out of a ā a ā ' squinch owel, ' as she calls it, and
then she is great fun ; only I do love to be alone
sometimes these busy days."
"Then you must lock yourself in your room,
where you will be safe."
Portia laughed merrily. " Go off and have the
sulks like a baby," she said. "But don't be
troubled; I promise not to do this again." She
patted and poked the fluffy mass of hair rolling up
from her forehead, scrutinized the newly adjusted
coiffure in the mirror, turning her head this way
and that like a bird preparing to sing, then dropped
at Mrs. Van Ostade's feet, and laid her head, care-
less of consequences, in her mother's lap.
The invalid stroked delicately her daughter's
forehead and cheek and full white throat.
, " Oh, mamma, your magic hand ! It brushes my
nervousness away. I am sure he would have killed
me if Josephus had not come ; but now I am going
to tell you something pleasanter, only a little sad
too. Old Clarissa was showing me her keepsakes,
which she had so carefully put away, that she said
her * young mars'r had given her befo' he went
No'f to lib wid he's paw's twin brudder, ' when a
nice young man came to the door and stood a mo-
ment, and then walked in, and seeing me stopped
again. She looked at him, and you know she is
lame and slow, but all at once her face lighted up
with an expression ā well, such as she might
wear in heaven, and she hobbled a step forward,
Ā§2 When the Gates Lift Up their Heads
and then dropped her cane and held out both
arms toward him and fell. She had fainted. In
trying to catch her we both sprang forward into
each other's arms in a way that would have been
funny but for our anxiety."
" You always see funny things at the most appall-
"I know. It's dreadful. 'The step from the
sublime to the ridiculous ' is one of the figures in
my dance of life. Is that the Dutch in me ? Was
papa like that .-* "
"Yes, very like. But go on."
"Where 's grandfather.? " Portia started up with
a frightened look.
" He is with Mrs. Percy and the children, and Alex-
ander is driving. You are all unstrung, child."
"No, mamma; but the same thing might happen
to him, only worse."
" You must neither of you go about alone, or
"When that murderer is taken, it will be all
right. There is no more peaceful place."
"Go on, dear, don't leave Clarissa on the floor
" He took her up as tenderly as if she were his
mother, and would have laid her on the bed she is
so proud of, but that would have broken her heart ;
so I had him place her in her large chair, and he
tipped it back while I brought water and bathed
" ' She used to be my mammy when I was a
child,' he said; and then I knew who he was, and
told him where I lived, and when she was herself
The New Boarding-house 83
again I left. Poor old woman! her look into his
face was pathetic. * I done waited fo' yo' home-
comin' mighty long time, honey, an' now I done
los' yo', sho',' she said. * Yo' look dat like yo'
paw, w'en he young man an' come an' paid de
money fo' me an' tuk me home dat time, like he
done come back he's own se'f I declar' ; hit nerved
me so, hit tuk my strenk cl'ar 'way.' Oh,
mamma, what an awful thing slavery must have
been ! Do you suppose he saw it as I did ? "
" I assume not. The values of life are all
changed, sometimes, by education."
"I wonder if his ideas would be more like ours,
being educated for the most part in the North,"
said Portia, dreamily. " I wonder ā " She stopped.
"What are you wondering, daughter.-* "
" I was only thinking. I often wonder about
those who lived here then. If his mother is liv-
ing, what would she think if she should come and
find her old home turned into a boarding-house and
kept by Northerners .-* She used to perfectly hate
us, of course."
" She might think us low-bred, and treat us
"Dear little mother," said Portia, laughing, and
As Portia entered the huge old dining-room with
her guests that evening, she looked with a shud-
der at the ferns she had arranged so charmingly,
but she told no one of her adventure, and showed
no trace of a2:itation save in her heis-htened color.
Her few guests were all pleasant and congenial.
Thus far her venture had not been disagreeable.
84 When the Gates Lift Up their Heads
Mr. Ridgeway remarked on the chill in the room,
owing to the brick floor. " I believe these bricks
gather dampness," he said.
"Won't you light the fire, grandfather?" said
Portia. Materials for one were laid in the great
fireplace, built of red brick like the floor. " It is
pleasanter, and mamma is coming down."
Mrs. Van Ostade's chair and cushion were placed
at the table nearest the fire, where Portia sat at the
head. Mr. Ridgeway took the head of the other
table, while Portia poured the tea for both. With
Portia were Mr. and Mrs. Percy and the children,
and a much travelled, silky-haired artist from New
York; a middle-aged woman of means, from Chi-
cago, and her daughter, also middle-aged; an
elderly gentleman of wealth, whose gallant and
open admiration for Portia embarrassed her and
amused the rest; and a merry little Englishman
travelling for pleasure. It was surmised, in con-
fidential aside to the elderly gentleman by the
lady from Chicago, that he was really looking up
some fabulous mine for some equally fabulous and
monstrous London syndicate.
At Mr. Ridgeway' s table were two young men
with work-stained hands and ruddy, open coun-
tenances. They were starting a peach plantation
on a mountain-side. Enterprising and strong, they
carried an air of good cheer which was not lost on
the sensitive nerves of their host. With them were
seated Mrs. Barry and her four-year-old daughter
and a nurse, and gentle, elderly Miss Milbourn,
who wore a lace cap and had a sweet matronly air,
and her younger friend, Mrs. Clare, who had come
The New Boarding-house 85
to the wilds of North Carolina to battle alone with
an inherent taint of consumption. These and a
serving-maid constituted the dramatis persoiics of
Mrs. Barry was of German descent, with large
bright eyes and luxuriant dark hair, worn low on her
shapely head, in a heavy, loose coil. Her clear,
ringing voice was loud, but not unpleasant. As she
settled herself voluminously at table, she snatched
up three letters addressed in the same hand, and
waving them triumphantly over her head, cried :
" Ha, ha ! What did I say ? Three ! Some awkward
delay in the mails has brought these all at once,
but I knew they would come. He always writes
every day. Was there ever a husband like mine.-* " ā -"'
"One," said little Mrs. Clare, timidly, display-
ing a bulging envelope addressed in a heavy square
hand to Mrs. La Mott Clare.
"Only yours puts several letters in one," said
Miss Milbourn, gently.
"Ah, but that is not like being thought of every ^r^M Z ^
single day, you know," said Mrs. Barry, content- ,y^?^^ (^
edly turning her attention to the large slice of roasts
before her. ^-
" Portia, where did you find these lovely ferns? "
said Mrs. Percy.
"Think of it," said Mrs. Keller, the middle-aged
lady from Chicago. " Such large growths at this
season ! "
"Think of it," said the middle-aged-looking
daughter, who always echoed her mother, "and
at this season too ! Why, the snow is hardly off
the ground with us."
86 When the Gates Lift Up their Heads
" I found them under the bridge by that tumble-
down gristmill where the negroes take their
corn," said Portia.
** I have it in one of my sketches," said the artist.
"Oh, the one you showed me yesterday," said
"No. That is a sawmill, and has an undershot
wheel, not nearly so picturesque."
"Yes," said Portia, "the overshot wheel is better
to sketch. It 's clumsier and more primitive."
"But when it comes to business, it's a pretty
slow affair," said one of the enterprising young
men. "Ever see the miller?"
"Yes," said Portia.
" He 's a queer chap, ā slow as his mill."
" He keeps something there beside corn meal," >
said the other young man, with a laugh. '^^-**'^ ^-^^vv
"Ah," said the elderly gentleman, smiling, "you
have means of knowing.^ "
" I tracked a few old codgers there and made a
discovery. He 's in with these mountain fellows.
He 's a sharp one, ā innocent as a baby."
"Richard has mistaken his calling," exclaimed
his partner. "Raising peaches on a mountain
hasn't enough variety in it to suit him."
"What! Are there real moonshiners here."*"
cried Mrs. Barry.
"And w'at might they be, ā moonshiners? " in-
quired the Englishman, Mr. Betts.
' "Illicit distillers," replied Mr. Ridgeway.
" Some of these mountaineers make corn whiskey,
and smuggle it on the market without paying
government tax on it."
The New Boarding-house 87
" Ah, I see. So they do that here. It certainly
is interesting to know."
" You must not give Mr. Betts such information,
grandfather," said Portia. "He may write a geog-
raphy for little English children, and tell them the
principal industry of the mountainous regions of
the United States is illicit distilling of whiskey."
" Oh, now, you are rather 'ard on me, you know,
I must say."
"No, Mr. Betts' book will be on geology," said
Mrs. Keller. " You should have seen him unload
the stones from his pocket this afternoon."
" You should have seen him, " echoed her daughter.
"Do you find any ore, Mr. Betts .^" queried the
"Not to speak of I 'ave n't, but they tell me this
is the oldest rock formation in the world, you
know, and it is interesting to trace the history of
the place in the stones. And they do tell me
fossils 'ave been found here, w'ich is strange, very
strange, you know, and I find a curious mixture of
vitreous and volcanic rock, plainly volcanic, to-
gether with stratified rock of a water formation,
and limestone character, you know. Now, 'ow
came these all to be so thrown together, so far
" Ah, you must answer that, Mr. Betts ; we cer-
tainly can't, not I at least," said the elderly
"Your question will hardly be answered for a
generation to come, I fear," said Mr. Ridgeway.
"This region affords an interesting field for nat-
uralists, I think."
88 When the Gates Lift Up their Heads
"It is as full of poetry as it is of scientific
interest," said the artist. "We who look on the
externals of things find nature glorious here."
"I think," said Portia, refilling the artist's cup
with tea, "the hardest things to reconcile with
each other are just simple, plain facts. The
scientists are continually stating facts, and then
overturning them with other facts, and then find-
ing still others that clash with these, and all seems
out of tune, and still the turmoil goes on, and
there is no end."
"You are right, Miss Van Ostade," said the
artist. "Your profession and mine are, after all,
the only ones that search out the harmonies. The
realm of Music and the domain of Art, they are
"But mine is often out of tune, though," said
"Not when you are its exponent, Miss Van
Ostade, never," said the elderly gentleman.
Portia shook her head, laughing. Mrs. Keller
exchanged glances with her daughter. Mr. and
Mrs. Percy were privately discussing the unde-
sirability of allowing the children the full bill of
fare, and lost this bit of table talk. The old maid
looked up and spoke in her quiet voice.
"I think herein lies an evidence of the Omnipo-
tent mind, overruling and controlling, bringing
harmony out of these stubborn facts; so that Mr.
Held exclaims, ' This region is poetic, and nature
is glorious,' and Miss Van Ostade can order the
sometimes discordant waves of sound into such
perfection of harmony and melody that we delight
The New Boarding-house 89
in it. Harmony and beauty are part of the facts,
or we should never find them."
Mrs. Percy's face lighted up. "Miss Milbourn
touches the keynote of the universe," said Mr.
" And where there is a keynote there may be
harmony," said she.
Poor Johnny Percy, who had been denied his
dessert and had only a few nuts in his chubby fist
to crack at his leisure, yawned audibly. Miss
"Why, Johnny!" said his mother.
" ' Ard nuts to crack, aren't they, little man.?"
said Mr. Betts.
" Naw. I can do it; take a stone," said the
imperturbable youngster, gravely wondering where
the laugh came in.
"That's what I 've been trying to crack them
with, and failed," said the Englishman, slapping
his knees heartily.
"That's right, sonny, stick to nuts you can
crack and you '11 get on," said his father.
"But don't use your teeth, child," said his
mother, as he set a filbejij: between his sturdy little
A clang sounded from the great brass knocker at
the front door as they rose from the table, ā an un-
usual event of an evening. The neighbors, in their
kindly Southern way, had begun to show the family
some attention ; but as the neighbors were far be-
tween, their visits were generally in the afternoon.
"I wonder if Miss Van Ostade is to have a caller
this evening," said Mrs. Keller in an aside to her
90 When the Gates Lift Up their Heads
daughter, as she shook out her heavy silken skirts.
The trim waiting-maid was handing her mistress a
They all swept out of the dining-room, up the
broad stair, into the long, dimly lighted hall. Mr.
Betts pranced at the head, with little Juliet on his
shoulder, followed by the screaming children, and
Mr. Ridge way, with his daughter on his arm,
brought up the rear. A blazing fire of logs and
pine branches in a huge red brick fireplace filling
one end of the great old-fashioned drawing-room,
threw ruddy, quivering light over cracked walls,
and plain, comfortable, modern furniture. Mrs.
Clare seated herself at the piano and played a
lively galop. That and the dancing firelight
wrought a contagion of merriment, and in a mo-
ment the party, old and young, were flying over
the smooth walnut-colored floor in time to the
music, while peals of hilarious laughter from the
children re-echoed through the vast empty halls.
Portia entered a small, firelit room opening from
the other side of the hall, used by the guests as a
reading-room. Here she found John Marshall
" I have hastened to accept your invitation to
call," he said.
"Ah, how good of you!" She hesitated, flush-
ing slightly. Why had she said *' how good"?
she thought; "he will mistake my meaning."
She hastened to explain. " Of course, everything
is so changed, I feared ā I thought ā even if it
might be painful to you, you might like to see
the old place again."
The New Boarding-house 91
"Please don't think it is the place only I come
to see. After our odd meeting this afternoon it is
yourself." He also spoke a bit nervously, and not
as he had intended, and hastened to add : " I wanted
to thank you for your kindness to old Clarissa.
She was one of the few faithful servants in the
"She certainly is loyal to your family. When
did you return to Patterson, Mr. Marshall ? "
He laughed. "Return to Patterson.? I protest.
I have returned to the soil on which it stands, and
to these grand old hills. There was no Patterson
in my day here. " Portia sat gravely looking into
the fire, and he watched her face a moment as the
light played over it with rosy tint, and resumed :
" I arrived at dusk last evening, and to-day have
been roamino; about seeking old friends. It is as
you say, yet everything is not changed ; the everlast-
ing hills are unchangeable. I had forgotten how
beautiful they are, if I ever knew. Boys don't think
deeply on the beauties of nature, you know. "
Portia's face lighted with a smile. She looked
up, and their eyes met. " Perhaps you are one of
those happy natures who never look wholly on the
dark side," she said. "But, speaking of changes,
I was thinking only of this particular place, ā your
old home." The smile faded as she spoke, and
she looked gravely into the fire again. John was
charmed with her every movement, but in his
heart he vaguely wondered who the singer of the
evening before might be.
"Then I shall disappoint you," he said. "I am
very prosaic, or ā what shall I call it? ā lacking
92 When the Gates Lift Up their Heads
in sentiment toward this old place. There were
others, one in particular, ā I visited it this morn-
ing, ā which I used to love more than this. It is
very shocking, I know, and shows a hardened and
villanous nature, but true it is. You must re-
spect my candor, if not my heart, when I tell you
that I came here this evening with a feeling of
expectation and pleasure in the ā pardon me, I
won't tell all my thoughts, but among them was no
regret. As I walked up the drive, I thought only
in a vague way of the changes, as that this was
gone, or that grown past recognition, and since
you have set the fountain playing, the sound of
dropping water is as sweet as when I used to sit on
its edge with a row of mischievous piccaninnies and
stir up the gold fish. It is a pleasure to find the
house occupied and serving some useful purpose,
instead of falling farther into decay."
Portia burst into a merry laugh.
"Now, Miss Van Ostade, that is not fair. I
was willing you should be shocked, but to laugh ā "
" Indeed, I am only laughing at myself. The
light of your good sound sense shows me what a
sentimental creature I have been, ā like a board-
ing-school novel girl. Now you have confessed,
I will do the same, and you may laugh at me.
Ever since our unaccountable encounter this after-
noon I have been filled with misgiving. I have
dreaded your coming, thinking you would be so
pained to find your old home turned into ā of all
things ā a boarding-house, that you would detest
us. I tried to contrast its past beauty with its
present state of partly resuscitated decay, and to
The New Boarding-house 93
imagine your sadness as you would walk up the
drive, once so well kept, feeling that it is yours no
longer, and that you are in a sense shut out and a
stranger; and then I imagined you taking note of
all the signs of past neglect and general dilapi-
dation, until I was positively sad myself, and
distraught all through dinner, and was half embar-
rassed by my own thoughts when I found you
were actually here and I must face you, and
now ā "
" And now to discover how unpoetic I am, with
no natural feelings ? What a revulsion ! "
"Please don't mistake me. I couldn't help
laughing at myself for constructing an unreal situa-
tion, and distressing myself as if it were real,
before knowing anything about the facts. I won-
der, do we ever judge our fellow creatures at all
justly, or only judge our own unreal fancies about
them, which we set up and call our fellow creatures?"
"Only a few could do that, Miss Van Ostade.
Most of us common mortals must take things as
we find them, without the power of adding thereto.
What is beautiful we sometimes lose sight of,
seldom that which is not." The sound of laughter,
subdued by distance and closed doors, came to him
as he spoke, and he rose to go. " I am keeping
you from other guests," he said. He had not
accomplished his wish. Who was the singer of
the night before .-^ Might it be the hostess herself.?
"If she only had that voice!" he thought. "I
have disgraced myself, I know, but may I come
again.? I will think up, in the mean time, reasons
for a becoming degree of melancholy, and so prove
94 When the Gates Lift Up their Heads
to you that I have at least enough sentiment to
connect me with the rest of the human family."
" Now it is you who are laughing at me. Do
not go. Coffee is being served ; won't you stay,
and allow me to introduce you to my guests ? ā
unless you detest Northerners," she added with a
quick glance, which he returned in kind.
" Detest ? I adore them. "
"Then I can't allow you to go until you have
accepted hospitality here at least. Please! " ā She
led the way into the drawing-room. A shout of
delight greeted them as she opened the door. It
was dear little music-loving Juliet who pounced
upon her thus uncerem.oniously.
"Oh, Miss Van Ostade! Please, please sing,
Miss Van Ostade, sing."
The formal introductions over, John found him-
self seated in pleasant conversation with Mr.
Ridgeway and his daughter. At a prettily laid tea-
table in the corner near the piano, Portia poured
the fragrant coffee. It was passed by the children,
to whom this was an especial privilege, after which
service they were promptly put to bed by the nurse-
maids, unless Juliet could persuade their mammas
to let them stay longer while Portia sang to them.
"After a little, deary," she said to that impor-
tunate little miss; "when I have finished here.
Now you may carry this cup to Mr. Marshall,
and, Johnny, you may take the biscuit. Carefully,
little man, or they will slide onto the floor. Don't
look at Juliet, look at your own tray."
" Donny can't carry bi'kets, he's on'y a boy,"
said his little sister Helen, watching his uncer-
The New Boarding-house 95
tain course, and envious of the honor reposed
"Can too," shouted the belligerent, looking
back at her, and deftly sliding the dainty wa-
fers, plate and all, into the lap of the lady from
"Now, now," cried the elderly gentleman, amid
the burst of laughter which followed. " That is
unkind, to take them all, Mrs. Keller."
"Oh, Johnny," cried his mother. "Portia, why
do you trust him.^ And your lovely plate, too!
What if it had gone on the floor.? " She took the
tray from the humbled boy, and began passing it
"I said Donny couldn't pass bi'kets," asserted
"But boys can learn as well as girls," said
Portia, passing her arm around the affectionate
little piece of impetuosity, who had tearfully slunk
back to her chair, well knowing where to find com-
fort. "Helen may pass the sugar." She placed
the pretty blue bowl comfortably in the chubby
hands, and went on pouring the coffee and inter-
ceding for Johnny. " Please let him try once more.
It won't happen again." The little fellow's face
became radiant, while two tears, one on either
flushed cheeky were pathetic, and the tray was
placed in his hands. "Johnny is a little soldier,
and this time he will pay attention only to what
he is doing."
"Do you like coffee in pretty cups.'*" said the
small maiden, Juliet, as she paused in front of
96 When the Gates Lift Up their Heads
"Indeed I do, and little girls too," he replied.
"Oh, you said a rhyme," she cried, as he took
" Now won't you sit on my knee while I drink it,
and take the cup back for me.? "
She demurely shook her head, eying him gravely.
"I 'm not 'quainted yet," she said.
"That's so. Then, if you'll bring Mr. Ridge-
way his, we will be acquainted when you come
back, and you can sit on my knee while Miss Van
She nodded assent, and danced back to Portia's
" Is that the way you hurry up an acquaintance
with a young lady.?" queried Mr. Ridgeway.
"Certainly, with very young ones."
"You and I must fight a duel, then," said Mr.
Betts. "You have stolen my young lady."
Conversation was going on all over the room.
Portia heard all, but kept her eyes on her cups and
saucers. Marshall watched her without appearing
to do so.
Mr. Ridgeway turned and spoke quietly to
the young peach-planter, whom his partner had
called Richard. " Have you really discovered
signs of illicit business there at the mill, Mr.
Button .? "
"Signs! It's a regular whiskey hole. It was
Clark there at the station who put me on the track.
He hears a word or two now and then not just
intended for his ears, there at Scrapp's. "
"Take my advice, then. Don't let it be known
that you have such knowledge, if you wish to go
The New Boarding-house 97
on with your planting instead of being planted
yourself. I was sorry to hear you mention it even
in our select circle this evening. There are slum-
bering elements here you would best beware of.
I am sure of it."
"Guess you're right," said the younger man,
thoughtfully. He drew something from an inner
pocket which Mr. Ridgeway took and looked at a
moment, and then returned with a smile.
"Ah," he said slowly. "Yes, it's dangerous
business, though, Mr. Button."
" But it must be looked after. We never can
make anything of this place with that kind of open
law-breaking going on."
" No, surely not. Neither can we afford to have
such young fellows as you killed off."
"Well, I may not use this. I had myself ap-