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"Suppose I should tell you that, all the time I was talking to you
about what I felt, there was a wall, a great wall, for ever between
us?"

"In that case, I should regret God had made a man so forgetful of
honor. I should be glad Heaven had left me untouched by anything
such a man could say. Suppose that? - Why, suppose I had cared, and
that I had found after all that there was no hope? There comes in
conscience, Sir, there comes in honor."

"Then, in such case - "

"In such case any woman would hate a man. Stress may win some
women, but deceit never did."

"I have not deceived you."

"Do you wish to do so now?"

"No. It's just the contrary. Haven't I said you must go? But
since you must go, and since I must pay, I'm willing, if you wish,
to bare my life to the very bone, to the heart before you,
now - right now."

She pondered for a moment. "Of course, I knew there was something.
There, in that room - in that wardrobe - those were her garments - of
another - another woman. Who?"

"Wait, now. Go slow, because I'm suffering. Listen. I'll not
hear a word about your own life - I want no secret of you. I'm
content. But I'm willing now, I say, to tell you all about
that - about those things.

"I didn't do that at first, but how could I? There wasn't any
chance. Besides, when I saw you, the rest of the world, the rest
of my life, it was all, all wiped out of my mind, as though some
drug had done it. You came, you were so sweet, my lack was so
horrible, that I took you into my soul, a drug, a balm, an
influence, a wonderful thing.

"Oh, I'm awake now! But I reckon maybe that doesn't mean that I'm
getting out of my dream, but only into it, deeper yet. I was mad
for you then. I could feel the blood sting in my veins, for you.
Life is life after all, and we're made as we are. But later, now,
beside that, on top of that, something else - do you think it's - do
you suppose I'm capable of it, selfish as I am? Do you reckon it's
love, just big, worthy, _decent_ love, better than anything in the
world? Is that - do you reckon, dear girl, that that's why I'm able
now to say good-by? I loved you once so much I could not let you
go. Now I love so much I can not let you stay! I reckon this is
love. I'm not ashamed to tell it. I'm not afraid to justify it.
And I can't help it."

It was any sort of time, a moment, an hour, before there was spoken
speech between them after that. At last they both heard her voice.

"Now, you begin to pay. I am glad. I am glad."

"Then it is your revenge? Very well. You have it."

"No, no! You must not say that. Believe me, I want you to feel
how - how much I admire - no, wait, - how much I admire any man who
could show your courage. It's not revenge, it's not vanity - "

He waited, his soul in his eyes, hoping for more than this; but she
fell silent again.

"Then it is the end," he said.

He held up his fingers, scarred to the bone.

"That's where I bruised my hands when I clenched on the table,
yonder. You wouldn't think it, maybe, but I love pictures. I've
spent a lot of time looking for them and at them. I remember one
collection - many pictures of the martyrs, horrors in art,
nightmares. Here was a man disemboweled - they wound his very
bowels about a windlass, before his eyes, and at each turn - I could
see it written in the picture - they asked him, did he yield at
last, did he agree, did he consent. . . . Then they wound again.
Here another man was on an iron chair, flames under him. Now and
then they asked him. Should they put out the flames and hear him
say he had foresworn his cause? Again, there was a man whom they
had shot full of arrows, one by one, little by little, and they
asked him, now and then, if he foreswore his faith. . . . But I
knew he would not - I knew these had not. . . .

"That's the way it is," he said slowly. "That's what you're seeing
now. These scars on my fingers came cheap. I reckon they've got
to run deeper, clean down into my heart. Yet you're saying that
now I begin to pay. Yes. When I pay, I'm going to _pay_. And I'm
not going to take my martyrdom for immediate sake of any crown,
either. There is none for me. I reckon I sinned too far against
one of God's angels. I reckon it's maybe just lasting hell for me,
and not a martyrdom with an end to it some time. That's how _I've_
got to pay.

"Now, do you want me to tell you all the rest?"

She would not answer, and he resumed.

"Do you want me to tell what you've maybe heard, about this house?
Do you want me to tell whose garments those were that you saw? Do
you want my past? Do you want to see my bowels dragged out before
your eyes? Do you want to turn the wheel with your own hands? Do
you want me to pay, that way?"

She went to him swiftly, put a hand on his arm.

"No!" said she. "What I want you to believe is that it's _life_
makes us pay, that it's _God_ makes us pay.

"I want you to believe, too," she went on after a time, "that we
need neither of us be cheap. I'm not going to ask you one thing,
I'm not going to listen to one word. You must not speak. I must
go. It's just because I must go that I shall not allow you to
speak."

"Is my debt to you paid, then?" His voice trembled.

"So far as it runs to me, it is paid."

"What remains?"

"Nothing but the debt of yourself to yourself. I'm going to look
back to a strange chapter in my life - a life which has had some
strange ones. I'm not going to be able to forget, of course, what
you've said to me. A woman loves to be loved. When I go, I go;
but I want to look back, now and then, and see you still paying,
and getting richer with each act of courage, when you pay, to
yourself, not me."

"Ah! fanatic. Ah! visionary. Ah! dreamer, dreamer. And you!"

"That is the rest of the debt. Let the wheel turn if need be.
Each of us has suffering. Mine own is for the faith, for the
cause."

"For what faith? What cause do you mean?"

"The cause of the world," she answered vaguely. "The cause of
humanity. Oh, the world's so big, and we're so very little. Life
runs away so fast. So many suffer, in the world, so many want! Is
it right for us, more fortunate, to take all, to eat in greed, to
sleep in sloth, to be free from care, when there are thousands, all
over the world, needing food, aid, sympathy, opportunity, the
chance to grow?

"Why," she went on, "I put out little plants, and I love them,
always, because they're going to grow, they're going to live. I
love it - that thought of life, of growth. Well, can I make you
understand, that was what I felt over yonder, in that revolution,
in mid-Europe. I felt it was just like seeing little plants set
out, to grow. Those poor people! Those poor people! They're
coming over here, to grow, here in America, in this great country
out here, in this West. They'll grow, like plants extending, like
grass multiplying, going out, edging westward, all the time. Ah,
thousands of them, millions yet to come, plants, little human
plants, with the right to live born with them. I don't so much
mind about their creed. I don't so much mind about race - their
color, even. But to see them grow - why, I suppose God up in His
Heaven looks down and smiles when He sees that. And we - we who are
here for a little time - we who sometimes are given minds and means
to fall in tune with God's smile - why, when we grow little and
selfish, instead of getting in tune with the wish of God - why, we
fail. Then, indeed, we do not pay - we repudiate our debt to
ourselves."

"You are shaming me," he said slowly. "But I see why they put you
out of Washington."

"But they can not put God out of Heaven! They can not turn back
the stars! They can not stop the rush of those westbound feet, the
spread of the millions, millions of blades of grass edging out, on.
That is what will make you see this 'higher law,' some time. That
is big politics, higher than what you call your traditions. That
will shame little men. Many traditions are only egotism and
selfishness. There is a compromise which will be final - not one
done in a mutual cowardice. It's one done in a mutual largeness
and courage.

"Oh," - she beat her hands together, as was sometimes her
way - "America, this great West, this splendid country where the
feet are hurrying on so fast, fast - and the steam now carries men
faster, faster, so that it may be done - it may be done - without
delay - why, all this America must one day give over war and
selfishness - just as we two have tried to give over war and
selfishness, right here, right now. Do you suppose this world was
made just to hold selfishness and unhappiness? Do you think
that's all there ever was to the plan of life? Ah, no! There's
something in living beyond eating and drinking and sleeping and
begetting. Faith - a great faith in something, some plan ahead,
some _purpose_ under you - ah, _that's_ living!"

"But they banished you for that?"

"Yes, that's why they put me out of Washington, I suppose. I've
been twice banished. That is why I came here to this country.
Maybe, Sir, that is why I came to you, here! Who shall say as to
these things? If only I could feel your faith, your beliefs to be
the same as mine, I'd go away happy, for then I'd know it had been
a plan, somehow, somewhere - for us, maybe."

His throat worked strongly. There was some struggle in the man.
At last he spoke, and quietly. "I see what separates us now. It
is the wall of our convictions. You are specifically an
abolitionist, just as you are in general a revolutionist. I'm on
the other side. That's between us, then? An abstraction!"

"I don't think so. There are _three_ walls between us. The first
you put up when you first met me. The second is what you call your
traditions, your belief in wasting human life. The third - it's
this thing of which you must not speak. Why should I ponder as to
that last wall, when two others, insurmountable, lie between?"

"Visionary, subjective!"

"Then let us be concrete if you like. Take the case of the girl
Lily. She was the actual cause of your getting hurt, of many men
being killed. Why?"

"Because she was a runaway slave. The law has to be enforced,
property must be protected, even if it costs life sometimes.
There'd be no government otherwise. We men have to take our
chances in a time like that. The duty is plain."

"How utterly you fail of the truth! That's not why there was blood
spilled over her. Do you know who she is?"

"No," he said.

"She is the daughter of your _friend_, Judge Clayton, of the bench
of justice in your commonwealth. _That_ is why she wants to run
away! Her father does not know he is her father. God has His own
way of righting such things."

"There are things we must not talk about in this slavery question.
Stop! I did not, of course, know this. And Clayton did not know!"

"There are things which ought not to be; but if you vote for
oppression, if you vote yonder in your legislature for the
protection of this institution, if you must some day vote yonder in
Congress for its extension, for the right to carry it into other
lands - the same lands where now the feet of freedom-seekers are
hurrying from all over the world, so strangely, so wonderfully - then
you vote for a compromise that God never intended to go through or
to endure. Is that your vote? Come now, I will tell you something."

"You are telling me much."

"I will tell you - that night, when Carlisle would have killed you
in your room there, when I afterward put you all on parole - "

"Yes, yes."

"I saved you then; and sent them away. Do you know why?"

"I suppose it was horror of more blood."

"I don't think so. I believe it was just for this - for this very
talk I'm having now with you. I saved you then so that some day I
might demand you as hostage.

"I want you to vote with me," she continued, "for the 'higher law.'
I want you to vote with the west-bound wheels, with God's blades of
grass!"

"God! woman! You have gift of tongues! Now listen to me. Which
shall we train with, among your northern men, John Quincy Adams or
William Lloyd Garrison, with that sane man or the hysterical one?
Is Mr. Beecher a bigger man than Mr. Jefferson was?"

"I know you're honest," she said, frowning, "but let us try to see.
There's Mr. Birney, of Alabama, a Southerner who has gone over,
through all, to the abolitionists as you call them. And would you
call Mr. Clay a fool? Or Mr. Benton, here in your own state, who - "

"Oh, don't mention Benton to me here! He's anathema in this state."

"Yet you might well study Mr. Benton's views. He sees the case of
Lily first, the case of the Constitution afterward. Ah, why can't
_you_? Why, Sir, if I could only get you to think as he does - a
man with your power and influence and faculty for leadership - I'd
call this winter well spent - better spent than if I'd been left in
Washington."

"Suppose I wanted to change my beliefs, how would I go about it?"
He frowned in his intent effort to follow her, even in her
enthusiasm. "Once I asked a preacher how I could find religion,
and he told me by coming to the Saviour. I told him that was
begging the question, and asked him how I could find the Saviour.
All he could say was to answer once more, 'Come to the Saviour!'
That's reasoning in a circle. Now, if a man hasn't _got_ faith,
how's he going to get it - by what process can he reach out into the
dark and find it? What's the use of his saying he has found faith
when he knows he hasn't? There's a resemblance between clean
religion and honest politics. The abolitionists have never given
us Southerners any answer to this."

"No," said she. "I can not give you any answer. For myself, I
have found that faith."

"You would endure much for your convictions?" he demanded suddenly.

"Very much, Sir."

"Suffer martyrdom?"

"Perhaps I have done so."

"Would you suffer more? You undertake the conversion of a sinner
like myself?"

The flame of his eye caught hers in spite of herself. A little
flush came into her cheek.

"Tell me," he demanded imperiously, "on what terms?"

"You do not play the game. You would ask me to preach to you - but
you would come to see the revival, not to listen to grace. It
isn't playing the game."

"But you're seeking converts?"

"I would despise no man in the world so much as a hypocrite, a
turn-coat! You can't purchase faith in the market place, not any
more than - "

"Any more than you can purchase love? But I've been wanting not
the sermon, but the preacher. You! You! Yes, it is the truth. I
want nothing else in the world so much as you."

"I'd never care for a man who would admit that."

"There never was a woman in the world loved a man who did not."

"Oh, always I try to analyze these things," she went on
desperately, facing him, her eyes somber, her face aglow, her
attitude tense. "I try to look in my mirror and I demand of what I
see there. 'What are you?" I say. 'What is this that I see?'
Why, I can see that a woman might love her own beauty for itself.
Yes, I love my beauty. But I don't see how a woman could care for
a man who only cared for that, - what she saw in her mirror, don't
you know?"

"Any price, for just that!" he said grimly.

"No, no! You would not. Don't say that! I so much want you to be
bigger than that."

"The woman you see in your mirror would be cheap at any cost."

"But a man even like yourself. Sir, would be very cheap, if his
price was such as you say. No turncoat could win me - I'd love him
more on his own side yonder threefold wall, _with_ his convictions,
than on my side without them. I couldn't be bought cheap as that,
nor by a cheap man. I'd never love a man who held himself cheap.

"But then," she added, casting back at him one of his own earlier
speeches, "if you only thought as I did, what could not we two do
together - for the cause of those human blades of grass - so soon cut
down? Ah, life is so little, so short!"

"No! No! Stop!" he cried out. "Ah, now is the torture - now you
turn the wheel. I can not recant! I can not give up my
convictions, or my love, either one; and yet - I'm not sure I'm
going to have left either one. It's hell, that's what's left for
me. But listen! What for those that grow as flowers, tall,
beautiful, there among the grass that is cut down - should they
perish from the earth? For what were such as they made, tall and
beautiful? - poppies, mystic, drug-like, delirium producing? Is
that it - is that your purpose in life, then, after all? You - what
you see in your mirror there - is it the purpose of _that_ being - so
beautiful, so beautiful - to waste itself, all through life, over
some vague and abstract thing out of which no good can come? Is
that all? My God! Much as I love you, I'd rather see you marry
some other man than think of you never married at all. God never
meant a flower such as you to wither, to die, to be _wasted_. Why,
look at you! Look . . . at . . . you! And you say you are to be
wasted! God never meant it so, you beauty, you wonderful woman!"

Even as she was about to speak, drawn by the passion of him, the
agony of his cry, there came to the ears of both an arresting
sound - one which it seemed to Josephine was not wholly strange to
her ears. It was like the cry of a babe, a child's wail, difficult
to locate, indefinite in distance.

"What was it?" she whispered. "Did you hear?"

He made no answer, except to walk to her straight and take her by
the arms, looking sadly, mournfully into her face.

"Ah, my God! My God! Have I not heard? What else have I heard,
these years? And you're big enough not to ask -

"It can't endure this way," said he, after a time at last. "You
must go. Once in a while I forget. It's got to be good-by between
you and me. We'll set to-morrow morning as the time for you to go.

"As I have a witness," he said at last, "I've paid. Good-by!"

He crushed her to him once, as though she were no more than a
flower, as though he would take the heart of her fragrance. Then,
even as she felt the heave of his great body, panting at the touch
of her, mad at the scent of her hair, he put her back from him with
a sob, a groan. As when the knife had begun its work, his scarred
fingers caught her white arms. He bent over, afraid to look into
her eyes, afraid to ask if her throat panted too, afraid to risk
the red curve of her lips, so close now to his, so sure to ruin
him. He bent and kissed her hands, his lips hot on them; and so
left her trembling.

[Illustration: He bent and kissed her hands.]




CHAPTER XXII

THE WAY OF A MAID

It is the blessing of the humble that they have simplicity of
mental processes. Not that Hector himself perhaps would thus have
described himself. The curve of the black crow's wing on his
somewhat retreating forehead, the tilt of his little hat, the swing
of his body above the hips as he walked, all bespoke Hector's
opinion of himself to be a good one. Valiant among men,
irresistible among the women of St. Genevieve, he was not the one
to mitigate his confidence in himself now that he found himself
free from competition and in the presence of a fair one whom in
sudden resolve he established in his affections as quite without
compare. In short, Hector had not tarried a second week at
Tallwoods before offering his hand and his cooper shop to Jeanne.

To the eyes of Jeanne herself, confined as they had been to the
offerings of a somewhat hopeless class of serving persons here or
there, this swaggering young man, with his broad shoulders, his
bulky body, his air of bravado, his easy speech, his ready arm,
offered a personality with which she was not too familiar, and
which did not lack its appeal. With Gallic caution she made
delicate inquiry of Hector's father as to the yearly returns and
probable future of the cooperage business at St. Genevieve, as to
the desirability of the surrounding country upon which the
cooperage business must base its own fortunes. All these matters
met her approval. Wherefore, the air of Jeanne became tinged with
a certain lofty condescension. In her own heart she trembled now,
not so much as to her own wisdom or her own future, but as to the
meeting which must be had between herself and her mistress.

This meeting at last did take place, not by the original motion of
Jeanne herself. The eye of her mistress had not been wholly blind
all these days.

"Jeanne," she demanded one day, "why are you away so much when I
desire you? I have often seen you and that young man yonder in
very close conversation. Since I stand with you as your guardian
and protector, I feel it my duty to inquire, although it is not in
the least my pleasure. You must have a care."

"Madame," expostulated Jeanne, "it is nothing, I assure you. _Rien
du tout - jamais de la vie_, Madame."

"Perhaps, but it is of such nothings that troubles sometimes come.
Tell, me, what has this young man said to you?"

"But, Madame! - "

"Tell me. It is quite my right to demand it."

"But he has said many things, Madame."

"As, for instance, that you please him, that you are beautiful,
that you have a voice and hand, a turn of the arm - that you have
the manner Parisienne - Jeanne, is it not so?"

"But, yes, Madame, and indeed more. I find that young man of
excellent judgment, of most discriminating taste."

"And also of sufficient boldness to express the same to you, is it
not so, Jeanne?"

"Madame, the strong are brave. I do not deny. Also he is of an
excellent cooperage business in St. Genevieve yonder. Moreover, I
find the produce of the grape in this country to increase yearly,
so that the business seems to be of a certain future, Madame. His
community is well founded, the oldest in this portion of the
valley. He is young, he has no entanglements - at least, so far as
I discover. He has an excellent home with his old mother. Ah,
well! Madame, one might do worse."

"So, then, a cooperage business so promising as that, Jeanne, seems
more desirable than my own poor employment? You have no regard for
your duty to one who has cared for you, I suppose? You desert me
precisely at the time my own affairs require my presence in
Washington."

"But, Madame, why Washington? Is that our home? What actual home
has madame on the face of the earth? Ah, Heaven! - were only it
possible that this man were to be considered. This place so large,
so beautiful, so in need of a mistress to control it. Madame says
she was carried away against her will. _Mon Dieu_! All my life
have I dreamed - have I hoped - that some time a man should steal me,
to carry me away to some place such as this! And to make love of
such a warmness! Ah, _Mon Dieu_!

"Behold, Madame," she went on, "France itself is not more beautiful
than this country. There is richness here, large lands. That
young man Hector, he says that none in the country is so rich as
Mr. Dunwodee - he does not know how rich he is himself. And such
romance!"

"Jeanne, I forbid you to continue!" The eyes of her mistress had a
dangerous sparkle.

"I obey, Madame, I am silent. But listen! I have followed the
fortunes of madame quite across the sea. As madame knows, I do not
lack intelligence. I have read - many romances, my heart not
lacking interest. Always I have read, I have dreamed, of some man
who should carry me away, who should oblige me - Ah, Madame! what
girl has not in her soul some hero? Almost I was about to say it
was the sight, the words, of the boldness, the audacity of this
assassin, this brute, who has brought us here by force - the words
of his love so passionate to madame, which stirred in my own heart
the passion! That I might be stolen! It was the dream of my
youth! And now comes this Hector, far more bold and determined
than this Mr. Dunwodee. That assassin, that brute _began_, but
hesitated. Ah, Hector has not hesitated! Seeing that he would in
any case possess myself, would carry me away, I yielded, but with
honor and grace, Madame. As between Monsieur Dunwodee and
Hector - _il y a une difference_, Madame!"

"_Je crois qu' oui_, Jeanne - _Je le crois_! But it comes to the
same thing, eh? You forsake me?"

"Madame, I confess sometimes in my heart there comes a desire for a
home, for a place where one may abide, where one may cease to
wander."

Josephine sat silent for a moment. In what direction might she
herself now turn for even the humblest friendship? And where was
any home now for her? The recreant maid saw something of this upon


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