Copyright
Amelia Edith Huddleston Barr.

The king's highway. [microform] online

. (page 1 of 19)
Online LibraryAmelia Edith Huddleston BarrThe king's highway. [microform] → online text (page 1 of 19)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook


THE KING S HIGHWAY.



CHRISTIAN :

Apollyon, beware "what you do, for I am in the King s
Highway, the way of holiness ; therefore take heed
to yourself.

APOLLYON :

Then Apollyon straddled quite over the whole breadth
of the way, and said : "/ am void of fear in this

matter."

PILGRIM S PROGRESS: John Bunyan.



THE



KING S HIGHWAY.






BY

\\

AMELIA E. BARR.



NEW YORK:

DODD, MEAD AND COMPANY.
1897.



rs



Copyright, 1897,
BY Louis KLOPSCH.

Copyright, 1897,
BY DODD, MEAD AND COMPANY.



SHntbersttg ?iress :
JOHN WILSON AND SON, CAMBRIDGE, U. S. A.



THIS NOVEL

IS AFFECTIONATELY INSCRIBED

2To mg Dear JFrttnti,
MRS. LOUIS KLOPSCH.



CONTENTS

CHAPTER PAGE

I THE LOOSE SCREW i

II MATRIMONIAL PLANS 19

III JESSIE S AFFAIRS 42

IV A STRANGE DINNER PARTY 63

V MEN PROPOSE, WOiMEN DECIDE .... 92

VI "WHAT AILS THIS HEART OF MlNE ? " . 119

VII STEVE S OPPORTUNITY 144

VIII "I MUST SEE JESSIE" 176

IX JESSIE S AMBITION AND NICHOLAS LLOYD S

FAILURE 201

X A GREAT VICTORY 228

XI STEVE is WANTED 254

XII THE CHURCH OF THE FUTURE .... 278

XIII CLEAR THE KING S HIGHWAY .... 299

XIV JESSIE S HARD LESSON 315

XV COMING BACK 331

XVI "THY KINGDOM COME" 352



THE

KING S HIGHWAY

CHAPTER I

THE LOOSE SCREW

IF the mere accumulation of money be a good
thing, then Nicholas Lloyd had accomplished
something on which he might congratulate
himself. He was certainly a rich man. With
out being either good, or wise, or great, he
had overcome the world ; that is, he had broken
into its treasure-houses, and helped himself to
gold and silver, to houses and lands, and to
whatsoever represents the wealth for which so
many men give their lives and lose their
souls.

This struggle had left indelible marks on the
man, both physical and spiritual ; and he was
mutilated body and soul, though he knew it
not. Indeed, he was rather proud of his cold,
unruffled mien, and of that hardness of heart
and head which no game of Wall Street could
intoxicate. Thoroughly American, he had the
genius of those great financial operations which
move the world ; but he saw all love, all merit,
i



THE KING S HIGHWAY

all goodness through the coldness of his own
nature. He was without enthusiasm, he had
schemes instead of passions, and those who
knew him best found it easy to believe that he,
at least, was made out of the dust of the
earth.

He stood one morning in June at an open
window of his country house. The roses were
blowing in the garden, the cows browsing in the
wet meadows beyond ; the keen salt air of the
sea was in his nostrils, the sweet babbling of the
linnet in his ears ; but he was conscious of none
of these things. His thoughts were of dingy
dollars, and what heart he had was full of an
angry ache; for his domestic affairs had not
prospered to his liking, and the only son, for
whom he had planned so much, and so ambi
tiously, was a perpetual care and disappointment.

He had not seen him for months, and he had
resolved to put him out of his mind ; and yet,
at the beginning of the day, when he needed
every faculty fresh for his business, this unfortu
nate lad would intrude himself among his specu
lations. So he turned impatiently from the
window, and rang the bell to hurry forward his
cup of coffee. As he did so, his daughter Alice
entered the room.

" I am afraid we are late this morning, father,"
she said. "Mother is not well; she will not
2



THE LOOSE SCREW

come down ; so I will give you your breakfast
at once."

" Yes, you are eight minutes late. The time
table is beyond a woman s comprehension. I
want only a cup of coffee, Alice ; my stomach
has gone wrong, and refuses to be comforted.
I was thinking of Stephen have you heard of
him lately? "

"Yes. He came home last night."

"In what condition? "

" Well, and as happy as a bird."

" And without a cent, or a decent garment? "

" I think it very likely."

" And I began my life in that condition, and
Stephen sees and knows what I have brought
out of nothing. It is incredible ! God never
made a bigger fool."

"Does God make all the fools? And do
clever, prosperous men make themselves,
father?"

" Alice, don t talk nonsense."

" But Stephen is not a fool. He took high
honours at his college, and has a noble heart
beneath his soiled coat."

" I am not talking about his heart. His heart
is well enough at home ; but a man s heart can t
make money for him. He shut his ledger five
years ago and left Wall Street in a passion.
He said then, he would be happy if he could
3



THE KING S HIGHWAY

study art ; and I finally consented. What is
the result? He has abandoned the studio, just
as he abandoned the office."

" Why not? He found out that he had made
a mistake. He says now, that if all the pictures
in the world were destroyed they would be little
missed. Hills, woods, and all the beauties of
land and sea would still remain. Why then
should Stephen spend his life in making poor
pictures of them? I think he will yet become
a very wise and admirable man."

" He may but it is very improbable."

" It is very improbable but he may," and
she smiled confidently into the face of the
improbability.

Lloyd did not answer ; the horses were stamp
ing impatiently at the open door, and he, at
least, comprehended the time-table. With some
hurry he went away ; and Alice watched the
carriage out of sight, and then returned to the
breakfast table. Her face was thoughtful, her
manner expectant ; she was evidently waiting
for some person, or event. The situation, how
ever, did not ruffle her ; she had the composure
of a goddess, a charming young face, eyes
with long lashes, and luminous as those of a
child, and the kind, simple heart that never
grows old.

It was this fresh, faithful heart that inspired
4



THE LOOSE SCREW

her ; genius she did not possess. Little womanly
traits made her still more attractive ; she was
proud of her college ; she carried Horace in
her pocket, and considered herself to be
"strong-minded," being quite unconscious that
she was really the veriest sentimentalist. In
clothing herself she had a natural gift ; and
though her costumes were never easily remem
bered, they always did credit to her dressmaker.

This morning, as she sat crumbling her bread
to her sombre thoughts, no one would have
noticed her gown particularly : it was simply
all that was proper for the occasion ; but few
would have been indifferent to the general air
of freshness that added charm and lustre to her
loveliness. It might have come from her dress,
but it seemed to be a part of herself. And yet,
for a special and noble purpose, she had that
morning taken great pains with her toilet, for
her brother whom she dearly loved was to
be influenced by it.

He came lounging into the room ten minutes
after his father s departure ; and he had probably
been waiting for that event. Alice stood up as
he entered ; then she went to meet him, putting
both her hands in his hands, and lifting her fair
face to one tanned by every wind of heaven.

" Oh, Steve ! " she cried softly ; " how nice
you do look ! I have been waiting breakfast
5



THE KING S HIGHWAY

for you. Sit down, dear. It is so good to see
you once more."

" I am glad you waited, Alice. I do not
mind eating a fanciful meal with you ; but I did
not feel able for father, so early in the day. A
dispute at dinner may be borne; but disagree
able words in the morning give me an indiges
tion yes, dear, I will, of course, take sweet
breads ; and how spicy that coffee smells ! "

He was a tall, strong, well-made man, with
wonderful eyes eyes of heroic form, dark and
lustrous, with full lids, and long lashes. No
one would have denied his beauty, many would
have called him handsome ; and his chin fully
redeemed his wilful face, for it was of fine
mold, and quite unblunted by the animal pas
sions of human nature. And Alice at least
knew well what a true, loving heart he had,
though it did not stir readily to other hearts ;
its glow and motion answering best to the
mighty voices of Nature, to the winds, the
cries and songs of wild creatures, and the mur
mur and roar of the ocean. Evidently Stephen
Lloyd was a soul astray in the luxurious home
of the wealthy financier; he ought to have been
in a frontier hut, or on a sailing ship far away to
the north, with every stitch of canvas set, and
the green seas flying over her cross-trees.

Such as he was, however, Alice dearly loved
6



THE LOOSE SCREW

him. He troubled his mother, he angered his
father, and disappointed all the hopes that had
been centred on him ; but Alice loved him.
She fought his home battle continually ; she
would not suffer him to be forgotten, and she
did really prevent his falling many degrees lower
than he had done. For she sent him money ;
and money is often salvation. The mammon of
unrighteousness has a savour of life, as well as a
savour of death.

It was the first topic of their conversation.
" I was hard up, Alice, when I got that last
hundred dollars," he said. " It made me grossly
rich. It gave me a glorious spring, my dear
sister."

" Tell me about it. You were in Denver, I
think?"

" Yes ; I had just come from my winter quar
ters in Arizona. I was dead broke, and I wanted
to get to New York in time for my summer
plans."

"What are they?"

" I will go to sea for a few months : perhaps
on one of the big liners. I am a good man
before the mast; or I can turn myself into a
waiter, and serve tables."

" Oh, Steve ! With your education, is there
nothing better that you can do. You know
father will "

7



THE KING S HIGHWAY

"Dear Alice, father s plans for me have been
discussed to the last letter. I will not get money
as he does. I will work for every dollar I put
in my pocket so much labour for so much
money."

" Father works with his brains ; brain work is
as real a thing as hand work."

" We need not discuss that question. My
brains are not working brains ; they won t keep
accounts, they won t plot and scheme; they
can t teach, they refuse to recognize any mone
tary symbol, the click of wires, and the roar
and babble of Broadway and Wall Street, dis
tract them. The woods and the sea, and even
the Arizonian desert, talk sensibly to me. I can
work with my hands, I can stand at the wheel
of a ship, I can guide a reaper, I can drive
cattle, or do any sensible thing that a man s
brains order him to do with his two hands. I
can t sell things that have no existence. I can t
work with intangible figments of thought. I
want to see and handle my work. Such as I
am, I am. I was made so."

" But even the work you see and handle does
not always induce you to labour."

" Generally speaking, little girl, I do as much
work as is necessary. Now and then I get into
a tight place, or I feel a sense of hurry, and
write to you for help ; and bless your sweet



THE LOOSE SCREW

heart ! I always get it." He laid down his knife
and fork, and looked at her with a face radiant
with affection ; and Alice went to his side, and
put her arms around his neck, and kissed him.

" This time," he continued, " I was in a hurry.
I could have come East with some horses, and
got a free passage and a mouthful ; but I sud
denly got seasick, I mean, sick for the sea,
and the thought of its great free spaces haunted
me day and night, and I heard the roar and
murmur of the waves wherever I turned. I
hear them now. I am going to-day to look for
a summer berth, where I may be free of all they
can give me."

" Steve, if you love the sea so much, why not
go into the navy? A naval officer is very
respectable."

" You dear little ignoramus. Have you been
as far as Vassar without divining how much
naval officers pay for their respectability?
What study ! What limitations ! What obedi
ence ! What unceasing attention to details !
Thank you, dear, for the compliment; but
whatever could I do on a man-of-war? I, who
am only a wayfarer, a bird of passage, who
would perish if my wings were cut ! "

" Have some more coffee, Steve, and some
rice cakes? "

" Yes, I will. I am going to tell you a
9



THE KING S HIGHWAY

strange thing, Alice. I have found some very
old friends of father s ; indeed, they are related
to us, though not very intimately, the fami
lies intermarried a generation ago, and there
has been a friendship extending backward
through many generations. But these are evil
times for loving-kindness in any form ; every
thing wears it away."

"Where did you meet these people? Are
they nice?"

" I met them in New York. I have been
staying a week with them."

" How long since? "

"I left them yesterday very sorry to do
so but

" You have been a week in New York ! You
never let me know ! And you never came to
see me ! Oh, Steve, how could you ! "

" I saw you at Nora Leffert s marriage. You
looked as sweet and lovely as a rose. You were
the loveliest girl there."

"How could you see me? Surely, you were
not there? "

Steve laughed heartily at the question. " I was
not there," he answered, " though Nora and I
are old friends. I read about the marriage in
the newspapers, and I was sure you would be
present. I had a great longing to see you, so I
strolled up Broadway as far as the church, and
10



THE LOOSE SCREW

I had my reward. It is n t many fellows that
can boast of a sister so good and beautiful and
loving as you are, sweet Alice."

"Steve, I can return the compliment, very
truly. It is n t many girls that can boast of a
brother so handsome, and so good, and so lov
ing, as you are. Don t contradict me ; you are
handsome, when you are well dressed, as you
are this morning ; you are good, as far as you
understand what goodness means ; and nobody
knows better than I do how loving and true you
are."

" Don t you think I understand what goodness
means?"

" Mother says you do not. If you did, she
is sure you would think of others before your
self. You know her idea is, that until we bury
self entirely, we are still subject to evil."

" Who can bury self entirely? " asked Steve,
a little crossly. " I think mother expects too
much. She measures people by too high a
standard. When I saw you at the wedding,
John McAslin was with me. He saw you, also."

" I suppose John McAslin is one of the family
with whom you stayed a week? " she asked.

" Yes. John is the eldest child, and the only

son. There are two girls, beauties, both of

them, if I understand what beauty means,

and a father and mother. Now I am going to

n



THE KING S HIGHWAY

surprise you. The mother ought to have been
our mother. Father was engaged to her for
four years. She was making her wedding
clothes when she heard of his marriage."

"Oh, what a strange, dreadful thing! "

" It is a common tragedy enough. Merci
fully, women forgive and forget, and learn to
love again. If they did not, this world would
be a broken-hearted kind of a place."

"How did you find all this out?"

" I heard them talking of Senstone Valley,
and I said I had a schoolmate who came from
there, a lad called Lloyd. And Mrs. McAslin s
face instantly lighted, and she began to wonder
if he was Nicholas Lloyd s son, and to speak
of father, of his fine appearance, and his clever
ness, and his marriage with the rich Marian
Valliante, and of his present great wealth and
influence. And I understood the whole story
of her love and desertion, though she never
said a word about it. It was Flora McAslin,
the eldest daughter, who told me that chapter
of father s history, and it was Jessie McAslin
that said she was right glad her mother did not
marry such a selfish, bad man as Nicholas
Lloyd ; she thought her dear old papa, with his
thousand dollars per annum, a great deal the
finer gentleman."

" Perhaps Jessie McAslin does not know



THE LOOSE SCREW

father well enough to make comparisons ; and
you have not told me yet how you became
acquainted with this critical young lady."

" Don t judge until you know all the facts in
the case, Alice ; it would not be like you.
Jessie McAslin is not critical, she has the kind
est heart. I met her brother John in the train
just outside of Chicago. We sat together, and
we talked together until we reached New York.
It was in the morning, and I was a little jaded
and hungry, and John asked me to what hotel
I was going. I told him I never went to
hotels. He asked if I were going home, and I
answered, I have no home. Then he put his
arm through mine and said, Go home with
me. "

" It is your own fault, if you have no home,
Steve."

"Perhaps and perhaps not. That isn t
the question, now. I went home with John
McAslin."

"In what part of New York is his home?"
she asked.

"On the East Side, in some nice little flats
near St. Mark s Place. I dare say you never
heard of the locality. There was no one pres
ent when we entered but Mrs. McAslin. She
adores her son, and she made me welcome as
his friend. A good breakfast was soon ready
3



THE KING S HIGHWAY

for us, and then she sent us to bed. When I
woke up I heard pleasant voices and the noise
of cups and saucers. John had already risen.
I made myself as respectable as possible, I
had bought this suit in Chicago, and, guided
by the sound of the conversation, soon reached
the little dining-room. Father and mother,
brother and sisters, were eating dinner together,
and they made a place for me. A few hearty
words and a smile from Jessie by whose side
I found a chair set me at ease, and I 11 vow
I never ate a better or a more cheerful meal.
Is that enough of the McAslins?"

" No. I wish to hear all about them. How
did you spend the evening? What can you say
about the family? "

"I will answer your last question; the other
is of little importance. The father is a clerk in
an importing house ; not clever, not ambitious?
but fond of his home and family, one of those
rare men who are cheerful at six o clock in the
morning, and who have a child s capacity for
small, fleeting joys."

" And a little, insignificant-looking man, I
suppose? "

" Yes no I can t say. I should recog
nise him if we met, but

" You cannot describe him. Then he is cer
tainly a man of no force."
14



THE LOOSE SCREW

" I should not like to hazard that opinion,
Alice. I think a blow in the right place would
smite fire from him. The mother is a pleasant,
domestic woman. She does not fret herself, or
others ; she has no fads, no vanity, no littleness
of any kind. She has been a beauty. Flora is
like her."

" Pray, then, what is Flora like? "

" She has a sweet, calm, innocent face. She
is a dressmaker, and is going to marry one of
Tiffany s working jewellers. They think it a
good match. Flora will not come into any
one s life now but the working jeweller s
she is that kind of a girl. Jessie is dif
ferent."

" I can see that Jessie is your favourite. How
does she differ? "

" Every way. Jessie is small and witchy.
She has bright, piercing eyes, and curly brown
hair. There is no hesitancy in anything she
says or does. Her voice is clear, and has the
ring of sincerity. She is a hard-headed, soft
hearted mite, mistress of herself, and very lady
like. That is Jessie McAslin as I saw her.
She is her brother s favourite, and she is mine.
If I could ever think of a wife, Jessie would be
my sweetest dream."

"Why not Jessie, then?"

" Impossible utterly and finally impossible !



THE KING S HIGHWAY

I must not talk of her. I must not even think
of her."

"Is the brother like Jessie?"

" No one is like Jessie," said Steve to his
sister. "John has her pluck and fibre, and
one feels that he is made of superfine blood and
iron, and betters it with a noble spirit. But
Jessie is fair and John is dark. Jessie is small,
and John is tall. Jessie is more piquant than
beautiful; John is handsome as the morning
and cheerful as light. I was once complaining
of my fate. I said, I had been born under evil
stars, and John answered, No matter what stars
we are born under, Steve, they all tell us to
look up. For if we did not come into this
world to better ourselves, we might as well have
stayed where we were. I tell you, Alice, those
words went into my heart. I shall never com
plain of my stars again. John ought to be a
preacher."

"What is he?" Alice asked.

"A student of law a writer of essays a
newspaper scribbler a man fighting the world
with his pen, until his tongue is armed for the
conflict. But when the law has furnished him
with weapons, he will be a grand pleader. I
would be willing to get into a net of circum
stantial evidence, just to watch John pull it all
to pieces."

16



THE LOOSE SCREW

" I think he must be the most interesting of
this wonderful family. I should like to see John
McAslin."

" I would not have you run into such danger,
Alice."

She laughed uneasily, being embarrassed by
the boldness of her own desire. So she put an
end to the conversation by rising from the
table. " Mother does not like you to smoke,
Steve. She says smoking is the first vice,
drinking the second. I did not say a word last
night of your arrival," Alice continued, " for
had she known you were in the house, it would
have been impossible for her to sleep."

" Poor little mother ! I wish she had a better
son ! Does she go out much now? "

" Less and less."

" I am sorry. I think she makes a mistake.
One should not go through the world with
closed eyes."

"But if angels lead you, what then? And
mother finds it best to shut her eyes to so
much."

"I know; I saw father in the park a few
days ago. He was with a very gay party. I
won t tell you who composed it. Money flies
in such company; and father counts his money
so carefully. It is a wonder to me ! "

" And you are a wonder to him. And so it
17



THE KING S HIGHWAY

is few of us understand those whom we ought
most of all to know."

They were going hand in hand up the wide,
polished stairway, and they spoke in very low
tones. As Stephen drew near to his mother,
a marked change came over him. The
kindly bravado of his manner to Alice dis
appeared; and the white feather of personal
shame was very evidently tinging his love and
longing with a certain reluctance. He hesitated
at the closed door; if Alice had not been at his
side, he would have retreated. She watched
him enter; then she turned backward, for she
knew that these two souls needed no interpreter.
Indeed, he was barely within the room ere she
heard the sweet, half-veiled tones of welcome
tones like a caress.

"Oh, Steve! Steve! Oh, my boy! My
dear boy ! "



18



CHAPTER II

MATRIMONIAL PLANS

WHAT passed between the mother and son
remained secret. Steve came downstairs with
humid eyes, and an air of gloom that was al
most sullen. This air, however, was only the
veil he assumed in order to hide his unusual
mood ; for his mother had a wonderful influ
ence over him, though it was no more practical
than her own piety. For Marian Lloyd was a
mystic in the largest sense of the word. She
dwelt with this Spirit of the Cloud in a constant
sense of a spiritual world, which surrounded and
might at any moment claim her.

Really, her soul was naturally full of mystic
flashes, native and sweet, and far beyond her
own endeavour ; and therefore, as soon as she
realised the falseness of earthly love, and the
vanity of earthly desires, she had turned wholly
to things invisible to the Father of Spirits,
with whom there is no variableness ; to pleasures
immortal, and beyond the touch of disappoint
ment. And yet her intense realisation of that
great spiritual force which any man or woman
9



THE KING S HIGHWAY

may lay hold of by faith, and make their own
came not by any intellectual process of theology ;
it was the power and fervour of the indwelling
soul, burning within, and developing that sixth
sense by which we see " things invisible."

Still, a life is beautiful and fit just in propor
tion as it fits its duties and environments.
Marian Lloyd did not perceive that the finest
materials for religious happiness and spiritual
growth were at her fireside, among her family
affections and her home duties. She desired to
obtain a condition " above the meanness of fear
and the selfishness of hope ; " but she forgot
that she was lawfully bound to those who might
be influenced for good, by her fears and hopes ;
she forgot that the heart has two great powers,
the power of prayer and the power of lov
ing, and that the more homely one gives glory
to the higher makes for it wings, and teaches
it those singing, shining omnipotent words that
reach the ear of the Ineffable One.

Something of this condition of affairs was


1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19

Online LibraryAmelia Edith Huddleston BarrThe king's highway. [microform] → online text (page 1 of 19)