and open again. "And if you are tired, aunty,
close and open them twice." This was her only
means of communication with those around her.
One day John stood by the side of her bed. He
had been walking, and was warm, for the Decem-
ber sun shone, and although it was late the frosts
had not yet come to nip things. His hair was
damp and clung to his forehead and temples. He
pushed back the clustering mass that had been
pressed down by his hat, and wiped his brow and
neck with his handkerchief. As he looked down
on her, he smiled. It was a smile full of tender-
ness and love.
" Mother dear, if I could I would give you part
of my health and vigor," he said. Ah, he was
beautiful to look at as he stood there in his
strength. " I would take you up in my arms and
carry you out in the sunlight. You are so light I
could do it easily, right here on the upper veranda.
Would you like it.-* " She closed her eyes.
"Nurse," he called, "can I take mother out in
the sun a moment, here on the gallery ? "
" You can't mean it ! " she said, entering quickly
from another room.
"Yes, see how warm it is." So they wrapped
her carefully in a soft, clinging blanket, and he car-
ried her out through the double French window.
"The air is sweet, mother, and you are not
heavy." He paced up and down, holding her as if
she were a child. " I must do this every day now.
A Bitter Cup 401
Perhaps it may give you strength to speak to us
Marguerite and Hanford were walking in the
paths, among the dropping autumn leaves, arm in
arm. She saw them, and her eyes wandered from
them to John's face.
" It is all right, mother dear. Try to feel that
Mr. Ridgeway and his daughter sat on the lower
veranda. The murmur of their voices came up to
them. Presently Mr. Ridgeway spoke out in a
little louder tone.
The day is drawing very near now," he said.
It makes me a little sad, but I would not have
her see it."
John walked to the farther end of the gallery,
and Mrs. Van Ostade's low reply was lost. As he
paced back the grandfather spoke again, — ■
"It is n't that I regret it, Clara; John is a noble
fellow, and her happiness is dearer to me than my
Once more the low reply was lost, and John car-
ried his mother back and laid her on the bed again.
Her eyes were fixed steadily on his, as if she would
pierce him through. He knew she had compre-
hended. The nurse had stepped away for a mo-
ment, and he arranged the pillows and clothing
and placed the poor helpless body in an easy pos-
ture, and folded her thin white hands over the
counterpane with the deft, gentle touch of a woman.
" Listen, mother. It is best for both of us.
Try to feel that it is. Let nothing trouble you,
mother dear. Try only to recover enough to speak
402 When the Gates Lift Up their Heads
to us again, and tell us that it is right. It is best
for Marguerite, believe me, it is."
Suddenly a dark purple flush suffused her face,
and he noticed that her lips were moving. His
heart gave a sudden bound, and slipping his hand
under the pillow he lifted her head and put his
ear close to try to catch her words; and he did, and
the curse they brought him as they were whispered,
half hissed at him.
" Better for — her — for Mar — Marguerite, —
yes — you - — you — are not my — son you — have
robbed — him of — his po — position, his — birth
— right — of his in — heritance you — you — are
part of the devil's — own brood — I — I — hate you
— as I hated — her — who bore you. — Go to your
old — old dam — and wring — the truth — from her
and — then — kill her and never — say the word —
mother — of me again — nor let — me see — your
face — again — go. "
Her face became pallid once more. She ceased
speaking, and closed her eyes. He laid her down
again, still gently, and tried to call the nurse, but
had no voice. Presently he regained self-control,
and finding her sent her to the bedside, and went
into the garden to Marguerite.
''Mother has spoken a few words," he said.
"Go to her quickly. She may have something to
say to you." He was deathly pale. Oh, the force
of habit ! He had called her mother again. Mar-
guerite hurried in, and Hanford, noticing his agita-
tion, started to follow John, as he walked away,
but, prompted by his inner consciousness, as
quickly stopped and remained where he was.
A Bitter Cup 403
John strode rapidly along, conning the words he
had just heard. "Perhaps she was just raving,"
he thought, — but they had come to him so dis-
tinctly; they had fallen like drops of liquid fire
into his soul. Did she mean Mammy Clarissa?
He would go to her and learn the truth. But
there was no truth in it. His mother's reason was
gone. He came to the foot log over the stream,
and paused. Here was the place where he had
told his love to Portia on that sweet spring morn-
ing. The stream rushed on, tumbling and foaming
over the rocks, careless of human love or human
sorrow, and yet it seemed to voice the tumult of
his spirit now, even as it had seemed to voice, on
that fair, early morning, the impetuous rush of his
Mechanically he crossed the log and walked
on to the little clearing. There were two cabins
there now, and an addition to the log stable for
Gabriella's cow. Josephus was living comfortably
beside his mother in his own little cabin, with his
two mules all paid for. John had given him work
and good pay all summer. No one was about.
Gabriella was singing a hymn to a tune full of
quavers as she prepared Josephus' supper.
John crossed the yard and entered Clarissa's
cabin. " I will go in, at any rate, and see her now
that I am here," he said to himself.
"Is yo' come, honey.-*" She was seated bent
over the embers, and stirred them into a bright
blaze. "O Lawd ! Yo' is dat like yo' paw
w'en he come an' paid de money fo' me dat time!
Draw up yo' cheer, honey," and he did so.
404 When the Gates Lift Up their Heads
Ah, how often when he was a child he had
turned away from his mother's reproofs and found
comfort in her arms ! How often, when he was
weary, he had climbed into her lap and rested his
head on her bosom, and fallen peacefully to sleep,
listening to her crooning.
He remained in the cabin, questioning her and
listening to her now, for over an hour; and when
he came out he closed the door softly after him,
and walked off down the road reeling like a
drunken man, staggering under a load that he felt
himself in his strength too weak to carry. When
he reached the stream he was too weary and heavy
to go farther. He stretched himself on the ground
face downward, and the darkness slowly and silently
closed over him like a mantle of sorrow. He heard
the ceaseless noise of the water like the rushing
and crowding and striving of human hearts, ever
pushing and hurrying to their doom, and ever cry-
ing out in the darkness. Were all the demons of
hell let loose upon him.'* What should he do.?
"Curse God and die?"
His temptation came upon him swift and ter-
rible. Why should he not cover all this up in his
heart and let everything go on as before. Was
it not God's will.'* "Bury it," said the tempter
within him. "Who will know.?" But the still
small voice of his heart said, " Shall I rob my
brother, and know it.?" And all night long the
fires burned in his spirit until it was purged and
laid bare before his Creator.
All night he lay there fighting with evil, for it
was heavy upon him and beset him sore. As the
A Bitter Cup 405
dawn began to glow in the east a sleep of exhaus-
tion fell upon him, and in his sleep it seemed a
spirit came to him holding a whip of small cords,
with which it drove away the darkness and demons
that had surrounded him during the night; and
then it seemed a voice spoke words of comfort in
his ears, — words he had often heard, unthinking
of their meaning, from the pulpit, when the scrip-
tures were read; and then it seemed a voice like
Portia's took them up and sang them; and in his
restless sleep he seemed to see a woman stand
where the spirit had stood, pale and sad, and very
beautiful, and that as she bent above him her tears
fell upon him, and he could hear her weeping, and
that he tried to reach out to her, to touch her
hand, but could not; then he seemed to hear the
sound of the whirring of many wings, and he
awoke, and only the sound of the rushing water
was in his ears.
He rose, and went to the stream and bathed his,
face and cooled his throbbing temples. " My God,"
he said, " if I had yielded, how could I ever have
gone to her with a lie in my heart.? Her eyes
would have searched it out. If I were to kiss her
with the lie on my lips, they would have blackened
He walked on, stronger now; his brow was
clear and his face very pale. He looked older, but
he had conquered. He did not go to Mrs, Wells,
but took his way to the old home. What to do in
the immediate future he knew not, but he seemed
irresistibly drawn back to the scene of his desola-
tion. Clare met him at the door.
4o6 When the Gates Lift Up their Heads
*' How is she? " he asked mechanically.
** La madam ? Ze is dead. " She spoke in a
whisper, as if she feared the dead might hear.
Mechanically, still, he walked up to her room.
The medical nurse was there, stepping softly about.
"I am glad you are come," she said. "Mr.
Ridgeway was just going for you. She has not
opened her eyes since you left yesterday. She
stopped breathing an hour ago."
He stood beside the bed looking down on her.
So his was the last face she had looked on ; how
changed, now, since he stood there yesterday, in
all the buoyancy of power and happiness ! He felt
himself old, and scarce thinking what he did, he
passed his hand over his face, half expecting to
find it wrinkled and drawn. Marguerite came and
stood beside him silently weeping. Presently Han-
ford entered and stood on the other side. John
felt his eyelids hot and dry. No tears came to his
eyes as he looked down on her whom from child-
hood he had called mother. Her face had not the
peaceful calm upon it usual in bodies from which
the spirit has fled ; it looked distorted and drawn,
as if worried with pain. He could stand it no
longer and walked away. In the upper hall he
met Mrs. Van Ostade. She came up to him, hold-
ing out both hands. He took them and held them
"We all love you, John. We would help you if
"I know it, I know it," he said; and for the
first time he kissed her. " Remember, always re-
member, that your generous, sweet loving was
A Bitter Cup 407
returned tenfold," he said, and left her. In the
drawing-room he found Portia, as he had found her
on the day of Mrs. Marshall's arrival, arranging
and putting away her music, only now she was
pale, and her hands trembled. Death had entered
the house. He paused on the threshold, but she
came quickly and drew him to a seat beside her.
Ah, the healing in that firm, gentle touch !
"I have been waiting for you here, John," she
said, and then sat silent, holding his hand in hers.
She was timid in the presence of his sorrow, so
different from what she thought, and yet so much
greater than she could know. "This grief should
be mine also, John," she said at last. "I would
help you bear it."
" No, dearest, you will have your own to bear,
and they will be heavy enough. Promise me that
whatever comes you will not try to carry mine."
He took her face in his hands and looked bravely
and tenderly into her eyes. "Promise me, my
"I can't, John; the words we said together that
day make it impossible. Your sorrows are to be
mine forever. Where would be the sweetness of
loving if it were not so } "
" Forgive me, forgive me, darling. I made you
say them. Oh, forgive me ! " He bowed his head
and walked wearily away.
In the garden Hanford was waiting for him.
"Let me do anything for you that must be done,"
he said kindly. "Are there telegrams to be
sent .? "
^'None. She had no friends," he said bitterly,
4o8 When the Gates Lift Up their Heads
shaking off the friendly hand on his shoulder, and
walked on. Instantly he turned back. " Forgive
me ; I have a heavier load to bear than you dream
of. Yes. Take care of all these things for me,
and — well — you will know what to do. She is to
be laid beside my father, of course." He wrung
the hand held out to him. " You have always been
more than a friend to me, Hanford," and he walked
away. Again he turned back. " Let the funeral
be soon, — immediately the arrangements can be
made. We must relieve the family of the gloom
as soon as possible."
Faint and exhausted, he went to his room and
lay down. Presently came a gentle knock at his
door. He opened it, and there stood Miss Kath-
erine with his breakfast, the fragrant coffee steam-
ing in her daintiest china.
** You were not down to breakfast with us," she
said, "and I thought you might not be well."
Then looking up she noted his face and started.
"John, what is it.^ Tell me."
He could not open his lips yet upon his terrible
secret. He took the tray from her and placed it
on the table. "She is dead," was all he said.
"Who is, John? Have you been out this morn-
ing, and without your breakfast ? " Strange to
say, she thought first of Portia; the death of his
mother it was reasonable to expect, but the expres-
sion of his face seemed to go beyond a reasonable
grief. How could he answer her.'* He could not
say of the woman who was gone, " my mother; " the
sweetness of that word, to utter, would never
be his again.
A Bitter Cup 409
"My father's wife. She is dead; is to be laid by
his side at last."
"Your mother.'' But that was to be expected,
John," she said in tenderest reproof. "You should
not grieve so now that she suffers no more. Eat ;
you have been without food too long. Where were
you at supper ^ "
"I — I don't know. Oh, yes, I remember.
Yes, I will eat now. I need food. I don't seem
to be able to talk now."
She busied herself pouring his coffee and plac-
ing his plate. Her eyes swam in tears, but she
said nothing. He was touched by her sympathetic
" In my boyhood I brought my troubles to you,
Katherine; but now, sweet as your friendship is, I
have one I must bear alone."
" You may think you are bearing it alone, but
you won't be, John."
"That is the bitterness of it," he cried, and
bowed his head in his hand. "Good God! if I
could only bear it alone!"
Why, John, is n't that almost wicked.? "
No, it is righteous."
But, John, in this house you are in Donald's
place. Would you have it otherwise .-* "
He could not answer her. His tongue clove to
his mouth, and he moistened his lips with water.
"To-morrow, no, the day after, we — we will talk.
After she is laid away. Now I cannot, only of your
goodness to me, — yours and your mother's."
" No, not of that. Eat now, and when you can,
come down to ma; she will know what to say."
41 o When the Gates Lift Up their Heads
John was right. There are paths where man
must tread alone. No human soul can go with
him into the deeps, and only God can send light
to his feet. That day, and the next, and the
next, crept painfully, heavily by, like mourners
in a funeral train. Then John gathered himself
together to meet the future.
" Shall you take up your profession again, Han-
ford .-* " he asked, when the earth had fallen at
last, covering her whom all his life he had called
" I am thinking of it. And you ? "
" If you were, I was thinking I would ask you —
my friend — my more than friend — " He stopped.
His voice was hard and his lips were dry. How
could he tell his bitter secret, which had not yet
been told — but tell it he must. " I would ask you
to take charge of some business for me, if you were
— that I can trust to no one else. May we go to
my room.-* I have all my papers there."
And there, in Donald's old room, John learned,
as few in this world ever do learn, the value of a
friend. After it was all over, and the secret told,
and Hanford gone, John tried to write to Portia.
Once and again he took the pen, but his hand
trembled, and he laid it down. Finally, finding
his weakness greater than his strength, knowing
what he must do, but holding back, he fell on his
knees. He found no words in which to speak to
his Creator; only in his heart was one cry, —
"Christ, Thou hast suffered; Thou too!" and this
cry of his heart seemed to bring him the calmness
he needed. Once more he took up the pen and
A Bitter Cup 41 1
simply and truly told her the story of his life, and
how at last the* truth had been revealed to him.
"And now, beautiful spirit whom I love, turn
from me. My life has been a dream, an unreality.
I have usurped from another who has been de-
graded in my place. Let me drop out of your life
as dreams drop out of the heart they have stirred
and troubled. Weep for me, beautiful Portia, but
be not sorrowful for me overmuch, — let me die in
thy tears. My love for thee is all that lives within
me. I am leaving forever. No one shall know
whither I go. Beautiful, pure soul, thy life may \y^
not be linked with a stain. I stay for nothing, for
to be near thee is torture, even unto death. I may
not call thee my beautiful, mine, although it is
still in my heart to say it; but do for me one thing
that I ask of thee. Mr. Clark will tell thee what
it is. Do it, that I may know how great was thy
love. All the happiness I built for thee, I cannot
have it shattered. This that I ask of thee is all
the pleasure left me. Do what he asks of thee.
I fear for thee, dearest, when thou art lonely ;
when thy heart is sad for me, remember that I live
only in my love for thee, — but never seek to find
me. This burden I must bear alone, and thou,
dear heart, must be free. No power on earth —
Oh, Portia! my life, my beautiful, I sinned when
I wrung those words from thee. Forgive me, and
take them back. Oh, God ! that I should love thee
thus, and turn my face away from thee forever ! "
He folded and addressed the letter and sealed
it, and went out in the dusk and mailed it, fearing
his own weakness if he kept it in his possession,
412 When the Gates Lift Up their Heads
Later he strolled out in the darkness. He would
go to her and say farewell, telling her nothing but
that he must go immediately to New York.
As he neared the house he heard her singing
snatches of the song he heard her singing first.
He still had her music, but she sang bits from
memory. She was alone, and hoping he might
come. He sat on the edge of the fountain, as
before, so long ago it seemed to him now. Pres-
ently the singing ceased, and she came to the
door, looking out into the darkness, as if he had
"I am here, Portia." She came out to him. "I
am listening to you as I listened to you so long
ago, love. I was too sad to come in, for I am
only here to say good-bye to you. I must go to
New York immediately."
"To New York, John .? "
"Yes, at midnight. It is important."
"What a pity! when we are to go together in so
short a time." What a sweet ring in her voice!
He could not trust himself to go with her into the
"Come, bring a wrap and walk with me here in
She brought the same little white shawl he had
folded her in so often, and once again he placed it
about her, and once again her pulses quickened at
his touch. She felt that he was sad ; it was but
natural. Ah, little she thought she was walking
beside a tortured soul, — that every bright and
hopeful thing she said cut him to the heart. She
tried to divert him from his grief by telling him
A Bitter Cup 41 3
all the pretty little details of the preparations she
was making for his wedding, and what Marguerite
was doing and saying.
" Marguerite is so buoyant. She grieves ; but
now, since she has given herself up to her lover,
she is simply irresistible. It will be the marvel
of my life that you could have been such a foolish
John. I can see no reason for it except that I
might be made happy."
" You must always love her, for my sake. No
matter what comes to me, love her. Will you ?
The time may come when she will be a great com-
fort to you. "
" How could I help it, John.?" Then she told
him of her wedding dress. " It is done, but you
are not to see it until I wear it, Mr. John."
He could bear it no longer. He had meant to
say only a hurried good-bye, and he had lingered
too long. He felt he had no right to touch her.
She was never to be his.
" I must take you back to the house now, for I
must go." Presently they stood beside the foun-
tain. "When are you going to shut it off.-*" he
asked, trying to still the tumult within by saying
" I must have it done to-morrow, before a freeze
He took a jewel from his breast which he had
purchased for his marriage gift to her. "Take this
from me now, Portia. Will you always wear it for
me? If — if — anything should happen to me, my
beautiful — let me pin it on you."
"Nothing must happen to you, John; nothing
414 When the Gates Lift Up their Heads
must — if anything should — and you should never
come back to me — John, I would die."
He caught his breath, and his hands trembled so
that he could not fasten the pin, and she did it for
him. Then he kissed her, and turned away with-
out another word. She stood with her hands still
on the pin. After a moment she heard his steps
returning, and went to meet him.
"What is it, John?"
"I — I forgot to leave a farewell message for
your mother and grandfather and for — Marguerite.
I have not told her I was going."
Then the strong hold he had set upon himself
gave way, and for an instant she felt as if a whirl-
wind had seized her. She felt the kisses rained
upon her face, hot and fast, upon her lips, her
eyes, her cheeks. She felt herself helpless in his
grasp, stunned by his vehemence; for in his heart
he was saying with every kiss, " It is the last, the .
last forever." He took the white shawl from her
shoulders. " Give this to me. I have wrapped
you in it so often, let me keep it." And when he
was gone she felt that he was weeping, and the
tears leaped to her own eyes. Something was
wrong with him, that he could not tell. What
was this sudden going away.? With heavy fore-
boding she turned into the house to weary herself
all night long with fruitless questionings.
Next morning a small package and two letters
came to Portia as her share of the mail. She took
them to her room. One of the letters was John's.
She recognized the hand, and kissed it, but laid it
one side to read more at leisure, and opened the
A Bitter Cup 415
package and the other letter. They were from
Mr. Russell. The dear old man had heard of her
approaching marriage and had sent her the jewels
he had hoped she might one day wear for him.
As she was taking them from the box, her mother
entered. She held them up to the light, — a neck-
lace of diamonds, and a chain of rarest antique
workmanship, and a beautiful jewelled watch. Her
" Oh, mother, how beautiful ! — but — but —
should I accept them ? What would John say }
Here is Mr. Russell's letter. What a pretty letter
it is! Read it, and look at these while I read
She tore off the envelope and threw herself in a
chair, and as she read the color left her cheeks,
then her lips; but she read it through to the very
end. When Mrs. Van Ostade looked up from the
letter she was reading, she was frightened at the
expression on her daughter's face. Portia sat rigid,
as if seized with a catalepsy, — the letter sheets in
her lap, her hands folded upon them.
"Portia, what is it.-* " Her mother came to her
side, but she did not move. " Portia, speak ! "
She did not answer. Her mother began chafing
her hands, for they were stiff and cold, and called
for help. Marguerite came with eyes red from
crying. Hanford had been telling her the truth.
She knew what had come upon Portia, — that a
sword had pierced her through. They laid her
upon a couch, and for hours labored to arouse her,
to bring the tears to her eyes.
" Portia, look at me, dear. Cry a little. Cry as
41 6 When the Gates Lift Up their Heads
I do, dear," said Marguerite, piteously, kneeling at
her side. " Oh ! if she only could ! "
Finally they sent for Miss Katherine. Another
face, another voice, might help.
" Ma, they are in trouble. Perhaps you would
better go too," said Miss Katherine. "You can