Something moved to his left, down the pathway—he turned to look. Had his heart stopped, that he felt this strange, cold feeling in his breast? Were his eyes—could he be seeing? Was this insanity? Fifty feet down the path, half in the weaving shadows, half in clear sunlight, stood the little boy of his life-long vision, in the dress with the black velvet squares, his little uncle, dead forty years ago. As he gazed, his breath stopping, the child smiled and held up to him, as of old, a key on a scarlet string, and turned and flitted as if a flower had taken wing, away between the box hedges. Philip, his feet moving as if without his will, followed him. Again the baby face turned its smiling dark eyes toward him, and Philip knew that the child was calling him, though there was no sound; and again without volition of his own his feet took him where it led. He felt his breath coming difficultly, and suddenly a gasp shook him—there was no footprint on the unfrozen earth where the vision had passed. Yet there before him, moving through the deep sunlit silence of the garden, was the familiar, sturdy little form in its old-world dress. Philip's eyes were open; he was awake, walking; he saw it. Across the neglected tangle it glided, and into the trim order of Shelby's rose garden; in the opening between the box walls it wheeled again, and the sun shone clear on the bronze hair and fresh face, and the scarlet string flashed and the key glinted at the end of it. Philip's fascinated eyes saw all of that. Then the apparition slipped into the shadow of the beech trees and Philip quickened his step breathlessly, for it seemed that life and death hung on the sight. In and out through the trees it moved; once more the face turned toward him; he caught the quick brightness of a smile. The little chap had disappeared behind the broad tree-trunk, and Philip, catching his breath, hurried to see him appear again. He was gone. The little spirit that had strayed from over the border of a world—who can say how far, how near?—unafraid in this earth-corner once its home, had slipped away into eternity through the white gate of ghosts and dreams.
Philip's heart was pumping painfully as he came, dazed and staring, to the place where the apparition had vanished. It was a giant beech tree, all of two hundred and fifty years old, and around its base ran a broken wooden bench, where pretty girls of Fairfield had listened to their sweethearts, where children destined to be generals and judges had played with their black mammies, where gray-haired judges and generals had come back to think over the fights that were fought out. There were letters carved into the strong bark, the branches swung down whisperingly, the green tent of the forest seemed filled with the memory of those who had camped there and gone on. Philip's feet stumbled over the roots as he circled the veteran; he peered this way and that, but the woodland was hushed and empty; the birds whistled above, the grasses rustled below, unconscious, casual, as if they knew nothing of a child-soul that had wandered back on Christmas day with a Christmas message, perhaps, of good-will to its own.
As he stood on the farther side of the tree where the little ghost had faded from him, at his feet lay, open and conspicuous, a fresh, deep hole. He looked down absent-mindedly. Some animal—a dog, a rabbit—had scratched far into the earth. A bar of sunlight struck a golden arm through the branches above, and as he gazed at the upturned, brown dirt the rays that were its fingers reached into the hollow and touched a square corner, a rusty edge of tin. In a second the young fellow was down on his knees digging as if for his life, and in less than five minutes he had loosened the earth which had guarded it so many years, and staggering with it to his feet had lifted to the bench a heavy tin box. In its lock was the key, and dangling from it a long bit of no-colored silk, that yet, as he untwisted it, showed a scarlet thread in the crease. He opened the box with the little key; it turned scrapingly, and the ribbon crumbled in his fingers, its long duty done. Then, as he tilted the heavy weight, the double eagles, packed closely, slipped against each other with a soft clink of sliding metal. The young man stared at the mass of gold pieces as if he could not trust his eyesight; he half thought even then that he dreamed it. With a quick memory of the mortgage he began to count. It was all there—ten thousand dollars in gold! He lifted his head and gazed at the quiet woodland, the open shadow-work of the bare branches, the fields beyond lying in the calm sunlit rest of a Southern winter. Then he put his hand deep into the gold pieces, and drew a long breath. It was impossible to believe, but it was true. The lost treasure was found. It meant to him Shelby and home; as he realized what it meant his heart felt as if it would break with the joy of it. He would give her this for his Christmas gift, this legacy of his people and hers, and then he would give her himself. It was all easy now—life seemed not to hold a difficulty. And the two would keep tenderly, always, the thought of a child who had loved his home and his people and who had tried so hard, so long, to bring them together. He knew the dream-child would not visit him again—the little ghost was laid that had followed him all his life. From over the border whence it had come with so many loving efforts it would never come again. Slowly, with the heavy weight in his arms, he walked back to the garden sleeping in the sunshine, and the box hedges met him with a wave of fragrance, the sweetness of a century ago; and as he passed through their shining door, looking beyond, he saw Shelby. The girl's figure stood by the stone column of the garden entrance, the light shone on her bare head, and she had stopped, surprised, as she saw him. Philip's pace quickened with his heart-throb as he looked at her and thought of the little ghostly hands that had brought theirs together; and as he looked the smile that meant his welcome and his happiness broke over her face, and with the sound of her voice all the shades of this world and the next dissolved in light.
"'Christmas gif',' Marse Philip!" called Shelby.
THE WIFE OF THE GOVERNOR
The Governor sat at the head of the big black-oak table in his big stately library. The large lamps on either end of the table stood in old cloisonne vases of dull rich reds and bronzes, and their shades were of thick yellow silk. The light they cast on the six anxious faces grouped about them was like the light in Rembrandt's picture of The Clinic.
It was a very important meeting indeed. A city official, who had for months been rather too playfully skating on the thin ice of bare respect for the law, had just now, in the opinion of many, broken through. He had followed a general order of the Governor's by a special order of his own, contradicting the first in words not at all, but in spirit from beginning to end. And the Governor wished to make an example of him—now, instantly, so promptly and so thoroughly that those who ran might read, in large type, that the attempt was not a success. He was young for a Governor—thirty-six years old—and it may be that care for the dignity of his office was not his only feeling on the subject.
"I won't be badgered, you know," he said to the senior Senator of the State. "If the man wishes to see what I do when I'm ugly, I propose to show him. Show me reason, if you can, why this chap shouldn't be indicted."
To which they answered various things; for while they sympathized, and agreed in the main, yet several were for temporizing, and most of them for going a bit slowly. But the Governor was impetuous and indignant. And here the case stood when there came a knock at the library door.
The Governor looked up in surprise, for it was against all orders that he should be disturbed at a meeting. But he spoke a "Come in," and Jackson, the stately colored butler, appeared, looking distressed and alarmed.
"Oh, Lord! Gov'ner, suh!" was all he got out for a moment, fear at his own rashness seizing him in its grip at the sight of the six distinguished faces turned toward him.
"Jackson! What do you want?" asked the Governor, not so very gently.
Jackson advanced, with conspicuous lack of his usual style and sang-froid, a tray in his hand, and a quite second-class-looking envelope upon it. "Beg pardon, suh. Shouldn't 'a' interrupted, Gov'nor; please scuse me, suh; but they boys was so pussistent, and it comed fum the deepo, and I was mos' feared the railways was done gone on a strike, and I thought maybe you'd oughter know, suh—Gov'ner."
And in the meantime, while the scared Jackson rambled on thus in an undertone, the Governor had the cheap, bluish-white envelope in his hand, and with a muttered "Excuse me" to his guests, had cut it across and was reading, with a face of astonishment, the paper that was enclosed. He crumpled it in his hand and threw it on the table.
"Absurd!" he said, half aloud; and then, "No answer, Jackson," and the man retired.
"Now, then, gentlemen, as we were saying before this interruption"—and in clear, eager sentences he returned to the charge. But a change had come over him. The Attorney-General, elucidating a point of importance, caught his chief's eye wandering, and followed it, surprised, to that ball of paper on the table. The Secretary of State could not understand why the Governor agreed in so half-hearted a way when he urged with eloquence the victim's speedy sacrifice. Finally, the august master of the house growing more and more distrait, he suddenly rose, and picking up the crumpled paper—
"Gentlemen, will you have the goodness to excuse me for five minutes?" he said. "It is most annoying, but I cannot give my mind to business until I attend to the matter on which Jackson interrupted us. I beg a thousand pardons—I shall only keep you a moment."
The dignitaries left cooling their heels looked at each other blankly, but the Lieutenant-Governor smiled cheerfully.
"One of the reasons he is Governor at thirty-six is that he always does attend to the matters that interrupt him."
Meanwhile the Governor, rushing out with his usual impulsive energy, had sent two or three servants flying over the house. "Where's Mrs. Mooney? Send Mrs. Mooney to me here instantly—and be quick;" and he waited, impatient, although it was for only three minutes, in a little room across the hall, where appeared to him in that time a square-shaped, gray-haired woman with a fresh face and blue eyes full of intelligence and kindliness.
"Mary, look here;" and the big Governor put his hand on the stout little woman's arm and drew her to the light. Mary and his Excellency were friends of very old standing indeed, their intimacy having begun thirty-five years before, when the future great man was a rampant baby, and Mary his nurse and his adorer, which last she was still. "I want to read you this, and then I want you to telephone to Bristol at once." He smoothed out the wrinkled single sheet of paper.
"My dear Governor Rudd," he read,—"My friends the McNaughtons of Bristol are friends of yours too, I think, and that is my reason for troubling you with this note. I am on my way to visit them now, and expected to take the train for Bristol at twenty minutes after eight to-night, but when I reached here at eight o'clock I found the time-table had been changed, and the train had gone out twenty minutes before. And there is no other till to-morrow. I don't know what to do or where to go, and you are the only person in the city whose name I know. Would it trouble you to advise me where to go for the night—what hotel, if it is right for me to go to a hotel? With regret that I should have to ask this of you when you must be busy with great affairs all the time, I am,
"Very sincerely, "LINDSAY LEE."
Mary listened, attentive but dazed, and was about to burst out at once with voluble exclamations and questions when the Governor stopped her.
"Now, Mary, don't do a lot of talking. Just listen to me. I thought at first this note was from a man, because it is signed by a man's name. But it looks and sounds like a woman, and I think it should be attended to. I want you to telephone to Mr. George McNaughton, at Bristol, and ask if Mr. or Miss Lindsay Lee is a friend of theirs, and say that, if so, he—or she—is all right, and is spending the night here. Then, in that case, send Harper to the station with the brougham, and say that I beg to have the honor of looking after Mrs. McNaughton's friend for the night. And you'll see that whoever it is is made very comfortable."
"Indeed I will, the poor young thing," said Mary, jumping at a picturesque view of the case. "But, Mr. Jack, do you want me to telephone to Mr. McNaughton's and ask if a friend of theirs—"
The Governor cut her short. "Exactly. You know just what I said, Mary Mooney; you only want to talk it over. I'm much too busy. Tell Jackson not to come to the library again unless the State freezes over. Good-night.—I don't think the McNaughtons can complain that I haven't done their friend brown," said the Governor to himself as he went back across the hall.
* * * * *
Down at the station, beneath the spirited illumination of one whistling gas-jet, the station-master and Lindsay Lee waited wearily for an answer from the Governor. It was long in coming, for the station-master's boys, the Messrs. O'Milligan, seizing the occasion for foreign travel offered by a sight of the Executive grounds, had made a detour by the Executive stables, and held deep converse with the grooms. Just as the thought of duty undone began to prick the leathery conscience of the older one, the order came for Harper and the brougham. Half an hour later, at the station, Harper drew up with a sonorous clatter of hoofs. The station-master hurried forward to interview the coachman. In a moment he turned with a beaming face.
"It's good news for ye, miss. The Governor's sent his own kerridge for ye, then. Blessed Mary, but it's him that's condescendin'. Get right in, miss."
Such a sudden safe harbor seemed almost too good to be true. Lindsay was nearly asleep as the rubber-tired wheels rolled softly along through the city. The carriage turned at length from the lights and swung up a long avenue between trees, and then stopped. The door flew open, and Lindsay looked up steps and into a wide, lighted doorway, where stood a stout woman, who hastened to seize her bag and umbrella and take voluble possession of her. The sleepy, dazed girl was vaguely conscious of large halls and a wide stair and a kind voice by her side that flowed ever on in a gentle river of words. Then she found herself in a big, pleasant bed-room, and beyond was the open door of a tiled bath-room.
"Oh—oh!" she said, and dropped down sideways on the whiteness of the brass bed, and put her arms around the pillow and her head, hat and all, on it.
"Poor child!" said pink-checked, motherly Mrs. Mooney. "You're more than tired, that I can see without trying, and no wonder, too! I shan't say another word to you, but just leave you to get to bed and to sleep, and I'm sure it's the best medicine ever made, is a good comfortable bed and a night's rest. So I shan't stop to speak another word. But is there anything at all you'd like, Miss Lee? And there, now, what am I thinking about? I haven't asked if you wouldn't have a bit of supper! I'll bring it up myself—just a bit of cold bird and a glass of wine? It will do you good. But it will," as Lindsay shook her head, smiling. "There's nothing so bad as going to sleep on an empty stomach when you're tired."
"But I had dinner on the train, and I'm not hungry; sure enough, I'm not; thank you a thousand times."
Mrs. Mooney reluctantly took two steps toward the door, the room shaking under her soft-footed, heavy tread.
"You're sure you wouldn't like—" She stopped, embarrassed, and the blue eyes shone like kindly sapphires above the always-blushing cheeks. "I'm mortified to ask you for fear you'd laugh at me, but you seem like such a child, and—would you let me bring you—just a slice of bread and butter with some brown sugar on it?"
Lindsay had a gracious way of knowing when people really wished to do something for her. She flapped her hands, like the child she looked. "Oh, how did you think of it? I used to have that for a treat at home. Yes, I'd love it!" And Mrs. Mooney beamed.
"There! I thought you would! You see, Miss Lee, that's what I used sometimes to give my boy—that's the Governor—when he was little and got hungry at bedtime."
Lindsay, left alone, took off her hat, and with a pull and screw at her necktie and collar-button, dropped into a chair that seemed to hold its fat arms up for her. She smiled sleepily and comfortably. "I'm having a right good time," she said to herself, "but it's funny. I feel as if I lived here, and I love that old housekeeper-nurse of the Governor's. I wonder what the Governor is like? I wonder—" And at this point she became aware, with only slight surprise, of a little boy with a crown on his head who offered her a slice of bread and butter and sugar a yard square, and told her he had kept it for her twenty-five years. She was about to reason with him that it could not possibly be good to eat in that case, when something jarred the brain that was slipping so easily down into oblivion, and as her eyes opened again she saw Mrs. Mooney's solid shape bending over the tub in the bath-room, and a noise of running water sounded pleasant and refreshing.
"Oh, did I go to sleep?" she asked, sitting up straight and blinking wide-open eyes.
"There! I knew it would wake you, and I couldn't a-bear to do it, my dear, but it would never do for you to sleep like that in your clothes, and I drew your bath warm, thinking it would rest you better, but I can just change it hot or cold as it suits you. And here's the little lunch for you, and I feel as if it was my own little boy I was taking care of again; the year he was ten it was he ate so much at night. I saw him just now, and he's that tired from his meeting—it's a shame how hard he has to work for this State, time and time again. He said 'Good-night, Mary,' he said, just the way he did years ago—such a little gentleman he always was. The dearest and the handsomest thing he was; they used to call him 'the young prince,' he was that handsome and full of spirit. He told me to say he hoped for the pleasure of seeing Miss Lee at breakfast to-morrow at nine; but if you should be tired, Miss Lee, or prefer your breakfast up here, which you can have it just as well as not, you know. And here I'm talking you to death again, and you ought to stop me, for when I begin about the Governor I never know when to stop myself. Just put up your foot, please, and I'll take your shoes off," And while she unlaced Lindsay's small boots with capable fingers she apologized profusely for talking—talking as much again.
"There's nothing to excuse. It's mighty interesting to hear about him," said Lindsay. "I shall enjoy meeting him that much more. Is there a picture of him anywhere around?" looking about the room.
That was a lucky stroke. Mary Mooney parted the black ribbon that was tied beneath her neat white collar and turned her face up, all pleased smiles, to the girl, who leaned down to examine an ivory miniature set as a brooch. It was a sunny-faced little boy, with thick straight golden hair and fearless brown eyes—a sweet childish face very easy to admire, and Lindsay admired it enough to satisfy even Mrs. Mooney.
"I had it for a Christmas gift the year he was nine," she said. Mary's calendar ran from The Year of the Governor, 1. "He had whooping-cough just after that, and was ill seven weeks. Dear me, what teeny little feet you have!" as she put on them the dressing-slippers from the bag, and struggled up to her own, heavily but cheerfully.
Lindsay looked at her thoughtfully. "You haven't mentioned the Governor's wife," she said. "Isn't she at home?" and she leaned over to pull up the furry heel of the little slipper. So that she missed seeing Mary Mooney's face. Expression chased expression over that smiling landscape—astonishment, perplexity, anxiety, the gleam of a new-born idea, hesitation, and at last a glow of unselfish kindliness which often before had transfigured it.
"No, Miss Lee," said Mary. "She's away from home just now." And then, unblushingly, "But she's a lovely lady, and she'll be very disappointed not to see you."
Almost the next thing Lindsay knew she was watching dreamily spots of sunlight that danced on a pale pink wall. Then a bird began to sing at the edge of the window; there was a delicate rustle of skirts, and she turned her head and saw a maid—not Mary Mooney this time—moving softly about, opening part way the outside shutters, drawing lip the shades a bit, letting the light and shadow from tossing trees outside and the air and the morning in with gentle slowness. She dressed with deliberation, and, lo! it was a quarter after nine o'clock.
So that the Governor waited for his breakfast. For ten minutes, while the paper lasted, waiting was unimportant; and then, being impatient by nature, and not used to it, he suddenly was cross.
"Confound the girl!" soliloquized the Governor. "I'll have her indicted too! First she breaks up a meeting, then she gets the horses out at all hours, and now, to cap it, she makes me wait for breakfast. Why should I wait for my breakfast? Why the devil can't she—Now, Mary, what is it? I warn you I'm cross, and I shan't listen well till I've had breakfast. I'm waiting for that young lady you're coddling. Where's that young lady? Why doesn't she—What?"
For the flood-gates were open, and the soft verbal oceans of Mary were upon him. He listened two minutes, mute with astonishment, and then he rose up in his wrath and was verbal also.
"What! You told her I was married? What the dev—And you're actually asking me to tell her so too? Mary, are you insane? Embarrassed? What if she is embarrassed? And what do I care if—What? Sweet and pretty? Mary, don't be an idiot. Am I to improvise a wife, in my own house, because a stray girl may object to visiting a bachelor? Not if I know it. Not much." The Governor bristled with indignation. "Confound the girl, I'll—" At this point Mary, though portly, vanished like a vision of the night, and there stood in the doorway a smiling embodiment of the morning, crisp in a clean shirt-waist, and free from consciousness of crime.
"Is it Governor Rudd?" asked Lindsay; and the Governor was, somehow, shaking hands like a kind and cordial host, and the bitterness was gone from his soul. "I certainly don't know how to thank you," she said. "You-all have been very good to me, and I've been awfully comfortable. I was so lost and unhappy last night; I felt like a wandering Jewess. I hope I haven't kept you waiting for breakfast?"
"Not a moment," said the Governor, heartily, placing her chair, and it was five minutes before he suddenly remembered that he was cross. Then he made an effort to live up to his convictions. "This is a mistake," he said to himself. "I had no intention of being particularly friendly with this young person. Rudd, I can't allow you to be impulsive in this way. You're irritated by the delay and by last night: you're bored to be obliged to entertain a girl when you wish to read the paper; you're anxious to get down to the Capitol to see those men; all you feel is a perfunctory politeness for the McNaughtons' friend. Kindly remember these facts, Rudd, and don't make a fool of yourself gambolling on the green, instead of sustaining the high dignity of your office." So reasoned the Governor secretly, and made futile attempts at high dignity, while his heart became as wax, and he questioned of his soul at intervals to see if it knew what was going on.
So the Governor sat before Lindsay Lee at his own table, momentarily more surprised and helpless. And Lindsay, eating her grape-fruit with satisfaction, thought him delightful, and wondered what his wife was like, and how many children he had, and where they all were. It was at least safe to speak of the wife, for the old house-keeper-nurse had given her an unqualified recommendation. So she spoke.
"I'm sorry to hear that Mrs. Rudd is not at home," she began. "It must be rather lonely in this big house without her."
The Governor looked at her and laughed. "Not that I've noticed," he said, and was suddenly seized with a sickness of pity that was the inevitable effect of Lindsay Lee. She needed no pity, being healthy, happy, and well-to-do, but she had, for the punishment of men's sins, sad gray eyes and a mouth whose full lips curved sorrowfully down. Her complexion was the colorless, magnolia-leaf sort that is typically Southern; her dark hair lay in thick locks on her forehead as if always damp with emotion; her swaying, slender figure seemed to appeal to masculine strength; and the voice that drawled a syllable to twice its length here, to slide over mouthfuls of words there, had an upward inflection at the end of sentences that brought tears to one's eyes. There was no pose about her, but the whole effect of her was pathetic—illogically, for she caught the glint of humor from every side light of life, which means pleasure that other people miss. The old warning against vice says that we "first endure, then pity, then embrace"; but Lindsay differed from vice so far that people never had to endure her, but began with pity, finding it often a very short step to the wish, at least, to embrace her. The Governor after fifteen minutes' acquaintance had arrived at pitying her, intensely and with his whole soul, as he did most things. He held another interview with himself. "Lord! what an innocent face it is!" he said. "Mary said she would be embarrassed—the brute that would embarrass her! Hanged if I'll do it! If she would rather have me married, married I'll be." He raised candid eyes to Lindsay's face.
"I'm afraid I've shocked you. You mustn't think I shall not be glad when—Mrs. Rudd—is here. But, you see, I've been very busy lately. I've hardly had time to breathe—haven't had time to miss—her—at all, really. All the same—" Now what was the queer feeling in his throat and lungs—yes, it must be the lungs—as the Governor framed this sentence? He went on: "All the same, I shall be a happy man when—my wife—comes home."
Lindsay's face cleared. This was satisfactory and proper; there was no more to be said about it. She looked up with a smile to where the old butler beamed upon her for her youth and beauty and her accent and her name.
A handful of busy men left the Capitol in some annoyance that morning because the Governor had telephoned that he could not be there before half past eleven. They would have been more annoyed, perhaps, if they had seen him dashing about the station light-heartedly just before the eleven-o'clock train for Bristol left. They said to each other: "It must be a matter of importance that keeps him. Governor Rudd almost never throws over an appointment. He has been working like the devil over that street-railway franchise case; probably it's that."
And the Governor stood by a chair in a parlor-car, his world cleared of street railways and indictments and their class as if they had never been, and in his hand was a small white oblong box tied with a tinsel cord.
"Good-by," he said, "but remember I'm to be asked down for the garden party next week, and I'm coming."
"I certainly won't forget. And I reckon I'd better not try to thank you for—Oh, thank you! I thought that looked like candy. And bring Mrs. Rudd with you next week. I want to see her. And—Oh, get off, please; it's moving. Good-by, good-by."
And to the mighty music of a slow-clanging bell and the treble of escaping steam and the deep-rolling accompaniment of powerful wheels the Governor escaped to the platform, and the capital city of that sovereign State was empty—practically empty. He noticed it the moment he turned his eyes from the disappearing train and moved toward Harper and the brougham. He also noticed that he had never noticed it before.
A solid citizen, catching a glimpse of the well-known, thoughtful face through the window of the Executive carriage as it bowled across toward the Capitol, shook his head. "He works too hard," he said to himself. "A fine fellow, and young and strong, but the pace is telling. He looks anxious to-day. I wonder what scheme is revolving in his brain at this moment."
And at that moment the Governor growled softly to himself. "I've overdone it," he said. "She's sure to be offended. No one likes to be taken in. I ought not to have showed her Mrs. Rudd's conservatory; that was a mistake. She won't let them ask me down; I shan't see her. Hanged if I won't telephone Mrs. McNaughton to keep the secret till I've been down." And he did, before Lindsay could get there, amid much laughter at both ends of the wire, and no small embarrassment at his own.
And he was asked down, and having enjoyed himself, was asked again. And again. So that during the three weeks of Lindsay's visit Bristol saw more of the Chief Executive officer of the State than Bristol had seen before, and everybody but Lindsay had an inkling of the reason. But the time never came to tell her of the shadowy personality of Mrs. Rudd, and between the McNaughton girls and the Governor, whom they forced into unexpected statements, to their great though secret glee, Lindsay was informed of many details in regard to the missing first lady of the commonwealth. Such a dialogue as the following would occur at the lunch table:
Alice McNaughton (speaking with ceremonious politeness from one end of the table to the Governor at the other end). "When is Mrs. Rudd coming, Governor?"
The Governor (with a certain restraint). "Before very long, I hope, Miss Alice. Mrs. McNaughton, may I have more lobster? I've never in my life had as much lobster as I wanted."
Alice (refusing to be side-tracked). "And when did you last hear from her, Governor?"
Chuck McNaughton (ornament of the Sophomore class at Harvard. In love with Lindsay, but more so with the joke. Gifted with a sledgehammer style of wit). "I've been hoping for a letter from her myself, Governor, but it doesn't come."
The Governor (with slight hauteur). "Ah, indeed!"
Lindsay (at whose first small peep the Governor's eyes turn to hers and rest there shamelessly). "Why haven't you any pictures of Mrs. Rudd in the house, Mrs. McNaughton? The Governor's is everywhere and you all tell me how fascinating she is, and yet don't have her about. It looks like you don't love her as much as the Governor." (At the mention of being loved, in that voice, cold shivers seize the Executive nerves.)
Mrs. McNaughton (entranced with the airy persiflage, but knowing her own to be no light hand at repartee). "Ask the others, my dear."
Alice (jumping at the chance). "Oh, the reason of that is very interesting! Mrs. Rudd has never given even the Governor her picture. She—she has principles against it. She belongs, you see, to an ancient Hebrew family—in fact, she is a Jewess" ("A wandering Jewess," the Governor interjected, sotto voce, his glance veering again to Lindsay's face), "and you know that Jewish families have religious scruples about portraits of any sort" (pauses, exhausted).
Chuck (with heavy artillery). "Alice, taisez-vous. You're doing poorly. You can't converse. Your best parlor trick is your red hair. Miss Lee, I'll show you a picture of Mrs. Rudd some day, and I'll tell you now what she looks like. She has exquisite melancholy gray eyes, a mouth like a ripe tomato" (shouts from the table en masse, but Chuck ploughs along cheerily), "hair like the braided midnight" (cries of "What's that?" and "Hear! Hear!"), "a figure slim and willowy as a vaulting-pole" (a protest of "No track athletics at meals; that's forbidden!"), "and a voice—well, if you ever tasted New Orleans molasses on maple sugar, with 'that tired feeling' thrown in, perhaps you'll have a glimpse, a mile off, of what that voice is like." (Eager exclamations of "That's near enough," "Don't do it any more, Chuck," and "For Heaven's sake, Charlie, stop." Lindsay looks hard with the gray eyes at the Governor.)
Lindsay, "Why don't you pull your bowie-knife out of your boot, Governor? It looks like he's making fun of your wife, to me. Isn't anybody going to fight anybody?"
And then Mr. McNaughton would reprove her as a bloodthirsty Kentuckian, and the whole laughing tableful would empty out on the broad porch. At such a time the Governor, laughing too, amused, yet uncomfortable, and feeling himself in a false and undignified position, would vow solemnly that a stop must be put to all this. It would get about, into the papers even, by horrid possibility; even now a few intimates of the McNaughton family had been warned "not to kill the Governor's wife." He would surely tell the girl the next time he could find her alone, and then the absurdity would collapse. But the words would not come, or if he carefully framed them beforehand, this bold, aggressive leader of men, whose nickname was "Jack the Giant-killer," made a giant of Lindsay's displeasure, and was afraid of it. He had never been afraid of anything before. He would screw his courage up to the notch, and then, one look at the childlike face, and down it would go, and he would ask her to go rowing with him. They were such good friends; it was so dangerous to change at a blow existing relations, to tell her that he had been deceiving her all these weeks. These exquisite June weeks that had flown past to music such us no June had made before; days snowed under with roses, nights that seemed, as he remembered them, moonlit for a solid month. The Governor sighed a lingering sigh, and quoted,
"Oh what a tangled web we weave When first we practise to deceive!"
Yes, he must really wait—say two days longer. Then he might be sure enough of her—regard—to tell her the truth. And then, a little later, if he could control himself so long, another truth. Beyond that he did not allow himself to think.
"Governor Rudd," asked Lindsay suddenly as they walked their horses the last mile home from a ride on which they had gotten separated—the Governor knew how—from the rest of the party, "why do they bother you so about your wife, and why do you let them?"
"Can't help it, Miss Lindsay. They have no respect for me. I'm that sort of man. Hard luck, isn't it?"
Lindsay turned her sad, infantile gray eyes on him searchingly. "I reckon you're not," she said. "I reckon you're the sort of man people don't say things to unless they're right sure you will stand it. They don't trifle with you." She nodded her head with conviction. "Oh, I've heard them talk about you! I like that; that's like our men down South. You're right Southern, anyhow, in some ways. You see, I can pay you compliments because you're a safe old married man," and her eyes smiled up at him: she rarely laughed or smiled except with those lovely eyes. "There's some joke about your wife," she went on, "that you-all won't tell me. There certainly is. I know it, sure enough I do, Governor Rudd."
There is a common belief that the Southern accent can be faithfully rendered in writing if only one spells badly enough. No amount of bad spelling could tell how softly Lindsay Lee said those last two words.
"I love to hear you say that—'Guv'na Rudd.' I do, 'sho 'nuff,'" mused the Governor out loud and irrelevantly. "Would you say it again?"
"I wouldn't," said Lindsay, with asperity. "Ridiculous! If you are a Governor! But I was talking about your wife. Isn't she coming home before I go? Sometimes I don't believe you have a wife."
That was his chance, and he saw it. He must tell her now or never, and he drew a long breath. "Suppose I told you that I had not," he said, "that she was a myth, what would you say?"
"Oh, I'd just never speak to you again," said Lindsay, carelessly. "I wouldn't like to be fooled like that. Look, there are the others!" and off she flew at a canter.
It is easy to see that the Governor was not hurried headlong into confession by that speech. But the crash came. It was the night before Lindsay was to go back home to far-off Kentucky, and with infinite expenditure of highly trained intellect, for which the State was paying a generous salary, the Governor had managed to find himself floating on a moonlit flood through the Forest of Arden with the Blessed Damozel. That, at least, is the rendering of a walk in the McNaughtons' wood with Lindsay Lee as it appeared that night to the intellect mentioned. But the language of such thoughts is idiomatic and incapable of exact translation. A flame of eagerness to speak, quenched every moment by a shower-bath of fear, burned in his soul, when suddenly Lindsay tripped on a root and fell, with an exclamation. Then fear dried beneath the flames. It is unnecessary to tell what the Governor did, or what he said. The language, as language, was unoriginal and of striking monotony, and as to what happened, most people have had experience which will obviate the necessity of going into brutal facts. But when, trembling and shaken, he realized a material world again, Lindsay was fighting him, pushing him away, her eyes blazing fiercely.
"What do you mean? What do you mean?" she was saying.
"Mean—mean? That I love you—that I want you to love me, to be my wife!" She stood up like a white ghost in the silver light and shadow of the wood.
"Governor Rudd, are you crazy?" she cried. "You have a wife already."
The tall Governor threw back his head and laughed a laugh like a child. The people away off on the porch heard him and smiled. "They are having a good time, those two," Mrs. McNaughton said.
"Lindsay—Lindsay," and he bent over and caught her hands and kissed them. "There isn't any wife—there never will be any but you. It was all a joke. It happened because—Oh, never mind! I can't tell you now; it's a long story. But you must forgive that; that's all in the past now. The question is, will you love me—will you love me, Lindsay? Tell me, Lindsay!" He could not say her name often enough. But there came no answering light in Lindsay's face. She looked at him as if he were a striped convict.
"I'll never forgive you," she said, slowly. "You've treated me like a child; you've made a fool of me, all of you. It was insulting. All a joke, you call it? And I was the joke; you've been laughing at me all these weeks. Why was it funny, I'd like to know?"
"Great heavens, Lindsay—you're not going to take it that way? I insult you—laugh at you! I'd give my life; I'd shoot down any one—Lindsay!" he broke out appealingly, and made a step toward her.
"Don't touch me!" she cried. "Don't touch me! I hate you!" And as he still came closer she turned and ran up the path, into the moonlight of the driveway, and so, a dim white blotch on the fragrant night, disappeared.
When the Governor, walking with dignity, came up the steps of the porch, three minutes later, he was greeted with questions.
"What have you done to Lindsay Lee, I'd like to know?" asked Alice McNaughton. "She said she had fallen and hurt her foot, but she wouldn't let me go up with her, and she was dignified, which is awfully trying. Why did you quarrel with her, this last night?"
"Governor," said Chuck, with more discernment than delicacy, "if you will accept the sympathies of one not unacquainted with grief—" But at this point his voice faded away as he looked at the Governor.
The Governor never remembered just how he got away from the friendly hatefulness of that porchful. An early train the next morning was inevitable, for there was a meeting of real importance this time, and at all events everything looked about the same shade of gray to him; it mattered very little what he did. Only he must be doing something every moment. He devoured work as if it were bread and meat and he were famished. People said all that autumn and winter that anything like the Governor's energy had never been seen. He evidently wanted a second term, and really he ought to have it. He was working hard enough to get it. About New-Year's he went down to Bristol for the first time since June, for a dinner at the McNaughtons'. Alice McNaughton's friendly face, under its red-gold hair, beamed at him from far away down the table, but after dinner, when the men came in from the dining-room, she took possession of him boldly.
"Governor, I want to tell you about Lindsay Lee. I know you'll be interested, though you did have some mysterious fight before she left. She's been awfully ill with pleurisy, a painful attack, and she's getting well very slowly. They have just taken her to Paul Smith's. I'm writing her to-morrow, and I want you to send a good message; it would please her."
It was hard to stand with eighteen people grouped about him, all more or less with an eye on his motions, and be the Governor, calm and dignified, while hot irons were being applied to his heart by this smiling girl.
"But, Miss Alice," he said, slowly, "I'm afraid you are wrong. I was unfortunate enough to make Miss Lee very angry. I am afraid she would think a message from me only an impertinence."
"Sir," said Alice, with decision, "I'm right sometimes, if I'm not Governor; and it's better to be right than to be Governor, I've heard—or something. You trust me. Just try the effect of a message, and see if it isn't a success. What shall I say?"
The Governor was impetuous, and in spite of all the work he had done so fiercely, the longing the work had been meant to quiet surged up as strong as ever. "Miss Alice," he said, eagerly, "if you are right, would it do—do you think I might deliver the message myself?"
"Do I think? Well, if I were a man! Faint heart, you know!"
And the Governor, at that choppy eloquence, openly seized the friendly young hand and wrung it till Alice begged, laughing but bruised, for mercy. When he came up, later, to bid her good-night, his face was bright, and,
"Good-night, Angel of Peace," he said.
* * * * *
Mary Mooney, who through the dark days had watched with anxious though uncomprehending eyes her boy's dejection and hard effort to live it down, and had applied partridges and sweetbreads and other forms of devotion steadily but unsuccessfully, saw at once and with, rapture the change when the Governor greeted her the next morning. Light-heartedly she packed his traps two days later—she had done it jealously for thirty-five years, though almost over the dead body of the Governor's man sometimes in these later days. And when he told her good-by she had her reward. The man's boyish heart went out in a burst of gratitude to the tireless love that had sought only his happiness all his life. He put his arm around the stout little woman's neck.
"Mary," he said, "I'm going to see Miss Lee."
Mary's pink cheeks were scarlet as she patted with a work-worn palm the strong hand on her shoulder. "Then I know what will happen," she said, "and I'm glad. And if you don't bring her back with you, Mr. Jack, I won't let you in."
So the stately Governor went off like a schoolboy with his nurse's blessing. And later like an arrow from a bow he swung around the corner of the snowy piazza at Paul Smith's, where Mrs. Lee had told him he would find her daughter. There was a bundle of fur in a big chair in the sunlight, dark against the white hills beyond, with their black lines of pine-trees. As the impetuous steps came nearer, it turned, and—the Governor's methods were again such that words do them no justice. But this time with happier result. Half an hour later, when some coherency was established, he said:
"You waited for me! You've been waiting for me!" as if it were the most astonishing fact in history. "And since when have you been waiting for me, you—"
Lindsay laughed, not only with her eyes, but with her soft voice. "Ever since the morning after, your Excellency. Alice told me all about it before I left, and made me see reason. And I—and I was right sorry I'd been so cross. I thought you'd come some time—but you came right slow," she said, and her eyes travelled over his face as if she were making sure he was really there.
"And I never dared to think you would see me!" he said. "But now!"
And again there were circumstances that are best described by a hiatus.
The day after, when Mary Mooney, discreetly letting her soul's idol get into his library before greeting him, trotted into that stately chamber with soft, heavy footsteps, she was met with a kiss and a bear's hug that, as she told Mrs. Rudd later, "was like the year he was nine."
"I didn't bring her, Mary," the Governor said, "but you'd better let me stay, for she's coming."
THE LITTLE REVENGE
Suddenly a gust of fresh wind caught Sally's hat, and off it flew, a wide-winged pink bird, over the old, old sea-wall of Clovelly, down among the rocks of the rough beach, tumbling and jumping from one gray stone to another, and getting so far away that, in the soft violet twilight, it seemed as lost as any ship of the Spanish Armada wrecked long ago on this wild Devonshire coast.
"Oh!" cried Sally distractedly, and clapped her hands to her head with the human instinct to shut the stable door after the horse is gone. "Oh!" she cried again; "my pretty hat! And oh! it's in the water!"
But suddenly, out of somewhere in the twilight, there was a man chasing it. Sally leaned over the rugged, yellowish, grayish stone wall and excitedly called to him.
"Oh, thank you!" she cried, and "That's so good of you!"
The hat had tacked and was sailing inshore now, one stiff pink taffeta sail set to the breeze. And in a minute, with a reckless splash into the dashing waves, the man had it, and an easy, athletic figure swung up the causeway, holding it away from him, as if it might nip at him. He wore a dark blue jersey, and loose, flapping trousers of a seaman.
"He's only a sailor," Sally said under her breath; "I'd better tip him." Her hand slipped into her pocket and I heard the click of her purse.
He looked from one to the other of us in the dim light inquiringly, as he came up, and then off went his cap, and his face broke into the gentlest, most charming smile as he delivered the hat into Sally's outstretched hands.
"I'm afraid it's a bit damp," he said.
All dark-eyed, stalwart young fellows are attractive to me for the sake of one like that who died forty years ago, but this sailor had a charm of manner that is a gift of the gods, let it fall to prince or peasant; the pretty deference of his few words, and the quick, radiant smile, were enough to win friendliness from me. More than that, something in the set of his head, in the straight gaze of his eyes, held a likeness that made my memory ache. I smiled back at him instantly. But Sally's heart was on her hat; hats from good shops did not grow on trees for Sally Meade.
"I hope it isn't hurt," she said, anxiously, and shook it carefully, and hardly glanced at the rescuer, who was watching with something that looked like amusement in his face. Then her good manners came back.
"Thank you a thousand times," she said, and turned to him brightly. "You were so quick—but, oh! I'm afraid you're wet." She looked at him, and I saw a little shock of surprise in her face. Beauty so striking will be admired, even in a common sailor.
"It's nothing," he said, looking down at his sopping, wide trousers; "I'm used to it," and as Sally's hand went forward I caught the flash of silver, and at the same moment another flash, from the man's eyes.
It was enough to startle me for the fraction of a second, but, as I looked again, his expression held only a serious respect, and I was sure I had been mistaken. He took the money and touched his cap and said, "Thank you, miss," with perfect dignity. Yet my imagination must have been lively, for as he slipped it in his pocket, his look turned toward me, and for another breath of time a gleam of mischief—certainly mischief—flashed from his dark eyes to mine.
Then Sally, quite unconscious of this, perhaps imaginary, by-play, had an idea. "Are you a sailor?" she asked.
The man looked at her. "Yes—miss," he answered, a little slowly.
"We want to engage a boat and a man to take us out. Do you know of one? Have you a boat?"
The young fellow glanced down across the wall where a hull and mast gleamed indistinctly through the falling night, swinging at the side of the quay. "That's mine, yonder," he said, nodding toward it. And then, with the graceful, engaging frankness that I already knew as his, "I shall be very glad to take you out"—including us both in his glance.
"Sally," I said, five minutes later, as we trudged up the one steep, rocky street of Clovelly,—the picturesque old street that once led English smugglers to their caves, and that is more of a staircase than a street, with rows of stone steps across its narrow width—"Sally, you are a very unexpected girl. You took my breath away, engaging that man so suddenly to take us sailing to-morrow. How do you know he is reliable? It would have been safer to try one of the men they recommended from the Inn. And certainly it would have been more dignified to let me make the arrangements. You seem to forget that I am older than you."
"You aren't," said Sully, giving a squeeze to my arm that she held in the angle of hers, pushing me with her young strength up the hill. "You're not as old, cousin Mary. I'm twenty-two, and you're only eighteen, and I believe you will never be any older."
I think perhaps I like flattery. I am a foolish old woman, and I have noticed that it is not the young girls who treat me with great deference and rise as soon as I come who seem to me the most charming, but the ones who, with proper manners, of course, yet have a touch of comradeship, as if they recognized in me something more than a fossil exhibit. I like to have them go on talking about their beaux and their work and play, and let me talk about it, too. Sally Meade makes me feel always that there is in me an undying young girl who has outlived all of my years and is her friend and equal.
"I'm sorry if I was forward, cousin Mary, but the sailing is to be my party, you know, and then I thought you liked him. He had a pretty manner for a common sailor, didn't he? And his voice—these low-class English people have wonderfully well-bred, soft voices. I suppose it's particularly so here in the South. Cousin Mary, did you see the look he gave you with those delicious dark eyes? It's always the way—gentleman or hod-carrier—no one has a chance with men when you are about."
It is pleasant to me, old woman as I am, to be told that people like me—more pleasant, I think, every year. I never take it for truth, of course, but I believe it means good feeling, and it makes an atmosphere easy to breathe. I purred like a contented cat under Sally's talking, yet, to save my dignity, kept up a protest.
"Sally, my dear! Delicious dark eyes! I'm ashamed of you—a common sailor!"
"I didn't smile at him," said Sally, reflectively.
So, struggling up the steep street of Clovelly, we went home to the "New Inn," to cold broiled lobster, to strawberries and clotted Devonshire cream, and dreamless sleep in the white beds of the quiet rooms whose windows looked toward the woods and cliffs of Hobby Drive on one side, and on the other toward the dark, sparkling jewel of the moon-lighted ocean, and the shadowy line of Lundy Island far in the distance.
That I, an inland woman, an old maid of sixty, should tell a story of sailing and of love seems a little ridiculous. My nephews at college beguile me to talk about boats, and then laugh to hear me, for I think I get the names of things twisted. And as for what I know of the other—the only love-making to which I ever listened was ended forty years ago by one of the northern balls that fell in fiery rain on Pickett's charge at Gettysburg. Yet, if I but tell the tale as it came to me, others may feel as I did the thrill of the rushing of the keel through dashing salt water, the swing of the great white sail above, the flapping of the fresh wind in the slack of it, the exhilaration of moving with power like the angels, with the great forces of nature for muscles, the joy of it all expanding, pulsing through you, till it seems as if the sky might crack if once you let your delight go free. And some may catch, too, that other thrill, of the hidden feeling that glorified those days. Few lives are so poor that the like of it has not brightened them, and no one quite forgets.
It is partly Sally Meade's Southern accent that has made me love her above nearer cousins, from her babyhood. The modulations of her voice seem always to bring me close to the sound of the voice that went into silence when Geoffrey Meade, her father's young kinsman, was killed long ago.
The Meades, old-time planters in Virginia, have been very poor since the distant war of the sixties, and it has been one of my luxuries to give Sally a lift over hard places. Always with instant reward, for the smallest bit of sunlight, going into her prismatic spirit, comes out a magnificent rainbow of happiness. So when the idea came that they might let me have the girl to take abroad that summer, her friend, the girl spirit in me, jumped for joy. There was no difficulty made; it was one of the rare good things too good to be true, that yet are true. She did more for me than I for her, for I simply spent some superfluous idle money, while she filled every day with a new enjoyment, the reflection of her own fresh pleasure in every day as it came.
So here we were prowling about the south of England with "Westward Ho!" for a guide-book; coaching through deep, tawny Devonshire lanes from Bideford to Clovelly; searching for the old tombstone of Will Cary's grave in the churchyard on top of the hill; gathering tales of Salvation Yeo and of Amyas Leigh; listening to echoes of the three-hundred-year-old time when the great sea-battle was fought in the channel and many ships of the Armada wrecked along this Devonshire coast. And always coming back to sleep in the fascinating little "New Inn," as old as the hills, built on both sides of the one rocky ladder street of Clovelly, the street so steep that no horses can go in it, and at the bottom of whose breezy tunnel one sees the rolling floor of the sea. In so careless a way does the Inn ramble about the cliff that when I first went to my room, two flights up from the front, I caught my breath at a blaze of scarlet and yellow nasturtiums that faced me through a white-painted doorway opening on the hillside and on a tiny garden at the back.
The irresponsible pleasure of our first sail the next afternoon was never quite repeated. The boat shot from the landing like a high-strung horse given his head, out across the unbordered road of silver water, and in a moment, as we raced toward the low white clouds, we turned and saw the cliffs of the coast and the tiny village, a gay little pile of white, green-latticed houses steeped in foliage lying up a crack in the precipice. Above was the long stretch of the woods of Hobby Drive. Clovelly is so old that its name is in Domesday Book; so old, some say, that it was a Roman station, and its name was Clausa Vaillis. But it is a nearer ancientness that haunts it now. Every wave that dashes on the rocky shore carries a legend of the ships of the Invincible Armada. As we asked question after question of our sailor, handsomer than ever to-day with a red silk handkerchief knotted sailor-fashion about his strong neck, story after story flashed out, clear and dramatic, from his answers. The bunch of houses there on the shore? Yes, that had a history. The people living there were a dark-featured, reticent lot, different from other people hereabouts. It was said that one of the Spanish galleons went ashore there, and the men had been saved and had settled on the spot and married Devonshire women, but their descendants had never lost the tradition of their blood. Certainly their speech and their customs were peculiar, unlike those of the villages near. He had been there and had seen them, had heard them talk. Yes, they were distinct. He laughed a little to acknowledge it, with an Englishman's distrust of anything theatrical. A steep cliff started out into the waves, towering three hundred feet in almost perpendicular lines. Had that a name? Yes, that was called "Gallantry Bower." No; it was not a sentimental story—it was the old sea-fight again. It was said that an English sailor threw a rope from the height and saved life after life of the crew of a Spaniard wrecked under the point.
"You know the history of your place very well," said Sally. The young man kept his eyes on his steering apparatus and a slow half-smile troubled his face and was gone.
"I've had a bit of an education for a seaman—Miss," he said. And then, after apparently reflecting a moment, "My people live near the Leighs of Burrough Court, and I was playmate to the young gentlemen and was given a chance to learn with them, with their tutors, more than a common man is likely to get always."
At that Sally's enthusiasm broke through her reserve, and I was only a little less eager.
"The Leighs! The real, old Leighs of Burrough? Amyas Leigh's descendants? Was that story true? Oh!—" And here manners and curiosity met and the first had the second by the throat. She stopped. But our sailor looked up with a boyish laugh that illumined his dark face.
"Is it so picturesque? I have been brought up so close that it seems commonplace to me. Every one must be descended from somebody, you know."
"Yes, but Amyas Leigh!" went on Sally, flushed and excited, forgetting the man in his story. "Why, he's my hero of all fiction! Think of it, Cousin Mary—there are men near here who are his great—half-a-dozen greats—grandchildren! Cousin Mary," she stopped and looked at me impressively, oblivious of the man so near her, "if I could lay my hands on one of those young Leighs of Burrough I'd marry him in spite of his struggles, just to be called by that name. I believe I would."
"Sally!" I exclaimed, and glanced at the man; Sally's cheeks colored as she followed my look. His mouth was twitching, and his eyes smouldered with fun. But he behaved well. On some excuse of steering he turned his back instantly and squarely toward us. But Sally's interest was irrepressible.
"Would you mind telling me their names, Cary?" she asked. He had told us to call him Cary. "The names of the Mr. Leighs of Burrough."
"No, Cary," I said. "I think Miss Meade doesn't notice that she is asking you personal questions about your friends."
Cary turned on me a look full of gentleness and chivalry. "Miss Meade doesn't ask anything that I cannot answer perfectly well," he said. "There are two sons of the Leighs, Richard Grenville, the older, and Amyas Francis, the younger. They keep the old names you see. Richard—Sir Richard, I should say—is the head of the family, his father being dead."
"Sir Richard Grenville Leigh!" said Sally, quite carried away by that historic combination. "That's better than Amyas," she went on, reflectively. "Is he decent? But never mind. I'll marry him, Cousin Mary."
At that our sailor-man shook with laughter, and as I met his eyes appealing for permission, I laughed as hard as he. Only Sally was apparently quite serious.
"He would he very lucky—Miss," he said, restraining his mirth with a respect that I thought remarkable, and turned again to his rudder.
Sally, for the first time having felt the fascination of breathing historic air, was no longer to be held. The sweeping, free motion, the rush of water under the bow as we cut across the waves, the wide sky and the air that has made sailors and soldiers and heroes of Devonshire men for centuries on end, the exhilaration of it all had gone to the girl's head. She was as unconscious of Cary as if he had been part of his boat. I had seen her act so when she was six, and wild with the joy of an autumn morning, intoxicated with oxygen. We had been put for safety into the hollow part of the boat where the seats are—I forget what they call it—the scupper, I think. But I am apt to be wrong on the nomenclature. At all events, there we were, standing up half the time to look at the water, the shore, the distant sails, and because life was too intense to sit down. But when Sally, for all her gentle ways, took the bit in her teeth, it was too restricted for her there.
"Is there any law against my going up and holding on to the mast?" she asked Cary.
"Not if you won't fall overboard, Miss," he answered.
The girl, with a strong, self-reliant jump, a jump that had an echo of tennis and golf and horseback, scrambled up and forward, Cary taking his alert eyes a moment from his sailing, to watch her to safety, I thought her pretty as a picture as she stood swaying with one arm around the mast, in her white shirt-waist and dark dress, her head bare, and brown, untidy hair blowing across the fresh color of her face, and into her clear hazel eyes.
"What is the name of this boat?" she demanded, and Cary's deep, gentle voice lifted the two words of his answer across the twenty feet between them.
"The Revenge" he said.
Then there was indeed joy. "The Revenge! The Revenge! I am sailing on the Revenge, with a man who knows Sir Richard Grenville and Amyas Leigh! Cousin Mary, listen to that—this is the Revenge we're on—this!" She hugged the mast, "And there are Spanish galleons, great three-deckers, with yawning tiers of guns, all around us! You may not see them, but they are here! They are ghosts, but they are here! There is the great San Philip, hanging over us like a cloud, and we are—we are—Oh, I don't know who we are, but we're in the fight, the most beautiful fight in history!" She began to quote:
And half of their fleet to the right, and half to the left were seen, And the little Revenge ran on through the long sea-lane between.
Thousands of their sailors looked down from the decks and laughed; Thousands of their soldiers made mock at the mad little craft Running on and on till delayed By the mountain-like San Philip that, of fifteen hundred tons, And towering high above us with her yawning tiers of guns, Took the breath from our sails, and we stayed.
The soft, lingering voice threw the words at us with a thrill and a leap forward, just us the Revenge was carrying us with long bounds, over the shining sea. We were spinning easily now, under a steady light wind, and Cary, his hand on the rudder, was opposite me. He turned with a start as the girl began Tennyson's lines, and his shining dark eyes stared up at her.
"Do you know that?" he said, forgetting the civil "Miss" in his earnestness.
"Do I know it? Indeed I do!" cried Sally from her swinging rostrum. "Do you know it, too? I love it—I love every word of it—listen," And I, who knew her good memory, and the spell that the music of a noble poem cast over her, settled myself with resignation. I was quite sure that, short of throwing her overboard, she would recite that poem from beginning to end. And she did. Her skirts and her hair blowing, her eyes full of the glory of that old "forlorn hope," gazing out past us to the seas that had borne the hero, she said it.
At Flores in the Azores, Sir Richard Grenville lay, And a pinnace, like a frightened bird, came flying from far away; Spanish ships of war at sea, we have sighted fifty-three! Then up spake Sir Thomas Howard "'Fore God, I am no coward"—
She went on and on with the brave, beautiful story. How Sir Thomas would not throw away his six ships of the line in a hopeless fight against fifty-three; how yet Sir Richard, in the Revenge, would not leave behind his "ninety men and more, who were lying sick ashore"; how at last Sir Thomas
sailed away With five ships of war that day Till they melted like a cloud in the silent summer heaven, But Sir Richard bore in hand All his sick men from the land, Very carefully and slow, Men of Bideford in Devon— And he laid them on the ballast down below; And they blessed him in their pain That they were not left to Spain, To the thumbscrew and the stake, for the glory of the Lord.
The boat sailed softly, steadily now, as if it would not jar the rhythm of the voice telling, with soft inflections, with long, rushing meter, the story of that other Revenge, of the men who had gone from these shores, under the great Sir Richard, to that glorious death.
And the sun went down, and the stars came out far over the summer sea, And not one moment ceased the fight of the one and the fifty-three. Ship after ship, the whole night long, their high-built galleons came; Ship after ship, the whole night long, with their battle thunder and flame; Ship after ship, the whole night long, drew back with her dead and her shame; For some they sunk, and many they shattered so they could fight no more. God of battles! Was ever a battle like this in the world before?
As I listened, though I knew the words almost, by heart too, my eyes filled with tears and my soul with the desire to have been there, to have fought as they did, on the little Revenge one after another of the great Spanish ships, till at last the Revenge was riddled and helpless, and Sir Richard called to the master-gunner to sink the ship for him, but the men rebelled, and the Spaniards took what was left of ship and fighters. And Sir Richard, mortally wounded, was carried on board the flagship of his enemies, and died there, in his glory, while the captains
—praised him to his face. With their courtly Spanish grace.
So died, never man more greatly, Sir Richard Grenville, of Stow in Devon.
The crimson and gold of sunset were streaming across the water as she ended, and we sat silent. The sailor's face was grim, as men's faces are when they are deeply stirred, but in his dark eyes burned an intensity that reserve could not bold back, and as he still stared at the girl a look shot from them that startled me like speech. She did not notice. She was shaken with the passion of the words she had repeated, and suddenly, through the sunlit, rippling silence, she spoke again.
"It's a great thing to be a Devonshire sailor," she said, solemnly. "A wonderful inheritance—it ought never to be forgotten. And as for that man—that Sir Richard Grenville Leigh—he ought to carry his name so high that nothing low or small could ever touch it. He ought never to think a thought that is not brave and fine and generous."
There was a moment's stillness and then I said, "Sally, my child, it seems to me you are laying down the law a little freely for Devonshire. You have only been here four days." And in a second she was on her usual gay terms with the world again.
"A great preacher was wasted in me," she said. "How I could have thundered at everybody else about their sins! Cousin Mary, I'm coming down—I'm all battered, knocking against the must, and the little trimmings hurt my hands."
Cary did not smile. His face was repressed and expressionless and in it was a look that I did not understand. He turned soberly to his rudder and across the broken gold and silver of the water the boat drew in to shadowy Clovelly.
It was a shock, after we had landed and I had walked down the quay a few yards to inspect the old Red Lion Inn, the house of Salvation Yeo, to come back and find Sally dickering with Cary. I had agreed that this sail should be her "party," because it pleased the girl's proud spirit to open her small purse sometimes for my amusement. But I did not mean to let her pay for all our sailing, and I was horrified to find her trying to get Cary cheaper by the quantity. When I arrived, Sally, a little flustered and very dignified and quite evidently at the end of a discussion as to terms, was concluding an engagement, and there was a gleam in the man's wonderful eyes, which did much of his talking for him.
"You see the boat is very new and clean, Miss," he was saying, "and I hope you were satisfied with me?"
I upset Sally's business affairs at once, engaged Cary, and told him he must take out no one else without knowing our plans. My handkerchief fell as I talked to him and he picked it up and presented it with as much ease and grace as if he had done such things all his life. It was a remarkable sailor we had happened on. A smile came like sunshine over his face—the smile that made him look as Geoffrey Meade looked, half a century ago.
"I'll promise not to take any one else, ma'am," he said. And then, with the pretty, engaging frankness that won my heart over again each time, "And I hope you'll want to go often—not so much for the money, but because it is a pleasure to me to take you—both."
There was mail for us waiting at the Inn. "Listen, Sally," I said, as I read mine in my room after dinner. "This is from Anne Ford. She wants to join us here the 6th of next month, to fill in a week between visits at country-houses."
Sally, sitting on the floor before the fire, her dark hair loose and her letters lying about her, looked up attentively, and discreetly answered nothing. Anne Ford was my cousin, but not hers, and I knew without discussing it, that Sally cared for her no more than I. She was made of showy fibre, woven in a brilliant pattern, but the fibre was a little coarse, and the pattern had no shading. She was rich and a beauty and so used to being the centre of things, and largely the circumference too, that I, who am a spoiled old woman, and like a little place and a little consideration, find it difficult to be comfortable as spoke upon her wheel.
"It's too bad," I went on regretfully. "Anne will not appreciate Clovelly, and she will spoil it for us. She is not a girl I care for. I don't see why I should he made a convenience for Anne Ford," I argued in my selfish way. "I think I shall write her not to come."
Sally laughed cheerfully. "She won't bother us, Cousin Mary. It would be too bad to refuse her, wouldn't it? She can't spoil Clovelly—it's been here too long. Anne is rather overpowering," Sally went on, a bit wistfully. "She's such a beauty, and she has such stunning clothes."
The firelight played on the girl's flushed, always-changing face, full of warm light and shadow; it touched daintily the white muslin and pink ribbons of the pretty negligee she wore, Sally was one of the poor girls whose simple things are always fresh and right. I leaned over and patted her rough hair affectionately.
"Your clothes are just as pretty," I said, "and Anne doesn't compare with you in my eyes." I lifted the unfinished letter and glanced over it. "All about her visit to Lady Fisher," I said aloud, giving a resume as I read. "What gowns she wore to what functions; what men were devoted to her—their names—titles—incomes too." I smiled. "And—what is this?" I stopped talking, for a name had caught my eye. I glanced over the page. "Isn't this curious! Listen, my dear," I said. "This will interest you!" I read aloud from Anne's letter.
"'But the man who can have me if he wants me is Sir Richard Leigh. He is the very best that ever happened, and moreover, quite the catch of the season. His title is old, and he has a yacht and an ancestral place or two, and is very rich, they say—but that isn't it. My heart is his without his decorations—well, perhaps not quite that, but it's certainly his with the decorations. He is such a beauty, Cousin Mary! Even you would admire him. It gives you quite a shock when he comes into a room, yet he is so unconscious and modest, and has the most graceful, fascinatingly quiet manners and wonderful brown eyes that seem to talk for him. He does everything well, and everything hard, is a dare-devil on horseback, a reckless sailor, and a lot besides. If you could see the way those eyes look at me, and the smile that breaks over his face as if the sun had come out suddenly! But alas! the sun has gone under now, for he went this morning, and it's not clear if he's coming back or not. They say his yacht is near Bideford, where his home is, and Clovelly is not far from that, is it?'"
I stopped and looked at Sally, listening, on the floor. She was staring into the fire.
"What do you think of that?" I asked. Sally was slow at answering; she stared on at the burning logs that seemed whispering answers to the blaze.
"Some girls have everything," she said at length. "Look at Anne. She's beautiful and rich and everybody admires her, and she goes about to big country-houses and meets famous and interesting people. And now this Sir Richard Leigh comes like the prince into the story, and I dare say he will fall in love with her and if she finds no one that suits her better she will marry him and have that grand old historic name."
"Sally, dear," I said, "you're not envying Anne, are you?"
A quick blush rushed to her face. "Cousin Mary! What foolishness I've been talking! How could I! What must you think of me! I didn't mean it—please believe I didn't. I'm the luckiest girl on earth, and I'm having the most perfect time, and you are a fairy godmother to me, except that you're more like a younger sister. I was thinking aloud. Anne is such a brilliant being compared to me, that the thought of her discourages me sometimes. It was just Cinderella admiring the princess, you know."
"Cinderella got the prince," I said, smiling.
"I don't want the prince," said Sally, "even if I could get him. I wouldn't marry an Englishman. I don't care about a title. To be a Virginian is enough title for me. It was just his name, magnificent Sir Richard Grenville's name and the Revenge-Armada atmosphere that took my fancy. I don't know if Anne would care for that part," she added, doubtfully.
"I'm sure Anne would know nothing about it," I answered decidedly, and Sally went on cheerfully.
"She's very welcome to the modern Sir Richard, yacht and title and all. I don't believe he's as attractive as your sailor, Cousin Mary. Something the same style, I should say from the description. If you hadn't owned him from the start, I'd rather like that man to be my sailor, Cousin Mary—he's so everything that a gentleman is supposed to be. How did he learn that manner—why, it would flatter you if he let the boom whack you on the head. Too bad he's only a common sailor—such a prince gone wrong!"
I looked at her talking along softly, leaning back on one hand and gazing at the fire, a small white Turkish slipper—Southern girls always have little feet—stuck out to the blaze, and something in the leisurely attitude and low, unhurried voice, something, too, in the reminiscent crackle of the burning wood, invited me to confidence. I went to my dressing-table, and when I came back, dropped, as if I were another girl, on the rug beside her. "I want to show you this," I said, and opened a case that travels always with me. From the narrow gold rim of frame inside, my lover smiled gayly up at her brown hair and my gray, bending over it together.
None of the triumphs of modern photographers seem to my eyes so delicately charming as the daguerrotypes of the sixties. As we tipped the old picture this way and that, to catch the right light on the image under the glass, the very uncertainty of effect seemed to give it an elusive fascination. To my mind the birds in the bush have always brighter plumage than any in the hand, and one of these early photographs leaves ever, no matter from what angle you look upon it, much to the imagination. So Geoff in his gray Southern uniform, young and soldierly, laughed up at Sally and me from the shadowy lines beneath the glass, more like a vision of youth than like actual flesh and blood that had once been close and real. His brown hair, parted far to one side, swept across his forehead in a smooth wave, as was the old-fashioned way; his collar was of a big, queer sort unknown to-day; the cut of his soldier's coat was antique; but the beauty of the boyish face, the straight glance of his eyes, and ease of the broad shoulders that military drill could not stiffen, these were untouched, were idealized even by the old-time atmosphere that floated up from the picture like fragrance of rose-leaves. As I gazed down at the boy, it came to me with a pang that he was very young and I growing very old, and I wondered would he care for me still. Then I remembered that where he lived it was the unworn soul and not the worn-out body that counted, and I knew that the spirit within me would meet his when the day came, with as fresh a joy as forty years ago. And as I still looked, happy in the thought, I felt all at once as if I had seen his face, heard his voice, felt the touch of his young hand that day—could almost feel it yet. Perhaps my eyes were a little dim, perhaps the uncertainty of the old daguerrotype helped the illusion, but the smile of the master of the Revenge seemed to shine up at me from my Geoff's likeness, and then Sally's slow voice broke the pause.
"It's Cousin Geoffrey, isn't it?" she asked. Her father was Geoffrey Meade's cousin—a little boy when Geoff died, "Was he as beautiful as that?" she said, gently, putting her hand over mine that held the velvet case. And then, after another pause, she went on, hesitatingly; "Cousin Mary, I wonder if you would mind if I told you whom he looks like to me?"
"No, my dear," I answered easily, and like an echo to my thought her words came.
"It is your sailor. Do you see it? He is only a common seaman, of course, but I think he must have a wonderful face, for with all his dare-devil ways I always think of 'Blessed are the pure in spirit' when I see him. And the eyes in the picture have the same expression—do you mind my saying it, Cousin Mary?"
"I saw it myself the first time I looked at him," I said. And then, as people do when they are on the verge of crying, I laughed. "Anne Ford would think me ridiculous, wouldn't she?" and I held Geoff's picture in both my hands. "He is much better suited to her or to you. A splendid young fellow of twenty-four to belong to an old woman like me—it is absurd, isn't it?"
"He is suited to no one but you, dear, and you are just his age and always will be," and as Sally's arms caught me tight I felt tears that were not my own on my cheek.
It was ten days yet before Anne was due to arrive, and almost every day of the ten we sailed. The picturesque coast of North Devon, its deep bays, its stretches of high, tree-topped cliffs, grew to be home-like to us. We said nothing of Cary and his boat at the Inn, for we soon saw that both were far-and-away better than common, and we were selfish. Nor did the man himself seem to care for more patronage. He was always ready when we wished to go, and jumped from his spick-and-span deck to meet us with a smile that started us off in sunshine, no matter what the weather. And with my affection for the lovely, uneven coast and the seas that held it in their flashing fingers, grew my interest in the winning personality that seemed to combine something of the strength of the hills and the charm of the seas of Devonshire.
One day after another he loosed the ropes with practised touch, and the wind taught the sail with a gay rattle and the little Revenge flung off the steep street and the old sea-wall and the green cliffs of Clovelly, and first yards and then miles of rippling ocean lay between us and land, and we sailed away, we did not need to know or care where, with our fate for the afternoon in his reliable hands. Little by little we forgot artificial distinctions in the out-of-doors, natural atmosphere, or that the man was anything but himself—a self always simple, always right. Looking back, I see how deeply I was to blame, to have been so blind, at my age, but the figure by the rudder, swinging to the boat's motion, grew to be so familiar and pleasant a sight, that I did not think of being on guard against him. Little as he talked, his moods were varied, grave or gay or with a gleam of daring in his eyes that made him, I think, a little more attractive than any other way. Yet when a wind of seriousness lifted the still or impetuous surface, I caught a glimpse, sometimes, of a character of self-reliance, of decision as solid as the depths under the shifting water of his ocean. There was never a false note in his gentle manner, and I grew to trust serenely to his tact and self-respect, and talked to him freely as I chose. Which of course I should not have done. But there was a temptation to which I yielded in watching for the likeness in his face, and in listening for a tone or two of his voice that caught my heart with the echo of a voice long silent.
One morning to our astonishment Cary sent up to break our engagement for the afternoon. Something had happened so that he could not possibly get away. But it was moonlight and warm—would we not go out in the evening? The idea seemed to me a little improper, yet very attractive, and Sally's eyes danced.
"Let's be bold and bad and go, Cousin Mary," she pleaded, and we went.
A shower of moonlight fell across the sea and on the dark masses of the shore; it lay in sharp patches against the black shadows of the sail; it turned Sally's bare, dark head golden, and tipped each splashing wave with a quick-vanishing electric light. It was not earth or ocean, but fairyland. We were sailing over the forgotten, sea-buried land of Lyonesse; forests where Tristram and Iseult had ridden, lay under our rushing keel; castles and towers and churches were there—hark! could I not hear the faint bells in the steeples ringing up through the waves? The old legend, half true, half fable, was all real to me as I sat in the shadow of the sail and stared, only half seeing them, at Sally standing with her hands on the rudder and Cary leaning over her, teaching her to sail the Revenge. Their voices came to me clear and musical, yet carrying no impression of what they were saying. Then I saw Sally's little fingers slip suddenly, and Cary's firm hand close over them, pushing the rudder strongly to one side. His face was toward me, and I saw the look that went over it as his hand held hers. It startled me to life again, and I sat up straight, but he spoke at once with quiet self-possession.
"I beg your pardon, Miss Meade. She was heading off a bit dangerously."
And he went on with directions, laughing at her a little, scolding her a little, yet all with a manner that could not be criticised. I still wonder how he could have poised so delicately and so long on that slender line of possible behavior.
As the boat slipped over the shimmering ocean, back into the harbor again, most of the houses up the sharp ascent of Clovelly street were dark, but out on the water lay a mass of brilliant lights, rocking slowly on the tide. Sally was first to notice it.
"There is a ship lying out there. Is it a ship or is it an enchantment? She is lighted all over. What is it—do you know?"
Cary was working at the sail and he did not look at us or at it as he answered.
"Yes, Miss—I know her. She is Sir Richard Leigh's yacht the Rose. She was there as we went out, but she was dark and you did not notice her."
I exclaimed, full of interest, at this, but Sally, standing ghost-like in her white dress against the sinking sail, said nothing, but stared at the lights that outlined the yacht against the deep distance of the sky, and that seemed, as the shadowy hull swung dark on the water, to start out from nowhere in pin-pricks of diamonds set in opal moonlight.
Lundy Island lies away from Clovelly to the northwest seventeen miles off on the edge of the world. Each morning as I opened my window at the Inn, and looked out for the new day's version of the ocean, it lifted a vague line of invitation and of challenge. Since we had been in Devonshire the atmosphere of adventure that hung over Lundy had haunted me with the wish to go there. It was the "Shutter," the tall pinnacle of rock at its southern end, that Amyas Leigh saw for his last sight of earth, when the lightning blinded him, in the historic storm that strewed ships of the Armada along the shore. I am not a rash person, yet I was so saturated with the story of "Westward Ho!" that I could not go away satisfied unless I had set foot on Lundy. But it had the worst of reputations, and landing was said to be hazardous.
"It isn't that I can't get you there," said Cary when I talked to him, "but I might not be able to get you away."
Then he explained in a wise way that I did not entirely follow, how the passage through the rocks was intricate, and could only be done with a right wind, and how, if the wind changed suddenly, it was impossible to work out until the right wind came again. And that might not be for days, if one was unlucky. It had been known to happen so. Yet I lingered over the thought, and the more I realized that it was unreasonable, the more I wanted to go. The spirit of the Devonshire seas seemed, to my fancy, to live on the guarded, dangerous rocks, and I must pay tribute before I left his kingdom. Cary laughed a little at my one bit of adventurous spirit so out of keeping with my gray hairs, but it was easy to see that he too wanted to go, and that only fear for our safety and comfort made him hesitate. The day before Anne Ford was due we went. It was the day, too, after our sail in the moonlight that I half believed, remembering its lovely unreality, had been a dream. But as we sailed out, there lay Sir Richard Leigh's yacht to prove it, smart and impressive, shining and solid in the sunlight as it had been ethereal the night before. I gazed at her with some curiosity.
"Have you been on board?" I asked our sailor. "Is Sir Richard there?"
Cary glanced at Sally, who had turned a cold shoulder to the yacht and was looking back at Clovelly village, crawling up its deep crack in the cliff. "Yes," he said; "I've been on her twice. Sir Richard is living on her."
"I suppose he's some queer little rat of a man," Sally brought out in her soft voice, to nobody in particular.
I was surprised at the girl's incivility, but Cary answered promptly, "Yes, Miss!" with such cheerful alacrity that I turned to look at him, more astonished. I met eyes gleaming with a hardly suppressed amusement which, if I had stopped to reason about it, was much out of place. But yet, as I looked at him with calm dignity and seriousness, I felt myself sorely tempted to laugh back. I am a bad old woman sometimes.
The Revenge careered along over the water as if mad to get to Lundy, under a strong west wind. In about two hours the pile of fantastic rocks lay stretched in plain view before us. We were a mile or more away—I am a very uncertain judge of distance—but we could see distinctly the clouds of birds, glittering white sea-gulls, blowing hither and thither above the wild little continent where were their nests. There are thousands and thousands of gulls on Lundy. We had sailed out from Clovelly at two in bright afternoon sunshine, but now, at nearly four, the blue was covering with gray, and I saw Cary look earnestly at the quick-moving sky.