Dinah Maria Mulock Craik.

King Arthur. Not a love story online

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" I think we are, Susannah," the clergyman said, in
his grave, tender way. And then the two men so very
different outside, and yet with a certain sympathetic
union at heart sat down on either side the little woman,
on what they called a " comfortable " stone, just below
the shining wall of snow, forty feet high, which reflected
the rays of the sun so as to be oppressively warm.

" Isn't it curious, Mrs. Trevena ? though we sit under
a wall of snow we are almost * baked alive ' as my little
monkeys in Kentucky would say." And stretching out
his hand, he washed down the leg of chicken with a mouth-
ful of snow, declaring it was " not bad drink after all."

" Does this huge white wall never melt ? "

" Never entirely, ma'am " (his invariable " ma'am "
and "sir," were so anti-English). " We are just on the
verge of the snow-line perpetual snow. And yet, just
look at that patch of blue gentian isn't it lovely ? Are
you a botanist, Mr. Trevena ? "

" Oh no, but my wife is. At least, she has what I
call a speaking acquaintance with almost every flower
that grows. She knows their separate faces as well as
those of the babies of our parish, which seem to me all

"Not a bit alike, when you are a woman and love
them," said the wife, smiling.

" You seem very fond of children, Mrs. Trevena."

" Yes," she answered quietly so quietly that the good
doctor, feeling as if he could have bitten his tongue off
for the remark, rose and proposed a saunter a little
higher up the mountain.

" Decidedly. And my wife can rest here. She never


minds being left alone. I tell her it is because she finds
her own company so pleasant, and no wonder ! " added
he, with affectionate courtesy.

" She's a trump," said the American rough, candid,
and kindly, as they walked away.

When they were out of sight and hearing of Mrs. Tre-
vena, he suddenly stopped, and stuck his stick violently
into a fast melting mass of snow.

" It's no use, sir, I can't stand it any longer ; I must
tell somebody."

"Tell what?" said the placid clergyman, very much

" Something which I have been expecting your wife
would find out every day, but she has not done so. Ma-
dame has kept the secret well. I have often wished I
could tell it to Mrs. Trevena, who has such capital com-
mon sense and right feeling womanly feeling. Some
women seem as if they had none at all ; the fashionable
life or the public life Lord knows which, for I don't !
has taken all ordinary flesh and blood out of them. It
does sometimes."

Mr. Trevena listened to this tirade with a perplexity
which his politeness vainly tried to hide. " If there is
anything you would like to confide in me anything
wherein I could be of use according to my sacred

" Mine has its sacredness too, if people only knew it.
Many a troublesome secret have I kept ; but this one
I can't keep it I won't keep it ; for, in a sense, it's like
conniving at a murder. The massacre of the innocents I
call it and so I told the woman."


""What woman?" asked Mr. Trevena, now thor-
oughly aroused and uneasy so uneasy, that he looked
instinctively back at the little dark figure sitting motion-
less under the snow-wall, his wife, with whom he was
accustomed to halve all his anxieties.

" No don't tell her not till we get back to the hotel.
You may then ; for, after all, she will understand it
better than you, or than any man among us all."

And then he detailed how his mysterious patient, on
whose account he had lingered these five days at Ander-
matt, was a lady the lady with the mulatto servant
who had crossed the St. Gothard the same day as them-
selves, and that very night had suddenly given birth to a
child, with no help except the old woman, and no prep-
aration for her infant except a few clothes borrowed from
the kind landlady of the hotel who, at the mother's
urgent entreaty, had kept the event a secret from every-

" But she insisted on fetching me, as I spoke their
language both the black and the white woman are, I
am sorry to say, American born. I told them in good
plain English that they were both fools or worse to
have attempted such a journey. It was a miracle that
the mother and child survived the child nearly was
dead and when I told her it lived, her first word was,
that she was very sorry ! ' A mother indeed a brute !
No any brute beast would have been more of a

" Perhaps," suggested Mr. Trevena, with a faint old-
bachelor-like blush " perhaps she had some very strong
reason for wishing it dead."


" Illegitimacy, you mean," interrupted the point-blank
doctor. "No, I believe not. She had a wedding-ring
on her finger, and in her delirium she talked of ' my
goose of a husband ' and ' my horrid little brats at home.'
Therefore, I conclude she has both a home and a hus-
band. Though why she should have gone wandering
tabout the world in this insane manner is more than
I can tell. Both she and her servant are absolutely

" About how old is she ? "

" Just under forty, I should say. Very handsome still
in a sort of way. Has had four children, but declares
she ' hated every one of them the minute they were
born.' Did you ever hear of such a woman ? "

Mr. Trevena shook his head helplessly. " Well, my
dear doctor, what can I do ? Would you like me, in my
clerical capacity, to pay her a visit ? "

" Bless my life no ! She would laugh you to scorn
she laughs at everything serious, except when she gets
into her tragedy-fits, when she rants for all the world
like a play-actor or actress."
" Perhaps she is an actress."

" May be I never thought of that. But I have not
thought much about her, except as a ( case,' till to-day.
It was hard work to keep her alive at all or the baby
either for she refused to suckle it. She said she wanted
it to die ; and if it had not been for a blessed old Nanny-
goat of Madame's she'd have had her wish by this time.
Now I think he'll do, for he is quite healthy ; and such a
fine, fat little fellow. Many a one of your childless Eng-
lish dukes your 6 noble families ' that dwindle down to


nothing and die out would give his eyes for such a son
and heir."

"A strange story," said Mr. Trevena thoughtfully.
" May I tell my wife ? She would be so much interested."

" Yes, and ask her to advise me : a woman that is, a
sensible woman often leaps by instinct to the right,
when a man with his long-headed wisdom goes swither-
ing to and fro, till he finds himself quite at sea as I
own I am. That horrible creature ! What do you think
she asked of me last night ? To take away her child and
leave it at the nearest Foundling Hospital or by the
roadside if I chose, for some charitable soul to pick it
up ! She doesn't care what becomes of it, so that she
gets rid of it. She would sell it, she declares, for she
wants money badly only a baby is a drug in the market
a commodity no one cares to buy ! "

" What a wretch ! oh dear, oh dear !" murmured the*
horrified and perplexed clergyman. " Surely she must
be mad."

"Not at all; she is as sane as I am, a capable, clever,
healthy woman. She must have a constitution of iron to
have struggled through these few days ; and she is doing
very well now. She talks of continuing her journey

" Where to ? Has she no friends ? "

" None, she declares, except her ' fool of a husband,'
whom she left six months ago, and has scarcely heard of
since. She refuses to give her name or address. So
what can I do ? She is my country-woman, and after all,
a woman or I would do nothing at all. She expects
me to give her an answer to-night."


"About what?"

" About the Foundling Hospital. There are such in
Switzerland, I know ; but I can't present myself there
with an unknown new-born baby in my arms a decent
father of a family like me. And if I leave the child with
its mother, very likely she'll murder it, or neglect it till
it dies which is as bad as murder."

"But there is the mulatto woman ; she may have a
heart in her bosom if the mother has none."

" My dear sir, had you lived as long as I have in our
Southern States, you would know that our niggers have
big hearts, but mighty little heads, and no consciences to
speak of. If that woman told her servant, who is a paid
slave, to lie down and be walked upon, she'd do it ; and
if she bade her throw the child on the back of the fire,
she'll do it also. I'm only too glad she hasn't done it
already, when it began to cry it has cried incessantly
ever since it was born and no wonder."

" Poor little soul ! " said Mr. Trevena, roused into un-
wonted interest. He had lived so long the life of a
bachelor and a bookworm that he rarely troubled him-
self much about external things human things but left
all that to his wife. " I think we had better tell Mrs. Tre-
vena : she will be sure to know what you ought to do."

" Yes but not yet. Don't spoil her pleasure. Look !
I am sure she is enjoying herself."

" My wife has the faculty of enjoying everything."

And indeed it seemed so, though just now her enjoy-
ment was no wonder. Few could have seen unmoved
those great fields of snow, rising upwards into gigantic
peaks, white as no fuller on earth could whiten them


like the robes of the righteous described in Revelations.
The whole scene, in its silence, grandeur, and dazzling
brightness, was liker heaven than earth. One's petty
mortal life, with its trivial cares and foolish joys, sank,
dwarfed into nothingness, before the majesty of those
everlasting hills, covered with perpetual snow. It w T as
the nearest image we can imagine, in this poor changing
earth, of that Eternity from whence we came and into
which we go.

She sat gazing with an expression full of peace, though
the traces of tears were on her cheeks so rapt, that she
never noticed the approach of the two men.

" Look at her," said the American, with honest admira-
tion written on his shrewd brown face. ' ' By George !
how pretty she must have been when she was young."

"She is pretty now at least to me," replied the
Englishman with dignity. " My dear Susannah, are you
rested ? Is it not time we were going home ? "

" ' Going to hum,' as we say or as you English say
that we say often a very different thing," observed Dr.
Franklin, trying hard to recover his equanimity and
good humor.

" Which means going to our hotel ; not a bad substi-
tute for home. Madame is very kind. But oh ! Aus-
tin, I shall be glad to be once again really ' at home ! '
We must try to move on to-morrow. So adieu for
ever, most likely you beautiful San Gottardo ! "

Smiling she rose, collected the fragments of lunch,
" They will do for these little lads who were selling edel-
weiss and alpenrosen beyond Hospenthal.," and joined
her companions in the carriage.


Both Mr. Trevena and Dr. Franklin were very silent
on the homeward road ; but Mrs. Trevena talked and
smiled rather more than usual to make up for it. And
they acquiesced in, or at any rate did not oppose, her
plan of going down the next day to Fluelen, and thence
on to Lucerne.

" So this will be our last night in the Urseren Thai ;
for, if you go back to America as you intend, doctor,
we are none of us ever likely to be at Andermatt

" I earnestly hope I never may be ! " said Dr. Frank-
lin, as reaching the hotel he looked at his watch. "Half
an hour past my time. Well, it doesn't matter only
what a hullabaloo she'll make. You'll remember, sir?
And I'll see you again at the table d?h6te after you have
told your wife."

" Told me what ? "

" You needn't be alarmed, ma'am. Take a quiet even-
ing walk lucky comfortable couple that you are ! and
your husband will explain it. Bless us what a sunset !
Why did heaven make the outside world so beautiful,

and the people in it so But I beg your pardon,

Mrs. Trevena Not all people not all."

He took off his hat to her with rough respect, and
disappeared toward a small dependance only used when
the hotel was full, on the other side of the road.

Up that road, shortly afterwards, the English couple
might have been seen strolling, arm-in-arm, sometimes
even hand-in-hand, for those long-divided years had
made them almost childlike in their wedded happiness
now. They cast a glance at the dependance as they


passed, but nothing was visible : so they slowly disap-
peared along the level road towards that wonderful
Devil's Bridge the chief sight of Andermatt ; whence
they did not return till the table d'hote dinner had al-
ready begun.

It was a long walk and a momentous one perhaps
the most momentous they had ever taken in all their
placid lives. When he met them at the dinner-table,
Dr. Franklin was quite sure Mr. Trevena had told his
wife everything. She was very silent even for her ;
she ate little ; and between the many courses by which
Swiss hotels so cleverly contrive to make a palatable
something out of almost nothing, she fell into long rev-
eries. Still, there was a new brightness a pleasure
amounting to rapture in her eyes, which made her look
quite young, and fairly startled the good doctor.

Dinner over, she drew him aside. " My husband has
given me your message. I hardly know what to advise.
But first, may I go and see that poor woman ? "

" ' Poor ' woman, indeed ! and you want to go and see
her? I knew it ! just like you. But, my dear madam,
you can't. She is madder or badder than ever. All
her talk is how to get rid of the child. My impression
is if you went to see her she would shut the door in your

" Try, nevertheless. I might do something say some-
thing. We are both women, and" with a quiver of the
lips " mothers at least I have been a mother. Per-
haps, poor thing ! her head is a little wrong."

u Not a bit of it, unless we adopt the theory which
some of my profession have started, that all badness is


madness. A very comfortable doctrine, and then no-
body need be punished for anything. But, ma'am, if
there is a thing true in this world it is that text, ' Be
sure your sin will find you out.' As I told her only to-
night, you can't go against nature, but nature will have
her revenge some day. However, that's no affair of

" Perhaps not, yet let us try. Go and ask her if she
will see me."

" Very well, ma'am."

During his absence, Mrs. Trevena sat alone at least
practically so, for her husband, according to old habit,
had taken a book out of his pocket and become absorbed
therein. Susannah, who did not read very much, was
content to watch the great white mountains melting
away in the twilight ; and think and think.

"It's no use!" said Dr. Franklin, returning. "I
believe she is mad quite mad. She will see nobody.
She says the best kindness anybody could show her
would be to take away the child ; that children have
been her bane and nuisance all her life, and she wants
no more of them. When I suggested that He who sent
them might require them at her hand, she laughed in
my face. I think she believes in neither God nor

" Poor soul ! Could you not find out her friends ? "

" I wish I could, but I have not the slightest clue. I
can get nothing out of her, or her servant either except
that she has been living for six months in Italy."

Mrs. Trevena thought a minute. " Do you think it
possible she may be the Italian prima donna who ran


away from Milan? To an actress or singer children
might be a hindrance if she had no motherly heart."

" Yes yes," said the doctor, meditating. a You
women are twice as sharp as we. But she is Ameri-
can. Still, she may have passed under an Italian name.
She declares no power on earth shall make her confess
her own."

" Poor soul ! " said Susannah again. " She has hus-
band, children, home and she hates and flies from them
all. How much she is to be pitied ! "

" Pitied ! " cried the doctor almost angrily. " Mrs.
Trevena, I think you would speak a good word for the
devil himself ! And truly, if there ever was a she-devil,
it's that woman ! I wonder what Mrs. Franklin would
say to her ! But I know what she'd do she'd take
home the little one, and I should have eleven young
shavers to bring up instead of ten. She'd make me
adopt it as we can and often do in America."

Mrs. Trevena did not answer at first then she said
gently, " Since I cannot see the mother, do you think
you could manage for me to see the baby ? "

This was not quite easy, for Madame, with a creditable
dread of scandal in her hotel, had managed so cleverly
that no one but herself and the American doctor even
knew of the existence of the hapless, unwelcome babe.
And only after nightfall, when the inmates had all
retired, would she consent that it should be brought for
a minute or two to the door of the dependance, wrapped
in a shawl, and carried in Dr. Franklin's arms.

Mrs. Trevena took it softly in hers, and pressed to her
bosom the tiny red, puckered face.


" It is a boy, you say ? Mine was a boy too. He
lived just six hours." It was only a murmur, but the
kind-hearted Kentucldan heard it and understood.

" It's a fine child, ma'am ; healthy and strong. ~No
it won't wake. Its mother has given it some sleeping
stuff she will do this, though I tell her she might as
well give it poison. She'll kill it some day, if it isn't
taken away from her. She says, new-born brats don't
matter they're only half-alive. You might drown
them like kittens and no harm done."

Mrs. Trevena did not answer perhaps scarcely heard.
Evidently her heart was full. She pressed her cheek,
her lips, with more than tenderness passion to the
little sleeping face.

" If mine had only lived ! I had him but six hours,
and yet I can never forget him." And then either
her tears, now fast falling, or the unsteady hold of her
trembling hands, woke the child; who gave a little
cry that helpless infant wail, to some women so irri-
tating, to others the unfailing key which unlocks every
corner of the true motherly heart.

" I must take it back," said Dr. Franklin.

" Oh no no let me have it for just five minutes
more for the night perhaps I'll take care of it. Any
woman of common sense can manage a baby. Let me
have it, doctor."

" I can't," replied the doctor gravely. " Ma'am, you
forget. What would Mr. Trevena say 3 "

Mrs. Trevena resisted no more. She resigned the
child, and then stood with her empty hands tightly
folded, and her eyes, tearless now, fixed on the stars;


which treading their silent courses seemed so far away
from human cravings and human woes. Perhaps she
saw them perhaps not, but there was a light in her
eyes as bright as stars.

She said not a word but "good-night and thank you "
to Dr. Franklin, when, having taken her across the road
to the hotel, he left her at her own room-door ; with a
hearty grip of the hand for he, too, honest man ! had
been not unmoved.

" Poor little brat ! I wonder what will be the end of
it. Well! I guess the Lord sometimes makes things
mighty unlevel in this world of ours. Perhaps He does
it that we may try to put them straight ourselves. We
often can if we see our way. Whew ! I wish the Lord
would help me to see mine."

And the good fellow who had a habit of referring to
" the Lord " pretty frequently, not with any irreverence,
but in a fashion rather startling to British ears went
off to his bed, whistling, and slept the sleep of the con-
tented and the just.

So did Mr. Trevena in fact his wife found him asleep
when she came in, and did not waken him. But she her-
self lay awake till dawn.


morning Mr. and Mrs. Trevena sat over their
early caf, by their bedroom fire, welcome even in June
at Andermatt a comfortable couple, placid and loving ;
for, before returning to his book, he stooped and kissed
her affectionately.

"You'll be busy over your packing, my dear, for we
really will start to-morrow, if I get the letters and some
money to-day. Dr. Franklin will share our carriage to
Fluelen ; he can surely leave his patient now. By the
bye, did you see the baby last night ? "

" Yes ; " and coming closer she laid her hand on her
husband's arm, and her head on his shoulder. " Can you
give me a few minutes, Austin, my dear ? "

" A hundred if you like, my darling. Is it to speak
about the journey? "Well, we shall soon be safe at Lome,
and oh ! how glad we shall be."

" Yery glad. But it is an empty home to come back

"How do you mean? Oh yes I see. My poor
Susannah ! You should not have gone and looked at
that baby."

He spoke very tenderly more so than might have
been expected from his usually formal and absent manner.


She gave one little sob, then choked it down, put her
arms round his neck and kissed him several times. An
outsider might have smiled at the caresses of these two
elderly people; but love never grows old, and they had
loved one another all their lives.

" Don't mind my crying, Austin. Indeed, I am happy,
quite happy. Yesterday, when I sat under the wall of
snow, and looked at the beautiful sights all round me, I
thought how thankful I ought to be how contented
with my lot how blessed in my home and my husband.
And I ceased to be angry with God for having taken
away my baby."

u Poor Susannah ! poor Susannah ! "

" No, rich Susannah ! And so, I determined to grieve
no more to try and be happy without a child. But
now "

" Well, my darling ? "

" Austin, I think God sometimes teaches us to re-
nounce a thing, and when we have quite renounced it,
gives it back to us, in some other way."

" What do you mean ? "

She tried to speak failed more than once and then
said, softly and solemnly, " I believe God has sent that
child, whom its mother does not care for, to me to us.
Will you let me have it ? "

Intense astonishment and bewilderment was written
on every line of Mr. Trevena's grave countenance.

" God bless my soul ! Susannah, what can you be
thinking of?"

" I have been thinking of this and nothing else, ever
since you told me what Dr. Franklin told you. From


that minute I felt the child was meant for me. Its
mother throws it away ; she does not care a straw for it
whilst I oh Austin you don't know you don't
know ! "

She pressed her hands upon her childless breast, as if to
smother down something that was almost agony.

" No, my dear," Mr. Trevena answered dryly ; " I
can't be expected to know. And if you were not such
a very sensible woman I should say that you don't know
either. How can respectable old folk like us encumber
ourselves with a baby a waif and a stray a poor little
creature that we know nothing on earth about ? "

" But God does," she answered solemnly. " Listen,
Austin. When I was a very little girl I picked up a bit
of sweetwilliam trodden under foot and nearly dead.
My playfellows laughed at me, and said it would never
grow ; but I planted it and it did grow it grew into
the finest root in my garden. An omen, I think ; for I
have done the same thing several times afterwards in the
course of my life, and my sweetwilliams always grew !
Let me try one more/'

" My dear, you would coax a bird off a bush. But what
on earth do you want to do ? To buy a baby ? The
woman will not give it she wished to sell it, you know.
Twenty pounds is her price. I really haven't that much
about me."

" Don't jest, dear." And when he saw the expres-
sion of his wife's face, Mr. Trevena felt it was no jest-
ing matter. He had ever been a man of one idea, or
rather of two ideas his books and his Susannah ; every
corner of his heart was filled up by either the one or the


other. Perhaps he had felt a natural pang when his
hope of fatherhood was quenched, but the regret soon
died out, and his life became complete as before. Love
of offspring is with men more a pride than an affection ;
at least till the children are intelligent human beings.
The passionate craving which made the Hebrew mother
cry, " Give me children or else I die," is to them abso-
lutely unknown. ISTor, as a rule, does a man take much
interest in any children not his own. But with a w r oman
it is different.

Susannah sat down, for she was trembling too much to
stand. Austin saw it, and his heart melted.

" Come, don't fret, my love, and we will consider the
matter. But think of the trouble a baby would be."

" I will take it upon myself. I know I can."

" Then again, our income is so small too small to

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Online LibraryDinah Maria Mulock CraikKing Arthur. Not a love story → online text (page 2 of 15)