“ OH, pray, Sidney,” said Mrs. Paul, “ don’t look so forlorn ; I have no patience with people who look forlorn. Sally will do well enough. I don’t know why in the world she should keep Katherine with her all the time. It’s just like Sally to monopolize any one. You do very well, my dear, but you are not Katherine.”

Mrs. Paul was in Scarlett’s hands, sitting before her mirror, holding her head very straight, and looking sidewise at Sidney.

“ Alan said aunt Sally was not so well this morning,“ Sidney answered, with persistent anxiety in her face.

“Well, never mind!” cried Mrs. Paul. “Scarlett, have you no sense? That puff is crooked. She ‘ll be all right in a day or two ; don’t be foolish, Sidney. Now, can’t you persuade Katherine to come over ? I don’t want you, if she can come. Besides, there is nothing of any consequence the matter with Sally; so cheer up at once ; do you hear me ” It was unpleasant to have Sidney low-spirited, and so she took the trouble to administer comfort. “ I tell you she will be well in a day or two, child. So go and see if you can’t induce Katherine to come in for a while.”

Sidney’s life was too full of real things, just now, for her to be hurt, or indeed aware that Mrs. Paul had very decidedly and completely dropped her. The fact was, the older woman had found an absorbing interest in Katherine Townsend, who told her bitter truths with a charming air, and refused to do as she was bid with a high-handed indifference as perfect as her own. Katherine had captured all her affection and her pride. Sidney was stupid, Mrs. Paul declared; and instead of making herself miserable over the failure of her plan to marry the girl to Mr. Steele, or furthering her project of bringing dismay to Major Lee by encouraging Alan’s suit, she gave herself up to the thoughts of John’s marriage. Her one desire was to put an end to the folly of The Independent Press, and make her son bring his wife home.

“ He never can support you, my dear,” she told Katherine ; “ and though I love you, I won’t be dictated to by Johnny. He has got to come to his senses, if he wants me to continue his income.”

Outwardly, Mrs. Paul had made a truce with her son, and, by many contemptuous allusions to himself and his plans, she tried to restore her old supremacy ; but things were not the same. During his dutiful weekly visits he listened silently, as of old, to her sneers, but there was a new look in his face, which made her always conscious of that dreadful scene between them. Even her praise of Katherine did not move him to any friendliness, and he scarcely replied to the entreaty, disguised as a command, that he should live at home after his marriage. Indeed, Mrs. Paul could think of nothing but this homecoming, and took every opportunity to urge it upon Katherine as well as John. So it was really very annoying to have Sally Lee take it into her head to fall ill at such a time, and claim Kate so constantly.

“ I am tired to death of hearing about Sally,” she announced, as Katherine was about to leave her, on Sunday afternoon, to go over to the other house.

“ I wish she would get well, or — or do without you !

John looked at his mother with that interested and impersonal curiosity which struck upon her heart afresh each time she saw him, but Katherine was ready with a reply.

“ How frank you are, dear Mrs. Paul! As for me, I am afraid I try to hide my selfishness ; I am such a coward that I assume a virtue. But I shall have you for an example now.”

“My dear,” returned Mrs. Paul, with a wicked smile, “ do not be discouraged : you are very much like me; we may even be taken for each other.

“ Do you think,” cried Katherine, with a laugh, “ that the recording angel can make any such mistake? You should warn him, really.”

“ Lord, Kate ! ” said John, as they left the house, and Katherine’s impertinence sobered into anxiety, and a little self-contempt as well, “ how you do talk to her! ”

“ The worst of it is,” she confessed, “ that what she said is true. I am like her. Oh, dear ! why am I not good, like Miss Sally, or true, like Sidney ? John, Sidney is so strange. She spoke to me yesterday about love and death; I suppose anxiety about her aunt put it into her mind. It is dreadful that she should be so morbid. Why can’t she take life as we do, and let the future alone ? ”

“ Yes,” he answered, looking at her with simple and honest tenderness, “ life is a first-rate thing, and the major — I’m fond of him, you know, Kate, but really he is an old fool ? And for him to have taught Sidney all that trash — it’s too bad !

“ Besides,” Katherine went on, “ there is heaven. I never think of death unless I think of heaven ? ”

John nodded. “Of course,” he said, in his comfortable, matter-of-fact way ; “but I never do think of death, anyhow, — unless I have a fit of indigestion, — though I’m sure I hope I ’m prepared for it ; but it is morbid to think about it.”

Nevertheless, with that word they fell into silence, as though the inevitable shadow had laid a solemn finger upon their happy lips.

Sidney was indeed anxious about Miss Sally, but there had been no thought of her aunt in the one or two troubled words of death and love which she had ventured to say to Katherine. Her mind was dwelling constantly upon those words of Alan’s. She felt a trembling exultation as of escape from a great calamity, but there was a consciousness in her face that declared that at last the calm of her life had been broken.

Major Lee saw a change in her, and was quick, although Sidney had told him nothing, to connect it with Alan. The little reserve in the doctor’s manner gave the old man a sense of relief and assurance, but he wished that Sidney had seen fit to confide in him ; and yet he felt, regretfully, that it would scarcely have been proper for her to do so. In his absorption in his daughter, he was the last person to be affected by Miss Sally’s illness. To him it meant, for the most part, that Alan seemed to find it necessary to make a great many visits, and that his own meals had not the punctuality to which he was accustomed. With scrupulous exactness he asked Sidney every day about her aunt, but her knowledge was almost as vague as his. This was partly because it pained her to hear bad news, and so she did not often inquire of Katherine or of the doctor ; but mostly because she kept out of Alan’s way as much as she possibly could. Once he had met her in the library, and had told her briefly of Robert’s broken engagement. “ I thought, he ended, “that you ought to know about it. Miss Sally wishes to explain to the major, when she gets well, the real reason that it is broken off; she told me so the other day. I am only to tell him now that the engagement is at an end. But you ought to know the truth, so that you need not see Mr. Steele when he comes to ask for her. Susan says he comes two or three times a day.”

His face puzzled her. “ Why do you speak so fiercely ? Are you angry with Mr. Steele ? ”

“Angry?” cried Alan. “I despise him ! I am done with him ! ”

“ But why ? ”

“ Why did he do it, do you mean ? Because he — I can hardly speak of him I — he felt that he did not love her.”

“Well?” she questioned gravely.

“ He did a dishonorable thing, Sidney ; to break his engagement was dishonorable.”

“ Was it ? ” with a doubtful look. “ Why, Alan, I should call it dishonorable not to have told aunt Sally ? ”

“ I despair of making you understand life,” he said, love so impatient in his eyes — for hope had grown again, after that first dismay — that the young woman, in sudden terror, left him, without the question she had meant to ask of Miss Sally’s condition.

Alan’s pity and tenderness were giving Miss Sally a joy which she had never known before, and her small confidences came as naturally to her lips as though the young man had been her brother. “Alan understands,” she said to herself, with a sigh of comfort and relief. He never made her feel how foolish she was, she thought, although, of course, he was so much wiser than she. To her timid suggestion that for such symptoms as hers her manual prescribed coffea, the two hundredth potency, he listened with “ as much respect as if she had been — Mrs. Paul ! ” He never even smiled, when she said, looking up at him with wistful entreaty that he would be patient with her, that the little pills in the vial labeled 1 were for certain disorders of the left side of the body, and those in the vial labeled 2 for indispositions of the right side. It was curious to see with what gentle pertinacity she clung to her belief in the manual, although admitting, with a contradiction which in its entire unconsciousness was distinctively feminine, that Alan knew far more than did the writer of her beloved volume. It was on the third or fourth day after she had been taken ill that she had managed to say to the young man, in a hoarse voice, that she had something to tell him when they were alone. So the doctor was instant to send Katherine out of the room, upon some excuse, and then to take Miss Sally’s little hot hand and wait for whatever she might have to say. She looked up at him appealingly, and with a face upon which a veil of years seemed suddenly to have fallen.

“ Where is Mr. Steele ? ” she said.

Alan flushed. “ I do not know, Miss Sally.”

“ I’m afraid he is not happy,” she went on, apparently taking for granted the doctor’s knowledge of the broken engagement; “but he was so good, Alan, so good and kind to me. And he did just what was right. It would have been cruel to have deceived me, when I trusted him.” Alan was silent. “ But what I wanted to say was, that I m afraid Mortimer would n’t understand, and —_and I don’t want him to know that it was Mr. Steele who — who did it. You know what I mean, Alan. I ‘ll explain, when I get well ; but will you just tell Mortimer now that I — that I did n’t want to get married ? He won’t blame me. He’ll think I am — wise.” She smiled a little as she spoke, and closed her eyes, as though she were tired; but in a moment she looked up brightly. “Will you please give Mr. Steele my love, Alan ? ”

If Miss Sally had been able to think, she must have had enough worldly wisdom to see the apparent connection between her illness and her broken engagement, and to have explained her honest and mortifying relief. As it was, she concerned herself only with facts ; and the little plea made for her old lover, she fell asleep.

Alan, with a brevity which concealed the truth, told the major that Miss Sally desired him to know she had felt it best that her engagement with Mr. Steele should come to an end, and the major received it as briefly. “ I have no doubt my sister acts wisely in this matter.” He would not let Alan fancy that he could blame a woman of his own house, but he was annoyed at what he thought of as Miss Sally’s changeableness. He made up his mind that he would speak of this to Sarah as soon as she was about again.

There are some persons whose place in the world is so small that it is not easy to fancy they may die, and Major Lee had never thought of his sister in connection with anything so great as death. It was only Alan who saw how seriously ill she was.

One day, — Miss Sally had been sick for more than a week, and the household had fallen into that acceptance of discomfort which comes with an illness which promises to be long, — Sidney met the doctor on the staircase, just after he had left her aunt’s room. He looked troubled, and for a moment did not seem to notice her ; then his face brightened, in spite of his anxiety.

“ I want to see you a moment, Sidney. Come into the library, won’t you?”

“ I am just going to aunt Sally,” she answered quickly. She was on the first landing, where the great square window, with a fan-light over its many little leaded panes, opened outwards, and let a flood of June scents and sunshine pour down into the dusky silence of the hall. She did not look up at him, as he stood on the step above her, his hand resting on the stair rail, and his serious eyes searching her face.

“ Then sit down here.” He pointed to the broad cushioned seat that ran across the window. “ I want to ask you about Miss Sally.”

Sidney sat down, reluctantly ; but she looked away from him at a trailing spray of woodbine which had crept along the window-sill. One hand, with upturned palm, lay idly in her lap, and the other plucked at the leaves of the vine.

“ I am really alarmed about Miss Sally,” said Alan. “ I want to ask the major to let me bring in some other doctor, so that we may consult. I don’t know whom he would prefer, and I must not wait until evening to see him. I thought you might tell me whom he would like to have me call in ? ”

Sidney had had no experience with sickness, and she did not have the heartsinking with which one hears that a consultation must be called. On the contrary, she was so much relieved that Alan had chosen this instead of that other subject that she looked directly at him. “ I am sure she is better, Alan: she does not talk so much ; you said she talked because she was feverish.”

“ She is a good deal worse,” he answered decidedly; “ to tell you the truth, I am very anxious about her.”

Sidney’s face whitened. “ Is she going to die?” she said, almost in a whisper.

“I hope not, — I hope not!” cried the young man. “ But we must do all we can ; and so I want to call in some one else.”

Sidney nodded ; she could not speak. Alan looked up and down the stairs, and over his shoulder into the garden. Then, leaning forward, he took her hand in a quick grasp.

“Sidney, have you thought, — have you thought again ? ” The speechless reproach in her eyes could not silence him.

I had not meant to say anything just now ; but — oh, Sidney ? ” He felt the protest of her silence. “ I can’t help it. I — I love you, and I can’t help telling you about it ; perhaps it will teach you to care — a little ? ”

“ Alan,” said the girl, her voice trembling, “ won’t you please let go of my hand ? ”

He released it, but he lifted it to his lips and kissed her soft white wrist with sudden passion and instant compunction. “ Oh, Sidney, I ought not to have done that. I won’t do it again — yet.”

A kiss is a wonderful thing. Sidney turned white and red ; her eyes filled, and her breath came in a sob in her round throat. For a moment neither of them had any words. The sun, pouring in through the great window, fell in a pool of gold at the foot of the bare, dark staircase, where a jug of roses stood on a spindle-legged table; the tarnished gilt of the picture-frames along the wall showed in straight glimmering lines ; all was so still down in the dusky hall, one could see the motes floating in the long bar of sunshine.

“ Sidney ? ” he entreated softly.

She glanced at him hurriedly, and then out at the fragrant tangle of the garden.

“ I ’ve been thinking ever since,” she said, with simple directness, “ and it has seemed to me that you did n’t know what you were saying, and I felt as though I wanted to tell you how foolish you were, Alan.” She was so earnest that he smiled. “ I felt as though you had not understood, you had not thought, how dreadful it was to care for any one. And I — I thought I would explain to you. Oh, listen to me, — don’t interrupt me ! Oh, Alan, love is so terrible! ”

“ No, you mean that sorrow is terrible,” he protested. “ Love is only good and beautiful.”

“ There would be no sorrow if there were no love. Love means grief; it means fear. Oh, truly I do not see how sane people can deliberately invite such suffering by loving each other.”

“ But, Sidney,” he interposed, “ we don’t keep thinking of death all the time ; it is n’t natural — it isn’t ” —

“ Oh, but, Alan,” she cried, her voice breaking, “ death is coming, whether we think of it or not. Why, it seems to me, if some being from another world could look down at us, and see us actually planning our grief and misery, arranging for it by Loving each other, it would be horrible, but it would be — it would be almost something to laugh at! And yet—that is just what you would do.”

The young man looked at her in despair ; for a moment he knew not how to oppose to this calm reality, which life studiously ignores, that passion of unreason called love.

“ To teach any one to love,” Sidney went on, “ seems to me selfish; indeed, it does. How could I, if I cared for you, — how could I let you love me, when I know that it would mean, some time, sorrow or fear for you ? We are such friends, you and I, I can’t bear to think that you might suffer, I can’t bear to make you unhappy.” She had risen, and stood looking down at him, her face quivering with tears. “ Oh, how can people bear life ? Father is the only person in the world I love, and when I think, when I remember, that perhaps he will — he will — Oh, I cannot say it ! When I know that I fear that, then I say to myself, I will suffer only once; sorrow shall never come to me again. Alan, Alan, I do not love you, and I never will love you ; and I would not, for anything this world could offer me ! ”

Even as he listened, he knew in his soul that this terrified, entreating woman loved him ; he knew it with a pain about his heart that made his face gray. He could not speak, except to say, brokenly, “ It is nothing; do not be alarmed.”

Sidney, in the terror of ignorance, knew not what to say or do. “ What is it? Oh — Alan ! what is the matter? ”

He caught his breath, and tried to speak, to reassure her, but could only motion with his hand, as though to say again, “ It is nothing; ” and then, almost before Sidney realized that it had come, the attack had ended, although his breath was still labored and his face haggard.

In that instant, Alan Crossan came face to face with great realities. The physician claimed the consciousness of the lover. He thought, in a sudden flash of intelligence, that he knew what this increasing pain and hurrying breath foretold. It meant that he had asked Sidney to give him what might be only a few months of happiness, and at the cost of lasting grief to her. He could not collect his thoughts enough to reply to her, with this horrible spasm still lingering at his heart, yet he knew that he exulted and resigned at once.

A moment later, he answered her, his beautiful dark eyes radiant with gladness : “ My own Sidney, you are not right, not right; love is worth the cost. One does not think of the end with the hope of many years together. But if there may not be many years, then it is not for you to withhold it; it is for me to resign it. So don’t grieve ; I will not let you love me, Sidney.”


Until that day when he had promised Sidney that she should not love him, Alan had felt incapable of delivering Miss Sally’s message to Robert. He had seen his old friend once or twice in the street, or coming out of the major’s gate, and had given him some stern, brief greeting, but nothing more ; no encouragement, no reproof, no reproach. He knew where Robert was staying, and had been careful to avoid that part of the town. Such avoidance was really, although the doctor did not know it, the protest of a possibility, the fear that he might forgive him. But after those moments with Sidney upon the landing of the stairs, after his glimpse of death and life and love together, Alan entered into that exalted silence which accompanies the glory of renunciation, and in which a man girds himself with joy for any duty.

So, towards evening, still very much weakened by that terrible pain about his heart, he went to find Mr. Steele, that he might tell him what Miss Sally had said. When he reached Robert’s door, a new, or rather a very old, tenderness had begun to assert itself in his heart. “ Poor Bob ! ” he said to himself once ; adding fiercely, “ He deserves all he gets! ”

Robert was sitting listlessly at his desk. He looked up, as the doctor entered, with a terrified question in his eyes. “No,” said Alan curtly, “ but she’s worse. I am here — she sent me here to say that you did right, and you were ‘ always kind and good,’ ” — Robert dropped his head into his hands, and Alan, with satisfaction, observed that at every word the iron entered deeper into his soul,— “ ‘ kind and good,’ she said; and she sent her love to you.”

“ She is going to die ? ” the other asked, at last.

“Probably.” And then silence.

After a while Robert looked up. “ I thank you for coming.” His face was so changed and strained, so haggard, and, worse than all, so stamped by the relief which he had sought, that something blurred Alan’s eyes for one quick instant.

“ My God, Steele ! why did you do it ? ” he demanded.

“ I had no right to deceive her,” Robert answered. “ She was going to marry me because she thought I loved her. I did not love her. I had to tell her so.” There was no question in his voice; only dull despair that the inevitable should have fallen upon him.

“ I cannot grasp it! ” Alan cried ; and then, remembering, “ So this is what you asked my advice about, and I spoke of the picture or the jewel ? ”

The other assented, absently. He had no thought of sharing his responsibility.

Alan struggled with instinct and affection. Robert had been dishonorable, but — he was Robert! “ Bob, I know you meant what was right; I — I understand, old fellow, but I can’t forget it, ever, nor forgive it. You must have a friend who is greater than I. You must let me go, Bob.”

Robert Steele’s lack-lustre eyes stared blankly at the emotion in the doctor’s face. “Very well,” he said.

It was a comment upon the power of that moment which had so shaken Alan’s soul, that he felt no repulsion as he saw this betrayal of the return to weakness and vice. He grasped the listless hand of the miserable man before him, and held it hard in his. “ I will trust your motives so long as I live, but I detest the expression of them.”

He turned as though to leave him ; he was too much moved even to warn or entreat him to shake off the habit which was fastening upon him again. His hand was on the door, when Robert, smiling dully, spoke: I’ve gone back to hell, Alan. It is retribution ; it is just.”

“ You shall not go back to hell ! ” cried the other. “ I will not let you go ! ”

He turned, and came again to Robert’s side. Neither of the men spoke: Alan because he could not; but the other, his head bowed upon his hands, was apparently as indifferent to silence as he had been to words. At last the doctor began to speak, and told him, pitifully and truly, all about Miss Sally, and how little hope he had. Yet Alan had to learn, as many another eager and forgiving soul has learned, with tears, that forgiveness may not sweep away the fact; a good deed and a bad deed have, equally, the permanence of the past. His friend seemed to listen, but made no comment. Alan’s tenderness, even his remorse for his harshness, could make no difference to Robert in this stress of fate. He had wounded, insulted, humiliated, the woman who had trusted him, and now she was dying. He scarcely noticed when Alan left him, with that speechless sympathy of the grasp of a hand which is better than brave words.

The drift of circumstances in these June days brought Miss Sally into the very centre of her small world; and when her patient feet went down into the valley of death every one’s thoughts were upon her. Perhaps it is the possibilities of the Great Silence which so dignify the most insignificant living thing. Miss Sally had never, in all her useful life, commanded such respect as now when her usefulness was drawing to an end. Her dignity silenced even Mrs. Paul, sitting alone in her big drawing-room, and forgetting to rail at neglect which, once would have infuriated her ; for of course Sidney could not leave her aunt, and Katherine was always at the major’s when not giving a lesson. Once Mrs. Paul had cried out impatiently at Sally’s selfishness in keeping her; but Katherine’s quick indignation had silenced, even while it delighted, the old woman.

Katherine still kept up her teaching, to the annoyance of Mrs. Paul, and the great but protesting admiration of Mrs. Paul’s son. To be sure, there was one pupil less, as Eliza Jennings had ceased to experiment upon the organ with twenty-two stops. Katherine had told John that Eliza had dropped her, but she did not see fit to add why. Indeed, it would have needed a more subtle mind than Katherine Townsend’s to have understood why it was that, under all her amusement at the silly little milliner, under her laughter at having been dismissed “ without a character,” there was a feeling very much like anger when she reflected that Eliza had said she was “ in love with Mr. Paul.” This was far below the surface. Katherine’s mind and heart were too full, while Miss Sally lay dying, to give way to such folly; whereas Eliza had nothing to keep her thoughts from preying upon her own humiliation. Her little freckled face tingled whenever her eyes rested on her organ, which she absolutely refused to open. In vain did her mother implore her to play the hymns with which it was their custom to end every Sunday evening, or to practice “just a bit, to keep your hand in, ’Liza.”

“No, ma’am,” returned her daughter sternly. “ I ain’t got any music in me, nowadays.”

She said this with such a bitter look that Mrs. Jennings almost wept. Indeed, Eliza’s disappointment, which took the form of filial disapproval, wore so upon her mother that Mrs. Jennings’ face really looked thinner; her small, twinkling eyes, rimmed with red, grew larger, and their short lashes held very often a glitter of tears. Both mother and daughter had heard that Mr. Paul was to marry Miss Townsend. Mrs. Jennings did not attempt to conceal her anger and spite, but the little milliner set her lips and fell into stony silences, which terrified her mother. Everything had come to an end, Eliza told herself. To be sure, she still occasionally saw John Paul’s burly figure lounging across the bridge and hurrying towards Red Lane ; but what was that to her, if he loved “Another ” ? So she let her mother take the toll, and turned her eyes away, lest she might have to say good-afternoon. She had nothing now — this in the diary in violet ink and underlined — “ to live for.” So, as one will fill a vacant life with anything, she thought much of Job Todd.

One day, — it was towards the middle of June, — Mrs. Jennings was more than usually unhappy about her daughter. Eliza had been very morose for two days. That morning she had eaten her breakfast in silence, and then had started out for a walk, —at least so her mother supposed ; but Eliza vouchsafed no information concerning her plans, although Mrs. Jennings had hinted timidly that the gooseberries and black currants ought to be picked, and she did n’t know but what Eliza would like to do it ? Eliza, however, ignored the veiled entreaty that she should help her mother in the tiresome task. So Mrs. Jennings, when she was alone, with a sigh which seemed to struggle up from the soles of her feet, took her shining tin bucket, and went out into the garden to do the work herself. The black-currant bushes stood in a row along one of the winding paths, and although it was inconvenient to peer through the leaves, Mrs. Jennings, sitting on the ground and holding the pail between her knees, could still keep an eye on the toll-house window, in case any one wanted to change a nickel. Again she sighed; she wished Eliza could have stayed at home just this once. The soft roughness of the musky leaves was still gleaming with dew, and when she began to pluck the black shining clusters, her hand and sleeve were wet. There was a bush of big pink flowers beside her, which Mrs. Jennings called “ piano-roses,” that had the pungent scent of peach kernels ; she glanced at them as one regards, listlessly, an outgrown interest; then she stopped to smell a spray of lad’s love, and stick it in her bosom. But it was habit rather than any enjoyment of the summer sights and scents. On her fat left hand the narrow thread of her wedding ring was sunk deep into the flesh. Mrs. Jennings’ eyes filled as she looked at it. “ I do believe I ‘ll get thin,” she thought; looking as unhappy as a very stout woman may. (It is strange what poignant misery this thought of lessening weight indicates in a large person.) But her self-pity never reproached Eliza.

The hot sunshine and the glitter of the river below, the glow of her poppies and lady’s-slippers, and even the loaded branches of her black currants failed to cheer her. She picked the fruit with dreary steadiness, winking away her tears now and then, and thinking all the while of Eliza.

The hour among the currant-bushes seemed very long to Mrs. Jennings, and she was glad at last to go back into the house, and begin to make her jam and jelly. Still Eliza did not come home. Mrs. Jennings was not an imaginative person, but her trouble because of her daughter’s trouble, and her forlorn dismay at being disapproved of during the last two months, had made her really quite nervous ; that is, if nerves are ever found in such depths of flesh. At all events, she began to be tremulous and frightened ; she glanced often out of the window, along the footpath of the bridge, and once or twice she walked to the little gate, and, shading her eyes with her hands, looked up and down the dusty white road. But there was no sign of Eliza. She found herself remembering with cruel persistency that winter afternoon when the handsome gentleman had jumped from the bridge into the river, because a poor girl had tried to take her own life. Mrs. Jennings shivered and gasped, and went hack into her spotlessly clean little kitchen to stir the black-currant jam. Once she heard a noise upon the bridge, and rushed breathless to the toll-window, with a horrible vision of her Eliza being borne home, drowned ! Her slow, unused imagination showed her the dripping, clinging garments, the loosened hair, even that strange sneer with which, through their half-closed eyes, the dead sometimes regard the living. She was experiencing that quickening of the mind which comes under the spur of terror or grief; indeed, her anxiety had brought a sort of refinement into her face. The noise, however, was only because a flock of sheep was being driven to the shambles. She stood and watched them, staring into the gloom of the covered bridge. Dusky lines of sunshine stretched down into the darkness from the small barred windows in the roof; they were so clearly defined that the poor silly sheep, trampling and running, leaped over them, one after another. In the past this had often diverted Mrs. Jennings, but it could not divert her now.

The drove of sheep came out into the glare of sunshine, a cloud of dust following them up the road; and then all was still again, — only the splash of the river and the slow bubble of the jam in the kitchen.

Mrs. Jennings could not stand the strain. She dropped into the big rocking-chair, and burst into tears. Rocking and sobbing, she did not hear Eliza enter ; but when the little milliner spoke, the change in her voice electrified her mother.

“ Ma,” said Eliza; then she put her hand behind her, and thrust forward. bashful and uncomfortable, Job Todd.

“ La ! ” gasped Mrs. Jennings.

“ Yes,” returned Eliza gleefully. “Job’s building, ’way up at the end of Red Lane, an’ I was walking up there, an’ — an’ then I coaxed him to come here to dinner.”

“Thank the Lord ! ” said Mrs. Jennings devoutly. “ That’s just right. An’ he shall have the best dinner he ever had in his life.”

Job protested, but suffered her to put him in the chair she promptly vacated for him ; he then accepted Eliza’s offer of cake, and received a fan from Mrs. Jennings’ hand. The two women said nothing to each other, but both beamed with happiness, and seemed to consider Job Todd an object of the tenderest solicitude. Apparently, they thought that he had been through such an exhausting morning that he needed refreshment and repose. Eliza told her mother to hurry and get dinner, “and,” she added, “ I ‘ll play the organ, so Job can rest.” Eliza blushed so prettily as she assumed this air of proprietorship that Mrs. Jennings, before she prepared the dinner, even before she removed the kettles of jam and jelly from the stove, slowly and heavily knelt down by the dresser in the kitchen, and, hiding her face in her hands, breathed a very humble and grateful prayer.

That was a great day at the tollhouse. Job spent the whole afternoon in the sitting-room, rocking vehemently in the big chair, or sitting on the horsehair sofa, at Eliza’s side. Once or twice, Mrs. Jennings, first coughing outside the door, ventured to enter, just to see her darling’s happiness, and to assure herself that she was forgiven. In Mrs. Jennings’ circle, the formality of asking and receiving pardon is not often observed.

In Eliza’s mind, however, the end for which this whole blissful day had been created was the manner in which the evening was to be spent. By dint of entreaties and a little pouting, she persuaded Job to go with her to tell Miss Katherine Townsend the great news. “ I want her to know it first of all,” she confessed, sitting on Job’s knee and hiding her face in his shoulder. Of course she did not explain why she wished Miss Townsend to be told, nor did she yield to Job’s suggestion that it would be just as well the next night. She was shrewd enough to be perfectly certain that her plan must be carried out on this especial evening, or not at all. This first day was an occasion so solemn, so important, so uncomfortable, that Job could be induced to bear almost anything. Tomorrow it would be quite different. So when, at Miss Townsend’s door, Maria told them that her mistress was not at home, Eliza had one moment of blank dismay, while Job’s honest face began to brighten. But the milliner was equal to the occasion.

“ Where is she? ” she demanded, and Mr. Todd’s jaw dropped.

Maria mournfully directed her to Major Lee’s house, adding that somebody was sick there, and —

“ Never mind,” said Eliza; “we’re just going to the door,” and, taking Job’s arm, she marched off triumphantly.

“ Well, now, do ye know, really, it seems to me,” observed her lover, “ I ain’t sure but what it would be as well to just fetch up with a walk, ’stead of making a call, ’Liza?” This with a tender look ; but Eliza was firm.

It was quite dark when they reached Major Lee’s, and under the heavy shadows of the ailantus the unlighted house looked blank and forbidding. There had been no thought of lights in the library, that night, or in the hall ; only in the dining-room, where the little group about the table spoke in hushed voices, and fell into long silences.

Miss Sally was very ill ; Miss Sally was dying. Alan had told Major Lee so, and Katherine. He could not tell Sidney yet ; he would not let her give up hope. He had come down from Miss Sally’s room for a cup of tea, and Sidney had slipped upstairs to her aunt as he entered. Major Lee was pacing restlessly up and down. Katherine and John sat silently watching Alan, as he hurriedly ate and drank.

It was just then that little Susan, trembling in a way that told her terror as well as her grief, pushed the door open and looked into the room. It was a comfort to see the people, Susan thought, now, while Miss Sally lay dying upstairs, even if it were only to say there was somebody waiting at the door. “ If it had been any one else that was — that was — dyin’, Miss Sally would n’t ’a’ let a girl sit all alone in that big kitchen,” she thought, with a sob, looking fearfully over her shoulder at the shadows on the staircase.

“Miss Townsend,” she said, “ there’s a lady and gentleman to see you, and they won’t come in.”

“To see me?” Katherine answered, surprised, and rising.

“Shall I not go for you?” John asked, with that lowered voice which is the tribute of life to death ; but she shook her head.

She waited for Susan to follow her with a lamp, and then went to the front door, which the servant, uncertain of the character of these callers, had closed, leaving them standing on the porch.

Neither Job nor Eliza could see the anxiety in Katherine’s face, for she had taken the lamp from Susan, and was holding it so that the light fell only upon her visitors ; but the man was more sensitive than the woman, and felt instinctively that they had made a mistake in coming. He shifted from one foot to the other, and would have shrunk behind his sweetheart, had she permitted it. But Eliza had no intention of permitting it. She put her little rough hand upon his arm and pulled him forward.

“ Miss Townsend,” she said, an unusual glitter in her eyes and a hint of boldness in her voice, “ we came, Job and me, to tell you — to tell you ” — Eliza hung her head.

“ Yes, Eliza?” Katherine answered, guessing the news at once, but too sad and too absorbed to express the pleasure which she really felt.

“ We are engaged ! ” burst out Eliza. “ Miss Townsend, we ’re engaged, and we expect to be married.”

“ ’Liza would come to tell you,” Job objected feebly.

“ She knew I would be glad to hear it,” said Katherine; and then she added some kind and pleasant things, and Eliza, to her great surprise, felt all the old love and respect come back with a rush.

“ You are real good, Miss Townsend,” she declared, and squeezed her teacher’s hand between her own. “ Ain’t she good, Job ? ”

“ I was always saying that,” Job answered gallantly, feeling really very happy.

Katherine was honestly glad of little Eliza’s happiness, but she was astounded to find something beside gladness in her heart; was it possible that it was relief ? “ Well,” she thought, listening to Job’s clumsy praises of his betrothed, “ after all, there is nothing which can surprise one so much as to discover one’s own possibilities. Heaven knows what crime I may be capable of, if I have resented Eliza’s nonsense! ”

She smiled at the lovers in the kindest way, and then, with a word of there being sickness in the house, dismissed them ; for it was evident that Eliza was willing to linger for further display of her joy.

Katherine stood in the doorway a moment, holding the lamp high above her head, so that her guests might see their way across the courtyard to the gate ; but as she turned to go into the house, she was startled to see a dark figure approach her from the distant end of the piazza.

“ Who is it? ” she said quickly ; and then, “ Cousin Robert ! ”

“ How is she now ? ” he said hoarsely. His face was wrung and torn by suffering, and the tears sprang to Katherine’s eyes.

“ Oh, have you been out here all alone? Come in, — come in.”

He shook his head. “Is it over? Is she dead ? ”

“ No, — oh, no ! ” cried Katherine.

“ She is dying, — I know that; Alan told me.”

Katherine could not answer him, for tears.

“ I have killed her, Kate,” he said dully.

“ Dear cousin Robert,” she entreated, ” don’t stay here in the darkness ; come in, and wait and pray with us. We all love her, and while there is life, you know ” — She forgot that John Paul was within, — John Paul, who had called this agonized soul “a man too contemptible for contempt.” “ Come in, — come in ; don t stay out here by yourself. She would be grieved to have you suffer so.”

“ She would grieve ? ” His voice broke into a cry. “ At least she is spared that.” And then he turned back into the night.


Sidney had said, very quietly, that she would sit up with Miss Sally that night. Heretofore, Katherine and Scarlett had divided the watching between them, and for the last two nights Alan had not left the house; but it was a matter of course to every one that Sidney should rest, and, so far as the others knew, she had done so. At least, she had gone to her room. But Sidney was living too intensely, easily to lose herself in sleep. She was leaving her old life to go out into a wider living, and she found Death standing on the threshold. Love did not oppose him, but human instinct did. Her neglect of her aunt, of the pitiful little love which was drifting away from her, stung her with intolerable impatience. She had that helpless impulse to go back into the past which comes with the sense of duty left undone ; and the consciousness of the futility of such an impulse is almost anger. It could not be too late. She must do something, say something, now ! Yet, there being no love in her heart, this effort was, although she was not aware of it, for her own relief rather than for Miss Sally’s happiness. Again and again, before the dull stupor drowned her aunt’s unfailing tenderness, Sidney had tried, in broken, hesitating words, to say, “ I am sorry — forgive me.” But Miss Sally never seemed to understand ; she was only feebly concerned that her darling should be sorry about anything. That Sidney could blame herself because she had neglected her aunt was not credible to Miss Sally, whose life had been too full of the gladness of giving to realize that there had been no receiving in it.

As Sidney watched the relentless days carry her opportunity away from her, the pain of self-knowledge grew unbearable. Alan had told her she was selfish ? Oh, he had not known how selfish she was; no one knew it but herself. The burden of a human soul fell upon her, — the knowledge of good and evil.

Her remorse filled her with a mysterious fear. It was something outside herself, terrible, inescapable; with it was an insistent suggestion of some different line of conduct, which confused her by its contradiction of all which had been the purpose of her life. What was this impulse to self-sacrifice against which she had always opposed herself, as one who beats against an unseen wind ? To turn and advance with it might be peace, for setting herself against it had brought dismay ; but the recognition of such an impulse filled her with the terror of the Unknown.

She saw the unloveliness of selfishness, and was quick to turn away from it, with an æsthetic perception of the beauty of holiness. Goodness commended itself to her; she would be good, she would be unselfish. She could not comprehend why, this resolution made, pain should still dominate her consciousness. Anger and fear lifted her out of herself; it was the same tumult of emotion which had clamored in her soul when Love had first whispered to her.

Miss Sally’s dim realization of Sidney’s pain was too indistinct even for her sweet forgiveness, which would have protested that there was nothing to forgive. She liked just to rest, she said, and let Sidney read the daily chapter in the Bible to her ; or, sometimes, to listen to a word or two from Mr. Brown, who came often, in these last few days, to see her. It was Mr. Brown’s presence which pointed out the future to Miss Sally.

“ Why, am I very sick. Alan ? ” she said, in her little weak voice.

“ We are anxious, dear Miss Sally,” the young man answered tenderly.

She looked up at him and smiled. “ Don’t be worried,” she said, with the old instinct to make other people comfortable ; and then, later, as though half asleep, “ I thought — that I had all the world, Alan — but I seem — I seem to have eternity, instead.” And with great content Miss Sally went down into the shadows.

All that last day, except in the paroxysms of coughing, she had seemed to Sidney to sleep. But it was a strange sleep; and when she roused a little from it, there was no loving look, no murmur of thanks, even when Alan gave her medicine, or when Katherine slipped a bit of ice between her lips.

John Paul stayed very late, that night. Little Susan sat trembling in the kitchen until twelve. The major walked softly and restlessly through the halls, and up and down stairs. Katherine, worn out with watching, had fallen asleep on the broad seat of the first landing, her head resting on a cushion the major had brought her from the library. Alan, quite without hope, sat outside Miss Sally’s door ; Sidney was within. Everything was tingling with the intensest life to the girl ; the dark silence of the stately old house was palpitating with the thoughts of birth and death; the procession of the years had left luminous touches upon the very walls. Everything thrilled with life; the house was alive, and this drama of death was its soul. Sidney was living as she had never lived before; every nerve was tense with terror, not of death, but of life.

As she sat by Miss Sally’s bedside, she watched the yellow blur of the night-lamp in the darkness of the further corner, or glanced at the terrible whiteness of the face upon the pillow ; and to each — to darkness, and to death, and to her own stress of life — her soul cried out, What are you ? The slow hours drifted into each other, marked only by Alan entering or departing, or by Major Lee pausing in the doorway to glance silently, first at his daughter, and then at the small, motionless figure upon the bed.

It had rained early in the night, and now the breath of the wet flowers down in the garden was fresh and cool. Sidney went over to the window, and looked out at the distant darkness of the dawn. The silent night was a hush of breathless expectancy. The gray sky, the stars fading as the east lifted and whitened, the misty outlines of sleeping houses, were all waiting ; and for what ? Death ! She knelt down by the window, resting her face upon her folded arms. Alan was in the next room. What if it were Alan lying there upon the bed, without words, or motion, or remembrance ; Alan who was waiting death ; Alan who would be — nothing ? Down below, the wall between the two gardens began to loom out of the crystal dark ; one by one, as though to some unheard call, the trees shaped themselves in the mist. How strangely one were night and day ; how all life grew out of death! Human existence, like an endless spiral touching light and darkness, life and death, stretches into eternity : a blossom falls ; a seed ripens; another flower blows — to die ! Over and over, the pastime of eternity enacts itself, and the heartbreak of the world gathers into one word, “Why?” Yet with the majesty of an inevitable certainty proceeds the universe. Men’s cries and wonders echo far into the past, and accompany the present; yet all the while the perfection of detail never falters, — seedtime and harvest, night and day, life and death.

A Lombardy poplar, close to the house, swayed and shivered in the night wind. Sidney felt rather than saw that flying quiver of its leaves which is a voice made visible. Each smallest leaf obeyed in beauty the same law that orders star systems, scattered thick as dust in the vast silences of space. How all things are only one thing!

What were those words she had read to her aunt? “ All things work together for good.” What if that were true ? What if one could believe it for life and death as well as for the leaf and star ? They do work together, surely, — each grows out of the other ; but suppose it were for good, suppose it were with some sort of purpose? “Working together for good ” ? They would be part of a plan, then; there would be a meaning somewhere. It would not matter whether the meaning were understood. The good need not be a human good ; it might be an infinite and unknowable good, one which needed men’s pain for its perfection; but to think that there was a good somewhere! To feel that would make up, perhaps, for grief and for death ; one’s own death, — yes, surely, a thousand times ! “ The Eternal God is thy refuge.” A purpose, — if there were such a thing, — seen or unseen, would be a refuge. But the Dominant Will which enacts its own tragedy forever is caprice, — traveling without motive, in the circle of eternity! Yet if it were true, — just suppose it were true, and all things did work together for good, all things did have some purpose and meaning, — then one could be content to cease, just as that star dropped out of darkness into the growing brightness behind the edge of the world. But if one loved the star? Would it be enough that it were swallowed up in light, swallowed up in what was itself, if it should not dawn again ? Suppose it were Alan lying there, would it be enough to say, The Eternal God is my refuge ? That is, there is an Eternal Meaning in it all — if it were Alan ?

The bank of mist in the east melted into filmy bars ; they throbbed as though they hung before some beating heart of light; the bushes in the garden grew out of the shadows like soft balls of darkness, and the Virginia creeper, hanging from the lintel of the window, showed in wavering streamers black against the sky. Sidney strained her eyes down into the gloom; surely, over against the evergreen hedge, where the tall lilies stood, there was a gleam of white ? The garden was very still; not a tremor of air stirred the motionless leaves, or the roses on the lattice below the window ; but there was a wandering perfume from the white trumpets of the petunias in Miss Sally’s border, and then a breath of the keen sweetness of mignonette brushed her cheek, and she seemed to hear Alan’s voice, as she heard it once before in the fragrance of mignonette: “ Do you love me, Sidney ? ” What if it were Alan ?

Oh, if there were a refuge! But is there anything that is eternal ? Endless desire, endless restlessness, or call it the pain of life, — for is not life desire ? Oh, weariness of longing which is the expression of the universe, which is eternal ! And the deepest longing is for a meaning. Conduct is not everlasting; conduct is only expediency, the deepest and most subtile selfishness ; her father had shown her that beyond a doubt. But expediency is necessity, in one way ; or call it Right. “ All things work together.” Is not conduct part of all ? — conduct, and the perception of right, and the pain of sin, and the mystery of love, and that demand of the soul for Something which would explain all things, the Eternal Meaning of all. To see a meaning would be to find a refuge ; yes, it would be like arms in which one rested and trusted.

What is this which beckons to the stars, or lifts the sweetness from the flowers ? What is this which makes the thought of Alan flash into her brain ? What is it which moulds the rain into a drop in the heart of that rose, and brings the instant remembrance of Miss Sally’s love of roses to burn Sidney’s eyes with tears and lay upon her heart the burden of regret? All working together ; all one ; an eternal — what ? Force ? All these were force, and force is one, and “ force is the energy of a cause.” Who said that? Never mind, now; Sidney could not stop for verification, with her hand upon a fact.

Like a person walking in the dark, through perilous places, she had put her hand upon something, firm and sure ; she knew not what, but she clung to it. If Miss Sally had spoken to her at that moment, Sidney would not have heard her.

After all, it was this oneness, this cause,—her father stopped at the energy,—which people called eternal, which they chose to name God ; that was all. They might as well have named it anything, or left it without a name. It meant nothing; there is no such thing as justice or pity behind phenomena ; so how could it help her, how could it comfort her, to admit the unity of the force which produces at once pity and the suffering which calls it forth? But if there were a Purpose, a Meaning, in the expression of this Force,—and phenomena is its expression ? Ah, if ? Surely then we might be content not to speak of it as it affected humanity; we might be content to leave out such definitions and limitations as “ pity ” and “ justice.” That it was would be enough. But why should such a Meaning seem so much to her ? Only that her soul claimed it; was not this very claiming an expression of it ? Might not Death belong to it, and life belong to it; would not love be in it; would not all things be It? If this were so, then it was the explanation and the mystery, the certainty and the doubt, the meaning of all things, the refuge and the Eternal God !

The clouds across the east had caught the light upon their rippling gray, and turned to fire. It seemed as though, far up above the world, a wind without noise was blowing across flames. She turned to look at Miss Sally. All was still ; the sick woman was sleeping in the profoundest quiet. “ That is good for her,” Sidney thought, with a strange reverence for her own tenderness, which was not hers, except as she was part of the Eternal Meaning, as she was one with her aunt herself.

The dawn had transfigured Miss Sally’s face with a light which thrilled Sidney like a touch out of the darkness. Outside, the brightness in the east widened and spread until the whole sky was a luminous shadow, which began to flush and glow, and along the eastern hills a film of gold rose like a mist across the flames. The Cause; the Meaning; which was always; which was strong; which was right, — at least inevitable. If it were Alan going out into blankness, that is going back into this mystery, or Cause, to be part of it forever, as he had been part of it always, but not to be Alan always, would it seem right ? No, “ right ” was not the word ; she could find no word. But the pain would be part of the mystery, part of the Eternal Purpose, and so, bearable. Sorrow worked together with joy in the Meaning of all things, and therefore could be borne. But one could not use little words, little human words like “ right ” and “ justice,” to make it seem worth while to suffer. Oh, just to rest upon a certain Purpose ! — that would be enough. A Refuge. Yes, yes, but what terror! It did not make life less terrible ; it only filled it with confidence and peace. It made it worth living, if it were lived struggling for oneness with the Eternal Purpose, of which sorrow was as much a part as joy, death as life.

Back over the evergreens there was a rim of gold. Sidney held her breath and looked. How quickly, how greatly, it grew, pushed up from the darkness into the wide spaces of the endless air, fuller and rounder, the whole generous, beautiful soul of light! A bird over by the white lilies twittered, and another answered, and then another, and another. The Eternal: for the sun, for the birds, for her. The Eternal was that exquisite pain of joy in the beauty of the dawn ; it was the passion of desire for itself ; it was the instinct of unselfishness, the terror of remorse ; it was her Refuge. “ I don’t know how,” she heard herself saying in a sobbing breath ; “ but that I want a Meaning proves it, — it is the want!

Does not the hunger of the body declare that there is bread ? Even so the hunger of the soul implies immortal food! She did not speak of love, for love was swallowed up in that of which it is only one single expression.

Outside, the world was waking to its old story of disappointment and continual hope, but Sidney, standing in the golden light, saw a new heaven and a new earth. A thread of smoke went up from one of the chimneys of the tenements beyond Mrs. Paul’s house. The salutation of the dawn smote like a finger of flame upon countless windows, gray a moment before, and beckoned men out to their labor. The splendor of the dawn, the small needs of living, the swaying and murmuring of far-off seas, the flute in a bird’s throat, the melting back into It all which we call death, the consciousness of Itself which we call life, — all were one. Sidney looked down at the smile of her garden, and then at the silent, smiling face upon the pillow ; as she did so, her father entered. He stopped an instant at Miss Sally s side, and touched her hand ; the look upon his face turned Sidney white. “ Father? ”

My darling, he said in a whisper, “ she is dead.”

He would have taken Sidney in his arms, but she put her hands upon his breast, and breathed rather than spoke. “ No, not dead, — there is no death. Life and death are one; the Eternal Purpose holds us all, always. Father — I have found God.”

Margaret Deland.