thought the keeper.
Miss Ward entered, and the room bloomed at once ; at
least that is what a lover would have said. Rodman, how-
ever, merely noticed that she bloomed, and not the room, and
he said to himself that she would not bloom long if she contin-
ued to live in such a moldy place. Their conversation in these
days was excessively polite, shortened to the extreme mini-
mum possible, and conducted without the aid of the eyes, at
least on one side. Rodman had discovered that Miss Ward
never looked at him, and so he did not look at her — that is.
RODMAN THE KEEPER.
not often ; he was human, however, and she was delightfully
pretty. On this occasion they exchanged exactly five sen-
tences, and then he departed, but not before his quick eyes
had discovered that the rest of the house was in even worse
condition than this parior, which, by the way. Miss Ward con-
sidered quite a grand apartment ; she had been down near
the coast, trying to teach school, and there the desolation was
far greater than here, both armies having passed back and
forward over the ground, foragers out, and the torch at work
more than once.
" Will there ever come a change for the better? " thought
the keeper, as he walked homeward. " What an enormous
stone has got to be rolled up hill ! But at least, John Rod-
man, j'^ need not go to work at it ; you are not called upon
to lend your shoulder."
None the less, however, did he call out Pomp that very
afternoon and sternly teach him " E " and " F," using the
smooth white sand for a blackboard, and a stick for chalk.
Pomp's primer was a Government placard hanging on the
wall of the office. It read as follows :
IN THIS CEMETERY REPOSE THE REMAINS
FOURTEEN THOUSAND THREE HUNDRED AND TWENTY-ONE
UNITED STATES SOLDIERS.
** Tell me not in mournful numbers
Life is but an empty dream ;
For the soul is dead that slumbers,
And things are not what they seem.
** Life is real I Life is earnest !
And the grave is not its goal ;
Dust thou art, to dust retumest.
Was not written of the soul ! ''
"The only known instance of the Government's conde-
scending to poetry," the keeper had thought, when he first
read this placard. It was placed there for the instruction and
32 RODMAN THE KEEPER.
^ification of visitors; but, no visitors coming, he took the
liberty of using it as a primer for Pomp. The large letters
served the purpose admirably, and Pomp learned the entire
quotation ; what he thought of it has not transpired. Miss
Ward came over daily to see her cousin. At first she brought
him soups and various concoctions from her own kitchen —
the leaky cavern, once the dining-room, where the soldier
had taken refuge after his last dismissal from hospital ; but
the keeper's soups were richer, and free from the taint of
smoke ; his martial laws of neatness even disorderly old Pomp
dared not disobey, and the sick man soon learned the differ-
ence. He thanked the girl, who came bringing the dishes
over carefully in her own dimpled hands, and then, when she
was gone, he sent them untasted away. By chance Miss
Ward learned this, and wept bitter tears over it; she con-
tinued to come, but her poor little soups and jellies she
brought no more.
One morning m May the keeper was working near the
flag-staff, >yhen his eyes fell upon a procession coming down
the road which led from the town and turning toward the
cemetery. No one ever came that way : what could it mean ?
It drew near, entered the gate, and showed itself to be negroes
walking two and two — old uncles and aunties, young men and
girls, and even little children, all dressed in their best; a very
poor best, sometimes gravely ludicrous imitations of "ole
mars* " or "ole miss*,'* sometimes mere rags bravely patched
together and adorned with a strip of black calico or rosette of
black ribbon ; not one was without a badge of mourning. All
carried flowers, common blossoms from the little gardens be-
hind the cabins that stretched around the town on the out-
skirts — ^the new forlorn cabins with their chimneys of piled
stones and ragged patches of com ; each little darkey had his
bouquet and marched solemnly along, rolling his eyes around,
but without even the beginning of a smile, while the elders
moved forward with gravity, the bubbling, irrepressible gayety
of the negro subdued by the new-bom dignity of the (reedman.
RODMAN THE KEEPER. 33
" Memorial Day," thought the keeper; " I had forgotten it."
" Will you do us de hono*, sah, to take de head ob de pro-
cessio', sah ? " said the leader, with a ceremonious bow. Now,
the keeper had not much sympathy with the strewing of flow-
ers. North or South ; he had seen the beautiful ceremony more
than once turned into a political demonstration. Here, how-
ever, in this small, isolated, interior town, there was nothing
of that kind ; the whole population of white faces laid their
roses and wept true tears on the g^ves of their lost ones in
the village churchyard when the Southern Memorial Day came
round, and just as naturally the whole population of black
faces went out to the national cemetery with their flowers on
the day when, throughout the North, spring blossoms were
laid on the graves of the soldiers, from the little Maine village
to the stretching ranks of Arlington, from Greenwood to the
far Western burial-places of San Francisco. The keeper
joined the procession and led the way to the parade-ground.
As they approached the trenches, the leader began singing
and all joined. " Swing low, sweet chariot," sang the freed-
men, and their h3nfnn rose and fell with strange, sweet harmony
— one of those wild, unwritten melodies which the North heard
with surprise and marveling when, after the war, bands of
singers came to their cities and sang the songs of slavery, in
order to gain for their children the coveted education. " Swing
low, sweet chariot," sang the freedmen, and two by two they
passed along, strewing the g^ves with flowers till all the
green was dotted with color. It was a pathetic sight to see
some of the old men and women, ignorant field-hands, bent,
dull-eyed, and past the possibility of education even in its
simplest forms, carefully placing their poor flowers to the best
advantage. They knew dimly that the men who lay beneath
those mounds had done something wonderful for them and
for their children ; and so they came bringing their blossoms,
with little intelligence but with much love.
The ceremony over, they retired. As he turned, the keeper
caught a glimpse of Miss Ward's face at the window.
RODMAN THE KEEPER.
" Hope we 's not makin' too free, sah," said the leader, as
the procession, with many a bow and scrape, took leave, " but
we 's kep' de day now two years, sah, befo* you came, sah, an
we *s teachin' de chil'en to keep it, sah."
The keeper returned to the cottage. " Not a white face,"
" Certainly not," replied Miss Ward, crisply.
" I know some graves at the North, Miss Ward, graves of
Southern soldiers, and I know some Northern women who do
not scorn to lay a few flowers on the lonely mounds as they
pass by with their blossoms on our Memorial Day."
" You are fortunate. They must be angels. We have no
** I am inclined to believe you are right," said the keeper.
That night old Pomp, who had remained invisible in the
kitchen during the ceremony, stole away in the twilight and
came back with a few flowers. Rodman saw him going down
toward the parade-ground, and watched. The old man had
but a few blossoms ; he arranged them hastily on the mounds
with many a furtive glance toward the house, and then stole
back, satisfied ; he had performed his part.
Ward De Rosset lay on his pallet, apparently unchanged ;
he seemed neither stronger nor weaker. He had grown
childishly dependent upon his host, and wearied for him, as
the Scotch say ; but Rodman withstood his fancies, and gave
him only the evenings, when Miss Bettina was not there.
One afternoon, however, it rained so violently that he was
forced to seek shelter ; he set himself to work on the ledgers ;
he was on the ninth thousand now. But the sick man heard
his step in the outer room, and called in his weak voice,
" Rodman, Rodman." After a time he went in, and it ended
in his staying ; for the patient was nervous and irritable, and
he pitied the nurse, who seemed able to please him in nothing.
De Rosset turned with a sigh of relief toward the strong
hands that lifted him readily, toward the composed manner,
toward the man's voice that seemed to bring a breeze from
RODMAN THE KEEPER.
outside into the close room; animated, cheered, he talked
volubly. The keeper listened, answered once in a while, and
quietly took the rest of the afternoon into his own hands.
Miss Ward yielded to the silent change, leaned back, and
closed her eyes. She looked exhausted and for the first time
pallid ; the loosened dark hair curied in little rings about her
temples, and her lips were parted as though she was too tired
to close them ; for hers were not the thin, straight lips that
shut tight naturally, like the straight line of a closed box.
The sick man talked on. " Come, Rodman," he said, after a
while, " I have read that lying verse of yours over at least ten
thousand and fifty-nine times; please tell me its history; I
want to have something definite to think of when I read it for
the ten thousand and sixtieth."
" Toujours fcmme varie,
Bien fou qui s'y fie ;
Une femme souvent
N*est qu*une plume au vent,"
read the keeper slowly, with his execrable English accent.
" Well, I don't know that I have any objection to telling the
story. I am not sure but that it will do me good to hear it
all over m)rself in plain language again."
** Then it concerns yourself," said De Rosset ; " so much
the better. I hope it will be, as the children say, the truth,
" It will be the truth, but not long. When the war broke
out I was twenty-eight years old, living with my mother on
our farm in New England. My father and two brothers had
died and left me the homestead ; otherwise I should have
broken away and sought fortune farther westward, where the
lands are better and life is more free. But mother loved the
house, the fields, and every crooked tree. She was alone, and
so I staid with her. In the center of the village green stood
the square, white meeting-house, and near by the small cot-
tage where the pastor lived ; the minister's daughter, Mary,
36 RODMAN THE KEEPER.
was my promised wife. Mary was a slender little creature
with a profusion of pale flaxen hair, large, serious blue eyes,
and small, delicate features ; she was timid almost to a fault ;
her voice was low and gentle. She was not eighteen, and we
were to wait a year. The war came, and I volunteered, of
course, and marched away ; we wrote, to each other often ;
my letters were full of the camp and skirmishes ; hers told of
the village, how the widow Brown had fallen ill, and how it
was feared that Squire Stafford's boys were lapsing into evil
ways. Then came the day when my regiment marched to
the field of its slaughter, and soon after our shattered remnant
went home. Mary cried over me, and came out every day to
the farmhouse with her bunches of violets ; she read aloud
to me from her good little books, and I used to lie and watch
her profile bending over the page, with the light falling on her
flaxen hair low down against the small, white throat. Then
my wound healed, and I went again, this time for three years ;
and Mary's father blessed me, and said that when peace came
he would call me son, but not before, for these were no times
for marrying or giving in marriage. He was a good man, a
red-hot abolitionist, and a roaring lion as regards temperance ;
but nature had made him so small in body that no one was
much frightened when he roared. I said that I went for three
years; but eight years have passed and I have never been
back to the village. First, mother died. Then Mary turned
false. I sold the farm by letter and lost the money three
months afterward in an unfortunate investment; my health
failed. Like many another Northern soldier, I remembered
the healing climate of the South ; its soft airs came back to
me when the snow lay deep on the fields and the sharp wind
whistled around the poor tavern where the moneyless, half-
crippled volunteer sat coughing by the fire. I applied for this
place and obtained it. That is all."
*' But it is not all," said the sick man, raising himself on
his elbow ; " you have not told half yet, nor anything at all
about the French verse."
RODMAN THE KEEPER.
" Oh — ^that ? There was a little Frenchman staying at the
hotel ; he had formerly been a dancing-master, and was full
of dry, withered conceits, although he looked like a thin and
bilious old ape dressed as a man. He taught me, or tried to
teach me, various wise sayings, among them this one, which
pleased my fancy so much that I gave him twenty-five cents
to write it out in large text for me/'
" Toujours femme varie," repeated De Rosset ; " but you
don't really think so, do you, Rodman? "
" I do. But they can not help it ; it is their nature.— I
beg your pardon. Miss Ward. I was speaking as though you
were not here."
Miss Ward's eyelids barely acknowledged his existence ;
that was all. But some time after she remarked to her cousin
that it was only in New England that one found that pale
June was waning, when suddenly the summons came.
Ward De Rosset died. He was unconscious toward the last,
and death, in the guise of sleep, bore away his soul. They
carried him home to the old house, and from there the funeral
started, a few family carriages, dingy and battered, following
the hearse, for death revived the old neighborhood feeling ;
that honor at least they could pay — ^the sonless mothers and
the widows who lived shut up in the old houses with every-
thing falling into ruin around them, brooding over the past
The keeper watched the small procession as it passed his gate
on its way to the churchyard in the village. " There he goes,
poor fellow, his sufferings over at last," he said ; and then he
set the cottage in order and began the old solitary life again.
He saw Miss Ward but once.
It was a breathless evening in August, when the moon-
light flooded the level country. He had started out to stroll
across the waste ; but the mood changed, and climbing over
the eastern wall he had walked back to the flag-staff, and now
lay at its foot gazing up into the infinite sky. A step sounded
on the gravel-walk ; he turned his face that way, and recog-
38 RODMAN THE KEEPER.
nized Miss Ward. With confident step she passed the dark
cottage, and brushed his arm with her robe as he lay unseen
in the shadow. She went down toward the parade-ground,
and his eyes followed her. Softly outlined in the moonlight,
she moved to and fro among the mounds, pausing often, and
once he thought she knelt. Then slowly she returned, and
he raised himself and waited; she saw him, started, then
" I thought you were away," she said ; " Pomp told me
" You set him to watch me ? "
" Yes. I wished to come here once, and I did not wish to
" Why did you wish to come ? "
*' Because Ward was here — and because — because — never
mind. It is enough that I wished to walk once among those
" And pray there ? "
" Well—and if I did ! " said the girl defiantly.
Rodman stood facing her, with his arms folded ; his eyes
rested on her face ; he said nothing.
** I am going away to-morrow," began Miss Ward again,
assuming with an effort her old, pulseless manner. " I have
sold the place, and I shall never return, I think ; I am going
" To Tennessee."
" That is not so very far," said the keeper, smiling.
** There I shall begin a new existence," pursued the voice,
ignoring the comment.
" You have scarcely begun the old ; you are hardly more
than a child, now. What are you going to do in Tennes-
see ? "
" Have you relatives there ? "
RODMAN THE KEEPER. 39
** A miserable life — a hard, lonely, loveless life," said Rod-
man. " God help the woman who must be that dreary thing,
a teacher fr<an necessity ! "
Miss Ward turned swiftly, but the keeper kept by her side.
He saw the tears glittering on her eyelashes, and his voice
s<rftened. " Do not leave me in anger," he said ; " I should
not have spoken so, although indeed it was the truth. Walk
back with me to the cottage, and take your last look at the
room where poor Ward died, and then I will go with you to
" No ; Pomp is waiting at the gate," said the girl, almost
" Very well ; to the gate, then."
They went toward the cottage in silence; the keeper
threw open the door. " Go in," he said. " I will wait out-
The girl entered and went into the inner room, throwing
herself down upon her knees at the bedside. "O Ward,
Ward!" she sobbed; "I am all alone in the world now.
Ward — all alone ! " She buried her face in her hands and
gave way to a passion of tears; and the keeper could not
help but hear as he waited outside. Then the desolate little
creature rose and came forth, putting on, as she did so, her
poor armor of pride. The keeper had not moved from the
door-step. Now he turned his face. "Before you go — g^
away for ever from this place — ^will you write your name in
my register," he said — " the visitors' raster ? The Govern-
ment had it prepared for the throngs who would visit these
graves ; but with the exception of the blacks, who can not
write, no one has come, and the register is empty. Will you
write your name ? Yet do not write it unless you can think
gently of the men who lie there under the grass. I believe
you do think gently of them, else why have you come of your
own accord to stand by the side of their graves ? " As he
said this, he looked fixedly at her.
Miss Ward did not answer ; but neither did she write.
40 RODMAN THE KEEPER.
"Very well," said the keeper; "come away. You will
not, I see."
" I can not ! Shall I, Bettina Ward, set my name down
in black and white as a visitor to this cemetery, where lie
fourteen thousand of the soldiers who killed my father, my
three brothers, my cousins ; who brought desolation upon all
our house, and ruin upon all our neighborhood, all our State,
and all our country ? — ^for the South is our country, and not
your North. Shall I foiget these things ? Never ! Sooner
let my right hand wither by my side ! I was but a child ; yet
I remember the tears of my mother, and the grief of all
around us. There was not a house where there was not one
"It is true," answered the keeper; "at the South, all
They walked down to the gate together in silence.
" Good-by," said John, holding out his hand; "you will
give me yours or not as you choose, but I will not have it as a
She gave it.
" I hope that life will grow brighter to you as the years
pass. May God bless you ! "
He dropped her hand ; she turned, and passed through
the gateway ; then he sprang after her.
" Nothing can change you," he said ; " I know it, I have
kno>yn it all along ; you are part of your country, part of the
time, part of the bitter hour through which she is passing.
Nothing can change you ; if it could, you would not be what
you are, and I should not — But you can not change. Good-
by. Bettina, poor little child — good-by. Follow your path out
into the world. Yet do not think, dear, that I have not seen
— ^have not understood."
He bent and kissed her hand ; then he was gone, and she
went on alone.
A week later the keeper strolled over toward the old
house. It was twilight, but the new owner was still at work.
RODMAN THE KEEPER.
He was one of those sandy-haired, energetic Maine men,
who, probably on the principle of extremes, were often found
through the South, making new homes for themselves in the
" Pulling down the old house, are you ? " said the keeper,
leaning idly on the gate, which was already flanked by a new
" Yes," replied the Maine man, pausing ; " it was only an
old shell, just ready to tumble on our heads. You're the
keeper over yonder, an't you ? " (He already knew everybody
within a circle of five miles.)
" Yes. I think I should like those vines if you have no
use for them," said Rodman, pointing to the uprooted green-
ery that once screened the old piazza.
" Wuth about twenty-five cents, I guess," said the Maine
man, handing them over.
SISTER ST. LUKE.
She lived shut in by flowers and trees,
And shade of gentle bigotries ;
On this side lay the trackless sea.
On that the great world's mystery ;
But, all unseen and all unguessed.
They could not break upon her rest.
The world's far glories flamed and flashed,
Afar the wild seas roared and dashed ;
But in her unall dull paradise.
Safe housed from rapture or surprise.
Nor day nor night had power to fnght
The pnoe of God within her eyes.
They found her there. " This is more than I expected,"
said Carrington as they landed — " seven pairs of Spanish eyes
" Three pairs/' answered Keith, fastening the statement
to fact and the boat to a rock in his calm way ; " and one if
not two of the pairs are Minorcan."
The two friends crossed the broad white beach toward
the little stone house of the light-keeper, who sat in the door-
way, having spent the morning watching their sail cross over
from Pelican reef, tacking lazily east and west — ^an event of
more than enough importance in his isolated life to have kept
him there, gazing and contented, all day. Behind the broad
shoulders of swarthy Pedro stood a little figure clothed in
black ; and as the man lifted himself at last and came down
to meet them, and his wife stepped briskly forward, they saw
that the third person was a nun — a large-eyed, fragile little
creature, promptly introduced by Melvyna, the keeper's wife.
SISTER ST. LUKE,
as " Sister St. Luke." For the keeper's wife, in spite of her
black eyes, was not a Minorcan; not even a Southerner.
Melvyna Sawyer was bom in Vermont, and, by one of the
strange chances of this vast, many-raced, motley country of
ours, she had traveled south as nurse — and a very good, en-
ergetic nurse too, albeit somewhat sharp-voiced — ^to a delicate
young wife, who had died in the sunny land, as so many of
them die; the sun, with all his good will and with all his
shining, not being able to undo in three months the work of
long years of the snows and bleak east winds of New Eng-
The lady dead, and her poor thin frame sent northward
again to lie in the hillside churchyard by the side of bleak
Puritan ance^ors, Melvyna looked about her. She hated the
lazy tropical land, and had packed her calf-skin trunk to go,
when Pedro Gonsalvez surprised her by proposing matrimony.
At least that is what she wrote to her aunt Clemanthy, away
in Vermont; and, although Pedro may not have used the
words, he at least meant the fact, for they were married two
weeks later by a justice of the peace, whom Melvyna's sharp
eyes had unearthed, she of course deeming the padre of the
little parish and one or two attendant priests as so much dust
to be trampled energetically under her shoes, Protestant and
number six and a half double-soled mediums. The justice
of the peace, a good-natured old gentleman who had foigot-
ten that he held the office at all, since there was no demand
for justice and the peace was never broken, married them as
well as he could in a surprised sort of way ; and, instead of
receiving a fee, gave one, which Melvyna, however, promptly
rescued from the bridegroom's willing hand, and returned
with the remark that there was no "call for alms" (pro-
nounced as if rhjrmed with hams), and that two shilling, or
mebbe three, she guessed, would be about right for the job.
This sum she deposited on the table, and then took leave,
walking off with a quick, enterprising step, followed by her
acquiescent and admiring bridegroom. He had remained ac-
44 SISTER ST. LUKE,