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BYLOW HILL

by

GEORGE W. CABLE

With Illustrations by F. C. Yohn

Charles Scribner's Sons
New York

MCMII







[Illustration: "Father," laughed the daughter, "isn't this rather
youngish?"]




CONTENTS


I. RUTH AND GODFREY
II. ISABEL
III. ARTHUR AND LEONARD
IV. AND BRING DOWN THE REMAINDER
V. SKY AND POOL
VI. IN THE PUBLIC EYE
VII. THE HOUR STRIKES
VIII. GIVE YOU FIVE MINUTES
IX. THE YOUNG YEAR SMILES
X. THE STORM REGATHERS
XI. HAS IT COME TO THIS?
XII. THE LANTERN QUENCHED
XIII. BABY
XIV. THE TALKATIVE LEONARD
XV. THE THIN ICE BREAKS
XVI. MUST GIVE YOU UP
XVII. SLEEP, OF A SORT
XVIII. MISSING
XIX. A DOUBLE STILL HUNT
XX. A DOUBLE RETURN
XXI. EVENING RED
XXII. MORNING GRAY




ILLUSTRATIONS

"Father," laughed the daughter, "isn't this rather youngish?"
(Frontispiece)

Indeed it was clear that to go away would be unfair.

"Arthur Winslow, I give you five minutes."

"But to know every day and hour that I'm watched."

"I am waiting busily for her slayer."

"Arthur! Arthur! can't you speak?"





I

RUTH AND GODFREY


The old street, keeping its New England Sabbath afternoon so decently
under its majestic elms, was as goodly an example of its sort as the
late seventies of the century just gone could show. It lay along a
north-and-south ridge, between a number of aged and unsmiling cottages,
fronting on cinder sidewalks, and alternating irregularly with about as
many larger homesteads that sat back in their well-shaded gardens with
kindlier dignity and not so grim a self-assertion. Behind, on the west,
these gardens dropped swiftly out of sight to a hidden brook, from the
farther shore of which rose the great wooded hill whose shelter from the
bitter northwest had invited the old Puritan founders to choose the spot
for their farming village of one street, with a Byington and a Winslow
for their first town officers. In front, eastward, the land declined
gently for a half mile or so, covered, by modern prosperity, with a
small, stanch town, and bordered by a pretty river winding among meadows
of hay and grain. At the northern end, instead of this gentle decline,
was a precipitous cliff side, close to whose brow a wooden bench, that
ran half-way round a vast sidewalk tree, commanded a view of the valley
embracing nearly three-quarters of the compass.

In civilian's dress, and with only his sea-bronzed face and the polished
air of a pivot gun to tell that he was of the navy, Lieutenant Godfrey
Winslow was slowly crossing the rural way with Ruth Byington at his
side. He had the look of, say, twenty-eight, and she was some four years
his junior. From her father's front gate they were passing toward the
large grove garden of the young man's own home, on the side next the
hill and the sunset. On the front porch, where the two had just left
him, sat the war-crippled father of the girl, taking pride in the
placidity of the face she once or twice turned to him in profile,
and in the buoyancy of her movements and pose.

His fond, unspoken thought went after her, that she was hiding some care
again, - her old, sweet trick, and her mother's before her.

He looked on to Godfrey. "There's endurance," he thought again. "You
ought to have taken him long ago, my good girl, if you want him at all."
And here his reflections faded into the unworded belief that she would
have done so but for his, her own father's, being in the way.

The pair stopped and turned half about to enjoy the green-arched vista
of the street, and Godfrey said, in a tone that left his companion no
room to overlook its personal intent, "How often, in my long absences,
I see this spot!"

"You wouldn't dare confess you didn't," was her blithe reply.

"Oh yes, I should. I've tried not to see it, many a time."

"Why, Godfrey Winslow!" she laughed. "That was very wrong!"

"It was very useless," said the wanderer, "for there was always the same
one girl in the midst of the picture; and that's the sort a man can
never shut out, you know. I don't try to shut it out any more, Ruth."

The girl spoke more softly. "I wish I could know where Leonard is," she
mused aloud.

"Did you hear me, Ruth? I say I don't try any more, now."

"Well, that's right! I wonder where that brother of mine is?"

The baffled lover had to call up his patience. "Well, that's right,
too," he laughed; "and I wonder where that brother of mine is? I wonder
if they're together?"

They moved on, but at the stately entrance of the Winslow garden they
paused again. The girl gave her companion a look of distress, and the
young man's brow darkened. "Say it," he said. "I see what it is."

"You speak of Arthur" - she began.

"Well?"

"What did you make out of his sermon this morning?"

"Why, Ruth, I - What did you make out of it?"

"I made out that the poor boy is very, very unhappy."

"Did you? Well, he is; and in a certain way I'm to blame for it."

The girl's smile was tender. "Was there ever anything the matter with
Arthur, and you didn't think you were in some way to blame for it?"

"Oh, now, don't confuse me with Leonard. Anyhow, I'm to blame this time!
Has Isabel told you anything, Ruth?"

"Yes, Isabel has told me!"

"Told you they are engaged?"

"Told me they are engaged!"

"Well," said the young man, "Arthur told me last night; and I took an
elder brother's liberty to tell him he had played Leonard a vile trick."

"Godfrey!"

"That would make a much happier nature than Arthur's unhappy, wouldn't
it?"

Ruth was too much pained to reply, but she turned and called cheerily,
"Father, do you know where Leonard is?"

The father gathered his voice and answered huskily, laying one hand upon
his chest, and with the other gesturing up by the Winslow elm to the
grove behind it.

She nodded. "Yes!... With Arthur, you say?... Yes!... Thank you!...
Yes!" She passed with Godfrey through the wide gate.

"That's like Leonard," said the lover. "He'll tell Arthur he hasn't done
a thing he hadn't a perfect right to do."

"And Arthur has not, Godfrey. He has only been less chivalrous than we
should have liked him to be. If he had been first in the field, and
Leonard had come in and carried her off, you would have counted it a
perfect mercy all round."

"Ho-oh! it would have been! Leonard would have made her happy. Arthur
never can, and she can never make him so. But what he has done is not
all: look how he did it! Leonard was his beloved and best friend" -

"Except his brother Godfrey" -

"Except no one, Ruth, unless it's you. I'm neither persuasive nor kind,
nor often with him. Proud of him I was, and never prouder than when I
knew him to be furiously in love with her, while yet, for pure, sweet
friendship's sake, he kept standing off, standing off."

"I wish you might have seen it, Godfrey. It was so beautiful - and so
pitiful!"

"It was manly, - gentlemanly; and that was enough. Then all at once he's
taken aback! All control of himself gone, all self-suppression, all
conscience" -

"The conscience has returned," said the girl.

"Oh, not to guide him! Only to goad him! Fifty consciences can't
honorably undo the mischief now!"

"Did I not write you that there was already, then, a coolness between
her and Leonard?"

"Yes; but the whole bigness and littleness of Arthur's small, bad deed
lies in the fact that, though he knew that coolness was but a momentary
tiff, with Isabel in the wrong, he took advantage of it to push his suit
in between and spoil as sweet a match as two hearts were ever making."

"It was more than a tiff, Godfrey; it" -

"Not a bit more! not - a - bit!"

"Yes! - yes - it was a problem! a problem how to harmonize two fine
natures keyed utterly unlike. Leonard saw that. That is why he moved so
slowly."

"Hmm!" The lover stared away grimly. "I know something about slowness.
I suppose it's a virtue - sometimes."

"I think so," said the girl, caressing a flower.

"Ah, well!" responded the other. "She has chosen a nature now that - Oh
me!... Ruth, I shall speak to her mother! I am the only one who can.
I'll see Mrs. Morris some time this evening, and lay the whole thing out
to her as we four see it who have known one another almost from the one
cradle."

Ruth smiled sadly. "You will fail. I think the matter will have to go on
as it is going. And if it does, you must remember, Godfrey, we do not
really know but they may work out the happiest union. At any rate, we
must help them to try."

"If they insist on trying, yes; and that will be the best for Leonard."

"The very best. One thing we do know, Godfrey: Arthur will always be a
passionate lover, and dear Isabel is as honest and loyal as the day is
long."

"The day is not long; this one is not - to me. It's most lamentably
short, and to-morrow I must be gone again. I have something to say to
you, Ruth, that" -

The maiden gave him a look of sweet protest, which suddenly grew remote
as she murmured, "Isabel and her mother are coming out of their front
door."




II

ISABEL


There were two dwellings in the Winslow garden, - one as far across at
the right of the Byington house as the other was at the left. The one on
the right may have contained six or eight bedchambers; the other had but
three. The larger stood withdrawn from the public way, a well-preserved
and very attractive example of colonial architecture, refined to the
point of delicacy in the grace and harmony of its details. Here dwelt
Arthur Winslow, barely six weeks a clergyman, alone but for two or three
domestics and the rare visits of Godfrey, his only living relation. The
other and older house, in the garden's southern front corner, was a gray
gambrel-roofed cottage, with its threshold at the edge of the sidewalk;
and it was from this cottage that Isabel and her mother stepped,
gratefully answering the affectionate wave of Ruth's hand, - Mrs. Morris
with the dignity of her forty-odd years, and Isabel with a sudden eager
fondness. The next moment the two couples were hidden from each other by
the umbrageous garden and by the tall white fence, in which was repeated
the architectural grace of the larger house.

Mother and daughter conversed quietly, but very busily, as they came
along this enclosure; but presently they dropped their subject to bow
cordially across to the father of Ruth, and when he endeavored to say
something to them Mrs. Morris moved toward him. Isabel took a step or
two more in the direction of the Winslow elm and its inviting bench, but
then she also turned. She was of a moderate feminine stature and perfect
outline, her step elastic, her mien self-contained, and her face so
young that a certain mature tone in her mellow voice was often the cause
of Ruth's fond laughter. As winsome, too, she was, as she was beautiful,
and "as pink as a rose," said the old-time soldier to himself, as he
came down his short front walk, throwing half his glances forward to
her, quite unaware that he was equally the object of her admiration.

Though white-haired and somewhat bent he was still slender and handsome,
a most worthy figure against the background of the red brick house,
whose weathered walls contrasted happily with the blossoming shrubs
about their base, and with the green of lawn and trees.

"Good-afternoon, Isabel. I was saying to your mother, I hope such days
as this are some offset for the Southern weather and scenery you have
had to give up."

"You shouldn't tempt our Southern boastfulness, General," Isabel
replied, with an air of meek chiding. She had a pretty way of
skirmishing with men which always brought an apologetic laugh from her
mother, but which the General had discovered she never used in a company
of less than three.

"Oh! ho, ho!" laughed Mrs. Morris, who was just short, plump, and pretty
enough to laugh to advantage. "Why, General," - she sobered abruptly, and
she was just pretty and plump and short enough to do this well,
also, - "my recovered health is offset enough for me."

"For _us_, my dear," said the daughter. "My mother's restored
health is offset enough for us, General. Indeed, for me" - addressing the
distant view - "there is no call for off-set; any landscape or climate is
perfect that has such friends in it as - as this one has."

"Oh! ho, ho!" laughed the mother again. Nobody ever told the Morrises
they had a delicious Southern accent, and their words are given here
exactly as they thought they spoke them.

"My dear," persisted Isabel, rebukingly, "I mean such friends as Ruth
Byington."

Mrs. Morris let go her little Southern laugh once more. "Don't you
believe her, General - don't you believe her. She means you every bit as
much as she means Ruth. She means everybody on Bylow Hill."

"I'm at the mercy of my interpreter," said Isabel. "But I thought" - her
eyes went out upon the skyline again - "I thought that men - that men - I
thought that men - My dear, you've made me forget what I thought!"

They laughed, all three. Isabel, with a playful sigh, clutched her
mother's hand, and the pair drew off and moved away to the bench.

"He puts you in good spirits," said the mother, breaking a silence.

"Good spirits! He puts me in pure heartache. Oh, why did you tell him?"

"Tell him? My child! I have not told him!"

"Oh, mother, do you not see you've told him point-blank that it's all
settled?"

"No, dearie, no! I only see that your distress is making you fanciful.
But why should he not be told, Isabel?"

"I'm not ready! Oh, I'm not ready! It may suit him well enough to hear
it, for he knows Leonard is too fine and great for me; but I'm not ready
to tell him."

"My darling, he knows you are good enough for any Leonard he can bring."

"Oh yes, on the plane of the Ten Commandments." The girl smiled
unhappily.

"But precious, he loves Arthur deeply, and thinks the world of him."

"Mother, what is it like, to love deeply?"

The query was ignored. "And the old gentleman is fond of you,
sweetheart."

"Oh, he likes me. What a tame old invalid that word 'fond' has grown to
be! You can be fond of two or three persons at once, nowadays. My soul!
I wish I were fond of Arthur Winslow in the old mad way the word meant
when it was young!"

"Pshaw, dearie! you'll be fond enough of him, once you're his. He's
brilliant, upright, loving and lovable. You see, and say, he is so, and
I know your fondness will grow with every day and every experience,
happy or bitter."

"Yes.... Yes, I could not endure not to give my love bountifully
wherever it rightly belongs. But oh, I wish I had it ready to-day, - a
fondness to match his!"

"Now, Isabel! Why, pet, thousands of happy and loving wives will tell
you" -

"Oh, I know what they will tell me."

"They'll not tell you they get along without love, dearie. But ten years
from now, my daughter, not how fond you were when you first joined
hands, but what you have" -

"Oh yes, - been to each other, done for each other, borne from each
other, will be the true measure. Oh, of course it will; but there's so
much in the right start!"

"Beyond doubt! Understand me, precious: if you have the least ground to
fear" -

"Mother! mother! No! no! What! afraid I may love some one else? Never!
never! Oh, without boasting, and knowing what I am as well as Leonard
Byington knows" -

"Oh, pshaw! Leonard Byington!"

"He knows me, mother, - as if he lived at a higher window that looked
down into my back yard." The speaker smiled.

"Then he knows," exclaimed the mother, "you're true gold!"

"Yes, but a light coin."

"My pet! He knows you're the tenderest, gentlest dear he ever saw."

"But neither brave nor strong."

"Oh, you not brave! you not strong! You're the lovingest, truest" -

"Only inclined to be a bit too hungry after sympathy, dear."

"You never bid for it, love, never."

"Well, no matter; I shall never love any one but myself too much. I
think I shall some day love Arthur as I wish I could love him now. I
never did really love Leonard, - I couldn't; I haven't the stature. That
was my trouble, dearie: I hadn't the stature. I never shall have; and if
it's he you are thinking of, you are wasting your dear, sweet care. But
he's going to be our best and nearest friend, mother, - he and Ruth and
Godfrey, together and alike. We've so agreed, Arthur and I. Oh, I'm not
going to come in here and turn the sweet old nickname of this happy spot
into a sneer."

"Then why are you not happy, precious?"

"Happy? Why, my dear, I am happy!"

"With touches of heartache?"

"Oh, with big wrenches of heartache! Why not? Were you never so?"

"I'm so right now, dearie. For after all is said" -

"And thought that can't be said" - murmured Isabel.

"Yes," replied the mother, "after all is said and thought, I should
rather give you to Arthur than to any other man I know. Leonard will
have a shining career, but it will be in politics."

"I tried to dissuade him," broke in the daughter, "till I was ashamed."

"In politics," continued Mrs. Morris, - "and Northern politics, Isabel.
Arthur's will be in the church!"

"Yes," said the other, but her whole attention was within the fence at
their side, where a rough stile, made in boyhood days by the two
brothers and Leonard, led over into the garden. She sprang up. "Let's
go, mother; he's coming!"

"Who, my child?"

"Both! Come, dear, come quickly! Oh, I don't know why we ever came out
at all!"

"My dear, it was you proposed it, lest some one should come in!"

The daughter had moved some steps down the road, but now turned again;
for Ruth and Godfrey, returning, came out through the garden's high
gateway. However, they were giving all their smiles to the greetings
which the General sent them from his piazza.

"Come over, mother!" called Isabel, in a stifled voice. "Cross to the
hill path!" But before they could reach it Arthur and Leonard came into
full view on the stile. Isabel motioned her mother despairingly toward
them, wheeled once more, and with a gay call for Ruth's notice hurried
to meet her in the middle of the way.




III

ARTHUR AND LEONARD


Godfrey passed over to the General, who had walked down to his gate on
his way to the great elm. Out from behind the elm came the other two
men, Arthur leading and talking briskly: -

"The sooner the better, Leonard. Now while my work is new and taking
shape - Ah! here's Mrs. Morris."

Both men were handsome. Arthur, not much older than Ruth, was of medium
height, slender, restless, dark, and eager of glance and speech. Leonard
was nearer the age of Godfrey; fairer than Arthur, of a quieter eye,
tall, broad-shouldered, powerful, lithe, and almost tamely placid. Mrs.
Morris met them with animation.

"Have our churchwarden and our rector been having another of their long
talks?"

The joint reply was cut short by Godfrey's imperative hail: "Leonard!"

As Byington turned that way, Arthur said quietly to Mrs. Morris, "He's
promised to retain charge" - and nodded toward Isabel. The nod meant
Isabel's financial investments.

"And mine?" murmured the well-pleased lady.

"Both."

The two gave heed again to Godfrey, who was loudly asking Leonard, "Why
didn't you tell us the news?"

"Oh," drawled Leonard smilingly, "I knew father would."

"I haven't talked with Godfrey since he came," said Mrs. Morris; and as
she left Arthur she asked his brother: "What news? Has the governor
truly made him" -

"District attorney, yes," said Godfrey. "Ruth, I think you might have
told me."

"Godfrey, I think you might have asked me," laughed the girl, drawing
Isabel toward Arthur and Leonard, in order to leave Mrs. Morris to
Godfrey.

Arthur moved to meet them, but Ruth engaged him with a question, and
Isabel turned to Leonard, offering her felicitations with a sweetness
that gave Arthur tearing pangs to overhear.

"But when people speak to us of your high office," he could hear her
saying, "we will speak to them of your high fitness for it. And still,
Leonard, you must let us offer you our congratulations, for it is a high
office."

"Thank you," replied Leonard: "let me save the congratulations for the
day I lay the office down. Do you, then, really think it high and
honorable?"

"Ah," she rejoined, in a tone of reproach and defense that tortured
Arthur, "you know I honor the pursuit of the law."

Leonard showed a glimmer of drollery. "Pursuit of the law, yes," he
said; "but the pursuit of the lawbreaker" -

"Even that," replied Isabel, "has its frowning honors."

"But I'm much afraid it seems to you," he said, "a sort of blindman's
buff played with a club. It often looks so to the pursued, they say."

Isabel gave her chin a little lift, and raised her tone for those behind
her: "We shall try not to be among the pursued, Ruth and Arthur and I."

The young lawyer's smile broadened. "My mind is relieved," he said.

"Relieved!" exclaimed Isabel, with a rosy toss. "Ruth, dear, here is
your brother in distress lest Arthur or we should embarrass him in his
new office by breaking the laws! Mr. Byington, you should not confess
such anxieties, even if you are justified in them!"

His response came with meditative slowness and with playful eyes:
"Whenever I am justified in having such anxieties, they shall go
unconfessed."

"That relieves _my_ fears," laughed Isabel, and caught a quick hint
of trouble on Arthur's brow, though he too managed to laugh. Whereupon,
half sighing, half singing, she twined an arm in one of Ruth's, swung
round her, waved to the General as he took a seat on the elm-tree bench,
and so, passing to Arthur, changed partners.

"Let us go in," whispered Leonard to his sister, with a sudden pained
look, and instantly resumed his genial air.

But the uneasy Arthur saw his moving lips and both changes of
countenance. He saw also the look which Ruth threw toward Mrs. Morris,
where that lady and Godfrey moved slowly in conversation, - he ever so
sedate, she ever so sprightly. And he saw Isabel glance as anxiously in
the same direction. But then her eyes came to his, and under her voice,
though with a brow all sunshine, she said, "Don't look so perplexed."

"Perplexed!" he gasped. "Isabel, you're giving me anguish!"

She gleamed an injured amazement, but promptly threw it off, and when
she turned to see if Leonard or Ruth had observed it they were moving to
meet Godfrey. Mrs. Morris was joining the General under the elm.

"How have I given you pain, dear heart?" asked Isabel, as she and Arthur
took two or three slow steps apart from the rest, so turning her face
that they should see its tender kindness.

"Ah! don't ask me, my beloved!" he warily exclaimed. "It is all gone!
Oh, the heavenly wonder to hear you, Isabel Morris, you - give me loving
names! You might have answered me so differently; but your voice, your
eyes, work miracles of healing, and I am whole again."

Isabel gave again the laugh whose blithe, final sigh was always its most
winning note. Then, with tremendous gravity, she said, "You are very
indiscreet, dear, to let me know my power."

His face clouded an instant, as if the thought startled him with its
truth and value. But when she added, with yet deeper seriousness of
brow, "That's no way to tame a shrew, my love," he laughed aloud, and
peace came again with Isabel's smile.

Then - because a woman must always insist on seeing the wrong side of the
goods - she murmured, "Tell me, Arthur, what disturbed you."

"Words, Isabel, mere words of yours, which I see now were meant in
purest play. You told Leonard" -

"Leonard! What did I tell Leonard, dear?"

"You told him not to confess certain anxieties, even if they were
justified."

"Oh, Arthur!"

"I see my folly, dearest. But Isabel, he ought not to have answered that
the more they were justified, the more they should go unconfessed!"

"Oh, Arthur! the merest, idlest prattle! What meaning could you" -

"None, Isabel, none! Only, my good angel, I so ill deserve you that with
every breath I draw I have a desperate fright of losing you, and a
hideous resentment against whoever could so much as think to rob me of
you."

"Why, dear heart, don't you know that couldn't be done?"


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