"I will speak with the colonel to-night," said Peter gloomily.
"Lord save yer honor," returned the trooper gratefully, "and if ye could be sayin' that the LEDDY tould you,—it would only be the merest taste of a loi ye'd be tellin',—and you'd save me from breakin' me word to the leftenant."
"I shall of course speak to my sister first," returned Peter, with a guilty consciousness that he had accepted the trooper's story mainly from his previous knowledge of his sister's character. Nevertheless, in spite of this foregone conclusion, he DID speak to her. To his surprise she did not deny it. Lieutenant Forsyth,—a vain and conceited fool,—whose silly attentions she had accepted solely that she might get recreation beyond the fort,—had presumed to tell her what SHE must do! As if SHE was one of those stupid officers' wives or sisters! And it never would have happened if he—Peter—had let her remain at the reservation with the Indian agent's wife, or if "Charley" (the gentle Lascelles) were here! HE would have let her go, or taken her there. Besides all the while she was among friends; HIS, Peter's own friends,—the people whose cause he was championing! In vain did Peter try to point out to her that these "people" were still children in mind and impulse, and capable of vacillation or even treachery. He remembered he was talking to a child in mind and impulse, who had shown the same qualities, and in trying to convince her of her danger he felt he was only voicing the common arguments of his opponents.
He spoke also to the colonel, excusing her through her ignorance, her trust in his influence with the savages, and the general derangement of her health. The colonel, relieved of his suspicions of a promising young officer, was gentle and sympathetic, but firm as to Peter's future course. In a moment of caprice and willfulness she might imperil the garrison as she had her escort, and, more than that, she was imperiling Peter's influence with the Indians. Absurd stories had come to his ears regarding the attitude of the reservation towards him. He thought she ought to return home as quickly as possible. Fortunately an opportunity offered. The general commanding had advised him of the visit to the fort of a party of English tourists who had been shooting in the vicinity, and who were making the fort the farthest point of their western excursion. There were three or four ladies in the party, and as they would be returning to the line of railroad under escort, she could easily accompany them. This, added Colonel Carter, was also Mrs. Carter's opinion,—she was a woman of experience, and had a married daughter of her own. In the mean time Peter had better not broach the subject to his sister, but trust to the arrival of the strangers, who would remain for a week, and who would undoubtedly divert Mrs. Lascelles' impressible mind, and eventually make the proposition more natural and attractive.
In the interval Peter revisited the reservation, and endeavored to pacify the irritation that had sprung from his previous inspection. The outrage at Post Oak Bottom he was assured had no relation to the incident at the reservation, but was committed by some stragglers from other tribes who had not yet accepted the government bounty, yet had not been thus far classified as "hostile." There had been no "Ghost Dancing" nor other indication of disturbance. The colonel had not deemed it necessary to send out an exemplary force, or make a counter demonstration. The incident was allowed to drop. At the reservation Peter had ignored the previous conduct of the chiefs towards him; had with quiet courage exposed himself fully—unarmed and unattended—amongst them, and had as fully let it be known that this previous incident was the reason that his sister had not accompanied him on his second visit. He left them at the close of the second day more satisfied in his mind, and perhaps in a more enthusiastic attitude towards his report.
As he came within sound of the sunset bugles, he struck a narrower trail which led to the fort, through an oasis of oaks and cottonwoods and a small stream or "branch," which afterwards lost itself in the dusty plain. He had already passed a few settler's cabins, a sutler's shop, and other buildings that had sprung up around this armed nucleus of civilization—which, in due season, was to become a frontier town. But as yet the brief wood was wild and secluded; frequented only by the women and children of the fort, within whose protecting bounds it stood, and to whose formal "parade," and trim white and green cottage "quarters," it afforded an agreeable relief. As he rode abstractedly forward under the low cottonwood vault he felt a strange influence stealing over him, an influence that was not only a present experience but at the same time a far-off memory. The concave vault above deepened; the sunset light from the level horizon beyond streamed through the leaves as through the chequers of stained glass windows; through the two shafts before him stretched the pillared aisles of Ashley Church! He was riding as in a dream, and when a figure suddenly slipped across his pathway from a column-like tree trunk, he woke with the disturbance and sense of unreality of a dream. For he saw Lady Elfrida standing before him!
It was not a mere memory conjured up by association, for although the figure, face, and attitude were the same, there were certain changes of costume which the eye of recollection noticed. In place of the smart narrow-brimmed sailor hat he remembered, she was wearing a slouched cavalry hat with a gold cord around its crown, that, with all its becomingness and picturesque audacity, seemed to become characteristic and respectable, as a crest to her refined head, and as historic as a Lely canvas. She wore a flannel shirt, belted in at her slight waist with a band of yellow leather, defining her small hips, and short straight pleatless skirts that fell to her trim ankles and buckled leather shoes. She was fresh and cool, wholesome and clean, free and unfettered; indeed, her beauty seemed only an afterthought or accident. So much so that when Peter saw her afterwards, amidst the billowy, gauzy, and challenging graces of the officer's wives, who were dressed in their best and prettiest frocks to welcome her, the eye turned naturally from that suggestion of enhancement to the girl who seemed to defy it. She was clearly not an idealized memory, a spirit or a ghost, but naturalistic and rosy; he thought a trifle rosier, as she laughingly addressed him:—
"I suppose it isn't quite fair to surprise you like that," she said, with an honest girlish hand-shake, "for you see I know all about you now, and what you are doing here, and even when you were expected; and I dare say you thought we were still in England, if you remembered us at all. And we haven't met since that day at Ashley Church when I put my foot in it,—or rather on your pet protege's, the Indian's: you remember Major Atherly's tomb? And to think that all the while we didn't know that you were a public man and a great political reformer, and had a fad like this. Why, we'd have got up meetings for you, and my father would have presided,—he's always fond of doing these things,—and we'd have passed resolutions, and given you subscriptions, and Bibles, and flannel shirts, and revolvers—but I believe you draw the line at that. My brother was saying only the other day that you weren't half praised enough for going in for this sort of thing when you were so rich, and needn't care. And so that's why you rushed away from Ashley Grange,—just to come here and work out your mission?"
His whole life, his first wild Californian dream, his English visit, the revelation of Gray Eagle, the final collapse of his old beliefs, were whirling through his brain to the music of this clear young voice. And by some cruel irony of circumstance it seemed now to even mock his later dreams of expiation as it also called back his unhappy experience of the last week.
"Have you—have you"—he stammered with a faint smile, "seen my sister?"
"Not yet," said Lady Elfrida. "I believe she is not well and is confined to her room; you will introduce me, won't you?" she added eagerly. "Of course, when we heard that there was an Atherly here we inquired about you; and I told them you were a relation of ours," she went on with a half-mischievous shyness,—"you remember the de Bracys,—and they seemed surprised and rather curious. I suppose one does not talk so much about these things over here, and I dare say you have so much to occupy your mind you don't talk of us in England." With the quickness of a refined perception she saw a slight shade in his face, and changed the subject. "And we have had such a jolly time; we have met so many pleasant people; and they've all been so awfully good to us, from the officials and officers down to the plainest working-man. And all so naturally too—so different from us. I sometimes think we have to work ourselves up to be civil to strangers." "No," she went on gayly, in answer to his protesting gesture, and his stammered reminder of his own reception. "No. You came as a sort of kinsman, and Sir Edward knew all about you before he asked you down to the Grange—or even sent over for me from the Towers. No! you Americans take people on their 'face value,' as my brother Reggy says, and we always want to know what are the 'securities.' And then American men are more gallant, though," she declared mischievously, "I think you are an exception in that way. Indeed," she went on, "the more I see of your countrymen the less you seem like them. You are more like us,—more like an Englishman—indeed, more like an Englishman than most Englishmen,—I mean in the matter of reserve and all that sort of thing, you know. It's odd,—isn't it? Is your sister like you?"
"You shall judge for yourself," said Peter with a gayety that was forced in proportion as his forebodings became more gloomy. Would his sister's peculiarities—even her secret—be safe from the clear eyes of the young girl?
"I know I shall like her," said Lady Elfrida, simply. "I mean to make friends with her before we leave, and I hope to see a great deal of her; and," she said with a naive non sequitur, that, however, had its painful significance to Peter, "I do want you to show me some Indians—your Indians, you know YOUR friends. I've seen some of them, of course; I am afraid I am a little prejudiced, for I did not like them. You see my taste has to be educated, I suppose; but I thought them so foolishly vain and presuming."
"That is their perfect childishness," said Peter quickly. "It is not, I believe, considered a moral defect," he added bitterly.
Lady Elfrida laughed, and yet at the same moment a look of appeal that was in itself quite as childlike shone in her blue eyes. "There, I have blundered again, I know; but I told you I have such ridiculous prejudices! And I really want to like them as you do. Only," she laughed again, "it seems strange that YOU, of all men, should have interested yourself in people so totally different to you. But what will be the result if your efforts are successful? Will they remain a distinct race? Will you make citizens, soldiers, congressmen, governors of them? Will they intermarry with the whites? Is that a part of your plan? I hope not!"
It was a part of Peter's sensitive excitement that even through the unconscious irony of this speech he was noticing the difference between the young English girl's evident interest in a political problem and the utter indifference of his own countrywomen. Here was a girl scarcely out of her teens, with no pretension to being a blue stocking, with half the aplomb of an American girl of her own age, gravely considering a question of political economy. Oddly enough, it added to his other irritation, and he said almost abruptly, "Why not?"
She took the question literally and with a little youthful timidity. "But these mixed races never attain to anything, do they? I thought that was understood. But," she added with feminine quickness, "and I suppose it's again only a PERSONAL argument, YOU wouldn't like your sister to have married an Indian, would you?"
The irony of the situation had reached its climax to Peter. It didn't seem to be his voice that said, "I can answer by an argument still more personal. I have even thought myself of marrying an Indian woman."
It seemed to him that what he said was irrevocable, but he was desperate. It seemed to him that in a moment more he would have told her his whole secret. But the young girl drew back from him with a slight start of surprise. There may have been something in the tone of his voice and in his manner that verged upon a seriousness she was never contemplating in her random talk; it may have been an uneasiness of some youthful imprudence in pressing the subject upon a man of his superiority, and that his abrupt climax was a rebuke. But it was only for a moment; her youthful buoyancy, and, above all, a certain common sense that was not incompatible to her high nature, came to her rescue. "But that," she said with quick mischievousness, "would be a SACRIFICE taken in the interest of these people, don't you see; and being a sacrifice, it's no argument."
Peter saw his mistake, but there was something so innocent and delightful in the youthful triumph of this red-lipped logician, that he was forced to smile. I have said that his smile was rare and fascinating, a concession wrung from his dark face and calm beardless lips that most people found irresistible, but it was odd, nevertheless, that Lady Elfrida now for the first time felt a sudden and not altogether unpleasant embarrassment over the very subject she had approached with such innocent fearlessness. There was a new light in her eyes, a fresher color in her cheeks as she turned her face—she knew not why—away from him. But it enabled her to see a figure approaching them from the fort. And I grieve to say that, perhaps for the first time in her life, Lady Elfrida was guilty of an affected start.
"Oh, here's Reggy coming to look for me. I'd quite forgotten, but I'm so glad. I want you to know my brother Reggy. He was always so sorry he missed you at the Grange."
The tall, young, good-looking brown Englishman who had sauntered up bestowed a far more critical glance upon Peter's horse than upon Peter, but nevertheless grasped his hand heartily as his sister introduced him. Perhaps both men were equally undemonstrative, although the reserve of one was from temperament and the other from education. Nevertheless Lord Reginald remarked, with a laugh, that it was awfully jolly to be there, and that it had been a beastly shame that he was in Scotland when Atherly was at the Grange. That none of them had ever suspected till they came to the fort that he, Atherly, was one of those government chappies, and so awfully keen on Indian politics. "Friddy" had been the first to find it out, but they thought she was chaffing. At which "Friddy," who had suddenly resolved herself into the youthfulest of schoolgirls in the presence of her brother, put her parasol like an Indian club behind her back, and still rosy, beamed admiringly upon Reggy. Then the three, Peter leading his horse, moved on towards the fort, presently meeting "Georgy," the six-foot Guardsman cousin in extraordinary tweeds and flannel shirt; Lord Runnybroke, uncle of Friddy, middle-aged and flannel-shirted, a mighty hunter; Lady Runnybroke, in a brown duster, but with a stately head that suggested ostrich feathers; Moyler-Spence, M. P., with an eyeglass, and the Hon. Evelyn Kayne, closely attended by the always gallant Lieutenant Forsyth. Peter began to feel a nervous longing to be alone on the burning plain and the empty horizon beyond them, until he could readjust himself to these new conditions, and glanced half-wearily around him. But his eye met Friddy's, who seemed to have evoked this gathering with a wave of her parasol, like the fairy of a pantomime, and he walked on in silence.
A day or two of unexpected pleasure passed for Peter. In these new surroundings he found he could separate Lady Elfrida from his miserable past, and the conventional restraint of Ashley Grange. Again, the revelation of her familiar name Friddy seemed to make her more accessible and human to him than her formal title, and suited the girlish simplicity that lay at the foundation of her character, of which he had seen so little before. At least so he fancied, and so excused himself; it was delightful to find her referring to him as an older friend; pleasant, indeed, to see that her family tacitly recognized it, and frequently appealed to him with the introduction, "Friddy says you can tell us," or "You and Friddy had better arrange it between you." Even the dreaded introduction of his sister was an agreeable surprise, owing to Lady Elfrida's frank and sympathetic prepossession, which Jenny could not resist. In a few moments they were walking together in serious and apparently confidential conversation. For to Peter's wonder it was the "Lady Elfrida" side of the English girl's nature that seemed to have attracted Jenny, and not the playfulness of "Friddy," and he was delighted to see that the young girl had assumed a grave chaperonship of the tall Mrs. Lascelles that would have done credit to Mrs. Carter or Lady Runnybroke. Had he been less serious he might have been amused, too, at the importance of his own position in the military outpost, through the arrival of the strangers. That this grave political enthusiast and civilian should be on familiar terms with a young Englishwoman of rank was at first inconceivable to the officers. And that he had never alluded to it before seemed to them still more remarkable.
Nevertheless, there was much liveliness and good fellowship at the fort. Captains and lieutenants down to the youngest "cub," Forsyth, vied with each other to please the Englishmen, supplied them with that characteristic American humor and anecdote which it is an Englishman's privilege to bring away with him, and were picturesquely and chivalrously devoted in their attentions to the ladies, who were pleased and amused by it, though it is to be doubted if it increased their respect for the giver, although they were more grateful for it than the average American woman. Lady Elfrida found the officers very entertaining and gallant. Accustomed to the English officer, and his somewhat bored way of treating his profession and his duties, she may have been amused at the zeal, earnestness, and enthusiasm of these youthful warriors, who aspired to appear as nothing but soldiers, when she contrasted them with her Guardsmen relatives who aspired to be everything else but that; but she kept it to herself. It was a recognized, respectable, and even superior occupation for gentlemen in England; what it might be in America,—who knows? She certainly found Peter, the civilian, more attractive, for there really was nothing English to compare him with, and she had something of the same feeling in her friendship for Jenny, except the patronage which Jenny seemed to solicit, and perhaps require, as a foreigner.
One afternoon the English guests, accompanied by a few of their hosts and a small escort, were making a shooting expedition to the vicinity of Green Spring, when Peter, plunged in his report, looked up to find his sister entering his office. Her face was pale, and there was something in her expression which reawakened his old anxiety. Nevertheless he smiled, and said gently:—
"Why are you not enjoying yourself with the others?"
"I have a headache," she said, languidly, "but," lifting her eyes suddenly to his, "why are YOU not? You are their good friend, you know,—even their relation."
"No more than you are," he returned, with affected gayety. "But look at the report—it is only half finished! I have already been shirking it for them."
"You mustn't let your devotion to the Indians keep you from your older friends," said Mrs. Lascelles, with an odd laugh. "But you never told me about these people before, Peter; tell me now. They were very kind to you, weren't they, on account of your relationship?"
"Entirely on account of that," said Peter, with a sudden bitterness he could not repress. "But they are very pleasant," he added quickly, "and very simple and unaffected, in spite of their rank; perhaps I ought to say, BECAUSE of it."
"You mean they are kind to us because they feel themselves superior,—just as you are kind to the Indians, Peter."
"I am afraid they have no such sense of political equality towards us, Jenny, as impels me to be just to the Indian," he said with affected lightness. "But Lady Elfrida sympathizes with the Indians—very much."
"She!" The emphasis which his sister put upon the personal pronoun was unmistakable, but Peter ignored it, and so apparently did she, as she said the next moment in a different voice, "She's very pretty, don't you think?"
"Very," said Peter coldly.
There was a long pause. Peter slightly fingered one of the sheets of his delayed report on his desk. His sister looked up. "I'm afraid I'm as bad as Lady Elfrida in keeping you from your Indians; but I had something to say to you. No matter, another time will do when you're not so busy."
"Please go on now," said Peter, with affected unconcern, yet with a feeling of uneasiness creeping over him.
"It was only this," said Jenny, seating herself with her elbow on the desk and her chin in a cup-like hollow of her hand, "did you ever think that in the interests of these poor Indians, you know, purely for the sake of your belief in them, and just to show that you were above vulgar prejudices,—did you ever think you could marry one of them?"
Two thoughts flashed quickly on Peter's mind,—first, that Lady Elfrida had repeated something of their conversation to his sister; secondly, that some one had told her of Little Daybreak. Each was equally disturbing. But he recovered himself quickly and said, "I might if I thought it was required. But even a sacrifice is not always an example."
"Then you think it would be a sacrifice?" she said, slowly raising her dark eyes to his.
"If I did something against received opinion, against precedent, and for aught I know against even the prejudices of those I wish to serve, however lofty my intention was and however great the benefit to them in the end, it would still be a sacrifice in the present." He saw his own miserable logic and affected didactics, but he went on lightly, "But why do you ask such a question? You haven't any one in your mind for me, have you?"
She had risen thoughtfully and was moving towards the door. Suddenly she turned with a quick, odd vivacity: "Perhaps I had. Oh, Peter, there was such a lovely little squaw I saw the last time I was at Oak Bottom! She was no darker than I am, but so beautiful. Even in her little cotton gown and blanket, with only a string of beads around her throat, she was as pretty as any one here. And I dare say she could be educated and appear as well as any white woman. I should so like to have you see her. I would have tried to bring her to the fort, but the braves are very jealous of their wives or daughters seeing white men, you know, and I was afraid of the colonel."
She had spoken volubly and with a strange excitement, but even at the moment her face changed again, and as she left the office, with a quick laugh and parting gesture, there were tears in her eyes.
Accustomed to her moods and caprices, Peter thought little of the intrusion, relieved as he was of his first fears. She had come to him from loneliness and curiosity, and, perhaps, he thought with a sad smile, from a little sisterly jealousy of the young girl who had evinced such an interest in him, and had known him before. He took up his pen and continued the interrupted paragraph of his report.
"I am satisfied that much of the mischievous and extravagant prejudice against the half breed and all alliances of the white and red races springs from the ignorance of the frontiersman and his hasty generalization of facts. There is no doubt that an intermixture of blood brings out purely superficial contrasts the more strongly, and that against the civilizing habits and even costumes of the half breed, certain Indian defects appear the more strongly as in the case of the color line of the quadroon and octoroon, but it must not be forgotten that these are only the contrasts of specific improvement, and the inference that the borrowed defects of a half breed exceed the original defects of the full-blooded aborigine is utterly illogical." He stopped suddenly and laid down his pen with a heightened color; the bugle had blown, the guard was turning out to receive the commandant and his returning party, among whom was Friddy.
Through the illusions of depression and distance the "sink" of Butternut Creek seemed only an incrustation of blackish moss on the dull gray plain. It was not until one approached within half a mile of it that it resolved itself into a copse of butternut-trees sunken below the distant levels. Here once, in geological story, the waters of Butternut Creek, despairing of ever crossing the leagues of arid waste before them, had suddenly disappeared in the providential interposition of an area of looser soil, and so given up the effort and the ghost forever, their grave being marked by the butternut copse, chance-sown by bird or beast in the saturated ground. In Indian legend the "sink" commemorated the equally providential escape of a great tribe who, surrounded by enemies, appealed to the Great Spirit for protection, and was promptly conveyed by subterraneous passages to the banks of the Great River a hundred miles away. Its outer edges were already invaded by the dust of the plain, but within them ran cool recesses, a few openings, and the ashes of some long-forgotten camp-fires. To-day its sombre shadows were relieved by bright colored dresses, the jackets of the drivers of a large sutler's wagon, whose white canvas head marked the entrance of the copse, and all the paraphernalia of a picnic. It was a party gotten up by the foreign guests to the ladies of the fort, prepared and arranged by the active Lady Elfrida, assisted by the only gentleman of the party, Peter Atherly, who, from his acquaintance with the locality, was allowed to accompany them. The other gentlemen, who with a large party of officers and soldiers were shooting in the vicinity, were sufficiently near for protection. They would rejoin the ladies later.
"It does not seem in the least as if we were miles away from any town or habitation," said Lady Runnybroke, complacently seating herself on a stump, "and I shouldn't be surprised to see a church tower through those trees. It's very like the hazel copse at Longworth, you know. Not at all what I expected."
"For the matter of that neither are the Indians," said the Hon. Evelyn Rayne. "Did you ever see such grotesque creatures in their cast-off boots and trousers? They're no better than gypsies. I wonder what Mr. Atherly can find in them."
"And he a rich man, too,—they say he's got a mine in California worth a million,—to take up a craze like this," added the lively Mrs. Captain Joyce, "that's what gets me! You know," she went on confidentially, "that cranks and reformers are always poor—it's quite natural; but I don't see what he, a rich man, expects to make by his reforms, I'm sure."
"He'll get over it in time," said the Hon. Evelyn Kayne, "they all do. At least he expects to get the reforms he wants in a year, and then he's coming over to England again."
"Indeed, how very nice," responded Lady Runnybroke quickly. "Did he say so?"
"No. But Friddy says he is."
The two officers' wives glanced at each other. Lady Runnybroke put up her eyeglass in default of ostrich feathers, and said didactically, "I'm sure Mr. Atherly is very much in earnest, and sincerely devoted to his work. And in a man of his wealth and position here it's most estimable. My dear," she said, getting up and moving towards Mrs. Lascelles, "we were just saying how good and unselfish your brother was in his work for these poor people."
But Jenny Lascelles must have been in one of those abstracted moods which so troubled her husband, for she seemed to be staring straight before her into the recesses of the wood. In her there was a certain resemblance to the attitude of a listening animal.
"I wish Mr. Atherly was a little more unselfish to US poor people," said the Hon. Evelyn Kayne, "for he and Friddy have been nearly an hour looking for a place to spread our luncheon baskets. I wish they'd leave the future of the brown races to look after itself and look a little more after us. I'm famished."
"I fancy they find it difficult to select a clear space for so large a party as we will be when the gentlemen come in," returned Lady Runnybroke, glancing in the direction of Jenny's abstracted eyes.
"I suppose you must feel like chicken and salad, too, Lady Runnybroke," suggested Mrs. Captain Joyce.
"I don't think I quite know HOW chicken and salad feel, dear," said Lady Runnybroke with a puzzled air, "but if that's one of your husband's delightful American stories, do tell us. I never CAN get Runnybroke to tell me any, although he roars over them all. And I dare say he gets them all wrong. But look, here comes our luncheon."
Peter and Lady Elfrida were advancing towards them. The scrutiny of a dozen pairs of eyes—wondering, mischievous, critical, impertinent, or resentful—would have been a trying ordeal to any errant couple; but there was little if any change in Peter's grave and gentle demeanor, albeit his dark eyes were shining with a peculiar light, and Lady Elfrida had only the animation, color, and slight excitability that became the responsible leader of the little party. They neither apologized or alluded to their delay. They had selected a spot on the other side of the copse, and the baskets could be sent around by the wagon; they had seen a slight haze on the plain towards the east which betokened the vicinity of the rest of the party, and they were about to propose that as the gentlemen were so near they had better postpone the picnic until they came up. Lady Runnybroke smiled affably; the only thing she had noticed was that Lady Elfrida in joining them had gone directly to the side of the abstracted Jenny, and placed her arm around her waist. At which Lady Runnybroke airily joined them.
The surmises of Peter and Friddy appeared to be correct. The transfer of the provisions and the party to the other side was barely concluded before they could see the gentlemen coming; they were riding a little more rapidly than when they had set out, and were arriving fully three hours before their time. They burst upon the ladies a little boisterously but gayly; they had had a glorious time, but little sport; they had hurried back to join the ladies so as to be able to return with them betimes. They were ravenously hungry; they wanted to fall to at once. Only the officers' wives noticed that the two files of troopers DID NOT DISMOUNT, but filed slowly before the entrance to the woods. Lady Elfrida as hostess was prettily distressed by it, but was told by Captain Joyce that it was "against rules," and that she could "feed" them at the fort. The officers' wives put a few questions in whispers, and were promptly frowned down. Nevertheless, the luncheon was a successful festivity: the gentlemen were loud in the praises of their gracious hostess; the delicacies she had provided by express from distant stations, and much that was distinctly English and despoiled from her own stores, were gratefully appreciated by the officers of a remote frontier garrison. Lady Elfrida's health was toasted by the gallant colonel in a speech that was the soul of chivalry. Lord Runnybroke responded, perhaps without the American abandon, but with the steady conscientiousness of an hereditary legislator, but the M. P. summed up a slightly exaggerated but well meaning episode by pointing out that it was on occasions like this that the two nations showed their common ancestry by standing side by side. Only one thing troubled the rosy, excited, but still clear-headed Friddy; the plates were whisked away like magic after each delicacy, by the military servants, and vanished; the tables were in the same mysterious way cleared as rapidly as they were set, and any attempt to recall a dish was met by the declaration that it was already packed away in the wagon. As they at last rose from the actually empty board, and saw even the tables disappear, Lady Elfrida plaintively protested that she felt as if she had been presiding over an Arabian Nights entertainment, served by genii, and she knew that they would all awaken hungry when they were well on their way back. Nevertheless, in spite of this expedition, the officers lounged about smoking until every trace of the festivity had vanished. Reggy found himself standing near Peter. "You know," he said, confidentially, "I don't think the colonel has a very high opinion of your pets,—the Indians. And, by Jove, if the 'friendlies' are as nasty towards you as they were to us this morning, I wonder what you call the 'hostile' tribes."
"Did you have any difficulty with them?" said Peter quickly.
"No, not exactly, don't you know—we were too many, I fancy; but, by Jove, the beggars whenever we met them,—and we met one or two gypsy bands of them,—you know, they seemed to look upon us as TRESPASSERS, don't you know."
"And you were, in point of fact," said Peter, smiling grimly.
"Oh, I say, come now!" said Reggy, opening his eyes. After a moment he laughed. "Oh, yes, I see—of course, looking at it from their point of view. By Jove, I dare say the beggars were right, you know; all the same,—don't you see,—YOUR people were poaching too."
"So we were," said Peter gravely.
But here, at a word from the major, the whole party debouched from the woods. Everything appeared to be awaiting them,—the large covered carryall for the guests, and the two saddle horses for Mrs. Lascelles and Lady Elfrida, who had ridden there together. Peter, also mounted, accompanied the carryall with two of the officers; the troopers and wagons brought up the rear.
It was very hot, with little or no wind. On this part of the plain the dust seemed lighter and finer, and rose with the wheels of the carryall and the horses of the escort, trailing a white cloud over the cavalcade like the smoke of an engine over a train. It was with difficulty the troopers could be kept from opening out on both sides of the highway to escape it. The whole atmosphere seemed charged with it; it even appeared in a long bank to the right, rising and obscuring the declining sun. But they were already within sight of the fort and the little copse beside it. Then trooper Cassidy trotted up to the colonel, who was riding in a dusty cloud beside the carryall, "Captain Fleetwood's compliments, sorr, and there are two sthragglers,—Mrs. Lascelles and the English lady." He pointed to the rapidly flying figures of Jenny and Friddy making towards the wood.
The colonel made a movement of impatience. "Tell Mr. Forsyth to bring them back at once," he said.
But here a feminine chorus of excuses and expostulations rose from the carryall. "It's only Mrs. Lascelles going to show Friddy where the squaws and children bathe," said Lady Runnybroke, "it's near the fort, and they'll be there as quick as we shall."
"One moment, colonel," said Peter, with mortified concern. "It's another folly of my sister's! pray let me take it upon myself to bring them back."
"Very well, but see you don't linger, and," turning to Cassidy, as Peter galloped away, he added, "you follow him."
Peter kept the figures of the two women in view, but presently saw them disappear in the wood. He had no fear for their safety, but he was indignant at this last untimely caprice of his sister. He knew the idea had originated with her, and that the officers knew it, and yet she had made Lady Elfrida bear an equal share of the blame. He reached the edge of the copse, entered the first opening, but he had scarcely plunged into its shadow and shut out the plain behind him before he felt his arms and knees quickly seized from behind. So sudden and unexpected was the attack that he first thought his horse had stumbled against a coil of wild grapevine and was entangled, but the next moment he smelled the rank characteristic odor and saw the brown limbs of the Indian who had leaped on his crupper, while another rose at his horse's head. Then a warning voice in his ear said in the native tongue:—
"If the great white medicine man calls to his fighting men, the pale-faced girl and the squaw he calls his sister die! They are here, he understands."
But Peter had neither struggled nor uttered a cry. At that touch, and with the accents of that tongue in his ears, all his own Indian blood seemed to leap and tingle through his veins. His eyes flashed; pinioned as he was he drew himself erect and answered haughtily in his captor's own speech:—
"Good! The great white medicine man obeys, for he and his sister have no fear. But if the pale-face girl is not sent back to her people before the sun sets, then the yellow jackets will swarm the woods, and they will follow her trail to the death. My brother is wise; let the girl go. I have spoken."
"My brother is very cunning too. He would call to his fighting men through the lips of the pale-face girl."
"He will not. The great white medicine man does not lie to his red brother. He will tell the pale-face girl to say to the chief of the yellow jackets that he and his sister are with his brothers, and all is peace. But the pale-face girl must not see the great white medicine man in these bonds, nor as a captive! I have spoken."
The two Indians fell back. There was so much of force and dignity in the man, so much of their own stoic calmness, that they at once mechanically loosened the thongs of plaited deer hide with which they had bound him, and side by side led him into the recesses of the wood.
There was some astonishment, although little alarm at the fort, when Lady Elfrida returned accompanied by the orderly who had followed Peter to the wood, but without Peter and his sister. The reason given was perfectly natural and conceivable. Mrs. Lascelles had preceded Lady Elfrida in entering the wood and taken another opening, so that Lady Elfrida had found herself suddenly lost, and surrounded by two or three warriors in dreadful paint. They motioned her to dismount, and said something she did not understand, but she declined, knowing that she had heard Mr. Atherly and the orderly following her, and feeling no fear. And sure enough Mr. Atherly presently came up with a couple of braves, apologized to her for their mistake, but begged her to return to the fort at once and assure the colonel that everything was right, and that he and his sister were safe. He was perfectly cool and collected and like himself; she blushed slightly, as she said she thought that he wished to impress upon her, for some reason she could not understand, that he did not want the colonel to send any assistance. She was positive of that. She told her story unexcitedly; it was evident that she had not been frightened, but Lady Runnybroke noticed that there was a shade of anxious abstraction in her face.
When the officers were alone the colonel took hurried counsel of them. "I think," said Captain Fleetwood, "that Lady Elfrida's story quite explains itself. I believe this affair is purely a local one, and has nothing whatever to do with the suspicious appearances we noticed this afternoon, or the presence of so large a body of Indians near Butternut. Had this been a hostile movement they would have scarcely allowed so valuable a capture as Lady Elfrida to escape them."
"Unless they kept Atherly and his sister as a hostage," said Captain Joyce.
"But Atherly is one of their friends; indeed he is their mediator and apostle, a non-combatant, and has their confidence," returned the colonel. "It is much more reasonable to suppose that Atherly has noticed some disaffection among these 'friendlies,' and he fears that our sending a party to his assistance might precipitate a collision. Or he may have reason to believe that this stopping of the two women under the very walls of the fort is only a feint to draw our attention from something more serious. Did he know anything of our suspicions of the conduct of those Indians this morning?"
"Not unless he gathered it from what Lord Reginald foolishly told him. We said nothing, of course," returned Captain Fleetwood, with a soldier's habitual distrust of the wisdom of the civil arm.
"That will do, gentlemen," said the colonel, as the officers dispersed; "send Cassidy here."
The colonel was alone on the veranda as Cassidy came up.
"You followed Mr. Atherly to-day?"
"And you saw him when he gave the message to the young lady?"
"Did you form any opinion from anything else you saw, of his object in sending that message?"
"Only from what I saw of HIM."
"Well, what was that?"
"I saw him look afther the young leddy as she rode away, and then wheel about and go straight back into the wood."
"And what did you think of that?" said the colonel, with a half smile.
"I thought it was shacrifice, sorr."
"What do you mean?" said the colonel sharply.
"I mane, sorr," said Cassidy stoutly, "that he was givin' up hisself and his sister for that young leddy."
The colonel looked at the sergeant. "Ask Mr. Forsyth to come to me privately, and return here with him."
As darkness fell, some half a dozen dismounted troopers, headed by Forsyth and Cassidy, passed quietly out of the lower gate and entered the wood. An hour later the colonel was summoned from the dinner table, and the guests heard the quick rattle of a wagon turning out of the road gate—but the colonel did not return. An indefinable uneasiness crept over the little party, which reached its climax in the summoning of the other officers, and the sudden flashing out of news. The reconnoitring party had found the dead bodies of Peter Atherly and his sister on the plains at the edge of the empty wood.
The women were gathered in the commandant's quarters, and for the moment seemed to have been forgotten. The officers' wives talked with professional sympathy and disciplined quiet; the English ladies were equally sympathetic, but collected. Lady Elfrida, rather white, but patient, asked a few questions in a voice whose contralto was rather deepened. One and all wished to "do something"—anything "to help"—and one and all rebelled that the colonel had begged them to remain within doors. There was an occasional quick step on the veranda, or the clatter of a hoof on the parade, a continued but subdued murmur from the whitewashed barracks, but everywhere a sense of keen restraint.
When they emerged on the veranda again, the whole aspect of the garrison seemed to have changed in that brief time. In the faint moonlight they could see motionless files of troopers filling the parade, the officers in belted tunics and slouched hats,—but apparently not the same men; the half lounging ease and lazy dandyism gone, a grim tension in all their faces, a set abstraction in all their acts. Then there was the rolling of heavy wheels in the road, and the two horses of the ambulance appeared. The sentries presented arms; the colonel took off his hat; the officers uncovered; the wagon wheeled into the parade; the surgeon stepped out. He exchanged a single word with the colonel, and lifted the curtain of the ambulance.
As the colonel glanced within, a deep but embarrassed voice fell upon his ear. He turned quickly. It was Lord Reginald, flushed and sympathetic.
"He was a friend,—a relation of ours, you know," he stammered. "My sister would like—to look at him again."
"Not now," said the colonel in a low voice. The surgeon added something in a voice still lower, which scarcely reached the veranda.
Lord Reginald turned away with a white face.
"Fall back there!" Captain Fleetwood rode up.
"All ready, sir."
"One moment, captain," said the colonel quietly. "File your first half company before that ambulance, and bid the men look in."
The singular order was obeyed. The men filed slowly forward, each in turn halting before the motionless wagon and its immobile freight. They were men inured to frontier bloodshed and savage warfare; some halted and hurried on; others lingered, others turned to look again. One man burst into a short laugh, but when the others turned indignantly upon him, they saw that in his face that held them in awe. What they saw in the ambulance did not transpire; what they felt was not known. Strangely enough, however, what they repressed themselves was mysteriously communicated to their horses, who snorted and quivered with eagerness and impatience as they rode back again. The horse of the trooper who had laughed almost leaped into the air. Only Sergeant Cassidy was communicative; he took a larger circuit in returning to his place, and managed to lean over and whisper hoarsely in the ear of a camp follower spectator, "Tell the young leddy that the torturin' divvils couldn't take the smile off him!"
The little column filed out of the gateway into the road. As Captain Fleetwood passed Colonel Carter the two men's eyes met. The colonel said quietly, "Good night, captain. Let us have a good report from you."
The captain replied only with his gauntleted hand against the brim of his slouched hat, but the next moment his voice was heard strong and clear enough in the road. The little column trotted away as evenly as on parade. But those who climbed the roof of the barracks a quarter of an hour later saw, in the moonlight, a white cloud drifting rapidly across the plain towards the west. It was a small cloud in that bare, menacing, cruel, and illimitable waste; but in its breast was crammed a thunderbolt.
It fell thirty miles away, blasting and scattering a thousand warriors and their camp, giving and taking no quarter, vengeful, exterminating, and complete. Later there were different opinions about it and the horrible crime that had provoked it: the opposers of Peter's policy jubilant over the irony of the assassination of the Apostle of Peace, Peter's disciples as actively deploring the merciless and indiscriminating vengeance of the military; and so the problem that Peter had vainly attempted to solve was left an open question. There were those, too, who believed that Peter had never sacrificed himself and his sister for the sake of another, but had provoked and incensed the savages by the blind arrogance of a reformer. There were wild stories by scouts and interpreters how he had challenged his fate by an Indian bravado; how himself and his sister had met torture with an Indian stoicism, and how the Indian braves themselves at last in a turmoil of revulsion had dipped their arrows and lances in the heroic heart's blood of their victims, and worshiped their still palpitating flesh.
But there was one honest loyal little heart that carried back—three thousand miles—to England the man as it had known and loved him. Lady Elfrida Runnybroke never married; neither did she go into retirement, but lived her life and fulfilled her duties in her usual clear-eyed fashion. She was particularly kind to all Americans,—barring, I fear, a few pretty-faced, finely-frocked title-hunters,—told stories of the Far West, and had theories of a people of which they knew little, cared less, and believed to be vulgar. But I think she found a new pleasure in the old church at Ashley Grange, and loved to linger over the effigy of the old Crusader,—her kinsman, the swashbuckler De Bracy,—with a vague but pretty belief that devotion and love do not die with brave men, but live and flourish even in lands beyond the seas.
Perhaps if there was anything important in the migration of the Maynard family to Europe it rested solely upon the singular fact that Mr. Maynard did not go there in the expectation of marrying his daughter to a nobleman. A Charleston merchant, whose house represented two honorable generations, had, thirty years ago, a certain self-respect which did not require extraneous aid and foreign support, and it is exceedingly probable that his intention of spending a few years abroad had no ulterior motive than pleasure seeking and the observation of many things—principally of the past—which his own country did not possess. His future and that of his family lay in his own land, yet with practical common sense he adjusted himself temporarily to his new surroundings. In doing so, he had much to learn of others, and others had something to learn of him; he found that the best people had a high simplicity equal to his own; he corrected their impressions that a Southerner had more or less negro blood in his veins, and that, although a slave owner, he did not necessarily represent an aristocracy. With a distinguishing dialect of which he was not ashamed, a frank familiarity of approach joined to an invincible courtesy of manner, which made even his republican "Sir" equal to the ordinary address to royalty, he was always respected and seldom misunderstood. When he was—it was unfortunate for those who misunderstood him. His type was as distinctive and original as his cousin's, the Englishman, whom it was not the fashion then to imitate. So that, whether in the hotel of a capital, the Kursaal of a Spa, or the humbler pension of a Swiss village, he was always characteristic. Less so was his wife, who, with the chameleon quality of her transplanted countrywomen, was already Parisian in dress; still less so his daughter, who had by this time absorbed the peculiarities of her French, German, and Italian governesses. Yet neither had yet learned to evade their nationality—or apologize for it.
Mr. Maynard and his family remained for three years in Europe, his stay having been prolonged by political excitement in his own State of South Carolina. Commerce is apt to knock the insularity out of people; distance from one's own distinctive locality gives a wider range to the vision, and the retired merchant foresaw ruin in his State's politics, and from the viewpoint of all Europe beheld instead of the usual collection of individual States—his whole country. But the excitement increasing, he was finally impelled to return in a faint hope of doing something to allay it, taking his wife with him, but leaving his daughter at school in Paris. At about this time, however, a single cannon shot fired at the national flag on Fort Sumter shook the whole country, reverberated even in Europe, sending some earnest hearts back to do battle for State or country, sending others less earnest into inglorious exile, but, saddest of all! knocking over the school bench of a girl at the Paris pensionnat. For that shot had also sunk Maynard's ships at the Charleston wharves, scattered his piled Cotton bales awaiting shipment at the quays, and drove him, a ruined man, into the "Home Guard" against his better judgment. Helen Maynard, like a good girl, had implored her father to let her return and share his risks. But the answer was "to wait" until this nine days' madness of an uprising was over. That madness lasted six years, outlived Maynard, whose gray, misdoubting head bit the dust at Ball's Bluff; outlived his colorless widow, and left Kelly a penniless orphan.
Yet enough of her country was left in her to make her courageous and independent of her past. They say that when she got the news she cried a little, and then laid the letter and what was left of her last monthly allowance in Madame Ablas' lap. Madame was devastated. "But you, impoverished and desolated angel, what of you?" "I shall get some of it back," said the desolated angel with ingenuous candor, "for I speak better French and English than the other girls, and I shall teach THEM until I can get into the Conservatoire, for I have a voice. You yourself have told papa so." From such angelic directness there was no appeal. Madame Ablas had a heart,—more, she had a French manageress's discriminating instinct. The American schoolgirl was installed in a teacher's desk; her bosom friends and fellow students became her pupils. To some of the richest, and they were mainly of her own country, she sold her smartest, latest dresses, jewels, and trinkets at a very good figure, and put the money away against the Conservatoire in the future. She worked hard, she endured patiently everything but commiseration. "I'd have you know, Miss," she said to Miss de Laine, daughter of the famous house of Musslin, de Laine & Co., of New York, "that whatever my position HERE may be, it is not one to be patronized by a tapeseller's daughter. My case is not such a very 'sad one,' thank you, and I prefer not to be spoken of as having seen 'better days' by people who haven't. There! Don't rap your desk with your pencil when you speak to me, or I shall call out 'Cash!' before the whole class." So regrettable an exhibition of temper naturally alienated certain of her compatriots who were unduly sensitive of their origin, and as they formed a considerable colony who were then reveling in the dregs of the Empire and the last orgies of a tottering court, eventually cost her her place. A republican so aristocratic was not to be tolerated by the true-born Americans who paid court to De Morny for the phosphorescent splendors of St. Cloud and the Tuileries, and Miss Helen lost their favor. But she had already saved enough money for the Conservatoire and a little attic in a very tall house in a narrow street that trickled into the ceaseless flow of the Rue Lafayette. Here for four years she trotted backwards and forwards regularly to work with the freshness of youth and the inflexible set purpose of maturity. Here, rain or shine, summer or winter, in the mellow season when the large cafes expanded under the white sunshine into an overflow of little tables on the pavement, or when the red glow of the Brasserie shone through frosty panes on the turned-up collars of pinched Parisians who hurried by, she was always to be seen.
Half Paris had looked into her clear, gray eyes and passed on; a smaller and not very youthful portion of Paris had turned and followed her with small advantage to itself and happily no fear to her. For even in her young womanhood she kept her child's loving knowledge of that great city; she even had an innocent camaraderie with street sweepers, kiosk keepers, and lemonade venders, and the sternness of conciergedom melted before her. In this wholesome, practical child's experience she naturally avoided or overlooked what would not have interested a child, and so kept her freshness and a certain national shrewd simplicity invincible. There is a story told of her girlhood that, one day playing in the Tuileries gardens, she was approached by a gentleman with a waxed mustache and a still more waxen cheek beneath his heavy-lidded eyes. There was an exchange of polite amenities.
"And your name, ma petite?"
"Helen," responded the young girl naively. "What's yours?"
"Ah," said the kind gentleman, gallantly pulling at his mustache, "if you are Helen I am Paris."
The young girl raised her clear eyes to his and said gravely, "I reckon your majesty is FRANCE!"
She retained this childish fearlessness as the poor student of the Conservatoire; went alone all over Paris with her maiden skirts untarnished by the gilded dust of the boulevards or the filth of by-ways; knew all the best shops for her friends, and the cheapest for her own scant purchases; discovered breakfasts for a few sous with pale sempstresses, whose sadness she understood, and reckless chorus girls, whose gayety she didn't; she knew where the earliest chestnut buds were to be found in the Bois, when the slopes of the Buttes Chaumont were green, and which was the old woman who sold the cheapest flowers before the Madeleine. Alone and independent, she earned the affection of Madame Bibelot, the concierge, and, what was more, her confidence. Her outgoings and incomings were never questioned. The little American could take care of herself. Ah, if her son Jacques were only as reasonable! Miss Maynard might have made more friends had she cared; she might have joined hands with the innocent and light-hearted poverty of the coterie of her own artistic compatriots, but something in her blood made her distrust Bohemianism; her poverty was something to her too sacred for jest or companionship; her own artistic aim was too long and earnest for mere temporary enthusiasms. She might have found friends in her own profession. Her professor opened the sacred doors of his family circle to the young American girl. She appreciated the delicacy, refinement, and cheerful equal responsibilities of that household, so widely different from the accepted Anglo-Saxon belief, but there were certain restrictions that rightly or wrongly galled her American habits of girlish freedom, and she resolutely tripped past the first etage four or five flights higher to her attic, the free sky, and independence! Here she sometimes met another kind of independence in Monsieur Alphonse, aged twenty two, and she who ought to have been Madame Alphonse, aged seventeen, and they often exchanged greetings on the landing with great respect towards each other, and, oddly enough, no confusion or distrait. Later they even borrowed each other's matches without fear and without reproach, until one day Monsieur Alphonse's parents took him away, and the desolated soi-disant Madame Alphonse, in a cheerful burst of confidence, gave Helen her private opinion of monsieur, and from her seventeen years' experience warned the American infant of twenty against possible similar complications.
One day—it was near the examination for prizes, and her funds were running low—she was obliged to seek one of those humbler restaurants she knew of for her frugal breakfast. But she was not hungry, and after a few mouthfuls left her meal unfinished as a young man entered and half abstractedly took a seat at her table. She had already moved towards the comptoir to pay her few sous, when, chancing to look up in a mirror which hung above the counter, reflecting the interior of the cafe, she saw the stranger, after casting a hurried glance around him, remove from her plate the broken roll and even the crumbs she had left, and as hurriedly sweep them into his pocket-handkerchief. There was nothing very strange in this; she had seen something like it before in these humbler cafes,—it was a crib for the birds in the Tuileries Gardens, or the poor artist's substitute for rubber in correcting his crayon drawing! But there was a singular flushing of his handsome face in the act that stirred her with a strange pity, made her own cheek hot with sympathy, and compelled her to look at him more attentively. The back that was turned towards her was broad-shouldered and symmetrical, and showed a frame that seemed to require stronger nourishment than the simple coffee and roll he had ordered and was devouring slowly. His clothes, well made though worn, fitted him in a smart, soldier-like way, and accentuated his decided military bearing. The singular use of his left hand in lifting his cup made her uneasy, until a slight movement revealed the fact that his right sleeve was empty and pinned to his coat. He was one-armed. She turned her compassionate eyes aside, yet lingered to make a few purchases at the counter, as he paid his bill and walked away. But she was surprised to see that he tendered the waiter the unexampled gratuity of a sou. Perhaps he was some eccentric Englishman; he certainly did not look like a Frenchman.
She had quite forgotten the incident, and in the afternoon had strolled with a few fellow pupils into the galleries of the Louvre. It was "copying-day," and as her friends loitered around the easels of the different students with the easy consciousness of being themselves "artists," she strolled on somewhat abstractedly before them. Her own art was too serious to permit her much sympathy with another, and in the chatter of her companions with the young painters a certain levity disturbed her. Suddenly she stopped. She had reached a less frequented room; there was a single easel at one side, but the stool before it was empty, and its late occupant was standing in a recess by the window, with his back towards her. He had drawn a silk handkerchief from his pocket. She recognized his square shoulders, she recognized the handkerchief, and as he unrolled it she recognized the fragments of her morning's breakfast as he began to eat them. It was the one-armed man.
She remained so motionless and breathless that he finished his scant meal without noticing her, and even resumed his place before the easel without being aware of her presence. The noise of approaching feet gave a fresh impulse to her own, and she moved towards him. But he was evidently accustomed to these interruptions, and worked on steadily without turning his head. As the other footsteps passed her she was emboldened to take a position behind him and glance at his work. It was an architectural study of one of Canaletto's palaces. Even her inexperienced eyes were struck with its vigor and fidelity. But she was also conscious of a sense of disappointment. Why was he not—like the others—copying one of the masterpieces? Becoming at last aware of a motionless woman behind him, he rose, and with a slight gesture of courtesy and a half-hesitating "Vous verrez mieux la, mademoiselle," moved to one side.
"Thank you," said Miss Maynard in English, "but I did not want to disturb you."
He glanced quickly at her face for the first time. "Ah, you are English!" he said.
"No. I am American."
His face lightened. "So am I."
"I thought so," she said.
"From my bad French?"
"No. Because you did not look up to see if the woman you were polite to was old or young."
He smiled. "And you, mademoiselle,—you did not murmur a compliment to the copy over the artist's back."
She smiled, too, yet with a little pang over the bread. But she was relieved to see that he evidently had not recognized her. "You are modest," she said; "you do not attempt masterpieces."
"Oh, no! The giants like Titian and Corregio must be served with both hands. I have only one," he said half lightly, half sadly.
"But you have been a soldier," she said with quick intuition.
"Not much. Only during our war,—until I was compelled to handle nothing larger than a palette knife. Then I came home to New York, and, as I was no use there, I came here to study."
"I am from South Carolina," she said quietly, with a rising color.
He put his palette down, and glanced at her black dress. "Yes," she went on doggedly, "my father lost all his property, and was killed in battle with the Northerners. I am an orphan,—a pupil of the Conservatoire." It was never her custom to allude to her family or her lost fortunes; she knew not why she did it now, but something impelled her to rid her mind of it to him at once. Yet she was pained at his grave and pitying face.
"I am very sorry," he said simply. Then, after a pause, he added, with a gentle smile, "At all events you and I will not quarrel here under the wings of the French eagles that shelter us both."
"I only wanted to explain why I was alone in Paris," she said, a little less aggressively.
He replied by unhooking his palette, which was ingeniously fastened by a strap over his shoulder under the missing arm, and opened a portfolio of sketches at his side. "Perhaps they may interest you more than the copy, which I have attempted only to get at this man's method. They are sketches I have done here."
There was a buttress of Notre Dame, a black arch of the Pont Neuf, part of an old courtyard in the Faubourg St. Germain,—all very fresh and striking. Yet, with the recollection of his poverty in her mind, she could not help saying, "But if you copied one of those masterpieces, you know you could sell it. There is always a demand for that work."
"Yes," he replied, "but these help me in my line, which is architectural study. It is, perhaps, not very ambitious," he added thoughtfully, "but," brightening up again, "I sell these sketches, too. They are quite marketable, I assure you."
Helen's heart sank again. She remembered now to have seen such sketches—she doubted not they were his—in the cheap shops in the Rue Poissoniere, ticketed at a few francs each. She was silent as he patiently turned them over. Suddenly she uttered a little cry.
He had just uncovered a little sketch of what seemed at first sight only a confused cluster of roof tops, dormer windows, and chimneys, level with the sky-line. But it was bathed in the white sunshine of Paris, against the blue sky she knew so well. There, too, were the gritty crystals and rust of the tiles, the red, brown, and greenish mosses of the gutters, and lower down the more vivid colors of geraniums and pansies in flower-pots under the white dimity curtains which hid the small panes of garret windows; yet every sordid detail touched and transfigured with the poetry and romance of youth and genius.
"You have seen this?" she said.
"Yes; it is a study from my window. One must go high for such effects. You would be surprised if you could see how different the air and sunshine"—
"No," she interrupted gently, "I HAVE seen it."
"You?" he repeated, gazing at her curiously.
Helen ran the point of her slim finger along the sketch until it reached a tiny dormer window in the left-hand corner, half-hidden by an irregular chimney-stack. The curtains were closely drawn. Keeping her finger upon the spot, she said, interrogatively, "And you saw THAT window?"
"Yes, quite plainly. I remember it was always open, and the room seemed empty from early morning to evening, when the curtains were drawn."
"It is my room," she said simply.
Their eyes met with this sudden confession of their equal poverty. "And mine," he said gayly, "from which this view was taken, is in the rear and still higher up on the other street."
They both laughed as if some singular restraint had been removed; Helen even forgot the incident of the bread in her relief. Then they compared notes of their experiences, of their different concierges, of their housekeeping, of the cheap stores and the cheaper restaurants of Paris,—except one. She told him her name, and learned that his was Philip, or, if she pleased, Major Ostrander. Suddenly glancing at her companions, who were ostentatiously lingering at a little distance, she became conscious for the first time that she was talking quite confidentially to a very handsome man, and for a brief moment wished, she knew not why, that he had been plainer. This momentary restraint was accented by the entrance of a lady and gentleman, rather distingue in dress and bearing, who had stopped before them, and were eying equally the artist, his work, and his companion with somewhat insolent curiosity. Helen felt herself stiffening; her companion drew himself up with soldierly rigidity. For a moment it seemed as if, under that banal influence, they would part with ceremonious continental politeness, but suddenly their hands met in a national handshake, and with a frank smile they separated.
Helen rejoined her companions.
"So you have made a conquest of the recently acquired but unknown Greek statue?" said Mademoiselle Renee lightly. "You should take up a subscription to restore his arm, ma petite, if there is a modern sculptor who can do it. You might suggest it to the two Russian cognoscenti, who have been hovering around him as if they wanted to buy him as well as his work. Madame La Princesse is rich enough to indulge her artistic taste."
"It is a countryman of mine," said Helen simply.
"He certainly does not speak French," said mademoiselle mischievously.
"Nor think it," responded Helen with equal vivacity. Nevertheless, she wished she had seen him alone.
She thought nothing more of him that day in her finishing exercises. But the next morning as she went to open her window after dressing, she drew back with a new consciousness, and then, making a peephole in the curtain, looked over the opposite roofs. She had seen them many times before, but now they had acquired a new picturesqueness, which as her view was, of course, the reverse of the poor painter's sketch, must have been a transfigured memory of her own. Then she glanced curiously along the line of windows level with hers. All these, however, with their occasional revelations of the menage behind them, were also familiar to her, but now she began to wonder which was his. A singular instinct at last impelled her to lift her eyes. Higher in the corner house, and so near the roof that it scarcely seemed possible for a grown man to stand upright behind it, was an oeil de boeuf looking down upon the other roofs, and framed in that circular opening like a vignette was the handsome face of Major Ostrander. His eyes seemed to be turned towards her window. Her first impulse was to open it and recognize him with a friendly nod. But an odd mingling of mischief and shyness made her turn away quickly.
Nevertheless, she met him the next morning walking slowly so near her house that their encounter might have been scarcely accidental on his part. She walked with him as far as the Conservatoire. In the light of the open street she thought he looked pale and hollow-cheeked; she wondered if it was from his enforced frugality, and was trying to conceive some elaborate plan of obliging him to accept her hospitality at least for a single meal, when he said:—
"I think you have brought me luck, Miss Maynard."
Helen opened her eyes wonderingly.
"The two Russian connoisseurs who stared at us so rudely were pleased, however, to also stare at my work. They offered me a fabulous sum for one or two of my sketches. It didn't seem to me quite the square thing to old Favel the picture-dealer, whom I had forced to take a lot at one fifteenth the price, so I simply referred them to him."
"No!" said Miss Helen indignantly; "you were not so foolish?"
"I'm afraid what you call my folly didn't avail, for they wanted what they saw in my portfolio."
"Of course," said Helen. "Why, that sketch of the housetop alone was worth a hundred times more than what you"—She stopped; she did not like to reveal what he got for his pictures, and added, "more than what any of those usurers would give."
"I am glad you think so well of it, for I do not mean to sell it," he said simply, yet with a significance that kept her silent.
She did not see him again for several days. The preparation for her examination left her no time, and her earnest concentration in her work fully preoccupied her thoughts. She was surprised, but not disturbed, on the day of the awards to see him among the audience of anxious parents and relations. Miss Helen Maynard did not get the first prize, nor yet the second; an accessit was her only award. She did not know until afterwards that this had long been a foregone conclusion of her teachers on account of some intrinsic defect in her voice. She did not know until long afterwards that the handsome painter's nervousness on that occasion had attracted even the sympathy of some of those who were near him. For she herself had been calm and collected. No one else knew how crushing was the blow which shattered her hopes and made her three years of labor and privation a useless struggle. Yet though no longer a pupil she could still teach; her master had found her a small patronage that saved her from destitution. That night she circled up quite cheerfully in her usual swallow flight to her nest under the eaves, and even twittered on the landing a little over the condolences of the concierge—who knew, mon Dieu! what a beast the director of the Conservatoire was and how he could be bribed; but when at last her brown head sank on her pillow she cried—just a little.
But what was all this to that next morning—the glorious spring morning which bathed all the roofs of Paris with warmth and hope, rekindling enthusiasm and ambition in the breast of youth, and gilding even much of the sordid dirt below. It seemed quite natural that she should meet Major Ostrander not many yards away as she sallied out. In that bright spring sunshine and the hopeful spring of their youth they even laughed at the previous day's disappointment. Ah! what a claque it was, after all! For himself, he, Ostrander, would much rather see that satin-faced Parisian girl who had got the prize smirking at the critics from the boards of the Grand Opera than his countrywoman! The Conservatoire settled things for Paris, but Paris wasn't the world! America would come to the fore yet in art of all kinds—there was a free academy there now—there should be a Conservatoire of its own. Of course, Paris schooling and Paris experience weren't to be despised in art; but, thank heaven! she had THAT, and no directors could take it from her! This and much more, until, comparing notes, they suddenly found that they were both free for that day. Why should they not take advantage of that rare weather and rarer opportunity to make a little suburban excursion? But where? There was the Bois, but that was still Paris. Fontainebleau? Too far; there were always artists sketching in the forest, and he would like for that day to "sink the shop." Versailles? Ah, yes! Versailles!
Thither they went. It was not new to either of them. Ostrander knew it as an artist and as an American reader of that French historic romance—a reader who hurried over the sham intrigues of the Oeil de Boeuf, the sham pastorals of the Petit Trianon, and the sham heroics of a shifty court, to get to Lafayette. Helen knew it as a child who had dodged these lessons from her patriotic father, but had enjoyed the woods, the parks, the terraces, and particularly the restaurant at the park gates. That day they took it like a boy and girl,—with the amused, omniscient tolerance of youth for a past so inferior to the present. Ostrander thought this gray-eyed, independent American-French girl far superior to the obsequious filles d'honneur, whose brocades had rustled through those quinquonces, and Helen vaguely realized the truth of her fellow pupil's mischievous criticism of her companion that day at the Louvre. Surely there was no classical statue here comparable to the one-armed soldier-painter!
All this was as yet free from either sentiment or passion, and was only the frank pride of friendship. But, oddly enough, their mere presence and companionship seemed to excite in others that tenderness they had not yet felt themselves. Family groups watched the handsome pair in their innocent confidences, and, with French exuberant recognition of sentiment, thought them the incarnation of Love. Something in their manifest equality of condition kept even the vainest and most susceptible of spectators from attempted rivalry or cynical interruption. And when at last they dropped side by side on a sun-warmed stone bench on the terrace, and Helen, inclining her brown head towards her companion, informed him of the difficulty she had experienced in getting gumbo soup, rice and chicken, corn cakes, or any of her favorite home dishes in Paris, an exhausted but gallant boulevardier rose from a contiguous bench, and, politely lifting his hat to the handsome couple, turned slowly away from what he believed were tender confidences he would not permit himself to hear.
But the shadow of the trees began to lengthen, casting broad bars across the alle, and the sun sank lower to the level of their eyes. They were quite surprised, on looking around a few moments later, to discover that the gardens were quite deserted, and Ostrander, on consulting his watch, found that they had just lost a train which the other pleasure-seekers had evidently availed themselves of. No matter; there was another train an hour later; they could still linger for a few moments in the brief sunset and then dine at the local restaurant before they left. They both laughed at their forgetfulness, and then, without knowing why, suddenly lapsed into silence. A faint wind blew in their faces and trilled the thin leaves above their heads. Nothing else moved. The long windows of the palace in that sunset light seemed to glisten again with the incendiary fires of the Revolution, and then went out blankly and abruptly. The two companions felt that they possessed the terrace and all its memories as completely as the shadows who had lived and died there.
"I am so glad we have had this day together," said the painter, with a very conscious breaking of the silence, "for I am leaving Paris to-morrow."
Helen raised her eyes quickly to his.
"For a few days only," he continued. "My Russian customers—perhaps I ought to say my patrons—have given me a commission to make a study of an old chateau which the princess lately bought."
A swift recollection of her fellow pupil's raillery regarding the princess's possible attitude towards the painter came over her and gave a strange artificiality to her response.
"I suppose you will enjoy it very much," she said dryly.
"No," he returned with the frankness that she had lacked. "I'd much rather stay in Paris, but," he added with a faint smile, "it's a question of money, and that is not to be despised. Yet I—I—somehow feel that I am deserting you,—leaving you here all alone in Paris."
"I've been all alone for four years," she said, with a bitterness she had never felt before, "and I suppose I'm accustomed to it."
Nevertheless she leaned a little forward, with her fawn-colored lashes dropped over her eyes, which were bent upon the ground and the point of the parasol she was holding with her little gloved hands between her knees. He wondered why she did not look up; he did not know that it was partly because there were tears in her eyes and partly for another reason. As she had leaned forward his arm had quite unconsciously moved along the back of the bench where her shoulders had rested, and she could not have resumed her position except in his half embrace.
He had not thought of it. He was lost in a greater abstraction. That infinite tenderness,—far above a woman's,—the tenderness of strength and manliness towards weakness and delicacy, the tenderness that looks down and not up, was already possessing him. An instinct of protection drew him nearer this bowed but charming figure, and if he then noticed that the shoulders were pretty, and the curves of the slim waist symmetrical, it was rather with a feeling of timidity and a half-consciousness of unchivalrous thought. Yet why should he not try to keep the brave and honest girl near him always? Why should he not claim the right to protect her? Why should they not—they who were alone in a strange land—join their two lonely lives for mutual help and happiness?
A sudden perception of delicacy, the thought that he should have spoken before her failure at the Conservatoire had made her feel her helplessness, brought a slight color to his cheek. Would it not seem to her that he was taking an unfair advantage of her misfortune? Yet it would be so easy now to slip a loving arm around her waist, while he could work for her and protect her with the other. THE OTHER! His eye fell on his empty sleeve. Ah, he had forgotten that! He had but ONE arm!
He rose up abruptly,—so abruptly that Helen, rising too, almost touched the arm that was hurriedly withdrawn. Yet in that accidental contact, which sent a vague tremor through the young girl's frame, there was still time for him to have spoken. But he only said:—
"Perhaps we had better dine."
She assented quickly,—she knew not why,—with a feeling of relief. They walked very quietly and slowly towards the restaurant. Not a word of love had been spoken; not even a glance of understanding had passed between them. Yet they both knew by some mysterious instinct that a crisis of their lives had come and gone, and that they never again could be to each other as they were but a brief moment ago. They talked very sensibly and gravely during their frugal meal; the previous spectator of their confidences would have now thought them only simple friends and have been as mistaken as before. They talked freely of their hopes and prospects,—all save one! They even spoke pleasantly of repeating their little expedition after his return from the country, while in their secret hearts they had both resolved never to see each other again. Yet by that sign each knew that this was love, and were proud of each other's pride, which kept it a secret.
The train was late, and it was past ten o'clock when they at last appeared before the concierge of Helen's home. During their journey, and while passing though the crowds at the station and in the streets, Ostrander had exhibited a new and grave guardianship over the young girl, and, on the first landing, after a scrutinizing and an almost fierce glance at one or two of Helen's odd fellow lodgers, he had extended his protection so far as to accompany her up the four flights to the landing of her apartment. Here he took leave of her with a grave courtesy that half pained, half pleased her. She watched his broad shoulders and dangling sleeve as he went down the stairs, and then quickly turned, entered her room, and locked the door. The smile had faded from her lips. Going to the window, she pressed her hot forehead against the cool glass and looked out upon the stars nearly level with the black roofs around her. She stood there some moments until another star appeared higher up against the roof ridge, the star she was looking for. But here the glass pane before her eyes became presently dim with moisture; she was obliged to rub it out with her handkerchief; yet, somehow, it soon became clouded, at which she turned sharply away and went to bed.
But Miss Helen did not know that when she had looked after the retreating figure of her protector as he descended the stairs that night that he was really carrying away on those broad shoulders the character she had so laboriously gained during her four years' solitude. For when she came down the next morning the concierge bowed to her with an air of easy, cynical abstraction, the result of a long conversation with his wife the night before. He had taken Helen's part with a kindly cynicism. "Ah! what would you—it was bound to come. The affair of the Conservatoire had settled that. The poor child could not starve; penniless, she could not marry. Only why consort with other swallows under the eaves when she could have had a gilded cage on the first etage?" But girls were so foolish—in their first affair; then it was always LOVE! The second time they were wiser. And this maimed warrior and painter was as poor as she. A compatriot, too; well, perhaps that saved some scandal; one could never know what the Americans were accustomed to do. The first floor, which had been inclined to be civil to the young teacher, was more so, but less respectful; one or two young men were tentatively familiar until they looked in her gray eyes and remembered the broad shoulders of the painter. Oddly enough, only Mademoiselle Fifine, of her own landing, exhibited any sympathy with her, and for the first time Helen was frightened. She did not show it, however, only she changed her lodgings the next day. But before she left she had a few moments' conversation with the concierge and an exchange of a word or two with some of her fellow lodgers. I have already hinted that the young lady had great precision of statement; she had a pretty turn for handling colloquial French and an incisive knowledge of French character. She left No. 34, Rue de Frivole, working itself into a white rage, but utterly undecided as to her real character.
But all this and much more was presently blown away in the hot breath that swept the boulevards at the outburst of the Franco-German War, and Miss Helen Maynard disappeared from Paris with many of her fellow countrymen. The excitement reached even a quaint old chateau in Brittany where Major Ostrander was painting. The woman who was standing by his side as he sat before his easel on the broad terrace observed that he looked disturbed.
"What matters?" she said gently. "You have progressed so well in your work that you can finish it elsewhere. I have no great desire to stay in France with a frontier garrisoned by troops while I have a villa in Switzerland where you could still be my guest. Paris can teach you nothing more, my friend; you have only to create now—and be famous."
"I must go to Paris," he said quietly. "I have friends—countrymen—there, who may want me now."
"If you mean the young singer of the Rue de Frivole, you have compromised her already. You can do her no good."
The pretty face which he had been familiar with for the past six weeks somehow seemed to change its character. Under the mask of dazzling skin he fancied he saw the high cheek-bones and square Tartar angle; the brilliant eyes were even brighter than before, but they showed more of the white than he had ever seen in them.
Nevertheless she smiled, with an equally stony revelation of her white teeth, yet said, still gently, "Forgive me if I thought our friendship justified me in being frank,—perhaps too frank for my own good."
She stopped as if half expecting an interruption; but as he remained looking wonderingly at her, she bit her lip, and went on: "You have a great career before you. Those who help you must do so without entangling you; a chain of roses may be as impeding as lead. Until you are independent, you—who may in time compass everything yourself—will need to be helped. You know," she added with a smile, "you have but one arm."
"In your kindness and appreciation you have made me forget it," he stammered. Yet he had a swift vision of the little bench at Versailles where he had NOT forgotten it, and as he glanced around the empty terrace where they stood he was struck with a fateful resemblance to it.
"And I should not remind you now of it," she went on, "except to say that money can always take its place. As in the fairy story, the prince must have a new arm made of gold." She stopped, and then suddenly coming closer to him said, hurriedly and almost fiercely, "Can you not see that I am advising you against my interests,—against myself? Go, then, to Paris, and go quickly, before I change my mind. Only if you do not find your friends there, remember you have always ONE here." Before he could reply, or even understand that white face, she was gone.
He left for Paris that afternoon. He went directly to the Rue de Frivole; his old resolution to avoid Helen was blown to the winds in the prospect of losing her utterly. But the concierge only knew that mademoiselle had left a day or two after monsieur had accompanied her home. And, pointedly, there was another gentleman who had inquired eagerly—and bountifully as far as money went—for any trace of the young lady. It was a Russe. The concierge smiled to himself at Ostrander's flushed cheek. It served this one-armed, conceited American poseur right. Mademoiselle was wiser in this SECOND affair.
Ostrander did not finish his picture. The princess sent him a cheque, which he coldly returned. Nevertheless he had acquired through his Russian patronage a local fame which stood him well with the picture dealers,—in spite of the excitement of the war. But his heart was no longer in his work; a fever of unrest seized him, which at another time might have wasted itself in mere dissipation. Some of his fellow artists had already gone into the army. After the first great reverses he offered his one arm and his military experience to that Paris which had given him a home. The old fighting instinct returned to him with a certain desperation he had never known before. In the sorties from Paris the one-armed American became famous, until a few days before the capitulation, when he was struck down by a bullet through the lung, and left in a temporary hospital. Here in the whirl and terror of Commune days he was forgotten, and when Paris revived under the republic he had disappeared as completely as his compatriot Helen.
But Miss Helen Maynard had been only obscured and not extinguished. At the first outbreak of hostilities a few Americans had still kept giddy state among the ruins of the tottering empire. A day or two after she left the Rue de Frivole she was invited by one of her wealthy former schoolmates to assist with her voice and talent at one of their extravagant entertainments. "You will understand, dear," said Miss de Laine, with ingenious delicacy, as she eyed her old comrade's well-worn dress, "that Poppa expects to pay you professional prices, and it may be an opening for you among our other friends."
"I should not come otherwise, dear," said Miss Helen with equal frankness. But she played and sang very charmingly to the fashionable assembly in the Champs Elysees,—so charmingly, indeed, that Miss de Laine patronizingly expatiated upon her worth and her better days in confidence to some of the guests.
"A most deserving creature," said Miss de Laine to the dowager duchess of Soho, who was passing through Paris on her way to England; "you would hardly believe that Poppa knew her father when he was one of the richest men in South Carolina."
"Your father seems to have been very fortunate," said the duchess quietly, "and so are YOU. Introduce me."
This not being exactly the reply that Miss de Laine expected, she momentarily hesitated: but the duchess profited by it to walk over to the piano and introduce herself. When she rose to go she invited Helen to luncheon with her the next day. "Come early, my dear, and we'll have a long talk." Helen pointed out hesitatingly that she was practically a guest of the de Laines. "Ah, well, that's true, my dear; then you may bring one of them with you."
Helen went to the luncheon, but was unaccompanied. She had a long talk with the dowager. "I am not rich, my dear, like your friends, and cannot afford to pay ten napoleons for a song. Like you I have seen 'better days.' But this is no place for you, child, and if you can bear with an old woman's company for a while I think I can find you something to do." That evening Helen left for England with the duchess, a piece of "ingratitude, indelicacy, and shameless snobbery," which Miss de Laine was never weary of dilating upon. "And to think I introduced her, though she was a professional!"
It was three years after. Paris, reviving under the republic, had forgotten Helen and the American colony; and the American colony, emigrating to more congenial courts, had forgotten Paris.
It was a bleak day of English summer when Helen, standing by the window of the breakfast-room at Hamley Court, and looking over the wonderful lawn, kept perennially green by humid English skies, heard the practical, masculine voice of the duchess in her ear at the same moment that she felt the gentle womanly touch of her hand on her shoulder.
"We are going to luncheon at Moreland Hall to-day, my dear."
"Why, we were there only last week!" said Helen.
"Undoubtedly," returned the duchess dryly, "and we may luncheon there next week and the next following. And," she added, looking into her companion's gray eyes, "it rests with YOU to stay there if you choose."
Helen stared at her protector.
"My dear," continued the duchess, slipping her arm around Helen's waist, "Sir James has honored ME—as became my relations to YOU—with his confidences. As you haven't given me YOURS I suppose you have none, and that I am telling you news when I say that Sir James wishes to marry you."
The unmistakable astonishment in the girl's eye satisfied the duchess even before her voice.
"But he scarcely knows me or anything of me!" said the young girl quickly.
"On the contrary, my dear, he knows EVERYTHING about you. I have been particular in telling him all I know—and some things even YOU don't know and couldn't tell him. For instance, that you are a very nice person. Come, my dear, don't look so stupefied, or I shall really think there's something in it that I don't know. It's not a laughing nor a crying matter yet—at present it's only luncheon again with a civil man who has three daughters and a place in the county. Don't make the mistake, however, of refusing him before he offers—whatever you do afterwards."
"But—you are going to say that you don't love him and have never thought of him as a husband," interrupted the duchess; "I read it in your face,—and it's a very proper thing to say."
"It is so unexpected," urged Helen.
"Everything is unexpected from a man in these matters," said the duchess. "We women are the only ones that are prepared."
"But," persisted Helen, "if I don't want to marry at all?"
"I should say, then, that it is a sign that you ought; if you were eager, my dear, I should certainly dissuade you." She paused, and then drawing Helen closer to her, said, with a certain masculine tenderness, "As long as I live, dear, you know that you have a home here. But I am an old woman living on the smallest of settlements. Death is as inevitable to me as marriage should be to you."
Nevertheless, they did not renew the conversation, and later received the greetings of their host at Moreland Hall with a simplicity and frankness that were, however, perfectly natural and unaffected in both women. Sir James,—a tall, well-preserved man of middle age, with the unmistakable bearing of long years of recognized and unchallenged position,—however, exhibited on this occasion that slight consciousness of weakness and susceptibility to ridicule which is apt to indicate the invasion of the tender passion in the heart of the average Briton. His duty as host towards the elder woman of superior rank, however, covered his embarrassment, and for a moment left Helen quite undisturbed to gaze again upon the treasures of the long drawing-room of Moreland Hall with which she was already familiar. There were the half-dozen old masters, whose respectability had been as recognized through centuries as their owner's ancestors; there were the ancestors themselves,—wigged, ruffled, and white-handed, by Vandyke, Lely, Romney, and Gainsborough; there were the uniform, expressionless ancestresses in stiff brocade or short-waisted, clinging draperies, but all possessing that brilliant coloring which the gray skies outside lacked, and which seemed to have departed from the dresses of their descendants. The American girl had sometimes speculated upon what might have been the appearance of the lime-tree walk, dotted with these gayly plumaged folk, and wondered if the tyranny of environment had at last subdued their brilliant colors. And a new feeling touched her. Like most of her countrywomen, she was strongly affected by the furniture of life; the thought that all that she saw there MIGHT BE HERS; that she might yet stand in succession to these strange courtiers and stranger shepherdesses, and, like them, look down from the canvas upon the intruding foreigner, thrilled her for a moment with a half-proud, half-passive sense of yielding to what seemed to be her fate. A narrow-eyed, stiff-haired Dutch maid of honor before whom she was standing gazed at her with staring vacancy. Suddenly she started. Before the portrait upon a fanciful easel stood a small elaborately framed sketch in oils. It was evidently some recently imported treasure. She had not seen it before. As she moved quickly forward, she recognized at a glance that it was Ostrander's sketch from the Paris grenier.