" Of what are you afraid ? " called out Carrington impa-
** I know not, indeed," she answered, almost in tears over
her own behavior, yet unable to stir. Keith came back, and
saw that she was trembling â€” ^not violently, but in a subdued,
helpless sort of way which was pathetic in its very causeless-
" Take her up, Pedro," he ordered ; and, before she could
56 SISTER ST. LUKE.
object, the good-natured giant had borne her in three strides
through the dreaded region, and set her down safely upon
the ridge. She followed them humbly now, along the safe
path, trying to step firmly, and walk with her head up, as
Keith had directed. Carrington had already forgotten her
again, and even Keith was eagerly looking ahead for the first
glimpse of green.
" There is something singularly fascinating in the stretch
of a salt marsh," he said. " Its level has such a far sweep
as you stand and gaze across it, and you have a dreamy feel-
ing that there is no end to it. The stiff, drenched grasses
hold the salt which the tide brings in twice a day, and you
inhale that fresh, strong, briny odor, the rank, salt, invigorat-
ing smell of the sea ; the breeze that blows across has a tang
to it like the snap of a whip-lash across your face, bringing
the blood to the surface, and rousing you to a quicker pace.
" Ha ! " said Carrington ; ** there it is. Don't you see the
green? A little farther on, you ^vill see the mast of the
" That is all that is wanted," said Keith. "A salt marsh
is not complete without a boat tilted up aground somewhere,
with its slender dark mast outlined against the sky. A boat
sailing along in a commonplace way would blight the whole
thing ; what we want is an abandoned craft, aged and desert-
ed, aground down the marsh with only its mast rising above
''Bien / there it is," said Carrington ; " and now the ques-
tion is, how to get to it."
" You two giants will have to go," said Keith, finding a
comfortable seat. " I see a mile or two of tall wading be-
fore us, and up to your shoulders is over my head. I went
duck-shooting with that man last year, seflora. * Come on,*
he cried â€” 'splendid sport ahead, old fellow; come on.'
" ' Is it deep ? ' I asked from behind. I was already up
to my knees, and could not see bottom, the water was so
SISTER ST. LUKE.
" * Oh, no, not at all ; just right,' he answered, striding
ahead. * Come on/
" I came ; and went in up to my eyes."
But the sefiora did not smile.
" Vou know Carrington is taller than I am," explained
Keith, amused by the novelty of seeing his own stories fall flat.
" Is he ? " said the Sister vaguely.
It was evident that she had not observed whether he was
Carrington stopped short, and for an instant stared blankly
at her. What every one noticed and admired all over the
countrjf wherever he went, this little silent creature had not
even seen !
" He will never forgive you," said Keith laughing, as the
two tall forms strode off into the marsh. Then, seeing that
she did not comprehend in the least, he made a seat for her
by spreading his light coat on the Appalachian chain, and,
leaning back on his elbow, began talking to her about the
marsh. " Breathe in the strong salt," he said, " and let your
eyes rest on the green, reedy expanse. Supposing you Were
painting a picture, now â€” does any one paint pictures at your
convent ? "
"Ah, yes," said the little nun, rousing to animation at
once. " Sister St. James paints pictures the most beautiful
on earth. She painted for us Santa Inez with her lamb, and
Santa Rufina of Sevilla, with her palms and earthen vases."
" And has she not taught you to paint also ? "
" Me ! Oh, no. I am only a Sister young and of no gifts.
Sister St. James is a great saint, and of age she has seventy
"Not requisites for painting, either of them, that I am
aware," said Keith. " However, if you were painting this
marsh, do you not see how the mast of that boat makes the
feature of the landscape the one human element; and yet,
even that abandoned, merged as it were in the desolate wild-
ness of the scene ? "
58 SISTER ST. LUKE,
The Sister looked over the green earnestly, as if trying to
see all that he suggested. Keith talked on. He knew that
he talked well, and he did not confuse her with more than
one subject, but dwelt upon the marsh ; stories of men who
had been lost in them, of women who had floated down in .
boats and never returned; descriptions clear as etchings;
studies of the monotone of hues before them â€” one subject
pictured over and over again, as, wishing to instruct a child,
he would have drawn with a chalk one letter of the alphabet
a hundred times, until the wandering eyes had learned at last
to recognize and know it.
" Do you see nothing at all, feel nothing at all ?" he said.
" Tell me exactly."
Thus urged, the Sister replied that she thought she did
feel the salt breeze a little.
" Then take off that shroud and enjoy it," said Keith, ex-
tending his arm suddenly, and sweeping off the long veil by
the comer that was nearest to him.
" Oh ! " said the little Sisterâ€”" oh I " and distressfully she
covered her head with her hands, as if tr3ang to shield herself
from the terrible light of day. But the veil had gone down
into the thicket, whither she dared not follow. She stood ir-
" I will get it for you before the others come back," said
Keith. â€¢' It is gone now, however, and, what is more, you
could not help it ; so sit down, like a sensible creature, and
enjoy the breeze."
The little nun sat down, and confusedly tried to be a sen-
sible creature. Her head, with its short rings of dark hair,
rose childlike from the black gown she wore, and the breeze
swept freshly over her ; but her eyes were full of tears, and
her face so pleading in its pale, silent distress, that at length
Keith went down and brought back the veil.
" See the cranes fl5dng home," he said, as the long line
dotted the red of the west " They always seem to be flying
right into the sunset, sensible birds ! "
SISTER ST. LUKE.
The little Sister had heard that word twice now ; evidently
the cranes were more sensible than she. She sighed as she
fastened on the veil ; there were a great many hard things
out in the world, then, she thought. At the dear convent it
was not expected that one should be as a crane.
The other two came back at length, wet and triumphant,
with their prize. They had stopped to bail it out, plug its
cracks, mend the old sail after a fashion, and nothing would
do but that the three should sail home in it, Pedro, for whom
there was no room, returning by the way they had come.
Carrington, having worked hard, was determined to carry out
his plan ; and said so.
" A fine plan to give us all a wetting," remarked Keith.
" You go down there and work an hour or two yourself,
and see hovfyou like it," answered the other, with the irrele-
vance produced by aching muscles and perspiration dripping
from every pore.
This conversation had taken place at the edge of the
marsh where they had brought the boat up through one of
the numerous channels.
" Very well," said Keith. " But mind you, not a word
about danger before the Sister. I shall have hard enough
work to persuade her to come with us as it is."
He went back to the ridge, and carelessly suggested re-
turning home by water.
" You will not have to go through the thicket then," he
Somewhat to his surprise, Sister St. Luke consented im-
mediately, and followed without a word as he led the way.
She was mortally afraid of the water, but, during his absence,
she had been telling her beads, and thinking with contrition
of two obstinacies in one day â€” that of the thicket and that of
the veil â€” she could not, she would not have three. So, com-
mending herself to all the saints, she embarked
" Look here, Carrington, if ever you inveigle me into such
danger again for a mere fool's fancy, I will show you what I
6o SISTER ST. LUKE.
think of it. You knew the condition of that boat, and I did
not," said Keith, sternly, as the two men stood at last on the
beach in front of the lighthouse. The Sister had gone
within, glaid to feel land underfoot once more. She had sat
quietly in her place all the way, afraid of the water, of the
wind, of everything, but entirely unconscious of the real dan-
ger that menaced them. For the little craft would not mind
her helm ; her mast slipped about erratically ; the planking at
the bow seemed about to give way altogether ; and they were
on a lee shore, with the tide coming in, and the surf beating
roughly on the beach. They were both good sailors, but it
had taken all they knew to bring the boat safely to the light-
" To tell the truth, I did not think she was so crippled,"
said Carrington. " She really is a good boat for her size."
" Very," said Keith sarcastically.
But the younger man clung to his opinion ; and, in order to
verify it, he set himself to work repairing the little craft. You
would have supposed his daily bread depended upon her be-
ing made seaworthy, by the way he labored. She was made
over from stem to stem : a new mast, a new sail ; and, finally,
scarlet and g^een paint were brought over from the village,
and out she came as brilliant as a young paroquet. Then
Carrington took to sailing in her. Proud of his handy work,
he sailed up and down, over to the reef, and up the inlet, and
even persuaded Melv3ma to go with him once, accompanied
by the meek little Sister.
" Why shouldn't you both learn how to manage her ? " he
said in his enthusiasm. "She's as easy to manage as a
" And as easy to tip over," replied Melvyna, screwing up
her lips tightly and shaking her head. " You don't catch me
out in her again, sure's as my name's Sawyer."
For Melvyna always remained a Sawyer in her own mind,
in spite of her spouse's name ; she could not, indeed, be any-
thing else â€” noblesse oblige. But the Sister, obedient as usual.
SISTER ST. LUKE. 61
bent her eyes in turn upon the ropes, the mast, the sail, and
the helm, while Carrington, waxing eloquent over his favorite
science, delivered a lecture upon their uses, and made her ex-
periment a little to see if she comprehended. He used the
simplest words for her benefit, words of one sjdlable, and un-
consciously elevated his voice somewhat, as though that would
make her understand better; her wits seemed to him. always
of the slowest. The Sister followed his directions, and imi-
tated his motions with painstaking minuteness. 'She did
very well until a large porpoise rolled up his dark, glistening
back close alongside, when, dropping the sail-rope with a
scream, she crouched down at Melvyna's feet and hid her face
in her veil. Carrington from that day could get no more pas-
sengers for his paroquet boat. But he sailed up and down
alone in his little craft, and, when that amusement palled, he
took the remainder of the scarlet and green paint and adorned
the shells of various sea-crabs and other crawling things, so
that the little Sister was met one afternoon by a whole proces-
sion of unearthly creatures, strangely variegated, proceeding
gravely in single file down the beach from the pen where they
had been confined. Keith pointed out to her, however, the
probability of their being much admired in their own circles
as long as the hues lasted, and she was comforted.
They strolled down the beach now every afternoon, some-
times two, sometimes three, sometimes four when Melvyna
had no cooking to watch, no bread to bake ; for she rejected
with scorn the omnipresent hot biscuit of the South, and kept
her household supplied with light loaves in spite of the diffi-
culties of yeast. Sister St. Luke had learned to endure the
crabs, but she still fled from the fiddlers when they strayed
over from their towns in the marsh ; she still went carefully
around the great jelly-fish sprawling on the beach, and re-
garded from a safe distance the beautiful blue Portuguese
men-of-war, stranded unexpectedly on the dangerous shore,
all their fair voyagings over. Keith collected for her the bril-
liant sea-weeds, little flecks of color on the white sand, and
62 SISTER ST. LUKE.
showed her their beauties ; he made her notice all the varieties
of shells, enormous conches for the tritons to blow, and beds
of wee pink ovals and cornucopias, plates and cups for the
little web-footed fairies. Once he came upon a sea-bean.
" It has drifted over from one of the West Indian islands,"
he said, polishing it with his handkerchiefâ€” " one of the
islands â€” ^let us say Miraprovos â€” a palmy tropical name, bring-
ing up visions of a volcanic mountain, vast cliffs, a tangled
gorgeous forest, and the soft lapping wash of tropical seas.
Is it not so, sefiora? "
But the sefiora had never heard of the West Indian
Islands. Being told, she replied : " As you say it, it is so.
There is, then, much land in the world ? "
" If you keep the sea-bean for ever, good will come," said
Keith, gravely presenting it ; " but, if after having once ac-
cepted it you then lose it, evil will fall upon you."
The Sister received the amulet with believing reverence.
" I will lay it up before the shrine of Our Lady," she said,
carefully placing it in the little pocket over her heart, hidden
among the folds of her gown, where she kept her most pre-
cious treasures â€” ^a bead of a rosary that had belonged to some
saint who lived somewhere some time, a little faded prayer
copied in the handwriting of a young nun who had died some
years before and whom she had dearly loved, and a list of her
own most vicious faults, to be read over and lamented daily ;
crying evils such as a perverse and insubordinate bearing, a
heart froward and evil, gluttonous desires of the flesh, and a
spirit of murderous rage. These were her own ideas of her-
self, written down at the convent Had she not behaved her-
self perversely to the Sister Paula, with whom one should be
always mild on account of the affliction which had sharpened
her tongue ? Had she not wrongfully coveted the cell of the
novice Felipa, because it looked out upon the orange walk }
Had she not gluttonously longed for more of the delectable
marmalade made by the aged Sanchita ? And, worse than
all, had she not, in a spirit of murderous rage, beat the yellow
SISTER ST. LUKE. 6$
cat with a palm-branch for carrying off the young doves, her
especial charge ? " Ah, my sins are great indeed," she sighed
daily upon her knees, and smote her breast with tears.
Keith watched the sea-bean go into the little heart-pocket
almost with compunction. Many of these amulets of the
sea, gathered during his winter rambles, had he bestowed
with formal warning of their magic powers, and many a fair
hand had taken them, many a soft voice had promised to
keep them " for ever." But he well knew they would be mis-
laid and forgotten in a day. The fair ones well knew it too,
and each knew that the other knew, so no harm was done.
But this sea-bean, he thought, would have a different fate â€”
laid up in some little nook before the shrine, a witness to the
daily prayers of the simple-hearted little Sister. " I hope they
may do it good," he thought vaguely. Then, reflecting that
even the most depraved bean would not probably be much
affected by the prayers, he laughed off the fancy, yet did not
quite like to think, after all, that the prayers were of no use.
Keith's religion, however, was in the primary rocks.
Far down the beach they came upon a wreck, an old and
long hidden relic of the past. The low sand-bluff had caved
away suddenly and left a clean new side, where, imbedded in
the lower part, they saw a ponderous mast. " An old Span-
ish galleon," said Keith, stooping to examine the remains. " I
know it by the curious bolts. They ran ashore here, broad-
side on, in one of those sudden tornadoes they have along
this coast once in a while, I presume. Singular ! This was
my very place for lying in the sun and letting the blaze scorch
me with its clear scintillant splendor. I never imagined I was
l5dng on the bones of this old Spaniard."
" God rest the souls of the sailors ! " said the Sister, mak-
ing the sign of the cross.
" They have been in â€” ^wherever they are, let us say, for
about three centuries now," observed Keith, " and must be
used to it, good or bad."
" Nay ; but purgatory, senor."
64 SISTER ST. LUKE.
** Trae. I had forgotten that," said Keith.
One morning there came up a dense, soft, southern-sea
fog, " The kind you can cut with a knife," Carrington said.
It lasted for days, sweeping out to sea at night on the land
breeze, and lying in a gray bank low down on the horizon,
and then rolling in again in the morning enveloping the water
and the island in a thick white cloud which was not mist and
did not seem damp even, so freshly, softly salt was the feeling
it gave to the faces that went abroad in it. Carrington and
Keith, of course, must needs be. out in it every moment of
the time. They walked down the beach for miles, hearing
the muffled sound of the near waves, but not seeing them.
They sailed in it not knowing whither they went, and they
drifted out at sunset and watched the land breeze lift it, roll it
up, and carry it out to sea, where distant ships on the horizon
line, bound southward, and nearer ones, sailing northward
with the Gulf Stream, found themselves enveloped and both-
ered by their old and baffling foe. They went over to the reef
every morning, these two, and bathed in the fog, coming back
by sense of feeling, as it were, and landing not infrequently a
mile below or above the lighthouse; then what appetites
they had for breakfast ! And, if it was not ready, they roamed
about, roaring like young lions. At least that is what Mel-
vyna said one morning when Carrington had put his curly
head into her kitchen door six times in the course of one half
The Sister shrank from the sea fog ; she had never seen
one before, and she said it was like a great soft white creature
that came in on wings, and brooded over the earth. " Yes,
beautiful, perhaps," she said in reply to Keith, " but it is so
strange â€” ^and â€” ^and â€” I know not how to say it â€” ^but it seems
like a place for spirits to walk, and not of the mortal kind."
They were wandering down the beach, where Keith had
lured her to listen to the sound of the hidden waves. At that
moment Carrington loomed into view coming toward them.
He seemed of giant size as he appeared, passed them, and
SISTER ST. LUKE. 65
disappeared again into the cloud behind, his voice sounding
muffled as he greeted them. The Sister shrank nearer to her
companion as the figure had suddenly made itself visible.
" Do you know it is a wonder to me how you have ever man-
aged to live so far/' said Keith smiling.
*' But it was not far," said the little nun. " Nothing was
ever far at the dear convent, but everything was near, and
not of strangeness to make one afraid ; the garden wall was
the end. There we go not outside, but our walk is always
from the lime-tree to the white rose-bush and back again.
Everything we know there â€” ^not roar of waves, npt strong
wind, not the thick, white air comes to give us fear, but all is
still and at peace. At night I dream of the organ, and of the
orange-trees, and of the doves. I wake, and hear only the
sound of the g^eat water below."
"You will go back," said Keith.
He had begun to pity her lately, for her longing was deeper
than he had supposed. It had its roots in her very being. He
had studied her and found it so.
" She will die of pure homesickness if she stays here much
longer," he said to Carring^on. " What do you think of our
writing down to that old convent and offering â€” of course un-
known to her â€” to pay the little she costs them, if they will
take her back ? "
" All right," said Carrington. " Go ahead." *
He was making a larger sail for his paroquet boat. " If
none of you will go out in her, I might as well have all the
sport I can," he said.
" Sport to consist in being swamped ? " Keith asked.
" By no means, croaker. Sport to consist in shooting over
the water like a rocket ; I sitting on the tilted edge, watching
the waves, the winds, and the clouds, and hearing the water
sing as we rush along."
Keith took counsel with no one else, not even with Melvy-
na, but presently he wrote his letter and carried it himself
over to the village to mail. He did good deeds like that once
66 SISTER ST. LUKE.
in a while, " to help humanity," he said. They were tangible
always ; like the primary rocks.
At length one evening the fog rolled out to sea for good
and all, at least as far as that shore was concerned. In the
morning there stood the lighthouse, and the island, and the
reef, just the same as ever. They had almost expected to
see them altered, melted a little.
" Let us go over to the reef, all of us, and spend the day,"
said Keith. " It will do us good to breathe the clear air, and
feel the brilliant, dry, hot sunshine again." ,
** Hear the man I " said Melvyna laughing. " After trying
to persuade us all those days that he liked that sticky fog
too ! "
" Mme. Gonsalvez. we like a lily ; but is that any reason
why we may not also like a rose ? "
" Neither of 'em grows on this beach as I'm aware of,"
answered Melvyna dryly.
Then Carrington put in his voice, and carried the day.
Women never resisted Carrington long, but yielded almost
unconsciously to the influence of his height and his strength,
and his strong, hearty will. A subtiler influence over them,
however, would have waked resistance, and Carrington him-
self would have been conquered far sooner (and was con-
quered later) by one who remained unswayed by those in-
fluences, to Which others paid involuntary obeisance.
Pedro had gone to the village for his supplies and his two
days of mild Minorcan dissipation, and Melvyna, beguiled and
cajoled by the chaffing of the two young men, at last con-
sented, and not only packed the lunch-basket with careful
hand, but even donned for the occasion her " best bonnet," a
structure trimmed in Vermont seven years before by the ex-
perienced hand of Miss Althy Spears, the village milliner, who
had adorned it with a durable green ribbon and a vigorous
v^rreath of artificial flowers. Thus helmeted, Mme. Gonsalvez
presided at the stem of the boat with great dignity. For
they were in the safe, well-appointed little yacht belonging to
SISTER ST. LUKE. 67
the two gentlemen, the daring paroquet having been ieft at
home tied to the last of a low heap of rocks that jutted out
into the water in front of the lighthouse, the only remains of
the old stone dock built by the Spaniards long before. Sister
St Luke was with them of course, gentle and frightened as
usual Her breath came quickly as they neared the reef, and
Carrington with a sure hand guided the little craft outside
into the surf, and, rounding a point, landed them safely in a
miniature harbor he had noted there. Keith had counted the
days, and felt sure that the answer from the convent would
come soOn. His offerâ€” for he had made it his alone without
Carrington's aid â€” had been liberal ; there could be but one re-
ply. The little Sister would soon go back to the lime-tree, the
white rose-bush, the doves, the old organ that was " so laige "
â€” ^all the quiet routine of the life she loved so well ; and they
would see her small oval face and timid dark eyes no more.
So he took her for a last walk down the reef, while Melvyna
made coffee, and Carrington, having noticed a dark line float-
ing on the water, inmiediately went out in his boat, of course,
to see what it was.
The reef had its high backbone, like the island. Some
day it would be the island, with another reef outside, and the
lighthouse beach would belong to the mainland. Do^ti the
stretch of sand toward the sea the pelicans stood in rows,
toeing a mark, solemn and heavy, by the hundreds â€” a count-
less number â€” ^for the reef was their gathering-place.
" They are holding a conclave," said Keith. " That old
fellow has the floor. See him wag his head,"
In and out among the pelicans, and paying no attention