J Harrison.

The way that led beyond online

. (page 1 of 14)
Online LibraryJ HarrisonThe way that led beyond → online text (page 1 of 14)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook






Author of "Kind Hearts and Coronets."



Copyright, 1904, by BENZIGER BROTHERS,

Printed in the United States of America.



GOING " HOME " , . 7


FOB His SAKE , . , 30





PASSED DANGER * . * . 88







NEW PLANS , . 144





THE STRUGGLE , . . 188






THE guard was a stout man with a red face, and he had a queer
way of puffing out his words, one at a time. Had the ordinary
number of passengers crowded the cars there would have been
the usual number of comments on the thin, wheezy voice in such
a great big body.

" Birmingham next ! " he called, as the train came to a halt
at the little wayside station.

There were a half-dozen listeners no more. Trains from
New York to the White Mountains are not crowded at Thanks-
giving time. Suddenly the guard, busy with the lights, dropped
them, bending over to assist a slim young lady to climb up
the steps that led to the platform. Perhaps this civility was due,
in great part, to the fact that the light from those same lanterns
had fallen on a witching pair of blue eyes, raised to his con-
fidingly before she placed her foot on the step. Entering the
car, she sat down near the door, putting a leather dressing-case
he carried on the seat beside her, and throwing a costly fur muff
on top of it.

" This is much nicer/' she said, musingly. " More secluded.
Wonder what Dick will say when he gets that telegram? That
one woman knows how to keep her word, I suppose ! " She



laughed. "Traveling is so monotonous, and so tiresome when
one travels alone/'

She did not look at all tired as she removed the small fur
toque from her head, and arranged her blonde hair. That done,
she glanced about her with a little shiver. There was no one
near her. The guard put his head in, curiously he seldom saw
so charming a picture, even though, in the busy season, he met
many pretty women. And this guard had an eye for beauty.
Phyllis beckoned to him.

"We won't have to wait here very long?" she asked.

The girl was a coquette. The red-faced man flushed a deeper
red at the uncalled-for sweetness of tone, the lingering glance of
blue, the smile that parted the young lips.

" Ten minutes here an express passes us. Have you your
ticket ? Segrovia that is the last stop. It will be two hours and
a half 5 '

" Two hours and a half longer ? " Phyllis frowned and tapped
her foot. Then she took the ticket from his fingers and smiled

"Thank you."

A little embarrassed, not so much at the courteous tone as at
the irresistible glance that accompanied it, he walked toward the
door. She settled herself more comfortably, wriggling around in
her seat, and using her muff as a sort of support at the back to
make her position easier. She looked very childish and very
beautiful, the collar of the fur jacket she wore clinging close to
the delicate roundness of throat and cheek.

" Dear me," she mused, " in two hours and a half I shall
be at the back of nowhere with my aunt, the Honorable Mrs.
Browne. Mary Browne, relict of the late Thomas John Browne !


What a truly inspiring name! Countrified? I can see her
long curls, nose glasses, thin lips and all. I shall be expected to
call her Aunt Mary, I suppose. Aunt Mary! Well, she'll see."

There was something besides childishness in the glittering blue
eyes now, and the red lips hardened rebelliously. Then as she
turned her head to the window, a slight rustle of skirts attracted
her attention. As if framed within the door a tall figure in black
stood for an instant. The newcomer glanced up and down the
car rapidly, not seeing the fair-haired girl at first, and then when
she did, drawing back with an involuntary movement of dis-
pleasure. Quickly recovering herself, however, she advanced
down the aisle, putting her small hand-satchel into the rack
above her head, and then seated herself with the easy composure
and that lack of restlessness which show the experienced traveler.

Phyllis Gordon, as we may as well begin to call her, had not
misunderstood that first expression, and she resented it, glancing
at the girl haughtily as she sat down, measuring her as strangers
do when chance brushes one against the other. The train started.
Dusk had settled on the surrounding country there was no light
to see the wide, level fields through which they passed. Here
and there the faint outline of a house appeared. The distant
mountains approached nearer and ever nearer, until at last it
seemed to Phyllis that they were cutting right through them.
She put her cheek to the cold pane and gave herself up to thought.
In a moment she was far away back in a scene of delight. She
stood before her mirror, dressed in a simple little gown that made
her doubly beautiful she knew, with his roses in her hair and at
her belt. She was down in the long and brilliant drawing-room,
with his hand holding her fan and his eyes looking into hers with
his heart in them. What a night that was what a glorious night !


Yet with all its sweetness the memory must have been sad, for
after a while the tears gathered heavily on her lashes and found
their way to her cheeks. Feeling them, she put up her handker-
chief hurriedly, glancing at her companion to see if she had
noticed. But the other's eyes were averted even as Phyllis' own
had been, staring fixedly out of the window, while her hands rested
lightly and idly in her lap. She had removed her hat as if ita
weight hurt her and had not replaced it. And Phyllis, after
that first stolen glance, could not take her gaze away. The profile
was so calm, so quiet, the black lashes so immovable. It was
strange to see such repose in a woman, especially in this land of
nervous, unquiet women. The well-developed figure was clad in
a gown of black cloth trimmed with a narrow edging of fur, and
from her throat, suspended by a fine gold chain, hung a diamond
cross. Her breath did not stir it it seemed part of her in the
strange repose that seemed to enwrap her from head to foot. The
hands lying so quiet and still fairly shone in their delicacy. How
old was she, wondered Phyllis a woman's first wonder when
another woman seems to have passed into the years of discretion
(which for some are twenty, and which others do not reach ten
years after twenty). So that this quiet creature might be anywhere
between the two. Where did she come from? Was she maid or
wife or widow ? For whom was she in mourning and if she were
in mourning, went on Phyllis, with the fashionable leaning toward
ultraism, why did she wear that diamond cross so conspicuously?
And as she gazed, in addition to the wonder, great admiration
grew upon her, so that when, almost compelled by that steady
scrutiny, the dark-haired stranger turned her head, Phyllis could
not bear to drop her eyes, but kept on staring until suddenly
she recollected the rudeness of it. Perhaps it was the sorrow in


the deep eyes that brought Phyllis to herself. She begged her
pardon quickly then, and had the grace to blush.

The lids drooped wearily nor would she seem to acknowledge
Phyllis' softly spoken words even by this. It appeared almost
as if the outside world were immaterial beyond her care or her
attention. Phyllis felt shut out, ignored. It was a new sensation.

" Can you tell me when we will arrive at Segrovia ? " she
ventured, timidly. "I am traveling through here for the first
time and I assure you that I am quite at sea."

The stranger opened her eyes and looked at the girl a full
second before answering. Then in a clear, distinct voice she
made answer :

"Two hours, now, I believe. I, also, am traveling this way
for the first time."

" You are going to Segrovia ? " questioned Phyllis, eagerly.

Again the stranger hesitated something like a sigh passing
her lips. Perhaps it was the childishness of the young face near
her that turned the sigh into a faint smile, freeing it from the
resentment that stirred her at being drawn into an unwelcome
conversation. She murmured:


" Oh, it is a dreary, dreadful, awful place in winter," said

" It is not your home, then ? " the stranger asked, softly, let-
ting her eyes seek the darkness beyond the window-pane. Phyllis
leaned forward. There was something so musical in the intona-
tion the word " home " lingered so lovingly upon her tongue.

" God forbid ! " said Phyllis, then. " New York City is my
birthplace. Oh but that is too good to be true ! you may be a
New Yorker?"


Again that faint, tremulous smile.

" It is too good to be true," said the stranger. " I was born
in Italy."

" An artist ! " thought Phyllis. " I might have known that."
Then, aloud : " You were born in Italy and speak English so per-

" I am an Italian by birth only."

" Oh ! Your people are English, then? "

The curiosity, the unfeigned interest, were amusing.

" No," smiling. " My parents were Americans. My father
was born in Segrovia where I am going. I am going home ! "

Was it fancy, or did a deeper note come to the full throat, a
brighter gleam to the somber eyes ? Did the dark head curve itself
raddenly, as if the heart of the woman had grown lighter and
more daring and more courageous?

"Going home!" laughed Phyllis. "To Segrovia to that
forsaken place? No, no, not after Italy not after the blue
Italian skies that you have known ! You will not stay."

" Every land has its attractions."

" Maybe," said the girl, wisely. " I believe the attractions of
this beautiful country consist in four or five inhabitants on whom
one can call, I mean the rest do not count ; endless snow, great
blizzards, bitter cold. Do you think you could stand all that ? "

" It is my will to do so," said the stranger.

" Your will ? " and now it was Phyllis* turn to look upon her
vis-a-vis with an affectation of superiority. " You think you can
do what you wish just because you will to do so ? " She laughed
softly. " There must be some other attraction."

The stranger shrugged her shoulders with gentle impatience.

" I do not know a soul there," she said. " Not a soul. But I


will stay there, and I will live there, and I will be happy there,
because my father lived there and was happy, happy. I, too, would
be happy and content,'* she repeated, under her breath.

" But who will buy your pictures ? " asked Phyllis, sagely.
" You can scarcely expect to find art-lovers among the four or
five acceptable inhabitants. I daresay if they ever loved art they
have outgrown so obsolete a characteristic for Segrovia by this

" Art-lovers ? Pictures ? " echoed the stranger.

" Surely you're an artist ? "

The stranger laughed outright.

" No," she said. " I am not an artist."

Phyllis' beautiful face lighted up enthusiastically.

" An actress, maybe ? " she said.

For a moment the natural whiteness of the stranger's face
seemed ghastly.

" I am not an actress," she responded, quietly. " Although I
have been called so."

" I should have taken you for something of that sort," in-
sisted Phyllis.

"I am nothing of that sort." Again the stranger's eyes
sought the darkness, as if seeking rest there. " I have been a

There was silence. Even Phyllis, curious as she was concern-
ing this enigmatical being, could see that she did not care to
converse with her. The stranger roused herself at last.

" I beg your pardon," she said, apologetically. " But I am
apt to lose a thread of speech in the labyrinth of my thoughts.
You were saying ? "

"Nothing," returned Phyllis. "But you said that you had


been a musician. And I you will pardon me for my frankness ?
Surely you can not have been a musician without being one now."

" I have given it up."

"Because it does not pay?"

" What a sordid question for one so young in years ! " said
the stranger, evasively.

" A sordid question ! " and Phyllis' lips tightened. " Sordid ? "
she repeated. " If you knew or do you know ? how fate schools
orphaned children who are heirs to naught but healthy mother-
wit, so that they may find a way in the world, and finding, scheme
to fill it and to hold it. I am young in years I am young of
face but my heart is old. My feelings will never run away with
me, for my brain is the dominant power. Believe me, I shall
manage exceedingly well. If you do not care to tell me about
your music," she went on, her manner changing abruptly, "do
not do so. I am interested, really, but that doesn't matter."

" Oh ! " said the stranger. There was an expression akin to
pity on her face as she looked straight into the young girl's eyes.
"I have played since my babyhood, almost. With my only
brother. We traveled all over the world together. He has been
dead a year. ... I have not appeared in public since."

" You must surely love it."

"Unspeakably. But my brother He was my twin soul.
. . . Since he went away I love it, but it saddens me. The
joy of it is not for me. The joy of it tells me I am alone ! "

Phyllis was silent. The words, dreamy, incoherent, broken,
were not meant for her ears. They were forced through the sem-
blance of outward calm by powerful emotion.

" I gave up the best part of me," said the stranger. " But ii
is my will."


" Our characters are somewhat alike, then," said Phyllis,
more to break in upon the painful thoughts that she could see
were beginning to absorb her companion. " But what in all the
world will such a woman as you do at Segrovia ? "

" Learn to work."

" Learn to work ! " Phyllis brought her hands together. " You
travel from Italy you, a musician and a clever woman to Segro-
via to learn to work ! Why not remain in the city, the great, big,
wide, beautiful city where you will have a chance to attain
some position "

There was a sudden grinding of the wheels a sudden stop-
page of motion that sent a shock through the cars, and almost
threw Phyllis from her seat. The words died on her lips. She
clutched at the framework of the window, and her face grew pale.
The stranger's features did not change their expression. She
still looked at Phyllis inquiringly.

" There is something the matter," said Phyllis.

"Perhaps not. This is a bad time of the year to travel in
these mountainous districts."

There were voices of men along the tracks, and lanterns swing-
ing rapidly from side to side. This went on for about ten minutes.
The few passengers who occupied the other end of the car glanced
up sleepily, and dozed off again. The red-faced guail came
through. Phyllis hailed him.

" This is not Segrovia ? " she called.

" No, miss," he said. He lingered beside them.

" What is it ? " asked the stranger, very quietly. " Snow-
bound? Derailed? Some impediment on the tracks?"

He looked at her, surprised at the quiet voice.

" Owing to the snow the engineer was going easy it's but a


crawl up-hill from this to Segrovia," said the man. "He saw
the boulder just in time. A massive thing over half a ton. It
must have been an avalanche brought that down the embankment.
If we were thrown off the track here it would have been a clear
fall to the ravine."

" Very far below ? " asked the stranger.

The guard shrugged his shoulders.

" Two hundred feet at least."

" A narrow escape. Thank God," said the girl, involuntarily.
" Will we be detained long ? "

" An hour at least."

" That means two hours," said Phyllis, petulantly. " We
won't get to Segrovia until long after dark."

The stout conductor looked at her in surprise then walked
away toward the other occupants of the car.

" That is a bad habit," said the stranger.

"What?" asked Phyllis.

" Grumbling at trifles. How long do you think you would
have been detained had we gone over into the ravine ? "

Phyllis shuddered.

" I did not think of that. It is a shame. I can't for the life
of me see why railroad companies don't guard their tracks "

" Oh, hush," said the stranger, contemptuously. " Say a
prayer of thankfulness that God has preserved your life. Or at
least be silent until I say one."

Phyllis did not resent the tone it made her ashamed, rather.
Presently, when the stranger turned her face upon her again, she
met the penitent blue eyes more kindly.

"Let us go outside it is not cold, and we have been sitting
still so long."


"Yes," said Phyllis. " I shall be glad to." They found the
conductor passing. He helped them to the ground and advised
them not to walk very far, as they did not know that section of
the country and it was late for two women to venture anywhere.
The stranger did not reply, but Phyllis, grown meek, thanked

" There is a house on the top of that hill," said the stranger,
suddenly. She spoke in a louder tone, and addressed the man.
" It is not far do you think we might venture that ? "

The man turned to look.

" Oh, yes," he said. " You can make that in five minutes."

" Why do you want to go there ? " asked Phyllis.

" Because I can not even walk aimlessly," was the reply. " I
must have an objective point. My intention now is to go to that
house on the hill, the house with the light in the window. Then
I shall have the train to reach from there. You still care to

"Anywhere," said Phyllis. Then she smiled, her natural,
careless mood restored. " Though I would not want to take a
five minutes' walk so seriously as you."




"I HAVE read somewhere of the valley of the shadow," said
Phyllis, suddenly. " This is all shadow I wonder if the light
of the moon ever reaches here?"

"It does, it must," said her companion. "If we could but
wait to see it when the glory of the moonlight fills it ! But we
shall be far away then."

" And to us it will only be the valley of the shadow/' said
Phyllis. The youth seemed to have left her face it was cold;
one could hardly read the expression of the clear blue eyes, the
tightly-closed lips. The stranger did not care just then to be
observant. Their feet crunched on the frozen path, and with
the swift steps of perfect health and youth and strength they
swung along under the stripped branches of the trees, swaying
slowly with their ghostly arms in the still, cold air. The path
was well-defined for the snow that covered it stretched white
and crystallized before them.

" We shall soon reach our objective point," said Phyllis, with
a laugh. " It is coming nearer. But we have walked more than
five minutes."

" About eight it will be ten by the time we reach it and it
will take ten to go back. What a peculiar light that is shining
from the window. Perhaps "

" I should love to see who could occupy such a lonely dwelling-
house," said Phyllis, eagerly. " I am going to ring."


" And when they open "

"I shall ask for a drink of water. Here we are will you
come with me ? "

She could find no bell, but discovered a big knocker, and
struck it several times. There was no answer.

"Yet some one lives here," said Phyllis, in a vexed tone.
" There surely must be some one. Wait I'll find a chink in the

Half-smiling, the stranger followed the girl to where the light
streamed out across the road down into the valley like a star.
Phyllis, peeping through the window, brought her hands together
with a little exclamation of triumph.

" Look, look ! " she said. " Isn't that a wonderful sight ? "

A man was sitting at a table in the center of the room. His
book lay open before him he had evidently fallen asleep while
reading it. He was in evening attire, and the lamp, shaded by a
green globe, giving the peculiar effect of light the stranger had
noticed, rested in such a position that its rays fell on a handsome,
fair face the face of a gentleman.

" A treasure-trove in the wilderness ! " cried Phyllis, delighted
beyond measure. "Who ever, ever, ever could think of finding
this in the house on the hill ? "

Smiling at her childish excitement, the dark-eyed stranger
bent to look. The next moment she seized Phyllis' arm in a grip
of iron.

" Come," she said, and her voice shook. " In the name of God,
girl, come away."


"Nothing, nothing, nothing," said the stranger. "Hush,
hush not a breath. He will hear you, and sooner The house


on the hill, the house on the hill ! Oh, what brought me here-
what evil fate tempted me to come this way ! "

Bewildered, dazed, almost frightened, Phyllis allowed herself
to be dragged by that stranger-hand out into the road again and
down once more into the snow-encrusted valley. Excitement
seemed to lend wings to the other's feet. Phyllis caught her

" I can not walk so quickly," she said, at last.

" Poor little thing ! " The stranger moderated her steps im-
mediately. "I had forgotten you."

Her brows were curved, her eyes shining with a strange light.
Phyllis was afraid of her afraid of the silence and the mystery.

" I would not want to live here this is so lonely, so quiet. I
could not stand being alone," she said, after a moment. "I
wish I had not called this the valley of the shadow it seems like
a foreboding."

" I mounted it to my Calvary," said the stranger, in a bitter
tone. " I put away my cross and lo ! my cross has come to me.
Oh, child, if it is true that death only comes with terror to those
who travel the paths of life easily but to those who must strive
ever on that steep hill, he comes like a gentle angel to touch the
brow with happiness ! Come to me ! " She threw her arms out
suddenly and stood still. " God, if it is Thy will, let the death
angel come now come soon."

The passion in the low voice startled Phyllis. They were
almost at the train and as if impelled by an involuntary move-
ment, both turned to look up at the house with its light shining
out on the path beyond. And then the stranger spoke, more

" God's will be done."


The guard came up to them.

" We start immediately, ladies," he said. " Everything is all
right, now/'

Neither answered both were thinking too deeply. Once more
Phyllis felt her arm clutched in that tight grasp, and then, fol-
lowing her companion's glance, she saw that the light had been
extinguished. The next moment they were back in the train, and
the wheels began to move; very slowly at first then with in-
creasing speed. Phyllis gazed curiously at her companion. The
quiet of the white face seemed undisturbed but there were black
shadows under the eyes, that had not been present when they
left the car twenty minutes before.

* * * * *

They had not exchanged a word for a full half -hour. Gradu-
ally the stranger recovered her calmness of demeanor. Phyllis,
feeling that she had been on the verge of a mystery, and inwardly
consumed with curiosity, still did not dare to venture a question.
The other must speak, some time, and she would take the cue
from her.

The other did speak. She turned to her, smiling naturally.

" When we were interrupted by the delay/' she said, " you
mentioned New York. The great, big, wide, beautiful city of
New York where one has a chance to attain position "

Phyllis stared at her, open-mouthed.

" How can you remember ? " she asked.

" I have a splendid memory."

"Yes/' said Phyllis, slowly. She waited a few moments,
looking at the stranger with critical eyes. " You said, I believe,
that you were going to Segrovia to learn to work ? " And then
in a tone of utter contempt, " Work ! "


" Why not ? " asked the stranger. " I am not seeking posi-
tion. At Segrovia live my father's two sisters my only living
relatives. I never needed them before."

" And you need them now ? " asked Phyllis, incredulously.

1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14

Online LibraryJ HarrisonThe way that led beyond → online text (page 1 of 14)