wives and babies standing in the window along on the way.
I didn't sing. I thought the wind blew too hard ā seems to me
that was the reason: I'm sure there must have been a reason,
for I had a voice of my own in those days, and had led the choir
perpetual for five years.
We weren't going in very deep: Dove and Beadle's lots lay
about thirty miles from the nearest house; and a straggling,
lonely sort of place that was too, five miles out of the village,
with nobody but a dog and a deaf old woman in it. Sometimes,
as I was telling you, we had been in a hundred miles from any
human creature but ourselves.
It took us two days to get there, though, with the oxen; and
the teams were loaded down well, with so many axes and the
pork-barrels; ā I don't know anything like pork for hefting down
more than you expect it to, reasonable. It was one of your ugly
gray days, growing dark at four o'clock, with snow in the air,
ELIZABETH STUART PHELPS WARD
when we hauled up in the lonely place. The trees were blazed
pretty thick, I remember, especially the pines; Dove and Beadle
always had that done up prompt in October. It's pretty work
going in blazing while the sun is warm, and the woods like a
great bonfire with the maples. I used to like it; but your
mother wouldn't hear of it when she could help herself, ā it kept
me away so long.
There were three shanties, ā they don't often have more than
two or three in one place: they were empty, and the snow had
drifted in; Bob Stokes's oxen were fagged out with their heads
hanging down, and the horses were whinnying for their supper.
Holt had one of his great brush-fires going, ā there was nobody
like Holt for making fires, ā and the boys were hurrying round
in their red shirts, shouting at the oxen, and singing a little,
some of them low, under their breath, to keep their spirits up.
There was snow as far as you could see, ā down the cart-path,
and all around, and away into the woods; and there was snow
in the sky now, setting in for a regular nor'easter. The trees
stood up straight all around without any leaves, and under the
bushes it was as black as pitch.
^^ Five months, ** said I to myself ; ^< five months ! '*
" What in time's the matter with you, Hollis ? '^ says Bob
Stokes, with a great slap on my arm: ^* you're giving that 'ere ox
molasses on his hay ! '*
Sure enough I was; and he said I acted like a dazed creatur,
and very likely I did. But I couldn't have told Bob the reason.
You see, I knew Nancy was just drawing up n.-r little rocking-
chair ā the one with the red cushion ā close oy the fire, sitting
there with the children to wait for the tea to boil. And I knew
ā I couldn't help knowing, if I'd tried hard for it ā how she was
crying away softly in the dark, so that none of them could see
her, to think of the words we'd said, and I gone in without ever
making of them up. I was sorry for them then. O Johnny,
I was sorry, and she was thirty miles away. I'd got to be sorry
five months, thirty miles away, and couldn't let her know.
The boys said I was poor company that first week, and I
iliouldn't wonder if I was. I couldn't seem to get over it any
way, to think I couldn't let her know.
If I could have sent her a scrap of a letter, or a message,
or something, I should have felt better. But there wasn't any
chance of that this long time, unless we got out of pork or
XXVI ā 978
J -/-,.. ELIZABETH STUART PHELPS WARD
fodder, and had to send dgwn, ā which we didn't expect to, for
we'd laid in more than usual.
We had two pretty rough weeks' work to begin with; for the
worst storms of the season set in, and kept in, and I never saw
their like before or since. It seemed as if there'd never be an
end to them. Storm after storm, blow after blow, freeze after
freeze; half a day's sunshine, and then at it again! We were
well tired of it before they stopped; it made the boys homesick.
However, we kept at work pretty brisk, ā lumbermen aren't
the fellows to be put out for a snow-storm, ā cutting and haul-
ing and sawing, out in the sleet and wind. Bob Stokes froze his
left foot that second week, and I was frost-bitten pretty badly
myself. CuUen ā he was the boss ā he was well out of sorts, I
tell you, before the sun came out, and cross enough to bite a
tenpenny nail in two.
But when the sun is out, it isn't so bad a kind of life after
all. At work all day, with a good hot dinner in the middle; then
back to the shanties at dark, to as rousing a fire and tiptop
swagan as anybody could ask for. Holt was cook that season,
and Holt couldn't be beaten on his swagan.
Now you don't mean to say you don't know what swagan is ?
Well, well! To think of it! All I have to say is, you don't know
what's good then. Beans and pork and bread and molasses, ā
that's swagan, ā all stirred up in a great kettle, and boiled to-
gether; and I don't know anything ā not even your mother's frit-
ters ā I'd give more for a taste of now. We just about lived
on that: there's nothing you can cut and haul all day on like
swagan. Besides that, we used to have doughnuts, ā you don't
know what doughnuts are, here in Massachusetts; as big as a
dinner-plate those doughnuts were, and ā well, a little hard, per-
haps. They used to have it about in Bangor that we used them
for clock pendulums, but I don't know about that.
I used to think a great deal about Nancy nights, when we
were sitting by the fire; ā we had our fire right in the middle of
the hut, you know, with a hole in the roof to let the smoke out.
When supper was eaten, the boys all sat up around it, and told
stories, and sang, and cracked their jokes; then they had their
backgammon and cards; we got sleepy early, along about nine or
ten o'clock, and turned in under the roof with our blankets. The
roof sloped down, you know, to the ground; so we lay with our
heads in under the little eaves, and our feet to the fire, ā ten or
ELIZABETH STUART PHELPS WARD
twelve of us to a shanty, all round in a row. They built the
huts up like a baby's cob-house, with the logs fitted in together.
I used to think a great deal about your mother, as I was saying;
sometimes I would lie awake when the rest were off as sound as
a top, and think about her.
So it went along till come the last of January, when one day
I saw the boys all standing round in a heap, and talking.
^* What's the matter ? '^ says I.
^* Pork's given out," says Bob with a whistle. ^^ Beadle got
that last lot from Jenkins there, his son-in-law, and it's sp'ilt. I
could have told him that beforehand. Never knew Jenkins to do
the fair thing by anybody yet."
^* Who's going down ? " said I, stopping short. I felt the blood
run all over my face, like a woman's.
"Cullen hasn't made up his mind yet,* says Bob, walking off.
Now you see there wasn't a man on the ground who wouldn't
jump at the chance to go; it broke up the winter for them, and
sometimes they could run in home for half an hour, driving by:
so there wasn't much of a hope for me. But I went straight to
*^Too late. Just promised Jim Jacobs," said he, speaking up
quick: it was just business to him, you know. . . .
Next morning somebody woke me up with a push, and there
was the boss.
^* Why, Mr. Cullen ! " says I, with a jump.
"Hurry up, man, and eat your breakfast," said he: "Jacobs
is down sick with his cold. "
Ā«(9/z./" said I.
" You and the pork must be back here day after to-morrow,
so be spry," said he.
It was just eight o'clock when I started; it took some time to
get breakfast, and feed the nags, and get orders. I stood there,
slapping the snow with my whip, crazy to be off, hearing the
last of what Mr. Cullen had to say.
They gave me the two horses, ā we hadn't but two: oxen are
tougher for going in, as a general thing, ā and the lightest team
on the ground: it was considerably lighter than Bob Stokes's. If
it hadn't been for the snow, I might have put the thing through
in two days; but the snow was up to the creaturs' knees in the
Elizabeth stuart phelps ward
shady places all along; off from the road, in among the gullies,
you could stick a four-foot measure down anywhere. So they
didn't look for me back before Wednesday night.
"I must have that pork Wednesday night sure,*^ says Cullen.
*'Well, sir, *^ says I, ^* you shall have it Wednesday noon, Prov-
idence permitting; and you shall have it Wednesday night any-
"You will have a storm to do it in, I'm afraid, ^^ said he, look-
ing at the clouds, just as I was whipping up. " You're all right
on the road, I suppose ? **
"All right,'* said I; ā and I'm sure I ought to have been, for
the timics I'd been over it.
Bess and Beauty ā they were the horses; and of all the ugly
nags that ever I saw, Beauty was the ugliest ā started off on a
round trot, slewing along down the hill; they knew they were
going home just as well as I did. I looked back, as we turned
the corner, to see the boys standing round in their red shirts,
with the snow behind them, and the fire and the shanties. I
felt a mite lonely when I couldn't see them any more: the snow
was so dead still, and there were thirty miles of it to cross be-
fore I could see human face again.
The clouds had an ugly look, ā a few flakes had fallen already,
ā and the snow was purple, deep in as far as you could see
under the trees.
There is no place like the woods for bringing a storm down
on you quick: the trees are so thick you don't mind the first few
flakes, till first you know there's a whirl of 'em, and the wind
I was minding less about it than usual, for I was thinking
of Nannie, ā that's what I used to call her, Johnny, when she
was a girl; but it seems a long time ago, that does. I was
thinking how surprised she'd be, and pleased. I knew she would
be pleased. I didn't think so poorly of her as to suppose she
wasn't just as sorry now as I was for what had happened. I
knew well enough how she would jump and throw down her
sewing with a little scream, and run and put her arms about my
neck and cr}^ and couldn't help herself.
So I didn't mind about the snow, for planning it all out, till
all at once I looked up, and something slashed into my eyes and
stung me: it was sleet.
ELIZABETH STUART PHELPS WARD 15637
"Oho!'^ said I to myself, with a whistle; ā it was a very
long whistle, Johnny: I knew well enough then it was no play-
work I had before me till the sun went down, nor till morning
That was about noon: it couldn't have been half an hour
since I'd eaten my dinner; I eat it driving, for I couldn't bear to
The road wasn't broken there an inch, and the trees were
thin: there'd been a clearing there years ago, and wide, white,
level places wound off among the trees; one looked as much like
a road as another, for the matter of that. I pulled my visor
down over my eyes to keep the sleet out; ā after they're stung
too much they're good for nothing to see with, and I must see,
if I meant to keep that road.
It began to be cold. The wind blew from the ocean, straight
as an arrow. The sleet blew every way, ā into your eyes, down
your neck, in like a knife into your cheeks. I could feel the
snow crunching in under the runners, crisp, turned to ice in a
minute. I reached out to give Bess a cut on the neck, and the
sleeve of my coat was stiff as pasteboard before I bent my elbow
If you looked up at the sky, your eyes were shut with a snap
as if somebody'd shot them. If you looked in under the trees,
you could see the icicles a minute, and the purple shadows. If
you looked straight ahead, you couldn't see a thing.
By-and-by I thought I had dropped the reins. I looked at
my hands, and there I was holding them tight. I knew then
that it was time to get out and walk,
I didn't try much after that to look ahead: it was of no use,
for the sleet was fine, like needles, twenty of 'em in your eye at
a wink; then it was growing dark. Bess and Beauty knew the
road as well as I did, so I had to trust to them. I thought I
must be coming near the clearing where I'd counted on putting
up overnight, in case I couldn't reach the deaf old woman's.
Pretty soon Bess stopped short. Beauty was pulling on, ā
Beauty always did pull on, ā but she stopped too. I couldn't
stop so easily; so I walked along like a machine, up on a line
with the creaturs' ears. I did stop then, or you never would
have heard this story, Johnny.
Two paces ā and then two hundred feet shot down like a
plummet. A great cloud of snow-flakes puffed up over the edge.
ELIZABETH STUART PHELPS WARD
There were rocks at my right hand, and rocks at my left. There
was the sky overhead. I was in the Gray Goth !
There was no going any farther that night, that was clear:
so I put about into the hut, and got my fire going; and Bess and
Beauty and I, we slept together.
It was an outlandish name to give it, seems to me, anyway.
I don't know what a Goth is, Johnny; maybe you do. There
was a great figure up on the rock, about eight feet high: some
folks thought it looked like a man. I never thought so before,
but that night it did kind of stare in through the door as natural
When I woke up in the morning I thought I was on fire. I
stirred and turned over, and I was ice. My tongue was swollen
up so I couldn't swallow without strangling. I crawled up to my
feet, and every bone in me was stiff as a shingle.
Bess was looking hard at me, whinnying for her breakfast.
*' Bess, ^^ says I, very slow, " we must get home ā to-night ā any
ā how. ^^
I pushed open the door. It creaked out into a great drift, and
slammed back. I squeezed through and limped out. The shanty
stood up a little, in the highest part of the Goth. I went down
a little, ā I went as far as I could go. There was a pole lying
there, blown down in the night; it came about up to my head.
I sunk it into the snow, and drew it up.
Just six feet.
I went back to Bess and Beauty, and I shut the door. I
told them I couldn't help it, ā something ailed my arms, ā I
couldn't shovel them out to-day. I must lie down and wait till
I waited till to-morrow. It snowed all day, and it snowed all
night. It was snowing when I pushed the door out again into
the drift. I went back and lay down. I didn't seem to care.
The third day the sun came out, and I thought about Nannie.
I was going to surprise her. She would jump up and run and
put her arms about my neck. I took the shovel, and crawled
out on my hands and knees. I dug it down, and fell over on it
like a baby.
After that I understood. I'd never had a fever in my life,
and it's not strange that I shouldn't have known before.
It came all over me in a minute, I think. I couldn't shovel
through. Nobody could hear. I might call, and I might shout.
ELIZABETH STUART PHELPS WARD
By-and-by the fire would go out. Nancy would not come.
Nancy did not know, Nancy and I should never kiss and make
I struck my arm out into the air, and shouted out her name,
and yelled it out. Then I crawled out once more into the drift.
I tell you, Johnny, I was a stout-hearted man, who'd never
known a fear. I could freeze. I could burn up there alone in
the horrid place with fever. I could starve. It wasn't death nor
awfulness I couldn't face, ā not that, not that; but I loved her
true, I say, ā I loved her true, and I'd spoken my last words
to her, my very last; I had left her those to remember, day in
and day out, and year upon year, as long as she remembered her
husband, as long as she remembered anything.
I think I must have gone pretty nearly mad with the fever
and the thinking. I fell down there like a log, and lay groaning
^* God Almighty ! God Almighty ! '^ over and over, not knowing
what it was that I was saying, till the words strangled in my
Next day, I was too weak so much as to push open the door.
I crawled around the hut on my knees, with my hands up over
my head, shouting out as I did before, and fell, a helpless heap,
into the corner; after that I never stirred.
How many days had gone, or how many nights, I had no
more notion than the dead. I knew afterwards; when I knew
how they waited and expected and talked and grew anxious, and
sent down home to see if I was there, and how she ā But no
matter, no matter about that.
I used to scoop up a little snow when I woke up from the
stupors. The bread was the other side of the fire; I couldn't
reach round. Beauty eat it up one day; I saw her. Then the
wood was used up. I clawed out chips with my nails from
the old rotten logs the shanty was made of, and kept up a little
blaze. By-and-by I couldn't pull any more. Then there were
only some coals, ā then a little spark. I blew at that spark a
long while, ā I hadn't much breath. One night it went out, and
the wind blew in. One day I opened my eyes, and Bess had
fallen down in the corner, dead and stiff. Beauty had pushed
out of the door somehow and gone.
Sometimes I thought Nancy was there in the plaid shawl,
walking round the ashes where the spark went out. Then again
I thought Mary Ann was there, and Isaac, and the baby. But
ELIZABETH STUART PHELPS WARD
they never were. I used to wonder if I wasn't dead, and hadn't
made a mistake about the place that I was going to.
One day there was a noise. I had heard a great many noises,
so I didn't take much notice. It came up crunching on the snow,
and I didn't know but it was Gabriel or somebody with his char-
iot. Then I thought more likely it was a wolf.
Pretty soon I looked up, and the door was open; some men
were coming in, and a woman. She was ahead of them all, she
was; she came in with a great spring, and had my head against
her neck, and her arm holding me up, and her cheek down to
mine, with her dear, sweet, warm breath all over me: and that
was all I knew.
Well, there was brandy, and there was a fire, and there were
blankets, and there was hot water, and I don't know what; but
warmer than all the rest I felt her breath against my cheek,
and her arms about my neck, and her long hair, which she had
wrapped all in, about my hands.
So by-and-by my voice came. ^^ Nannie ! ^^ said I.
" Oh, don't ! ^^ said she, and first I knew she was crying.
** But I will,'^ says I, **for I'm sorry. '^
^*Well, so am I,^^ says she.
Said I, "I thought I was dead, and hadn't made up, Nannie.**
"O dearf^^ said she; and down fell a great hot splash right
on my face.
Says I, ^* It was all me, for I ought to have gone back and
*^ No, it was m^,** said she, ^^ f or I wasn't asleep, not any such
thing. I peeked out this way, through my lashes, to see if you
wouldn't come back. I meant to wake up then. Dear me ! **
says she, " to think what a couple of fools we were, now ! **
** Nannie,** says I, ^^you can let the lamp smoke all you want
"Aaron ā ** she began, just as she had begun that other night,
ā "Aaron ā ** but she didn't finish, and ā Well, well, no matter:
I guess you don't want to hear any more, do you ?
MRS. HUMPHRY WARD
?HE history of the growth of English fiction, from Richardson
and Fielding to the present day, is the history of the
increasing attention given to character. The modern novel
studies personality, and depends for its interest mostly upon the
inter-relations of men and women in the social complex, subjectively
viewed. The main stream of story-telling has set stronger and
stronger in this direction for a hundred and fifty years; although
cross-currents, even counter-currents at times, have seemed to deflect
it from its due course. The adventure tale,
caring more for incident and action and for
the objective handling of character than for
the subjective analysis of motive, has had
since < Robinson Crusoe * a vigorous if spo-
radic life. Romantic fiction has had always
its makers and its wide public. Some of the
unpalatable developments of the analytic
school, too, have been such that the parent
is hardly to be recognized in the children.
One such offspring is the so-called realistic
fiction, which errs in laying over-emphasis
upon relatively unimportant detail, and in
forgetting that life is no more all-sour than
it is all-sweet. And what is known as nat-
uralism shows how much the analytic method may be abused in the
hands of those who strive to divorce art from ethics, and have a
penchant for the physical.
But the higher and nobler conception of fictional art, recognizing
the heart and soul of man as the most tremendous possible stage for
the playing out of social dramas, has been held and illustrated by
a line of gifted modern writers, among whom Thackeray, Dickens,
George Meredith, Hardy, and George Eliot are major stars. In this
literary genealogy Mrs. Humphry Ward belongs by taste, sympathy,
and birthright of power. She is one of the few contemporaneous
novel-writers whose work is in a sound tradition, and has enough
of lofty purpose and artistic conscientiousness to call for careful con-
sideration. Had Mrs. Ward failed, she would deserve respect for her
Mrs. H. Ward
MRS. HUMPHRY WARD
high aim, in a day when tyros turn off pseudo-fiction as easily as
they do business letters.
Mrs. Ward's first story, < Miss Bretherton,' which appeared in
1884, made no great stir; but it was a charming and thoroughly well-
done piece of fiction, revealing marked ability in character study, and
a comprehension of English society. The theme chosen, the slowly
generating love between a brilliant young actress and a middle-aged
man of letters, is developed with delicate idealism, with sympathy
and imagination. The writer of the later and greater novels is fore-
shadowed if not fully confessed in the tale ; which in its pleasant
ending, and its absence of definite special pleading, declares itself a
younger book. To some, the fact that ^ Miss Bretherton ^ is a straight-
away love story will make it all the better. But to one who under-
stands Mrs. Ward's intellectual and artistic growth, the book will be
seen to be tentative.
By the publication of ^Robert Elsmere > four years later, in 1888,
its writer defined her position and gave a clear idea of her quality.
The book made a deep impression. The fact that it dealt with the
religious problem, tracing in the person of the hero the intellectual
change undergone by a mind open to modern scholarship and thought,
gave it for many the glamour of the dangerous, and no doubt helped
its vogue. It was a story which people took sides for or against, and
fought over. But < Robert Elsmere ^ would never have achieved more
than a critical success if it had been nothing but an able polemic
against orthodox views. It was far more : a vital story full of tiuman
nature, intensely felt, strong in its characterization, and in some of
its scenes finely dramatic, ā this last implied in the fact that the
novel was dramatized. Elsmere is not a lay figure to carry a thesis,
but an honest human brother, yearning for the truth. His wife is
an admirable picture of the sweet, strong, restricted conservatism of
a certain type of nature. And Rose and Langham ā to mention only
two more personages of the drama ā are real and attractive creations.
The nobility of intention in this, the first of Mrs. Ward's full-length
social studies depicting the tragedy of the inner life, must be felt by
every receptive reader. The charge of didacticism commonly pre-
ferred against this novel has some justification, though the artistic
impulse was present in large measure, ā indeed prevailed in the work.
And in the next book, < The History of David Grieve,* given to
the public after another four years had intervened (1892), the human
elements are broader, the life limned more varied, and hence the
impression that the author has a nut to crack is not so strong. Yet
David's experience, like Robert's, with all its difference of birth, po-
sition, training, and influences, is one of the soul : the evolution of
personal faith may be said to be the main motive of the tale. The
MRS. HUMPHRY WARD
art of it is finer, the interpretation of humanity richer. The story is
a sombre one, ā Mrs. Ward's work as a whole, and progressively, may
be so described, ā but it is far from pessimistic. The teaching is that
men and women may conquer through soul stress; that the world is
an arena for the most momentous of all things, ā character training.
Parts of ^ David Grieve ^ have a convincing fervor and sweep, and