WITH something of the spirit, the serious absorption, the singleness of aim, the intensity, the concentration, which animate the student in pursuit of learning, or the man of affairs in the conduct of enterprise, Felicia entered upon the untried phase of her dual life; her rôle was now that of the singer’s wife. She familiarized herself with the details of her husband’s work. She accompanied him to every rehearsal and every performance. She promised herself that she would not permit extraneous matters to assume an importance which did not of right attach to them. Money, luxury, society, congenial association, — these were merely accessories, unimportant compared with the great fundamental fact of duty. She told herself that she had no right to come into his life, aware of its incongruities, and injure his future. As to the worthiness of his career as a career, who was to judge ? She acknowledged the artificialities of her standards; she admitted to herself that if the world—her world — held his vocation in as high esteem as the law, medicine, literature, politics, the army, the navy, she would not object to the thing itself. As to the influences, he had become what he was perhaps in spite of them, but certainly subjected to them. She would not be petty-minded, she declared. The man had a gift and an ideal; she would help him conserve the one and attain the other. She would control her exacting taste; after all, taste should be a useful servant, not a tyrannical master. She would, see deeper than the surface of Bohemianism, into the lives of these people with whom she was surrounded, — their pathos, their struggle, their strength, their fervor. She had known life in one phase only, so far; she would know it in another, widely different. In the contemplation of these new conditions she would grow wiser and stronger, clearer of vision, more calm of purpose, more tender of heart; development was her duty as well as his.

It was dreary work. All her natural instincts and the strong effects of her education were marshaled against her will. She could not always recognize and adequately gauge excellence of achievement, she had not reached the very vestibule of the great temple of art; yet she was constantly incited to revolt when she was brought face to face with the spectacle of warped sensibilities, solecisms of manner, the grinding and belittling influences of a desperate struggle for precedence and a constant contention for place. She saw much coarseness of feeling, much selfish scheming, much infirmity of temper, much envy and jealousy. These people were banded together by a common interest, — the success of the troupe; they were opposed to each other by the intense antagonisms of professional rivalry. That any should not succeed injured the others, yet each of them grudged every round of applause as the deprivation of a vested right. Thus capacities which would appear to admit of no comparison were bitterly contrasted : the contralto hated the tenor because of his encore for the love-song, and the basso could not forgive the soprano for the trippingness of her execution. The chivalrous instinct seemed dead among the men, who were as envious and small-minded as the women; the instinct of conciliation seemed lacking among the women, who were as assertive and antagonistic as the men. It was as if an army were vigorously at war with the enemy while torn by internal conflict. For them to indulge in the tender and ennobling luxuries of generosity and selfabnegation was to bare the throat to a willing sabre close at hand, without waiting for the possible minie-ball of the public a little later. To rise above such a mental and moral plane was, through exceptional gifts and the tyranny of a life dedication, to grow by slow and painful degrees to the state of facile princeps among them.

Kennett, somewhat indefinitely apprehending the maze of conflicting emotions which possessed her, had, with some eagerness, asked her impressions of that first rehearsal.

“ You found it very entertaining, did you not ? ” he said, in the tone of one who would fain constrain a favorable opinion.

Yes, she had found it very entertaining.

“ You are interested in human nature,” he continued, in the same spirit. “ You like to study people, and think you understand your fellow-creatures. Can you analyze those two men to whom you were talking to-day ? ”

“ I think.” said Felicia, meditatively, that Mr. Abbott is a kindly disposed man, but he can do and say very unkind things. He pines to make other people suffer with him. ‘I will burn, thou shalt sizzle,’— that’s Mr. Abbott’s motto.”

Kennett thought this over in silence for a moment. “ Rather a good guess,” he admitted. “And Preston?”

She laughed. “Preston is—Preston,” she said; “ and so are all philosophies, and creeds, and arts, and sciences, — all Preston. If this city and the troupe were swallowed in an earthquake, what would he care, if he were left! There are other cities with opera houses, and other troupes in need of a basso, and other friends to be had for the asking. That is Preston.”

Kennett had become grave. “ Felicia,” he said, “your insight is almost terrible.”

“ There was at any rate one interesting person on that stage to-day,” remarked Felicia, suddenly. " That mezzo-soprano ; don’t you remember ? She is intelligent and gentle. She has a nice face.”

He looked at her with slightly raised eyebrows. “ She is Mrs. Branner,” he said. He was silent a moment; then, with a slight laugh, “ I take back what I said. You have no insight at all.”

In this life of his before the public, Kennett was much like a man on a trapeze: every moment was a crisis. However strong a matter of feeling might be, other importunate considerations pressed rival claims which could not be put off or lightly estimated. Thus it was that he did not entirely apprehend the complication of motives which induced Felicia to offer to accompany him, one day when he was about to practice. He agreed, after a scarcely perceptible hesitation, and relinquished the piano stool.

From an amateur standpoint she played very well. She had facility, a sympathetic touch, and was a fairly good timist. But in music there is a wide gulf between the average amateur and the average professional. The perfect exactitude, the delicate machine-work, requisite for an acceptable accompaniment were lacking. He endured it for a time; then, with a comical look of despair, he clutched at his hair as if tearing an invisible wig, and swept her from the stool.

“ The little public must continue to adorn the proscenium box,” he said, “for she is not a success as an orchestra.”

“ I had thought of practicing,” declared Felicia, ruefully. “ I had an idea of playing your accompaniments.”

“It is not worth while to undertake all that drudgery,” he returned.

He was more interested, since it was more definitely in his own line, when she said, some days later, that she contemplated taking up singing. “ Only for amusement,” she added, quickly. Once she would not have felt thus humbly as to her accomplishments, but she had by this time discovered the wild absurdity embodied in the pleasing delusion indulged in by the show pupils of the fashionable boarding-schools, — the delusion that in point of musical merit their natural voices and their culture would enable them to vie with the lady in white satin and diamonds, charming an audience before the footlights.

He tried her voice and put her through several songs in various styles. He said she had a good soprano, not remarkable for compass; light, but even and pleasant in quality. He added, however, that, to do anything worth mentioning, she must elaborately unlearn all that she had acquired as a “ show society pupil ” from Signor Biancionelli; she must begin at the beginning, and build up a training from the very foundation stone. He offered to teach her himself, if she liked; no doubt she would do pretty well, by dint of working hard.

“You see you have not been taught to sing,” he explained, lucidly; “you have only learned, after a fashion, some songs.”

She said, unconsciously repeating his phrase, that it was hardly worth while to go through so much drudgery.

Often, sitting alone in the box, she took thought of her own position. What was she to do with her life? she asked herself. She could not fully share his, — that was evident. She could not be useful as incentive, as support. He did not need her. He stood alone. She could not absorb herself in his pursuits; she was neither fitted nor schooled. She could not absorb herself in pursuits of her own. In what line was she equipped ? In none more definitely than in music; in any she would need preliminary training. “ And one does not begin at twenty-three,” she reflected. “ When I was made to study so much, why was I not taught something ? ” She did not formulate the theory, but she appreciated it as a fact that now, under the influence of strong feeling, groping among foreign conditions for the solution of the serious problems of her life, the heavy and uninteresting details of preparatory drudgery, without the support, as incentive, of an ultimate object and a controlling talent, would be as impossible to her as the aimless and desultory distraction of fancy-work and novel-reading. As to other absorptions which claim the attention of many women,— charities, hospitals, educational movements,— pursuits which might be called community interests, she had heard so vaguely, if at all, of these channels of thought and endeavor that they represented a world as completely removed from her ken as this world of musical life had once been, and they could of necessity offer her no suggestion; it might be doubted, too, if hers was of the natures which find their expression in community interests.

And again, what was she to do with her life, — not that full-pulsed existence of emotion which had absorbed her, but this other imperative individuality which was, day by day, more definitely pushing its demands, — her intentions, her time, her idle energy ? Was it possible to live entirely in the contemplation of another’s life, which yet she could not share ; to relinquish a thoroughly vital entity for a passive acquiescence, for an utter aloofness? This was hardly life at all; it was almost annihilation ; it was a sort of self-murder, thus to destroy her identity. “ Does it die hard, I wonder, one’s identity?” she thought, a little wistful, a little appalled.

Kennett was very intent that the exacting public should be more than satisfied. What duty was so obvious as that the balancing-pole should be in readiness, the rope stretched tightly ? When a man’s professional existence is at stake, it behooves him to have his faculties and all the appliances at command. This allegro requires a trifle more of fire; there should be a rallentando here; and here the sentiment calls for a tendresse, which must be given with an “ out-breathed effect;” and ah, gracious powers ! the brasses must be softened in that passage !

Up to this time the callers at the box had been the gentlemen of the troupe. Abbott and Preston had come in frequently ; one day Kennett had introduced Whitmarsh, a showy blond Englishman, oppressively friendly with him, and so propitiatory to her that she deduced the fact that he must dislike Hugh very much indeed. Several times the manager of the company had sat with her half an hour or so, and once he had taken her behind the scenes, and explained the mechanism of ropes and pulleys, and the big “ sets ” and flies. He was as different from her preconceived idea of a theatrical manager as he well could be; a quiet man, with a wife and six children at home. He once showed her their photographs, and was inclined to be homesick when he came to that of the year-old baby, a chubby fellow-citizen, whose portentous frown was the most conspicuous feature of the picture.

One morning she had a new caller, a lady. She glanced up at a sound behind her, and saw, hesitating at the door of the box, the Mrs. Branner who had earlier attracted her attention.

“ May I come in and talk to you a little?” asked the stranger.

Felicia’s instinct for politeness was the strongest and the most carefully cultivated instinct of her nature.

“ I shall be very happy,” she said with cordiality, and the visitor entered and seated herself.

Mrs. Branner had a very soft and gentle manner, — so soft and gentle as to suggest the purring of a cat. There was something feline about her face: her mouth was large, and had a tendency to curve upward at the corners; her face was wide and short; her eyes were gray, and she had a habit of narrowing them. Yet she was distinctly a pretty woman : her complexion was delightful in its warm fairness ; her nose was straight and delicate ; her eyebrows and lashes were dark; she had dense fair hair, and was tall and graceful.

“ I am afraid I have taken a liberty, but I want so much to know you,” she said, with a manner of much simplicity and candor; her face was very sweet when she smiled. “ I hope you are not lonely. I am told that you are far away from your own people, and new to all this. I hope you like it.”

It had been so long since Felicia had heard any woman, except an Irish or German hotel chambermaid, speak to her that this tone of sympathy, of fellowship, this sudden reverting to an element she had supposed she prized but slightly, friendship with her own sex, almost overcame her. Her voice faltered as she replied : —

“Not exactly lonely, but a little — well, strange.”

“ I can imagine it. Now, as for me, I have known nothing else. Since I can remember I have been on the stage.”

“ Do you like the life?” asked Felicia.

Mrs. Branner shook her head.

“It is a terrible life. I saw once in a book or a newspaper that the stage is like a vampire : so much feigning deprives one of one’s own nature, as a vampire sucks the blood.”

Felicia thought it denoted delicacy of feeling to acquiesce in this. She looked attentively at her new acquaintance. It was an odd, intelligent face, she fancied, expressing sensitiveness. To measure the silent potent influences of circumstances on character and intellect is a feat that can be accomplished only vaguely and clumsily by recourse to results. In the last year Felicia had experienced a wide range of emotions: she had sounded the depths of her own heart; she had undergone the strong shock of severing abruptly all the close ties, associations, and traditions she had ever known ; she was even yet entangled in the complicated web of thought and sentiment involved in adjusting herself to a new and difficult situation ; having been the active and controlling centre of her world, she had become the passive spectator of a world of outside life, in which she had no part, and for which she could discover no substitute; and she was still in the thrall of the most imperative and intense feeling of which she was capable.

Perhaps she was thus an illustration of the theory that the possibilities of the emotional nature are cultivated at the expense of the attributes of the intellect; perhaps the simpler explanation involved in the fact of the loneliness induced by her semi-isolation was the correct explanation. Certainly her judgment was much at fault. A year ago she would have seen, as now, that Mrs. Branner’s was an intelligent face, but she would not have credited it with sensitiveness ; she would have detected the artificiality lurking beneath the purring manner; she would have known intuitively that the visitor was playing a part, very nicely, very prettily, — the part to which she had become so habituated that it was indeed almost second nature, and the most insidiously attractive she could assume, but still and always playing.

Felicia discovered nothing. She entered with flattering zeal upon the topics that presented themselves, — a wide range, from the plot of the opera, playwriting in general, acting and actors, music, orchestral and lyric, down to macramé lace, tidies, even the fashions. This last solecism would have been impossible to her a year before. But with the sudden drifting into the current of feminine interests and feeling her strict requirements loosed their hold.

Kennett, looking on from the stage, marveled that she should have become so animated : she was talking vivaciously, eagerly, almost convulsively; she laughed out gleefully, and caught herself, like a child at school. When her companion had left her, she sat watching the proceedings with smiling eyes. He had little to say when he joined her, and they returned to the hotel. “ Yes, yes,” he admitted, with a shade of impatience in his voice, “ Mrs. Branner seems to be very pleasant.”

“ It is so delightful to meet an agreeable woman,” declared Felicia. “ I did n’t appreciate that there is such a sameness in having only men acquaintances. When I was a girl,” she went on, maturely, “ I did n’t care much for other women. I was interested principally in the adorers.”

“ And now, having a permanent adorer, it is the other way, I suppose,” he remarked, a little absently.

“ And was n’t it an odd coincidence,” cried Felicia, removing her head-gear, and looking at it with an animated smile, “ that we should be dressed almost exactly alike ? — she noticed it, too, — black dresses, and black bonnets, and old-gold ribbons. She noticed it, too ! ”

“ I wish you would not wear that color ! ” he exclaimed, impatiently. “ I detest it, and it is very unbecoming to you.”

She looked at him in surprise. “ Well, don’t be cross about it,” she said, coaxingly. “ I will not wear it if you dislike it. It is rather extravagant to throw away this picot ribbon,” she added, surveying the garniture of her bonnet. “I wish I had known of your antipathy before I bought it.”

“ And have this thing re-lined,” he resumed, irritably, opening her parasol, looking at it sourly, and giving it a flip that sent it sailing across the room and landed it neatly on the sofa.

Felicia was still contemplating the ribbons. “ They need n’t be wasted, after all! she declared, as if making a valuable discovery. " I can use them in a crazy-quilt. How I used to laugh at Amy’s crazy-quilt ! Did I ever think I should condescend to artistic patchwork ! Mrs. Branner promised to show me exactly how to do it. She thinks it perfectly fascinating.”

He controlled himself. He did not say “ Confound Mrs. Branner! ” until after he had shut the door.

Then, as he tramped down the hall, he realized that he was unreasonable. He could not wipe out all the colors of the rainbow, and Mrs. Branner might elect to wear Felicia’s favorite gray or violet to-morrow. As to the noble science of crazy-quilting, it would survive his displeasure, and long serve as a tie between the sane and gifted mortals who affected it. He watched in silent exasperation the acquaintance progress. Mrs. Branner came into the box every morning, to beguile the tedium of the long rehearsals. Twice she called at the hotel. On both occasions Felicia chanced to be out, but she said she intended to return these calls. One afternoon, as Kennett stood in the reading-room, he saw the two coming together down the street. They were talking earnestly, and did not observe him. They parted at the door, and Felicia entered the hotel. He lingered, looking out aimlessly; presently, however, he took his way upstairs.

Felicia had removed her hat and light wrap, and was sitting beside the open window. Spring had come at last, distinctly and definitely, — evidently with the intention of staying. There was a soft relaxation in the air. The golden sunlight sifted down from an infinitely dainty blue sky. The gentle breeze, bringing the pleasant breath of moisture, brought also the odor of cigar smoke, and the roll of carriages passing swiftly on the way to and from the park, and the cries of boys with the evening papers. Through the foliage, vividly yet delicately green, in the square opposite the hotel, the chattering English sparrows flitted; sometimes the voices of children arose, also chatteringly, from the walks beneath. A big bronze figure looked down, with inscrutable eyes, from its pedestal. Despite the softness, the revivifying influence of the season was asserting itself. The prosaic duty of living was all at once metamorphosed into a privilege, and one’s dearest desires assumed the aspect of a friendly possibility. Felicia was under this benignant vernal spell as she gazed out dreamily at the changing pageantry of the street below. She did not turn her head as Kennett entered.

“ Come and sit by the window,” she said ; “ it is such a lovely day.”

He crossed the room, but instead of taking a chair he stood leaning against the window frame and looking down at her. He could not have made even an unreasonable objection to the color she was wearing to-day,—a delicate fawntinted costume, in several “ tones,” as the fashion experts say. The fabric, a light woolen goods, fell in soft folds about her ; the shade brought out the extreme fairness of her complexion, and deepened the color of her eyes and lips ; her cheeks were flushed ; she had a bunch of creamy Maréchal Niel rosebuds in her hand, and had fastened others in the bosom of her dress.

“ Well ? ” she said, glancing up as he hesitated.

“ Well,” he began, “ I want to make a suggestion. Were you out with Mrs. Branner this afternoon ? ”

“ Yes,” replied Felicia, vivaciously. “We went shopping. Would n’t you like to see what I bought? ” with swift generosity.

He detained her with a gesture, as she was about to rise. “ No, not now.” He had been sufficiently impressed by the fact that the universal dictum as to the extravagance of young ladies of her station is not idle caviling, — if the class must he judged by Felicia. It was not that she spent money from ostentation or because she had many needs, but merely because she could not help it. To buy whatever struck her fancy seemed to her as reasonable as to inhale the breath of her roses, a pleasure which was a matter of course. He had not as yet said anything to check her. He was still much in love, and was weak where she was concerned. He remembered that her lavishness was the habit of her life, and reminded himself of the peculiar difficulties and deprivations of her position. He always wound up his cogitations with the determination that he would “ soon ” have a serious talk with her, and propose that they should cut down expenses. He felt satisfied that she would prove amenable, but he dreaded her puzzled and pained acquiescence more than resistance and reproaches. For many reasons, he was not now in the humor sympathetically to gloat over her new treasures.

“ No,” he said, peremptorily. “ I want to talk to you.”

She sank back, leaving something unfinished about “ the loveliest Escurial lace.”

“ I don’t want you to go about with Mrs. Branner,” he said.

“ I believe you are jealous of Mrs. Branner ! ” cried Felicia, breaking into joyous laughter. “ Dear me ! what an opportunity I threw away last summer ! I did not once make you jealous. I did not play off any one against you the whole time.”

“You could n’t play a part,” he declared, drifting into the digression. “ You would n’t know how to dissimulate. I often wonder how a woman trained by Madame Sevier can be so frank.”

“ I am my father’s daughter as well as Madame Sevier’s pupil,”said Felicia, her eyes filling suddenly, as they always did at the mention of her father.

“ Well, he is frank,” remarked Hugh Kennett, grimly. “ I will say that much for him.”

After a pause, during which Felicia passed her handkerchief over her eyes, with the furtive gesture of one who attempts to ignore the fact that tears are ready to fall, he resumed : —

“ To return to Mrs. Branner. I don’t want you to have so much to do with her. I am sorry, as she is the only woman you happen to know ; but I can’t let you associate with her. I ought to have put a stop to it before this.”

“Why?” demanded Felicia, in a startled tone. She had roused herself from her lounging attitude, and was looking at him expectantly.

“ Well, she is not a suitable friend for you. There may be no harm in her. I dare say she was only imprudent, but a good deal was said and ” —

“ And you did not tell me ! ” exclaimed Felicia, violently, “and you let me talk with her at that theatre, hour after hour ! How could you! How could you ! ”

He was immensely relieved. He had feared that from some quixotism, some championship as of injured innocence, she would espouse Mrs. Branner’s cause ; he was aware of her underlying willfulness, and he had dreaded to enlist it against him in a contest like this. When he saw how greatly he had been mistaken, he could even afford magnanimity.

“ Mrs. Branner was probably only imprudent,” he said. “She is stupendously vain, as you see ; her husband was very jealous, and ” —

“ I would not associate familiarly with such a woman for any imaginable consideration,” declared Felicia, uncompromisingly.

“ Felicia, you have a pitiless standard,” he said, as if in rebuke ; and he was inexpressibly glad that this was the case.

“I have common sense,” retorted Felicia, dryly.

This episode ended her efforts to take part, even as a sympathetic spectator, in her husband’s professional career. She would not attend rehearsals, and risk being again thrown with Mis. Branner.

“ I could not snub her; I would not hurt her ; and I will not let her talk to me.”

Stage life thus slipped from immediate observation into a retrospect, and she began presently to analyze the chaotic impressions she had received during her constant attendance at rehearsals and performances, and to formulate her experience as a whole. She evolved the theory that she had unconsciously forgiven much, — a certain tone, a Bohemianism of feeling as well as of manner, which would once have been unpardonable in her eyes. Trifles, infinitely minute points indicating character, unnoticed at the time, came back with a new emphasis. To be sure, these people were zealous ; they were hard-working ; many were talented; doubtless many were faithful in the discharge of duty ; they had bitter trials and disappointments even in the midst of their triumphs ; to her mind they were much to be pitied. But was she justified in subjecting herself to the influences of stage life merely from idleness and ennui, without the ennobling element of labor and the consecration of an inborn talent ?

There was a phrase she had picked up in her association with musical people which seemed to her to be capable of a wider suggestion than its obvious meaning. She often heard them speak of “ absolute pitch.” The phrase might imply an immovable value other than tone. Was not an exact standard of morals, of worth, of essentials, even of externals, a strict code of habits and manners, which would not fluctuate in the sweep of extraneous influences, a possession intrinsically precious, which it was a duty not to underestimate ? She promised herself that if she had the gift of “ absolute pitch ” in this sense, she would not lightly cast it aside. Better her empty hours and her vague haunting disquiet; and so back to her old loneliness.

It was more endurable now that the season was rapidly drawing to a close, and for the same reason the cessation of intercourse with Mrs. Branner was managed without a seeming estrangement. Plans for the vacation were in order, and absorbed much thought. Kennett proposed to spend the summer abroad, but to his surprise Felicia objected.

“ We have been so hurried and harried from place to place,” she suggested. “ Why not go to some quiet region, far from the army of summer tourists, and have a complete rest ? We have seen people enough to last a long time.”

He thought this over a moment. “ Perhaps that will be pleasant,” he acceded, doubtfully; then added, “and certainly cheap.”

The place they selected was in a country neighborhood in one of the hilly counties of Kentucky, contiguous to the mountain region. The farmhouse had been recommended to Kennett by an acquaintance, who had once passed a tedious summer of convalescence there. “ It is a very plain sort of place,” he had said, “ but the people are good-natured and sterling, and the accommodations endurable. If you want very quiet summer boarding, you cannot do better.”


So far from the life of cities, of the opera troupe, its associations and traditions, was this landscape of hill and valley that it might seem almost the life of a foreign planet. The rickety “ double buggy,” which had been sent to meet Kennett and his wife, drew up before the fence of palings which inclosed an old two-story brick house ; there was a portico in front, several hickory and sycamore trees grew in the yard, and a big vegetable garden lay at one side. The cows were coming home; the mellow clanking of their bells resounded on the air. Across the tasseled blue grass several turkeys were making their way in single file, evidently with the intention of joining their companions already gone to roost in the branches of an oak-tree ; the yellow sunset gilded their feathers to a more marked uniformity with those of their untamed relatives in the woods. In the background was visible a rail pen, a few feet high, where young turkeys were kept, and a henhouse, which hens and cocks entered and emerged from at intervals, apparently finding it very difficult to persuade themselves that bedtime had really come. The house was situated on the slope of a high hill, which, in the background, rose into imposing proportions, heavily wooded save at the top, where a clearing had been made, from which a crop of wheat had been taken. This bare space, so incongruous in the midst, of the thick umbrageous forests, gave the elevation a curiously bald-headed look. The windows commanded a long perspective of valley, which, subdivided by jutting spurs, seemed many valleys ; the purple hills grew amethystine in the distance, then more and more faint of tint, until the dainty landscape close to the horizon was sketched in lines of sunlight. Over all was a rosy glow, for the day was slowly waning. The cicadas ceaselessly droned ; the odor of thyme and clover blossoms was on the fresh, dry air. Kennett looked, with the disparagement of the city-bred man, at the arrangements of the “company room.”

“ It is very ‘ plain,’ I must say,” he remarked.

Felicia turned her flushed cheeks and bright eyes from the window, and critically surveyed the faded ingrain carpet; the four-post walnut bedstead, surmounted with a red “tester” and ornamented by a “ log cabin ” patchwork quilt; the heavy stoneware furnishing on the washstand ; the rush-bottomed chairs; the plaster-of-paris dog, and very green parrot, and very yellow canary decorating the high, narrow wooden mantelpiece; the several works of pictorial art on the walls, — an engraving of Stonewall Jackson, one of Samuel at his devotions, a colored print representing a young man in buff trousers and a blue coat, and a young woman in a red dress and with black ringlets, reading from the same big book, obeying as well, perhaps, as the circumstances permitted the legend “ Search the Scriptures.” Everything seemed very clean, very bare, very primitive. Then she looked at Kennett’s serious face, and broke into a peal of joyous laughter.

“ How you are going to miss my ‘ properties,’ ” she cried, “ my poor, dear ‘ properties,’ that you scorned ! Yet you don’t care for the artificialities, — oh, no, indeed ; you have such simple tastes. For my part, I think it is all very nice, and the air is exhilaration itself.”

“ If you are pleased, I am delighted,” he returned, ruefully.

He left her presently to see about the baggage, and she watched him as he joined their host and hostess at the gate. The farmer had just driven up with a light wagon, in which were the trunks, and was in the act of handing out to his wife the shawls, satchels, and lunch basket. Felicia said to herself that she could not make a mistake in this woman’s face. She had a firm chin, delicate lips, and the transparent complexion usual among the dwellers in high regions. Her hair, brown, scanty, lustreless, and sprinkled with gray, was brushed back from her sunken temples, revealing her features in full relief, and her expression was more than serious, — it was almost austere. She wore a dark calico dress, which fell in scant folds about her; her white linen collar was held by a pin containing a badly executed likeness of her husband. He was grave of face, slow of movement, and sparing of speech, with meditative blue eyes, brown hair and beard cut in defiance of city standards, and he was dressed in a muchworn suit of cheap, shop-made clothes. Felicia looked at them both long and attentively, and then looked back into the room. She drew a deep breath.

“ Yes,” she said aloud, “ very plain — intensely plain—and so respectable.”

They entered next day upon a life new to both, — entirely so to Kennett, although Felicia had vague reminiscences of something similar when, in her childhood, her father had had the whim to take her with him through the rural regions of his circuit. Kennett, the man of cities and of artificialities, found a certain difficulty in adjusting himself to such unprecedented conditions. He could lounge systematically enough during his vacations, under ordinary circumstances ; but now, without boating, driving, billiards, acquaintances, he was at a loss. For the first few days he said at least a hundred times, “ Felicia, I shall die of ennui in this place.” It seemed to him almost perversity that she should be so genuinely contented. “ If we had been obliged to come here because it is cheap, you would have thought it a calamity,” he declared, reproachfully. She laughed at this, and said he was hard to please : he was always insinuating that she liked to spend money ; now that she was helping to save it he was not satisfied. After this he drifted into what he called the yawning stage. It came upon him uncontrollably, ungraciously, persistently, regularly. “ It must be malaria,” he would say, bringing his jaws together by a mighty effort and with his eyes full of tears.

“ It is the relaxation from a tension,” returned Felicia, learnedly. “ You have been strung up to concert pitch for so long. It shows that you need a complete rest.”

“If it were any one else, I should say it shows complete laziness.”

The lazy phase came a little later. Then he could not even summon the energy to yawn. For hours he would lie motionless on the grass, or swinging in the hammock which they had brought, and which impressed their rural entertainers as a most felicitous contrivance. Sometimes Felicia read aloud; often she “condescended to talk,” as he laughingly phrased it. Apparently she had dismissed her anxieties ; her joyousness and spontaneity suggested the happy days of last summer; when her mood was graver, she evinced a depth of thought and feeling at variance with her other self. She had often appeared to him many-sided ; never so much as now. There was an unexpectedness about her which lent a certain piquancy to her companionship. “ I never know exactly what you are going to think or say on any subject,” he remarked one day.

“ It is just the reverse with me,” she replied. “ I know what you are going to think or say before you do yourself.”

The time seemed to pass blithely enough for her. She amused herself about the house and yard like a child. Occasionally she undertook light household tasks, under the direction of Mrs. Wright, — shelling peas, stoning cherries, capping strawberries, and the like. He could hear rising on the soft, warm morning air her voice and infectious laughter, as the two women sat together in the shade of the vines that covered the portico. Once she made a “lady cake,” all by herself, except baking it, she declared, exultantly ; and Mrs. Wright slyly smiled superior, and did not expound the summum bonum of the cake-making art. “ I believe I have a talent for cooking,” said Felicia, complacently. “ I should have been a famous housekeeper, if I had had half a chance.”

To the elder woman, looking out from her meagre, colorless life, the bright young creature, with her quick wits and warm heart, was in some sort a revelation. They drew close together in these summer days. Sometimes their talk was serious and retrospective. She told Felicia of the two children she had lost, and showed her their faded daguerreotypes and some of their little clothes. “ The girl would have been twenty-three next fall, if she had lived. Jest your age,” said the mother, looking wistfully into the dewy violet eyes, and vaguely bridging that terrible gulf of empty years with an elusive airy structure of what might have been. “ Ah,” she said, with a long-drawn sigh, “ God knows best. His will be done.”

Her sunken eyes turned to the shimmering landscape close to the soft horizon ; her sinewy, worn hands dropped upon the faded garments on her knee. The sunshine lay on the floor; the wind wafted in at the window the purple banners of the “maiden’s bower;” the wing of a bird flashed past. “ God’s will be done,” she repeated.

Felicia, imperious, intolerant, rebellious, shrank appalled from the hypothesis that every life holds the elements of bitter woes, like in degree, different only in kind. She resolutely reverted to lighter themes; she shut out the thought of grief. She promised herself that she would have happiness, — that was what she craved. She would not be balked of her lightness of heart.

Perhaps her theory of the relaxation of a severe tension in Kennett’s case had been correct. At any rate, by degrees something of his former methodical energy asserted itself. He assigned to himself the duty of going to town for the mail; occasionally he procured horses, and took his wife riding; sometimes he went on a shooting excursion with the hobbledehoy son of the house, returning with a few birds or a rabbit as a trophy. Once he bought from a mountaineer a deer just killed, — game laws are a dead letter in that region, — and brought it home on his horse in true rural sportsman fashion, greatly enjoying Felicia’s delight in his supposed skill, when he drew rein before the portico and called her to the window. “You think this better than an encore for ‘ When the bugle sounds ’ ? ” he asked.

“Oh, much, much better! ” cried Felicia ; and she added that, in her opinion, killing a deer was more appropriate to a big six-foot man than an absorbing interest in costumes and wigs and feathers, and infinitely small points about pianissimo and con fuoco and intonation.

June had passed. July, rich, luscious, brilliant with color, redolent of sweet odors, languorous with sunshine, was glowing into August. Through the soft bloom on the big peaches the warm red deepened day by day. The grapes were purpling. The mellow, perfumed apples dropped heavily on the grass, and the busy “ yellow-jackets ” rioted among them. Where bearded ears of millet had waved in the wind the shocks were piled, and already the encroaching crab grass was overcrowding the prickly stubble. The call of quail vibrated on the air. The forests were densely green. The streams flowed languidly, for the showers, sudden and profusely punctuated by peals of thunder and flashes of lightning, were short, and but little rain fell. On these perfect afternoons, the very acme and culmination of summer and light and vivid life, Felicia loved to stroll up the steep slopes ; not stopping till a certain “ blue spring,” near the summit, was reached. A jutting spur of the range cut off all extended outlook; no house or clearing was visible ; the valley was walled in on every side; a sea of foliage below the crag sent up a monotonous murmur.

“ It is as lonely here as if we were on a desert island,” remarked Kennett, — not, however, in discontent; having once adjusted himself to the eventless existence, he found the simple routine endurable enough. He was lying at length on the cliff. His appearance gave token of the rural life he had been leading : he was sunburned; his hair and mustache, under the manipulation of the village barber, were longer than formerly, and their luxuriance gave the depth of coloring his face had lacked in his closeclipped trim; he had taken on flesh, and his raiment suggested careless wear. He was more picturesque than formerly, but not point-device.

“ Some of these days,” he went on, with the deliberate manner of one to whom time is no object, “ when the resources of the country are developed, this place will be a summer resort: half a dozen mineral springs in a stone’s throw, a railway only three miles distant, healthiest air in the world, no mosquitoes, — what more can the heart of the summer sojourner desire ! ”

“ You are as eloquent as an advertisement,” responded Felicia.

“The hotel would be on that level stretch, and the bowling-alley there to the right,” he continued, raising himself on one elbow, and looking about with the serious attention sometimes characteristic of the very idle in contemplating a far-away possibility.

“ There would be an ‘ observatory ’ just here,” said Felicia, entering into his mood, “ where the band would play the stagecoach up the mountain; and people would flirt on the piazzas, and women would talk gossip, and men would smoke and play euchre. On the whole, I like it far better as a desert island.”

She fixed her eyes on the vast slant of motionless foliage across the basin of the valley. A haze was thickening in the sunshine; an ominous stillness was in the air ; adown a mass of black cloud that was imperceptibly stealing up from the west quivered a slow pale flash ; the roll of thunder, indistinct yet sinister, sounded beneath the horizon.

Felicia spoke suddenly, with the ring of intense feeling in her voice.

“ I wish this were a desert island I ” she exclaimed. “ I wish we could never see any more people, or hotels, or Pullman cars, or theatres. I like this life.”

“You would soon be tired of it,” he rejoined.

You seem to like it,” she said.

He had thrown himself down again at full length. “ Yes,” he replied, after a long pause, “ I like it. It has been extremely pleasant. It is very gentle and peaceful, and very aimless. I am glad to be rid of the turmoil, and tension, and effort.”

“ Why not be rid of them permanently ? ” asked Felicia, in sudden sharp agitation.

“ It is not what is pleasant, it is what a man is fit for, that he must consider.” He roused himself from his recumbent attitude, and leaned against the bole of a huge oak that projected over the rock on which they sat. “ Then,” he said, “ there’s this.”

He inclined his head slightly, as if he were listening, and, with a half smile, clapped his hands softly together.

“ It is not merely the applause,” he added, after a moment’s reflection. “ I will do myself the justice to say that. Half the time the public does n’t know why it applauds. It is the consciousness that the applause is deserved.”

Both were silent. An acorn detached itself from among the leaves above them, dropped with a resonant thud on the crag, and, rebounding sharply, fell into the valley below. A blue jay chattered antagonistically and vivaciously somewhere in the foliage. An imperceptible current of air brought to them the fresh odors of fern and mint from the banks of the spring branch near by ; they could hear the water drip over the cool mossy stones. From the black clouds, ever rising higher above the western mountains, came again a peal of thunder, muffled, but definite at last. The wind was rising.

All at once Kennett began to sing.

The volume of sound — smooth, melodious, rich, resonant, permeated through and through, from its gentlest tone to the full capacity of its compass, with that mastering, constraining intensity which for the lack of a better phrase is called the sympathetic quality — rose and fell with a certain majesty of effect. Perhaps it was because of the long rest, perhaps because of the strangely perfect serenity of the last six weeks, perhaps because she had become trained to discriminate, — certainly that voice had never seemed to her so valuable merely as an organ.

Once she had asked him if it were not possible that he and his friends overrated his gift ; if a man of thirty-three, thoroughly trained, had not attained, or at least approximated, his best possibility. Was it likely that he could after that become a great singer, instead of merely an excellent one ?

He had the anxious vanity of the musician; the question hurt him, but he replied as dispassionately as he could. In all candor, he said, he was of opinion that neither he nor his friends overrated him. “ No man of sense deliberately determines that he will be a supremely great dramatic singer, any more than a playwright of set purpose sits down to rival Shakespeare.” He added that he would admit that he was not so well known or so fairly appreciated as he deserved, but he had been constrained by the circumstances in his case. He had been compelled to take whatever engagements offered ; he could not choose or wait for better opportunities. He could not say that he hoped ever to become one of the few supremely great singers; but there were many degrees, and he fully expected to stand far higher than he had yet done.

Felicia had also a theory that in vividness of imagination he was not preëminent. He was always appropriate, controlled, but to her he seemed to lack the sudden flame of inspiration. She thought him too well trained ; he was limited by traditions, precedents, reasons. The fine fire of his capacity burned steadily, with too even a glow. To-day she retracted this judgment, as, with the precision of an instrument in perfect tune, with the adroit management of an accomplished musician, with the subtle enthusiasms of a sensitive soul, he sent the pathos and the passion of Lohengrin’s Farewell pulsating across the uninhabited sea of verdure at their feet.

“ No, no,” he said, as the last sound wave died away, and he rose, extending his hand to assist her. “ I am dedicated to ‘ Mein lieber Schwan,' whose other name might be called Melpomene. That is what I was born for.”

And she, — she said nothing. In her soul she knew he spoke the truth. What was there for her but — to say nothing?

Before they reached the house, the black cloud, suddenly in swift motion, had overspread the whole horizon. They barely escaped the storm ; the first heavy drops were falling as they shut the gate and ran up the pavement; in a moment more the whitening sheets of rain were dashing against the window panes, the lightnings were playing over the landscape, and the thunder pealed.

They found their host and hostess in what was called the “ settin’-room,” a square, sparsely furnished apartment, opposite the parlor. Mrs. Wright looked up, with her slow smile, from the peaches she was paring for supper. Her husband, tilted against the wall in a split-bottomed chair, took his pipe from his mouth as Kennett entered,

“ You was singin’ up thar ter the blue spring, warn’t ye ? ” he demanded, with a trifle of vivacity. “ I thought it must be you. Well, ye ’re a good singer, shore.”

“You ought to go to meetings Sundays, and lead the hymns,” said Mrs. Wright. She had not yet been able fully to comprehend the mental and moral attitude of people who do not desire to go to church. “ Mr. Wright says you ‘re a choir all by yourself.”

Felicia glanced at Kennett. Obviously he was pleased. Ah, the insatiate vanity of the musician, flattered by such a tribute as this!

“ Bob’s been to the post office,” said Mr. Wright, suddenly. “There ’s a letter fur ye on the table.”

Kennett took it with the alacrity with which people in the country receive their mail, read and re-read it, then slowly placed it in his pocket.

“It is a matter of business,” he said, meeting Felicia’s eye.

The next morning, however, he showed it to her.

“ Do you know what this means ? ” he demanded, with exultation. “ This means grand opera another season, under the most auspicious circumstances.”

“ It is only an offer for a concert tour with the Asterisk Quartette, at the fashionable watering-places, as a substitute for their tenor, who is obliged to resign on account of ill health,” said Felicia, her eyes still on the letter.

She had heard of the organization, which was in many respects exceptional. A notable manager had induced certain superior artists to give up their usual vacations for the discomforts of a professional season, plausibly arguing that a rich harvest might be reaped if the leisure class — bent especially on enjoyment and on spending money — be offered first-class attractions. So far he had been very successful, both as to the material secured and the practical result.

“This is just the opportunity I want,” said Kennett, walking about the room in unwonted excitement. “ This is the best organization in the country. To take Stuart’s place gives prestige by itself. If I can hold my own, — and I can, — this means rapid advancement.”

“ But you have already signed with Mr. Hallet.”

“ Only for the next season. After that I will choose.”

Felicia sank down on one of the straight-backed chairs, and gazed absently at the floor, the letter still in her hand.

“ Well, Hugh,” she said at last, looking up at him, “ I want you to decline this.

He stared at her.

“ I am going into town in the next half hour to reply by telegram, as they desired,” he returned. “ I shall most certainly accept it.”

“You show great consideration for my wishes ! ” she exclaimed, bitterly.

“ You are unreasonable,”he rejoined.

“ Because I am happy here, living in this quiet, simple, inexpensive way, you want to give it up.”

“ I have been happy, too; but if an idle, purposeless existence is pleasant, must a man jeopardize his future ? ”

“ Oh, you promised — you promised to stay another month, and now you are going to drag me back to that tawdry falseness! It would be different if the season had opened; then it would be necessary; but this is so gratuitous.”

“This is so beneficent,” he corrected. “ It is an opportunity that may never occur again.”

She burst into tears. He attempted coaxing, but she interpreted this as a sign of relenting, and grew more insistent. He tried argument, and was met by the positive declaration that what is wisest is not comparable to what is happiest. Now that she had at last relaxed her hold on her will she was as unreasonable and as persistent as a spoiled child. At last he too lost his temper.

“ This is intolerable,” he said, angrily, rising and turning to the door.

She sprang before him, and stood, one hand on the bolt and the other on his arm, as if to push him back, her body thrown forward in the poise of suddenly arrested motion, and an intent expression on her beautiful face.

“Oh, Hugh,” she cried, “I beg—I insist that we don’t go yet! Let me be happy a little longer! ”

He looked at her coldly.

You may have mistaken your vocation,” he said. “ You have a good pose — a very good pose — at this moment. There’s nothing like a pronounced success in domestic melodrama,” he added, with a laugh.

His sarcasm stung her like a lash. She slowly withdrew her hand from the bolt, her eyes full on his; she slowly crossed the room.

He regretted his words; already his anger was melting.

“ Forgive me,” he entreated.

She stood silent a moment, and looked at him with hard eyes.

“Send your telegram,” she said.

He left the house without another word. When he returned from town, he found her in her traveling attire, the rooms bare of their effects, and the trunks packed. He walked about restlessly for a few moments ; he looked at her in anxious indecision.

“You are not angry?” he asked, in deprecation.

“ Oh, no,” she replied, with a certain metallic clearness in her laugh. “ I am only obedient.”

Fanny N. D. Murfree.