Amelia Edith Huddleston Barr.

The king's highway. [microform] online

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understand. You have a very large sum of
money belonging to me in your hand, or in
your business. You have it on call. If you
refuse the requests I am going to make, then I
refuse to allow you the use of this money any
longer. I shall instruct Telford to collect it
at once. "

He looked at her with anger and anxiety.
" What do you want ? " he asked.

" I want Alice to have her free will in the

Medway matter. If she wishes to marry him

I will not oppose her; if she does not wish to

marry him, I will not have her frightened, or



persuaded, or in any way talked into a loveless
union ; no, not for all the gold in America and
all the nobility in Europe. And I must in
sist upon you authoritatively contradicting the
statements made in to-day s papers."

" I cannot contradict them. I myself gave
the reporters the main part of the information.
Of course they added to it "

" You must contradict it. You must say, at
any rate, that the news is premature; that Miss
Lloyd s education is yet unfinished, and that
her marriage will not be considered for at least
another year. This restoration of Alice to her
place, as a girl not yet in society, is impera
tive. It must be done."

"Have I been mistaken in you all these
years? What makes you talk to me in this
strain? You are surely out of your mind. I
shall send a physician to see you to-morrow."

"Will you agree to these two things con
tradict the report of to-day, and leave Alice
perfectly free to make her own decision about
Lord Medway ? "

" What if I do not agree ? "

" Then you will find it more difficult to pay
Lord Medway the money you have promised
him than you imagine it to be now."

" Ah ! That is your move. Very clever
indeed ! Alice is to have her way or else you


will make it impossible for me to have my way.
Who put you up to this plan? Telford? "

"Will you do as I want you to do? Or will
you give up my money? "

" I cannot possibly pay your money back
at present. In some respects it would mean
ruin to me. Why, it turns me gray to think
of it!"

" In every respect it is ruin to any girl to
marry without love. Alice may be spared a
marriage she does not desire, you may be
spared a repayment you dread by two small
acts of simple justice. Will you do them ? "

" I suppose I must. You ought to have gone
into stocks, Marian ; you drive a Shylock bar
gain no consideration at all for a man s word,
or bond, or feelings."

"Nicholas, whenever did you feel for any
one s word, or bond, or feelings? Have you
cared for my feelings ? Or for poor Stephen s ?
Or for Alice s? I am no Shylock. If I could
have appealed to your heart I never should
have thought of your purse. Will you do to
morrow morning what I ask of you? "

" Yes and what will you do ? "

" I will pay the price of it."

"Very well. You have made your bargain.
I suppose Medway can see Alice to-morrow?"

" Certainly. I wish her to judge fairly. Let


him ask for himself. Let her answer for her

With a calm "good-night" she then went
away to the quiet little room which had for
many years been her place of meditation and
prayer, the room from which she had brought
so often the peace that passeth understanding
and the rest that no earthly love can give. She
was trembling all over, her heart beat rapidly,
her face was set to her purpose, her eyes shin
ing. But this " closet apart " was full of peace ;
the spiritual emanations of years clung to it.
A great seriousness fell like a mantle all over
her, and to be serious is to be at repose. It
was not long before she could put the earth
beneath her feet ; then her soul, feeling its im
mortality, sat light upon its temporal perch,
and knew a joy past utterance, a sense of di
vine presence, a serene amazement in which
all trouble and questions and conclusions were
lost. Her face had a radiance that was not
colour, but a direct spiritual effluence; the shin
ing of the soul through mere flesh and blood,
for it is the soul that makes the body, and
inward beauty seldom fails to express itself

The opening and shutting ot a door, and a bar
or two of a hunting song in which Alice s voice
mingled with John McAslin s, dissolved the


glory, and recalled her to temporal affairs. But,
oh, the divine tranquillity in which her sorrow
for Steve and her care for Alice were lost ! Her
own heart-longing and heart-aching, and all the
heaviness of life s great tragedy had become
lighter than a grasshopper; and though the
spiritual tide ebbed quickly out, nothing could
rob her of that calm repose it left behind.

In that prescient condition she saw clearly
the end to which Alice and John McAslin were
drifting, and the knowledge brought no fear
with it. "He is a good man," she said softly,
"and he loves her. I will neither meddle
nor make, nor in any way try to influence her,
for a hand wiser than mine is weaving their

Mrs. Lloyd held to this position even with
regard to Lord Medway, though, at her daugh
ter s urgent request, she accompanied her in
the morning to the interview which Lord Med
way desired, but she took little part in their
conversation. The young noble had never be
fore looked so handsome, and never before
been so self-effacing. He regretted, with ap
parent sincerity, the publicity given to his as
pirations, because they appeared so egotistical
on his part, and because Alice had felt this
publicity to be an offence. He declared his
affection to be sincere and lasting, and asked


permission to renew his addresses, when a year
in society should have better enabled her to
know her own position and what was demanded
of it.

Alice felt it to be impossible to say any of
the disagreeable things she had intended to
say. When a man puts himself, metaphori
cally, at a woman s feet, it is hard for her to
wantonly insult him. She found no presump
tion to snub, and no claims were made on her
future kindness which she thought it necessary
to deny. And Medway really felt the disap
pointment in his pocket, and his pocket greatly
influenced his life. His dreams of unlimited
credit and unlimited expenditure were over, or
at least postponed, and another year of finan
cial straits and annoyances was before him.
The thought of this condition impressed a de
spondency on his face and manner which Alice
was led to believe she was entirely answera
ble for. It had its effect, for when he asked :
" May I return to Lloyd Park next summer ? "
she was unable to give a decided refusal. So
he went away with a hope that he trusted
time and social influences would bring to

As soon as he was really gone Alice experi
enced a kind of regret. All that he could give
her appeared for the moment so desirable. She


said to her mother. " I cannot feel certain about
anything. What do you think, mother?"

"Well, Alice, there is one test of both men
and matter that of practice. The world al
ways asks of everything, Will it work? If
not, it must go. Ask yourself, Do I love
him well enough to live with him all our lives,
to bear with all his faults, to forgive his neg
lect, to nurse him in sickness, to take an inter
est in all that interests him? If not, a
marriage with him will not work. It must


"Then I think it must go, mother."
"Be sure in your own mind, Alice."
"Why didn t father speak to me this
morning? "

" There was no need to trouble you. I had
a conversation with him last night, while you
were singing with Mr. McAslin. He prom
ised me to deny authoritatively the report of
yesterday, and also to allow you the fullest and
freest choice in the matter of your marriage."

It was all she said; it was all she wished to
say, at the time. That strange indecision
which gives to whatever we are likely to lose
a renewed worth and interest was troubling her
heart. Between Lord Medway and her father s
paid secretary there was a social gulf whose


width and depth she was able pretty accurately
to measure, and for a moment she told herself
it was impossible to cross it. Then she re
membered that between Lord Medway and
John McAslin, as men, there was a mental and
moral gulf greater than the social one. John
would lift her higher than all her hopes and
aspirations. To walk on the same plane with
Lord Medway, she must sink lower than her
self every way. John s voice and presence set
her soul vibrating like music. For Lord Med
way she had, at most, an experimental inter
est, made up of flattered vanity and tolerant
indifference. "It won t work," she said to
herself. " He may go back to England and
stay there." And yet she sighed, and won
dered "why the nice lover was always the poor

After this crisis was fairly over, there was
one of those pauses in life which generally fol
low periods of great feeling or great excite
ment. Jessie began to think her visit to Lloyd
Park a little monotonous, and to wonder at the
stupid life some rich people endured.

"The same things occur every day, and at
the same hour," she said to John, "and though
the place is pretty and the house beautiful,
river views and fine furniture do not seem to
be wholly satisfying things."


"But Miss Lloyd reads and plays and sings,
and has friends. These are satisfying things,
Jessie," answered John.

"Oh, John, you tire of books; they do all
the talking; and you cannot be always playing
and singing to yourself. And as to friends
who all pay their visits on the same afternoon,
and who dare not say one unconventional word,
what pleasure is there in them ? "

"But the coolness and verdure of the coun
try, its "

"John, I do not believe in the coolness of
the country. And the dense green of the woods
is depressing beyond everything. The river
glares. The long, dusty lanes are awful. I
prefer the city. No place in summer is so
cheery and comfortable as New York. You
are never disappointed in its supplies. Ice
creams and the best of fruits are at every
corner. I find Central Park sylvan enough.
The streets have always a shady side. There
is a constant point of interest somewhere
a concert, a show, a lecture, or a labour
meeting. Yes, I wish the Lloyds would come
back to the city. I am tired to death of the

" I enjoy my visits there very much. "

"Apparently Alice enjoys them also."

"What makes you say that, Jessie? "
9 129


" She talks a great deal about you in an un
derhand way."

"I don t like the word underhand, Jessie.
What do you mean by it ? "

" I mean that she gets me to talk about you.
I say to myself constantly, If Miss Alice
wants to pull out the stop called John, she
shall play on it herself; and then, before I
know, I am telling her about your last speech,
or describing some of your Western adventures,
or explaining how good you are to father and
mother, or in some other obvious way preach
ing for my saint. And she sits smiling and
listening, and answering me, and encouraging
me in monosyllables, and I call that under
hand. But it must give her pleasure or she
would not always begin such a conversation.
However, John, even with you to talk about,
the time goes very slowly, and I am ready for
a change. I wonder where Steve is. When
did you hear from him?"

"Yesterday. He said he was going to the
Baltic. He is a queer fellow."

"He is nice enough. A great many people
are much less interesting than Steve Morrison."

Change, however, does not come because it
is wished for, nor can it ever be safely forced.
Indeed, it is a wise provision that for the ma
jority duty stands guard over wayward inclina-


tions. Duty kept Jessie safely on its homely
sward, and the weeks went not unhappily away.
The most wearisome days were those she spent
at Lloyd Park, and Alice finally found it im
possible to detain her beyond her business
hours. She felt the sweet alleys of the garden
lonely, and the stillness and method of the fine
house oppressed her. After its ceremony and
quiet, it was a joy to step lightly to the New
York pavements, to feel at liberty to be her
self, to look as cross or as happy as she wanted,
to walk as quickly as she felt like walking, to
speak with all the plainness or emphasis she

It was different with John. The sweet,
lonely alleys of the garden, the shadows of the
woods, even the long vistas of the dusty coun
try lanes were full of all delights to him, for
Alice was very often his companion in them.
She frequently drove to the railway station for
her father and John, and then in the moonlight
evenings and the early mornings they found
themselves together without any special plan
ning for the meeting. There were always roses
to be cut, or the bees to look at, or the grapes
to gather, or a new chrysanthemum to clas-
sifyr Oh, love had a thousand excuses ! Love
made all events to serve his own desires and



And the silence and ceremony of the Lloyd
household pleased John. It seemed the proper
atmosphere for Alice. She made glory in its
dimness, and music in its silence. The flutter
of her white garments, the rose-like loveliness
of her face, the grace and harmony of her move
ments, all these things seemed to John but the
outward manifestations of a pure and guileless
soul. He wondered at Jessie s waning enthu
siasm ; Lloyd Park was to him the loveliest spot
on earth; it was the home of Alice, and her
presence, or the memory of it, invested the
whole place with the glamour and glory of love.

Mr. Lloyd had not the slightest suspicion of
this attachment ; indeed, it was unconfessed by
the lovers themselves. Both knew it, but John
feared to speak, lest he had been too presump
tuous. Alice feared to listen, lest words should
destroy the indefinable, ineffable charm of their
conscious silence. She did not wish to be
brought to resolution and acknowledgment.
In such case, she would have to decide a ques
tion she did not wish to consider. She was too
happy to make inquiry about her happiness.
She feared to do so. She had an instinctive
apprehension that the delicate bloom on the
wings of Psyche might easily be soiled and
wasted by too much examination. And John
had the same delicacy of feeling. He divined


that while love was shyly advancing and re
treating, it was well to let well enough alone.

Mrs. Lloyd was not so ignorant as her hus
band of the condition of affairs between her
daughter and John McAslin ; for she was nat
urally an observing woman, though her sense
of observation had been dulled by long neglect.
She had so carefully trained herself not to see
what pertained to this life that a sentiment so
delicate and undemonstrative might have easily
escaped her notice; yet in a fitful, passing
manner she was aware of it, and the knowl
edge did not trouble her. "John is good, and
clever, and likely to have a brilliant career,
and Alice might do much worse than marry
him," was generally the conclusion she came
to, if she gave the matter consideration; a
thing that circumstances as yet did not often
compel her to do.

Besides, during these summer and fall
months, she had been entertaining a new and
absorbing interest. Her interview with her
lawyer had been one of pregnant importance.
To her amazement, she had found him not only
willing, but anxious to aid her in the great
work she was slowly planning. For the words
spoken by John McAslin had sunk into her
heart, and troubled its still depths into active,
aching consciousness. The force and meaning


of these words remained with her; their actual
order she could not remember.

"But, Mr. Telford," she said, " I was made
to understand that my money is not mine ; that
I am only a steward for others; that I must
not only render unto God the things which are
God s, but also unto man the things that are
man s; and that if I do not do this I shall
have the fate of the unjust steward. And that
outer darkness and the binding hand and
foot terrifies me. What can it mean ? Help
me to escape from it at any labour and cost."

" I will be your friend and helper in this
matter most gladly," he answered, "and I am
thankful that you have realised your responsi
bility before it is too late. Your father made
money and left it to you, and you have sim
ply buried it in a napkin. Even its silent
growth accuses you. It has been silent money
too long. Now, madame, make it speak."

"What shall it say?" inquired Mrs. Lloyd,

"First," replied Mr. Telford, "it might tell
you to pull down those shameful old tenements

in H Street, from which you derive so

much yearly income. They are responsible for
incredible suffering, and incredible wrong and
crime. Send for architects and let them de
vise homes in which men and women and chil-
J 34


dren may be able to live like human beings.
Remember, if they can t pray, they can wash;
and cleanliness is a kind of godliness, and leads
to higher things."

This suggestion, received with enthusiasm
by Mrs. Lloyd, was strenuously opposed by her
husband. "Our poor," he said, "are mostly
Irish, and they like to crowd. If they wanted
decent homes, capital would flow into building
them, just as it flows into building saloons and
beer gardens." When arguments failed he
tried scorn and anger, and finally such arts of
affection as might once have availed, but which
were now only to be placed among the futile
efforts on which are stamped those sad, inef
fectual words Too late !

She took no counsel of him, but with wise
deliberation carried out the plan suggested.
Her time was occupied with architects and
philanthropists of various kinds, and she threw
off as she might have thrown off a garment the
mysticism and solitude which had been for
years the air she had loved to breathe. "A
more excellent way has been shown me," she
said ; and she renewed even her physical youth
in its invigorating action and sympathies.

She talked much to John on the subject, and
he was always ready to prevent the material
side of her efforts claimin too much for them-


selves. For there was a tendency in the work
to which she had put her hand leading to
the exaltation of mere human means, and
John regarded this as a distinct lowering of
that Brotherhood which he was always advo

" If we are to love humanity and labour for its
welfare," he said, "then we must look at hu
manity from its noblest destiny and responsi
bilities. We must consider that man is not
only a citizen of this world, but an inheritor of
the kingdom of heaven. Comfortable houses,
good food, perfect drainage and education, are
but means to a loftier end. For man is not a
mere animal to be cultured and cared for, so
that he may get through life as pleasantly as
possible, and then be done with it; he is the
child of God, made for eternal life, and all our
loving service for him must be based on our
love for God."

" You mean that from the fatherhood of God
must spring the brotherhood of man ? " asked
Mrs. Lloyd.

"Yes," answered John. "This is the great
charter of our salvation, that first we love God
with all our heart, and soul, and mind; then,
without fail, we shall love our neighbour as
ourselves. And if any man or woman, Chris-
tain, Jew, Buddhist, Mohammedan, reach this


height, that man or woman has attained unto

In this way, and through such conversation,
she was prevented from falling into those ex
tremes of feeling which usually attend conver
sions of any kind; for coming directly out of
the cloud of mysticism into the vivid day of
actuality and labour, it was very difficult for
her not to overrate the importance of the
work growing so visibly under her care and

Never before had a summer passed so swiftly
and pleasantly to Mrs. Lloyd. She was aston
ished when Alice became restless and anxious
to get back to the city; yet, as soon as the
subject was taken up by her own mind, she
was equally eager for it. She would be nearer
to her work, nearer to her lawyer and adviser,
nearer to the people whom she wished to
benefit. So the early days of October saw the
large house on the aveune opened again, and
Mrs. Lloyd and her daughter, each through
their own hopes and desires, looking forward
to a winter that should answer all their ex

Jessie also was gratified. She was very un
willing to give up her pupil, but she was very
weary of her pupil s surroundings, and quite
elated over her first visit to the Lloyd city


house. It was an exceedingly handsome home,
and satisfied her conception of a rich man s
dwelling. Its stately splendour reflected a sort
of honour on her; she even fancied it influenced
Alice, that it made her more reticent and dig
nified, and less inclined to familiarity and con
fidences. But if there was any truth in this
fancy, it arose from circumstances hardly real
ised even by Alice herself.

The girl had quickly found that John, in the
city, was much more frequently present, and
she feared the constant proximity. Some days
Mr. Lloyd did not go to his office at all, and
John brought the correspondence to him and
answered the letters at the house. Then he
usually dined with them, remaining with his
employer an hour or two afterwards, occupied
with business, or sometimes attending the
ladies to an entertainment or passing the even
ing with them in their own drawing-room.
And Alice had reached that stage of love when
love is silent and shy, because it has come to
understand that all of life s joy is in the power
of another. Undoubtedly Alice loved John
with the sweet fervour that marks a first affec
tion, and yet she was not free from reservations
and little social anxieties. And she knew well
how angry her father would be at the destruc
tion of all his hopes regarding Lord Medway,


while she was equally certain that he would
visit his anger on John.

Also, she was not oblivious of what her
friends and acquaintances would say; and it
was easier to contemplate their opinions in the
country than in their very presence, surrounded
by all the circumstances which gave authority
to social judgments. There were also hours in
which she suffered from the uncertainties of
love when she wondered if her love would
bear John s steady and increasing devotion to
ideas which she did not altogether approve
hours when Jessie s intimacies fretted her
sense of what was perfectly high-bred and
lady-like; and when the thought of John s
family, and its possible intrusions, was not
endurable. So she was often depressed, as
those must be in whom perfect love has not
cast out fear.

These feelings certainly found no expression
in words, but they made an atmosphere which
Jessie felt and resented so far as to retire
promptly into her position as teacher, a po
sition Alice appeared to be quite ready to ac
cept. But this appearance was in reality the
indifference which Alice felt to all .other sub
jects but the great one which was to decide
her future life. Her feelings toward Jessie
had not changed; it was the constant growth


of feeling regarding John which compelled her
to assume that veil of dignified calm, behind
which she hid all emotion, but which Jessie
thought the result of pride, of self-appreciation.
Others had the same opinion, for "what airs
Alice Lloyd puts on since that affair with Lord
Medway," was a very usual comment of visitors
at the Lloyd dwelling.

One November day, just as the lamps were
being lit on the avenue, Jessie came down the
steps of this dwelling with an angry heart.
"I will give no more lessons in that house,"
she said to herself. "Alice has become Miss
Lloyd with emphasis. She is decidedly
changed. She has put on city airs. She
thinks I shall expect to be invited to her en
tertainments, and that it is necessary to snub
me in advance. Pooh ! I want nothing she has,
or can give me;" then she laughed a little
to herself, and added, " Yes, I want her money
for my labour; and I won t throw that away for
a little false pride. Oh, dear, I wish ! I wish !
I wish I did not have to teach ! "

But the smile of her mother as she entered
the house, the cheerful supper-table, the glow
ing fire in the little grate, put all dissatisfac

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Online LibraryAmelia Edith Huddleston BarrThe king's highway. [microform] → online text (page 7 of 19)