Amelia Edith Huddleston Barr.

The king's highway. [microform] online

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why should not a Christian take leave of his
life and his friends in the same cheerful, hopeful

He had not finished this strain of thought
when Mrs. Lloyd and Alice came into the room
together. He was shocked at the change in
their appearance, and when he heard something
of the great burden they were bearing he felt a
burning shame and anger at his own careless
neglect. "I ought to have known that father
was not fit to leave," he said, " and I did know
it, but in my selfish carelessness I hoped things
would go on as usual until I had had my

" You ought at least to have left us some
idea of where to find you, Steve, in case of
serious trouble. I thought my heart would
break to-night, with the very longing for the
comfort and help you could be. If prayer could
have reached your ear, as well as the ear of God,
you would, you must, have heard my cry."

" I did hear it, and I answered it at once. I
will not leave you again, mother."


"Your father s sickness may be tedious, or it
may end suddenly and there is Jessie."

" Jessie is very happy. I have not the
slightest doubt of that."

" But you must go to her," said Mrs. Lloyd.
" She ought to know that you are here. She
must be anxious about you."

" She does not expect me, mother, until
September," replied Steve. " I do not think
she will care to have her visit shortened, or made
less brilliant by a knowledge of our trouble."

" She knows everything already," said Alice ;
" she has been here. And she did offer her
help in any possible way. But she could not
tell us where you were, and that was the first
and great thing we needed."

" Steve," asked Mrs. Lloyd, " are you behav
ing unkindly to Jessie?"

" Not at all, mother. She understands. She
had no objection to being left alone until

" Nevertheless, you ought to go to her."

" Then I will go."

At this juncture some food was brought for
Steve, and they sat with him as he ate, and
talked of their father s sad case, and of Alice s
matrimonial affairs, until the clatter of the milk-
wagons, and the summer dawn warned them
that another day was at hand.


Following his mother s advice, Steve went as
soon as possible to visit his wife. He did not
give her any information of this visit, for he
had still some of that boyish love for surprises,
which never give the satisfaction the preparer
of them anticipates. He reached the hotel just
before dinner, and was told that Mrs. Lloyd
was out riding. So he sat down on the piazza
to watch for her return, and a dark spirit of
jealousy began to stir in his breast.

" She knows what trouble we are in," he
thought, " and yet she can go galloping over
the country with some fool or other." Then he
reminded himself that he was blaming her with
out knowledge, that he knew not who was her
escort, that Jessie had often said " to ride horse
back was her great desire," and that he ought
not to expect more than a conventional recogni
tion of his father s illness from her ; also, that
he himself was to blame, since his very willing
desertion had left her dependent for courtesy
and escort upon strangers.

In spite of such sensible thoughts, he sat with
lowering brows watching for his wife s return
home. She lingered till the sun was dropping
low, but he finally saw her coming at a rapid
speed up the long, smooth road. There was
no mistaking the small erect figure, the proud
carriage of the head, the dash and daring that


were as much a part of her as was the trig fit of
her riding-habit and the faultless set of her hat
A gentleman rode at her side, and he had an
air of familiarity or right in that position which
instantly offended Steve. At this moment he
could not take into consideration the fact that
he had voluntarily abdicated his place; he only
saw another where he ought to have been, and
saw that other treated with a merry intimacy
which he did not at all enjoy.

As the riders neared the hotel Steve stepped
forward, and before Jessie realised who was at
her horse s head he was ready to assist her
from her saddle.

" O Steve," she cried, " how glad I am to
see you ! " And the ring of pleasure in her voice
was so genuine that Steve s heart rose high as
heaven, and he took her in his arms regardless
of onlookers, and kissed her. Then she intro
duced him to Mr. Belton. " He has been so
kind to me, Steve," she said. " He has taught
me how to ride and how to swim, and I do not
know how I should have got through the time
but for him."

And Steve lifted his hat and muttered some
thing that might have been " thank you," but
which had the tone of a very contrary greeting.
Then he took Jessie on his arm and carried her
off triumphantly. And as they who have the


best of a situation can afford to be magnani
mous, Steve was in a reasonable temper and
ready to listen with a happy heart to all his
wife s witty and pretty explanations and de

Her dressing amazed and delighted him. He
could hardly bear to dash the beauty and spirits
of the brilliant little woman he loved by any
reference to his father s condition. But as he
was hesitating, Jessie herself introduced the

" Your father is very ill indeed, Steve," she
said. " Have you heard about his condition ? "

" Yes ; I have been home."

"Before coming to see me? I don t think
that was nice. I do not value your visit

" It was after midnight when I reached New
York. I was very unhappy about mother, and
I could not at that hour get a train out here.
So I went home first, and I am glad I did so.
I am much needed there. Alice told me you
had offered to do anything you could. It was
very good of you."

" Yes; I made the offer and got the coldest
kind of refusal."

" They are very miserable."

" They are very proud. And I don t care a
pin about their pride. I have been having a


real good time. Have you enjoyed yourself,

"A little. I missed you, Jessie, far more than
you can believe. I shall be glad to have you
home. When can you be ready?"

"Ready? What for?"

" To go home."

" Do you mean that stuffy little flat when you
say home?

" We have no other home. I shall be a
great deal with father. I think from what
mother says I ought to be with him every hour
except those hours necessary for sleep and rest.
It will be such a great comfort to have you at
home, Jessie. The very sight of you makes a
new man of me."

" Steve, I have told you often that I hate
that flat. I will go to a hotel and board
rather than go back to it. But if you must
stay near your father, then your proper place
is your father s house. I am sure it is big
enough to spare us a couple of rooms."

Steve looked at her in gloomy amazement.
But a few months ago that flat had answered
her highest ambition. And he did not like the
idea of a hotel. Who had put that alternative
into her head? As for taking her to his father s
house, he had no right to do so ; yet rather than
allow her to begin hotel life, he would ask his


mother and Alice to agree to Jessie s demand.
But these thoughts passed very reluctantly
through his mind, and Jessie said sharply:

" You do not seem to have an opinion of your
own, Steve. Why don t you say something ? "

" I was thinking," he answered. " I wish you
would go to our own home, Jessie; for my
sake, dear ! At any rate go for a little while,
at this hard time. Do me this great favour,

" Go to that wretched little flat ! In this
broiling weather ! No, thank you, I won t do
any such thing. I wonder how you can ask
me to leave this place until the season is over.
When it is over I will come back to New
York, but I shall live wherever you live. If
your father is alive, I suppose it will be in his
house. If he is dead, everything, of course, will
be different. You will have, whether you like
it or not, to take your proper place."

" Jessie, I have often told you that my father s
death can make no difference in our income, or
in our social position."

" Nonsense, Steve. If he has made an im
proper will, we must break it."

" I would rather beg my bread than attempt
to break my father s will."

" If he has made no will, then we are all



" God help me, Jessie ! Are you really spec
ulating over my dying father? He has bought
his money with his life, and surely he has a
right to do as he will with such dear gold."

" We shall see. How do I look, Steve? "

" You are marvellous, Jessie. You are dressed
like a picture. Where did you get all these
beautiful things?"

" You will find out pretty soon, Steve. But
I really had to dress. People even think it
strange that I wear no diamonds. Stephen
Lloyd s wife and no diamonds seems so absurd
to them."

" It would be far more absurd if you did wear
diamonds. Will you go home with me to
morrow? Do, Jessie ! "

" I won t go back to the city, Steve, until the
weather is cooler. Then you can come for me.
Nearly every one is going away in two weeks to
the mountains. I should like to go somewhere,
if possible ; but if you wish me, I will then go
back home with you."

"To our own home? Thank you, Jessie."

" No, sir. I will not go back to that flat. I
have made some very stylish friends here, and
I simply could not ask them to call on me in
such a place. Your father s house is all right.
I will go there."

" Callers there are out of the question,


Jessie. I wonder you can think of such a

" I don t think of it, stupid ! But my address
will be there, that is sufficient; the future can
grow from that. Steve, dear, I want a lot of
money. I have used up all you left me, and am
a good deal in debt. Gracious ! I wish I had
a million."

" Always money, Jessie ! I wish there was n t
such a thing. The very thought of it lies on the
heart like a great stone, and seals up every good
and kind feeling."

"That is all right. The heart ought to be
sealed up these days. When are you going
back to New York?"

" To-morrow morning. First train."

" Do you wish me to go with you and see
your mother and Alice?"

" If you wish but but "

"But what?"


However, though she went to town, she did
not call on Steve s family. She had a lot of
shopping to do, and she had thought over
affairs, and concluded that the position she
wished would be best taken by surprise. If
she advanced step by step, Alice was shrewd
enough to circumvent her rights. For by con
stantly assuring herself that she had " rights "


in the Lloyd home and property, she had come
to regard her non-possession as a great personal

As they rode into town the next morning
Steve asked his wife concerning her brother
John. " He is in Day & Darling s law office,"
she answered with an air of injury, "but
he is become a worse crank than ever. Of
the people, and for the people, that is his
motto, and much good the people will do
him. I think he is crazy, or next door to

" Then I wish we were all crazy, Jessie. John
has a great heart."

" Too great when it goes out to the whole
world. He loves so many that he loves no
body. He lectured two weeks ago at the
Cooper Union, and said things that made re
spectable people angry at him. I heard him
severely criticised by Mr. Belton and many
others, and I was ashamed to acknowledge
him as my brother."

" Poor John ! Pray what did he say to offend
Mr. Belton and many others? "

" He said that if we saw any injustice or
cruelty and did not oppose it, we also were
positively and actively immoral. Such non
sense ! A man who lived up to that rule would
be constantly in a fight."


" We ought to be in a constant fight against
evil. What else did he say? "

" He spoke badly about what he called the
worthy sort of people, and said they were
mostly cowards. "

Steve laughed heartily, and answered : " This
is interesting, Jessie. Why did he call them
cowards? "

" He said if they saw a wrong they shut
their lips and took their supper and forgot all
about it. Or if they read of some great misery
they said, Poor fellow ! and then went off to
the comic opera, or to dance all night at the
house of their most respectable friend, forget
ting that because of their silence, injustice and
fraud and cruelty cut the throats of the poor
and the unfortunate at their pleasure."

" Very good, and very true words. How did
the people listening like them?"

" The newspapers said John spoke in a blaze
of anger and pity, and set the people on fire,
but the more worthy sort of people, the very
ones whose help he wanted, did not go with
him. John is a fool. If he would turn his fine
talents to politics, Mr. Belton says, there is no
office he might not aspire to, governor, Presi
dent, what not! He has the rabble at his

" And if it is the rabble that make governors


and presidents, who would be a thing of their
making, Jessie? "

" It would be very nice to have a brother
President of the United States, no matter who
or what made him so. Here we are at Twenty-
third Street. You may leave me now, for I
have a great many little things to buy."

So Steve left his wife at one of the great dry
goods stores, and went to watch in his father s
death-room. Jessie was happier than usual.
She had discovered that after all she was the
dominant key in her husband s life, and that
allowing for a certain amount of opposition
she would be very likely, in the long run, to
get her own way in anything she was deter
mined about. And she was determined never
to go back to the narrow life she had left. She
had been gradually throwing off the claims of
father and mother, brother and sister; all she
desired was gold. It might be the price of a
soul, it might be the price of love, of domestic
happiness, of honour and friendship, but she
wanted gold, gold to push herself to the front
of a crowd of frivolous men and women ; gold
to outdress and outfeast and outdance the mul
titude at her heels; gold to buy luxury and
power and flattery ; gold that was to be spent
absolutely upon her own indulgence, unsanc-
tified by a single charitable gift. And Steve


knew her desire and her intention, and he
trembled, because he doubted his own ability
to resist the entreaties, the smiles and tears
and cleverly sustained pressure that would be
brought against him. He had the faculty, how
ever, of letting things drift, and this question of
the future was not yet to be decided. But he felt
certain that as soon as she wished to do so,
Jessie would accomplish the desire of her heart
and make herself one of the Lloyd household.

So the thing expected happened, and Mrs.
Lloyd and Alice, with the supcrsensitiveness of
good women, rather overdid the concession
granted. They were so afraid of not being
courteous enough that they resigned something
of their own rights, and were so conscious
of their own dislike to the intrusion, that they
covered it with more than an ample ceremony.
The best guest rooms in the house were allotted
to Jessie ; a carriage was placed at her disposal,
and the servants were instructed to give her
every attention and obedience.

Jessie was clever enough to make good her
own standing ; to gradually render herself almost
indispensable. She lifted so many little cares,
did so much necessary shopping, saw people
whom Mrs. Lloyd and Alice did not wish to see,
wrote notes of ceremony, etc., etc., and day by
day so encroached on every one s duties, that
18 273


the keys of the Lloyd mansion, figuratively
speaking, fell absolutely into her hands. And
through all these changes Steve was becoming
daily more and more infatuated with his wife s
beauty and cleverness, and more and more
subject to her influence and control.

It must, however, be admitted that Jessie s
rapid accession to power was greatly aided by
Alice s careless abrogation of it. The unhappy
girl was walking through the Valley of Humilia
tion, and it is a fact that most of us prefer to
take that lowly road without witnesses. After
her interview with Mr. Rives she had written a
few sad but positive words to Lord Medway,
releasing both of them from an engagement
that seemed so allied to misfortune and disap
pointment; and the young man had accepted
his " unhappy destiny " without any gainsaying.
Across that chapter of her life she had written
" finished," and she knew that it was finished.
She knew, also, that she had done right; but an
approving conscience does not relieve or release
from consequences. These have been created,
and must be borne ; and it is well for us that
there is no release from them. Such experi
ences bring the sweet austerity of sacrifice, and
that serenity of submission which is the harvest-
song of inward peace. Alice had not yet at
tained unto this excellent condition, but she was


slowly following after it. On the bread of
bitterness, she was growing to her full stature;
and then one day this thing happened to her.

Another nurse was needed very urgently.
Steve could not leave his father; Jessie was out
for the day, and Mrs. Lloyd asked Alice to go
to a certain address near Chelsea Square. " I
have seen the man, and he is very suitable," she
said ; " and I could write for him, but if you will
take the carriage, and drive to his home, we
shall have him here some hours earlier."

" I will go at once, mother ; " she answered ;
and she did so. Having finished her errand,
she was driving past the Theological Seminary
in that locality; and the quaint, vine-covered
building, which she had never seen before,
arrested her attention. " It is like a corner from
some old English cathedral town," she thought;
" such a bit of beauty, and rest, and peace, near
the river, is simply wonderful." And as she
gazed, she saw several men and women, with
prayer-books in their hands, enter the building.
Her message was delivered, her curiosity was
aroused; nay, it was something wiser and more
potent than mere curiosity; it was that warm
impression of the soul to which we give the
name of presentiment that whispered to her,
" Go in and be comforted."

She bade the coachman wait for her, and fol-


lowed the " two s and three s " through the gate
way into a lovely little chapel. The organ was
preluding the service in a nobly majestic invo
cation, and ere it was finished a large orderly
body of young men filed into the stalls and
knelt in prayer. The little congregation bowed
with them, then came the officiating pastor, and
his sweet, clear voice filled the whole space with
those pathetic entreaties with which sinful men
best approach their Maker :

" Hide thy face from my sins, and blot out all
my iniquities.

"The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a
broken and a contrite heart, O God, thou wilt not
despise. To the Lord our God belong mercies
and forgiveness ; though we have rebelled against

" O Lord, correct me, but with judgment ; not
in thine anger, lest thou bring me to nothing.

" I will arise and go to my father, and will
say unto him, Father, I have sinned against
heaven, and before thee, and am no more
worthy to be called thy son."

Music and intercession, the thrilling march of
young men singing, " The Lord is a man of
war," the pathos, and the calm assurance of
the responses, the verbal music of the pastor s
noble reading of the noblest words in the
language, all these went to Alice s heart, and


melted its frost with infinite tenderness, and
watered it with the rain of sorrowful tears, and
filled it with the joy of believing.

"My dear Lord God!" she prayed, "take
me to the rest of Thy Will be Done! " Then
she was comforted. She rose with the congre
gation, and the sweet music of the benediction
fell upon her heart She had accepted, and she
had been accepted ; and she went back to her
home literally a changed woman. God had
spoken a word to her. Is any one ever the same
after that wondrous experience?

Who that one moment hath the least descried Him,

Dimly and faintly, hidden and afar,
Doth not despise all excellence beside Him,

Pleasures and powers, that are not, and that are?




THE experience which does not make us better,
makes us worse; and there was in Jessie s case
a constant disintegration of character. She had
obtained the uttermost desire of her vain, ambi
tious heart; and she considered this result to be
the fruit of her own tact and superior wisdom.
No credit was given to the force of circum
stances ; none to her husband s love ; none to
the unselfish tolerance of Mrs. Lloyd and Alice.
She believed that she had forced the position,
and she prided herself on her strategy and

All the long, dreary winter she held firmly
the reins of the Lloyd household, and she was
never weary of pointing out to Steve how cleverly
she did so. And as Steve was not accustomed
to look below the surface of events, he was
amazed and delighted with Jessie s social suc
cess. He even began to have some respect for
a society that was capable of appreciating and
indorsing his idea of a beautiful woman and
a desirable wife. Yet Jessie, after all, ruled


only because of favourable circumstances. Mrs.
Lloyd s exhausting watch by her husband s side
left her no time for either domestic or social
duties, and Alice bore this burden in a large
measure with her.

Besides which, Alice had trouble which was
peculiarly her own. Soon after Christmas there
began to be reports of a marriage between Miss
Leavenworth and Lord Medway. Some papers
averred this to be the case, and others as posi
tively asserted that the engagement between Miss
Lloyd and Lord Medway was still in force, and
the marriage only delayed by the illness of the
bride s father. Reporters vexed her by re
quests for an interview, callers and acquaintances
hinted or spoke plainly on the subject ; there
were still stray offerings from distant friends of
congratulations or wedding gifts, and the un
happy girl was thankful to escape from actual
contact with a world that at this hour had
nothing but annoyances to offer.

And no one could deny that Jessie filled the
place she had taken with great success. She
dressed to it with taste and decorum ; she un
derstood the servants intuitively, and made them
fulfil their contracts and do the last tittle of their
duty, and she won for herself a very real personal
adherence and admiration among the acquaint
ances of the Lloyd family. " I am making


friends with the mammon of unrighteousness, as
John would say," she laughingly told Steve.
" When we have our own house again, my visit
ing list will compare with the best in the city."
And Steve had not the courage to oppose this
intangible idea. He thought it would be best
to wait until there was a proposition to realise it.

Just as Good Friday dawned, this unnatural
condition of family affairs was brought to its
climax. Alice was awakened by her mother
out of a deep sleep, and she saw that on her
face which needed no explanation. " Go back
to him," she whispered, " and I will be with
you in five minutes." Then she drew up the
blind and let in the pale gray light, and as she
did so felt the miserable influence of the evil
comet then saddening the skies, and the wrack
of clouds driven onward by the wind. Insen
sibly, she was terrified for the departing soul,
and as she put on some clothing she began to
pray. Her words were full of the stress and
hurry of the parting hour, and as she hastened
up the dim stairway to the death-room, she
could but iterate over and over with a constantly
increasing intensity, " Lord Jesus ! save him, for
thy mercy s sake ! "

The end was close at hand, the silver cords
binding the mortal to immortality were loosened.
Nicholas Lloyd was drifting rapidly beyond the


reach or ken of earthly love. Whether he was
conscious of his departure or not it was impos
sible to determine. His wide-open eyes were
full of a sombre gloom, and pitifully restless.
He was evidently imploring some last gratifica
tion. Steve understood this, and watched him
with a reluctance and sorrow that was inexpres
sible. " Mother," he finally whispered, " I
know what he wants. Shall I give him it?"
She looked her assent, rather than spoke, and

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