously her first look of surprise and curiosity. “ Vrouw Wickoff is well, I hope ? She must be greatly rejoiced to see you so restored to health.”

Steenie murmured some commonplace as he took off his broad-brimmed hat, seated himself upon the bench opposite his hostess, and looked wistfully about.

“ It is pleasant to come to the country in the warm season,” went on the lady, much busier with her private thoughts than with those she saw fit to put into words.

Her visitor assented absently, with furtive looks cast hither and thither.

“ Your worshipful father and mother, — I hope they are in health ? ”

“ They are both well, I thank you much.”

A word in Hindostanee whispered apart to an Indian servant who sat on a straw mat just within the open door, and a tray was brought, holding a cool drink and some cakes, of which the guest partook as knowing not what else to do.

“ 'T is far away from the world, here among our bouweries ; we hear only the echoes; 't is like opening a book when some one comes from town to tell us what passes,” continued the begum, keeping up the conversation as a running accompaniment to her thoughts, while she studied the junker askance, and accounted in her own way for his abstraction.

“ There is not much to tell,” he answered, with signs of restiveness.

“ Is there not great stir of late on account of the pirates ? ”

“ To be sure; that there is, madam, a prodigious stir,” with a touch of interest. “ They are become a great plague ; they are sweeping our commerce from the sea; the Lords of Trade are busy with the matter.”

“ ’T is whispered here by mischiefmakers hils Mightiness is in league with them.”

“ Governor Fletcher ! ’T is a great scandal ! ” cried Steenie indignantly. “ He is an honest man, and gives himself up heart and soul to the good of the province. His health is broken by overwork and newness to the climate.”

“ I believe you ; yet some there be, and not a few, scruple not to say it boldly, together with many other evil things of his Excellency. You know well them I mean,” returned the lady significantly, curbing her tongue just in time from a closer description of a class among whom her own husband was known to be a leader. “ They never forgive it that he holds no fellowship with the followers of that monster who met his deserts so long ago.”

Old memories stirred within the junker as he gazed at his singular hostess, noted her eyes flash and her vibrant voice deepen in intensity. Notwithstanding his astonishment, however, he failed not to take instant advantage of the opportunity she had given him to lead the conversation in the direction he wished.

“ Whatever the crimes of that wretch, ’t is time they were forgotten.”

“ And who, pray you, keeps the memory of them fresh but his own friends?”

“ Poor creatures, they are to be pitied.”

“ How pitied, when they fill all England and America with cries for vengeance ? ”

Leaning far forward, with her beady eyes fixed glaringly upon her visitor, the excited begum by turns tossed back the floating muslin head-gear from her heated face, and plucked with the vengeful movement of a bird of prey bits of down from a feather fan which she fluttered in her hands.

“ Surely his family are innocent, yet are they branded with infamy, and cast out like beggars into the street.”

“ For the woman, for the children, give them back their poor belongings,— I would not have them suffer; but for him ”— She finished her sentence with a violent gesture, and plucked again at her fan.

“ I am glad to hear that you show kindness to the living, however you may feel towards the dead,” said the junker significantly.

“ ’T is my husband does that,” she rejoined, instantly and emphatically, as if to show her qualified approval of the act, “and Catalina, you know” —

Her hearer nodded, and while she still stuck at a word he came bluntly to the point towards which the whole conversation had tended.

“ Hester is here. I would speak with her.”

A look of mortification, quickly controlled, passed over the lady’s tell-tale face.

“ Yes, surely. ’T is most unlucky she is gone walking with my daughter, but they cannot be long; they will come back to dinner. You will wait ? ”

“ With many thanks, no ; if it please you, I will follow them.”

“ Ah, I am most wretched ! ” with an expression of mock despair. “ If I but knew whither to send you ! ”

“ Never fear ! I shall not be long in finding them.”

Seeing her visitor so determined, the lady made a show of catechising the slaves, and at last gained the information that the two girls had gone to a hill, not far off, overlooking the sea.

With a hurried leave-taking, the impatient junker strode off in the direction pointed out. Across some fields, through a wood, and up a gentle slope, and he was there.

The search was not a long one, for directly he came to the summit of the hill and looked about, there, under an oak-tree close at hand, sat the two maidens, busily engaged in closest talk.

Steenie coughed, and they both looked around. Catalina started up instantly, and a flush overspread her face. Hesitating a moment, she dropped a slight courtesy to the intruder, muttered a word to her friend, and turned to go.

Hester made a movement to clutch her by the petticoat, Steenie uttered a half-hearted protest, but the fugitive held her course, and was soon out of sight.

The two left behind found it an awkward meeting. It had been made worse, if possible, by Catalina’s flight. Hester rose and gravely courtesied. Both stood silent for a space, not knowing what to say.

But the junker had come with a purpose, and he did not suffer it to grow cold. Making an impatient gesture as if to brush away the constraint which held them both dumb, he approached, and put forth his hand.

“ I had your letter but yesterday,” he said. “ I am just come back from a voyage to the Antilles. I have been long away.”

“ I am glad to see you safe returned,” she answered simply, but with a touch of consciousness which was wanting in their former interview.

“ Your letter gave me great comfort,” he went on, leaning against the tree, while she stood uneasily a little apart. “ I know not why it should, unless it be that at our former meeting you "—lie hesitated, stooped and picked up a dry twig, which he broke idly in his fingers — “ you seemed not quite your real self.”

She looked troubled, but did not answer.

“ For myself, I was so downcast that I was long time quite without hope, until little by little the thought came to me that your great affliction had unsettled your good sense, and turned you aside from a right way of thinking.”

“ I have but one way of thinking,”— she spoke calmly and with a touch of pride, — " which is ever as God gives direction to my thoughts.”

“T is not safe to take for God’s doing what may more likely be the effect of evil counsels forever sounded in your ears,” he retorted, with a little heat.

” One needs not evil counsels to think amiss,” was the instant reply, delivered in a tone coldly significant.

Directly Steenie saw his mistake, and as if relieved at having freed his mind of some long-stored bitterness answered with an utter change of voice and manner, a reminiscence of his old masterful way with the girl.

“Let us have done with upbraiding ! Let us have done once and for all with bygones which had best be forgotten ! We have both had trouble enough ; we have both carried about sad looks and heavy hearts till ’t is time we cast them off. Come, Hester ! Come, sit you down now, dear girl, beside me, and remember only you are my sweetheart yet, and bethink you it rests only with ourselves whether our lives are to run to waste and nothingness, or we are to find some cheer and comfort in the days that are left to us.”

As he spoke he threw himself on the ground at the foot of the tree, and motioned her to a place at his side ; but she, with a look very ill at ease, remained standing.

“ Hester, I say, come, sit you down. Let us have a talk like the old times. Tell me your mind. Show me your whole heart. If I hold still my old place there, then all is right yet.”

She hesitated, still much discomfited.

“ See, here is your seat waiting. Come,” he continued half playfully, “you shall not escape. Come, I say, will you wait to be haled hither ? ”

With an embarrassed flush and no very good grace, she at last sat down by his side.

“ Now,” he cried, taking her hand and burying it out of sight between his own big palms, " what shall ever come between us again ? Are we not happy ? Are we not, eh, little one ? I feel at least a thousand years younger than yesterday, and my heart, or whatever it be within me which feels, weighs but a feather, which this morning was a ton. Did I not do well to come and seek you out ? And all, too, on account of your precious letter, which had well - nigh missed me! What, tongue-tied still?” he asked, with an anxious glance at her downcast face. “ Have you then no word for me ? ”

Her whole person showed by certain nervous movements that she was making ready to speak, and clearly with the greatest effort. His face clouded, perhaps with a premonition, as he watched her, and waited in almost breathless suspense for her words,

“Glad would I be to take part in your cheer and speak some word which would answer to your hope or give you comfort, but” — she stopped, and plainly had to call up all her resources of firmness to go on — “ but what can I say ? As I set forth in my letter, my heart is still bound to you, but I can give no ear to my own inclinings. I must go the way laid out for me, I must do the work appointed for my hands.”

The junker held fast his tongue, although an impulse of impatience convulsed his whole person.

“ ’T is a voice out of the grave calls me to this work, friends and kindred unite in it, whiles a still, small whisper within, which I know no other but as the voice of God, swells the cry, till I find no peace day or night but in thinking how best to compass this charge laid upon me.”

“ Listen, Hester,” Steenie began, after a few minutes had passed in ominous silence,—began in a voice whose measured tone showed the restraint he had put upon himself. “ Once more I say, Do all this that is required of you, do this which your conscience compels. I would not withhold you. But again I demand, What hinders you should be faithful to me as well ? What makes it needful that whiles you are true to one you should be false to the other? ”

“ False ! ” she repeated, weighing the word a moment before proceeding: "'t is not a question of true or false ; consider the matter only in a right light. What means the dominie when he reads out of the good book yonder that man cannot serve both God and Mammon ? 'T is that a weak mortal cannot follow two paths at the same time. Either must he go the one shown of God, or that pointed out by his own selfish passions.”

“ Truly ; and pray you tell me how long is it since I was exalted to the high post, in your esteem, of serving at need as type of greed and lust and all unrighteousness ? There remains, it would seem, but the part of Beelzebub still unplayed.”

Panoplied in that densest of all armor which turns the shafts of wit, she went on, without the least sense of smart, in a tone calmly controversial.

“ Whiles I am true to a higher bidding I cannot well be false in any wise.” That word plainly rankled in her mind, for she concentrated her attack upon it. " To be false to one’s self is ofttimes to be true to God ; 't is better, then, in that way to be false. What is false ? ’T is but a word. I shall have no fear of any word whiles I have the sense of right action.”

Starting up as if irritated beyond longer control, the junker made no answer, but paced swiftly up and down in the shadow of the tree. After a moment Hester rose also, and, carefully shaking the wrinkles out of her skirt, made a movement to go. He suddenly stopped in his feverish march.

“ Is this, then, all the answer you would make ? ”

“ What other can I give ? ” she asked, still shaking her skirt.

“ You bid me wait for years as you would say, ‘ Wait till next Lord’s Day morning! ’ ”

“ Why should you think ’t will prove so long? ” she asked, looking up from her adjusted drapery with untroubled eyes.

“ What matter why? I have cause. I know after what manner they conduct these affairs. It will be for years, I say, for weary, hopeless years ; it may be indeed for life itself. And all for what ? What, tell me ! A whim, a caprice. Oh, Hester, Hester,” be cried, catching her passionately in his arms, “ think what you are doing ! Is my happiness nothing to you ? Think of my misery ! You will, you do, — I see it in your face.” He covered her blooming cheek with kisses. “ I knew you could not be so cruel. Say then you will come with me ! Nay, you shall not go till you speak the word, — I swear you shall not! Now — now — there, I give you breath ! Will you come with me, I say ? There needs but one word to answer.”

He released her. She was flustered by the embrace ; her cheek was burning from the attack of his ardent lips. She smoothed back her disordered locks and adjusted her dainty cap, while her face settled slowly back into its old lines of calm inflexibility as she answered,—

“ If it was but to follow my own heart ” —

He saw the lookhe heard the tone; it was enough. Waiting not for another word, he turned about and plunged out of view into the thicket.

Edwin Lassetter Bynner.