Amelia Edith Huddleston Barr.

The king's highway. [microform] online

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ing the passer-by to a wondering, half-frightened
glance which he could not understand and so
put quickly away. For here the rich Nicholas
Lloyd had come to die. Here he sat, waiting for
the hour of fate. In his brain that wondrous
world with one inhabitant he lived in profound
and awful depths, where things vague and fearful
were half revealed and half hidden by mist of
dreams. Led by old desires and ancient hates,
tormented by the sins of vanished years, and
pushed by hands that were dust long ago, into
recesses dim and dark through treacherous
sands and storms of flame, he suffered even
in this life the awful penalty of the " outer

It was now that the long neglected wife came

grandly up to the far back promise of her love.

All that gives life its meaning and earnestness,

and death its solemn and mysterious signifi-



cance, moved her to superhuman cares and
faith. Her soul stretched itself out to a tran
scendent credence in the love of God. She
dared to believe that all things, even the salva
tion of one so unconscious of his own danger,
were possible to Omnipotence. And since he
could not pray, she prayed for him. Night and
day ministering to his bodily necessities, she
cried out incessantly, "God be merciful to
him." Faith crushed down every creed but
that grandly surpassing assurance that " He
was not willing that any should perish." Then
why should she limit this glorious zone of
the divine mercy? So whenever her husband
would or could listen, the ineffable name was
on her lips.

He heard it silently or tremblingly, looking
at her with eyes so wide and pitiful that their
gaze nearly broke her heart. Oh, was it pos
sible that the thought of God could enter the
brain demented and corrupted by the lust of
gold? She knew not, but she believed that
prayer was omnipotent. There might be one
sane, clean moment granted in the which he
could say, " God be merciful to me a sinner."
And if so, surely he could not have been more
sinful than Christ was holy. When a man was
fighting death and hell, then, if ever, a loving
wife must pray for him. And no apparent use-
16 241


lessness made her cease from prayer. She
knew her husband must die. Medical science
has felt its way only too surely. When it says
" There is no hope," there is none. But faith
for the soul s salvation will not so despair. It
spurns impossibilities ; it relies upon the unseen
and the unknowable.

Into this valley of the shadow of death Alice
Lloyd also passed, and its gloom, and suffering,
and despair were all the more noticeable be
cause she left for it the very sunshine of life s
gayest verities and sweetest hopes. No one
willingly takes this narrowest and darkest of
roads ; and Alice wept secretly as she inclined
her heart and head and whispered obedience to
the circumstances she could neither avoid nor
control. She hoped her lover would at least
frequently step aside and comfort her loneli
ness, and bring renewed promise to her disap
pointment. And at first it seemed as if her
hopes would be realised. Within two days
after her return to New York, Lord Medway
called at the afflicted house. Alice was de
lightedly surprised ; and Medway must have
seen the transfiguration of love and hope on
her face when he entered her presence unex
pectedly. Adorably shy and self-conscious,
she retreated behind her book as behind a
barrier, but the young man was so especially


tender and sympathetic that she was easily
led to respond to the comfort he offered.

Never had she appeared to him more lovely
and desirable, yet he did not understand that
what delighted him that day in her visible
beauty was the invisible, the spiritual evo
lution of accepted sorrow illumining the phys
ical evolution, for the face is always the very
portrait of the soul. Half reluctantly at first,
afterward with great apparent desire and sin
cerity, he urged their immediate marriage. He
said, " As to the business part of their union,
what was yet unfinished, he could trust to her
if she could trust to him ; " and he appeared to
be altogether so unselfish and affectionate that
Alice gladly believed in all he said. At that
hour she almost loved him. He won from her
by his faithfulness in sorrow far more than he
had ever gained in the sunny hours of so-called
pleasure. Then, she had been coy and hard
to please and chary of her lightest favour ; but
at this dark hour his fidelity awoke in her heart
that overplus of womanly gratitude which is so
near akin to love that Medvvay was charmed
by its delicious sweetness, and he went through
the shadowed hall and down the steps of the
sorrowful house a very happy man.

" How sweet and good she is ! " he whispered
to himself as he drove through the avenue.


" All her affections are like the dews on roses,
fair as the flowers themselves, as sweet and
gentle ! " And then he smiled pleasantly at
his own remembrance of the apt classical quo
tation. And surely at that moment his heart
was true to his promise; he had no intention
of breaking his renewed vow ; he was fully de
termined to make Alice his wife with the least
possible delay. And Alice had promised to
consult her mother at once, and the next morn
ing name the day for their marriage.

" I will be here to-morrow at the noon hour,"
he said with a loving caress, and she held his
hand for a moment and looked into his eyes,
and felt sure that she had bade him " farewell "
for ever. For so pitilessly kind is that pre
science which accompanies the pure in heart,
that even with this engagement in her ears
Alice trembled in the gloom of its certain fail
ure. Not that Lord Medway intended this
result, even Alice, with a severe justice, ex
onerated him so far, but weak men are easily
cruel through their selfishness, though they may
not, as a rule, plan cruelty.

Medway, however, went directly from Alice
to his lawyer s office, and he was frightened by
the doubts and cautions he received there.
This man had never favoured his client s marriage
with Nicholas Lloyd s daughter. He detested


Lloyd, who had done him some wrong in the far
distant years of his early struggle for business,
and throughout the whole negotiation he had
quietly striven to delay and embarrass affairs.
Indeed, his provoking contradictions and sus
picions had been a large factor in developing
the disease which had driven his old enemy
to the chamber of death. He felt that this was
the final struggle, and he put forth all his powers
to such excellent purpose that he induced the
young man to leave early the next morning for
England. To the last moment he remained
with him, and Medway, uncertain and per
plexed, and completely under the influence of
a man of tremendous resource and mental ac
tivity, went aboard the steamer unresolved, and
miserably conscious that he was a consummate

" I will see the young lady," were the man s
last words, as he held Medway s hand, " and
make it all right. She is Nicholas Lloyd s
daughter, and bound to be a sensible girl."

"I don t know, Mr. Rives; it seems to me all
shamefully wrong, I declare it does. I think I
will go on shore again."

" You must not. I will tell her you had a

cablegram about important business. Take my

advice and drop the whole affair. Have I any

motive but your advantage? As far as I am



concerned, it would be better for me that you
should marry the girl."

"Then why do you fight against your

" I have been young. I made a mistake my
self. I won t see any fine young man get into
a hole if I can help it. Lawyers are not al
together Sancho Panzas ; there is something
of Don Quixote in most of us. It is the last
moment. Good-bye."

"But Mr. Rives "

" Good-bye ! I will see Miss Lloyd before
noon. Write to her at your leisure." He said
these words on the loosened gangway, and as
the great ship began to move, he called out,
" Don t write at all. Let the matter drop en
tirely." Then as a parting shot: "I am ready
to take up the Leavenworth affair as soon as
you are."

Answer to this remark was impossible, but he
noticed Medway laugh and lift his hat, and he
said with a sigh of relief, " He is safe now."
Then he put his hands in his pockets and walked
thoughtfully to his coupe. It was too soon to
call on Miss Lloyd, so he drove to the Hoffman
House, ate a good breakfast, smoked a couple
of cigars, and then resolved to get the business
off his hands as far as the young lady was
concerned. He was fully conscious of the re-


vengeful part he had played, and it was with a
sense of well-deserved triumph he entered the
house which he told himself he had " helped
considerably to pull down."

The parlour of the Lloyd mansion was dark
ened to keep out the heat. The house was
very still. Mr. Rives had to wait twenty min
utes before Alice was ready to see him, and
in that twenty minutes thoughts that he could
not prevent crowded even gratified revenge to
the wall. Since Nicholas Lloyd so wantonly
wronged him a great tide of events had flowed
between them, and the straits of Time widened
and widened ; but he had never forgotten the
wrong, never ceased to watch for an opportu
nity to repay it, with interest. The opportunity
had come, and he had taken every advantage of
it. In a few minutes he would taste the sweet
est morsel of his revenge, for he resolved to
tell Miss Lloyd the story of the far-back injury,
and leave her no grounds for doubting who it
was that had come between her and Lord

When Alice entered the room he saw at once
that she had been weeping, but it did not move
him to pity, for his anger, ingrained, had be
come a hatred which desired its satisfaction,
even upon the innocent. And if his injustice
touched him at all, he reminded himself that his


own daughter s prospects had been blighted just
on the verge of her womanhood by the sudden
poverty which Nicholas Lloyd had brought on
him. " T is but justice, bare justice," he mut
tered ; " my girl suffered the wreck of all her
hopes ; his girl shall suffer as mine did. Yes, I
will spare her nothing. "

As he was thus instructing himself, Alice
entered. She was dressed in white, even to her
shoes; and as she stood in the dim room, she
made a kind of radiance. He was startled by
her pallor, by her air of noble sorrow, and by
her large proud eyes, which affected him like
an accusation.

"You are Mr. Rives?" she asked, advancing
a little, but declining, by a slight motion, the
chair he offered.

" I am. I called to tell you that Lord Med-
way left for England this morning."

" I know it, sir."

" Ah ! " he ejaculated. He could only imag
ine that Medway, in spite of his advice to the
contrary, had written to her, and he was slightly
dashed by this unconscious throwing back of
his first stone. But he continued with more

" I do not know when he will return."

" He will not return at all."

Irritated by this calm, positive assertion, he


denied at once its truth. " He will return about
Christmas, I think."

" You are mistaken, sir. He will not return."

" How do you know that? " he asked sharply.
And she made no answer, for how could she
tell him that he saw only with his eyes, but that
she saw with her heart?

The profound silence that ensued was most
embarrassing, though it lasted but a minute.
Indeed, he forced with brutal directness a pas
sage through it. " Mr. Lloyd is very ill, I
suppose? "

"Very; he dies daily, by hours and minutes."

" Is he ever sufficiently sane to remember
past events? "

" Sometimes he is. Do you wish me to ask
him for some information?"

" Yes. I wish you to ask him to remember
the twelfth of October, twenty-three years ago.
On that day he robbed me of all I had, and in
so doing blasted my little Annette s prospects
for life. By fraud and falsities he has heaped
damnation on himself before God has damned
him, and I hope he will go to the devil when
that day comes around again ! "

He spoke with a rapid passion that admitted

of no interruption, even if Alice had desired to

interrupt him ; but she stood still and white as

death, looking at the accuser. Very soon,



however, her calm, stern voice broke the un
natural stillness that instantly followed the un
natural outbreak.

" God has brought his sins to his remembrance.
My father does not require that you or I should
touch his memory. It would be well to pray
that our sins be not so brought to remembrance.
As to the future, Nicholas Lloyd has to do with
Almighty God, and not with John Rives."

Her grave rebuke, severe in youthful beauty,
had an invincible authority. He was ashamed
of his profane, relentless cruelty, and he added,
" If you only knew how cruelly he wronged

" The reconciling grave is now between you.
In a few weeks, or days, or hours, it may be too
late to send the message you ought to send;
for you must remember that your trespasses
will be forgiven as you forgive those that have
trespassed against you."

" If you only knew ! " he reiterated ; " if you
only knew, you would not wonder that I hate."

" I am sorry for you. Hatred is such a bitter
self-punishment. And very likely you judge
my poor father too hardly. If he had com
mitted any crime against his fellow-men the
law "

" He never committed a crime ; he was too
clever for that; but he did far worse to me."


" Well, then you have seen your desire on
your enemy, as all those who suffer ultimately
do. This is your opportunity. Forgive any
wrong father has done you. If I ask him to re
member John Rives, I must give him a merciful
reason for doing so. What am I to say to
him? "

" I cannot forgive him. Let him go to his
own place."

" You also may need mercy some day, Mr.
Rives. Is this the answer you wish to your
prayer for it? "

" I cannot forgive Nicholas Lloyd ; but I am
sorry that I have so steadily worked against
your marriage with Lord Medway. I regret
that. I will try to undo it."

" You need not regret it, as far as I am con
cerned. All things will work together for my
good, for I trust in One able to make them do
so. Do not, therefore, try either to do or to
undo in my affairs. I have committed my cause
to God, and not to John Rives. But if you have
the message of a Christian gentleman to send to
my dying father, I will gladly take it."

She ceased speaking, and stood waiting, and
the stillness was such as might be felt. The
roll of the carriages outside the darkened win
dows only intensified it. Alice heard them as
in a dream. John Rives heard nothing but the


rapid beat, beat, beat of his heart, where anger
and hatred remained as in a fort. But suddenly
his sullen defiance heard a Voice, prophetic in
its power, kingly in its authority, priestly in its
blessing and cursing the Voice of Conscience,
of the pervading and besetting God "Thou
also art a mortal man." And he recognised the
majesty of this reminder, and did reverence to
that within him which is eternal.

" You may tell Nicholas Lloyd that I
forgive him," he said. The words were bro
kenly and softly spoken. Indeed, he hardly
knew the tones of his own voice, and he was far
down the avenue ere he understood fully that
he had obeyed that wondrous Power which
works neither by insinuation, flattery, nor threat,
but by simply holding up the naked law of God
within the soul that Imperative which says
to every man, if he will listen to it, " Thou
ought" and " Thou must."

He did not look at Alice as he passed her,
nor see the brightening paleness of her face, nor
comprehend that he had been with one of those
finer spirits who amid the jar and jangle of
daily life and the sighs and cries of suffering
still keep the melodious memory of the everlast
ing chime. But Alice knew that she had been
on a great battle-field, and witnessed a great
victory, and that henceforward that shrouded


parlour must be a sacred place, for in it she had
seen a sinful soul meet its Maker and render

" Surely," she whispered, " he has gone to
his house justified. It is good for him and it is
good for father. Poor father ! When a man is
fighting death it would be foul play indeed to
let flesh and blood interpose against him."




STEVE was as yet ignorant of these events.
After leaving his wife at the watering-place she
had chosen, he went straight to a little cot he
knew of in the heart of the Hudson Highlands.
It was the home of a wood-cutter and his wife,
and there were no other homes near it. The
old woman had cared for him before ; the old
man "had the virtue of extreme reticence.
Neither of them troubled themselves about
Steve s coming and going; he gave them
money, they gave food and shelter for it, and
asked him no questions. Steve was never sure
whether their apparent apathy was indifference,
or stupidity, or a fine sense of personal pecu
liarities with which they had nothing to do.

Towards the end of August he was sitting
one night on the doorstep of the cottage. The
wood-cutter was in a chair tilted against a big
maple tree, and was smoking one of Steve s
cigars, an act of politeness he very seldom
committed, for he much preferred his own old
pipe and black tobacco. They had nodded


to each other when they met at the supper-
table ; they had nodded again when the cigar
was offered and accepted, but they had not
spoken. Neither of them wished to do so.
They were content to wait until they had some
thing to say. Cynthia, the woodman s wife,
was scarcely more talkative. Her vocabulary
consisted of a few questions and a few excla
mations. She had said to Steve when he re
turned from a day in the woods, " Be you come
home to supper?" and then put an extra plate
on the table. She was now moving quietly
about her cottage, washing the dishes and lay
ing the table for the early breakfast.

A great peace was all around. The sun had
just set, the robins were piping the birds to bed,
the woodman s collies sleeping at Steve s feet.
They always attached themselves to Steve when
he visited their master, for the collie is a gen
tleman and knows a gentleman when he meets
one. Like Steve, they abhored evil and deceit,
and they meant whatever they suggested. One
dog rested his head on Steve s foot ; Steve s
hand lay across the head of the other. The
stars came out one by one, " keen glancing
from the Immensities," the selfsame stars
under which Abraham worshipped and David
kept his sheep and Columbus sailed, Arcturus
pale and calm as angelic stars should be; the


Pleiades with their " sweet influence," and the
Belt of Orion with his "binding" one. Plants
and trees and rivers and stars all spoke of in
calculable beneficence to Steve, and made the
earth on which he trod consecrated ground.
Was he lonely then? No! the loneliness of a
good or great soul is all nonsense ! It has
infinite relationships.

Yet when Cynthia had gone to bed and there
were no longer the echoes of the sounds her
movements made, Steve looked at his com
panion as if he wished him to speak. He knew
what to expect from him in the way of conver
sation, short, sharp sentences like pistol shots,
and he felt as if one or two of them would not
be amiss.

" Martin Bloch," he said, " I know that I
seem to you a queer fellow. You wonder at

" I wonder at nothing."

" I mean, at the idle life I lead. But don t
you think every man ought to get as much
happiness as possible in his own way?"

" Is happiness all life means?"

" We can only live once."

" You have n t read your Bible, Steve. That s

" I mean we only live this particular life



"Would you like to live this particular life

" No. It is too full of injustice."

" That s it. I see Wilmot has lost his case

" Yet it was a good one."

" The case is bad when the client is poor."

" Don t you think a poor man can obtain a
decree against a rich man?"

" As the Bible says : with man it is impos
sible, but all things are possible to God. "

After a long pause Steve continued : " You
never spoke of your politics? What side are
you for? "

"The side that s up."

"How is that right?"

"Well, it s natural to think that Providence
knows best."

" I have been disappointed in X."

" You should n t have been."

"Why not?"

" Because ten never becomes twelve."

" His idea of the whole world is a political

"That s it. Men to him aint fathers and
citizens, they are Republicans or Democrats."

" I have often wondered, Martin, if you were
born in these woods, and to this life?"

" I was not."
17 257


"You met calamity? And bravely, too, I
have no doubt?"

" Yes, as a good soldier meets a shot."

" You had a loving wife to help you? "

" Yes, I had."

" And health? Health is good fortune."

" It s the salt of life."

" And you don t fear death?"

" The fear of death may bully the world ; it
does not bully me."

"You have a reason for that confidence?"

" Yes. I know Him that was dead, and is
alive, and living for ever. "

Then Steve stretched out his hand, and
Martin shyly took it, and the silence was deeper
than ever. An hour passed, then Steve rose,
stooped and petted the dogs, and said with a
yawn, " It is getting late, Martin, and you go to
work so early in the morning."

" Not to-morrow. The job I was on is fin

" Some day you will finish your last job."

" That s it. It won t matter."

"You think so?"

" Not to others. We are in a world where
there s always plenty of fresh hands."

" That s true, too. Good night. I am going
to sleep."

" I doubt it."



" Eh ! What do you mean? "

" Flesh and blood may sleep, but does the
soul sleep?"

" No. Sleep sets it free like a bird from a

" I thought so."

But Steve did not hear this answer, for as
Martin spoke, a clear, soft, penetrating voice
filled his ears and his heart. He stood still,
and his whole frame vibrated to the powerful
influence. Awed, and yet informed of his duty,
he bowed his head and his will to the message.
It was imparted swiftly as thought, and yet it
brought with it a strange conviction of impera
tive necessity. He waited until he knew the
presence had departed, and then he said,

" Martin, did you hear anyone speak? "

" Not a word."

" I did. I shall not go to bed now. I am
going home. My mother called me. She is
needing my help in some way."

" Then go to her. Don t loiter. She may
be in trouble."

" I fear she is."

" And it may be about yourself. Men
should n t make mothers weep. God counts
their tears."

In ten minutes Steve had packed the little
valise he carried, and was on his way to the


nearest railway station. But it was long after
midnight before he was at the door of the Lloyd
mansion in New York. He had debated with
himself on the journey as to whether he would
call there, or go at once to Newport, but had
concluded that it might be best to see if his
father were not in New York. If so, Steve was
sure anything unusual would have been tele
graphed to him. He was a little astonished to
see lights in the house ; more so when he rang
the bell and it was promptly answered, and the
sight of the servant whom he knew had gone
with the family to Newport sent a quick terror
to his heart.

"You here, Kelly? " he ejaculated, and the
man answered, " Mr. Lloyd is very ill, sir. The
family are all in New York."

The man preceded him into the parlour,
turned up the lights, and then went to notify
the mother and sister of Steve s arrival. He
was too restless to sit, too sensitive to the
atmosphere around him to doubt what presence
was waiting there. But full of anxiety as he
was he resented this gloomy anticipation of the
change which affected the whole house.

"I wonder what we are Christians for?" he

mentally exclaimed. " We never see anything

but terror in the visit of death. The pagan

Athenian, caressing his dog ere he cheerfully



went out and fared to the house of the Lord of
Many Guests/ might teach us a lesson. There
is no fear of the terrible in his face or attitude.
He knows that all good things await the new
comer to Hades, and that Happiness is be
trothed to him in a garden of myrtles. Then

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Online LibraryAmelia Edith Huddleston BarrThe king's highway. [microform] → online text (page 13 of 19)