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of the outraged mother rising at
length from its lair.

14 She is the child of the man who
stood between me and everything I
wanted in life, who had the best of my
mother's love, the best of my father's
money, who married the woman — "

" The woman you make wretched!"
she cried.

"On account of that child!" he
thundered. " Then send her away!"

11 No, no, no!" cried the mother.


"Why should I have under my
roof, in my daily sight, the child of a
man the thought of whom brings to
mv mind everything that is detesta-

14 Be silent!" she flashed out again.
' ' Be silent ! ' ' You shall not speak so
of my husband!"

He did not reply immediately. M I
thought I was your husband," he said
slowly then, and with a total change
of mien and manner.

" Oh, you are! You are!" she cried,
her feeling touched, her tears gush-
ing. "But how am I to bear — what
shall I do — oh, how can you distress
me so!"

" That child's least look is more to
you than my peace, my pleasure, my
love, my hate!"

"Oh, I am her mother — ' '

1 ■ And I am not her father. You
will not comprehend that there is
something shameful to me in that fact.
But I understand it all at last, Mrs.
Ffrench. To keep her in luxury, to
bring her up to wealth, you have de-
ceived and ensnared me. You have
so brought things about that that ac-
cursed brother of mine would rule me
even from his grave. But by heaven!
he shall not! The child is my flesh
and blood, as that woman said. And
she shall be taken care of and fitted to
earn her own livelihood. To earn her
own livelihood. She will need to earn
it, for not a dollar of my money shall
she ever have!"

" It was her father's before it was
yours!" cried Mrs. Ffrench, off her
guard one more. And that finished
Paula's business.

What a life was this to which the
mother saw her child condemned in
this rich man's house, from this time.
There was nothing systematic about
it; a hint, a glance, was enough; the
servants saw their master's mood; they
learned that the mistress was a non-
entity, that there was no one to pun-
ish their neglect, their insolence; the
pale little child was brow-beaten when
she came into her stepfather's pres-
ence, the teachers employed for her

were given to understand that the ut-
most must be demanded of her; her
mother was kept aloof from her all
that was possible; she had no play-
mates; she was left apart when there
were guests. Driven to desperation,
the mother remonstrated; she was first
laughed at, and then abused. All the
world began to know there was deep
trouble at Mrs. Ffrench's heart; but
all the world loved Colonel Ffrench's
dinners, all the world respected his
money; there were even those who
looked ever so little askance at the
woman who failed to keep what she
had won; and then there were others
who called her an unnatural mother.

" Has not the child all I agreed that
she should have?" he asked, exasper-
ated by the mother's tears. "You
forget that she — that she was a pauper
when I married her mother. If you
are not satisfied, she can return to her
first estate!" and the mother was ter-
rified into silence. For what would
become of Paula, turned out of this
house? What even if her mother went
with her?

It was armed neutrality now, when
it was not war. Sometimes he took
notice of the child growing into a
young girl, called her to him, fixing
her with his unkind eye till the color
bathed her face, asking her questions
that she could not answer, making her
the object of a sneer, dismissing In
if she were a hound in disgrace. He
would look over at his wife then as if
he studied the pain he gave her, the
incomprehensible pain — the silent suf-
fering woman whose fast-fading l>eauty
had brought his passion to an end.

But now, as the little girl gath-
ered years, she was not so much
alone in that loneliness which had
only just failed to break her mother's
heart for the pity of it. There were
many hours that Mrs. Ffrench was
able to devote to her in the absence of
the master on his various pleasures,
his politics, his journeys, his delays in
town, his hunting, his business affairs,
the long days when he was off with
his man and his fishing-rods. And

37 2



then Paula and her mother took great
ease together; and darkness shut down
again on the mother when, her hus-
band returning, she felt the wrongful-
ness that required all to be as before.
The child, however, was perhaps not
so unhappy as the mother had reason
to think her. The circumstances of
her birth had given her a grave and
serious temperament. At first she was
happy with a flower, it was a live
thing, another baby; a doll was a com-
panion; she put out her little hand to
it in the night with gentle hushing
touches; she went to sleep, singing the
doll to sleep ; she awoke to make to it
her little confidences ; when she cried
for her mother she ran to her doll and
clasped it and assured the doll that she
was there, as if she would not have the
doll suffer what she was suffering.
And later, a book took her into the
world of its own; she had no particu-
lar aptitude with her pencil, but her
paint-box: and brushes gave her some-
thing more than pleasure; she could
never do much with music, but she
sang like the birds in the morning,
and sang as they did, because she
could not help it, and at twilight she
dreamed over her piano. But she had
a talent for loving, she loved the beau-
tiful old place which she knew was her
birthplace and the home of her ancest-
ors, the only home she could remem-
ber; the long green meadow sparkling
with sunlight and veiled in violet va-
pors as the east wind met the sun
upon it, the black shadows of the
woodland sharply cut in moonlight,
the brook that ran a thread of sapphire
through the deep gardens, the great
branch of pale pink roses that climbed
across the balcony between her and
the dazzle of blue sky — all these things
filled her with poetic dreams and were
precious to her. And she adored her
mother; and as she slowly began to
comprehend that she was entreated
unlike other childen, with her adora-
tions was mingled a strange and ach-
ing wonder if it could be possible that
her mother was indifferent to her; if
that was why she was not sent for in

the drawing-room, was rarely taken to
other houses, had no young girls
brought to her, was hastened out of
the way when Colonel Ffrench's voice
or step was heard, had no pleasures
made for her, was suppressed, and
hushed, and perhaps but just toler-
ated. And as her mother divined her
thoughts, a new misery was added to
all the rest that mother had endured.

' ' I suppose, " said Paula to her one
day, — Paula slender, tall, dark, pale,
growing into the beauty that had been
her father's, U I suppose you would
be happier, mamma, if I were not
here to give you trouble."

"Oh, Paula! Paula!" cried her
mother, laying down her silken skeins,
and letting her heart out at once.
11 You are all the joy I have! To see
you, to hear you, to know you are
alive, to think of you when I am away
from you, I have no other thought.
To wake up in the night and think
how innocent you are, how pretty you
are, — it seems to me that you are very
pretty, Paula — oh, I never can tell
you for how much that repays me!
There are reasons — I have been com-
pelled — we will not talk of that — it is
not best to speak — but if I seem like a
clay-cold image to you it is because
the fire burning in my heart has
turned me to a stone."

11 Mamma, he would not # treat you
badly if it were not for me" —

"How do you know — what makes
you say " — the mother faltered breath-

"I have heard the servants — they
do not care if I hear them or not."

Every day a new degradation,
thought Mrs. Ffrench bitterly, blow
after blow rising across her memory.
But she gave no sign. "Oh, Paula,
you must not say so! Treat me badly!
Oh, no — he was — he is — you com-
prehend, Paula, dearest, he is my
husband" —

"But vou do not love him, mam-

1 ' A woman loves only once in her
life, you know," she said, the delicate
color swimming over her wistful face.


37 Z

" But perhaps, dearest, you will un-
derstand better by and by. There is
a bond"—

4 ' Mamma, you say you think I am
pretty. I hear others say I am going
to be pretty, more than pretty. They
do not mean me to hear that, I sup-
pose; and that I shall marry — very
well, maybe. And if that should be,
then — then you can leave him, you
can come and live with me, and we
can be happy together all the time!"

" I^eave him," cried Mrs. Ffrench.
' ' I would never do that. Oh, how can
you dream of such a thing! it makes
me shudder to think of it when I re-
member the speech of people."

" You are so timid, mamma. I do
not care for the speech of people."

u And then I do not know what he
would do without me."

M He would do very well without
you," said Paula.

" Besides — there is another life,
Paula. One can bear so much with
that in mind. Your father must be
somewhere — it is impossible that he
should have ceased — and we were one
soul. And there I shall be with him.
And he will forgive me, because he
knows it was for you, and these
things will not matter then."

" Yes they will, mamma dear,
they will have made you perfect
through suffering." And then they
glanced up and said Colonel Ffrench
coming down the avenue with Mr.
Parcell, the old lawyer; and all the
rose and sparkle fell out of the moth-
er's face, and she was a white and
half-lifeless image moving automatic-
ally, and getting into her own rooms
before her husband should demand

" I have brought you," said her
husband, when a few minutes after-
ward he sent for her to come to the
library. " a paper that you are to
sign, relinquishing your right of
dower in consideration of the provi-
sion that I shall make for you in my

" My right " — she said, with a little

"I thought I should have trouble
with you," he responded. "Your
right. Such right as you have. You
were a beggar when I married you.
And so I suppose you will insist upon
your full price" —

* r I will sign any paper you give me
to sign," she said.

" There must be witnesses," he re-
plied, after a moment's survey of her,
" Mr. Parcell is in the dining-room."
And the lawyer and John, the inside-
man, witnessed her signature, Paula
being summoned for a third. And
Colonel Ffrench went about the place
with something like boyish jubilation
the rest of the day, and ordered up
for dinner the Chateau Yquem that
he bought himself in France. '

11 I have made my will," Colonel
Ffrench said to his wife a few days
later. " I have made for you a suita-
ble provision, in a way that would haw-
been affluence for you before I married
you. But I have so arranged it that
Paula can never share it. I have
always said she was to provide for
herself. And she has been educated
to do so."

It was the last of many burdens.
The burden-carrier rebelled. " Are
you not afraid of what people may say
of so cruel a disposition towards your
brother's child ? " she exclaimed.

" I never care for what people say,"
he answered. M They will say it after
I am gone, too, and I shall not hear
them. But I should rise in my grave
if this accursed child who has stood be-
tween me and the joy of my life were
one penny the better for my death ! "

"Then," said Mrs. Ffrench, with
a strange new decision born of
desperation, "Paula will come into
the drawing-room with me, and will
sit at the table when there are gu<
and when there are not, and will be
properly dressed, and shall have her
chance to make a fit marriage" —

" Paula!"

" Or I will go away with her and
she shall earn my livelihood too! "

u Do you know what you are say-
ing, my — wife ? "



4 ' I think you are insane concerning
your brother's child and always have
been, and that I have been in error
in giving way 'to you. And more-
over, I have my doubts if the entail
did not end with her father, and if the
whole property is not hers anyway.
I have thought this for a long time;
but I thought also that you would do
justice to her in the end. Now I
have said it. And you can but kill
me. You do worse than that every

"By heaven !" cried he ; " I
ought to kill you ! "

And after this volcanic outburst,
Mrs. Ffrench spent the rest of the day
fainting in bed, and Colonel Ffrench
drank himself stupid for several even-
ings in succession.

As week after week crept by now,
he spoke to her only to insult her in
the presence of the servants or to out-
rage her to her innermost soul. It
was during this period that she found
he had made the headstone of Paul's
grave in the family burial-place a
target for his pistol-shots, till he had
shattered every letter of the name upon
it. He spent little of his time at
home; gossip reached his wife con-
cerning other allurements that made
her shudder, but gave her no closer
pain than the sense of disgrace; and
there were card and wine-parties fol-
lowing days of hard riding after the
hunt. Nothing she cared for any of
it; it affected her no further than to
deepen that silent abhorrence which
lay within her like lead. And she had
long sweet days with Paula in conse-
quence, that could they but continue,
she felt, would compensate her for it
all. Affairs equalized themselves,
however, when he took a notion to
stay at home, to demand her constant
presence, to have her read to him in
the morning, and be growled at for
her want of comprehension, to have
her play picquet or zonzen in the
evening, and be sneered at for her stu-
pidity, to have her orders to the ser-
vants reversed before her face, to have
her little charities called back, her

dress criticised, her manners repro-
bated, to keep quiet and wear a cheerful
face through it all, to long, every day
of her life of repression to die, and
to have the longing stifled by the
thought of Paula. Colonel Ffrench
had always loved horses and riding,
sparring, and all the physical sports.
Nothing had ever given him such
pleasure as breaking a spirited horse.
He had begun with some such sensa-
tion in the treatment of his wife.

One day, training a splendid black
stallion that looked like Satan embod-
ied, helost his temper and the horse
knocked him down. He was brought
in trodden to death.

He was buried as became his name.
And such was the inconsistency of
this feeble little woman that she
grieved and grieved again. She for-
gave his misdeeds with a divine
forgiveness ; she forgot all she could
forget; she blamed herself for the rest;
and she spent her soul in pity. She
was, in truth, like a tree that long shel-
tered by another, withers if that tower
of strength is removed. She needed
some shock to make her see the truth
again, to call her powers to use.

The shock came some days after
the funeral when Mr. Parcell, who
had been ill at the time, made his ap-
pearance. Mrs. Ffrench in her black
gown and widow's cap, sat beside the
fire in the library ; for although it was
a summer's day and the sun was beat-
ing down outside till leaf and tree
shone back in green splendor, there
was always a low fire in the great
damp shadows of the gloomy library.
Now and then a tongue of flame
leaped out and lighted up the face of
one of the old Ffrench 's on the wall
with a sort of demoniac glow, that
more than once before made this little
dove, all unfit to mate with hawks,
shiver as she looked. But perhaps a
dove could not dwell among hawks, if
it could dwell among them at all,
without attaining some hawk-like
quality ; and Mrs. Ffrench called on
herself for all she was worth when
Mr. Parcell was announced.



"I am sorry," said Mr. Parcell as
he sat down on the other side of the
fire, "to be the bearer of the docu-
ment which will oblige you to leave
this pleasant place."

"To leave it? My home?" said
Mrs. Ffrench.

' ' I refer, ' ' he said slowly ' ' to your
husband's will."

"Oh!" she murmured. And in a
moment or two she added, ' ' Did he
then make a will?"

"He did. On the twenty-fourth of
last September. I have it here. If
you will send for your daughter I will
read it."

"It is not necessary to call her, ■ '
said Mrs. Ffrench. "You can tell
me what it says quite as well in her

" I— eh— it— ah— ahem! The heart
of the matter — I— it is just this — Mrs.
Ffrench. In brief the will makes me
executor, and directs that the sum of
five hundred dollars a year, from cer-
tain rents, shall be paid to you during
your natural life, provided that you
satisfy me yearly that -no portion of
that has gone to the care, support, or
maintenance of your daughter."

"What!" cried Mrs. Ffrench.

Mr. Parcell repeated what he had
said. ' ' Of course I need not tell you, ' '
he added, "that I expostulated with
Colonel Ffrench at the time, nor that
I shall be very easily satisfied in this
regard" —

"And the rest of the property?"
she demanded.

y All the rest and residue, the
place, the bonds, the city houses, the
sum total, he has covered into a fund
for the foundation of a charity of large
proportions" —

' ' Do you mean to tell me that my
husband left any such paper as that!"
cried Mrs. Ffrench.

1 ' Certainly I do, " said the worthy
gentleman, producing a variety of
bulky envelopes from an inside pocket,
' ' and much to my regret. ' '

"It is incredible!"

" I am sorry to say that it is a fact/'
and he proceeded to unfold a crack-

ling paper and to adjust his glasses.
"Here it is— ' I, Savage Delany
Ffrench, being of sound and disposing
mind, do hereby make this my last
will and testament — May I ask von to
ring for a glass of water before I pro-
ceed?' '

"I cannot believe it!" she said
breathlessly, not heeding his request
"Do you absolutely assure me that
this paper disinherits nu


"And Paula?"


" If there had been no will it would
have been all Paula's, that was not
mine. His brother's child" —

" Was his natural heir" —

"And it was her father's, and
should have been hers. What would
these people think to have their own
flesh and blood beggared for the sake
of all the charities in thew r orld," with
a sweep of her little hand to those old
portraits as if she invoked the help of
Paula's race.

" Undoubtedly they would think as
you do, as I do. But law is stronger
than anything else in the world, and
the misfortune is that here is the
will" —

"I cannot, I do not, how shall I
believe it." she cried. " My husband —
let me see it with my own eyes?"
And she held out her hand imperious-
ly, took the paper before he bethought
himself and dropped it on the blaze,
where it caught in an instant and
curled and flamed, and left only a black
scroll along which the wicked letters
of his name lingered in a line of fire
and vanished.

" What of it now?" said she, with a
wild glad triumph in her tone.

For a moment Mr. Parcell stared
aghast. Had his eyes deceived him?
He closed them, and opened them
again. Here in this room — among all
these dead and gone Ffrench \s — had
anything happened to him — could he
credit the evidence of his sen*

"Do you know what you have
done?" gasped the lawyer, pallid and
pinched with consternation.



" Perfectly. You see what I have

" You have committed a felony!"

" I — who says I have committed
a felony?" asked Paula's mother,
straightening herself superior to law
and lawyers.

"I do."

11 Have a care what you say. For
you — you are an interested party, 3'ou

" Mrs. Ffrench, you appall me!"

"What are you going to do about
it?" she said.

"To denounce you."

"You mean you will say I have
destroyed that paper. Well, then, I
shall say, if you drive me to it, that I
did nothing of the kind. Do you .sup-
pose your word is any better than
mine ? I am willing to bring it to the
proof. Who that has known me all
my life will believe such a thing of me?
I should advise you to let the matter

" There are witnesses," gasped Mr.

"Servants; who knew nothing of
the contents of the paper they signed;
who will make no question; and who
will take it for granted that the law
has had its way — people who can be
made quite uncertain as to whether
the paper they witnessed was a will or
the one about my dower-rights.' '

"That, too. There is the agree-
ment concerning the right of dower."

" Bring it forward, if you wish. It
can be of no use if there is no will."

" Mrs. Ffrench, what sort of a
woman are you ? ' '

" I am a mother defending her
child," cries Mrs. Ffrench, "as a
bird defends her young against eagle
or against snake. I am a wife resent-
ing an outrage. I am an individual
claiming what is my right! Now,"
she continued, rising, after a few min-
- utesADf stillness in which the old law-

yer heard his heart beat, " is it to be
peace or war ? ' '

■ ■ I suppose it must be peace, "he
said presently, and with a slow effort.
"I do not see my way clear to any-
thing else, under the circumstances."

" I shall need counsel, Paula will
need it, in the management of the es-
tate. Give us your best service ; and
make your conscience easy by remem-
bering that if law has been violated,
justice has been vindicated," said Mrs.
Ffrench, and she looked at the eager
watching Ffrench faces on the wall,
as if they must thank her for saving
to one of their own that for which
they had wrought and fought ; and
she sailed out of the room like justice
herself in the robes of a lady-abbess,
expecting to sink on gaining her own
room, and finding her heart, instead,
bubbling with new life and strength
and the consciousness of victory.

I saw her a few years later. Mrs.
Paul Ffrench was the name on her
visiting-cards. She had plainly no
idea she had done anything to regret ;
nor should I have known of the facts
of her life but for Mr. Parcell' s diary
which came into my possession. I
saw a tranquil 'and rather stately
woman whose unsmiling face wore the
scars of trouble, yet looked as if lighted
from within by an interior joy. With
her was a tall girl whose serene dark
beauty, exquisite in modelling, perfect
in contour and curve, was heightened
by the severe simplicity of her dress
of white satin that seemed to surround
her with lustre. An Italian prince
and an English baron were in her
train, but I understood that she was
going home to marry a young minister,
and to realize with him certain ideas
concerning a charity of large propor-
tions, ideas belonging to her mother.
And I saw that Mrs. Ffrench %\as
still carrying out the habits of. a life-
time of compromise.





HE Navajos* main stock of
the Athapascan branch of In-
dians which spread southward
to Northern Mexico, have
retained anthropological qual-
ities distinct, in a marked
degree, from their warlike
and unsettled offshoots, the
Apaches and kindred tribes. The lat-
ter, from the earliest historical records,
have ever been the cruel scourge of the
regions they invaded until their re-
duction by force of arms within the
last decade. In scattered bands and
with no permanent homes, they gained
their means of living by plunder ob-
tained by predatory expeditions cover-
ing a large area of the northern
possessions of the Spaniards in the
country. These savage branches of
the Navajos can hardly be placed in
the catalogue of Indian tribes which
pursued industrial occupations, under
the modern acceptation of the term.

With the Navajos proper — the
parent stock which peopled the region
now including the northwestern corner
of Arizona — the contrary may be said.
They made the mountains and the
fertile valleys watered by the affluents
of the Rio San Juan, whither their
primitive ancestors had been led by

divine interposition, their permanent
home. It is true that they constantly
sent out small war parties to harass
the Pueblo Indians, destroying CTOpe
and impeding the agriculture of those
sedentary and industrious people, yet
their persistency and home love are
proved by the fact that when the Span-
iards reached their remote territory,
they were found to be great land-
tillers, "living in dwellings under-
ground and having sheds for their
crops and stores."

After their contact with the Euro-

Online LibraryCharles Frederick HolderThe Californian (Volume 4) → online text (page 49 of 120)