IT is not so hard to endure suffering as to resist ease. The passion for martyrdom sweeps everything before it, as long as it is challenged by no stronger force. Emanuel Bayard had lived for a year upon the elixir of a spiritual exaltation such as has carried men to a glowing death or through a tortured life without a throb of weakness. He had yet to adjust his nature to the antidote of common human comfort.
Like most of the subtler experiences of life, this came so naturally that, at first, he scarcely knew it by sight or name.
It was not a noteworthy matter to show the courtesies of civilized life to the family of his old Professor. Bayard reminded himself of this as he walked down the Point.
It was quite a week before he found leisure to attend to this simple social obligation. His duties in Angel Alley had been many and laborious ; it did not occur to him to shorten a service or an entertainment, to omit a visit to the wharves when the crew came in, or to put by the emergency of a drunkard’s wife to a more convenient season, because he had in view that which had grown so rare to the young man now, the experience of a personal luxury. Like a much older and more ascetic man than he was, he counted the beads on his rosary of labors conscientiously through. Then he hurried to her.
Now, to women of leisure nothing is so incomprehensible as the preoccupation of a seriously busy man. Bayard had not counted upon this feminine fact: indeed, he lived in a world where feminine whim was an element as much outside his calculation as the spring fashions of the planet Uranus. He was quite at a loss when Miss Carruth received him distantly.
The Flying Jib was, as to its exterior, an ugly little cottage run out on the neck of the jutting reef that formed the chief attraction of the Mainsail Hotel. The interior of the Flying Jib varied from a dreary lodge to a summer home, according to the nature of the occupants. It seemed to Bayard, that season, absurdly charming. He had lived so long out of his natural world that the photographs and rugs, the draperies, the flowers, the embroidery, the work-baskets, the bric-a-brac, the mere presence of taste and of ladies, appeared to him at first essential luxury. He looked about him with a sigh of delight, while Mrs. Carruth went to call her daughter, who had gone over to the fish-house study with the Professor, and who could be seen idling along home over the meadow, a stately figure in a pale yellow summer dress, with a shade hat, and pansies on it.
As we say, that young lady at first received Bayard coolly. She sauntered into the little parlor with her hands full of sweet-brier, nodded to him politely, and excused herself at once to arrange her flowers. This took her some time. Mrs. Carruth entertained him placidly. Helen’s eyes saw, but did not seem to see, the slightest motion of his nervous hand, each tone of expression that ran over his sensitive face. He had looked so eager and happy when she came ; almost boyishly thirsting for that little pleasure ! She had that terrible inability to understand the facts of his life or feeling which is responsible for most of the friction between two half-attracted or halfseparating human beings. But when she saw the light die from his eyes, when she saw that hurt look, which she knew quite well, settle about the lower part of his face, Helen was ashamed of herself. Mrs. Carruth was mildly introducing the subject of mosquito bars: theirs, she said, were all on the second story ; the supply did n’t go round, and the Professor objected to them ; so the hornets —
“ Mother,” said Helen, “ I wonder if Mr. Bayard would n’t like to have us show him the clam study ? ”
“ Your father said he should be at work on the State of the Unforgiven after Death,” replied Mrs. Carruth. “ I don’t know that we ought to disturb him ; do you think we ought, Helen ?”
“ He was whittling a piece of mahogany for the head of a cane, when I left him,” said Helen irreverently ; “ he stole it out of the cabin of that old wreck in the inner harbor. Do you think a Professor of Theology could be forgiven after death for sneak-thieving, Mr. Bayard ? ”
She abandoned the idea of visiting the clam study, however, and seated herself with frank graciousness by their visitor. Mrs. Carruth having strolled away presently to keep some elderly tryst among the piazza ladies of the hotel, the young people were left alone.
They sat for a moment in sudden, rather awkward silence. Helen looked like a tall June lily, in her summer gown. She had taken her hat off; her hair was a little tumbled and curly ; the wind blew in strong from the sea, tossing the lace curtains of the Flying Jib like sails on a toy boat. The scent of the sweet-brier was delicately defined in the room. Bayard looked at her without any attempt to speak. She answered his silent question by saying abruptly, —
“ You know you ’ll have to forgive me, whether you want to or not.”
“ Forgive you ? ”
“ Why, for being vexed. I was a little, at first. But I need n’t have been such a schoolgirl as to show it.”
“ If you would be so kind as to tell me what I can possibly have done to — deserve your displeasure ” — began Bayard helplessly.
“ If a man does n’t understand without being told, I’ve noticed he can’t understand when he is told. . . . Why did n’t you wait till next fall before you came to see us, Mr. Bayard ? ”
“ Oh ! ” said Bayard. The happy look came back to his tired face, as if a magiclantern had shifted a beautiful slide. “ Is that it ? ” He laughed delightedly. “ Why, I suppose I must have seemed rude — neglectful, at any rate. But I ’ve noticed that if a woman does n’t understand without being told, she makes up for it by her readiness of comprehension when she is told.”
“ What a nice red coal! ” smiled Helen. “ The top of my head feels quite warm. Dear me ! is n’t there a spot burned bald ? ” She felt anxiously of her pretty hair.
“ Come over and see my work,” he said, “ and you ’ll never ask me again why I did n’t do anything I — would so much rather do.”
“ I never asked you before I ” Hashed Helen.
“ You did me an honor that I shall remember,” said Bayard gravely.
“ Oh, please don’t ! Pray forget it as soon as you can ! ” cried Helen, with red cheeks.
“ You can’t know, you see you can’t know, how a man situated as I am prizes the signs of the simplest human friendship that is sincere and womanly.”
So said Bayard quietly. Helen drew a little quick breath. She seemed reconciled now, to herself and to him. They began to talk at once, quite fast and freely. Afterwards he tried to remember what it had all been about, but he found it not easy. The evening passed on wings; he felt the atmosphere of this little pleasure with a delight impossible to be understood by a man who had not known and graced society, and left it. Now and then he spoke of his work, but Helen did not exhibit a marked interest in the subject.
Bayard drew the modest inference that he had obtruded his own affairs with the obtuseness common to missionaries and other zealots; he roused himself to disused conversation, and to the forgotten topics of the world. It did not occur to him that this was precisely what she intended. The young lady drew him out, and drew him on. They chatted about Cesarea and Beacon Street, about art, clubs, magazine literature, and the Symphony Concerts, like ordinary social human beings.
“ You see I have been out of it so long ! ” pleaded Bayard.
“ Not yet a year,” corrected Helen.
“ It seems to me twenty,” he mused.
“ You don’t go to see your uncle yet ? ”
“ I met him once or twice down town. I have not been home yet. But that would make no difference. I have no leisure for — all these little things.”
He said the words with such an utter absence of affectation that it was impossible either to smile or to take offense at them. Helen regarded him gravely.
“ There were two or three superb concerts this winter. I thought of you. I wished you had come in ” —
“ Did you take that trouble ? ” he asked eagerly.
“ I don’t think I ever heard Schubert played better in my life,” she went on, without noticing the interruption. “ Schoeffelowski does do The Serenade divinely.”
“ I used to care for that more than for any other music in the world, I think,” he answered slowly.
“ I play poorly,” said Helen, “ and I sing worse, and the piano is rented of a Windover schoolgirl. But I have got some of his renderings by heart — if you would care for it.”
“ It is plain, “ replied Bayard, flushing, “ that I no longer move in good society. It did not even occur to me to ask you. I should enjoy it; it would rest me more than anything I can think of. Not that that matters, of course — but I should be more grateful than it is possible for you to understand.”
Helen went to the piano without ado, and began to sing the great serenade. She played with feeling, and had a sweet, not a strong voice ; it had the usual amateur culture, no more, but it had a quality not so usual. She sang with a certain sumptuous delicacy (if the words may be conjoined) by which Bayard found himself unexpectedly moved. He sat with his hand over his eyes, and she sang the familiar classic quite through.
Komm begücke mich ! ”
Her voice sank, and ceased. What tenderness ! What strength! What vigor and hope and joy, and — forbid the thought! — what power of loving the woman had!
“ Some lucky fellow will know, some day,” thought the devotee. Aloud, he said nothing at all.
Helen’s hands lay on the keys ; she, too, sat silent. It was beginning to grow dark in the cottage parlor. The long, lace curtain blew straight in and towards her : as it dropped, it fell about her head and shoulders, and caught there ; it hung like a veil; in the dim light it looked like —
She started to her feet and tossed it away.
“ Oh ! ” he breathed, “ why not let it stay ? Just for a minute ! It did nobody any harm.”
“ I am not so sure of that,” thought Helen. But what she said was, “I will light the candles.”
He sprang to help her ; the sleeve of her muslin dress fell away from her arm as she lifted the little flicker of the match to the tall brass candlestick on the mantel. He took the match from her, and touched the candle. In the dusk they looked at each other with a kind of fear, Bayard was very pale. Helen had her rich, warm look. She appeared taller than usual, and seemed to stand more steadily on her feet than other women.
“ Do you want me to thank you ? ” asked Bayard in a low voice.
“ No,” said Helen.
“ I must go,” he said abruptly.
“ Mother will be back,” observed Helen, not at her ease. “ And Father will be getting on with the Unforgiven, and come home any minute.”
“ Very well,” replied Bayard, seating himself.
“ Not that I would keep you ! ” suggested Helen suddenly.
He smiled a little sadly, and this time unexpectedly rose again.
“ I don’t ask you to understand, of course. But I really ought to go. And I am going.”
“ Very well,” said Helen stiffly, in her turn.
“ I have a — something to write, you see,” explained Bayard.
“ You don’t call it a sermon any more, do you ? Heresy writes a ‘ something.’ How delicious ! Do go and write it, by all means. I hope the Unforgiven will appreciate it.”
“ You are not a dull woman.” observed Bayard uncomfortably. “ You don’t for an instant suppose I want to go ? ”
Helen raised her thick white eyelids slowly ; a narrow, guarded light shone underneath them. She only answered that she supposed nothing about it.
“ If I stay,” murmured Bayard, with a wavering look, “ will you sing The Serenade to me — all over again ? ”
“ Not one bar of it! ” replied Helen promptly.
“ You are the wiser of us two,” said Bayard, after a pause.
The tide was coming in, and gained upon the reef just outside the cottage windows, with a soft, inexorable sound.
“ I am not a free man,” he added.
“ Return to your chains and your cell,” suggested Helen. “ It is — as you say — the better way.”
“ I said nothing of the kind ! Pardon me.”
“ Did n’t you ? It does not signify. It does n’t often signify what people say — do you think? ”
“ Are you coming to see my people — the work ? You said you would, you know. Shall I call and take you, some day ? ”
“ Do you think it matters — to the drunkards ? ”
“ Oh well,” said Bayard, looking disappointed, “ never mind.”
“ But I do mind,” returned Helen in her full, boylike voice. “ I want to come. And I ’m coming. I had rather come, though, than he taken. I ’ll turn up some day in the anxious-seat, when you don’t expect me. I ’ll wear a veil, and an old poke bonnet — yes, and a blanket shawl — and confess. I defy you to find me out! ”
“ Bliss Carruth,” said the young preacher with imperiousness, “ my work is not a parlor charade.”
Helen looked at him. Defiance and deference battled in her brown eyes ; for that instant, possibly, she could have hated or loved him with equal ease ; she felt his spiritual superiority to herself as something between an antagonism and an attraction, but exasperating whichever way she looked at it. She struggled with herself, but made no reply.
“ If I am honored with your presence,” continued Bayard, still with some decision of manner, “ I shall count upon your sympathy. . . . God knows I need it! ” he added in a different tone.
“ And you shall have it,” said Helen softly.
It was too dark to see the melting of her face; but he knew it was there. They stood on the piazza of the cottage, in the strong, salt wind. Her muslin dress blew back. The dim light of the candle within scarcely defined her figure. They seemed to stand like creatures of the dusk, uncertain of each other or of themselves. He held out his hand ; she placed her own within it cordially. How warm and womanly, how strong and fine a touch she had ! He bade her goodnight, and hurried away.
That “ something ” which is to supersede the sermon was not written that night. Bayard found himself unable to work. He sat doggedly at his desk for an hour; then gave it up, put out his light, and seized his hat. He went down to the beach, and skirted the shore, taking the spray in his face. His brain was on fire ; not with intellectual labor. His heart throbbed; not with anxiety for the fishing population. He reached a reef whence he could see the Mainsail Hotel, and there sat down to collect himself. The cottage was lighted now ; the parlor windows glimmered softly; the long, lace curtains were blowing in and out. Shadows of figures passed and repassed. The Professor had settled the state of the Unforgiven, and had come back from the clam study ; he paced to and fro across the parlor of the Flying Jib; a graceful figure clung to his theologic arm, and kept step with him as he strode.
Presently she came to the low window, and pushed back the lace curtain, which had blown in, half across the little parlor. She lifted her arms, and shut the window.
The waves beat the foot of the cliff monotonously, like the bars of a rude, large music which no man had been able to read. Bayard listened to them, with his head thrown back on the hard rock, and his hat over his eyes. Even the gaze of the stars seemed intrusive, curious, one might say impertinent, to him. He desired the shell of the mollusk that burrowed in the cleft of the cliff.
The tide was rising steadily. The harbor wore its full look; it seemed about to overflow, like a surcharged heart. The waves rose on ; they took definite rhythm. All the oldest, sweetest meanings of music, the maddest and the tenderest cries of human longing, were in the strain : —
— Beglücke mich ! ”
Those mighty lovers, the sea and the shore, urged and answered, resisted and yielded, protested and pleaded, retreated and met, loved and clasped, and slept. When the tide came to the full, the wind went down.
DEAR MR. BAYARD, — I have been thinking since I saw you. I have health, and a summer. What, can I do to help your work ? I have n’t a particle of experience, and not much enthusiasm. But I am ready to try, if you are willing to try me. I don’t think I ’m adapted to drunkards. I don’t know which of us would be more scared. He would probably run for the nearest grogshop to get rid of me. Are n’t there some old ladies who bother you to death, whom you could turn over to me ?
This characteristic note, the first that he had ever received from her, reached Bayard by mail, a few days after his call at the cottage of the Flying Jib.
He sat down and wrote at once: —
MY DEAR MISS CARRUTH, — There is an old lady. She does n’t bother me at all, but I am at my wits’ end with her. She runs away from the institution where she belongs, and there’s no other place for her. At present she Is inflicting herself on Mrs. Job Slip, No. 143 Thoroughfare Street, opposite the head of Angel Alley. Her mind is thought to be slightly disordered by the loss of her son, drowned last winter in the wreck of the Clara Em. Mrs. Slip will explain the circumstances to you more fully. Inquire for Johnny’s mother. If the old woman ever had any other name, people have forgotten it now. I write in great haste and stress of care. It will not be necessary to traverse Angel Alley to reach this address, which is quite in the heart of the town, and perfectly safe and suitable for you. I thank you very much.
Helen frowned a little when she read this. No bishop of a diocese, dictating the career of a deaconess, no village rector, guiding some anxious and aimless visiting young lady through the mild dissipations of parish benevolence, could have returned a more businesslike, calm, even curt reply.
The position of a man who may not love a woman and must not invite her to marry him —or, to put it a little differently, who must not love and cannot marry — is one which it seems to be asking too much of women to understand. At all events, they seldom or never do. The withdrawals, the feints, the veils and chills and silences, by which a woman in a similar position protects herself may be as transparent as golden mist to him whom she evades ; but the sturdy retreat of a masculine conscience from a too tender or too tempting situation is as opaque as a gravestone to the feminine perception.
Accustomed to be eagerly wooed. Helen did not know what to make of this devotee who did not urge himself even upon her friendship. She had never given any man that treasure before. Like all high-minded women who have not spent themselves in experiments of the sensibilities, Helen regarded her own friendship as valuable. She would have preferred him to show, at least, that he appreciated his privilege. She would have liked him to make friendship as devotedly as those other men had made love to her.
His reserve, his distance, his apparent moodiness, and undoubted ability to live without seeing her except when he got ready to do so, gave her a perplexed trouble more important than pique.
Without ado or delay, she took the next electric car for Mrs. Slip’s.
Bayard received that afternoon, by the familiar hand of Joey Slip, this brief rejoinder: —
DEAR MR. Bayard, — This experienced boy seems to be on intimate terms with you, and offers to take my report, which stands thus: Johnny’s mother is in the Widows’ Home. Shall I write you details ?
Truly yours, H. C.
Run on down to the Mainsail Hotel, Joey,” remarked the minister, writing rapidly. “ Find the lady — there will be a good many ladies — and hand her this.”
“ Pooh ! ” retorted this nautical child, with a superior air. “ Vat ain’t nuffin’ ! She’s good-lookin’ ’nuff to find off Zheorges’ in a fog-bank.”
Thus ran the note : —
DEAR MISS CARRUTH, — I will call for the report to-morrow. Thank you.
Yours, E. B.
When Bayard reached her mother’s piazza the next evening, Helen was in the middle of the harbor.
“ My daughter is considered a good oarswoman, I believe,” said the Professor, with a troubled look. “ I know nothing about these matters myself. I confess I wish I did. I have not felt easy about her; she has propelled the craft so far into the stream. I am delighted to see you, Mr. Bayard ! I will put another boat at your service — that is — I suppose you understand the use of oars ? ”
“ Better than I do Verbal Inspiration, Professor ! ” replied Bayard, laughing. “ She is rather far out, and the tide has turned.”
He ran down the pier, and leaped into the first boat that he could secure. It happened to be a dory.
“ Can you overtake her ? ” asked her father.
“ I can try,” replied the young man, smiling.
The Professor heaved a sigh, whether of relief or of anxiety it would not be easy to say, and stood upon the pier watching Bayard’s fine stroke. Mrs. Carruth came down, clucking anxiously, and put her hand upon her husband’s arm. Bayard looked at the two elderly people with a strange affectionateness which he did not analyze ; feeling, but not acknowledging, a sudden heartache for ties which he had never known.
The sun was sinking, and the harbor was a sea of fire. A sea of glass it was not, for there was some wind and more tide. Really, she should not have ventured out so far. He looked over his shoulder as he gained upon her. She had not seen him, and was drifting out. Her oars lay crossed upon her lap. Her eyes were on the sky, which flung out gold and violet, crimson and pale green flame, in bars like the colors of a mighty banner. The harbor took the magnificence, and lifted it upon the hands of the short, uneasy waves.
The two little boats, the pursuing and the pursued, floated in one of those rare and unreal splendors which make this world, for the moment, seem a glorious, painless star, and the chance to live in it an ecstasy.
By the island, half a mile back, perhaps, Jane Granite, in a dory rowed by the younger Trawl, silently watched the minister moving with strong strokes across the blazing harbor. Drifting out, with beautiful pose and crossed hands, was the absorbed, unconscious woman whom his racing oars chased down.
Between the glory of the water and the glory of the sky, he gained upon her, overtook her, headed her off, and brought up with a spurt beside her. The minister laid his hand imperiously upon the gunwale of the lady’s boat ; and, it seemed, without waiting for her consent, or even lingering to ask for it, he leaped into the cockle-shell and fastened the painter of his dory to the stern. Now, between the color of the sky and the color of the sea, the two were seen to float for a melting moment
“ Ben,” said Jane, “ let us put about, will you ? I ’m a little chilly.”
“ Ben.” said Jane again, as they rowed under the dark shadow of the island, — “ Ben,” with a little loyal effort to make conversation such as lovers know, “ did you ever read a poem called Kubla Khan?”
“ I hain’t had time to read sence I left the grammar school,” said Ben.
“ What’s up with you, anyhow?” he added, after a moment’s sullen reflection.
He looked darkly over Jane’s head towards the harbor’s mouth. At that moment Bayard was tying the painter of the dory to the stern of the shell. Jane did not look back. A slight grayness settled about her mouth ; she had the protruding mouth and evident cheekbones of the consumptive woman of the coast.
“ D— him ! ” said Ben Trawl.
Bayard had indeed leaped into Helen’s boat without so much as saying, By your leave. Her eyes had a dangerous expression, to which he paid no sort of attention.
“ Did n’t you know better than to take this shell — so far — with the tide setting out ? ” he demanded. “ Give me those oars! ”
“ I understand how to manage a boat,” replied the young lady coldly. She did not move.
“ Give me those oars ! ” thundered Bayard.
She looked at him, and gave them.
“ Don’t try to move,” he said in a softer voice. “ It’s the easiest thing in the world to upset these toys. If you had taken a respectable ocean dory — I can’t see why they don’t provide them at the floats,” he complained, with the nervousness of an uneasy man. “ I can manage perfectly where I am. Sit still, Miss Carruth ! ”
She did not look at him this time, but she sat still. He put about, and rowed steadily. For a few moments they did not exchange a word. Helen had an offended expression. She trailed her hand in the water with something like petulance. Bayard did not watch her.
Captain Hap crossed their course, rowing home in an old green dory full of small bait, — pollock and tinkers. He eyed Bayard’s Harvard stroke with surprised admiration. He had seldom seen a person row like that. But he was too old a sailor to say so. As the minister swerved dexterously to starboard to free the painter of his tender from collision with the fisherman, Captain Hap gave utterance to but two words. These were, “ Short chops ! ”
“ Quite a sea, yes ! ” called Bayard cheerily.
Captain Hap scanned the keel boat, the passenger, and the dory in tow, with discrimination.
“ Lady shipwrecked ? ” he yelled, after some reflection.
“ No, sir,” answered Helen, smiling in spite of herself; “ captured by pirates.”
“ Teach ye bet-ter ! ” howled Captain Hap. “ Had n’t oughter set out in short cho-ops ! Had n’t oughter set out in a craft like that nohow! They palm off them eggshells on boarders for bo-o-oats! ”
Helen laughed outright; her eyes met Bayard’s merrily, and, if he had dared to think so, rather humbly.
“ I was very angry with you.” she said.
“ I can’t help that,” replied Bayard. “ Your father and mother were very anxious about you.”
“ Really ? ”
“ Naturally. I was a chartered pirate, at any rate.”
“ But I was in no sort of danger, you know. You ’ve made a great fuss over nothing.”
“ Take these oars,” observed Bayard. “ Just let me see you row back to the float.”
Helen took the oars, and pulled a few strokes strongly enough. The veins stood out on her soft forehead, and her breath came hard.
“ I had no idea the tide was so strong to-night. The wind seems to be the wrong way, too.” she panted.
“ It was blowing you straight out to sea.” remarked Bayard quietly. “ Shall I take the oars ? ”
She pulled on doggedly for a few moments. Suddenly she flung them down.
“ Why, we are not making any headway at all! We are twisting about, and — going out again.”
“ It is that heavy dory! You can’t expect me to row two boats at once.”
“ The dory does make some difference, but very little. See, she does n’t draw a teaspoonful of water. Shall I take the oars? ”
“ If you please,” said Helen meekly.
She gave them up without looking at him, and she was a trifle pale from her exertion. Her hat was off, and the wind made rich havoc of her bright hair. She was splashed with spray, and her boatingdress was quite wet. Bayard watched her. The sun dropped, and the color on the harbor began to fade.
“ I suppose you came for the report ? ” she asked abruptly. “ I stayed in all the afternoon. I could n’t be expected to wait indefinitely, you know ! ”
“ I could not possibly set the hour. I am much overworked. I should beg your pardon, said Bayard in his gentlest way.
“ You are overworked,” answered Helen in her candid voice. “ And I am an idle, useless woman. It would n’t have hurt me a bit to wait your leisure. But I ’m not — you see . . . I ’m not used to it.”
“ I must remind you again that I no longer move in good society,” said Bayard, looking straight at her. “ You must extend to me as much tolerance as you do to other workingmen.”
“ Yes,”returned Helen ; “ we always wait a week for a carpenter, and ten days for the plumbers. Anyhow, Johnny’s mother is in the Widows’ Home. She’s as snug as a clam in a shell. She says she won’t run away again till I’ve been to see her.”
” How in the world did you manage ? ” asked Bayard admiringly.
“ Oh ? I don’t just know,” replied Helen, clasping her hands behind her head. “ I made myself lovely — that’s all.”
“ That might be enough, I should fancy,”ventured the young man under his breath.
“ I took her shopping,” said Helen.
“ Took her shopping ! ”
Why, yes. She wanted to buy some mourning. She said Johnny’s father had been dead so long, her black was all worn out. She wanted fresh crape. So I took her round the stores and got her some.”
“ Bought her crape ? ”
” Yes I got her a crape veil — oh, and a bonnet. She’s the happiest mourner you ever saw. She went back to the Widows’ Home like a spring lamb. She wore a chocolate calico dress with red spots on it, and this crape veil. You can’t think how she looked ! But she’s perfectly contented. She ’ll stay awhile now. She says they would n’t give her any mourning at the Home. She said that was all she had ‘ ag’in’ ’em.’ ”
“ Oh, these widows ! ” groaned Bayard. “ We got two starving women in there by the hardest work, last spring, and one left in a week. She said it was too lonesome; she wanted to live with folks. The other one said it ‘ depressed ’ her. A Windover widow is a problem in sociology.”
“ Johnny’s mother is the other kind of woman ; I can see that,” replied Helen. “ She sits by herself, and puts her face in her hands. She does n’t even cry. But she takes it out in crape. You can’t think how happy she is in that veil.”
“ Your political economy is horrible,” laughed Bayard, “ but your heart is as warm as ” —
“ I saw Mari and Joey,” interrupted Helen, “and Job Slip. I stayed two hours. Job was as sober as you are. They invited me to dinner. I suppose they were thankful to be rid of that poor old lady.”
“ Did you stay ? ”
“ Of course I did. We had pork gravy, and potatoes — oh, and fried cunners. I sat beside Joey. I believe that child is as old as She. He’s a reincarnation of some drowned ancestor who went fishing ages ago, and never came back. Did you ever notice his resemblance to a mackerel ? ”
“ I had n’t thought of it in that light. I see now what it was. It takes you to discover it! ”
“ Johnny’s mother looks like a cod, poor thing !” continued Helen. “ I don’t wonder. I should think she would. I ’m sure I should, in her place.”
“ You are incorrigible ! ” said Bayard, laughing in spite of himself. “ And yet — you’ve done a better morning’s work than anybody in Windover has done here for a month ! ”
“ I ’m going to take ten with Johnny’s mother next week,” observed Helen — “ at the Widows’ Home, you know. But I’ve promised to take Joey to the circus first.”
“ You are perfectly refreshing! “ sighed Bayard delightedly.
“ Mr. Bayard,” said Helen, with a change of manner as marked yet as subtle as the motion of the wave that fell, to make way for the next, against the bobbing bows of the empty dory, “ I had a long talk with Job Slip.”
“ You say you found him sober ? ”
“ As sober as a Cesarea trustee. But the way that man feels to you is something you have n’t an idea of. I thought of that verse, you know, about love ‘ passing the love of women.’ It is infatuation. It is worship. It is enough to choke you. Why, I cried when I heard him talk! And I don’t cry, you know, very often. And I’m not ashamed to own it, either. It made me feel ashamed to be alive — in such a world — why, Mr. Bayard ! ” — Helen unclasped her hands from the back of her head, and thrust them out towards him, as if they were an argument — “ why, I thought this earth was a pleasant place ! I thought life was a delightful thing ! . . . If the rest of it is like this town — Windover is a world of woe, and you are one of the sons of God to these unhappy people!”
She said this solemnly, more solemnly than he had ever heard her say anything before. He laid down his oars, and took off his hat. He could not answer, and he did not try.
She saw how much moved he was, and she made a little gesture, as if she tossed away something that weighed heavily.
“ You see,” she interposed, “I’ve never done this kind of thing. I’m not a good Professor’s daughter. I did n’t like it. I went through an attack of the missionary spirit when I was fifteen, and had a Sunday - school class — ten big boys : all red, and eight of them freckled. We were naming classes one Sunday, and my boys whistled Yankee Doodle when the superintendent prayed, and then asked if they might be called the lilies of the valley. I told them they were n’t fit to be called red sorrel. So after that I gave them up. I’ve never tried it since. I’m of no more use in the world — in this awful world — than the artificial pansies on my hat.”
Helen picked up her straw hat from the bottom of the boat, and tied it on her head, with a little sound that was neither a laugh nor a sigh.
It was growing dark fast. They were nearly at the float now. Bayard laid down his oars. The head-lights were leaping out all over the harbor. The wind had gone down with the sun. Boats crept in like tired people, through the sudden calm, to anchor for the night. The evening steamer came in from the city, and the long waves of her wake rolled up on the beach and tossed the little boats. The sea drew a few long, deep breaths.
“ The trouble with me, you see,” said Helen, “ is just what I told you. I am not spiritual.”
“ You are something better — you are altogether womanly ! ” said the young preacher quickly.
He seized his oars, and rowed in, as if they were shipwrecked. The old clam-digger was hauling his lobster-pots straight across their course. As Bayard veered to avoid him, the man could be heard singing : —
The child ’s at the door,
The man’s at the wheel.
Fog at the back,
Death at the keel.
Which shall it he ? ”
He stopped when he saw the lady in the boat. It was now quite dark. Bayard and Helen were the last people to land at the float. He gave her his hand in silence. She stood by, while he helped the keeper of the float up with the two boats. He coughed a little as he did so, and she said, rather sharply, “ Tim ! you should keep two men here, to do that work.”
Tim apologized, grumbling, and the two walked on up the pier together, still alone. At the door of the cottage, she asked him, somewhat timidly, if he would come in. But he excused himself, and hurried away.
When he found himself far from the hotel, and well on the way to his lodgings, Bayard drew the long breath of a man who is escaping danger. He experienced a kind of ecstatic terror. He thought of her — he thought of her till he could think no more, but fell into an ocean of feeling, tossing and deep. It seemed to have no soundings. He drowned himself in it with a perilous delight.
What would a lonely fate be, if a woman capable of understanding the highest and serving it, capacious for tenderness and yielding it, a woman warm, human, sweet, and as true as one’s belief in her, should pour the precious current of her love into a long life’s work ? Why, a man would be a god ! He would climb the inaccessible. He would achieve the undreamed and the unknown. He would not know where consecration ended, and where heaven began.
“ He would be a freer man than I am,” thought Bayard, as he passed, between the larkspurs and the feverfew, up Mrs. Granite’s garden.
Mrs. Granite met him at the door : she held a kerosene lamp high in one hand; with the other she handed him a soiled and crumpled bit of paper.
“ A boy left it here, sir, not ten minutes ago, and he said you was to read it as soon as you came home. I don’t know the boy. I never saw him before, but it seemed to be something quite partikkelar.”
Bayard Held the message to the lamp, and read: —
A pore man in distres would take it kindly of the minester to mete him as sune as possibel to-nite to Ragged Rock, i am a miserbul Drunkhard and i want to Knock Off. i heer when folks talk with you they stop Drinkin. i wish youde talk to me so I would stop
Yours JACK HADDOCK.
Bayard re-read this message thoughtfully. He could hardly have told why it perplexed him. Up and down the shores and streets of Windover no cry of misery or of guilt had ever yet lifted itself to him in vain. Such appeals were common enough. Often it would happen that a stranger would stop him in the street, and use much the same naïve language: “ I hear when you talk to folks they stop drinking. I wish you ’d talk to me.” Contrary to his custom in such matters, he showed this slip of paper to Mrs. Granite.
“ Mr. Bayard, sir,” she said, with that prompt feminine fear which sometimes takes the place of reliable good sense, “ don’t you go a step ! ”
Bayard did not reply. He turned away musing, and paced up and down between the garden flowers. True, the place was lonely, and the hour late. But the vagaries of disgraced men are many, and nothing was more possible than that some fisherman, not wholly sober and not half drunk, should take it into his befuddled brain that an interview with the minister, located at a safe distance from nagging wife, crying child, or jeering messmate, or, let us say, far removed from the jaws of Trawl’s door, could work the magic or the miracle for which the morally defective are always waiting.
“ I see no reason why I should not comply with this request,” he said decidedly.
Mr. Bayard, sir,” urged Mrs. Granite, “ it’s a thing I don’t like to be her who tells you, but it ’s time somebody did. There’s them in this town would n’t stop at nothing, they have that feeling to you.”
“ To me ? ” cried Bayard, opening his hazel eyes as wide as a child’s.
“ Rum done it,” stammered Mrs, Granite, instinctively using the three familiar words which most concisely covered the ground. “ It’s your temperance principles. They ain’t pop’lar. They affect your standing in this community.”
This was the accepted phrase in Windover for all such cases made and provided. It was understood to contain the acme of personal peril or disgrace. To talk to a man about “ your standing in this community” was equivalent to an insult or a scandal. Poor Mrs. Granite, an affectionate and helpless parrot, reëchoed this terrible language, and trembled. She felt as if she had said to the minister, Your social ruin is complete for all time, throughout the civilized world.
“ Not that it makes any difference to us,” sobbed Mrs. Granite ; “ we set just as much by you. But your standing is affected in this community. There ’s them that hates you, sir, more shame to ’em, more ’n the Old Boy himself. Mr. Bayard, Mr. Bayard, don’t you go to Ragged Rock alone, sir, this time o’ night, to meet no tom-fool of a drunkard anxious about his soul. He don’t own such a thing to his name ! All he ’s got is a rum-soaked sponge he s mopped up whiskey with all his born days ! ”
“ Your drinks, if not your metaphors, are getting a little mixed, dear Mrs. Granite.” laughed Bayard.
“ Sir ? ” said Mrs. Granite.
“ But still, I must say, there is some sense in your view of the case — Ah, here’s Jane, and Ben with her. We ’ll put the case to — No. I have it. Mrs. Granite, to please you, I will take Ben Trawl along with me. Will that set you at rest ? — Here, Trawl. Just read this message, will you ? Something about it looks a little queer, and Mrs. Granite is so kind as to worry about me. What do you make of it ? ”
“ Oh, you’ve got home so soon, have you? ” said Trawl rather sullenly.
In the evening his eyebrows met more heavily than ever across his forehead ; they looked as if they bail been corked for some ugly masquerade. He glanced from under them, coldly, at the minister, read the note, and was about to tear it into strips.
“ I ’ll take it, thank you,” interposed Bayard quietly, holding out his hand.
“ Mr. Bayard,” said Jane, who had not spoken before. “ I hope you will pay no attention to this message.”
She spoke in a voice so low as to be almost inarticulate.
“ Oh, I ’ll go with him. if he ’s afraid,” said Trawl, with that accent which falls just so far short of a sneer that a man may not decently notice it.
“ I incline to think it is wise to take a witness to this adventure,” replied Bayard serenely. “ But I need not trouble you, Mr. Trawl. Pray don’t exert yourself to oblige me.”
“ It’s no exertion.” said Ben, with a change of tone. “ Come along! ”
He strode out into the street, and Bayard, after a moment’s hesitation, did the same, shutting the garden gate behind him. Jane Granite opened it, and followed them for a little way : she seemed perplexed and distressed ; she did not speak, but trotted silently, like a dog, in the dark.
“ Go back ! ” said Trawl, stopping short.
The girl slunk against a fence, and stopped.
“ Go back, I say ! ” cried Trawl.
“ It is natural that she should want to come. She feels anxious about you,” observed Bayard kindly.
“ Go back to your mother, and stay there ! commanded Trawl, stamping his foot.
Jane turned and obeyed, and vanished.
The two men walked on in silence. They came quickly through the village and down the Point, turning thence to cross the downs that raised their round shoulders, an irregular gray outline against the sky. Bayard glanced back. It looked black and desolate enough ahead of him. Below and behind him the life of the summer-seekers stirred softly, like the figures in a gay game or an old-fashioned walking-dance. The hotels blazed cheerfully ; the piazzas were full and merry ; in the parlors people were playing and singing. He could not see the lights of the Flying Jib from where he stood ; this disappointed him, and he walked on. The music from the Mainsail piano followed him. There was a parlor concert — a woman’s voice — a soprano solo — ah ! the great serenade !
The strain seemed to chase him, like a cry, like an entreaty, almost like a sob. Bayard’s heart leaped, as if soft arms had been thrown around him. He stopped and listened, till the song had ceased.
“ That is good music,” he said aloud, not knowing what he said, but oppressed by the dogged silence which his escort maintained.
“ Good enough,” replied Ben roughly.
The two walked on, and neither said anything more. It was now quite dark and still around them. The rough, broken surface of the rocky downs made traveling difficult; but both men were familiar with the way, and lost no time upon it. The sky was cloudy, and the sea was dark. The ebbing tide met the deserted beach with a sigh. The head-lights in the harbor looked far off, and of the town not a glimmer could be seen. Ben strode on in sullen silence. Bayard watched him with some discomfort, but nothing like a sensation of fear had yet reached his nerves.
“ This fellow chose a lonely place for a pastoral visit, he observed at last, as they approached the little beach made memorable by the wreck of the Clara Em.
“ Wanted to stump you,” said Ben, with an unpleasant laugh. “ Wanted to dare you, you know — to see if you’d show game. It’s a way they have, these toughs who meddle with parsons. They like to make out a big story, and tell it round the saloons. Probably the whole thing’s a put-up job.”
“ That is more than possible, of course. But I ’d rather investigate three put-up jobs than neglect one real need of one miserable man. That is my business, you see, Ben. Yours is to ruin people. Mine is to save them. We each attend to our own affairs — that’s all.”
“D— you !” cried Ben, suddenly facing about. “ That’s just it! You don’t attend to your own affairs ! You meddle with mine, and that’s what’s the matter ! I ’ll teach you to mind your own business ! ”
Before Bayard could cry out or move, he felt the other’s hands at his throat.
Bayard stood so still — with the composure of a man not without athletic training, determined to waste no strength in useless struggle — that Trawl instinctively loosened his clutch. Was the minister strangling ? This was not Ben’s immediate purpose. His fingers relaxed.
“ Ah,” said Bayard quietly, “ so you are Jack Haddock.”
“ I wrote that note. You might have known it if you had n’t been a — fool.”
“ I might have known it — yes; I see. But I took you for a decent, fellow. I could n’t be expected to suspect you were — what you are. Well, Mr. Trawl, perhaps you will explain your business with me in some less uncomfortable manner.”
He shook Ben off with a strong thrust, and folded his arms.
“ Come,” he said. “ Out with it! ”
“ My game’s up,” replied Ben between his teeth. “ I can’t do what I set out to, now. There’s too many witnesses in the ease.”
“ You meant to push me off Ragged Rock, perhaps ? ” asked Bayard quietly. “ I had n’t thought of that. But I see — it would not have been difficult. A man can be taken unawares in the dark, and, as you say, there would have been no witnesses.”
“ You come home too soon,” growled Ben. “ I counted on getting away and bein’ here to welcome you, and nobody the wiser ; d— them two women ! I supposed you’d stay awhile with your girl. A man would, in our kind of folks. Lord ! you don’t seem to belong to any kind of folks that I can see. I don’t know what to make of you. — you ! — you ! — you ! I ’d like to see you go yellin’ and bub-ble-in’ down to your drownin’ ! I’m heavier ’n you be, come to the tug. I could do it now, inside of ten minutes.”
“ And hang for it in ten months,” observed Bayard, smiling.
“ I could get a dozen men to swear to an alibi ! ” cried Trawl. “ You ain’t so popular in this town as to make that a hard job. You’ve got the whole liquor interest ag’in’ you. Lord ! the churches would back ’em, too — that’s the joke of it! ” He laughed savagely.
Bayard made no reply. He had winced in the dark at the words. They were worse than the grip at his throat.
“ When you get ready, Ben, suppose you explain what you have against me ? he suggested, after an uncomfortable pause.
“ You’ve took my girl ! ” roared Ben.
“ Your girl ? Your girl ? ”
Bayard gasped, from the sheer intellectual shock of the idea.
“ You’ve made love to her, behind my back! You’ve turned her head ! She ain’t no eyes left in her for anybody but you, — you ! And I ’ve be’n keepin’ company with her for four years. You’ve got my girl away from me, and you’d oughter drown for it. Drownin’ ’s too good for you ! ”
“ Look here, Ben, are you drunk ? ”
“ We don’t drink — me nor my father. And you know it. We ain’t such — fools ! ”
“ It is a waste of the English language to add,” remarked the preacher, with an accession of his natural dignity, which was not without its effect upon Ben Trawl, “ that I have never regarded Miss Granite — for a moment — in the extraordinary light which you suggest. It seems to me unnecessary to point out to you the unnaturalness — I may be frank, and say the impossibility — of such a supposition.”
“ — you ! ” raved Ben, “ ain’t she good enough for you, then ? ”
“ Ben Trawl,” said the minister imperiously. “ this nonsense has gone far enough. If you have nothing more reasonable to say to me, we may as well stop talking, for I ’m going home. If you have. I ’ll stay and hear it out.
Bayard calmly seated himself upon the base of Ragged Rock, and took off his hat.
“ What a warm, pleasant night it is !" he said, in a tone so changed that Ben Trawl stared.
“ Plucky, anyhow,” thought Ben ; but he said, “ I ain’t got half through yet. I’ve got another score agin’ you. You ’ve took the girl, and now you ’re takin’ the business.”
“ Ah,” returned the preacher, “ that’s another matter.”
“ You own up to it, do you — you ! ”
“ Assuredly,” answered Bayard. “ I am doing my best to ruin your business. It is a pleasure to hear you admit it. It has gone further than I supposed.”
“ It has gone further ’n you suppose,” echoed Ben malignantly, “ and it will go further ’n you suppose ! Me and Father have stood it long enough. There ’s them that backs us that you never give one of your — holy thoughts to. I give you warning on the spot, Mr. Bayard. You stop just where you be. Meddle with our business one inch further, and you ’ll hear from the whole liquor interest of Windover. We ’ll blow you into eternity if you don’t let us alone.”
“ I should count that,” replied Bayard gently, “ the greatest honor of my life.”
“ Anyhow,” said Ben in a calmer tone, “ if you don’t let our business be, we ’ll ruin yourn.”
“ That is quite possible ; but it won’t be without a big tussle.”
“ You don’t believe me,” sneered Ben ; “ you think we ain’t up to it.”
“ Do you suppose, Ben,” asked the preacher quietly, “ that an educated man would deliberately choose the course that I have chosen to pursue in this town without informing himself on all branches of the subject that he is handling ? Do you suppose I don’t know what the liquor interest is capable of when attacked by Christian temperance ? There has n’t been an outrage, a persecution, a crime — no, not a murder committed in the name of rum and the devil against the cause of decency and sobriety in this country for years, that I haven’t traced its history out and kept the record of it. Come up to my study and see the correspondence and clippings I have collected on this matter. There are two shelves full, Ben.”
“ Lord !" said Ben. His jaw dropped a little. He felt the inferiority of the ignorant man before education, the weakness of moral debility before moral vigor. He turned and took a few steps towards the town. The minister followed him amiably, and the two strode on in silence.
“ He don’t scare worth a cent,” thought Ben. Aloud he said, “ So you ’re goin’ to fight us, be you ? ”
“ Till I die,” answered Bayard solemnly; “ and if I die !”
“ You won’t take no warnin’, then ? ” asked Ben, with a puzzled air.
“ Neither from you, Ben, nor from any other man.”
“ The worse for you, then ! ” returned Ben in an ugly tone.
“I ’ll risk it, replied Bayard serenely.
“ There’s them that says you ’re goin’ to fight it out at the polls,” said Ben, more sullenly now than savagely. “ Folks says you ’re goin’ to get away Father’s license.”
“ I had n’t thought of it till this minute. But it would be a good idea.”
Ben made an inarticulate noise in his throat. Bayard instinctively thrust out his elbow ; he thought for the moment that Ben would spring upon him out of sheer rage. They were out on the open downs now ; but still only the witness of the sky and sea and rocks remained to help him.
“ Look here, “ said Ben, suddenly stopping. “ Are you going to tell of me ?”
“ That you were so uncivil as to put your hands on my throat, Ben? I have n’t decided.”
“ Not that I care a — ! ” muttered Ben. “ But Jane ” —
“ I shall never mention any circumstance of this — rather unpleasant evening— which would bring Miss Granite’s name into publicity, “ answered Bayard quickly. “ She is a good, modest girl. She should be sheltered and cared for. You might better toss a woman off Ragged Rock — as you intended to do by me — than to turn the gossip of Windover loose upon her.”
“ It is a hell of a town, if you come to that,” said Ben, with calm conviction.
“ She is much too good for you, Ben Trawl, “ remarked Bayard quite politely, as if he were offering the other a glass of lemonade.
“ Lord ! ” groaned Ben, writhing under the minister’s manner. “ Don’t you suppose that’s the worst on’t ? ”
“ I think I ’ll cut across here towards the hotel,” observed Bayard pleasantly. “ We seem to have talked out, for this time. Good-night, Ben.”
“ Say,” said Ben, “ why don’t you spout temperance to me? Why ain’t you talked religion ? Why ain’t you set out to convert me ? I give you chance enough ! ”
“ You are an intelligent man,” replied the preacher; “ you know what you are about. I don’t waste sacred powder on useless shot.”
“ Queer Dick, you,” mused Ben. “ It’s just as I said : you don’t belong to any kind of folks I ever see before. I can’t make you out.”
“ Next time you want to murder me, Ben,” called the minister cheerily, “ don’t try anonymous traps! Show up like a man, and have it out in the open air! ”
He walked on towards the beach. Ben watched him for a perplexed and sullen moment, then took his course thoughtfully in the direction of the town.
When the two men had disappeared from the dark map of the downs, a woman’s figure swiftly and quietly crossed it. Jane Granite had followed the minister like the spaniel that she was, and, hidden in the shadows of Ragged Rock, thinking to save him, God knew how, from Heaven knew what fate, had overheard the interview from beginning to end.
Elizabeth Stuart Phelps.