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Produced by David Widger from page images generously
provided by the Internet Archive


By Various Authors

Being a Miscellany of Curious and Interesting Tales; Histories, Newly
composed by Many Celebrated Writers and very delightful to read.

1896, By Herbert S. Stone & Co




Whither Thou Goest

An Impassable Gulf


In a Garden


Oreste’s Patron


The Appeal to Anne


The Dead Oak


The Making of Monsieur Lescarbot’s Ballad


On the Brink


A Woman’s Life

“When the King Comes In”


Mandany’s Fool


The Way to Constantinople


The Old Partisan


By Katharine Bates

THE wind stirred the tops of the maple trees in the Quinsby front yard,
and the old man who stood on the steps, watching the shadows and the
moonlight, sighed as he heard the soft rustling sound. He glanced back
into the house, through the hall, into the bedroom, where his wife was
lighting a candle preparatory to turning down the bed.

“I reckon I’ll jest step down there a minit,” he whispered to himself,
and hurriedly but softly went down the steps. Far down in a corner of
the yard, near the front fence, a hammock hung between two small pin
oaks, and it was here the old man went, looking back uneasily now and
then, as if he expected a call from his wife. The hammock was an old
one, and had evidently hung there all summer, for the meshes were torn
and all the gay colors had faded to a dingy gray. It tossed lightly in
the breeze as the wind grew stronger, and the old man’s hand trembled as
he caught at its swaying folds.

“Girls,” he whispered softly, “are you both here? Are you pushing the
swing, Winnie?”

A sudden flutter went over the leaves of a lilac bush near, and he
turned quickly to it. “That’s Nan’s laugh-gigglin’ at yore old pa jest
as usual, Nanny girl?”

“Father,” his wife called from the porch, “you better come in.”

He turned and hurried back to her. She stood on the steps with the
candle still in her hand, its tiny flame looking almost blue in the

“Mebbe a storm is cornin’ up and you’ll ketch cold,” she said when he
reached her. Her voice was stern, but the look in her gray eyes was as
sad as the trembling of his lips when he said to her, “Ain’t it jest the
sorter night the girls use’ to beg to stay out, and not have to go to
bed yet a while?”

“It’s a mighty pretty night,” she answered. She followed him into their
room, closing the hall door after her.

“Oh, don’t shet it, Mira, don’t! It seems as if you was shettin’ the
children out.”

Mrs. Quinsby turned to him. “Hiram, I must speak out to you,” she said.
“I don’t see any more’n you why the Lord thought best to take our girls,
our two good, pretty girls, but He has done it, and it ain’t right for
you to be lettin’ yoreself fancy you hear ‘em ‘round on nights like this.
I’ve faith to believe if we can keep ourselves outer sin for the rest of
our days we shall see the children again - but not here, Hiram, not here
in the old place.”

“I know it ain’t Nan and Winnie sure ‘nough,” Hiram answered
apologetically, “but these nights make me think of ‘em a terrible
lot - and the leaves goin’ so and so in the wind does sound real like
Nan’s laugh. Mira, I was out in the garden while you was puttin’ the
dishes away and strainin’ the milk, and jest as the moon came out and
the wind started up I heard a laugh like Nan’s, and then something
danced by me that must have been Winnie. I hurried down the path
after it, and there by the poppy bed were the girls, rompin’ jest like
children again, ‘most grown girls that they are. As the wind came up
more they laughed again, not so soft as they had been doin’, but a real
burst of gay laughin’ like they use’ to work themselves up to, and then
they ran towards the arbor and peeped out from the honeysuckle, and Nan
called, ‘Here, Pa,’ and Winnie sorter sang out, ‘Father, Father,’ in her
soft way.” Mrs. Quinsby put her hands on his shoulders and gave him a
little shake. Her eyes were frightened, and her voice came quick and

“Hush, Father,” she said. “You are doin’ yoreself an injury. The girls
are in heaven, not here, and don’t you let go yore grip on yore mind.
Think of me, Hiram - you’ve got me left, and I can’t stand the thought of
the lonesomeness if you let your senses go. You and me have been married
so many years, Hiram, we could n’t get on without each other. Why, it
seems to me the good Lord would surely let me get foolish too - mebbe it
ain’t fittin’ for one of my years to say it, but I’d ruther, yes, I’d
_ruther_ if it comes down to choosin’ between my senses and you, Hiram!”

The far-away look disappeared from Hiram’s eyes. “I was jest thinkin’,
Mira,” he said reassuringly. “It was only that the night was so powerful
pretty. But now we won’t talk of the children any more.”

Mrs. Quinsby drew him back to the porch again.

“Don’t think me hard, Father,” she said entreatingly, “but I want you to
be sure. Look over there towards the church; you can see the dark heap
of trees against the sky in the churchyard, can’t you? There’s where the
girls are - there’s where they are.”

“Why, of course, Mira. Though how the Lord could take those pretty young
things, and our only two, that had come to us when we was long past
hopin’, is more’n I can see.”

They went to bed, but later in the night Mrs. Quinsby waked suddenly.
Her first thought was that the storm was really coming and she had left
the pantry windows open. She slipped out of bed, but as she realized
that her movement did not disturb her husband, a blind terror came over
her; she struck match after match before she could make herself believe
he was not there. Then she picked up a shawl and flung it over her
nightgown, and, regardless of her bare feet, rushed out to the garden.
The wind was blowing hard and the moon was half hidden by the lightly
scudding clouds, but Hiram’s laugh - the pleased, indulgent laugh that
his girls’ nonsense had so often produced - guided her to him.

“That you, Mother?” he called as she ran down the path. “What a couple
of colts you’ve brought up, Mira. Reckon you could find their beat
anywheres in Mizzourer for friskiness? Just see those girls racin’
round - a storm comin’ up always did go to their heads. Hear Nan laugh!
Ain’t she the greatest girl for foolin’ you ever saw?”

He pointed to some tall hollyhocks that she could see were bending low
with the wind, and added, “Watch her bow; Nan was always as easy movin’
in her body as a saplin’ or a tall flower.”

Mrs. Quinsby put her arm around his shoulder. “Oh, he’s let go - you’ve
let go, Father, and I’m left! I can’t stand the lonesomeness, I can’t, I

They moved toward the arbor. As they passed under the drooping
honeysuckle, Hiram laughed aloud.

“They are putting their hands over our eyes to make us guess which is
which - the little geese!” Mrs. Quinsby put her hand to her forehead and
pressed the cool honeysuckle leaves against her eyes.

She laughed too. “I knew it,” she whispered, “I knew the Almighty would
let me go with him. He knew how it was with Hiram and me.” Aloud she
said, “I guess Winnie. Yore hands ain’t as soft as Winnie’s, Nan.”


By Katharine Bates

PETER ELSTON’S two nieces, Nancy Rollins and Hester Elston, stood on
opposite sides of the frame, working together silently. Suddenly Hester
dropped her needle, straightened her lithe young figure, and throwing
back her pretty head, said hurriedly:

“I don’t see how you can feel so, Nan! You must see how good he is, as
well as bein’ different from any boy we’ve ever known round here on the
Prairie. Ain’t he always thoughtful ‘bout pleasin’ Uncle Peter? And he’s
gone to church reg’lar with us every Sunday he’s been here, ain’t he?”

She pauses, catching her breath after her eager speech, and looking
yearningly at Nancy. The older girl’s pale face hardened as she caught
the imploring glance.

“He seems to me to be very worldly,” she said coldly.

The color rushed to Hester’s cheeks, and she bent quickly over the
frame; for a few moments she sewed vigorously, saying to herself with
fierce indignation, as she worked:

“I declare if I think Nancy is so spiritual, after all - a judgin’ Fred
like that, and all because he told her he liked to go now and then to
the the-_a_-tre!”

Resentment, however, never lingered long in Hester’s heart, and at last
she raised her head again.

“I wish you did feel different, Nan,” she said gently. “I can’t bear to
think of you not takin’ to the man I’m goin’ to marry. You and me have
always seemed jest like sisters ever since Uncle Pete took us to raise.”

Nancy’s blue eyes met the pleading brown ones more gently this time.

“Yes,” she said slowly, “you _have_ been jest like a sister to me,

Hester ran around the frame and threw her arms around her cousin with
the eager expression of affection which always embarrassed Nancy.

“Nan,” she cried, “I jest do wish you could see it the way I do. Fred is
so good, and it’s only because he lives in town that he has gotten to
like such things as the-_a_-tres. You do take to him sure ‘nough, don’t

Nancy’s voice quivered as she answered the passionate appeal.

“I know he’s got pleasant ways, and he’s right principled about a lot of
things, but, Hetty, there’s no denyin’ he puts pleasure before servin’
the Lord, and we are told mighty plain in the Bible not to make friends
with the Mammon of unrighteousness.”

Hester bit her lip.

“There’s some folks, and real good ones, too, who think havin’ some
pleasures like Fred cares for and bein’ real down good Christians, too,
ain’t incompatible,” she said, struggling to speak calmly.

“There’s a gulf,” Nancy said firmly, “between me and the-_a_-tre goers,
and I’m mighty sorry for you, Hester.”

“You needn’t be,” cried Hester, impatiently. “I’m happy and satisfied
about marryin’ Fred!”

“What’s all this talk about marryin’?” Uncle Peter called in at the
doorway, as he paused to wave his bundle of birds and squirrels at his
nieces. “Jest leave a couple of girls alone, and their tongues are sure
to get to waggin’ ‘bout marryin’! Come along, Hetty, and help me pick and
clean this lot. It’s been a fine huntin’ day, if ‘tis a trifle coldish
for an old man like me.”

“You old!” laughed Hester, as they settled themselves by the kitchen

“Yes, I am gettin’ on,” cried Uncle Peter, seriously, “and I don’t see
how I am goin’ to do without you, Hester. You are sure you want to marry

“Yes, sure,” said Hester, quickly. “Uncle Pete, wasn’t it jest
marvellous for him to fall in love with me, when he’s a town man and
knows such a lot of girls with better manners and all that?” Uncle Peter
looked meditatively at the delicate rose complexion, the large brown
eyes, and the soft, waving hair.

“I don’t see as it was so dreadful queer,” he said. “You’d pass in a
crowd, Het.”

There was silence for a little while, Hester dreaming happy dreams of
her future, and Uncle Peter groaning inwardly at the prospect of being
left to live alone with the more spiritual of his nieces. Suddenly a
gleam of hope came to him, and he said:

“Mebbe you can’t marry him after all - town folks have a great way of not
makin’ a livin’, Hetty.”

“I know it,” admitted Hester, almost despondently, but her face
brightened as she added; “but it is such a great big store Fred is
clerkin’ in that I’m jest sure we won’t have to wait long, Uncle Pete.”

The waiting time proved to be as short as Hester and Fred had hoped, for
in spite of his “worldliness” Fred was a faithful young fellow, and the
promotion which made possible a tiny flat, and housekeeping on a limited
scale, came even before he had expected it. Uncle Peter did his best
to be cheery at the simple little wedding, and Nancy had baked as many
cakes for them as if the young couple were not starting out on a sinful
career. Hester prized keenly the expressions of affection which had
been rare up to the time when her uncle and cousin had realized what a
difference her going would make in their lives, and her grief at leaving
her home amazed and almost annoyed Fred, who had grown to look upon
himself as her deliverer from a life which seemed very cramped and hard
to him.

“I wish there was somethin’ I could do for you, Hetty,” Uncle Peter
said, when the last of the wedding guests had departed, and he and Nancy
were hurrying Fred and Hester away to the train, for they were going at
once to their new home. He took her carpet-bag from her, and awkwardly
helped her to button the linen duster, which Nancy had insisted should
be worn to the station to protect the new travelling dress from the mud.

“There is,” said Hester, tremulously. “Uncle Pete, if you could jest
make Nancy see that goin’ to the the-_a_-tre ain’t incompatible with
goin’ to Heaven some day, I ‘d be greatly obliged to you.”

Uncle Peter drew a long breath.

“You’ve done a sight of work here, Hetty,” he said tenderly, “and I’ve
been dreadful fond of you, too, but I’ll be damned if I will try to get
a new notion into Nancy’s head, even for you!” Hester sighed. “I s’pose
it would be askin’ a good deal of you,” she said simply “but, Uncle
Pete, you will remind her anyway that Fred and I won’t be able to afford
goin’ more’n once in a long, long time, won’t you? Now good-bye, Uncle.”

He helped her into the wagon, and while Fred and Nancy were crossing the
yard, he stood looking at her with his lips twitching nervously.

“Good-bye, Hester,” Nancy said, climbing up on the step of the wagon.
The two kissed each other, and Hester clung for a second to her cousin’s

“Oh, Nan,” she whispered, “we have always played together and done our
work together - _don’t_ feel hard to me.”

Nancy looked down at her sadly.

“I ain’t a mite hard,” she said gently. “I ain’t judgin’, Hetty, only
there’s a gulf. Goodbye.”

She turned to Fred and held out her hand. “I wish you well,” she said,
in her clear, calm tones, and then she opened the yard gate and stood
inside, leaving Uncle Peter a chance for his farewell.

He wrung Fred’s hand, but no words came from his trembling lips.

“I’ll be very good to her,” Fred said hurriedly. “Good-bye, sir. I hope
you won’t mind if I say I consider it an honor to be your nephew.”

At the time Uncle Peter grasped only the first words. “Yes,” he said,
“be good to her, Fred - she’s a good girl, a good girl.”

He stepped on the hub of the wheel, and Hester threw her arms around
him, kissing vehemently his gray head and wrinkled cheeks.

“Don’t forget me,” she sobbed. “Oh, how can I leave you and Nan and the
old place? Goodbye, and I love you, I do so love you, Uncle Pete!”

At a sign from Nancy the hired man whipped up the horses. As they drove
away Hester looked back at the clump of oak-trees around the house, and
then at the two figures at the yard gate.

“I wish I’d done more for’em all these years they’ve been so good to
me,” she said, the tears streaming down her cheeks. Fred held her hand
close between both of his, but he made no answer, for her grief dazed
him. He knew that many elements in her life had been distasteful to
her; and why should a woman who was marrying the man she loved, and was
moreover going to town to live, grieve in this way? The hired man turned
in his seat and gave the needed word of comfort.

“You’ve done a sight for’em,” he said warmly, “and you ain’t no cause to
fret, Miss Hetty. We’ll all miss you terrible.”

Uncle Peter wandered restlessly around the farm until dinner-time. An
aching heart was a new experience to him, and one that he did not know
how to meet. He went into the orchard and picked up apple after apple,
and after a mere taste flung each of them away; as he left the orchard
he stopped to look back at the mass of Spanish needle and goldenrod,
through which he had just made his way.

“How she did like all that yeller stuff,” he said aloud. “What a sight
of interest she took in everything about the place. She was a good
girl, and I wish I’d a quit swearin’ - ‘twould have tickled her mightily.
Hanged if I don’t quit it now!”

Nancy had an unusually good dinner ready for him. Preparing it had
helped her to pass the morning, for Uncle Peter’s was not the only
aching heart. She helped him lavishly to half a dozen vegetables, but
for the first time within her memory of him, he had no appetite. He
pushed back his chair before she brought his pie, and as he did so a
sudden wave of antagonism to her came over him; he had never spoken to
her of her stern words to Hester, but now involuntarily his criticism of
her slipped from him.

“Blessed if I can see how you could have been so hard on Fred, and let
pore Hetty go away feelin’ so broke up,” he said impetuously.

Nancy pressed her lips together firmly.

“I never judged Fred himself,” she said. “I always separated the sin
from the sinner, and we are bidden to be unceasing in denouncing sin.”

Uncle Peter said no more; he rose from the table and went out to the
porch, and as he sat there Fred’s words recurred to him, and roused a
glow of affectionate feeling.

“Proud to be my nephew,” he repeated. “He’s a fine feller, he is, and
Hetty’s done well for herself, if it is pretty hard on us to be left.”
He went back to the dining-room, where Nancy was clearing the dishes
away, and opening the door he called in vehemently:

“Blamed if I care if he takes her to the the-_a_-tre every night in the

Nancy turned a startled face to him, forgetful of the fact that tears
were rolling down her cheeks.

The unexpected sight of her grief touched her uncle keenly; he had never
before seen her cry, and going over to her and laying his hand on her
shoulder, he said affectionately, “I’m a reg’lar old brute, Nan. You
must excuse me, and remember it’s losin’ Hetty that’s sorter upset me. I
orter be better ‘n usual to you, instead of meaner, for I can see you are
grievin’ too.”

“I have more cause to be grievin’ even than you, Uncle Peter,” Nancy
said sadly, “for there’s an impassable gulf between Hetty and me now.”
Uncle Peter’s hand slipped from her shoulder.

“Gulfs be damned,” he said impatiently.


By Neith Boyce

OVER the wall of the Mission, against the glowing west, the tops of
the trees flickered in the wind from the sea, shot through with level
glancing arrows of clear light. The sky was all astir with little soft,
gold-tipped clouds. To the languid hush of the hot day had succeeded a
subtle animation like the smile on the lips of a sleeping woman.

On this awakening air the last organ-notes of the vesper service
died away, and were echoed by the slow, rhythmic swing of the tall
eucalyptus-trees. The rustle of the leaves imitated the sound of the
devout dispersing from the chapel; and a magnolia shook out from its
great white chalices an incense more penetrating than any wafted before
the altar. Suddenly all this gentle derision seemed to voice itself in
a burst of mocking laughter, faint and far away, like the airy merriment
of elves. The sound approached and grew louder, running through the
notes of a treble scale. And the trees in the monks’ garden seemed to
bend and listen and to beckon while they shook all over with malicious

Scurrying over the ground beyond, with bare, dusty feet, appeared
a group of creatures pulling each other by extended arms, or brown
garments which seemed a part of the earth, or by their braids of strong,
black hair. Writhing in this rough play they flung themselves against
the wall. A palefaced girl in a scarlet blouse, like a cactus-flower
bursting from its dull sheath, threw up her arms into the dense, dark
foliage of an overhanging fig-tree and dragged down the bough.

“They are ripe! - what did I tell you?” she cried, as at a touch a
purple, bloomy fig fell into her hand. She tore it open and fastened her
teeth, sharp and white as those of a squirrel, in the pink flesh.

Her companions hung back, looking at her.

“If we are caught - ”

“What do we care? Cowards! There - now you can put all the blame on me.
Eat, then, little pigs that you are!”

Her heavy-lidded eyes were cold and contemptuously smiling. Hanging to
the bough with both hands, she shook it roughly, and the ripe figs fell
in a shower, some flattening to pulp on the ground. The girls flung
themselves down, and, chattering, gathered the unspoiled fruit into the
skirts of their gowns.

“It is true; they are better than ours,” cried one.

“Trust the holy fathers to have the best,” added another, lowering her

“They taste better,” said Fiora, the tall girl in the scarlet blouse,
“because we are stealing them.” And she licked her red lips with

“There must be better ones higher up,” said a fourth, greedily, standing
with her hands on her broad hips and her head thrown back.

“Let us see,” responded Fiora.

Again she caught hold of the drooping branch, drew herself up, and in
an instant the thick foliage hid her from sight. Her companions,
half-smothered with laughter, besought her to return.

“Oh, if you are seen!”

“Catch!” cried Fiora.

A rain of soft bodies fell, thumping them about the shoulders. Through
the parted leaves an impudent face looked down, framed like a young
faun’s in living green.

“I am going higher - I am going to look into the garden!”

“Oh! Oh!” in frightened and delighted chorus. “You dare not!”

“Listen, my children,” said Fiora, condescendingly. “They say no woman
has ever seen this garden. Well, I have a great mind to be the first!”

Lying along the thick branch, she listened smilingly.

“It is forbidden!”

“You will be punished!”

“The holy fathers - ”

“What have they in their garden,” she cried at last, “that is so sacred
that we may not see it? Would our feet soil the grass or the paths?”

The girls looked at one another slyly and hid their faces; and their
malicious laughter, stifled with difficulty and uncontrollable, mingled
again with the eager murmurs of the trees.

Fiora, herself laughing, she scarcely knew why, disappeared, the leaves
closing behind her like a green sea. She crept along the great branch
until her feet found something firm - the top of the wall. Clinging
to the trunk of the tree which leaned against this wall, she tried to
pierce the thick layers of foliage below her, but in vain; nothing was
to be seen in the garden. She swore softly. Then, in trying to extend
herself upon a branch which projected into the garden, she slipped,
catching vainly at the nearest twigs, and with a thrill of alarm came
to her feet upon the forbidden soil. She clenched her hands, full of
bruised leaves, against her breast, as she crouched in the shelter of
the drooping boughs. Startled by the noise of her fall, her
companions took flight like a covey of birds, with a rustle, a faint
murmur - silence.

Fiora sank to her knees and remained for some moments motionless, gazing
out into the garden. In the dusk, deepened by the shadow of encircling
trees, nothing was visible save narrow paths strewn with opal-colored
sea-shells glimmering amid fresh turf, and roses blooming in masses
along these walks and hiding the wall under their heavy leaves, thick
with flowers like pale flames. Silence - except for the applauding
whisper of the trees and the plash of water. There was no one in the

Taking courage, the intruder pushed her way out from under the boughs of
the fig-tree. The freshly sprinkled grass caressed her feet. The perfume

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Online LibraryVariousChap-Book Stories → online text (page 1 of 9)