Keen enough in his perceptions, he was able to recognize that here was a pure and imaginative spirit, strongly yearning after ideal strength, beauty, and goodness. Given such a spirit, it was not unnatural that, turning from sordid or unhappy surroundings as a flower turns from shadow to the full face of the sun, she should have taken a memory of valiant deeds, kind words, and a protecting arm, and have created out of these a man after her own heart, endowing him with all heroic attributes; at one and the same time sending him out into the world, a knight-errant without fear and without reproach, and keeping him by her side—the side of a child—in her own private wonderland. He saw that she had done this, and he was ashamed. He did not tell her that that eleven-years-distant fortnight was to him but a half-remembered incident of a crowded life, and that to all intents and purposes she herself had been forgotten. For one thing, it would have hurt her; for another, he saw no reason why he should tell her. Upon occasion he could be as ruthless as a stone; if he were so now he knew it not, but in deceiving her deceived himself. Man of a world that was corrupt enough, he was of course quietly assured that he could bend this woodland creature—half child, half dryad—to the form of his bidding. To do so was in his power, but not his pleasure. He meant to leave her as she was; to accept the adoration of the child, but to attempt no awakening of the woman. The girl was of the mountains, and their higher, colder, purer air; though he had brought her body thence, he would not have her spirit leave the climbing earth, the dreamlike summits, for the hot and dusty plain. The plain, God knew, had dwellers enough.
She was a thing of wild and sylvan grace, and there was fulfillment in a dark beauty all her own of the promise she had given as a child. About her was a pathos, too,—the pathos of the flower taken from its proper soil, and drooping in earth which nourished it not. Haward, looking at her, watching the sensitive, mobile lips, reading in the dark eyes, beneath the felicity of the present, a hint and prophecy of woe, felt for her a pity so real and great that for the moment his heart ached as for some sorrow of his own. She was only a young girl, poor and helpless, born of poor and helpless parents dead long ago. There was in her veins no gentle blood; she had none of the world's goods; her gown was torn, her feet went bare. She had youth, but not its heritage of gladness: beauty, but none to see it; a nature that reached toward light and height, and for its home the house which he had lately left. He was a man older by many years than the girl beside him, knowing good and evil; by instinct preferring the former, but at times stooping, open-eyed, to that degree of the latter which a lax and gay world held to be not incompatible with a convention somewhat misnamed "the honor of a gentleman." Now, beneath the beech-tree in the forest which touched upon one side the glebe, upon the other his own lands, he chose at this time the good; said to himself, and believed the thing he said, that in word and in deed he would prove himself her friend.
Putting out his hand he drew her down upon the leaves; and she sat beside him, still and happy, ready to answer him when he asked her this or that, readier yet to sit in blissful, dreamy silence. She was as pure as the flower which she held in her hand, and most innocent in her imaginings. This was a very perfect knight, a great gentleman, good and pitiful, that had saved her from the Indians when she was a little girl, and had been kind to her,—ah, so kind! In that dreadful night when she had lost father and mother and brother and sister, when in the darkness her childish heart was a stone for terror, he had come, like God, from the mountains, and straightway she was safe. Now into her woods, from over the sea, he had come again, and at once the load upon her heart, the dull longing and misery, the fear of Hugon, were lifted. The chaplet which she laid at his feet was not loosely woven of gay-colored flowers, but was compact of austerer blooms of gratitude, reverence, and that love which is only a longing to serve. The glamour was at hand, the enchanted light which breaks not from the east or the west or the north or the south was upon its way; but she knew it not, and she was happy in her ignorance.
"I am tired of the city," he said. "Now I shall stay in Virginia. A longing for the river and the marshes and the house where I was born came upon me"—
"I know," she answered. "When I shut my eyes I see the cabin in the valley, and when I dream it is of things which happen in a mountainous country."
"I am alone in the great house," he continued, "and the floors echo somewhat loudly. The garden, too; beside myself there is no one to smell the roses or to walk in the moonlight. I had forgotten the isolation of these great plantations. Each is a province and a despotism. If the despot has neither kith nor kin, has not yet made friends, and cares not to draw company from the quarters, he is lonely. They say that there are ladies in Virginia whose charms well-nigh outweigh their dowries of sweet-scented and Oronoko. I will wed such an one, and have laughter in my garden, and other footsteps than my own in my house."
"There are beautiful ladies in these parts," said Audrey. "There is the one that gave me the guinea for my running yesterday. She was so very fair. I wished with all my heart that I were like her."
"She is my friend," said Haward slowly, "and her mind is as fair as her face. I will tell her your story."
The gilded streak upon the earth beneath the beech had crept away, but over the ferns and weeds and flowering bushes between the slight trees without the ring the sunshine gloated. The blue of the sky was wonderful, and in the silence Haward and Audrey heard the wind whisper in the treetops. A dove moaned, and a hare ran past.
"It was I who brought you from the mountains and placed you here," said Haward at last. "I thought it for the best, and that when I sailed away I left you to a safe and happy life. It seems that I was mistaken. But now that I am at home again, child, I wish you to look upon me, who am so much your elder, as your guardian and protector still. If there is anything which you lack, if you are misused, are in need of help, why, think that your troubles are the Indians again, little maid, and turn to me once more for help!"
Having spoken honestly and well and very unwisely, he looked at his watch and said that it was late. When he rose to his feet Audrey did not move, and when he looked down upon her he saw that her eyes, that had been wet, were overflowing. He put out his hand, and she took it and touched it with her lips; then, because he said that he had not meant to set her crying, she smiled, and with her own hand dashed away the tears.
"When I ride this way I shall always stop at the minister's house," said Haward, "when, if there is aught which you need or wish, you must tell me of it. Think of me as your friend, child."
He laid his hand lightly and caressingly upon her head. The ruffles at his wrist, soft, fine, and perfumed, brushed her forehead and her eyes. "The path through your labyrinth to its beechen heart was hard to find," he continued, "but I can easily retrace it. No, trouble not yourself, child. Stay for a time where you are. I wish to speak to the minister alone."
His hand was lifted. Audrey felt rather than saw him go. Only a few feet, and the dogwood stars, the purple mist of the Judas-tree, the white fragrance of a wild cherry, came like a painted arras between them. For a time she could hear the movement of the branches as he put them aside; but presently this too ceased, and the place was left to her and to all the life that called it home.
It was the same wood, surely, into which she had run two hours before, and yet—and yet—When her tears were spent, and she stood up, leaning, with her loosened hair and her gown that was the color of oak bark, against the beech-tree, she looked about her and wondered. The wonder did not last, for she found an explanation.
"It has been blessed," said Audrey, with all reverence and simplicity, "and that is why the light is so different."
MACLEAN TO THE RESCUE
Saunderson, the overseer, having laboriously written and signed a pass, laid down the quill, wiped his inky forefinger upon his sleeve, and gave the paper to the storekeeper, who sat idly by.
"Ye'll remember that the store chiefly lacks in broadcloth of Witney, frieze and camlet, and in women's shoes, both silk and callimanco. And dinna forget to trade with Alick Ker for three small swords, a chafing dish, and a dozen mourning and hand-and-heart rings. See that you have the skins' worth. Alick's an awfu' man to get the upper hand of."
"I'm thinking a MacLean should have small difficulty with a Ker," said the storekeeper dryly. "What I'm wanting to know is why I am saddled with the company of Monsieur Jean Hugon." He jerked his thumb toward the figure of the trader standing within the doorway. "I do not like the gentleman, and I'd rather trudge it to Williamsburgh alone."
"Ye ken not the value of the skins, nor how to show them off," answered the other. "Wherefore, for the consideration of a measure of rum, he's engaged to help you in the trading. As for his being half Indian, Gude guide us! It's been told me that no so many centuries ago the Highlandmen painted their bodies and went into battle without taking advantage even of feathers and silk grass. One half of him is of the French nobeelity; he told me as much himself. And the best of ye—sic as the Campbells—are no better than that."
He looked at MacLean with a caustic smile. The latter shrugged his shoulders. "So long as you tie him neck and heels with a Campbell I am content," he answered. "Are you going? I'll just bar the windows and lock the door, and then I'll be off with yonder copper cadet of a French house. Good-day to you. I'll be back to-night."
"Ye'd better," said the overseer, with another widening of his thin lips. "For myself, I bear ye no ill-will; for my grandmither—rest her soul!—came frae the north, and I aye thought a Stewart better became the throne than a foreign-speaking body frae Hanover. But if the store is not open the morn I'll raise hue and cry, and that without wasting time. I've been told ye're great huntsmen in the Highlands; if ye choose to turn red deer yourself, I'll give ye a chase, and trade ye down, man, and track ye down."
MacLean half turned from the window. "I have hunted the red deer," he said, "in the land where I was born, and which I shall see no more, and I have been myself hunted in the land where I shall die. I have run until I have fallen, and I have felt the teeth of the dogs. Were God to send a miracle—which he will not do—and I were to go back to the glen and the crag and the deep birch woods, I suppose that I would hunt again, would drive the stag to bay, holloing to my hounds, and thinking the sound of the horns sweet music in my ears. It is the way of the earth. Hunter and hunted, we make the world and the pity of it."
Setting to work again, he pushed to the heavy shutters. "You'll find them open in the morning," he said, "and find me selling,—selling clothing that I may not wear, wine that I may not drink, powder and shot that I may not spend, swords that I may not use; and giving,—giving pride, manhood, honor, heart's blood"—
He broke off, shot to the bar across the shutters, and betook himself in silence to the other window, where presently he burst into a fit of laughter. The sound was harsh even to savagery. "Go your ways, Saunderson," he said. "I've tried the bars of the cage; they're too strong. Stop on your morning round, and I'll give account of my trading."
The overseer gone, the windows barred, and the heavy door shut and locked behind him, MacLean paused upon the doorstep to look down upon his appointed companion. The trader, half sitting, half reclining upon a log, was striking at something with the point of his hunting-knife, lightly, delicately, and often. The something was a lizard, about which, as it lay in the sunshine upon the log, he had wrought a pen of leafy twigs. The creature, darting for liberty this way and that, was met at every turn by the steel, and at every turn suffered a new wound. MacLean looked; then bent over and with a heavy stick struck the thing out of its pain.
"There's a time to work and a time to play, Hugon," he said coolly. "Playtime's over now. The sun is high, and Isaac and the oxen must have the skins well-nigh to Williamsburgh. Up with you!"
Hugon rose to his feet, slid his knife into its sheath, and announced in good enough English that he was ready. He had youth, the slender, hardy, perfectly moulded figure of the Indian, a coloring and a countenance that were not of the white and not of the brown. When he went a-trading up the river, past the thickly settled country, past the falls, past the French town which his Huguenot father had helped to build, into the deep woods and to the Indian village whence had strayed his mother, he wore the clothing that became the woods,—beaded moccasins, fringed leggings, hunting-shirt of deerskin, cap of fur,—looked his part and played it well. When he came back to an English country, to wharves and stores, to halls and porches of great houses and parlors of lesser ones, to the streets and ordinaries of Williamsburgh, he pulled on jack boots, shrugged himself into a coat with silver buttons, stuck lace of a so-so quality at neck and wrists, wore a cocked hat and a Blenheim wig, and became a figure alike grotesque and terrible. Two thirds of the time his business caused him to be in the forests that were far away; but when he returned to civilization, to stare it in the face and brag within himself, "I am lot and part of what I see!" he dwelt at the crossroads ordinary, drank and gamed with Paris the schoolmaster and Darden the minister, and dreamed (at times) of Darden's Audrey.
The miles to Williamsburgh were long and sunny, with the dust thick beneath the feet. Warm and heavy, the scented spring possessed the land. It was a day for drowsing in the shade: for them who must needs walk in the sunshine, languor of thought overtook them, and sparsity of speech. They walked rapidly, step with step, their two lean and sinewy bodies casting the same length of shadow; but they kept their eyes upon the long glare of white dust, and told not their dreams. At a point in the road where the storekeeper saw only confused marks and a powdering of dust upon the roadside bushes, the half-breed announced that there had been that morning a scuffle in a gang of negroes; that a small man had been thrown heavily to the earth, and a large man had made off across a low ditch into the woods; that the overseer had parted the combatants, and that some one's back had bled. No sooner was this piece of clairvoyance aired than he was vexed that he had shown a hall-mark of the savage, and hastily explained that life in the woods, such as a trader must live, would teach any man—an Englishman, now, as well as a Frenchman—how to read what was written on the earth. Farther on, when they came to a miniature glen between the semblance of two hills, down which, in mockery of a torrent, brabbled a slim brown stream, MacLean stood still, gazed for a minute, then, whistling, caught up with his companion, and spoke at length upon the subject of the skins awaiting them at Williamsburgh.
The road had other travelers than themselves. At intervals a cloud of dust would meet or overtake them, and out of the windows of coach or chariot or lighter chaise faces would glance at them. In the thick dust wheels and horses' hoofs made no noise, the black coachmen sat still upon the boxes, the faces were languid with the springtime. A moment and all were gone. Oftener there passed a horseman. If he were riding the planter's pace, he went by like a whirlwind, troubling only to curse them out of his path; if he had more leisure, he threw them a good-morning, or perhaps drew rein to ask this or that of Hugon. The trader was well known, and was an authority upon all matters pertaining to hunting or trapping. The foot passengers were few, for in Virginia no man walked that could ride, and on a morn of early May they that walked were like to be busy in the fields. An ancient seaman, lame and vagabond, lurched beside them for a while, then lagged behind; a witch, old and bowed and bleared of eye, crossed their path; and a Sapony hunter, with three wolves' heads slung across his shoulder, slipped by them on his way to claim the reward decreed by the Assembly. At a turn of the road they came upon a small ordinary, with horses fastened before it, and with laughter, oaths, and the rattling of dice issuing from the open windows. The trader had money; the storekeeper had none. The latter, though he was thirsty, would have passed on; but Hugon twitched him by the sleeve, and producing from the depths of his great flapped pocket a handful of crusadoes, ecues, and pieces of eight, indicated with a flourish that he was prepared to share with his less fortunate companion.
They drank standing, kissed the girl who served them, and took to the road again. There were no more thick woods, the road running in a blaze of sunshine past clumps of cedars and wayside tangles of blackberry, sumac, and elder. Presently, beyond a group of elms, came into sight the goodly college of William and Mary, and, dazzling white against the blue, the spire of Bruton church.
Within a wide pasture pertaining to the college, close to the roadside and under the boughs of a vast poplar, half a score of students were at play. Their lithe young bodies were dark of hue and were not overburdened with clothing; their countenances remained unmoved, without laughter or grimacing; and no excitement breathed in the voices with which they called one to another. In deep gravity they tossed a ball, or pitched a quoit, or engaged in wrestling. A white man, with a singularly pure and gentle face, sat upon the grass at the foot of the tree, and watched the studious efforts of his pupils with an approving smile.
"Wildcats to purr upon the hearth, and Indians to go to school!" quoth MacLean. "Were you taught here, Hugon, and did you play so sadly?"
The trader, his head held very high, drew out a large and bedizened snuffbox, and took snuff with ostentation. "My father was of a great tribe—I would say a great house—in the country called France," he explained, with dignity. "Oh, he was of a very great name indeed! His blood was—what do you call it?—blue. I am the son of my father: I am a Frenchman. Bien! My father dies, having always kept me with him at Monacan-Town; and when they have laid him full length in the ground, Monsieur le Marquis calls me to him. 'Jean,' says he, and his voice is like the ice in the stream, 'Jean, you have ten years, and your father—may le bon Dieu pardon his sins!—has left his wishes regarding you and money for your maintenance. To-morrow Messieurs de Sailly and de Breuil go down the river to talk of affairs with the English Governor. You will go with them, and they will leave you at the Indian school which the English have built near to the great college in their town of Williamsburgh. There you will stay, learning all that Englishmen can teach you, until you have eighteen years. Come back to me then, and with the money left by your father you shall be fitted out as a trader. Go!' ... Yes, I went to school here; but I learned fast, and did not forget the things I learned, and I played with the English boys—there being no scholars from France—on the other side of the pasture."
He waved his hand toward an irruption of laughing, shouting figures from the north wing of the college. The white man under the tree had been quietly observant of the two wayfarers, and he now rose to his feet, and came over to the rail fence against which they leaned.
"Ha, Jean Hugon!" he said pleasantly, touching with his thin white hand the brown one of the trader. "I thought it had been my old scholar! Canst say the belief and the Commandments yet, Jean? Yonder great fellow with the ball is Meshawa,—Meshawa that was a little, little fellow when you went away. All your other playmates are gone,—though you did not play much, Jean, but gloomed and gloomed because you must stay this side of the meadow with your own color. Will you not cross the fence and sit awhile with your old master?"
As he spoke he regarded with a humorous smile the dusty glories of his sometime pupil, and when he had come to an end he turned and made as if to beckon to the Indian with the ball. But Hugon drew his hand away, straightened himself, and set his face like a flint toward the town. "I am sorry, I have no time to-day," he said stiffly. "My friend and I have business in town with men of my own color. My color is white. I do not want to see Meshawa or the others. I have forgotten them."
He turned away, but a thought striking him his face brightened, and plunging his hand into his pocket he again brought forth his glittering store. "Nowadays I have money," he said grandly. "It used to be that Indian braves brought Meshawa and the others presents, because they were the sons of their great men. I was the son of a great man, too; but he was not Indian and he was lying in his grave, and no one brought me gifts. Now I wish to give presents. Here are ten coins, master. Give one to each Indian boy, the largest to Meshawa."
The Indian teacher, Charles Griffin by name, looked with a whimsical face at the silver pieces laid arow upon the top rail. "Very well, Jean," he said. "It is good to give of thy substance. Meshawa and the others will have a feast. Yes, I will remember to tell them to whom they owe it. Good-day to you both."
The meadow, the solemnly playing Indians, and their gentle teacher were left behind, and the two men, passing the long college all astare with windows, the Indian school, and an expanse of grass starred with buttercups, came into Duke of Gloucester Street. Broad, unpaved, deep in dust, shaded upon its ragged edges by mulberries and poplars, it ran without shadow of turning from the gates of William and Mary to the wide sweep before the Capitol. Houses bordered it, flush with the street or set back in fragrant gardens; other and narrower ways opened from it; half way down its length wide greens, where the buttercups were thick in the grass, stretched north and south. Beyond these greens were more houses, more mulberries and poplars, and finally, closing the vista, the brick facade of the Capitol.
The two from Fair View plantation kept their forest gait; for the trader was in a hurry to fulfill his part of the bargain, which was merely to exhibit and value the skins. There was an ordinary in Nicholson Street that was to his liking. Sailors gamed there, and other traders, and half a dozen younger sons of broken gentlemen. It was as cleanly dining in its chief room as in the woods, and the aqua vitae, if bad, was cheap. In good humor with himself, and by nature lavish with his earnings, he offered to make the storekeeper his guest for the day. The latter curtly declined the invitation. He had bread and meat in his wallet, and wanted no drink but water. He would dine beneath the trees on the market green, would finish his business in town, and be half way back to the plantation while the trader—being his own man, with no fear of hue and cry if he were missed—was still at hazard.
This question settled, the two kept each other company for several hours longer, at the end of which time they issued from the store at which the greater part of their business had been transacted, and went their several ways,—Hugon to the ordinary in Nicholson Street, and MacLean to his dinner beneath the sycamores on the green. When the frugal meal had been eaten, the latter recrossed the sward to the street, and took up again the round of his commissions.
It was after three by the great clock in the cupola of the Capitol when he stood before the door of Alexander Ker, the silversmith, and found entrance made difficult by the serried shoulders of half a dozen young men standing within the store, laughing, and making bantering speeches to some one hidden from the Highlander's vision. Presently an appealing voice, followed by a low cry, proclaimed that the some one was a woman.
MacLean had a lean and wiry strength which had stood him in good stead upon more than one occasion in his checkered career. He now drove an arm like a bar of iron between two broadcloth coats, sent the wearers thereof to right and left, and found himself one of an inner ring and facing Mistress Truelove Taberer, who stood at bay against the silversmith's long table. One arm was around the boy who had rowed her to the Fair View store a week agone; with the other she was defending her face from the attack of a beribboned gallant desirous of a kiss. The boy, a slender, delicate lad of fourteen, struggled to free himself from his sister's restraining arm, his face white with passion and his breath coming in gasps. "Let me go, Truelove!" he commanded. "If I am a Friend, I am a man as well! Thou fellow with the shoulder knots, thee shall pay dearly for thy insolence!"
Truelove tightened her hold. "Ephraim, Ephraim! If a man compel thee to go with him a mile, thee is to go with him twain; if he take thy cloak, thee is to give him thy coat also; if he—Ah!" She buried her profaned cheek in her arm and began to cry, but very softly.
Her tormentors, flushed with wine and sworn to obtain each one a kiss, laughed more loudly, and one young rake, with wig and ruffles awry, lurched forward to take the place of the coxcomb who had scored. Ephraim wrenched himself free, and making for this gentleman might have given or received bodily injury, had not a heavy hand falling upon his shoulder stopped him in mid-career.
"Stand aside, boy," said MacLean, "This quarrel's mine by virtue of my making it so. Mistress Truelove, you shall have no further annoyance. Now, you Lowland cowards that cannot see a flower bloom but you wish to trample it in the mire, come taste the ground yourself, and be taught that the flower is out of reach!"
As he spoke he stepped before the Quakeress, weaponless, but with his eyes like steel. The half dozen spendthrifts and ne'er-do-weels whom he faced paused but long enough to see that this newly arrived champion had only his bare hands, and was, by token of his dress, undoubtedly their inferior, before setting upon him with drunken laughter and the loudly avowed purpose of administering a drubbing. The one that came first he sent rolling to the floor. "Another for Hector!" he said coolly.
The silversmith, ensconced in safety behind the table, wrung his hands. "Sirs, sirs! Take your quarrel into the street! I'll no have fighting in my store. What did ye rin in here for, ye Quaker baggage? Losh! did ye ever see the like of that! Here, boy, ye can get through the window. Rin for the constable! Rin, I tell ye, or there'll be murder done!"
A gentleman who had entered the store unobserved drew his rapier, and with it struck up a heavy cane which was in the act of descending for the second time upon the head of the unlucky Scot. "What is all this?" he asked quietly. "Five men against one,—that is hardly fair play. Ah, I see there were six; I had overlooked the gentleman on the floor, who, I hope, is only stunned. Five to one,—the odds are heavy. Perhaps I can make them less so." With a smile upon his lips, he stepped backward a foot or two until he stood with the weaker side.
Now, had it been the constable who so suddenly appeared upon the scene, the probabilities are that the fight, both sides having warmed to it, would, despite the terrors of the law, have been carried to a finish. But it was not the constable; it was a gentleman recently returned from England, and become in the eyes of the youth of Williamsburgh the glass of fashion and the mould of form. The youngster with the shoulder knots had copied color and width of ribbon from a suit which this gentleman had worn at the Palace; the rake with the wig awry, who passed for a wit, had done him the honor to learn by heart portions of his play, and to repeat (without quotation marks) a number of his epigrams; while the pretty fellow whose cane he had struck up practiced night and morning before a mirror his bow and manner of presenting his snuffbox. A fourth ruffler desired office, and cared not to offend a prospective Councilor. There was rumor, too, of a grand entertainment to be given at Fair View; it was good to stand well with the law, but it was imperative to do so with Mr. Marmaduke Haward. Their hands fell; they drew back a pace, and the wit made himself spokesman. Roses were rare so early in the year; for him and his companions, they had but wished to compliment those that bloomed in the cheeks of the pretty Quakeress. This servant fellow, breathing fire like a dragon, had taken it upon himself to defend the roses,—which likely enough were grown for him,—and so had been about to bring upon himself merited chastisement. However, since it was Mr. Marmaduke Haward who pleaded for him—A full stop, a low bow, and a flourish. "Will Mr. Haward honor me? 'Tis right Macouba, and the box—if the author of 'The Puppet Show' would deign to accept it"—
"Rather to change with you, sir," said the other urbanely, and drew out his own chased and medallioned box.
The gentleman upon the floor had now gotten unsteadily to his feet. Mr. Haward took snuff with each of the six; asked after the father of one, the brother of another; delicately intimated his pleasure in finding the noble order of Mohocks, that had lately died in London, resurrected in Virginia; and fairly bowed the flattered youths out of the store. He stood for a moment upon the threshold watching them go triumphantly, if unsteadily, up the street; then turned to the interior of the store to find MacLean seated upon a stool, with his head against the table, submitting with a smile of pure content to the ministrations of the dove-like mover of the late turmoil, who with trembling fingers was striving to bind her kerchief about a great cut in his forehead.
HAWARD AND EVELYN
MacLean put aside with much gentleness the hands of his surgeon, and, rising to his feet, answered the question in Haward's eyes by producing a slip of paper and gravely proffering it to the man whom he served. Haward took it, read it, and handed it back; then turned to the Quaker maiden. "Mistress Truelove Taberer," he said courteously. "Are you staying in town? If you will tell me where you lodge, I will myself conduct you thither."
Truelove shook her head, and slipped her hand into that of her brother Ephraim. "I thank thee, friend," she said, with gentle dignity, "and thee, too, Angus MacLean, though I grieve that thee sees not that it is not given us to meet evil with evil, nor to withstand force with force. Ephraim and I can now go in peace. I thank thee again, friend, and thee." She gave her hand first to Haward, then to MacLean. The former, knowing the fashion of the Quakers, held the small fingers a moment, then let them drop; the latter, knowing it, too, raised them to his lips and imprinted upon them an impassioned kiss. Truelove blushed, then frowned, last of all drew her hand away.
With the final glimpse of her gray skirt the Highlander came back to the present. "Singly I could have answered for them all, one after the other," he said stiffly. "Together they had the advantage. I pay my debt and give you thanks, sir."
"That is an ugly cut across your forehead," replied Haward. "Mr. Ker had best bring you a basin of water. Or stay! I am going to my lodging. Come with me, and Juba shall dress the wound properly."
MacLean turned his keen blue eyes upon him. "Am I to understand that you give me a command, or that you extend to me an invitation? In the latter case, I should prefer"—
"Then take it as a command," said Haward imperturbably. "I wish your company. Mr. Ker, good-day; I will buy the piece of plate which you showed me yesterday."
The two moved down the room together, but at the door MacLean, with his face set like a flint, stood aside, and Haward passed out first, then waited for the other to come up with him.
"When I drink a cup I drain it to the dregs," said the Scot. "I walk behind the man who commands me. The way, you see, is not broad enough for you and me and hatred."
"Then let hatred lag behind," answered Haward coolly. "I have negroes to walk at my heels when I go abroad. I take you for a gentleman, accept your enmity an it please you, but protest against standing here in the hot sunshine."
With a shrug MacLean joined him. "As you please," he said. "I have in spirit moved with you through London streets. I never thought to walk with you in the flesh."
It was yet warm and bright in the street, the dust thick, the air heavy with the odors of the May. Haward and MacLean walked in silence, each as to the other, one as to the world at large. Now and again the Virginian must stop to bow profoundly to curtsying ladies, or to take snuff with some portly Councilor or less stately Burgess who, coming from the Capitol, chanced to overtake them. When he paused his storekeeper paused also, but, having no notice taken of him beyond a glance to discern his quality, needed neither a supple back nor a ready smile.
Haward lodged upon Palace Street, in a square brick house, lived in by an ancient couple who could remember Puritan rule in Virginia, who had served Sir William Berkeley, and had witnessed the burning of Jamestown by Bacon. There was a grassy yard to the house, and the path to the door lay through an alley of lilacs, purple and white. The door was open, and Haward and MacLean, entering, crossed the hall, and going into a large, low room, into which the late sunshine was streaming, found the negro Juba setting cakes and wine upon the table.
"This gentleman hath a broken head, Juba," said the master. "Bring water and linen, and bind it up for him."
As he spoke he laid aside hat and rapier, and motioned MacLean to a seat by the window. The latter obeyed the gesture in silence, and in silence submitted to the ministrations of the negro. Haward, sitting at the table, waited until the wound had been dressed; then with a wave of the hand dismissed the black.
"You would take nothing at my hands the other day," he said to the grim figure at the window. "Change your mind, my friend,—or my foe,—and come sit and drink with me."
MacLean reared himself from his seat, and went stiffly over to the table. "I have eaten and drunken with an enemy before to-day," he said. "Once I met Ewin Mor Mackinnon upon a mountain side. He had oatcake in his sporran, and I a flask of usquebaugh. We couched in the heather, and ate and drank together, and then we rose and fought. I should have slain him but that a dozen Mackinnons came up the glen, and he turned and fled to them for cover. Here I am in an alien land; a thousand fiery crosses would not bring one clansman to my side; I cannot fight my foe. Wherefore, then, should I take favors at his hands?"
"Why should you be my foe?" demanded Haward. "Look you, now! There was a time, I suppose, when I was an insolent youngster like any one of those who lately set upon you; but now I call myself a philosopher and man of a world for whose opinions I care not overmuch. My coat is of fine cloth, and my shirt of holland; your shirt is lockram, and you wear no coat at all: ergo, saith a world of pretty fellows, we are beings of separate planets. 'As the cloth is, the man is,'—to which doctrine I am at times heretic. I have some store of yellow metal, and spend my days in ridding myself of it,—a feat which you have accomplished. A goodly number of acres is also counted unto me, but in the end my holding and your holding will measure the same. I walk a level road; you have met with your precipice, and, bruised by the fall, you move along stony ways; but through the same gateway we go at last. Fate, not I, put you here. Why should you hate me who am of your order?"
MacLean left the table, and twice walked the length of the room, slowly and with knitted brows. "If you mean the world-wide order,—the order of gentlemen,"—he said, coming to a pause with the breadth of the table between him and Haward, "we may have that ground in common. The rest is debatable land. I do not take you for a sentimentalist or a redresser of wrongs. I am your storekeeper, purchased with that same yellow metal of which you so busily rid yourself; and your storekeeper I shall remain until the natural death of my term, two years hence. We are not countrymen; we own different kings; I may once have walked your level road, but you have never moved in the stony ways; my eyes are blue, while yours are gray; you love your melting Southern music, and I take no joy save in the pipes; I dare swear you like the smell of lilies which I cannot abide, and prefer fair hair in women where I would choose the dark. There is no likeness between us. Why, then"—
Haward smiled, and drawing two glasses toward him slowly filled them with wine. "It is true," he said, "that it is not my intention to become a petitioner for the pardon of a rebel to his serene and German Majesty the King; true also that I like the fragrance of the lily. I have my fancies. Say that I am a man of whim, and that, living in a lonely house set in a Sahara of tobacco fields, it is my whim to desire the acquaintance of the only gentleman within some miles of me. Say that my fancy hath been caught by a picture drawn for me a week agone; that, being a philosopher, I play with the idea that your spirit, knife in hand, walked at my elbow for ten years, and I knew it not. Say that the idea has for me a curious fascination. Say, finally, that I plume myself that, given the chance, I might break down this airy hatred."
He set down the bottle, and pushed one of the brimming glasses across the table. "I should like to make trial of my strength," he said, with, a laugh. "Come! I did you a service to-day; in your turn do me a pleasure."
MacLean dragged a chair to the table, and sat down. "I will drink with you," he said, "and forget for an hour. A man grows tired—It is Burgundy, is it not? Old Borlum and I emptied a bottle between us, the day he went as hostage to Wills; since then I have not tasted wine. 'Tis a pretty color."
Haward lifted his glass. "I drink to your future. Freedom, better days, a stake in a virgin land, friendship with a sometime foe." He bowed to his guest and drank.
"In my country," answered MacLean, "where we would do most honor, we drink not to life, but to death. Crioch onarach! Like a gentleman may you die." He drank, and sighed with pleasure.
"The King!" said Haward. There was a china bowl, filled with red anemones, upon the table. MacLean drew it toward him, and, pressing aside the mass of bloom, passed his glass over the water in the bowl. "The King! with all my heart," he said imperturbably.
Haward poured more wine. "I have toasted at the Kit-Kat many a piece of brocade and lace less fair than yon bit of Quaker gray that cost you a broken head. Shall we drink to Mistress Truelove Taberer?"
By now the Burgundy had warmed the heart and loosened the tongue of the man who had not tasted wine since the surrender of Preston. "It is but a mile from the store to her father's house," he said. "Sometimes on Sundays I go up the creek upon the Fair View side, and when I am over against the house I holloa. Ephraim comes, in his boat and rows me across, and I stay for an hour. They are strange folk, the Quakers. In her sight and in that of her people I am as good a man as you. 'Friend Angus MacLean,' 'Friend Marmaduke Haward,'—world's wealth and world's rank quite beside the question."
He drank, and commended the wine. Haward struck a silver bell, and bade Juba bring another bottle.
"When do you come again to the house at Fair View?" asked the storekeeper.
"Very shortly. It is a lonely place, where ghosts bear me company. I hope that now and then, when I ask it, and when the duties of your day are ended, you will come help me exorcise them. You shall find welcome and good wine." He spoke very courteously, and if he saw the humor of the situation his smile betrayed him not.
MacLean took a flower from the bowl, and plucked at its petals with nervous fingers. "Do you mean that?" he asked at last.
Haward leaned across the table, and their eyes met. "On my word I do," said the Virginian.
The knocker on the house door sounded loudly, and a moment later a woman's clear voice, followed by a man's deeper tones, was heard in the hall.
"More guests," said Haward lightly. "You are a Jacobite; I drink my chocolate at St. James' Coffee House; the gentleman approaching—despite his friendship for Orrery and for the Bishop of Rochester—is but a Hanover Tory; but the lady,—the lady wears only white roses, and every 10th of June makes a birthday feast."
The storekeeper rose hastily to take his leave, but was prevented both by Haward's restraining gesture and by the entrance of the two visitors who were now ushered in by the grinning Juba. Haward stepped forward. "You are very welcome, Colonel. Evelyn, this is kind. Your woman told me this morning that you were not well, else"—
"A migraine," she answered, in her clear, low voice. "I am better now, and my father desired me to take the air with him."
"We return to Westover to-morrow," said that sprightly gentleman. "Evelyn is like David of old, and pines for water from the spring at home. It also appears that the many houses and thronged streets of this town weary her, who, poor child, is used to an Arcady called London! When will you come to us at Westover, Marmaduke?"
"I cannot tell," Haward answered. "I must first put my own house in order, so that I may in my turn entertain my friends."
As he spoke he moved aside, so as to include in the company MacLean, who stood beside the table. "Evelyn," he said, "let me make known to you—and to you, Colonel—a Scots gentleman who hath broken his spear in his tilt with fortune, as hath been the luck of many a gallant man before him. Mistress Evelyn Byrd, Colonel Byrd—Mr. MacLean, who was an officer in the Highland force taken at Preston, and who has been for some years a prisoner of war in Virginia."
The lady's curtsy was low; the Colonel bowed as to his friend's friend. If his eyebrows went up, and if a smile twitched the corners of his lips, the falling curls of his periwig hid from view these tokens of amused wonder. MacLean bowed somewhat stiffly, as one grown rusty in such matters. "I am in addition Mr. Marmaduke Haward's storekeeper," he said succinctly, then turned to the master of Fair View. "It grows late," he announced, "and I must be back at the store to-night. Have you any message for Saunderson?"
"None," answered Haward. "I go myself to Fair View to-morrow, and then I shall ask you to drink with me again."
As he spoke he held out his hand. MacLean looked at it, sighed, then touched it with his own. A gleam as of wintry laughter came into his blue eyes. "I doubt that I shall have to get me a new foe," he said, with regret in his voice.
When he had bowed to the lady and to her father, and had gone out of the room and down the lilac-bordered path and through the gate, and when the three at the window had watched him turn into Duke of Gloucester Street, the master of Westover looked at the master of Fair View and burst out laughing. "Ludwell hath for an overseer the scapegrace younger son of a baronet; and there are three brothers of an excellent name under indentures to Robert Carter. I have at Westover a gardener who annually makes the motto of his house to spring in pease and asparagus. I have not had him to drink with me yet, and t'other day I heard Ludwell give to the baronet's son a hound's rating."
"I do not drink with the name," said Haward coolly. "I drink with the man. The churl or coward may pass me by, but the gentleman, though his hands be empty, I stop."
The other laughed again; then dismissed the question with a wave of his hand, and pulled out a great gold watch with cornelian seals. "Carter swears that Dr. Contesse hath a specific that is as sovereign for the gout as is St. Andrew's cross for a rattlesnake bite. I've had twinges lately, and the doctor lives hard by. Evelyn, will you rest here while I go petition AEsculapius? Haward, when I have the recipe I will return, and impart it to you against the time when you need it. No, no, child, stay where you are! I will be back anon."
Having waved aside his daughter's faint protest, the Colonel departed,—a gallant figure of a man, with a pretty wit and a heart that was benevolently gay. As he went down the path he paused to gather a sprig of lilac. "Westover—Fair View," he said to himself, and smiled, and smelled the lilac; then—though his ills were somewhat apocryphal—walked off at a gouty pace across the buttercup-sprinkled green toward the house of Dr. Contesse.
Haward and Evelyn, left alone, kept silence for a time in the quiet room that was filled with late sunshine and the fragrance of flowers. He stood by the window, and she sat in a great chair, with her hands folded in her lap, and her eyes upon them. When silence had become more loud than speech, she turned in her seat and addressed herself to him.
"I have known you do many good deeds," she said slowly. "That gentleman that was here is your servant, is he not, and an exile, and unhappy? And you sent him away comforted. It was a generous thing."
Haward moved restlessly. "A generous thing," he answered. "Ay, it was generous. I can do such things at times, and why I do them who can tell? Not I! Do you think that I care for that grim Highlander, who drinks my death in place of my health, who is of a nation that I dislike, and a party that is not mine?"
She shook her head. "I do not know. And yet you helped him."
Haward left the window, and came and sat beside her. "Yes, I helped him. I am not sure, but I think I did it because, when first we met, he told me that he hated me, and meant the thing he said. It is my humor to fix my own position in men's minds; to lose the thing I have that I may gain the thing I have not; to overcome, and never prize the victory; to hunt down a quarry, and feel no ardor in the chase; to strain after a goal, and yet care not if I never reach it."
He took her fan in his hand, and fell to counting the slender ivory sticks. "I tread the stage as a fine gentleman," he said. "It is the part for which I was cast, and I play it well with proper mien and gait. I was not asked if I would like the part, but I think that I do like it, as much as I like anything. Seeing that I must play it, and that there is that within me which cries out against slovenliness, I play it as an artist should. Magnanimity goes with it, does it not, and generosity, courtesy, care for the thing which is, and not for that which seems? Why, then, with these and other qualities I strive to endow the character."
He closed the fan, and, leaning back in his chair, shaded his eyes with his hand. "When the lights are out," he said; "when forever and a night the actor bids the stage farewell; when, stripped of mask and tinsel, he goes home to that Auditor who set him his part, then perhaps he will be told what manner of man he is. The glass that now he dresses before tells him not; but he thinks a truer glass would show a shrunken figure."
He sat in silence for a moment; then laughed, and gave her back her fan. "Am I to come to Westover, Evelyn?" he asked. "Your father presses, and I have not known what answer to make him."
"You will give us pleasure by your coming," she said gently and at once. "My father wishes your advice as to the ordering of his library; and you know that my pretty stepmother likes you well."
"Will it please you to have me come?" he asked, with his eyes upon her face.
She met his gaze very quietly. "Why not?" she answered simply. "You will help me in my flower garden, and sing with me in the evening, as of old."
"Evelyn," he said, "if what I am about to say to you distresses you, lift your hand, and I will cease to speak. Since a day and an hour in the woods yonder, I have been thinking much. I wish to wipe that hour from your memory as I wipe it from mine, and to begin afresh. You are the fairest woman that I know, and the best. I beg you to accept my reverence, homage, love; not the boy's love, perhaps; perhaps not the love that some men have to squander, but my love. A quiet love, a lasting trust, deep pride and pleasure"—
At her gesture he broke off, sat in silence for a moment, then rising went to the window, and with slightly contracted brows stood looking out at the sunshine that was slipping away. Presently he was aware that she stood beside him.
She was holding out her hand. "It is that of a friend," she said. "No, do not kiss it, for that is the act of a lover. And you are not my lover,—oh, not yet, not yet!" A soft, exquisite blush stole over her face and neck, but she did not lower her lovely candid eyes. "Perhaps some day, some summer day at Westover, it will all be different," she breathed, and turned away.
Haward caught her hand, and bending pressed his lips upon it. "It is different now!" he cried. "Next week I shall come to Westover!"
He led her back to the great chair, and presently she asked some question as to the house at Fair View. He plunged into an account of the cases of goods which had followed him from England by the Falcon, and which now lay in the rooms that were yet to be swept and garnished; then spoke lightly and whimsically of the solitary state in which he must live, and of the entertainments which, to be in the Virginia fashion, he must give. While he talked she sat and watched him, with the faint smile upon her lips. The sunshine left the floor and the wall, and a dankness from the long grass and the closing flowers and the heavy trees in the adjacent churchyard stole into the room. With the coming of the dusk conversation languished, and the two sat in silence until the return of the Colonel.
If that gentleman did not light the darkness like a star, at least his entrance into a room invariably produced the effect of a sudden accession of was lights, very fine and clear and bright. He broke a jest or two, bade laughing farewell to the master of Fair View, and carried off his daughter upon his arm. Haward walked with them to the gate, and came back alone, stepping thoughtfully between the lilac bushes.
It was not until Juba had brought candles, and he had taken his seat at table before the half-emptied bottle of wine, that it came to Haward that he had wished to tell Evelyn of the brown girl who had run for the guinea, but had forgotten to do so.
AUDREY OF THE GARDEN
The creek that ran between Fairview and the glebe lands was narrow and deep; upon it, moored to a stake driven into a bit of marshy ground below the orchard, lay a crazy boat belonging to the minister. To this boat, of an early, sunny morning, came Audrey, and, standing erect, pole in hand, pushed out from the reedy bank into the slow-moving stream. It moved so slowly and was so clear that its depth seemed the blue depth of the sky, with now and then a tranquil cloud to be glided over. The banks were low and of the greenest grass, save where they sank still lower and reeds abounded, or where some colored bush, heavy with bloom, bent to meet its reflected image. It was so fair that Audrey began to sing as she went down the stream; and without knowing why she chose it, she sang a love song learned out of one of Darden's ungodly books, a plaintive and passionate lay addressed by some cavalier to his mistress of an hour. She sang not loudly, but very sweetly; carelessly, too, and as if to herself; now and then repeating a line twice or maybe thrice; pleased with the sweet melancholy of the notes, but not thinking overmuch of the meaning of the words. They died upon her lips when Hugon rose from a lair of reeds and called to her to stop. "Come to the shore, ma'm'selle!" he cried. "See, I have brought you a ribbon from the town. Behold!" and he fluttered a crimson streamer.
Audrey caught her breath; then gazed, reassured, at the five yards of water between her and the bank. Had Hugon stood there in his hunting dress, she would have felt them no security; but he was wearing his coat and breeches of fine cloth, his ruffled shirt, and his great black periwig. A wetting would not be to his mind.
As she answered not, but went on her way, silent now, and with her slender figure bending with the motion of the pole, he frowned and shrugged; then took up his pilgrimage, and with his light and swinging stride kept alongside of the boat. The ribbon lay across his arm, and he turned it in the sunshine. "If you come not and get it," he wheedled, "I will throw it in the water."
The angry tears sprang to Audrey's eyes. "Do so, and save me the trouble," she answered, and then was sorry that she had spoken.
The red came into the swarthy cheeks of the man upon the bank. "You love me not," he said. "Good! You have told me so before. But here I am!"
"Then here is a coward!" said Audrey. "I do not wish you to walk there. I do not wish you to speak to me. Go back!"
Hugon's teeth began to show. "I go not," he answered, with something between a snarl and a smirk. "I love you, and I follow on your path,—like a lover."
"Like an Indian!" cried the girl.
The arrow pierced the heel. The face which he turned upon her was the face of a savage, made grotesque and horrible, as war-paint and feathers could not have made it, by the bushy black wig and the lace cravat.
"Audrey!" he called. "Morning Light! Sunshine in the Dark! Dancing Water! Audrey that will not be called 'mademoiselle' nor have the wooing of the son of a French chief! Then shall she have the wooing of the son of a Monacan woman. I am a hunter. I will woo as they woo in the woods."
Audrey bent to her pole, and made faster progress down the creek. Her heart was hot and angry, and yet she was afraid. All dreadful things, all things that oppressed with horror, all things that turned one white and cold, so cold and still that one could not run away, were summed up for her in the word "Indian." To her the eyes of Hugon were basilisk eyes,—they drew her and held her; and when she looked into them, she saw flames rising and bodies of murdered kindred; then the mountains loomed above her again, and it was night-time, and she was alone save for the dead, and mad with fear and with the quiet.
The green banks went by, and the creek began to widen. "Where are you going?" called the trader. "Wheresoever you go, at the end of your path stand my village and my wigwam. You cannot stay all day in that boat. If you come not back at the bidden hour, Darden's squaw will beat you. Come over, Morning Light, come over, and take me in your boat, and tie your hair with my gift. I will not hurt you. I will tell you the French love songs that my father sang to my mother. I will speak of land that I have bought (oh, I have prospered, ma'm'selle!), and of a house that I mean to build, and of a woman that I wish to put in the house,—a Sunshine in the Dark to greet me when I come from my hunting in the great forests beyond the falls, from my trading with the nation of the Tuscaroras, with the villages of the Monacans. Come over to me, Morning Light!"
The creek widened and widened, then doubled a grassy cape all in the shadow of a towering sycamore. Beyond the point, crowning the low green slope of the bank, and topped with a shaggy fell of honeysuckle and ivy, began a red brick wall. Half way down its length it broke, and six shallow steps led up to an iron gate, through whose bars one looked into a garden. Gazing on down the creek past the farther stretch of the wall, the eye came upon the shining reaches of the river.
Audrey turned the boat's head toward the steps and the gate in the wall. The man on the opposite shore let fall an oath.
"So you go to Fair View house!" he called across the stream. "There are only negroes there, unless"—he came to a pause, and his face changed again, and out of his eyes looked the spirit of some hot, ancestral French lover, cynical, suspicious, and jealously watchful—"unless their master is at home," he ended, and laughed.
Audrey touched the wall, and over a great iron hook projecting therefrom threw a looped rope, and fastened her boat.
"I stay here until you come forth!" swore Hugon from across the creek. "And then I follow you back to where you must moor the boat. And then I shall walk with you to the minister's house. Until we meet again, ma'm'selle!"
Audrey answered not, but sped up the steps to the gate. A sick fear lest it should be locked possessed her; but it opened at her touch, disclosing a long, sunny path, paved with brick, and shut between lines of tall, thick, and smoothly clipped box. The gate clanged to behind her; ten steps, and the boat, the creek, and the farther shore were hidden from her sight. With this comparative bliss came a faintness and a trembling that presently made her slip down upon the warm and sunny floor, and lie there, with her face within her arm and the tears upon her cheeks. The odor of the box wrapped her like a mantle; a lizard glided past her; somewhere in open spaces birds were singing; finally a greyhound came down the path, and put its nose into the hollow of her hand.
She rose to her knees, and curled her arm around the dog's neck; then, with a long sigh, stood up, and asked of herself if this were the way to the house. She had never seen the house at close range, had never been in this walled garden. It was from Williamsburgh that the minister had taken her to his home, eleven years before. Sometimes from the river, in those years, she had seen, rising above the trees, the steep roof and the upper windows; sometimes upon the creek she had gone past the garden wall, and had smelled the flowers upon the other side.
In her lonely life, with the beauty of the earth about her to teach her that there might be greater beauty that she yet might see with a daily round of toil and sharp words to push her to that escape which lay in a world of dreams, she had entered that world, and thrived therein. It was a world that was as pure as a pearl, and more fantastic than an Arabian tale. She knew that when she died she could take nothing out of life with her to heaven. But with this other world it was different, and all that she had or dreamed of that was fair she carried through its portals. This house was there. Long closed, walled in, guarded by tall trees, seen at far intervals and from a distance, as through a glass darkly, it had become to her an enchanted spot, about which played her quick fancy, but where her feet might never stray.
But now the spell which had held the place in slumber was snapped, and her feet was set in its pleasant paths. She moved down the alley between the lines of box, and the greyhound went with her. The branches of a walnut-tree drooped heavily across the way; when she had passed them she saw the house, square, dull red, bathed in sunshine. A moment, and the walk led her between squat pillars of living green into the garden out of the fairy tale.
Dim, fragrant, and old time; walled in; here sunshiny spaces, there cool shadows of fruit-trees; broken by circles and squares of box; green with the grass and the leaves, red and purple and gold and white with the flowers; with birds singing, with the great silver river murmuring by without the wall at the foot of the terrace, with the voice of a man who sat beneath a cherry-tree reading aloud to himself,—such was the garden that she came upon, a young girl, and heavy at heart.
She was so near that she could hear the words of the reader, and she knew the piece that he was reading; for you must remember that she was not untaught, and that Darden had books.
"'When from the censer clouds of fragrance roll, And swelling organs lift the rising soul, One thought of thee puts all the pomp to flight, Priests, tapers, temples, swim before my sight'"—
The greyhound ran from Audrey to the man who was reading these verses with taste and expression, and also with a smile half sad and half cynical. He glanced from his page, saw the girl where she stood against the dark pillar of the box, tossed aside the book, and went to her down the grassy path between rows of nodding tulips. "Why, child!" he said. "Did you come up like a flower? I am glad to see you in my garden, little maid. Are there Indians without?"
At least, to Audrey, there were none within. She had been angered, sick at heart and sore afraid, but she was no longer so. In this world that she had entered it was good to be alive; she knew that she was safe, and of a sudden she felt that the sunshine was very golden, the music very sweet. To Haward, looking at her with a smile, she gave a folded paper which she drew from the bosom of her gown. "The minister sent me with it," she explained, and curtsied shyly.
Haward took the paper, opened it, and fell to poring over the crabbed characters with which it was adorned. "Ay? Gratulateth himself that this fortunate parish hath at last for vestryman Mr. Marmaduke Haward; knoweth that, seeing I am what I am, my influence will be paramount with said vestry; commendeth himself to my favor; beggeth that I listen not to charges made by a factious member anent a vastly magnified occurrence at the French ordinary; prayeth that he may shortly present himself at Fair View, and explain away certain calumnies with which his enemies have poisoned the ears of the Commissary; hopeth that I am in good health; and is my very obedient servant to command. Humph!"
He let the paper flutter to the ground, and turned to Audrey with a kindly smile. "I am much afraid that this man of the church, whom I gave thee for guardian, child, is but a rascal, after all, and a wolf in sheep's clothing. But let him go hang while I show you my garden."
Going closer, he glanced at her keenly; then went nearer still, and touched her cheek with his forefinger. "You have been crying," he said. "There were Indians, then. How many and how strong, Audrey?"
The dark eyes that met his were the eyes of the child who, in the darkness, through the corn, had run from him, her helper. "There was one," she whispered, and looked over her shoulder.
Haward drew her to the seat beneath the cherry-tree, and there, while he sat beside her, elbow on knee and chin on hand, watching her, she told him of Hugon. It was so natural to tell him. When she had made an end of her halting, broken sentences, and he spoke to her gravely and kindly, she hung upon his words, and thought him wise and wonderful as a king. He told her that he would speak to Darden, and did not despair of persuading that worthy to forbid the trader his house. Also he told her that in this settled, pleasant, every-day Virginia, and in the eighteenth century, a maid, however poor and humble, might not be married against her will. If this half-breed had threats to utter, there was always the law of the land. A few hours in the pillory or a taste of the sheriff's whip might not be amiss. Finally, if the trader made his suit again, Audrey must let him know, and Monsieur Jean Hugon should be taught that he had another than a helpless, friendless girl to deal with.
Audrey listened and was comforted, but the shadow did not quite leave her eyes. "He is waiting for me now," she said fearfully to Haward, who had not missed the shadow. "He followed me down the creek, and is waiting over against the gate in the wall. When I go back he will follow me again, and at last I will have to cross to his side. And then he will go home with me, and make me listen to him. His eyes burn me, and when his hand touches me I see—I see"—
Her frame shook, and she raised to his gaze a countenance suddenly changed into Tragedy's own. "I don't know why," she said, in a stricken voice, "but of them all that I kissed good-by that night I now see only Molly. I suppose she was about as old as I am when they killed her. We were always together. I can't remember her face very clearly; only her eyes, and how red her lips were. And her hair: it came to her knees, and mine is just as long. For a long, long time after you went away, when I could not sleep because it was dark, or when I was frightened or Mistress Deborah beat me, I saw them all; but now I see only Molly,—Molly lying there dead."
There was a silence in the garden, broken presently by Haward. "Ay, Molly," he said absently.
With his hand covering his lips and his eyes upon the ground, he fell into a brown study. Audrey sat very still for fear that she might disturb him, who was so kind to her. A passionate gratitude filled her young heart; she would have traveled round the world upon her knees to serve him. As for him, he was not thinking of the mountain girl, the oread who, in the days when he was younger and his heart beat high, had caught his light fancy, tempting him from his comrades back to the cabin in the valley, to look again into her eyes and touch the brown waves of her hair. She was ashes, and the memory of her stirred him not.
At last he looked up. "I myself will take you home, child. This fellow shall not come near you. And cease to think of these gruesome things that happened long ago. You are young and fair; you should be happy. I will see to it that"—
He broke off, and again looked thoughtfully at the ground. The book which he had tossed aside was lying upon the grass, open at the poem which he had been reading. He stooped and raised the volume, and, closing it, laid it upon the bench beside her. Presently he laughed. "Come, child!" he said. "You have youth. I begin to think my own not past recall. Come and let me show you my dial that I have just had put up."
There was no load at Audrey's heart: the vision of Molly had passed; the fear of Hugon was a dwindling cloud. She was safe in this old sunny garden, with harm shut without. And as a flower opens to the sunshine, so because she was happy she grew more fair. Audrey every day, Audrey of the infrequent speech and the wide dark eyes, the startled air, the shy, fugitive smiles,—that was not Audrey of the garden. Audrey of the garden had shining eyes, a wild elusive grace, laughter as silvery as that which had rung from her sister's lips, years agone, beneath the sugar-tree in the far-off blue mountains, quick gestures, quaint fancies which she feared not to speak out, the charm of mingled humility and spirit; enough, in short, to make Audrey of the garden a name to conjure with.
They came to the sun-dial, and leaned thereon. Around its rim were graved two lines from Herrick, and Audrey traced the letters with her finger. "The philosophy is sound," remarked Haward, "and the advice worth the taking. Let us go see if there are any rosebuds to gather from the bushes yonder. Damask buds should look well against your hair, child."
When they came to the rosebushes he broke for her a few scarce-opened buds, and himself fastened them in the coils of her hair. Innocent and glad as she was,—glad even that he thought her fair,—she trembled beneath his touch, and knew not why she trembled. When the rosebuds were in place they went to see the clove pinks, and when they had seen the clove pinks they walked slowly up another alley of box, and across a grass plot to a side door of the house; for he had said that he must show her in what great, lonely rooms he lived.
Audrey measured the height and breadth of the house with her eyes. "It is a large place for one to live in alone," she said, and laughed. "There's a book at the Widow Constance's; Barbara once showed it to me. It is all about a pilgrim; and there's a picture of a great square house, quite like this, that was a giant's castle,—Giant Despair. Good giant, eat me not!"
Child, woman, spirit of the woodland, she passed before him into a dim, cool room, all littered with books. "My library," said Haward, with a wave of his hand. "But the curtains and pictures are not hung, nor the books in place. Hast any schooling, little maid? Canst read?"
Audrey flushed with pride that she could tell him that she was not ignorant; not like Barbara, who could not read the giant's name in the pilgrim book.
"The crossroads schoolmaster taught me," she explained. "He has a scar in each hand, and is a very wicked man, but he knows more than the Commissary himself. The minister, too, has a cupboard filled with books, and he buys the new ones as the ships bring them in. When I have time, and Mistress Deborah will not let me go to the woods, I read. And I remember what I read. I could"—
A smile trembled upon her lips, and her eyes grew brighter. Fired by the desire that he should praise her learning, and in her very innocence bold as a Wortley or a Howe, she began to repeat the lines which he had been reading beneath the cherry-tree:—
"'When from the censer clouds of fragrance roll'"—
The rhythm of the words, the passion of the thought, the pleased surprise that she thought she read in his face, the gesture of his hand, all spurred her on from line to line, sentence to sentence. And now she was not herself, but that other woman, and she was giving voice to all her passion, all her woe. The room became a convent cell; her ragged dress the penitent's trailing black. That Audrey, lithe of mind as of body; who in the woods seemed the spirit of the woods, in the garden the spirit of the garden, on the water the spirit of the water,—that this Audrey, in using the speech of the poet, should embody and become the spirit of that speech was perhaps, considering all things, not so strange. At any rate, and however her power came about, at that moment, in Fair View house, a great actress was speaking.
"'Fresh blooming Hope, gay daughter of the skies, And Faith'"—
The speaker lost a word, hesitated, became confused. Finally silence; then the Audrey of a while before, standing with heaving bosom, shy as a fawn, fearful that she had not pleased him, after all. For if she had done so, surely he would have told her as much. As it was, he had said but one word, and that beneath his breath, "Eloisa!"
It would seem that her fear was unfounded; for when he did speak, there were, God wot, sugar-plums enough. And Audrey, who in her workaday world was always blamed, could not know that the praise that was so sweet was less wholesome than the blame.
Leaving the library they went into the hall, and from the hall looked into great, echoing, half-furnished rooms. All about lay packing-cases, many of them open, with rich stuffs streaming from them. Ornaments were huddled on tables, mirrors and pictures leaned their faces to the walls; everywhere was disorder.
"The negroes are careless, and to-day I held their hands," said Haward. "I must get some proper person to see to this gear."
Up stairs and down they went through the house, that seemed very large and very still, and finally they came out of the great front door, and down the stone steps on to the terrace. Below them, sparkling in the sunshine, lay the river, the opposite shore all in a haze of light. "I must go home," Audrey shyly reminded him, whereat he smiled assent, and they went, not through the box alley to the gate in the wall, but down the terrace, and out upon the hot brown boards of the landing. Haward, stepping into a boat, handed her to a seat in the stern, and himself took the oars. Leaving the landing, they came to the creek and entered it. Presently they were gliding beneath the red brick wall with the honeysuckle atop. On the opposite grassy shore, seated in a blaze of noon sunshine, was Hugon.
They in the boat took no notice. Haward, rowing, spoke evenly on, his theme himself and the gay and lonely life he had led these eleven years; and Audrey, though at first sight of the waiting figure she had paled and trembled, was too safe, too happy, to give to trouble any part of this magic morning. She kept her eyes on Haward's face, and almost forgot the man who had risen from the grass and in silence was following them.
Now, had the trader, in his hunting shirt and leggings, his moccasins and fur cap, been walking in the great woods, this silence, even with others in company, would have been natural enough to his Indian blood; but Monsieur Jean Hugon, in peruke and laced coat, walking in a civilized country, with words a-plenty and as hot as fire-water in his heart, and none upon his tongue, was a figure strange and sinister. He watched the two in the boat with an impassive face, and he walked like an Indian on an enemy's trail, so silently that he scarce seemed to breathe, so lightly that his heavy boots failed to crush the flowers or the tender grass.
Haward rowed on, telling Audrey stories of the town, of great men whose names she knew, and beautiful ladies of whom she had never heard; and she sat before him with her slim brown hands folded in her lap and the rosebuds withering in her hair, while through the reeds and the grass and the bushes of the bank over against them strode Hugon in his Blenheim wig and his wine-colored coat. Well-nigh together the three reached the stake driven in among the reeds, a hundred yards below the minister's house. Haward fastened the boat, and, motioning to Audrey to stay for the moment where she was, stepped out upon the bank to confront the trader, who, walking steadily and silently as ever, was almost upon them.
But it was broad daylight, and Hugon, with his forest instincts, preferred, when he wished to speak to the point, to speak in the dark. He made no pause; only looked with his fierce black eyes at the quiet, insouciant, fine gentleman standing with folded arms between him and the boat; then passed on, going steadily up the creek toward the bend where the water left the open smiling fields and took to the forest. He never looked back, but went like a hunter with his prey before him. Presently the shadows of the forest touched him, and Audrey and Haward were left alone.
The latter laughed. "If his courage is of the quality of his lace—What, cowering, child, and the tears in your eyes! You were braver when you were not so tall, in those mountain days. Nay, no need to wet your shoe."
He lifted her in his arms, and set her feet upon firm grass. "How long since I carried you across a stream and up a dark hillside!" he said. "And yet to-day it seems but yesternight! Now, little maid, the Indian has run away, and the path to the house is clear."
* * * * *
In his smoke-filled, untidy best room Darden sat at table, his drink beside him, his pipe between his fingers, and open before him a book of jests, propped by a tome of divinity. His wife coming in from the kitchen, he burrowed in the litter upon the table until he found an open letter, which he flung toward her. "The Commissary threatens again, damn him!" he said between smoke puffs. "It seems that t'other night, when I was in my cups at the tavern, Le Neve and the fellow who has Ware Creek parish—I forget his name—must needs come riding by. I was dicing with Paris. Hugon held the stakes. I dare say we kept not mum. And out of pure brotherly love and charity, my good, kind gentlemen ride on to Williamsburgh on a tale-bearing errand! Is that child never coming back, Deborah?"
"She's coming now," answered his wife, with her eyes upon the letter. "I was watching from the upper window. He rowed her up the creek himself."
The door opened, and Audrey entered the room. Darden turned heavily in his chair, and took the long pipe from between his teeth. "Well?" he said. "You gave him my letter?"
Audrey nodded. Her eyes were dreamy; the red of the buds in her hair had somehow stolen to her cheeks; she could scarce keep her lips from smiling. "He bade me tell you to come to supper with him on Monday," she said. "And the Falcon that we saw come in last week brought furnishing for the great house. Oh, Mistress Deborah, the most beautiful things! The rooms are all to be made fine; and the negro women do not the work aright, and he wants some one to oversee them. He says that he has learned that in England Mistress Deborah was own woman to my Lady Squander, and so should know about hangings and china and the placing of furniture. And he asks that she come to Fair View morning after morning until the house is in order. He wishes me to come, too. Mistress Deborah will much oblige him, he says, and he will not forget her kindness."
Somewhat out of breath, but very happy, she looked with eager eyes from one guardian to the other. Darden emptied and refilled his pipe, scattering the ashes upon the book of jests. "Very good," he said briefly.
Into the thin visage of the ex-waiting-woman, who had been happier at my Lady Squander's than in a Virginia parsonage, there crept a tightened smile. In her way, when she was not in a passion, she was fond of Audrey; but, in temper or out of temper, she was fonder of the fine things which for a few days she might handle at Fair View house. And the gratitude of the master thereof might appear in coins, or in an order on his store for silk and lace. When, in her younger days, at Bath or in town, she had served fine mistresses, she had been given many a guinea for carrying a note or contriving an interview, and in changing her estate she had not changed her code of morals. "We must oblige Mr. Haward, of course," she said complacently. "I warrant you that I can give things an air! There's not a parlor in this parish that does not set my teeth on edge! Now at my Lady Squander's"—She embarked upon reminiscences of past splendor, checked only by her husband's impatient demand for dinner.
Audrey, preparing to follow her into the kitchen, was stopped, as she would have passed the table, by the minister's heavy hand. "The roses at Fair View bloom early," he said, turning her about that he might better see the red cluster in her hair. "Look you, Audrey! I wish you no great harm, child. You mind me at times of one that I knew many years ago, before ever I was chaplain to my Lord Squander or husband to my Lady Squander's waiting-woman. A hunter may use a decoy, and he may also, on the whole, prefer to keep that decoy as good as when 'twas made. Buy not thy roses too dearly, Audrey."
To Audrey he spoke in riddles. She took from her hair the loosened buds, and looked at them lying in her hand. "I did not buy them," she said. "They grew in the sun on the south side of the great house, and Mr. Haward gave them to me."
THE PORTRAIT OF A GENTLEMAN
June came to tide-water Virginia with long, warm days and with the odor of many roses. Day by day the cloudless sunshine visited the land: night by night the large pale stars looked into its waters. It was a slumberous land, of many creeks and rivers that were wide, slow, and deep, of tobacco fields and lofty, solemn forests, of vague marshes, of white mists, of a haze of heat far and near. The moon of blossoms was past, and the red men—few in number now—had returned from their hunting, and lay in the shade of the trees in the villages that the English had left them, while the women brought them fish from the weirs, and strawberries from the vines that carpeted every poisoned field or neglected clearing. The black men toiled amidst the tobacco and the maize; at noontide it was as hot in the fields as in the middle passage, and the voices of those who sang over their work fell to a dull crooning. The white men who were bound served listlessly; they that were well were as lazy as the weather; they that were newly come over and ill with the "seasoning" fever tossed upon their pallets, longing for the cooling waters of home. The white men who were free swore that the world, though fair, was warm, and none walked if he could ride. The sunny, dusty roads were left for shadowed bridle paths; in a land where most places could be reached by boat, the water would have been the highway but that the languid air would not fill the sails. It was agreed that the heat was unnatural, and that, likely enough, there would be a deal of fever during the summer.
But there was thick shade in the Fair View garden, and when there was air at all it visited the terrace above the river. The rooms of the house were large and high-pitched; draw to the shutters, and they became as cool as caverns. Around the place the heat lay in wait: heat of wide, shadowless fields, where Haward's slaves toiled from morn to eve; heat of the great river, unstirred by any wind, hot and sleeping beneath the blazing sun; heat of sluggish creeks and of the marshes, shadeless as the fields. Once reach the mighty trees drawn like a cordon around house and garden, and there was escape.
To and fro and up and down in the house went the erst waiting-woman to my Lady Squander, carrying matters with a high hand. The negresses who worked under her eye found her a hard taskmistress. Was a room clean to-day, to-morrow it was found that there was dust upon the polished floor, finger marks on the paneled walls. The same furniture must be placed now in this room, now in that; china slowly washed and bestowed in one closet transferred to another; an eternity spent upon the household linen, another on the sewing and resewing, the hanging and rehanging, of damask curtains. The slaves, silent when the greenish eyes and tight, vixenish face were by, chattered, laughed, and sung when they were left alone. If they fell idle, and little was done of a morning, they went unrebuked; thoroughness, and not haste, appearing to be Mistress Deborah's motto.
The master of Fair View found it too noisy in his house to sit therein, and too warm to ride abroad. There were left the seat built round the cherry-tree in the garden, the long, cool box walk, and the terrace with a summer-house at either end. It was pleasant to read out of doors, pacing the box walk, or sitting beneath the cherry-tree, with the ripening fruit overhead. If the book was long in reading, if morning by morning Haward's finger slipped easily in between the selfsame leaves, perhaps it was the fault of poet or philosopher. If Audrey's was the fault, she knew it not.
How could she know it, who knew herself, that she was a poor, humble maid, whom out of pure charity and knightly tenderness for weak and sorrowful things he long ago had saved, since then had maintained, now was kind to; and knew him, that he was learned and great and good, the very perfect gentle knight who, as he rode to win the princess, yet could stoop from his saddle to raise and help the herd girl? She had found of late that she was often wakeful of nights; when this happened, she lay and looked out of her window at the stars and wondered about the princess. She was sure that the princess and the lady who had given her the guinea were one.
In the great house she would have worked her fingers to the bone. Her strong young arms lifted heavy weights; her quick feet ran up and down stairs for this or that; she would have taken the waxed cloths from the negroes, and upon her knees and with willing hands have made to shine like mirrors the floors that were to be trodden by knight and princess. But almost every morning, before she had worked an hour, Haward would call to her from the box walk or the seat beneath the cherry-tree; and "Go, child," would say Mistress Deborah, looking up from her task of the moment.
The garden continued to be the enchanted garden. To gather its flowers, red and white, to pace with him cool paved walks between walls of scented box, to sit beside him beneath the cherry-tree or upon the grassy terrace, looking out upon the wide, idle river,—it was dreamy bliss, a happiness too rare to last. There was no harm; not that she ever dreamed there could be. The house overlooked garden and terrace; the slaves passed and repassed the open windows; Juba came and went; now and then Mistress Deborah herself would sally forth to receive instructions concerning this or that from the master of the house. And every day, at noon, the slaves drew to all the shutters save those of the master's room, and the minister's wife and ward made their curtsies and went home. The latter, like a child, counted the hours upon the clock until the next morning; but then she was not used to happiness, and the wine of it made her slightly drunken.
The master of Fair View told himself that there was infection in this lotus air of Virginia. A fever ran in his veins that made him languid of will, somewhat sluggish of thought, willing to spend one day like another, and all in a long dream. Sometimes, in the afternoons, when he was alone in the garden or upon the terrace, with the house blank and silent behind him, the slaves gone to the quarters, he tossed aside his book, and, with his chin upon his hand and his eyes upon the sweep of the river, first asked himself whither he was going, and then, finding no satisfactory answer, fell to brooding. Once, going into the house, he chanced to come upon his full-length reflection in a mirror newly hung, and stopped short to gaze upon himself. The parlor of his lodgings at Williamsburgh and the last time that he had seen Evelyn came to him, conjured up by the memory of certain words of his own.
"A truer glass might show a shrunken figure," he repeated, and with a quick and impatient sigh he looked at the image in the mirror.
To the eye, at least, the figure was not shrunken. It was that of a man still young, and of a handsome face and much distinction of bearing. The dress was perfect in its quiet elegance; the air of the man composed,—a trifle sad, a trifle mocking. Haward snapped his fingers at the reflection. "The portrait of a gentleman," he said, and passed on.
That night, in his own room, he took from an escritoire a picture of Evelyn Byrd, done in miniature after a painting by a pupil of Kneller, and, carrying it over to the light of the myrtle candles upon the table, sat down and fell to studying it. After a while he let it drop from his hand, and leaned back in his chair, thinking.
The night air, rising slightly, bent back the flame of the candles, around which moths were fluttering, and caused strange shadows upon the walls. They were thick about the curtained bed whereon had died the elder Haward,—a proud man, choleric, and hard to turn from his purposes. Into the mind of his son, sitting staring at these shadows, came the fantastic notion that amongst them, angry and struggling vainly for speech, might be his father's shade. The night was feverish, of a heat and lassitude to foster grotesque and idle fancies. Haward smiled, and spoke aloud to his imaginary ghost.
"You need not strive for speech," he said. "I know what you would say. Was it for this I built this house, bought land and slaves?... Fair View and Westover, Westover and Fair View. A lady that will not wed thee because she loves thee! Zoons, Marmaduke! thou puttest me beside my patience!... As for this other, set no nameless, barefoot wench where sat thy mother! King Cophetua and the beggar maid, indeed! I warrant you Cophetua was something under three-and-thirty!"
Haward ceased to speak for his father, and sighed for himself. "Moral: Three-and-thirty must be wiser in his day and generation." He rose from his chair, and began to walk the room. "If not Cophetua, what then,—what then?" Passing the table, he took up the miniature again. "The villain of the piece, I suppose, Evelyn?" he asked.
The pure and pensive face seemed to answer him. He put the picture hastily down, and recommenced his pacing to and fro. From the garden below came the heavy odor of lilies, and the whisper of the river tried the nerves. Haward went to the window, and, leaning out, looked, as now each night he looked, up and across the creek toward the minister's house. To-night there was no light to mark it; it was late, and all the world without his room was in darkness. He sat down in the window seat, looked out upon the stars and listened to the river. An hour had passed before he turned back to the room, where the candles had burned low. "I will go to Westover to-morrow," he said. "God knows, I should be a villain"—
He locked the picture of Evelyn within his desk, drank his wine and water, and went to bed, strongly resolved upon retreat. In the morning he said, "I will go to Westover this afternoon;" and in the afternoon he said, "I will go to-morrow." When the morrow came, he found that the house lacked but one day of being finished, and that there was therefore no need for him to go at all.
Mistress Deborah was loath, enough to take leave of damask and mirrors and ornaments of china,—the latter fine enough and curious enough to remind her of Lady Squander's own drawing-room; but the leaf of paper which Haward wrote upon, tore from his pocket-book, and gave her provided consolation. Her thanks were very glib, her curtsy was very deep. She was his most obliged, humble servant, and if she could serve him again he would make her proud. Would he not, now, some day, row up creek to their poor house, and taste of her perry and Shrewsbury cakes? Audrey, standing by, raised her eyes, and made of the request a royal invitation.
For a week or more Haward abode upon his plantation, alone save for his servants and slaves. Each day he sent for the overseer, and listened gravely while that worthy expounded to him all the details of the condition and conduct of the estate; in the early morning and the late afternoon he rode abroad through his fields and forests. Mill and ferry and rolling house were visited, and the quarters made his acquaintance. At the creek quarter and the distant ridge quarter were bestowed the newly bought, the sullen and the refractory of his chattels. When, after sunset, and the fields were silent, he rode past the cabins, coal-black figures, new from the slave deck, still seamed at wrist and ankle, mowed and jabbered at him from over their bowls of steaming food; others, who had forgotten the jungle and the slaver, answered, when he spoke to them, in strange English; others, born in Virginia, and remembering when he used to ride that way with his father, laughed, called him "Marse Duke," and agreed with him that the crop was looking mighty well. With the dark he reached the great house, and negroes from the home quarter took—his horse, while Juba lighted him through the echoing hall into the lonely rooms.
From the white quarter he procured a facile lad who could read and write, and who, through too much quickness of wit, had failed to prosper in England. Him he installed as secretary, and forthwith began a correspondence with friends in England, as well as a long poem which was to serve the double purpose of giving Mr. Pope a rival and of occupying the mind of Mr. Marmaduke Haward. The letters were witty and graceful, the poem was the same; but on the third day the secretary, pausing for the next word that should fall from his master's lips, waited so long that he dropped asleep. When he awoke, Mr. Haward was slowly tearing into bits the work that had been done on the poem. "It will have to wait upon my mood," he said. "Seal up the letter to Lord Hervey, boy, and then begone to the fields. If I want you again, I will send for you."
The next day he proposed to himself to ride to Williamsburgh and see his acquaintances there. But even as he crossed the room to strike the bell for Juba a distaste for the town and its people came upon him. It occurred to him that instead he might take the barge and be rowed up the river to the Jaquelins' or to Green Spring; but in a moment this plan also became repugnant. Finally he went out upon the terrace, and sat there the morning through, staring at the river. That afternoon he sent a negro to the store with a message for the storekeeper.
The Highlander, obeying the demand for his company,—the third or fourth since his day at Williamsburgh,—came shortly before twilight to the great house, and found the master thereof still upon the terrace, sitting beneath an oak, with a small table and a bottle of wine beside him.
"Ha, Mr. MacLean!" he cried, as the other approached. "Some days have passed since last we laid the ghosts! I had meant to sooner improve our acquaintance. But my house has been in disorder, and I myself,"—he passed his hand across his face as if to wipe away the expression into which it had been set,—"I myself have been poor company. There is a witchery in the air of this place. I am become but a dreamer of dreams."
As he spoke he motioned his guest to an empty chair, and began to pour wine for them both. His hand was not quite steady, and there was about him a restlessness of aspect most unnatural to the man. The storekeeper thought him looking worn, and as though he had passed sleepless nights.
MacLean sat down, and drew his wineglass toward Mm. "It is the heat," he said. "Last night, in the store, I felt that I was stifling; and I left it, and lay on the bare ground without. A star shot down the sky, and I wished that a wind as swift and strong would rise and sweep the land out to sea. When the day comes that I die, I wish to die a fierce death. It is best to die in battle, for then the mind is raised, and you taste all life in the moment before you go. If a man achieves not that, then struggle with earth or air or the waves of the sea is desirable. Driving sleet, armies of the snow, night and trackless mountains, the leap of the torrent, swollen lakes where kelpies lie in wait, wind on the sea with the black reef and the charging breakers,—it is well to dash one's force against the force of these, and to die after fighting. But in this cursed land of warmth and ease a man dies like a dog that is old and hath lain winter and summer upon the hearthstone." He drank his wine, and glanced again at Haward. "I did not know that you were here," he said. "Saunderson told me that you were going to Westover."
"I was,—I am," answered Haward briefly. Presently he roused himself from the brown study into which he had fallen.
"'Tis the heat, as you say. It enervates. For my part, I am willing that your wind should arise. But it will not blow to-night. There is not a breath; the river is like glass." He raised the wine to his lips, and drank deeply. "Come," he said, laughing. "What did you at the store to-day? And does Mistress Truelove despair of your conversion to thee and thou, and peace with all mankind? Hast procured an enemy to fill the place I have vacated? I trust he's no scurvy foe."
"I will take your questions in order," answered the other sententiously. "This morning I sold a deal of fine china to a parcel of fine ladies who came by water from Jamestown, and were mightily concerned to know whether your worship was gone to Westover, or had instead (as 't was reported) shut yourself up in Fair View house. And this afternoon came over in a periagua, from the other side, a very young gentleman with money in hand to buy a silver-fringed glove. 'They are sold in pairs,' said I. 'Fellow, I require but one,' said he. 'If Dick Allen, who hath slandered me to Mistress Betty Cocke, dareth to appear at the merrymaking at Colonel Harrison's to-night, his cheek and this glove shall come together!' 'Nathless, you must pay for both,' I told him; and the upshot is that he leaves with me a gold button as earnest that he will bring the remainder of the price before the duel to-morrow. That Quaker maiden of whom you ask hath a soul like the soul of Colna-dona, of whom Murdoch, the harper of Coll, used to sing. She is fair as a flower after winter, and as tender as the rose flush in which swims yonder star. When I am with her, almost she persuades me to think ill of honest hatred, and to pine no longer that it was not I that had the killing of Ewin Mackinnon." He gave a short laugh, and stooping picked up an oak twig from the ground, and with deliberation broke it into many small pieces. "Almost, but not quite," he said. "There was in that feud nothing illusory or fantastic; nothing of the quality that marked, mayhap, another feud of my own making. If I have found that in this latter case I took a wraith and dubbed it my enemy; that, thinking I followed a foe, I followed a friend instead"—He threw away the bits of bark, and straightened himself. "A friend!" he said, drawing his breath. "Save for this Quaker family, I have had no friend for many a year! And I cannot talk to them of honor and warfare and the wide world." His speech was sombre, but in his eyes there was an eagerness not without pathos.