"I have no objections, Louis. I believe you mean what you say, and also
have enough of your mother in you to treat our girl well. I cannot see
why your plans may not be carried out so far as I am concerned."
He looked at mother, who smiled a consent, and Louis stepped toward them
both, shook their hands heartily, and said:
"I thank you."
His way of manifesting feeling was purely French, and belonged to
him - it was not ours, but we came to like it, and as my father often
said, when Clara came she unlocked many a door that had been shut for
years. Too many of our best ideas were kept under covering, I knew, and
the hand of expressive thought was one which loosened the soil about
their roots, giving impetus to their growth and sweetness to their
blossoms. We knew more of each other daily, and is not this true through
life? Do not fathers and mothers live and die without knowing their
children truly, and all of them looking through the years for that which
they sorely need, and find it not? Their confidence in each other
lacking, lives have been blasted, hopes scattered almost ere they were
born, and generations suffered in consequence. It was the blessed
breaking of day to me, the freedom to tell my mother what I thought; and
after Clara, became one of us, I could get much nearer to my father. The
full tide of her feeling swept daily over the harbor bar of our lives,
and we enjoyed together its great power. Her heart was beneficent, and
her hand sealed it with the alms she gave freely. She was always
unobtrusive, and anxious in every way to avoid notoriety.
Deacon Grover who had heard and known with others of her numerous
charities, offered advice in that direction, and said to Aunt Hildy,
"If that rich lady would just walk up and give a few hundreds to the
church fund it would help mightily."
Aunt Hildy had replied:
"Yes, yes, Deacon Grover, it would be nice for lazy folks to let the
minister do all the saving, and somebody else all the paying. I believe
faith without works is jest exactly like heavy bread, and will not be
accepted at the table of the Lord."
"He never said another word to me," said she; "that man knows he has a
right to be better."
This was a conceded fact, and it always seemed to me he ought not to be
carrying his deaconship in one hand, and his miserably small deeds in
the other. Hypocrites were in existence among all people, and while
thoroughly despised by them, still held their places, and do yet, as far
as my knowledge and experience go.
Early the morning of the next day, Matthias came over to tell us about
that "poor gal," as he called her.
"She wants to see you, Miss Emily, and they say she wants to talk to me
too. Mis' Goodwin said ''pears like you'd better come over thar 'bout
three o'clock to-day, if you can.' She's right peart, an' by 'nuther
mornin', 'spect she'll call loud for me."
"Do you think you know her, Matthias?"
"Can't say I do, Miss, but seems queer enough, she 'sists on callin' of
me 'Peter' - um - gimme sich a feelin' when she spoke dat word," and
Matthias looked as if his heart was turning back to his old home, and
its never-to-be-forgotten scenes.
Mother sent a basket of delicacies over by him, and Aunt Hildy said:
"Tell Miss Goodwin I'm goin' to bake some of my sweet cookies and send
over, and we can make some bread for her; 'twill help along - don't
forget it Matthias."
"No, marm, I'll 'member sure," and off he started. As he passed along
the path I thought of a word I wanted to say, and ran out of the door in
time to see the shadow of a form which I knew must be waiting in the
"angle" as we called it. It was where the east L ended, about ten feet
from the main front. In the summer I had a bed of blue violets here, and
named it "Violet Angle.' I stopped, for I heard a voice, and saw
Matthias turn to this spot instead of passing on to the gate as usual.
The first salutation I did not hear, but Matthias' reply was "yaas sah."
The voice was Mr. Benton's, and I stood riveted to the spot.
"Who is that girl, Matt?" he said.
"Don't know? Yes, you do know; you can't play your odds on me. I'm not
ready to swallow all I hear. I want you to tell me who that girl is,
and how she came here."
"I dunno, sah, sartin."
"Matt, I don't believe a word you say; first tell me the truth."
"Massar Benton, you're a queer man. Dis niggah shan't tell you no lies,
but de Lord's truf, I dunno noffin 'bout."
"You don't know me either, do you?" and he laughed ironically.
"Never thought I did," said Matthias; "'pears like long ways back I see
some face like yours, but I dunno. Good many faces looks alike roun'
"Yes, yes," says Benton, "you've said enough, you black rascal; and you
_mark my words_, if you've raised the devil, as I think you have, I'll
cowhide you. I'll give you something to remember me by, you old fool;
and you a'nt a fool either; you're as cunning as Satan is wicked."
"De Lord forgive you," said Matthias, "you're done gone clar from your
senses. I dunno who dat gal is, an I dunno who you is, an' what more kin
"I know who you are, and I know you were the slave of Sumner down in
"Yaas," said Matthias, "dat's so; but how does you know 'bout me? Did
you come down thar? 'Haps dat's de reason you're face kinder makes me
look back, an it mos' allus does; 'pears like you mout explain."
"Yes, s'pose I _mout_," said Benton, "and I reckon you will before we
"Wal," said Matthias, "if you wait till you gits evidence fo' you gives
dat hidin' you talks 'bout, I've got plenty ob time to go over to de
groun' room," and he walked off at his old gait, slow but sure, while I,
turning, ran into the house and told mother what I had heard.
She raised her hands in a sort of holy horror, but only said:
"What does it mean?"
"It means," said Aunt Hildy, "that man's a rascal; I told you, Mis'
Minot, he was when I first set eyes on him, and I've kept good track of
Emily, for when he see he couldn't get the 'rich widder,' that's what he
calls our good little creetur Clara, then he tacked round and set sail
for Emily, and he's been a torment to her, and I know it. Thank the
Lord, he's shown his cloven foot; I wish Mr. Minot had heard it. _He_
laughs at me, thinks I'm a fool, but I've seen through him if I do wear
an old cloak. It's mine, and so is my wit, what little I've got."
Aunt Hildy stepped up lively and worked every moment, keeping time to
her thoughts and giving great expression by her peculiar accenting of
words. Clara heard us, and came in "to the rescue," she said, "for it
sounded as if somebody was getting a scolding."
I repeated my story, and although she rarely used French expressions,
this time she clasped her little hands together, sank into a chair, and
"Oh! Em√©lie, j'ai su depuis longtemps, qu'il nous ferait un grand tort.
Le pauvre agneau! Le pauvre agneau!"
"What will father do?" I said to mother.
"I cannot think of anything to do except to help the poor girl; his own
punishment is sure, Emily; we are not his masters. 'Vengeance is mine,
saith the Lord,'" she quoted calmly.
"Yes," said Aunt Hildy, "that's the spirit to have, but I believe if I
had really heard it as Emily did, I'd have risked it to throw a pan of
dish water on him."
I could not help laughing - we were having a real drama in the kitchen.
Great tears had gathered in Clara's eyes, and I said to her:
"Now this will upset you. I'm sorry you heard it."
"No, no," she said, "but the poor lamb, I can hardly wait for the time
when I may see her."
"Can you ever speak to Mr. Benton again?" I said to mother.
"I should hope so, Emily. I feel great pity for him; he might be a
better man. We are taught toleration not of principles, but certainly of
men, and I think if our Heavenly Father will forgive him, we can afford
to, and then it would be very unwise to let him know we are cognizant of
My mother reminded me so many times of the light that burns steadily in
a light-house on a ledge. The waves, washing the solid rock, and wearing
even the stone at its base, have no power to disturb the lamp, which,
well trimmed, burns silently on, throwing its beams far out to sea, and
fanning hope in the heart of the sailor, who finds at last the shore and
blesses the beacon light.
I admired her calm and steadfast trust in the truth, that bore her along
in her daily doing right toward all with whom she mingled, but I well
knew she would be righteously indignant toward Mr. Benton, and also
that the whole truth, with the letter and the story of "the lamb," would
soon be forthcoming. I could hardly wait for the recital which I
expected to hear in the afternoon, and entered Mrs. Goodwin's door at
three o'clock precisely.
She was glad to see me, and said cheerily:
"Take off your things, Emily, and I'll show you right in, for Miss
Harris is waiting anxiously."
I thought she looked beautiful the night we found her, but to-day she
was a marvellous picture, sitting among the white pillows. Her cheeks
were touched here and there with pink, as if rose leaves had left their
tender stain - her eyes beautifully bright, and such depths of blue, with
arched brows above them, and long brown lashes for a shield. Her hair
rippled over her shoulders in brown curls, and around her was thrown the
light India shawl she had about her on that sad night. She smiled with
pleasure as I entered, and beckoned me to her bedside, while Mrs.
"Take the old splint rocker, Emily. I am going to let you stay two long
How gratefully the poor lamb's eyes turned upon the good woman!
"This young lady's name is Harris."
"Yes," said Miss Harris "Mary Abigail Harris, after my mother."
I kissed her forehead, and then took the seat proffered, sitting so near
her that I could lean on the side of the bed as I listened to the story.
Mrs. Goodwin left us alone, and the recital began:
"I remembered your eyes, Miss Minot, and I wanted to tell you all about
it - how I came to be here, needing the help you so kindly gave. Oh, I
shudder," she said, "as I think how it might have been that never again
my mother could have seen me!"
Her face grew pale, but no tears came, and I could see a resolute look
that gave signs of strong will, and for this I felt inwardly thankful.
"I came from my home," said she, "in search of my husband. Three years
ago I was married in my father's house to Wilmur Bentley, who came South
from his Northern home on an artist's tour, selling many pictures and
painting more. He lived in our vicinity for some months with a friend, a
wealthy planter by the name of Sumner." I started involuntarily. "There
were two of these gentlemen - brothers - and they owned large plantations
with many colored people. Mr. Bentley had every appearance of a
gentleman of honor, and none of us ever doubted his worth. My father
gave him a pleasant welcome and a home, and for three brief months we
were happy. Suddenly a cloud fell upon him; he appeared troubled, and
said 'Mary, I must go North - I have left some tangled business snarls
there, which I must see to.' He left, promising an early return. The
letters I received from him were frequent, and beautifully tender in
their expressions of love for me. I was happy; but the days wore into
weeks, and his return still delayed. I began to feel anxious and
fearful, when I received a letter from Chicago, saying he had been
obliged to go to that city on business, and would be unavoidably
detained. He would like me to come to him, if it were not for fear of
my being too delicate to bear the journey. My parents would have been
quite unwilling also, for the promise of the days lay before me, and
with this new hope that it would not be so very long ere he would come,
I was again contentedly happy. The letters grew less frequent, and the
days grew long, and when September came my little girl came too, and how
I longed for her father to come.
"My parents telegraphed him of the event, saying also, 'Come, if
possible - Mary is in a fever of anxiety,' but he did not come; the
telegram was not replied to, and although dangerously ill, I lived. Now
the letters came no more, and I, still believing in his goodness, felt
sure that he was either sick or dead. My little Mabel lived one year.
Oh, how sweet she was! and one month after her death I received a letter
asking why I was so silent, telling me of great trouble and overwhelming
me with sorrow. I answered kindly, but my father was convinced by this
that he was a 'villain,' to use his own expression. The fact of his not
writing for so long, and then writing a letter almost of accusation
against me, made me feel fearful, and as I looked back on my suffering,
determined, if it were possible to some day know the truth. My answer to
the letter I speak of was received, and he again wrote, and this time
told me a pitiful tale of the loss by fire of all his artist
possessions, and his closing sentence was 'we may never meet again, for
in the grave I hope to find refuge from want. If you desire to answer
this, write 'without delay. It is hard to bear poverty and want.'
"I felt almost wild, and gave father the letter, hoping to receive a
generous donation from him, but my father said, 'Molly, darling, (that
is my name at home), the villain lies! no, no, pet, not a cent.' I cried
myself ill, and sent him my wedding ring, a diamond, his gift, since
which I have heard nothing.
"I told my father after it was gone, and if he had not loved me so much,
I should have felt the power of angry words. He was angry, but he
thought of all I had suffered, and he took me right up in his arms, and
cried over me. 'Mollie, darling, it is too bad; you have a woman's
heart. I would to God the man had never been born.
"I had a dear friend to whom I had confided all my sorrow - a Virginia
lady, married and living in Boston. Her husband, Mr. Chadwick, is a
merchant there, and every year she spends three or four months with her
Southern friends. One brother lives in Charleston, my home. We have been
attached to each other for years, and my father and mother love her
dearly. Three weeks ago she arrived at her home in Boston, having been
South four months, and at her earnest solicitation I came also. She knew
my heart and how determined I was to find Mr. Bentley, and felt willing
to aid me in any way possible. We went about the city, and I devoted
myself especially to looking at paintings and statuary. I found at last
by chance a picture with the name, not of 'Bentley,' but of 'Benton' on
it. I traced it to Chicago, and proved it to be his, and there from his
own friends gathered the facts which led me on his track."
"Oh!" I cried.
"Wait," said she, "More, Miss Minot; he has a wife, or at least there
is a poor woman with two boys living in poverty in the suburbs of
Boston, to whom he was married ten years ago. I have been to see her,
but did not disclose my secret. Mrs. Chadwick has known of this for a
long time, but dared not tell me until I got strong, and was in the
North with her. I gave that woman money to help her buy bread, and Mrs.
Chadwick will see to her now. She is a lovely character. Benton's home
is near this place where she lives, and he goes there once in a great
while. Now about my clothes - when I started for this place I was well
clad, and the first of my journey quiet and calm, but I think my
excitement grew intense, and I must have lost myself utterly. I know it
was a week ago when I left Boston, and now as I look back, I remember
looking at my baby's picture and everything growing dim in the cars.
This India shawl was thrown about my neck, but it seems when you found
me I had no other covering. I found the purse where I had sewed it in my
dress, but my cloak and bonnet and furs, all are gone.
"I can remember how the name of this place kept ringing in my ears, and
I must have asked for it and found it, even though I cannot remember one
word. After the baby's picture your eyes came before me, and then old
Looking at the clock, she said:
"It is only half an hour since you came in, and will you ask Peter to
come in and see me? I'm sure I hear him talking in the other room."
I stepped to the door, and there was Matthias.
I said to Mrs. Goodwin:
"Miss Harris wishes to see Peter, she says."
She looked at Matthias, and then said:
"Well, come in, and we'll find out what she means, if we can."
He walked solemnly along to her bedside, and stood as if amazed.
"Peter," said she, "you know me; I am Mary Harris, and you lived with
Mr. Charles Sumner - do say you know me. You said you would deny your
master, and you did it," and she held her hands to him.
He reached forth his own and took the jewelled fingers tenderly in his
dark palm as if half afraid; then the tears came, forcing their way, and
with an effort he said:
"Oh! oh! honey chile - can't be pos'ble - what's done happin to ye, and
whar was ye gwine?"
"Never mind, Peter, but do you remember the man who painted beautiful
pictures, and stopped awhile with your master's brother?"
"Sartin, I does."
"William Bentley he said was his name, but it was Benton; he told us a
"De great Lord, Molly chile, you's foun' him, sure - de debbil's got a
hold on dat man, an' - "
But I looked a warning, and he waited.
"You remember him then, Peter; he had a light moustache, a pleasing
mouth - a very nice young man we thought him to be."
"Yas, yas, dar's whar de mistake come in, wit dat 'ar mustaff," said
"What mistake?" she said.
"Oh! de good Lord bress you, honey, what does you want of dis man?"
"I want to tell him something, and I heard he was here, and now will you
find him for me?"
"I will, Miss Molly, 'ef I dies dead for it - de Lord help us."
"Do you think you can?"
"I knows dat ar to be a fack."
"Oh, Peter! I am glad; where is he?"
Poor Matthias looked at me, and I said, "Now, Miss Harris, you must not
talk anymore, and I will help Matthias, for I think I know where this
She shut her eyes and sank back among her pillows, looking tired and
pale - the knowledge that this destroyer of her hopes was so near was,
though looked for and expected, more than she could really bear.
Mrs. Goodwin left the room, motioning to Matthias to follow, and I sat
quietly thinking of what to do, when she opened her eyes and said to me:
"I have written to Mrs. Chadwick, and also to mother, and she will send
mother's letter from Boston. I cannot write to her of this; it would
worry her so; and now, as I can see Wilmur and say to him what I desire,
I shall leave you."
"It will kill you to see him."
"You are mistaken. I know I look frail, but I can endure much, and I do
not love him any more though he was my Mabel's father. I want him to go
to his poor wife and do right if he can. She loves him and is deluded
into believing the strangest things. Robberies and fires and anything
he thinks of are an excuse for not sending her money."
"Oh! he needs hanging," I said.
"No, no, Miss Minot; if he is unfit for our society he certainly would
find nobody to love him there; I am not seeking revenge, though his
punishment is sure enough. In two days more I shall be strong enough to
see him. Oh, I do hope Peter will find him!"
She needed rest, and I said:
"Now it is best for me to go, and when I come again I would like to
bring a beautiful friend."
"Oh, yes," she said, "and do come to-morrow!"
She bade me a reluctant "Good bye," and I told Matthias, I wanted him to
walk home with me.
My walk homeward with Matthias gave me the needed opportunity to talk
with him, where naught save the air wandering off to the hills could
hear us. I told him of the conversation which I had overheard, and also
that I proposed to take the burden on my own shoulders of revealing to
Miss Harris the fact of Mr. Benton being with us. "For," I said,
"Matthias, it will hardly be safe for you to bear all this. He believes,
I think, that you have helped Miss Harris to find him, and has been
looking out for trouble since you came to us, for he warned both Louis
and myself, and told us not to trust you. He did not, of course, say he
knew you; that would not have done at all. But I will do all she asks,
then your poor old shoulders will be relieved a little."
"Jes as you say, Miss Emly, pears like its queer nuf an' all happin too,
an' ef he had worn just dat mustaff, without de whiskers, I'd know him
yere straight off. I said long nuf, he set me on de tinkin
groun - um - um - here come Mas'r Louis lookin' arter his gal, I reckin,
mighty wise he is; I'd tote a long ways ef 'twas to help him."
Louis went to the village early and had returned to hear from Clara's
lips my morning discovery, and came to meet me, anxious to learn the
story of the poor lamb, which I rehearsed, having time to tell it all
during the rest of the walk, and ending with "it is strange enough to
make a book," just as we entered our gate.
Louis said the cloud must break ere long; and when Matthias left I
followed along the path behind him, feeling that Mr. Benton might again
assail him, and I was not mistaken.
"Look here," came from the angle, and "yas, sah," from Matthias as he
turned to answer.
"What did you come home with Miss Minot for?" said Benton.
"Kase she axed me too, sah."
"Whom has she been to see?"
"Dat poor gal."
"Who is that girl, do you know?
"Yas, sah," said the honest old man.
"You know more to-day than you did yesterday."
"Why don't you tell me who she is."
"You did'nt ax me, you said did I know?"
"I don't want any of your nigger talk. I want her name, and by the great
- - "
"Look yer, Mas'r Benton, if you's gwine to dip in an' swar, I'll tote
long by myself."
"Well, tell me who she is."
"She tole me she was dat little Molly Harris dat lived down in
Charleston, an - "
"How in thunder did she get here?"
"You do know, and I tell you you'll make money to tell me all about it."
"Dunno nothin' moah. I said dat same word, how you git yere, and she say
never min 'bout dat."
"What else did she say, what does she want?"
"Wall, de res ob what she tell me, 'pears like she didn't 'spect me
tell. I'll go over thar, an' tell her you wants to know, an - "
"The devil you will, you impudent rascal - all I want to know is if she
wants to find me."
"De good Lord, dat's de berry secret I don't want to tell."
"Ah! ha! my fine fellow, caught at last."
"Well," said he, "ef de Lord was right yere in dis vilit angil he'd say
Matt dunno nothin' 'bout how de poor lamb got roun' to dis town."
"I don't know how to believe this, but now look here, Matt, if you'll go
over there and tell her I've gone to Chicago, I'll do something nice for
you. I'll get you a suit of nicer clothes than you ever had, and a shiny
hat - hey, what do you say?"
"Mas'r Benton," said Matthias slowly, "I'm never gwine to tell a lie an'
set myself in de place whar Satan hisself can ketch a holt an me. No,
sah, 'pears like I'm ready to do what's right, but dat ain't right
nohow, an' 'pears, too, its mighty funny you's so scart of dat poor
little milk-faced gal. Trus' in de Lord, Mas'r Benton, an' go right on
over thar - she can't hurt you nohow."
"Don't talk your nonsense to me; you're on her side, she's bought you,
but I'll be even with you; I'll slap your face now to make a good
"No, sah," said Matthias, "I'm done bein' a slave jes now, an' ef you
want to make me hit you I shall jes do it; fur you no bizness in de law
specially tryin' to put it on a poor ole nigger who can't go by ye
'thout your grabbin' at him jes ready to kill, an' all kase you's done
suthin' you's shamed of an' tinks he knows it. I'm gwine over to the
I feared Mr. Benton would strike him, and I ran to the gate, and stood
there while Matthias passed out and along the road. Mr. Benton
Supper-time was at hand, and there had been no time to tell mother what
I had heard of Miss Harris' history. At the table Ben, as usual, had
inquiries to make, and I said, "Oh! she is better, Ben; you shall see
her, for she will stay a long time."
"Where did she come from, Emily?"
From Charleston, South Carolina.
"Well, ain't that funny?" said he; "that's the very place Matthias came
from, and perhaps she does know him after all."
"Oh! yes, she does," I replied, and raising my eyes to meet Mr. Benton's
gaze, I shot the truth at him with a dark glance; his own eyes fell, and