A Singular Life


A FIERY July was followed by a scorching August. There was a long drought, and simooms of fine, irritating dust. The gasping town and inland country flocked to the coast in more than the usual force. The hotels brimmed over. Even Windover fanned herself, and lay in hammocks lazily, watching for the two-o’clock east wind to stir the topsails of the schooners trying, under full canvas, to crawl around the Point. In Angel Alley the heat was something unprecedented ; and the devil shook hands with discomfort, as he is fain to, and made new comrades.

Bayard was heavily overworked. He gave himself few pleasures, after the fashion of the man ; and the summer people at the Point knew him not. He was not of them, nor of their world. Afterwards, he recalled, with a kind of pain lacking little of anguish, how few in number had been his evenings in the cool parlor of the cottage, where the lace curtains blew in and out through the purple twilight, or on the impearled harbor, in the dory, when the sun went down, and he drifted with her between earth and heaven, between light and reflection, in a glamour of color, in alternations of quiet, dangerous talk and of more dangerous silence; brief, stolen hours, when duty seemed a dimming dream, and human joy the only reality, the sole value, the decreed and eternal end of life. Upon this rare and scanty substitute for happiness he fed, and from it he fled.

Between his devotions and his desertions the woman stood mute and inscrutable. And while they still moved apart, saying, "The summer is before us, “ lo, the petals of the Cape roses had flown on the hot winds, the goldenrod was lifting its sword of flame on the undulating gray downs, and the summer was spent.

Yet, at every march and countermarch in the drill of duty, he was aware of her. It could not be said that she ever overstepped the invisible line which he had elected to draw between them, though it might be said that she had the fine pride which did not seem to see it. Helen had the quiet maidenly reserve of an elder and more delicate day than ours. To throw her young enthusiasm into his work without obtruding herself upon his attention was a difficult procedure, for which she had at once the decorum and the wit.

At unexpected crises and in unthoughtof ways he came upon her footprints or her sleight of hand. Helen’s methods were purely her own. She followed neither law nor gospel; no rules nor precedents controlled her. She relieved what suffering she chose, and omitted where she did elect; and he was sometimes astonished at the common sense of her apparent willfulness. She had no more training in sociological problems than the goldenrod upon the bosom of her white gown ; yet she seldom made an important mistake. In a word, this summer girl, playing at charity for a season’s amusement, poured a refreshing amount of novelty, vigor, ingenuity, and feminine defiance of routine into the labors of the lonely man. His too serious and anxious people found her as diverting as a pretty parlor play. A laugh ran around like a light flame whenever she came upon the sombre scene. She took a bevy of idle girls with her, and gave entertainments on which Angel Alley hung, a breathless and admiring crowd. She played, she sang, she read, she decorated. Pictures sprang on barren walls ; books stood on empty shelves ; games crowded the smoking-room ; a piano replaced the painstaking melodeon ; life and light leaped where she trod, into the poor and unpopular place. The people took to her one of the strong, loyal fancies of the coast. Unsuspected by her, or by Bayard himself, she began, even then, to be known among them as "the minister’s girl.” But this hurt nobody, neither herself nor him, and their deference to her never defaulted. In the indulgence of that summer’s serious mood, Helen seldom met — he was forced to suspect that she purposely avoided — the preacher. Often he entered a laughing home from which she had just vanished. Sometimes — but less often — he found that she had preceded him where death and trouble were. Their personal interviews were rare, and of her seeking, never.

“ She is amusing herself with a novelty,”he thought. Then came the swift, unbidden question, If this is her beautiful whim, what would her dedication be ? Since to play at helping a man’s work, though at the tip of the sceptre by which he held her back, meant sense and sympathy, fervor and courage like this, what would it be to the great and solemn purpose of his life if she shared it, crowned queen ?

It was an August evening, sultry and smoky. Forest fires had been burning for a week on the wooded side of the harbor, and the air was thick. It was Sunday, and the streets and wharves and beaches of Windover surged with vacuous eyes and irritable passions. The lockups were full, the saloons overflowed. The ribald song and excessive oath of the coast swept up and down like air currents. There had been several accidents and some fights. Rum ran in streams. It was one of the stifling evenings when the most decent tenement retains only the sick or the helpless, and when the occupants of questionable sailors’ hoardinghouses and nameless dens crawl out like vermin fleeing from fire. It was one of the nights when the souls of women go to perdition, and when men do not argue with their vices. It was one of the nights when ease and cool, luxury and delicacy, forget the gehenna that they escape, and when only the strong few remember the weakness of the many.

Upon the long beach of fine white sand which spanned the space between the docks and the cliffs of the wooded coast, there gathered that evening a large and unusual crowd. Angel Alley was there en masse. The wharves poured out a mighty delegation. Dories put out from anchored vessels whose prows nodded in the inner harbor, and their crews swarmed to the beach in schools, like fish to a net.

A few citizens of another sort, moved, one might say, by curiosity, innocent or malicious, joined themselves to the fishermen and sailors. Their numbers were increased by certain of the summer people from the Point, drawn from their piazzas and their hammocks by rumors of a sensation. An out-of-door service, said to be the first of its kind conducted by the remarkable young preacher of such excellent family and such eccentric career, was not without its attractions even on the hottest evening of the season. There might have been easily eight hundred or a thousand people facing the light temporary desk, or table, which had been erected at the head of the beach for the speaker’s use.

The hour was early, and it would have been very light but for the smoke in the air, through which the sun hung, quivering and sinister, with the malevolent blood-red color of drought and blasting heat.

“ Statira,” in a low tone said the puzzled voice of the Professor of Theology,

“ this is — I must say — really, a most extraordinary gathering. It quite impresses me.”

“ I have read something somewhere it reminds me of,”mused Mrs. Carruth, with a knot between her placid brows.

“ Where was it, Haggai ? — Helen ! Helen ! What have I read that is like this ? I can’t think whether it is George Eliot, or Fox’s Book of Martyrs. Perhaps it is the Memoirs of Whitefield; but certainly ” —

“ Possibly,” suggested Helen, “ it may have been the New Testament.”

“ That’s it! You have it! ” cried Mrs. Carruth, with mild relief. “ That’s the very thing. How extraordinary! It is the New Testament I have got into my head.”

The Professor of Theology changed color slightly, but he made no answer to his wife. He was absorbed in watching the scene before him. There were many women in the crowd, but men predominated in proportion significant to the eye familiar with the painfully feminine character of New England religious audiences. Of these men, four fifths were toilers of the sea, red of face, uncertain of step, rough of hand, keen of eye, and open of heart, —

“ Fearing no God but wind and wet.”

The scent of bad liquor was strong upon the heavy, windless air ; oaths rippled to and fro as easily as the waves upon the beach, and (it seemed) quite as much according to the laws of nature. Yet the men bore a decent look of personal respect for the situation. All wore their best clothes, and most were clean for the occasion. They chatted among themselves freely, paying small heed to the presence of strangers, these being regarded as inferior aliens who did not know how to man a boat in a gale.

The fisherman’s sense of his own superior position is, in any event, something delightful. In this case there was added the special aristocracy recognized in Angel Alley as belonging to Bayard’s people. Right under the ears of the Professor of Theology uprose these awful words : —

“ D—them swells ! He don’t care a—for them. We get along up to Christlove without ’em, don’t we Bob ? The parson’s ourn, anyhow. He can’t be bothered with the likes o’ them.”

“ Look a’ Job Slip yonder ! See the face of him, shaved like a dude. That’s him a-passin’ round hymn-books. Who’d believe it ? Job ! Why, he ain’t teched a7emdash;drop sence he swore off ! Look a’ that young one of his taggin’ to his finger ! That’s his wife, that bleachedout creetur in a new bunnet. See the look of her now ! ”

“ It’s a way women have — lookin’ like that when a man swears off,” replied a young felloAV, wriggling uncomfortably. "It kinder puts my eyes out — like it was a lamp turned up too high.” He winked hard and turned away.

“ Ben Trawl! Hello, Trawl ! You here ? So fond of the minister as this ? ” “ I like to keep my eye on him,” replied Ben Trawl grimly.

Captain Hap, distributing camp-chairs for the women of the audience, turned and eyed Ben over his shoulder. The Captain’s small, keen eyes held the dignity and the scorn of age and character.

“ Shut up there ! ” he said authoritatively. “ The minister’s comin’. Trot back to your grog-shop, Ben. This ain’t no place for Judases, nor yet for rummies.”

“ Gorry ! ” laughed a young skipper, “ he ain’t got customers enough to okkepy him. They ’re all here.”

NOw there sifted through the crowd an eager, affectionate whisper.

“ There ! There’s the preacher. Look that way —see ? That tall, thin fellar — him with the eyes.”

“ That’s him ! That ’s him — that long-sparred fellar. Three cheers for him ! ” shouted the mate of a collier, flinging up his hat.

A billow of applause started along the beach. Then a woman’s voice called out, “ Boys, he don’t like it! ” and the wave of sound dropped as suddenly as it rose. “ He comes ! ” cried an Italian.

“ So he does, Tony, so he does ! ” echoed the woman. “ God bless him ! ”

“ He comes,” repeated Tony. “ Hush you, boys — the Christman comes ! ”

The Professor of Theology pressed the tips of his scholarly fingers upon his aging eyes. It was some moments before he commanded himself and looked up.

Bayard stood bareheaded in the color of the red sun. He was pale, notwithstanding the warmth of the evening, and had a look so worn that those who loved him most felt unspoken fear like the grip of a hand at their hearts. The transparence, the delicacy of his appearance — bathed in the scarlet of the murky sunset as he was — gave him an aspect half unreal. He seemed for the moment to be a beautiful phantom rising from a mist of blood. A hush, half of reverence, half of awe, fell upon all the people ; it grew so still that the lazy breath of the shallow wave at that moment spent upon the beach could be heard stirring through the calm.

Suddenly, and before the preacher had spoken any word, the impressive silence was marred by a rude sound. It was a girl’s coarse laugh.

Then there was seen upon the beach, and quite apart from the throng, a little group of nameless women, standing with their backs to the sacred scene. Some one — Job Slip, perhaps, or Captain Hap — started with an exclamation of horror to suppress the disturbance, when the preacher’s lifted hand withstood him. To the consternation of his church officers, and to the astonishment of his audience, Bayard deliberately left the desk, and, passing through the throng, which respectfully divided before him to left and right, himself approached the women.

“Lena! . . . Magdalena!”

He said but that word. The girl looked up — and down. She felt as if an archangel from the heavens, commissioned with the rebuke of God, had smitten her with something far more terrible — the mercy of man.

“ You disturb us, Lena,” said the preacher gently. “ Come.”

She followed him, and the girls behind her. They hung their heads. Lena scrawled she knew not what with the tip of her gaudy parasol upon the beach. Her heavy eyes traced the little pebbles in the sand. For her life, she thought, she could not have lifted her smarting lids. Till that moment, perhaps, Lena had never known what shame meant. It overwhelmed her, like the deluge which one dreams may foretell the end of the world.

The street girls followed the preacher silently. He conducted them through the throng, and seated them quite near the desk, or table, which served him as a pulpit. Some of his people frowned. The girls looked abashed at this courtesy.

Bayard ignored both evidences of attention to his unexpected act, passing it by as a matter of course, and without further delay made signs to his singers, and the service began.

Was it magic or miracle? Was it holiness or eloquence ? Did he speak with the tongue of man or of angel ? Where was the secret ? What was the charm ? Not a man or woman of them could have answered, but not a soul of them could have gainsaid the power of the preacher, the Professor of Theology least of all. This learned man stood the service out, upon the beach, behind the camp-chairs of his wife and daughter, and knew neither fatigue nor the critical faculty till the beautiful service drew to its end.

Bayard’s manner was quiet, finished, and persuasive ; it must have appealed to the most fastidious oratorical taste ; any instructor in homiletics might have seen in it a remarkable illustration of the power of consecrated education over ignorance and vice. But Bayard’s thought threw off ecclesiastical form as naturally as the gulls, arising from the harbor in the reddening sunset, tossed off the spray from their wings. No class of men are more responsive to originality than seagoing men. Of the humdrum, the commonplace, they will naught. Cant they scorn, and at religious snobbery they laugh.

It would be difficult to say what it was in Emanuel Bayard that most attracted them : whether his sincerity or his intellect, his spirituality or his manliness, or that mystical charm which conies not of striving, or of prayer, or of education — the power of an elect personality. Perhaps it would be nearer the truth to say that the fishermen loved him because he loved them. The idea is older than the time of this biography, but it will bear repeating.

The red sun dipped, and the hot night cooled. Dusk purpled on the breathless water and on the long beach. A thousand restless people grew as gentle as one. The outlines of the preacher’s form softened into the surrounding shadow ; the features of his high face melted and wavered. Only his appealing voice remained distinct. It seemed to be the cry of a spirit more than the eloquence of a man. It pleaded as no man pleads who has not forgotten himself, as no man can plead who is not remembered of God. Fishermen stood with one foot on the beach, and one on their stranded dories, like men afraid to stir. Rude, uncomfortable men in the heart of the crowd thrust their heads forward with breath held in, as still as figureheads upon wrecks. The uplifted eyes of the throng took on an expression of awe. It grew dimmer, and almost dark. And then, when no one could see the pathos of his face, they knew that he was praying for their souls. Some of the men fell upon their knees ; but the heads of others got no further than their guilty breasts, where they hung like children’s. The sound of stifled sobbing mingled with the sigh of the waves.

The unseen singers, breathing upon the last words of the prayer, chanted a solemn benediction. The tide was rising slowly, and the eternal Amen of the sea responded. Suddenly a lantern flashed — and another — and light and motion broke upon the scene.

Rough men looked into one another’s wet faces, and were not ashamed. But some held their hats before their eyes. The girls in the front chairs moved away quietly, speaking to no person. But Lena separated herself from them, and disappeared in the dark. Job Slip had not arisen from his knees, and Mari, his wife, knelt by him. The woman’s expression was something touching to see, and impossible to forget. Captain Hap held a lantern up, and Bayard’s face shone out, rapt and pale.

“ Behold the Christman ! ” said the Italian, repeating his favorite phrase in a reverent whisper.

The Professor of Theology heard it again ; and repetition did not weaken its effect upon the orthodox scholar. He removed his hat from his gray head. His wife held her delicate handkerchief to her eyes. Helen, struggling with herself, was pale with emotion. The Professor tried to speak.

“ It is not,” he said, “ precisely a doctrinal discourse, and his theology ” —

The Professor checked himself. “ It is written,” he said, “ that the common people heard HIM gladly. And it must be admitted that our dear young friend, his servant, seems to command that which — men older and —sounder than he would give their lives — and fame — to ” —

But there he choked, and tried to say no more.

There ought to have been a moon that night, and the electric jets at the crest of the beach had not been lighted. By the special request of the preacher, or by the forethought of the police, in view, perhaps, of the unusual size of the crowd, the lights now sprang out.

The throng dispersed slowly. The dark sea formed a solemn background to the mass of quietly moving figures. The fishermen, with one foot on their dories, leaped in, and pushed off; scattered crews gathered gently, and rowed soberly back to their schooners. Groups collected around the preacher, waiting their turns for a word from his lips or a touch from his hand. It was evident that he was very tired, but lie refused himself to no one.

The summer people walked away softly. They passed through Angel Alley on their way to take the electric car. They looked up thoughtfully at the illuminated words swinging over their heads in fire of scarlet and white : —


As she passed by the door of the mission, Helen was recognized by the women and children, who surrounded her affectionately. begging for some little service at her hands. It seemed to lie desired that she should play or sing to them. While she stood, hesitating, between her father and her mother, Bayard himself, with a group of fishermen around him, came up Angel Alley.

“ I will see that she is safely taken home. Professor, if you care to let her stay,” he said. “ We won’t keep her—perhaps half an hour? Will that do? The people like to hear her sing ; it helps to keep them out of the street.”

“ Mr. Bayard will look after her, Haggai,” replied Mrs. Carruth wearily. “ I see no objections, do you? ”

Mrs. Carruth was very tired. Not to give a sober Monday to all the drunkards of Angel Alley would she have felt that she could stay another hour in that mob. She never saw such sights in Cesarea, where charity took a mild, ladylike form, consisting chiefly of missionary barrels, and Dorcas societies for the families of poor students who had no business to have married.

The Professor took her away. He wanted to tell his heretic graduate what he had thought about that service on the beach ; indeed, he made one effort to do so, beginning slowly : —

“ My dear Bayard, your discourse this evening ” —

“To hemdash;with ’em ! ” cried Captain Hap in a thunderous sea-voice, at that moment. “ Mr. Bayard ! Mr. Bayard, sir! Come here! Here’s them two Trawlses a-tryin’ to toll Job Slip into their place ’ Mr. Bayard ! Mr. Bayard! ”

Mr. Bayard held out his hand to the Professor, and, smiling, shook his head. Then he vanished down the alley. He had lingered only to say these words in Helen’s ear: “ Go into the chapel, and stay there till I come for you. Look after Lena, will you ? I want her kept inside. Get her to singing with you, if you can.”

He called back over his shoulder : “ I will bring her home, Mrs. Carruth, in half an hour. I will row her home, myself. I have a boat here.”

Professor Carruth stood for a moment watching the thronged, bright doorway into which his daughter had disappeared. The fishermen and the drunkards, the Windover widows in their crape and calico, the plain, obscure, respectable parishioners, and the girls from the street moved in together beneath the white and scarlet lights. Helen’s voice sounded suddenly through the open windows. She sang: —

“ I need Thee every hour,
Stay Thou near by.”

“ Hello, Bob ! ” said a voice in the street. “ That’s the parson’s hymn.”

Groups of men moved over from the grog-shop to the chapel door. They collected, and increased in numbers. One man struck into the chorus, on a low bass :

“Stay near me, O my Saviour.”

Another voice joined, and another. Up and down the street the men took the music up. From Angel Alley without and Christlove within, the voices of the people met and mingled in “the parson’s hymn.”

The Professor of Theology glanced at the illuminated words above his head.

“ It is growing chilly. I am sure you will take cold,” complained his wife.

With bared gray head the Professor walked out of Angel Alley, and his old wife clung silently to his arm. She felt that this was one of the moments when Mr. Carruth should not be spoken to.

Bayard brought Helen home, as he had promised ; and it was but a little beyond the half of the hour when his dory bumped against the float, he rowed her over the dim harbor with iong, skillful strokes. Helen fancied that they were not as strong as they might have been; he seemed to her almost exhausted. They had exchanged but a few words. Midway of the harbor she had said abruptly, —

“ Mr. Bayard, I cannot keep it to myself ! I must tell you how what you said this evening on the beach — how that service made me feel.”

“ Don’t! ” said Bayard quickly.

Helen shrank back into the stern of the dory; she felt, for the moment, terribly wounded.

“ Forgive me ! ” he pleaded. “ I did n’t feel as if I could bear it — that’s all.”

I am not in the habit of making a fool of myself over ministers,” replied Helen Hotly. “ I never told one I liked his sermon, yet, in all my life. I was going to say — I meant to say — I will say,” she cried, sitting up very straight, “ Mr. Bayard, you are better than I am ; truly, infinitely, solemnly better. I’ve never even tried to be what you are. You’ve done me good, as well as Job, and Lena, and the rest. I won’t go away without saying it — and I ’m going away this week. . . . There ! ”

She drew a long breath, and leaned back.

Bayard rowed on for some moments in inscrutable silence. It was too dark to see the expression of his face. When he spoke, it was in a half-articulate, tired way.

“ I did not know. Are you coming back ? ”

“ I am going to Campobello with the Rollinses,” replied Helen briefly. “ I don’t expect to come back again this year.”

“ I wonder I had not thought of it,” said Bayard slowly. *• I did not,” he added.

“ The people will miss you,” lie suggested, after a miserable pause.

“ Oh, they will get used to that,” said Helen.

“And If” he asked, in a tone whose anguish smote suddenly upon her ears, like a mortal cry. “Wliat is to become of me ? ”

“ You ’ll get used to it, too,” she said, thrusting out her hands in that way she had.

His oars dropped across his knees.

Before either of them could speak, or think, or reason, he had caught one of her outstretched hands. It lay, warm, soft, quivering, — a terrible temptation, — in the grasp of the devotee. He could have devoured it — her—soul and body; he could have killed her with kisses ; he could have murdered her with love.

Instead, he laid Helen’s hand down gently. He did not so much as lift it to his starving lips. He laid it down upon her own lap quite solemnly, as if he relinquished something unspeakably precious. He took up his oars, and rowed her home.

Neither had spoken again. Helen’s heart beat wildly. She dared not look at him. Under the solitary lantern of the deserted float she felt his strong gaze upon her and it looked, not with the eyes of angels, but with the eyes of a man.

“ Oh, my dear, I love you ! ” he breathed in a broken voice.

Saying this, and only this, he led her to her father’s door, and left her.


The mosquito-net portière swayed softly in the night wind. Emanuel Bayard sat in his study and looked about the poor place, gasping, like a man who has received or given a mortal hurt. The marred face of the great Christ looked through the coarse white gauze ; it seemed to scrutinize him sternly. He bowed his head before the gaze of the picture.

The gradual descent from a spiritual height to a practical level is, at best, a strain under which the godliest nature quivers; but Bayard experienced the shock of a plunge. From the elation of the past hour to the consternation of the present moment was a long leap.

He closed his eyes to see the bloodred sunset unfurling its flag over the broad beach; he opened them to see Mrs. Granite’s kerosene lamp smoking on the study-table of grained pine wood. The retina of his soul suffered an adjustment as abrupt and as severe. But an hour ago a thousand people had hung swaying upon the breath that went forth from between his lips ; their upturned faces offered him that most exquisite of flatteries, the reverence of a great audience for an orator who has mastered them. We should remember that the religious orator stands, both in privilege and in peril, apart from his kind. He may suffer at once the subtlest of human dangers and the deepest of human joys. Bayard trembled yet with the exaltation of that solemn hour.

Midway between earth and heaven, commissioner between man and his Maker, he had stood transcendent, wellnigh translated. He had floated in the adoration of his people ; he had been to them one of the sons of God; he had held their here souls in his hand.

While his head whirled with the suffocation of the incense, he had stumbled. He had made the misstep which to a lofty soul may give more anguish than guilt to the low. He had fallen from the heights of his own faith in himself, sheer over, and below the ideal which those upon whose worshiping love he lived trustfully cherished of him.

An hour ago he was a man of God. Now he called himself less than a man among men.

Bound by every claim of spiritual and of human honor to preserve the strong silence by which a man protects a woman from himself, and himself from her, he had weakly, to his high view it seemed he had ignobly, broken it. He had declared love to a woman whom he could not ask to he his wife. To crown the pity of it and the shame, he had turned on his heel and left her — so !

“ I have done a thing for which I would have thrashed a man who had done as much by a sister of mine ! ” said this young apostle between his teeth. It did not occur to him that he might be liable to overestimate the situation. Religious exaltation exposes a sensitive nature to mental and spiritual excess, as dangerous in its way as physical dissipation. Bayard stood in that great desert known only to flue souls, where the noblest side of a man seems to take up arms against him, and where the very consecrated weapons by which he has battled his way to purity, unselfishness, and peace turn themselves like sentient foes and smite him. He stood unarmed and defenseless before forces of evil whose master he had been so long that he looked upon their defiant faces with more astonishment than fear.

“ This is an insurrection of slaves,” he thought. He looked blindly about his dreary room.

“ Down ! ” he said, as if he had been speaking to dogs.

And now — what? It seemed to his quivering sensibility a proof that he had fallen to a far depth, that the first bare instinct of his anguish was not to say, “ What is my duty in this thing ?” but, “ How shall I bear it ? ”

With that automatism of Christian habit which time and trouble may teach the coldest scoffer to respect. Bayard’s hand groped for his Bible. We have seen this touching movement in the sick, the aged, the bereaved, and in the utterly alone ; and who of us has been so poor in spirit as to do it irreverence ? In so young a man this desolate instinct had a deep significance.

Bayard’s Bible opened at the New Testament, whose worn pages moved apart, at a touch, like lips that would answer him.

As he took the book something fell from it to the floor. He stooped, holding his finger between the open leaves, and picked the object up. It was a flower, a pressed flower —the saxifrage that he had gathered from the hem of her dress on the sand of the beach, that April day.

The Bible fell from his knee. He snatched the dead flower to his lips, and kissed it passionately.

“ There was another, too,” he hungrily said. “ There was a pansy. She left it on the sofa pillow in this room. The pansy ! the pansy ! ”

He took up the Bible, and searched feverishly. But he could not find the pansy ; the truth being that Jane Granite had seen it on the study-table and had dusted it away.

He laid the Bible down upon the table, and seized the saxifrage. He kissed it again and again ; he devoured it over and over ; he held it in the palm of his hand, and softly laid his cheek upon it. . . .

Behind the white gauze the Christ on the wall looked down. Suddenly Bayard raised his haggard face. The eyes of the picture and the eyes of the man met.

“ Anything but this — everything but this — Thou knowest.” Aloud, Bayard uttered the words as if he expected to be heard.

“ Only this — the love of man for woman — how canst THOU understand ? ”

Bayard arose to his full height; he lifted his hands till they touched the low, cracked ceiling ; it seemed to him as if he lifted them into illimitable heaven, as if he bore on them the greatest mystery and the mightiest woe of all the race. His lips moved : only inarticulate whispers came from them.

Then his hands fell, and his face fell into them.

Bayard went to her like a man, and at once. At an hour of the morning so early that he felt obliged to apologize for his intrusion, his sleepless face appeared at the door of her father’s cottage.

He had no more idea, even yet, what he should say to her than the St. Michael over his study-table. He felt in himself a kind of pictorial helplessness ; as if he represented something which he was incapable of expressing. His head swam. He leaned back on the bamboo chair in the parlor. Through the soft stirring of the lace curtains he watched a fleet start out, and tack across the harbor. He interested himself in the greenish - white sails of an old schooner with a new suit on. He found it impossible to think coherently of the interview which awaited him.

A hand fell on the latch of the door. He turned — ah !

“ Good - morning, Professor,” said Bayard, rising manfully. His pale face, if possible, turned a shade whiter. It seemed to him the fitting sequel to his weakness that he should be called to account by the girl’s father. “ I have deserved it,” he thought.

“ Ah, Bayard, this is too bad ! ” said the Professor of Theology, cordially holding out his hand. “You have just missed my daughter. I am sure she will regret it. She took the twenty minutes past seven train.”

“ Took the train ? ” panted Bayard.

“ She has gone to join some friends of ours — the Rollinses, at Campobello. She did not intend to leave for some days ; but the mood took her, and off she started. I think, indeed, she went without her breakfast. Helen is whimsical at times. Do be seated ! We will do our poor best to take my daughter’s place,” pursued the Professor, smiling indulgently ; “ and I ’m especially glad of this opportunity, Bayard, to tell you how much I was impressed by your discourse last night. I don’t mind saying so at all.”

“ Thank you, Professor,” said Bayard faintly.

“ It was not theology, you know,” observed the Professor, still smiling; “you can’t expect me to admit that it was sound, Bayard. But I must say, sir, I do say, that I defy any council in New England to say it was not Christianity ! ”

“Thank you, Professor,” repeated Bayard, more faintly than before. He found it impossible to talk about theology, or even Christianity.

The Professor felt rather hurt that the young man took his leave so soon. He had thought of inviting him into the clam study, and reading some extracts from the essay on the State of the Unforgiven after Death.

Bayard went back to his own rooms, and wrote to her ; if he could have done so, he would have followed her to Campobello by the next boat. The pitiable fact was that he could not raise the money for the trip. It occurred to him to force the occasion and borrow it, of his treasurer, of George Fenton, of his uncle; but he dismissed these fantasies as madness, and swiftly wrote : —

I hurried to you at the first decent moment this morning; but I was not early enough by an hour.

The reason why I do not — why I cannot follow you, by the next train, perhaps you will understand without my being forced to explain. I take the only method left to me of justifying myself — if it is possible for me to do that— in your eyes.

I dare not believe — I dare not hope, that what I have done can mean any more to you than passing embarrassment to a friendship whose value and permanence shall not be disturbed by my weakness, if I can help it.

I love you. I ought not to have told you so. I did not mean to tell you so. But I love you ! A man situated as I am has no right to declare his feeling for a woman like yourself. This wrong have I done — not to you ; I do not presume to dream that I could thereby in any way wrong you — but to myself, and to my love for you. It was my sacred secret; it is now your absolute possession. Do with it — and with me — as you will.


He dispatched this note by the first mail to Campobello, and waited in such patience as he could command for such answer as she chose to make him. He waited a miserable week. At the end of that time came a letter in her strong, clear hand. He shut himself into his rooms, turned the key, and read : —

CAMPOBELLO, September —, 18—.

MY DEAR MR. BAYARD, — I. am not quite sure that I entirely understand you. But I believe in you, altogether ; and what I do not understand, I am proud to take on trust.

The love of a man like yourself would be a tribute to any woman. I shall count it the honor of my life that you have given it to me. And I shall be, because of it, all the more and always,

Your loyal friend,


This composed and womanly reply did not serve to quell the agitation in which Bayard had awaited it. He read and re-read, studied and scrutinized, the few self-contained words with a sense of helplessness which equaled his misery. His position seemed to him intolerable. Something undignified about it cut the proud fellow to the quick. He had thought himself prepared for any natural phase in the lot which he had elected. In the old language which devotees of ages have instinctively used, and which to each solitary heart seems a figure of speech as new as his own anguish, Bayard had believed himself able to “ bear his cross.”

He had now to learn that, in the curious, complex interplay of human life, a man may not be able even to bear his burden alone, and drop decently under it when the time comes. Suppose, as the crossbearer crawls along in blood and dust, that the arm of the coarse wood strikes and bruises the delicate flesh of a woman’s shoulder?

Suppose — oh, suppose the unsupposable, the maddening !

Suppose she might have been led, taught by his great love to love him ? What then ?

Because a man had a duty to God, had he none to a woman ?

After a night of sleepless misery, Bayard wrote again: —

Is there no way in which I can see you — if only for a moment ? Shall you be in Boston, if you are not coming to Windover, on your return home ? This is more than I can bear.

Yours utterly, E. B.

And Helen answered : — Mother wrote

MY DEAR FRIEND, — Mother wrote me yesterday that she needed my help in packing. We go back to Cesarea on the 9th, and I shall therefore lie in Windover for the twenty-four hours preceding our start. . . . Do not suffer so ! I told you that I trusted you. And I always shall.

Yours faithfully, H. C.

It was a chilly September evening. The early dark of the coming autumn leaned from a clouded sky. The goldenrod and asters on the side of the avenue looked dim under the glimmer of the hotel lights, and the scarlet petals of the geraniums in the flower-beds were falling. In the harbor the anchored fleets flung out their headlights above a tossing sea. There was no rowing. The floats were deserted.

The guests, few now, and elect, of the sort that know and love the September Windover, clustered around the fireplace in the big parlor of the Mainsail. On the piazza of the Flying Jib the trunks stood strapped for the late evening porter and the early morning train. Bayard heard Helen’s voice in the rooms overhead, while he sat, with whirling brain, making such adieus as he could master to the Professor and Mrs. Carruth. He thought that the Professor looked at him with unwonted keenness ; he might have called it sternness, if he had given himself time to reflect upon it. Reflect he did not, would not. He asked distinctly for Miss Helen. Her mother went to call her, and did not return. Professor Carruth lingered a few moments, and excused himself. The proofs of the article on the Unforgiven had come by the evening mail ; he had six galleys to correct that night. He shook hands with Bayard somewhat abstractedly, and went over to the clam study, swinging a lantern on his thin arm to light the meadow path.

“ It is too cold for Father over there, to-night,” said Helen immediately, when she and Bayard were left alone. “ I don’t think he ought to go. The Unforgiven are always up to some mischief. I would accept the doctrine of eternal punishment to get rid of them. I ’m glad they ’ve got as far along toward it as proof-sheets.”

“ Am I keeping your father out of this warm room?” asked Bayard, with his quick perception. He glanced at the open fire on the hearth. “ That won’t do ! ” he said decidedly, rising.

“ Oh, I did n’t mean that ! ” cried Helen, flushing.

“ It is true, all the same, whether you meant it or not,” returned Bayard. “ I shall stay but a few moments. Would you mind putting on something warm, and walking with me — for a little ? We can go over to the clam study and get him.”

“Very well,” said Helen somewhat distantly.

She wore a summer traveling-dress of purple serge, fastened at the throat with a gold pansy. A long, thick cape with a hood lay upon the sofa.

“ Mother’s waterproof will do,” she said. She wrapped it quickly around her, and they started out. Something in the utter absence of vanity which led a girl at such a moment to wear the most unbecoming thing that she could put hands on roused a keen throb of admiration in Bayard. Then he remembered, with a pang, the anomaly of the situation. Why should she wish to make herself beautiful to him ? What had he done — great heavens ! what could he do, to deserve or to justify the innocent coquetries of a beloved and loving woman ?

Helen pulled the hood of the cloak far over her head. And yet, what a look she had ! The severity and simplicity of her appearance added to the gravity of her face a charm which he had never seen before. How womanly, how strong, how rich and ripe a being ! He drew her hand through his arm authoritatively. She did not resent this trifling act of mastery. His fingers trembled ; his arm shook as she leaned upon it. They struck out upon the meadow path in the dark, and for a moment neither spoke. Then he said :

“ I have something to say to you. I shall wait till we have sent the Professor back.”

“That will be better,” said Helen, not without embarrassment. They came to the clam study, and he waited outside while she said : —

“Come, Papa! Put the Unforgiven in your pocket, and go back to the fire ! Mr. Bayard and I are going to walk.”

The Professor meekly obeyed, and Helen locked the door of the fish-house, and put the key in her pocket.

“I shall give it to Mr. Salt to-night.” she said. “ We start at 7.20. Pepper is going to take us over.”

These trivial words staggered Bayard’s self-control.

“You always leave — so — early ! ” he stammered. “ Does that make it any worse ? ” she asked, trying to smile. It was not a very successful smile, and Bayard saw that. They were approaching the electric arc that lighted the entrance to the beach. The cold light lay white on her face. Its expression startled him.

“ Everything makes it worse ! ” lie groaned. “ It is as bad as it can be ! ”

“ I can see how it might have been worse,” said Helen.

“ That’s more than I can do. What do you mean ? ”

“ I would rather not tell you,” replied Helen, with gentle dignity.

“ Tell me what you mean ! ”

He turned about and lifted her averted face ; he touched her with the tip of one trembling finger under the chin.

“ I prefer not to tell you, Mr. Bayard.”

She did not flush nor blush. Her eyes met his steadily. Something in them sent the mad color racing across his face.

“ Forgive me ! I have no right to insist — I forgot — I have none to anything. I have no right to hear — to see — anything. God have mercy upon me! ”

He put out his shaking hand, and gently covered with it her uplifted eyes ; veiling from his own gaze the most sacred sight on earth. It was a beautiful act, and so delicately done that Helen felt as if a spirit had touched her.

But when she came to herself, and gave him her eyes again, with their accustomed calm feminine disguise, she saw no spirit, but the passionate face of a man who loved her and despaired of her as she had seen no man love or despair before.

“ I cannot even ask for the chance to try ! ” he cried. “ I am as much shut out as a beggar in the street. I ought to be as dumb before you as the thousandyears dead ! And yet, God help me —I am a live man, and I love you. I have no right to seek a right — I wrong you and myself by every word I say, by every moment I spend in your presence. Goodby ! ” he said, with cruel abruptness, holding out his hand.

Helen did not take it. She turned her back to the great arc, and looked out to sea. Her figure, in its hooded cloak, stood strongly against the cold, white light. The tide rose upon the deserted beach insistently. The breakers roared on the distant shore.

“You must see — you must understand.”he groaned. “ I am a poor man — poorer than you ever took the trouble to think. A heretic, unpopular, out of the world, an obscure, struggling fellow, slighted, forgotten — no friends but a handful of fishermen and drunkards — and living on — what do you suppose my salary is ? ”

“ It never occurred to me to suppose,” said Helen, lifting her head proudly.

“ Five hundred dollars a year ; to be collected if possible, to be dispensed with if necessary.”

He jerked the words out bitterly. His fancy, with terrible distinctness, took forbidden photographs by flash-light. He saw this daughter of conventional Cesarea, this child of ease and indulgence, living at Mrs. Granite’s, boarding on prunes and green tea. He saw her trying to shake down the coal fire on a January day, while he was out making parish calls ; sitting in the bony rocking-chair with the Turkey-red cushion, beside the screen where the paper Cupid forever tasted uneaten fruit. He saw the severe St. Michael looking down from the wall on that young, warm woman-creature. He saw her sweep across the old, darned carpet in her purple robes, with gold at her throat and wrists. He saw her lift her soft arms. He saw — Now he put his hands before his own eyes.

“ Oh, do not suffer so! ” said Helen in a faltering voice. “ Do not, do not mind it — so much ! It — it breaks my heart! ”

These timid, womanly words recalled Bayard to himself.

“ Before I break your heart,” he cried, “ I ought to be sawn asunder !

“ . . , Let us talk of this a little,” he said in a changed tone. “Just a word. You must see — you must understand my position. What another man would say, in my place, I cannot say — to any woman. What I would die for the right to ask. I may not ask.”

“ I understand,” said Helen almost inaudibly. She still stood with her back to the light, and her face to the sea.

“ I love you ! I love you ! ” he repeated. “ It is because I love you — Oh, do you see ? Can you see ? ”

Helen made no reply. How could he know that she dared not trust herself, at that moment, to articulate? Her silence seemed to the tortured man more cruel than the bitterest word which ever fell from the lip of a proud and injured woman.

Now again the camera of his whirling brain took instantaneous negatives. He saw himself doing what other men had done before him : abandoning a doubtful experiment of the conscience to win a woman’s love. He saw himself chopping the treadmill of his unpopular, unsuccessful work to chips : a few strong blows would do it; the discouraged people would merge themselves in the respectable churches ; the ripples that he had raised in the fishing-town would close over, and his submerged work would sink to the bottom and leave no sign. A few reformed drunkards would go on a spree; a few fishermen would feel neglected for a while ; the scarlet and white fires of the Church of the Love of Christ would go out on Angel Alley. In a year Windover would be what Windover was. The eye of the great Christ would gaze no more upon him through the veil of coarse gauze ; while he — free — a new man — with life before him, like other men, and the right to love — like any other man —

That,” he said solemnly, as if he had spoken aloud, “ is impossible. There could be only that one way. I cannot take it.”

“ No,” she said, lifting her head, as if he had explained it all to her, “ no. You could never do that. I would not have you do that for — for all that could happen — for ” — she faltered.

“ Great God ! ” thought Bayard, “ and I cannot even ask her how much she cares — if she could ever learn or try to love me.”

He felt suddenly a strange weakness. He leaned against a boulder for support, coughing painfully. It seemed to him as if he were inwardly bleeding to death.

“ Oh ! ” cried Helen, turning about swiftly and showing her osvn white face. “You are not well—you suffer. This will not — must not — I cannot hear it! ” she said bravely, but with a quivering lip. “ Give me your arm, Mr. Bayard, and let us get home.”

He obeyed her in silence. He felt, in truth, too spent to speak. They got back to the door of the cottage, and Helen led him in. Her father was not in the parlor, and her mother had gone to bed. The fire had fallen to embers. Helen motioned him to an easy-chair, and knelt, coaxing the blaze, and throwing on pine wood to start it. She looked so womanly, so gentle, so homelike and lovelike, on her knees in the firelight there, caring for the comfort of the exhausted man, that the sight was more than he could bear. He covered his eyes.

“ The fire flares so, coming in from the dark,” he said.

She stepped softly about, and brought him wine and crackers ; but he shook his head.

“ My little tea-urn is packed,” she said, smiling, trying to look as if nothing had happened. “ I would have made you such a cup of tea as you never tasted! ”

“ Spare me ! ” he pleaded. “ Don’t you suppose I know that ? ”

He rose manfully, as soon as he could. She stood in the firelight, looking up. A quiver passed over her delicate chin. He held out his hand. She put her strong, warm clasp within it.

“ I told you that I trusted you,” she said distinctly. “ Believe me, and go in peace.”

“ I don’t know another woman in the world who would ! ” cried Bayard.

“ Then let me be that only one,” she answered. “ I am proud to he.”

He could not reply. They stood with clasped hands. Their eyes did not embrace, but comradeship entered them.

“ You will let me write ? ” be pleaded, at last.

“ Yes.”

“ And see you — sometimes ? ”

“ Yes.”

“ And trust me — in spite of all ? ”

“ I have said it.”

“ My blessing is n’t worth much,” he said brokenly, “ but for what it is — Oh, my Love, God go with you ! ”

“ And stay with you ! ” Helen whispered.

He laid her hand gently down, and turned away. She heard him shut the door, and walk feebly, coughing, up the avenue. He looked back, once. He saw her standing between the lace curtains, with her arms upraised, and her hand above her eyes, steadily looking out into the dark.

Elizabeth Stuart Phelps.