Rose Macleod


Peter made up his mind to display, at last, all the guile he had; he would say nothing about Rose. If Electra had attempted to call on her, she might impart the fact to him or not, as she determined. But Electra did not wait to be asked. She turned to him with a serious air, inquiring, —

“ When is Miss MacLeod likely to be back ?”

“Rose?” Peter countered, obstinately. “At dinner-time, surely.”

“I shall try to find her then.”

Peter felt such an access of gratitude that, as he looked down at the charmingly gloved hands, holding the reins in the right way, he thought of conveying his emotion by placing his own hand over them. But their masterful ease had a message of its own. It seemed almost as if they might resist. He cast about for something to please her.

“Electra,” he began, “I’m going to pitch into work with Osmond.”

Electra looked at him over a chin superbly lifted. This was evidently surprise, but whether disdainful of him or not he could not tell. At any rate he felt whimsically miserable under it.

“Osmond works on the farm,” she said merely.

Peter inferred some belittling of Osmond, and immediately he was at one with him and market-gardening.

“ I belong to the Brotherhood,” he said stiffly. “ I don’t propose to live like a bondholder while other fellows are hoeing. I’m going to work.”

Still Electra said nothing. She had meant to stop at her own gate and let Peter leave her, if he would, but she had driven by, and now they were in a pretty reach of pines, with the needles under the horse’s feet. The reins lay loosely, and Electra, who seldom did anything without a painstaking consciousness, even forgot her driving, and let her hands relax into an unlawful ease. They might almost tremble, she was afraid, she felt so undone with some emotion, — disappointment, anger ? She did not know. But she kept her eyes fixed on a spot directly ahead, and in spite of herself, thought turbulently. She could not help feeling that Peter would be surprised if he knew how he seemed to her after this return, almost a stranger, and one who awoke in her no desire for further acquaintance. He was not ministering to her pride in any way. He was not in the least a person whom she could flaunt at gatherings of the intellectually worshipful, with any chance of his doing her credit. She herself had tried to talk art with him, and Peter grew dumb. She could not guess it was because she did not speak his language, which had become almost a sign language, touched here and there with idiom and the rest understood, — a jargon of technicalities, mostly, it seemed, humorous, he appeared to mean them so lightly. Before he went abroad, she, who had read exhaustively in art, used to impart fact and theory to him in a serious fashion, and Peter had humbly accepted them. But now, when she opened her lips about his darling work which was so intimate a part of him that it was almost like play, he had a queer horror of what she was saying, as if she were beginning a persistent solo on a barbarous instrument; he could think of nothing but putting his hands over his ears and running off. But instead he had only been silent. She could not understand Peter’s having read so few books and being in possession of such a meagre treasury of formulated opinion. The truth was that he had so many pleasant things to think about that books were only the dullard’s task. His thoughts were not very consecutive or toward any particular end; they were merely a pageant of dancing figures, sometimes fantastic, sometimes dramatically grave, but always absorbing. This Electra could not know. Now it was running through her mind that Peter, though he had won the great prizes of art, was mysteriously dull and not what she considered a distinguished figure at all. His air, his clothes even — she found herself shrinking a little, at the moment, from the slovenly figure he made, his long legs drawn up in the carriage so that he could clasp his hands about his knees, while he went brightly on. For now Peter had found something to talk about. His topic shone before him as he handled it. This was almost like painting a picture with a real brush on real canvas, it grew so fast.

“We might found a community,” he was urging as warmly, she thought, as if he meant it. “ Osmond can dig. I can. I wonder if you could milk the cowd”

“I have certainly never tried to milk a cow,” said Electra, in a tone that bit.

But Peter was n’t listening. He was simply pleasing his own creative self.

“You should n’t,” he offered generously. “You should

‘ Sit on a cushion and sew a fine seam,
And live on ripe strawberries, sugar and cream.’ ”

Electra pulled the horse up, and though this was the narrowest bit of road for a mile, turned, with a masterly band.

“ How under the sun do you do that ?” Peter was asking pleasantly. She interrogated him with a glance, and saw him hunched together in more general abandon. The happier Peter was in his own thoughts and the warmer the sun shone on him, the looser his joints became. To Electra he looked like a vagabond, but she was conscious that if for a moment he would act the part of a great painter, she would bid him sit up, try to get him into a proper cravat, and marry him tomorrow. Careless Peter was quite oblivious to the effect he was creating. He had forgotten Electra, save as some one possessed of two ears to listen.

“Turn,” he pursued. “How can you turn ? I never could. I remember I took you to drive once, ages ago, and I had to keep on in a thunder shower, round the five-mile curve, because I did n’t dare to let you know I could n’t cramp the wheel.”

Electra remembered the day. Peter was timidly worshipful of her then, and she had found that quite appropriate in him. She remembered the lightning, and how satisfied she had been to go round the five-mile curve, if only to show that she was not timid in a storm. Then it seemed as if Peter had been unable to forego the delight of having her with him, but now it appeared that he could absently sit there hugging his knees, and guying the occasion.

“I believe I can cramp the wheel,” he was saying sunnily, out of an absolute content in his limitations. “Only I never can remember which rein does it. Can you turn either way, Electra, right or left, one just as well as the other?”

Electra could not answer in that vein.

“Don’t!” she said involuntarily.

In some moods Peter had a habit of not waiting for answers.

“It’s beyond me how they do those things,” he was saying, “drive, ride, swim. Should n’t you like to be a fish? I should be mighty proud.”

“Shall I leave you here ?” asked Electra, drawing up at his gate.

Peter came out of his childish muse. He saw Hose in the garden, and knew it was better that Electra should find her alone.

“Yes, let me out,” he said. “I’ll run back and see if Osmond is where I left him.”

Electra also had seen Rose, lying in the long chair under the grape arbor, and left her carriage at the gate. Rose was in white. A book lay in her lap, unopened. The idle hands had clasped, and her eyes were closed. Electra, coming upon her, felt a pang, an inexplicable one, at her loveliness. It seemed half lassitude, not alone to challenge pity, but a renewed and poignant interest when she should awake. At Electra’s step her eyes came open slowly, as if there were nothing in that garden ground to move her. Then with a rush of color to the face, her eyes grew large. Life, surprised life, poured in on her, and she had gained her feet with a spring. Before Electra could insist upon her own decorous distance, Rose, with a charming gesture and an insistent cordiality, had her by both hands.

“How good of you,” she was saying. “How good of you!”

“Not at all,” returned Electra, with a stiff dignity she hated, as not in the least the armor she had meant to wear. “I came to see if you would drive over to the house.” This she had not meant to ask, but it seemed easier to deal with problematic characters in the course of motion than face to face and standing. Rose was eagerly ready.

“My hat is here,” she cried, “and my parasol. I thought I might walk up the road a bit, — but it was so hot. How good of you!”

As they went down the path together, Rose in her slender grace and eager motions the significant note in the garden, Electra felt the irritation of having, for any reason, committed herself to even a short intimacy with her. But presently they were together in the carriage, and Electra spoke.

“My grandmother is at home this morning. We have a guest for a few days, Mr. William Stark, of London. I thought you might be interested in meeting them both.”

“I shall be delighted,” returned Rose, still in that warmly impulsive tone.

Electra had a strong distaste for unconsidered things. They seemed to her to show lack of poise. Now she was conscious of the inconsistency of proposing that Rose should meet anybody, even Billy Stark. But in the moment of conceiving it she had remembered that Mr. Stark was a man of the world; he would know an adventuress when he saw one. Afterwards she would ask him frankly how his judgment had been affected by the siren’s song.

At the house she led the way into the vine-shaded sitting-room where Madam Fulton and Stark had been engaged for an hour in a battle delightful to them both. Madam Fulton sat beautifully upright in a straight-backed chair, and her old friend, with her permission, lay upon a bamboo couch, where he held his eyeglass by its ribbon in one outstretched hand and gesticulated with it, while he urged torrentially upon her the rights of a publisher to the confidence of his author. Now he came to his feet and stood punctiliously.

“Ah!” said Madam Fulton. She had remembered a little lack in her reception of Rose when, hot and tired from her journey, she had found her in the house. “ So here is our young lady again. I have been wondering why we have n’t seen you, my dear.”

While Rose, in her grateful sweetness, was bowing over her hand, Electra had said to the gentleman, with the air of its being quite the usual thing to say, —

“You know all about Markham MacLeod, Mr. Stark. This is the daughter of Markham MacLeod.”

Somehow, save to Rose, it seemed an adequate presentation, and that instant Stark was bowing before her.

“I can’t say Air. MacLeod,” Electra added, with the elaborate grace that fitted what seemed to her that skillful preface. “He is quite too great for that, isn’t he, Mr. Stark?”

Billy had no extravagant opinion of Markham MacLeod. He had rather the natural dubiousness of the inquiring mind toward a man whom the world delighted to honor and who had, according to dispassionate standards, done nothing, as yet, save telling others what to do.

“We don’t say Mr. Browning, often,” he concurred, “certainly not Mr. Shakespeare. But, my dear young lady, I don’t forgive your father.”

He seated himself, for Electra was now decorously smiling in a chair that became her. It had a high carved top like Madam Fulton’s, and in these the older woman and the younger looked like the finest-fibred beings bred out of endurance and strong virtues. Rose was in a low chair near Madam Fulton’s knee. She was leaning forward now, listening in her receptive way, and Billy Stark looked at her anew and wondered at her beauty and her grace. But he recalled himself with a sigh, and remembered it was the old commonplace — youth — and it was not for him.

“You don’t forgive my father?” she repeated, with a slightly foreign accent that came sometimes upon her tongue, no one knew why, whether to enhance her charm or in unconsciousness. “Why?”

Billy Stark had thrown one of his short legs over the other, and held it with his well-kept hand.

“He is a renegade,” he said. “He began to write, and stopped writing. You can’t expect a publisher to condone that.”

Madam Fulton was having a strange pang of liking and envy as she looked at the girl, one such as she never felt over Electra. Rose for her, too, had youth, beautiful and pathetic also. x4s the girl only smiled without answering, she said kindly, —

“Your father got very much interested in people, did n’t he, my dear ? the working classes ? ”

“Labor,” said Electra, as if it were a war-cry.

Madam Fulton glanced at her involuntarily, with a satirical thought, Electra had a maternal attitude toward her servants, shown, her grandmother thought, chiefly by interfering in their private lives. She worked tirelessly at clubs to raise money for labor, and she listened to the most arid talks on the situation of the day. But did Electra love her fellowman? Madam Fulton did not know. She had seen no sign of it. But Hose was returning one of her vague answers that always seemed significant, and, to any partial ear, quite adequate.

“ My father founded what he calls the Brotherhood. He speaks for it. He works for it. But you know that already.”

Stark nodded.

“I know,” he said. “It is tremendous. He says to this man, ‘Come,’ and he cometh, and so on. I should think it would make him lie awake o’ nights.”

“No,” said Rose, smiling brilliantly in a way she had when the smile had no honest mirth in it, “my father never lies awake. Responsibility is the last thing he fears.”

Now Electra was smiling upon her so persuasively that Rose bent toward the look as if it were a species of sunshine.

“We want you to do something for us,” Electra said.

“Oh, I’ll do it,” Rose was responding eagerly. “Gladly.”

“We want you to give us a talk on your father.”

Rose, painfully thrown back upon herself, looked her discomfort.

“Do you mean — ” she began. “That was what you asked me before.”

“For the Club.”

“They want me to give a talk on my book,” said Madam Fulton, looking at Stark with a direct mirth. Then, still with a meaning for him, she added, to Rose, “You do it, my dear. So will I, if they drive me to it. We’ll surprise them.”

“That would be very sweet of you, grandmother,” said Electra, innocent of hidden meanings. “Then we might count on two afternoons.”

“What do you want to know about my father ? ” asked Rose, and Electra answered with a contrasting enthusiasm, —

“His habit of thought, something about his daily life as seen by those nearest him, anything to interpret a great man to us.”

“I can’t do it.” Rose had answered with a touch of harshness strangely contrasted with her facile ways. “I really can’t.”

Now she saw why she had been summoned, and her gratitude sobered into dull distaste. She felt cold.

“That sort of thing is very difficult,” said Stark, in a general desire to quell the emotional tide. “I often think a person next us has to be inarticulate about us. He does n’t know really what he thinks of us till we are gone. You know a big Frenchman says it is like being inside the works of a clock. You can’t tell the time there. You have to go outside.”

Rose was upon her feet, a lovely figure, wistful and mysteriously sad.

“I must go back,” she said. “Thank you for letting me come.” She had turned away when Madam Fulton called to her.

“Miss MacLeod!” Rose stood, arrested. Madam Fidton continued, “Why not stay to luncheon with us?”

The girl did not answer. Apparently she could not. Tears were swimming in her eyes. She looked at Electra in what might be reproach or a despair at the futility of the fight she had to make. She returned to Madam Fulton and stood before her.

“You did n’t know,” she said, in a low tone. “No one has told you!”

“Sit down,” said the old lady kindly. “What is it? ”

Rose stood before her, proudly now, her back turned upon Electra, as if she repudiated one source of justice and appealed to another court,

“You called me Miss MacLeod,” she said, in her full-throated voice. “I was your grandson’s wife.”

“Tom’s wife!” cried the old lady, in a sharp staccato. “Tom’s wife! For heaven’s sake!”

Rose turned from her to Stark with an eloquent insistence. Electra, outside the circle of the drama, stood ignored. But Madam Fulton called to her,—

“Electra, do you hear?”

“I have heard it,” answered Electra, with composure.

“You have heard it ? Why did n’t you tell me?”

But Electra made no reply. Madam Fulton gave way to her excitement. It seemed to put new blood into her veins.

“Sit down here,” she said imperiously, pushing forward a chair. Rose sank upon it in a dignified obedience. “Now tell me, — how long were you married ? ”

“Two years.”

“ Did Tom—there were many things the old lady, knowing Tom, wished to ask. But Tom was in his grave, and she contented herself with remarking, “I certainly am petrified.”

Stark gave a little smiling nod to them, and began making his way to the door. It seemed to him emphatically that this was a family conclave.

“Billy,” called the old lady, “did you ever hear of such a thing in your life ? Tom had a wife two years before he died, and not a word. Did you ever dream of such a thing? Electra, I could trounce you for not telling me.” Then, as no one spoke, she asked sharply, “Does Peter know ? ”

“Yes, Madam Fulton,” Rose returned. “He brought me here. Not quite that. He assured me I might come.”

“Come! of course you had to come. You belong here. Why are n’t you staying with us ? Electra, have n’t you seen to it ? ”

Electra was immovable, and the other girl turned to her a mute glance. To Billy Stark it said many things. Reproach was in it, and a challenging, almost a hard appeal. Rose looked like a gentle thing that has been forced to fight. But she spoke to Madam Fulton.

“I must go,” she said, with her exquisite deference. “I must n’t tire you.”

“Tire me! I’m never tired. Well, you must come again. You must come to stay. Electra will see to that.”

But Electra only walked to the library door with the departing guest, and presently Billy Stark caught the white shimmer of a gown, as Rose went down the path. Electra was looking eagerly from him to her grandmother.

“Well, Mr. Stark,” she said, as if she hurried him. “What do you think of her ?”

Stark indicated a chair, with a courteous motion, and then allowed himself to be seated.

“She is a remarkably beautiful young woman,” he returned, in his impartial way of shedding optimism.

Electra made an impatient gesture.

“ I know — I know. It’s easy enough to be handsome.”

“Oh, is it?” commented Madam Fulton.

“But what do you think of her?”

“What do you mean, Electra?” asked her grandmother testily. She was prepared to hear that Electra thought the stranger lacking in poise.

A deep red had risen to Electra’s cheeks. Her hands flew together in a nervous clasp. She had momentarily lost what poise she herself possessed.

“Can’t you see,” she urged, “that girl is an adventuress ? ”

Grandmother was leaning forward, enchanted at the prospect. She seemed to have before her an absorbing work of fiction, “concluded in our next.”

“Now what makes you think so?” she inquired cosily. “ Would n’t that be grand! Stay here, Billy. If there’s any scandal about Queen Elizabeth, you must share it.”

Electra was speaking with a high impatience.

“ Of course she is an adventuress. You must see it, both of you.”

“Is that all the evidence you have?” asked the old lady dryly.

Electra blenched a little. She liked to have irrefutable fact on her side, and allow other people the generalities. Yet her certainty remained untouched.

“Does Peter say she is Tom’s wife?” inquired Madam Fulton, in some scorn at herself for putting elementary questions.

“Yes. Peter says she was Tom’s wife.”

“There, you see!” But at Electra’s look, the old lady cried out to Stark, in irrepressible annoyance, “No, she does n’t see! It does n’t mean a thing to her.”

“It wall be quite easy,” said Stark soothingly, “to assure yourself, Miss Electra. She will no doubt tell you where she was married. That can be confirmed at once.”

“She must present her proofs,” said Electra. “I shall not ask for them.”

“ What do you hate the poor girl for ? ” asked Madam Fulton. “Is it the money ? Are you afraid you’ve got to share with her ?”

Billy Stark had been nearing the door, and now he was out of the room.

“Have you told Peter how you feel about it?” asked the old lady keenly.

Electra seemed to herself to be unjustly upon her own defense when she had meant to place the stranger there.

“He knows it, grandmother.” She spoke as impatiently as decorum would allow.

The old lady watched her for a moment, steadily. Then she inquired,—

“Do you know what’s the matter with you, Electra?”

“With me, grandmother?”

“You’re jealous, child. You’re jealous of Peter, because the girl’s so pretty.”

Electra stood still, the color surging over her face. She felt out of doors for all the world to jeer at, and without the blameless habit of her life. Nothing, Electra told herself, even at that moment, had the value of the truth. If she believed herself to be jealous, she must not shirk it, degrading as it was. But she would not believe it.

“You must excuse me, grandmother,” she said, with dignity. “I can’t discuss such things, even with you.”

Madam Fulton spoke quite eagerly.

“But, bless you, child, I like you the better for it. It makes you human. Your decorum is the only thing I’ve ever had to complain of. If I could find a weakness in you now and then, we should agree like two peas in a pod.”

Electra stood taller and straighter.

“At least,” she said, “the young woman is here, and we have got to do our best about it.”

“The young woman! Don’t talk as if she were a kitchen wench. What’s the use, Electra! What’s the sense in being so irreproachable? Come off your stilts while we’re alone together.”

“But, grandmother,” said Electra, with an accession of firmness, and leaving irrelevant strictures to be considered in the silence of her room, “ I shall neither acknowledge her nor shall I invite her here.”

“You won’t acknowledge her?”

“Not until she brings me proof.”

“You won’t ask for it?”

“I shan’t ask for it. It is for her to act, not for me.”

“And you won’t have her here ? Then, by George, Electra, I will!”

Electra raised her eyebrows by the slightest possible space. It was involuntary, but the old lady saw it.

“You’re quite right,” she said ironically, “the house isn’t mine.”

“The house is yours to do exactly as you please with it,” said Electra, with an instant justice instinct even with a dutiful warmth. “Any guest you invite is welcome. Only, grandmother, I must beg of you not to invite this particular person.”

“Person! Electra, you make me mad. Be human; come, unbend a little. Take the poker out of your training. Do the decent thing, and ask her here, and then find out about her, and if she’s a baggage, turn her out, neck and crop.”

“I must refuse, grandmother,” said Electra. “ Now are n’t you getting tired ? I will bring your food.”

Madam Fulton spoke with deliberate unction: —

“Perdition take my food!”


ROSE came down out of her chamber after supper on a warm still evening. She had stayed in retirement nearly all day. Grandmother had been suffering discomfort from the heat and was better alone. Peter had gone to town, and he had not come back. The girl stopped in the doorway of the silent house and looked out into the night. It was all moonlight, all mysterious shadows and enchanting stillnesses. The glamour of the hour lay over it like a veil, and her heart responded to the calling from mysterious distances, voices that were those of life itself springing within her and echoing back from that delusive world. She stood there smiling a little, trying to keep the wholesome bitterness of her mood, because she thought she knew what a deceiving jade fortune is, and yet with her young heart pathetically craving life and the fullness of it. Rose thought she had quite fathomed the worth of things. She knew the bravest shows are made by the trickiest design, and she had sworn, in desperate defense of herself, to “take the world but as the world ” — a gaming ground for base passions and self-love. But to-night all the instincts of youth in her were innocently vocal. Here was the beautiful earth, again fecund and full of gifts. She could not help believing in it. She gathered her skirts about her, and stepped out into the dew, and with no avowed purpose, but, straight as inevitable intent could lead her, crossed the orchard and went down across the field to Osmond. She had selected that way, in her unconscious mind, when grandmother had that morning sent her into the attic to look at some precious heirlooms in disuse. Looking out of the attic window she had noted his little shack and fields of growing things, and some impatience then had said to her, That would be the way to get to him. Before the last wall, she came out on a low rise where there was a spreading tree. It was an oak tree, and though there seemed to be no wind that night, the leaves rustled thinly.

“Where are you going?” It was Osmond’s voice out of the shadow near the wall.

Rose answered at once, —

“I was going down to see you.”

“I thought you would come.”

He was sitting there, his back against the wall, and at once she sank down opposite him on a stone that made her a prim little seat. The shadow lay upon her in flecks, but the outline of her white dress was visible to him.

“Did you call me ?” she asked. There was no trace of her unrest of the moments before, either in her manner or in her own happy consciousness. She felt instead a delicious ease and security that needed no explaining even to herself.

Osmond answered as if he were deliberating.

“I don’t know whether I called you. I hope I did n’t. I was thinking about you, of course.”

“Why do you hope you did n’t ? ”

“Because I haven’t any right to.”

“Does n’t my coming prove you had a right to ? You see you did call me, and I came.”

After a moment he answered irrelevantly, —

“ I’m a cowardly sort of chap. When I feel like calling you, I choke it down. I don’t want to get the habit of you.”

“ Why not ? ”

“One reason — it will be so difficult when you go away.”

A sense of freedom and happiness possessed her. Words rose tumultuously to her lips, to be choked there. She wanted to say unreasonably, “I shall never go away. How could you think it ? ” But instead she asked, with a happy indirection, “Where am I going? ”

He, too, answered lightly.

“How should I know ? Back into your cloud, I guess — dear goddess.” The last words were very low, and to himself, but she heard them. Instantly and against all reason, she, who had never meant to be happy again, laughed ecstatically.

“Think,” she said, “a month ago I did n’t know you were in the world.”

“Oh, yes, you did. Peter told you he had a kind of a brother, that worked on the farm. But I did n’t know you were in the world.”

“Of course,” she deliberated softly, “I knew Peter had a brother. But I did n’t know it was you.”

The moonlit air was as beguiling to him as it was to her. Everything was different and everything was possible. He put his hand to his head and tried to recall old prudences. In vain. The still, bright world told him, with a voice so quiet that it was like a hand upon his heart, that it was the only world. The daylight one of doubts and dull expediency had been arranged by man. This was the home of the spirit. For a moment he felt himself drowning in that sea of life. Then, perhaps lifted by his striving will, he seemed to come out again to the free air that had touched him at her coming. Again he was at peace and incredibly exalted. He tried to bring lightness into their talk.

“I suppose,” said he, “you are one of the charmers.”

“What do you mean by charmers?”

“Don’t ask me what I mean, when you know. If you do that, we shall forget our language.”

“What do you mean by our language ? ”

“Yours and mine. Don’t you hear it going on, question and answer, question and answer, all the time our tongues are talking ? Those are the things we never can speak out loud.”

“Yes, I hear them. But I could n’t tell what I hear.”

“ Of course you could n’t. Only when we really speak with our lips, we must tell each other the truth. If we don’t, we shall jar things. Then the other voices will stop.”

When she spoke her words had a note of pain, mysteriously disproportioned, he thought, to the warning he had given.

“I don’t think I have told you what was n’t true,” she faltered. Life had gone out of her.

The tenderest comforting seemed to him too harsh for such pathetic sorrow. But he clung to his lighter, safer mood.

“We’ve simply got to tell each other the truth. When we don’t, it’s like the clanging of ten thousand bells. Of course that drowns the other voices. So when I ask you if you are one of the charmers, you must n’t ask what I mean. You must answer.”

She began to laugh. His heart rejoiced at it.

“Yes,” she owned gleefully. “Yes, I am.”

“That’s a good lady. You’re very beautiful, too, aren’t you?”

“Yes,” she corroborated. “Oh, I’d swear to anything! ”

“ If it’s true,” he corrected her. “ What are your accomplishments, missy ? Do you play the piano ? ”

For his life, Osmond could not have told why he addressed her as he did, or how he got the words. Some strange self seemed to have sprung up in him, a self that had a language he had not learned from books nor used to woman. The new self grew rapidly. He felt it wax within him. It was loquacious, too. It seemed to have more to say than there would be time for in a million years; but he gave it head.

“I play a little,” said Bose. She was meeting him joyously. “I sing, too.”

“Yes, you sing. I guessed that. Let me hear you.”

At once she folded her hands on her knees and sang like a child in heaven, with the art that is simplicity. She sang “Nous n’irons plus au bois,” and Osmond felt his heart choking with the melancholy of it. His own voice trembled when he said, —

“You must not sing that often. It’s too sad.”

“Are we never to be sad ? ” She asked it in a quick tone full of eager confidence, as if whatever he told her was bound to come to pass.

“Not when we are together.”

Premonition chilled him there. Why should they ever be together again ? Why was it not possible that this was his one night, the first and the last ? So if it was to be the last, he would taste every minute of it, and make it his to keep.

“Well,” he said consideringly, “so you are a charmer. You can charm a bird off a bush. That would be one of the first tricks.”

She answered, in what he saw was real delight.

“I can try. Want me to?”

“No, no. You can’t tell what will become of the bird — in the end.”

His voice sounded to her ineffably sad. Eager words rose again to her lips, and again she held them back, even against the glamour of that light and air.

“You broke your promise to me,” she adventured presently.

“What promise ? ”

“You said you would come to the house.”

“I said I might.” He spoke with an embracing tenderness, as if to a child. She fancied he was smiling at her through the dusk. “Besides,” he continued, “I shan’t come to see you there anyway, I have decided that.”

“ Why not ? ”

“This is better.”


“This tree.”

It seemed quite just and natural that she should meet him there. Why should she disclaim it ?

“But you won’t go to the house to see your grandmother ? ”

“Oh, I see grannie. She wakes before day. We have a little talk every morning while you’re asleep. The last time”— he stopped.

“Well! ” she urged him.

“The last time I passed your door I heard your step inside. When I went out at the front door, I heard you on the stairs.” It had apparently enormous significance to him. “The next morning I came earlier,” said Osmond, in a low tone, “but I dropped a handful of rose leaves at your sill.”

“I saw them — scattered rose leaves.”

“For you to step on.”

There was a moment’s silence.

“But I did n’t,” she said. “I did n’t step on them.”

“ What did you do ? ”

“I gathered them up very carefully in my handkerchief and left them in my bureau drawer.”

“Now, why— ” he spoke curiously — “why did you do that?”

“I hate to throw away flowers. They are precious to me.”

There was silence again, and then he said reprovingly, —

“No, you must n’t do that.”

“ Do what ?

“You mustn’t get up earlier to catch me scattering my rose leaves. That would n’t be fair.”

“That was what I was thinking.” She mused a moment. “No, I suppose it would n’t be fair.”

“You see we shall have to play fair every minute. That’s the way to be good playmates.”

“That’s what we are, is n’t it — playmates ? ”

“It’s about the size of it.” Then he asked her gravely, across the distance between them: “Don’t you hear a nightingale ? ”

She was taken in.

“But there are n’t any nightingales, in New England! ”

“I almost think I hear one. You see if you don’t.”

She caught the pace then, and listened. Presently she spoke as gravely as he had done.

“I am sure I hear one. Over there in the rose garden.”

“I knew you would.” He breathed quickly, in a gay relief. “Yes, in the rose garden ‘her breast against a thorn.’ Well, playmate, it’s a wonderful night. I smell the roses, too, don’t you ? ”

“Yes, and lilies. The nightingale sings very loud.”

“Let us talk, playmate. Where have you been since I saw you last? ”

“Since that other night I came down here ? ”

“Since that other year, so long ago. We must n’t forget there are other years, though we can’t quite recall them. If there had n’t been, we should n’t be hearing the nightingale to-night and talking without words. You see it’s a good while since I saw you. How old are you ? ”


“Twenty-five! A quarter of a century. That’s a long time. Well, what have you been doing all that twenty-five years ? ”

She seemed to shrink into herself, as if a hand had struck her.

“Don’t! ” she breathed. “Don’t ask me to remember.”

“Why, no! not if it troubles you.”

“Troubles me! it kills me. Can’t we begin now ? ”

“We will begin now. There, playmate, don’t shiver. I feel you’re doing it through the moonlight. Don’t let your chin tremble either. It did, that night down in the shack.”

“When I was talking about Electra? ”

“I guess so. Anyway, it trembled a lot, and I made up my mind it must n’t any more. Cheer up, playmate. Be a man.”

“I wish I were a man.” She spoke bitterly. The beauty of the night seemed to break about her, and this castle of whim that had looked, a moment ago, more solid than certainty, was crumbling.

“Now you’re doing what I told you not to,” he warned her gravely. “You have stopped telling the truth. You don’t wish you were a man. Think how happy you were a minute ago, only because you are a beautiful woman and you heard the nightingale.”

She was struggling back into the clear medium that had been between them the moment before.

“I only meant— ” she spoke painstakingly, hunting for words and pathetically anxious to have them right—“I only meant — I have been unhappy. No man would have been as unhappy as I have been.”

Osmond smiled a little to himself, in grave communing. The uphill road of his life presented itself to him as a thorny way so hard that, if he had foreseen it from the beginning, he would have said it was impossible. But at the same instant he remembered where it had led him: he had come out into clear air, he was resting in this garden of delight. And she, too, was resting. He knew that with a perfect certainty.

“We have begun over,” he warned her. “ We don’t have to remember. See the moon driving along the sky. We are going with her, fast. Look at her, playmate.”

She looked up into the sky where the moon seemed to be racing past more stable clouds. It was as if their spiritual gaze met there, to be welded into a mutual compact. This was the ecstasy of silence. Presently a sound broke it, a whistle loud and clear from the other field. Osmond was at once upon his feet.

“Come,” he said, “we must go. There’s Peter.”

“But why must we go?” She was struggling out of her trance of quietude, almost offended at his haste.

“Come with me. We will meet him in the field. It is too — too splendid, here. This is our castle under the tree. Don’t you know it is ? We can’t ask anybody in — not even Peter.”

“Not even Peter! ” She tried to say it gayly, but a quick sadness fell upon her as she rose and went with him along the path. The moon had gone into a cloud, and a breath sprang up. The night was cooler. That other still languor of too great emotion seemed like something generated by their souls, and dissipated when they had to come out of the world of their own creating. All her daily fears rose up before her in anticipation. She was again alien here in her own land, and Electra was unkind to her. But there was a strange confidence and strength in knowing this silent figure was at her side.

“Courage, playmate,” he said, as if he knew her thought. “We shall think this night over, shan’t we ? ”

“Yes. When —” her voice failed her.

“Every night,” he said, with an unchanged assurance that amazed her like the night itself. “I shall be there every night. If you don’t come — why, never mind. If you come — ” his voice stopped as if something choked it. Then he went on heartily, “The house will be there under the tree, the playhouse. Nobody will see it by day, you know. Nobody’ll run up against it by night. But you’ve got the key. There are only two, you know. You have one. I have the other. And here’s Peter.”

The whistle had come nearer, clear and pure now like the pipe of Pan. Peter stopped short.

“Rose! ” he cried. “Osmond! What is it ? ”

Some accident seemed to him inevitable. Nothing else could have brought about this meeting. Osmond answered, stopping as he did so, when Peter turned to join him.

“I’ll go back, now you’ve come, Peter. We were taking our walks abroad. So we met. Good-night! good-night! ”

It seemed a separate and a different farewell to each of them, and he walked away. Peter stood staring after him, but Rose involuntarily glanced up to heaven to see if the moon, out of her cloud now, would give again the radiant assurance of that other moment. She longed passionately for even an instant’s meeting even so with the man who had gone. Then an exalted calm possessed her. She and Peter were walking rather fast along the path; he had been talking and she was conscious that she had not heard. Now a name arrested her.

“Had you met him before?” he was asking, — “Osmond ? ”

Her old habit of elusive courtesy came back to her. She laughed a little.

“We haven’t really met now, have we ? ” she responded pleasantly.

“He said he was afraid of you.” Peter put it bluntly, out of his curiosity and something else that was not altogether satisfaction. He was not jealous of Osmond. He could not be, more than of a splendid tree; but there was a something in the air he did not understand. He felt himself pushing angrily against it, as if it were a tangible obstruction. “He was afraid of you,” he continued blunderingly, “because you are a Parisian.”

Rose laughed again, with that beguiling gentleness.

“But he spoke first, I believe,” she explained carelessly. “I was walking along and he asked me where I was going.”

“ What were you talking about ? ” Peter’s voice amazed him, as it did her. It was rough, remonstrating, he realized immediately, like the mood that engendered it. He was shocked at himself and glad she did not answer. Instead, she gave him her hand that he might help her over the low wall.

“See,” she said, “your grandmother has a light in her room. She is lying in bed reading good books.”

“Does she read them to you?”

“A little word sometimes when I go in to say good-night.”

“Grannie’s a saint.”

“Yes, and better. She’s a beautiful grannie.” .

When they stepped into the hall, Peter, under the stress of his inexplicable feeling, turned to look at her. Instantly the eyes of the man and of the artist agreed in an amazed affirmation. The artist in Peter got the better, and gave him authority.

“Wait a minute,” he bade her. “Stand there.”

She obeyed him, and looked inquiringly yet languidly. The angry man in him told him at once that she could obey because she was indifferent to his reasons for commanding her. Out of that indifference she stood and looked at him, kind, friendly, yet as far from him as the remoter stars. He stared at her and thought of brush and canvas. Never had he seen a woman so alive. Her eyes, her wayward hair, her very flesh seemed touched with flame. Her lips had softened into a full curve, strange contrast to their former patient sweetness. The pupils of her eyes, distended, gave her face a tragic power. As he looked, that wild bright beauty seemed to fade. Her eyes lost their reminiscent look and inquired of him sanely. The lips tightened a little. Her languor gave place to a steady poise. Now she shook her head with a pretty motion, as if she cast off memories.

“Do I look nice to-night? ” she said kindly, as if she spoke to an admiring boy. “Do you want to paint me ? ”

Peter turned aside with an exclamation under his breath. He had never, again he told himself, seen a woman so alive, so radiating beauty as if it bloomed and faded while he looked at her. She was beginning to mount the stairs.

“ Good-night,” she called back to him, with her perfect kindliness. “Good-night, Peter.”


Madam Pulton and Billy Stark sat in the library, wrangling.

“I say she’ll come,” said Madam Fulton.

“I say she won’t,” replied Billy, with a hearty zest. “No woman of self-respect would.”

“Maybe she has n’t self-respect.”

“Oh, you go ’way, Florrie. Of course she has, any girl as pretty as that.”

Madam Fulton looked at him smilingly. There were few left, nowadays, to call her Florrie.

“You see Electra never in the world would have invited her,” she continued. “I simply did it, and she had to confirm it or appear like a brute. Electra won’t do that. She’s willing to appear like a long and symmetrical icicle, but not a brute.”

That was it. She had boldly asked Rose to luncheon, and then told Electra she had done it. Now it was fifteen minutes to the time, and the hostess had not appeared. Madam Fulton looked up from her work. There was a laughing cherub in each eye. Her work, let it be said, was no work at all, only a shuttle plying in and out mysteriously, and lyingly doing the deed known as tatting. She usually tied knots and had to begin over; still, as she said, she liked the motion.

“There was a reporter here yesterday,” she remarked, watching the effect on Billy.

“The mischief there wTas! What for ? ”

“To see me. To ask about the book.”

“You did n’t talk to him ? ”

“Oh, yes, I did! ”

“What did he ask you ? ”

“Everything, nearly. He wanted to see the Abolitionist letters I had quoted.”

“What did you say ? ”

“I refused. I told him they wore sacred.”

“Did he suspect them ? Was that his idea ? ”

“Oh, dear, no! he wanted to reproduce some of the signatures. Then he asked me about my novels.”

“What about them ? ”

“How I used to write them — if the characters were taken from life. I said every time.”

“Florrie, what a pirate you are* ”

“Then his eye sharpened up like knives, and he wanted to know about the originals. ‘Dead,’ I said, ‘years and years ago.’ ”

“You did n’t use to be a freebooter, Florrie. You were just a bright girl.”

“Of course I didn’t. I was walking Spanish then. I was on my promotion. I always had faith life would do something for me if I’d speak pretty and hold out my tier. I held my tier a great many years and nothing dropped into it. I’m an awful example, Billy, of what a woman can become when she’s had no fun. This may seem to you insanity. It is n’t. It’s the abnormal and monstrous fruit of a plant that was n’t allowed to mature at the right time. I am a mammoth squash.”

“What did you tell him about your novels ? ”

“I told him they were n’t written. They wrote themselves. My characters simply got away from me and did things I never dreamed of. I said they were more alive to me than people of flesh and blood.”

“Do you suppose he put that all in ? ”

“I know he did.”

“Have you seen the paper? ”


“Why not ? ”

“I have n’t dared to look.”

Billy Stark glanced at the floor as if he wanted to get down and roll. Then he lay back in his chair and went gasping off. Madam Fulton watched him seriously, that unquenchable spark still in her eyes.

“I don’t know what you can do next,” said Billy, getting out his pocket handkerchief. “Unless you become engaged to me.”

Madam Fulton laid down her tatting to look at him in a gentle musing.

“It would plague Electra,” she owned.

“Come on, Florrie, come on! Get up early to-morrow morning and we’ll post off and be married.”

“No,” said Madam Fulton absently, still considering, “I don’t want to be married. Harsh measures never did attract me. But I’d like very well to be engaged. Tell you what, Billy, we could be engaged for the summer, and when you go back to England we’ll call it off.”

Billy rose, and possessed himself of one of her hands. He kissed it ceremoniously, and returned it to its tatting.

“You do me infinite honor,” he announced, with more gravity than she liked.

“Don’t get too serious, Billy,” she said quickly. “It’ll remind us of being young, and mercy knows that is n’t what we want.”

“May I inform your granddaughter ? ” asked the gentleman gravely.

“No, no, I’ll do it. That’s half the fun.”

At that moment Electra came in. She was dressed in white, as usual, but her ordinary dignified simplicity seemed overlaid, to the old lady’s satirical gaze, with an added smoothness of glossy surfaces. Her dress fell in simple folds. She seemed to have clothed herself to meet a moral emergency. Her face was pale in its determination. She was like a New England maiden led to sacrifice and bound, at all hazards, to do her conscience credit. Madam Fulton, seeing her, hardened her heart. There were few pirouettes she would not have essayed at that moment to plague her granddaughter.

“Electra, my dear,” she said, in a silken voice, “we have something to tell you, Mr. Stark and I. We have become engaged.”

Electra looked from one to the other, not even incredulity in her gaze, all a reproachful horror. Yet Electra did not for a moment admit the possibility of a joke on such a subject. She saw her grandmother, as she often did, peering down paths that led to madness, and even, as in this case, taking one.

“Please do not mention it,” grandmother was saying smoothly. “The engagement is not to be announced — not yet.”

Electra could not look at Billy Stark, even in reproof. The situation was too intolerable. And at that moment, flushed from her walk, eager, deprecating as she had to be in this unfriendly spot, Rose came in. She went straight to Madam Fulton, as if she were the recognized head of the house.

“It was so good of you,” she said. “I am so glad to come.” Then she turned to Electra and Billy Stark with her quick beautiful smile and her inclusive greeting. This was not the same woman who had run away to trysts under the tree, or even the woman Peter had seen when she returned, glowing, lovely, as if from a bath of pleasure. She was the Parisian, as Osmond had perhaps imagined her in his jesting fancy, regnant, subtle, even a little hard. Electra felt for a moment as if it were wise to be afraid of her. But they sat down, and she essayed the safe remark, —

“I believe luncheon is late.”

“What have you been doing with yourself, my dear ? ” Madam Fulton asked Rose, who was looking from one to another with an accessible brightness, as if she only wanted a chance to respond to everything beautifully. She bent a little, deferentially, toward Madam Fulton.

“Reading aloud this morning,” she said, “to grannie.”

“You call her grannie, do you? ”

“I begged to. I adore her.”

“Does she like it? ”

“Oh yes, she likes it,” Rose returned, with her lovely smile. “Don’t you think she likes it ? ”

“I know she does. That’s what I can’t understand. Every time I hear Electra say ‘grandmother’ it’s like a nail in my coffin.”

“Grandmother! ” exclaimed Electra, in an instant and quite honest deprecation.

“That’s it, my dear,” nodded the old lady. “That’s precisely it. Nail me down.”

Then luncheon was announced, and they went out, Rose with that instant deference toward Madam Fulton which suggested a hundred services while she delicately refrained from doing one.

“I know you,” said the old lady dryly, after they had sat down. “I know quite well what you are.”

“ What, please ? ” asked Rose, bending on her that warm look which was yet never too flattering, and still promised an incense of personal regard not to be spoiled by deeds.

“I know exactly what you are,” said the old lady, with her incisive kindliness. “You’re a charmer.”

Instantly Rose flushed all over her face, a flooding red. With the word she remembered the other voice out of the moonlit night, telling her the same thing. Now it was almost an accusation. Then it was a caressing loveliness of the night, as if an unseen hand had crowned her wdth a chaplet, dripping fragrance. In that instant, with a throb of haste and longing, she was away from the circle of these alien souls, back in the night where voice had answered voice. It. was immediately as if she were hearing his call to her. “I will come to-night, to-night,” she heard her heart repeating. “Did you wait for me last night, dear playmate, alone in the dark and stillness ? And the night before ? Did you think I was never coming ? I wall come to-night.”

Meantime Billy Stark, seeing the blush and knowing it meant discomfort, wTas pottering on in his kindly optimism, throwing himself into the breach, and dribbling words like rain. He talked of Paris and continental life in general. Rose had been everywhere. She spoke of traveling with her father on his missions from court to court. When MacLeod’s name recurred upon her lips, Electra, who presided, still and pale, roused momentarily into some show of interest. But Rose ’would not be led along that road. For some reason she refused to speak freely of her father. At a question, her lovely lips would fix themselves in a straight line. Back in the library again, she seated herself persistently by Madam Fulton, like a dog who has at last discovered the person friendliest to him.

“Run away, Billy, if you like,”said the old lady indulgently. “You want your cigar on the veranda. I know you.”

Billy was going, in humorous deprecation, when there was a running step along the veranda, and Peter came in with a bound. And what a Peter! He looked like a runner — not a spent one, either — with the news of victory. It was in his face, his flushed cheeks and flaming eyes, but chiefly in the air he brought with him — all tension and immoderate joy. Electra held her hands tight together and looked at him. Rose got half out of her chair. In those days when she thought continually of her own affairs, it seemed to her that nothing coidd be so important unless it had to do with her. Billy Stark by the door waited, and it was Madam Fulton who spoke, irritated at the vague excitement.

“For heaven’s sake, Peter, what’s the matter ? ”

He addressed himself at once to Rose.

“I have heard from him. I have had a letter.”

“From him! ” She was out of her chair and facing him. For the moment, with that hidden communion with Osmond hot in her heart and sharp in her ears, she had almost cried, “Osmond! ” But he went on, —

“I have heard from your father.”

Instantly the blood was out of her face. Billy Stark wondered at the aging grayness, and reflected curiously that youth is not only a question of flesh and blood but of the merry soul. Peter could not contain his pleasure. He cried out irrepressibly, like the herald beside himself with news, —

“He is coming here! ”

“Here! ” Rose made one step to lay her hand upon a little cabinet, and stood supporting herself. Electra, who caught the movement, looked at her curiously. Her own enormous interest in Peter’s news seemed to merge itself in watchful comment on the other girl.

“Here! ” Peter was answering. “To America! He writes me the most stirring letter. I did n’t think I knew him so well. He has so many friends here, he says, friends he never saw. He wants to meet them. The best of it is, he’s coming here — to us.”

“Here! ” repeated Rose again. She seemed to be sinking into herself, but the tense hand upon the cabinet kept her firm.

Peter looked at her with eyes of innocent delight.

“Here, to us. I told him if he ever came over, we should grab him before anybody got a hand on him. I’ve told grannie. She’s delighted.”

“You told him that! ” Her voice held a reproach so piercing that they were all staring at her in wonder. She looked like a woman suffering some anguish too fierce, for the moment, to be stilled. “You’ve been writing him! ”

“Of course,” said Peter. “Why, of course I wrote him. I sent him word when we first got here, to tell him you were well.”

“How could you! Oh, how could you! ”

At her tone, the inexplicable reproach of it, he lost his gay assurance. Peter forgot the others. There was nobody in the room, to his eager consciousness, but Rose and his erring self; for somehow, most innocently, he had offended her. He took a step toward her, his boyish face all melted into contrition. There might have been tears in his eyes, they were so soft.

“Sit down,” he implored her. “Rose! What have I done ? ”

It was like a sorry child asking pardon. Electra gave him a quick look, and then went on watching. At the tone Rose also was recalled. She shook herself a little, as if she threw off dreams. Her hand upon the cabinet relaxed. Her face softened, the pose of her body yielded. She almost seemed, by some power of the will, to bring new color into her cheeks. Peter had drawn forward her chair, and she took it smilingly.

“I’m not accustomed to long-lost fathers appearing unannounced,” she said whimsically. “Dear me! What if he brings me a Paris gown! ”

But Peter was standing before her, still with an air of deep solicitude.

“It was a shock, was n’t it? ” he kept repeating. “What a duffer I am! ”

“It was a shock,” said Electra, with an incisive confirmation. “May n’t I get you something P A glass of wine ? ”

Rose looked at her quite pleasantly before Peter had time to begin his persuasive recommendation that she should spare herself.

“Let me take you home,” he was urging.

It was as if Rose had been drawing draughts from some deep reservoir, and now she had enough to carry her on to victory.

“No, no, Peter,” she denied him. “I won’t go home. Thank you, Electra,” — a delicate frown wrinkled Plectra’s brows. The gild had never used her familiar name before — “thank you, I won’t have any wine. Well, my father is coming. Let’s hope he won’t turn the country upside down, and keep the trains from running. Get in your supplies, all of you. He may instigate a strike, and if the larder is n’t full, you’ll starve.”

“Stop the trains?” repeated Electra, who was not imaginative. Why should he stop the trains ? ”

“Ah, Miss Fulton, you don’t know my father,” Rose answered gayly. She had seen that tiny frown punctuating her first familiarity, and took warning by it. “Don’t you know how, in great gardens, you can take a key and turn on the fountains ? Well, my father can turn on strikes in the same manner. He has the key in his pocket.”

Electra warmed, in spite of herself. “I should like—she hesitated.

“You’d like to see him do it? You may. Perhaps you will. We’ll sit in a circle and point our thumbs down and all the bloated capitalists shall go in and be killed.” She was talking, at random, out of a tension she might not explain. Billy Stark, the coolest of them, saw that Madam Fulton had some vague inkling of it. Billy, as usual, began talking, but Rose had risen. Having proved her composure, she was going. She listened to Billy with smiling interest, and then when he had finished, humorously and inconsequently, nodded concurrence at him and said good-by. She had a few pretty words for Madam Fulton, a gracious look for Electra, and she was gone, Peter beside her. Billy Stark followed and stayed on the veranda with his cigar. But Electra remained facing her grandmother. She looked at her, not so much in triumph as with a fixed determination. Suddenly Madam Fulton became aware of her glance and answered it irritably.

“For mercy’s sake, Electra, what is it ? ”

Then Electra spoke, turning away, as if the smouldering satisfaction of her tone must not betray itself in her face.

“Do you realize what this means ? ”

“What what means ? ”

“She is terrified at his coming — Markham MacLeod’s.”

“Well, you don’t know Markham MacLeod. Perhaps if you did, you’d be terrified yourself.”

“But his daughter, grandmother, a girl who calls herself his daughter! ”

Madam Fulton stared.

“Don’t you believe that either? ” she inquired. “Don’t you believe she is his daughter ? ”

“Not for a moment.” Electra had turned and was walking toward the door, all her white draperies contributing to the purity of her aspect.

Madam Fulton continued, in the same inadequacy of amaze, —

“ But Peter knows it. He knew them together.”

“Peter knew her with Tom,” said Electra conclusively. “One proof is worth as much as the other.”

At the door she turned, almost a beseeching look upon her face, as she remembered another shock that had been dealt her.

“Grandmother! ” she said.

“Well! ”

“You spoke of Mr. Stark— ”

The old lady’s thought went traveling back. Then her face lighted.

“Oh,” she said. “Yes, I know. I’m engaged to Billy.”

“Grandmother — ” Electra blushed a little, painfully — “You can’t mean — grandmother, are you going to marry him ? ”

Madam Fulton laid her head back upon the small silk pillow of her chair. She never owned to it, but sometimes the dull hour after luncheon brought with it a drowsiness she was ceasing to combat. She smiled at Electra, who seemed very far away from her through the veil of that approaching slumber and through the years that separated them.

“We shan’t marry at once, Electra,” she said, dropping off while the girl looked at her. “Not at once. I expect to have a good many little affairs before I settle down.”

(To be continued.)

  1. Copyright, 1907, by ALICE BROWN.