The Purchase Price
by Emerson Hough
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"Now, Sir, we all understand this is wholly unofficial and informal; we understand that there is no special fund which could be devoted to any such purpose as I have suggested—unless it were precisely this fund for the Kossuth entertainment! Gentlemen, it is not the part of a host to set a limit upon the visit of a guest. It is my belief that Kossuth will remain on these shores for at least ten years, and that he will need entertainment for each of those ten years at least!" A gentle applause met this speech. The speaker himself smiled as he went on.

"For a competent committee head, charged with the duty of making that entertainment gracious and dignified and worthy alike of the Old World and the New, I should think that an annual expenditure of, say, eight thousand or ten thousand dollars, would not be inadequate! If this lady, whose kind heart and brilliant mind, as our honored friend has said, both have been shown before us to-day,—if she would agree,—if she would accept,—some such provision as this from this fund, I am entirely clear in my own mind as to both the wisdom and the absolute propriety of extending this offer to her!"

He sat down. Laughter and applause met his remarks. Thus, and gallantly, did Kentucky make amends.

"Madam," at length interrogated the tall man at the head of the table, bending upon her his gaze, as did all these other grave figures present,—"provided this matter might be arranged, would it be within your pleasure to accept some such remuneration as that, for services which should be given quite within your wishes? I need not say," he added, turning his gaze along each side of the long table, "that this is something which, in view of all circumstances, to me also seems quite within dignity, decency and absolute public propriety."

But Josephine St. Auban could make no reply. Her face was hidden in her hands, and only her heaving shoulders showed the sudden emotion which had swept upon her overstrained soul. At last she felt a gentle hand touch hers. She raised her head as, one after another, these men approached, each extending his hand to her and bowing in salutation. Presently the room was deserted.

In the hall the gentleman from Kentucky passed his arm within that of a tall man, obviously from the North.

"I have just got word within the week of the arrival of a daughter at my own home out in Kentucky," said he. "I am in a position to understand all and several the statements in Exhibit A, my dear Sir! 'The darling!'

"But what a woman,—what a woman!" he went on meditatively. "Sir, if I were a single man, as I am a married man, I should offer to her, upon the spot, a union, now and for ever, one and inseparable!"



It was the daily custom of Hector to be upon hand at the dock for the landing of each and every steamer which touched at St. Genevieve, bound either up or down the Mississippi, and his business of cooperage never was allowed to infringe upon these more important duties. Accordingly, on a certain day late in the winter, although he had no special reason to be present, Hector was among those who waited for the boat to land, with no purpose more definite than that of giving a hand with her line at a snubbing post. He was much surprised when he saw coming from the gang-plank, and beckoning to him, a distinguished and handsomely clad lady. For an instant, abashed, he could find no speech; then suddenly he jerked off his cap, and stood smiling.

"It is Madame!" he exclaimed. "Ah, bon jour! Bon jour! Ah, c'est Madame!"

"Yes," rejoined Josephine St. Auban, "it is I. And I am glad to see St. Genevieve again, and you, Monsieur Hector. Tell me,—ah, about that infant, that baby of ours!!

"Madame, believe me, there is none such in all the valley! Come!"

It was a proud and happy Jeanne who greeted her former mistress at the little cottage with the green blinds, and the ivy, which lay close upon the street of St. Genevieve,—Jeanne, perhaps a trifle more fleshy, a shade more French and a touch less Parisian in look, more mature and maternal, yet after all, Jeanne, her former maid. Woman fashion, these two now met, not without feminine tears, and forgetful of late difference in station, although Jeanne dutifully kissed the hand held out to her. The first coherent speech, as in the case of Hector, was regarding this most extraordinary infant, whose arrival seemed to be thus far regarded as a matter of national importance. In this view also shared Madame Fournier the elder, mother of Hector, who also presently welcomed the new-comer to the home.

A strange feeling of relief, of rest and calm, came over Josephine St. Auban, a lady of rank in another world, where an incident such as this could not have been conceived. Here it seemed not only possible but covetable. The first babble of congratulations and greetings over, she settled down to the quiet of the room assigned to her, and gave a sigh as of one who at last finds harborage. If only this might go on for ever! If only the street might always be thus silent, the roof thus sheltering, the greetings of simple friends thus comforting! She made no plans for herself, no announcement to others of possible plans. It was enough to remain thus, for a night at least. She was very weary, body and soul. The pathetic droop at the corners of her brave gay mouth must have brought sympathy to any who had known her earlier.

"We are not rich, Madame Countess," said Hector the next morning at the breakfast table, "but, my faith, it is not so bad here. We have not much to offer Madame, but such as it is, it is quite hers. With what riches could she produce a hen to lay eggs more perfect than those which madame beholds this morning? They are the eggs of Mildred, our most special hen. And this cream, it is from our cow Suzanne, whose like one does not find in any land for docility and amiability of disposition. Our roof is small, but it is ours. We have a yard so large as forty feet to the street yonder. What more does one demand for flowers or for the onion with green top in the spring? The couch of madame, was it not soft? Yes? It is from fowls of this very valley. That scene from the window there, is it not beautiful? Oh, very well! Others may possess in greater abundance than we, but as for myself, my business of the cooperage prospers,—behold my excellent wife Jeanne, yonder,—and this daughter of ours! What more could human being ask?"

Time and again, Josephine found herself repeating this same question,—What more could be asked than this? What more did the great world offer? It had not offered her, long used to luxury, so much as this. To Hector at this moment she made evasive answer. "I could willingly tarry with you always, Hector," said she, "if that were right."

"Right?" demanded Hector, swelling out his chest, "Why is it not right?" He doubled up a mighty arm to show where the muscles rose upon it. "See, I am strong! What is one more mouth to feed—could it even come to that for one of madame's wealth? Madame but jests. Did not madame bring me that Jeanne there? Ah, if only it were right for her to linger with us, how happy we should be! Madame is a noblewoman, we are but poor; yet she has honored us. Very well, then, what good to wonder about the future? Madame is rich, that is true. Suppose even she were poor, would it not be possible for madame to settle down here in St. Genevieve, and to teach the language of France—far better, to teach the English to these ignorant French?"

The sturdy speech of the fresh-looking, good-hearted fellow, touched the heart of a woman so world weary. For a time she said nothing of plans, even to herself. It was not long before the baby of Jeanne found a place upon her knee, and Jeanne herself, though jealous, was willing to surrender her dearest rights, at least for a time.

But always the eyes of this world weary woman were lifted up to the hills. She found herself gazing out beyond the street of St. Genevieve, toward the Ozarks, where once she had traveled—true, against her will, but yet through scenes which she now remembered. And always there came up in her mind a question which she found no way to ask. It was Jeanne herself who, either by divination or by blunder, brought up the matter.

"Madame remembers that man yonder, that savage, Dunwodee?" she began, apropos of nothing. "That savage most execrable, who was so unkind to madame and myself—but who made love so fiercely? I declare, Madame, I believe it was Monsieur Dunwodee set me listening to Hector! Eh, bien!"

They were sitting near the window, looking out upon the bleak prospect of the winter woods. For the time Josephine made no comment, and Jeanne went on.

"He has at last, thank heavens, come to justice. Is it not true that human beings find ever their deserts?"

"What do you mean, Jeanne?"

"Of the Congress of this state, where he is so long a member, he is now not a member. He has fail', he has been defeat'."

"I thought he was sure of reelection so long as he chose," commented Josephine, with feigned indifference.

"There is talk—I do not understand these matters—that he has change' his coat, as one says, and gone over to the side of that man Benton. Yet one says that Benton was always his enemy! Me, I do not understand. I have the baby."

"What is that you tell me?" suddenly demanded Josephine. "That Mr. Dunwody has changed his political beliefs—that he has become Free Soiler?"

Jeanne nodded. "I think it is so name'. I know little of such matters, naturally. To me, my infant here is of much more importance than any question of free soil. It is possible in this country that one day this infant—were it of opposite sex—might arrive to be governor of this state—who knows? It is possible, in the belief of Hector, that this infant, were it a boy, might even become president of this great republic. Ah, well, there are hopes. Who shall set bounds to the achievement of a child well born in this country of America? Is it established that Hector and I may not, at a later time, be blessed with a son? Is it established that that son shall not be president? Is it not necessary that some boy shall grow up to be a president? Very well! Then who shall say that a child of ours, if of a proper sex, Madame, should not one day be president of this republic?"

"Yes, yes, Jeanne! I do not doubt that. But now you were speaking of Mr. Dunwody—"

"Yes, that is true. I was rejoicing that at last he has been defeat', that he has fail', that he has met with that fate which should be his. Now he has few friends. It is charge' against him—well, Madame, perhaps it were as well not to repeat all of that."

"I can understand," said Josephine slowly. "I can guess. Yes, I know."

Jeanne nodded. "Yes, they bring up stories that at one time you and I—well, that we were there at Tallwoods. But these wild people here, who shoot, and fight with knives, they are of all peoples in the world the most strict and the most moral, the most abhorrent of what is not their own custom of life. Behold, that droll Mr. Bill Jones, in jest perhaps, expressed to others his belief that at one time there was a woman conceal' about this place of Tallwoods! Yes! Madame knows with what ground of justice this was said. Very well! The people took it up. There was comment. There was criticism. These charges became public. It was rumored thus and so in all the district of Mr. Dunwodee. He has fought the duel—oh, la, la!

"Ah, well, as for madame, by this time she was far away. None knew her name. None doubted regarding her. But as for Mr. Dunwodee, he was here,—he was discover'! Behold it all! At the election he was defeat'. Most easily did this happen, because, as I have said, he no longer was of the same political party which formerly had chosen him. There you have him. That has come to him which he has deserve'!"

The eyes of Josephine St. Auban flashed with interest over this intelligence. "He has changed his belief, his party! But no, it is not possible that he should come out for our party, our cause, Jeanne,—our cause, for the people of the world—for liberty! I wish I might believe it. No. It can not be true."

"Yet it is true, Madame. A turncoat! Bah!"

"No, Jeanne! Not in the least should you feel contempt tempt for a man who honestly changes a belief. To turn from error, is not that always wisdom?"

But Jeanne only shrugged her shoulders, and held out her hands for the baby. "It is naught to me," said she. "We are happy here under this roof, are we not?"

"Precisely. We are safe here. That child yonder is safe here. But how long shall we be safe if there are not those to keep this roof protected? The law, Jeanne,—the Justice, back of the law,—are these things of no interest to you?"

"At least, when it comes to roofs," reiterated Jeanne. "Monsieur Dunwodee has pulled down his roof about his ear."

"Yes! Yes! Thank God! And so did Samson pull down the pillars about him when he had back his strength!"

"Madame has given me occasion to disappear," rejoined Jeanne, with a resigned shrug. "I do not always find myself able to follow the lofty thought of madame. But, at least, for these people of St. Genevieve there is no doubt. They have argue' among theirself. The vote here is against Monsieur Dunwodee. He is what one calls depose'.

"But then, Madame," she added presently, as she turned at the door, with the baby on her arm, "if madame should wish to explore the matter for herself, that is quite possible. This night, perhaps to-morrow, Monsieur Dunwodee himself comes to St. Genevieve. He is to meet the voters of this place. He wishes to speak, to explain. I may say that, even, he will have the audacity to come here to advocate the cause of freedom, and the restriction of those slavery for which hitherto he has labor' so valiant. Perhaps there will be those who care to listen to the address of a man of no more principle. For me and for my husband Hector—we do not argue. Hector, he is for Monsieur Dunwodee. Save as a maker of love, Madame, I am not!"

Josephine made no immediate reply. A tall mirror with pretentious golden frame hung opposite to her across the room. A few moments later, with a start, she suddenly pulled herself together, discovering that she had been gazing steadfastly into the glass.



It was late in the sunlit afternoon when there rode into the head of the street of old St. Genevieve a weary and mud-stained horseman, who presently dismounted at the hitching rail in front of the little inn which he favored with his company. He was a tall man who, as he turned down the street, walked with just the slightest trace of a limp.

This traveler did not turn into the inn, did not pause, indeed, at any of the points of greater interest, but sought out the little cooper shop of Hector Fournier. That worthy greeted him, wiping his hands upon his leathern apron.

"Eh, bien, then, it is Monsieur Dunwodee! Come in! Come in! I'll been glad for see you. There was those talk you'll would not came."

"Yes, I have come, Hector," said Dunwody, "and naturally, I have come to see you first. You are one of the few political allies that I have left. At least, if you don't believe the way I do, you are generous enough to listen!"

"But, Monsieur, believe me, the situation here is difficult. I had a list here of twelve citizen of St. Genevieve who were willing for listen to Monsieur Dunwodee to-night in a grand mass meeting; but now talk has gone out. There is much indignation. In fact, it is plan'—"

"What do you mean? What is going on?" demanded Dunwody.

"Alas! Monsieur, it is with regret I announce that the majority of our citizen, who so dislike Monsieur Benton and his views, are much in favor of riding upon a rail, after due treatment of the tar and the feather, him who lately was their idol; that is to say, yourself, Monsieur!"

Dunwody, his face grim, leaned against the door of the little shop. "So that is the news?" said he. "It seems hardly generous, this reception of St. Genevieve to myself! It is too bad that my friend, Mr. Benton, is not here to share this hospitality of yours!"

"As I have said, alas! Monsieur!"

"But, now, as to that, Hector, listen!" said Dunwody sharply. "We will hold the meeting here just the same. We do not run away! To-night, in front of the hall there.

"But why trouble about that?" he added, almost lightly. "What comes, comes. Now, as to yourself and your mother—and your wife?"

"And those baby!" exclaimed Hector. "Assuredly monsieur does not forget the finest baby of St. Genevieve? Come, you shall see Josephine St. Auban Jeanne Marie Fournier—at once, tout de suite. Voila!" Hector was rolling down his sleeves and loosening the string of his leathern apron. Suddenly he turned.

"But, Monsieur," he said, "come, I have news! It is a situation un peu difficile; but it can not be concealed, and what can not be concealed may best be revealed."

"What news?" asked Dunwody. "More bad news?"

"Not in the least, as we of my household regard it. With monsieur, I am not so certain. It is quelque chose un peu difficile, mais oui. But then—Monsieur remembers that lady, the Countess—?"

"Countess? Whom do you mean?"

"Who but our madame, the Countess St. Auban in her own right? She who gave me my Jeanne—at Tallwoods, Monsieur! Have you not known? She is, here. She is chez nous. Of wealth and distinction, yes, she has traveled in this country merely for divertisement—but the Countess St. Auban, yes, she pauses now with the cooper, Hector Fournier! Does one find such beauty, such distinction, such gentleness, such kindness, such courteousness elsewhere than among the nobility?"

"When did she come?" demanded Dunwody quietly.

"But yesterday, upon the boat; without announcement. She is at this very moment at my house yonder, busy with that baby, Josephine St. Auban Jeanne Marie Fournier, named for a countess! But do not turn back! Monsieur himself has not yet seen the baby. Come!" For one moment Dunwody paused; then, quietly, he accompanied Hector, making no comment. He limped just slightly. He was older—yes, and graver.

The mother of Hector met them even before the gate was opened. Her voice called to the door her daughter Jeanne, who was shaking hands with Dunwody before he was half way up the walk. The ejaculations of Jeanne attracted yet another ear farther within the house. A moment later Dunwody saw pass before the door a figure which he recognized, a face which called the blood to his own face. An instant later, forgetting everything, he was at the door, had her hands in his own.

"It is you!" he exclaimed. "How does it happen? It is impossible!"

Her face had more color than for days. "Yes, it is unexpected," she said simply, at last. "Everything is unexpected. But of all things possible, this it seems to me is best—to come here—to rest for a time."

"You are passing through to St. Louis?"

"Perhaps," she said. "My plans for the moment are somewhat unsettled. I stopped off here, as no doubt you know, to serve as godmother to this baby of Jeanne's! It is an important errand."

"But monsieur has not perfectly examined this infant as yet," interrupted Hector. "See, it has the eyes of Jeanne,—it has—"

"It is a darling!" said Josephine gently, and stroked the somewhat scanty hair of the heiress of the Fournier estates.

In some way, a moment later, they were apart from the protestations of the fond parents. They found themselves alone, in the special apartment reserved for guests of distinction. An awkward moment ensued. Josephine was first to break the silence. Dunwody could only sit and look at her, devouring each line, each little remembered gesture of her. Yes, it was she—a little older and graver and thinner, yes. But it was she.

"I was talking with Jeanne this very morning," she said. "She was telling me some story that you have been unfortunate—that there have been—that is to say—political changes—"

He nodded, "Yes. Perhaps you know I have lost my place with my people here? I am done for, politically."

He continued, smiling; "Just to show you the extent of my downfall, I have heard that they are intending to tar and feather me to-night,—perhaps to give me a ride upon a rail! That is the form of entertainment which in the West hitherto has generally been reserved for horse-thieves, unwelcome revivalists, and that sort of thing. Not that it terrifies me. The meeting is going to be held!"

"Then it is true that you are to speak here to-night—and to uphold doctrines precisely the reverse of what—"

"Yes, that is true." He spoke very quietly.

"I had not thought that possible," she said gently.

"Of course," she added, "I have been in entire ignorance of alt matters out here for a year past. I have been busy."

"Why should you follow the political fortunes of an obscure Missourian?" he asked. "On the contrary, there is at least one obscure Missourian who has followed yours. I have known pretty much all you have been doing of late. Yes, you at least have been busy!"

As usual, she hung on the main point. "But tell me!" she demanded of him presently, a little added color coming into her cheeks. "Do you mean to say to me that you really remember what we talked about—that you really—"

He nodded, smiling. "Don't you remember we talked about faith, and how to get hold of it? And I said I couldn't find it? Well, I have no apologies and no explanations. All I have to say is that I fought it out, threshed it all over, and then somehow, I don't know how,—well, faith came to me,—that is all. I waked up one night, and I—well, I just knew. That is all. Then I knew I had been wrong."

"And it cost you everything."

"Just about everything in the world, I reckon, so far as worldly goods go. I suppose you know what you and your little colonization scheme have done to me?"

"But you—what do you mean?"

"Why, didn't you know that? Weren't Carlisle and Kammerer your agents; and didn't Lily, our late disappearing slave and also late lecturing fugitive yonder, represent them? Don't you really know about that?"

"No, I had nothing to do with their operations."

"Do you mean to tell me that it was—Oh, I am glad you do not know about it," he said soberly, "although I don't understand that part of it."

"Won't you explain?" she besought him.

"Now, the truth is—and that is the main reason of all this popular feeling against me here—that Lily, or these men, or people like them, took away every solitary negro from my plantation, as well as from two or three others neighboring me! They didn't stop to buy my property—they just took it! You see, Madam,"—he smiled rather grimly,—"these northern abolitionists remain in the belief that they have all the virtue and all the fair dealing in the world. It has been a little hard on my cotton crop. I will not have any crop this fall. I had no labor. I will not have any crop next summer. With money at twelve per cent. and no munificent state salary coming in,—that means rather more than I care to talk about."

"And it was I—I who did that for you! Believe, believe me, I was wholly innocent of it! I did not know!—I did not! I did not! I would not have done that to my worst enemy!"

"No, I suppose not; but here is where we come again to the real heart of all of these questions which so many of us feel able to solve offhand. What difference should you make between me and another? If it is right for the North to free all these slaves without paying for them, why should there be anything in my favor, over any one of my neighbors? And, most of all, why should you not be overjoyed at punishing me? Why am I not your worst enemy? I differed from you,—I wronged you,—I harmed you,—I did everything in the world I could to injure you. At least you have played even with me. I got you Lily to take along. And I even once went so far as to tell you my own notion, that the blacks ought to be deported. Well, you got mine!"

"I never meant it! I never intended it! It was done wholly without my knowledge! I am sorry! I am sorry!"

"You need not be sorry. It is only one of the consequences of following one's faith. Anyhow, I'm just a little less inconsistent than Mr. Benton, who had always been opposed to slavery, although he still owns slaves. The same is true of Mr. Clay. They both have been prominent politically. Well, set them free of their slaves, and they and I would be about even, wouldn't we? It comes to being pretty much on foot, I must confess."

"I can understand that," said she. "For that matter, we are both ruined; and for the same reason."

"What do you mean? And, tell me, once more, who are you? You certainly have stirred things up!"

"As to the latter, it makes little difference," said she. "I will confess to being a revolutionist and a visionary reformer; and an absolute failure. I will confess that I have undertaken things which I thought were within my power, but which were entirely beyond me. Well, it has ruined me also in a material way."

"How, do you mean?"

"This colonization work was carried on by my own funds. It is not long ago that I got a letter, saying that my funds were at an end. I had some small estates in the old country. They are gone,—confiscated. My last rents were not collected."

She, in turn, smiled, spreading out her hands. "You see me here in St. Genevieve, perhaps on my way to St. Louis. Tell me, is there demand for persons of foreign experience, who understand a little French, a little English, perhaps a little music? Or could there perhaps be a place for an interpreter in Hungarian, French or English?"

It was his turn to show consternation. "Is it indeed true?" he said. "Now it is time for me to say I am sorry. I do not understand all about it. Of course I could see all along that an immense amount of money was being paid into this colonization folly. And it was your money, and you are ruined,—for the same hopeless cause! I am sorry, sorry! It's a shame, a shame!"

"I am not sorry," said she. "I am glad! It is victory!"

"I will not say that!" he burst out. "I will not admit it, not confess it. It is all right for me, because I'm a man. I can stand it. But you—you ought to have ease, luxury, all your life. Now look what you have done!"

There came a sudden knock at the door, and without much pause. Hector entered, somewhat excited.

"Monsieur,—Madame!" he exclaimed. "One comes!"

"Who is it?" demanded Dunwody, frowning.

"Mon pere! He is come but now from Tallwoods, Monsieur."

"What is wrong out there? Tell him to come in."

"I go."

A moment later, Dunwody left the room, to meet old Eleazar, who made such response as he could to the hurried queries. "Monsieur," said he, "I have ridden down from the hills. There is trouble. In the neighborhood are some who are angry because their negroes have disappear'. They accuse Monsieur Dunwodee of being the cause, and say that he is traitor, a turncoat. This very night a band are said to plan an attack upon the house of monsieur! I have met above there Monsieur Clayton, Monsieur Bill Jones, Monsieur le Docteur Jamieson, and others, who ride to the assistance of Monsieur Dunwodee. It is this very night, and I—there being no other to come—have come to advise. Believing that monsieur might desire to carry with him certain friends, I have brought the large carriage. It is here!"

"Thank God!" said Dunwody, "they don't vote with me, but they ride with me still—they're my neighbors, my friends, even yet!

"Hector," he exclaimed suddenly,—"come here!" Then, as they both listened, he went on: "Tell the people there can not be a meeting, after all. I am going back to my house, to see what is on up yonder. Hector, can you get a fresh horse? And are there any friends who would go with you?"

The sturdy young cooper did not lack in courage, and his response was instant. "Assuredly I have a horse, Monsieur," was his reply. "Assuredly we have friends. Six, ten, seven, h'eight person shall go with us within the hour! But I must tell—"

Jeanne was at his elbow, catching scent of something of this, guessing at possible danger. She broke out now into loud expostulations at this rashness of her spouse, parent of this progeny of theirs, thus undertaking to expose himself to midnight dangers. Hector, none the less, shook his head.

"It is necessary that one go armed," commented Eleazar calmly. He patted with affection the long barreled piece which lay over his own arm.

Much of this conversation, loud and excited as it was, could not fail to reach the ears of Josephine, who presently had joined them, and who now heard the story of the old man, so fully confirming all Dunwody said.

"There is trouble! There is trouble!" she said, with her usual prompt decision. "There is room for me in the coach. I am going along."

"You—what in the world do you mean? You'll do nothing of the sort!" rejoined Dunwody. "It's going to be no place for women, up there. It's a fight, this time!"

"Perhaps not for Jeanne or Hector's mother, or for many women; but for me it is the very place where I belong! I made that trouble yonder. It was I, not you, who caused that disaffection among the blacks. Your neighbors ought to blame me, not you—I will explain it all to them in a moment, in an instant. Surely, they will listen to me. Yes, I am going."

Dunwody looked at her in grave contemplation for an instant.

"In God's name, my dear girl, how can you find it in your heart to see that place again? But do you find it? Will you go? If you insist, we'll take care of you."

"Of course! Of course!" she replied, and even then was busy hunting for her wraps. "Get ready! Let us start."

"Have cushions and blankets for the carriage, Eleazar," said Dunwody quietly. "Better get a little lunch of some sort to take along. Go down to the barn yonder and get fresh horses. I don't think this team could stand it all the way back."



The travel-stained figures of Doctor Jamieson, Judge Clayton and the Honorable William Jones met the Dunwody coach just as it was leaving at the upper end of St. Genevieve's main street. They also had found fresh horses, and in the belief of Dunwody it was quite as well that they rode horseback, in common with the followers of Hector, who presently came trooping after him. The interior of the coach seemed to him more fittingly reserved for this lady and himself. None the less, the Honorable William had abated none of his native curiosity. It was his head which presently intruded at the coach window.

"Ah, ha!" exclaimed he. "What? Again? This time there is no concealment, Dunwody! Come, confess!"

"I will confess now as much as I ever had to confess," retorted Dunwody angrily. "If you do not know yet of this lady, I will introduce you once more. She is the Countess St. Auban, formerly of Europe, and now of any place that suits her. It is no business of yours or of mine why she was once there, or cares to go there again; but she is going along with us out to Tallwoods."

Judge Clayton made salutation .more in keeping with good courtesy than had his inquisitive friend. "I have been following the fortunes of this lady somewhat attentively of late," he said, at length. "At least, she has not been idle!"

"Precisely!" ventured Josephine, leaning out the window. "That is why I am coming to-night. I understand there has been trouble down here,—that it came out of the work of our Colonization Society—"

"Rather!" said Clayton grimly.

"I was back of that. But, believe me, as I told Mr. Dunwody, I was not in the least responsible for the running off of negroes in this neighborhood. I thought, if I should go out there and tell these other gentlemen, that they would understand."

"That's mighty nice of you," ventured the Honorable William Jones. "But if we don't git there before midnight, they'll be so full of whisky and devilment that I don't think they'll listen even to you, Ma'am."

"It is pretty bad, I'm afraid," said Judge Clayton. "What with one thing and another, this country of ours has been in a literal state of anarchy for the last year or two. What the end is going to be, I'm sure I don't see.

"And the immediate cause of all this sort of thing, my dear Madam," he continued, as he rode alongside, "why, it seems to be just that girl Lily, that we had all the trouble about last year. By the way, what's become of that girl? Too bad—she was more than half white!"

"Yes, it is all about that girl Lily," said Josephine slowly, restraining in her own soul the impulse to cry out the truth to him, to tell him why this girl was almost white, why she had features like his own. "That is the trouble, I am afraid,—that girl Lily, and her problem! If we could understand all of that, perhaps we could see the reason for this anarchy!"

The group broke apart, as the exigencies of the road traveled required. Now and again some conversation passed between the occupants of the carriage and the horsemen who loosely grouped about it as they advanced. The great coach swayed its way on up through the woods into the hills, over a road never too good and now worse than usual. They had thirty miles or more to drive, most of it after dark. Could they make that distance in time?

Dunwody, moody, silent, yet tense, keyed to the highest point, now made little comment. Even when left alone, he ventured upon no intimate theme with his companion in the coach; nor did she in turn speak upon any subject which admitted argument. Once she congratulated him upon his recovery from what had seemed so dangerous a hurt.

"But that is nothing now," he said. "I got off better than I had any right,—limp a little, maybe, but they say that even that is mostly a matter of habit now. Jamieson says his fiddle string may have slipped a little! And you?"

"Oh, perfectly well," she answered. "I even think I may be happy—you know, I must start my French and English classes before long."

Silent now in part as to matters present, wholly silent as to matters past, these two went on into the night, neither loosing the tight rein on self. Swaying and jolting its way upward and outward into the wilder country, the coach at last had so far plunged into the night that they were almost within touch of the valley in which lay the Dunwody lands. Eleazar, the trapper, rode on the box with the negro driver who had been impressed into service. It was the old trapper who at length called for a halt.

"Listen!" said he. "What is that?"

Dunwody heard him, and as the coach pulled up, thrust his head out of the window. The sound was repeated.

"I hear it!" cried he. "Rifle firing! I'm afraid we're going to be too late. Drive on, there, fast!"

Finally they reached the point in the road just below the shut-in, where the hills fell back in the approach to the little circular valley. Dunwody's gaze was bent eagerly out and ahead. "My God!" he exclaimed, at length. "We are too late! Look!"

At the same moment there came excited cries from the horsemen who followed. Easily visible now against the black background of the night, there showed a flower of light, rising and falling, strengthening.

"Drive!" cried Dunwody; and now the sting of the lash urged on the weary team. They swung around the turn of the shut-in, and came at full speed into the approach across the valley. Before them lay the great Tallwoods mansion house. It stood before them a pillar of fire, prophetic, it might be repeated, of a vast and cleansing catastrophe soon to come to that state and this nation; a catastrophe which alone could lay the specter in our nation's house.

They were in time to see the last of the disaster, but too late to offer remedy. By the time the coach had pulled up at the head of the gravel way, before the yet more rapid horsemen had flung themselves from their saddles, the end easily was to be guessed. The house had been fired in a half score places. At the rear, even now, the long streaks of flame were reaching up to the cornice, casting all the front portion of the house, and the lawn which lay before it, into deep shadow. The shrubbery and trees thus outlined showed black and grim.

The men of the Tallwoods party dashed here and there among the covering of trees back of the house. There were shots, hastily exchanged, glimpses of forms slinking away across the fields. But the attacking party had done their work; and now, alarmed by the sudden appearance of a resistance stronger than they had expected, were making their escape. Once in a while there was heard a loud derisive shout, now and again the crack of a spiteful rifle, resounding in echoes against the hillsides.

Dunwody was among the first to disappear, in search of these besiegers. For an instant Josephine was left alone, undecided, alarmed, in front of the great doors. Eleazar, to save the plunging team, had now wheeled the vehicle back, and was seeking a place for it lower down the lawn. It was as she stood thus hesitant that there approached her from some point in the bushes a disheveled figure. Turning, she recognized none other than old Sally, her former jailer and sometime friend.

"Sally," she cried; "Sally! What is it? Who has done this? Where are they? What is it all about? Can't anything be done?"

But Sally, terrified beyond reason, could exclaim only one word: "Whah is he? Whah's Mr. Dunwody? Quick!" An instant later, she too was gone.

At the same moment, Dunwody, weapon in hand, dashed around the corner of the house and up on the front gallery. Apparently he was searching for some one whom he did not find. Here he was soon discovered by the old negro woman, who began an excited harangue, with wild gesticulations. To Josephine it seemed that Sally pointed toward the interior of the house, as though she beckoned, explained. She heard his deep-voiced cry.

By this time the names had taken firm hold upon the entire structure. Smoke tinged with red lines poured through the great double doors of the mansion house. Yet even as she met the act with an exclamation of horror, Josephine saw Dunwody fling away his weapons, run to the great doors and crash through them, apparently bent upon reaching some point deep in the interior.

Others saw this, and joined in her cry of terror. The interior of the hall, thus disclosed by the opening of the doors, seemed but a mass of flames. An instant later, Dunwody staggered back, his arm across his face. His hair was smoking, the mustaches half burned from his lips. He gasped for breath, but, revived by air, drew his coat across his mouth and once again dashed back. Josephine, standing with hands clasped, her eyes filled with terror, expected never to see him emerge alive.

He was scarcely more than alive when once more he came back, blinded and staggering. This time arms reached out to him, steadied him, dragged him from the gallery, through the enshrouding smoke, to a place of safety.

He bore something shielded, concealed in his arms—something, which now he carried tenderly and placed down away from the sight of others, behind the shade of a protecting clump of shrubbery. His breath, labored, sobbing, showed his distress. They caught him again when he staggered back, dragged him to a point somewhat removed, upon the lawn. All the time he struggled, as though once more to dash back into the flames, or as though to find his weapons. He was sobbing, half crazed, horribly burned, but seemingly unmindful of his hurts.

The fire went on steadily with its work, the more rapidly now that the opening of the front doors had admitted air to the interior. The construction of the house, with a wide central hall, and stairways leading up almost to the roof, made an admirable arrangement for a conflagration. No living being, even though armed with the best of fire fighting apparatus, could have survived in that blazing interior. All they could do, since even a bucket brigade was out of the question here, was to stand and watch for the end. Some called for ladders, but by accident or design, no ladders were found where they should have been. Men ran about like ants. None knew anything of time's passing. No impression remained on their minds save the fascinating picture of this tall pillar of the fire.

Dunwody ceased to struggle with those who restrained him. He walked apart, near to the little clump of shrubs. He dropped to the ground, his face in his hands.

"What do you reckon that thah was he brung out in his arms, that time?" demanded Mr. William Jones, after a time, of a neighbor who met him a little apart. "Say, you reckon that was folks? Anybody in there? Anybody over—thah? Was that a bed—folded up like—'bout like a crib, say? I'm skeered to go look, somehow."

"God knows!" was the reply. "This here house has had mighty strange goings on of late times. There was always something strange about it,—something strange about Dunwody too! There ain't no doubt about that. But I'm skeered, too—him a-settin' thah—"

"But who was she, or it, whatever it was? How come—in—in there? How long has it been there? What kind of goings on do you think there has been; in this here place, after all?" Mr. Jones was not satisfied. They passed apart, muttering, exclaiming, wondering.

An hour later, Tallwoods mansion house was no more. The last of cornice and pillar and corner post and beam had fallen into a smoldering mass. In front of one long window a part of the heavy brick foundation remained. Some bent and warped iron bars appeared across a window.

Unable to do anything, these who had witnessed such scenes, scarce found it possible to depart. They stood about, whispering, or remaining silent, some regarding the smouldering ruin. Once in a while a head was turned over shoulder toward a bowed form which sat close under a sheltering tree upon the lawn.

"He is taking it mighty hard," said this or that neighbor. "Lost nigh about everything he had in the world." But still his bowed form, stern in its sentinelship, guarded the something concealed behind the shadows. And still they dared not go closer.

So, while Dunwody was taking that which had come to him, as human beings must, the gray of the dawn crawled up, up over the eastern edge of this little Ozark Valley. After a time the day would come again, would look with franker eyes upon this scene of horror. As the light grew stronger, though yet cold and gray, Dunwody, sighing, raised his head from his hands and turned. There was a figure seated close to him—a woman, who reached out a hand to take his scarred and burned ones in her own,—a woman, moreover, who asked him no questions.

"Oh! Oh God!" he began, for the first time breaking silence, his burned lips twitching. "And you,—why don't you go away? What made you come?"

She was silent for a time. "Am I not your friend?" she asked, at length.

Now he could look at her. "My friend!" said he bitterly. "As if all the world had a friend for me! How could there be? But you saw that,—this—?"

She made no answer, but only drew a trifle nearer, seeing him for the first time unnerved and unstrung. "I saw something, I could not tell what—when you came out. I supposed—"

"Well, then," said he, with a supreme effort which demanded all his courage, as he turned toward her; "it all had to come out, somehow. It is the end, now."

She had brought with her a cup of water. Now she handed it to him without comment. His hand trembled as he took it.

"You saw that—?" He nodded toward the ruins. All she did was to nod, in silence. "Yes, I saw you come out—with—that—in your arms."

"Who—what—do you suppose it was?"

"I don't know." Then, suddenly,—"Tell me. Tell me! Was it she?"

"Send them away!" he said to her after a time. She turned, and those who stood about seemed to catch the wish upon her face. They fell back for a space, silent, or talking in low tones.

"Come," he said.

He led her a pace or so, about the scanty wall of shrubbery. He pulled back a bit of old and faded silk, a woman's garment of years ago, from the face of that something which lay there, on a tiny cot, scarce larger than a child's bed.

It was the face of a woman grown, yet of a strangely vague and childlike look. The figure, never very large, was thin and shrunken unbelievably. The features, waxy-white, were mercifully spared by the flames which had licked at the shielding hands and arms that had borne her hither. Yet they seemed even more thin, more wax-like, more unreal, than had their pallor come by merciful death. Death? Ah, here was written death through years. Life, full, red-blooded, abounding, luxuriant, riotous, never had animated this pallid form, or else had long years since abandoned it. This was but the husk of a human being, clinging beyond its appointed time to this world, so cruel and so kind.

They stood and gazed, solemnly, for a time. The hands of Josephine St. Auban were raised in the sign of her religion. Her lips moved in some swift prayer. She could hear the short, hard breathing of the man who stood near her, grimed, blistered, disfigured, in his effort to bring away into the light for a time at least this specter, so long set apart from all the usual ways of life.

"She has been there for years," he said, at last, thickly. "We kept her, I kept her, here for her sake. In this country it would be a sort of disgrace for any—any—feeble—person, you know, to go to an institution. Those are our graves over yonder in the yard. You see them? Well, here was our asylum. We kept our secrets.

"She was this way for more than ten years. She was hurt in an accident—her spine. She withered away. Her mind was gone—she was like a child. She had toys, like a child. She wept, she cried out like a child. Very often I was obliged to play—Ah! my God! My God!"

"This was one of your family. It was that which we heard—which we felt—about the place—?" Her voice was very clear, though low.

"My wife! Now you know." He dropped back, his face once more between his hands, and again she fell into silence.

"How long—was this?" at length she asked quietly.

He turned a scorched and half-blinded face toward her. "Ever since I was a boy, you might say," said he. "Even before my father and mother died. We kept our own counsel. We ran away, we two children. They counseled me against it. My people didn't like the match, but I wouldn't listen. It came like some sort of judgment. Not long after we were married it came—the dreadful accident, with a run-away team—and we saw,—we knew—in a little while—that she simply lived like a child—a plant—That was ten years ago, ten centuries!—ten thousand years of torture. But I kept her. I shielded her the best I knew how. That was her place yonder, where the bars were—you see. Nobody knew any more. It's all alone, back in here. Some said there was a funeral, out here. Jamieson didn't deny it, I did not deny it. But she lived—there! Sally took care of her. Sometimes she or the others were careless. You heard once or twice. Well, anyway, I couldn't tell you. It didn't seem right—to her. And you were big enough not to ask. I thank you! Now you know."

Still she was silent. They dropped down, now weary, side by side, on the grass.

"Now you see into one bit of a human heart, don't you?" said he bitterly. The gray dawn showed his distorted and wounded face, scarred, blackened, burned, as at length he tried to look at her.

"I did the best I knew. I knew it wasn't right to feel as I did toward you—to talk as I did—but I couldn't help it, I tell you, I just couldn't help it! I can't help it now. But I don't think it's wrong now, even—here. I was starved. When I saw you,—well, you know the rest. I have got nothing to say. It would be no use for me to explain. I make no excuses for myself. I have got to take my medicine. Anyhow, part of it—part of it is wiped out."

"It is wiped out," she repeated simply. "The walls that stood there—all of them—are gone. It is the act of fate, of God! I had not known how awful a thing is life. It is all—wiped away by fire. Those walls—"

"But not my sins, not my selfishness, not the wrong I have done! Even all that has happened to me, or may happen to me, wouldn't be punishment enough for that. Now you asked me if you were not my friend? Of course you are not. How could you be?"

"It would be easier now than ever before," she said. But he shook his head from side to side, slowly, dully, monotonously.

"No, no," he said, "it would not be right,—I would not allow it."

"I remember now," she said slowly, "how you hesitated. It must have been agony for you. I knew there was something, all the time. Of course, I could not tell what. But it must have been agony for you to offer to tell me—of this."

"Oh, I might have told you then. Perhaps it would have been braver if I had. I tried it a dozen times, but couldn't. I don't pretend to say whether it was selfishness or cowardice, or just kindness to—her. If I ever loved her, it was so faint and far away—but it isn't right to say that, now."

"No. Do not. Do not."

"I don't know. There are a heap of things I don't know. But I knew I loved you. It was for ever. That was what was meant to be. It seemed to me I owed debts on every hand—to the world—to you: I tried—tried to pay—to pay you fair, ache for ache, if I could, for the hurts I'd given you. And you wouldn't let me. You were wonderful. Before the throne of God—here—now, I'll say it: I love you! But now it's over."

"It is easier now," she said again. "You must not give way. You are strong. You must not be beaten. You must keep your courage."

"Give me a moment," he said. "Give me a chance to get on my feet again. I want to be game as I can."

"You have courage—the large courage," she answered quietly. "Haven't you been showing it, by your very silence? You will be brave. You are just beginning. You have changed many things in your life of late. You were silent. You did not boast to me. Sometimes things seem to be changed for us, without our arrangement."

"Isn't it true?" he exclaimed, turning to her quickly; "isn't it the truth? Why, look at me. I met you a year ago. Here I sit now. Two different men, eh? No chance, either time. No chance."

"Maybe two different women," said she.

"No, we are not different," he went on suddenly. "We are something just the same,—for my part, at least, I have never changed very much in some ways."

"You have suffered a great deal," she said simply "You have lost very much. You are no longer a boy. You are a man, now. You've changed because you are a man. And it wasn't—well, it wasn't done for—for any reward."

"No, maybe not. In some ways I don't think just the way I used to. But the savage—the brute—in me is there just the same. I don't want to do what is right. I don't want to know what is right. I only want to do what I want to do. What I covet, I covet. What I love, I love. What I want, I want. That is all. And yet, just a minute ago you were telling me you would be a friend! Not to a man like that! It wouldn't be right."

She made no answer. The faces of both were now turned toward the gray dawn beyond the hills. It was some moments before once more he turned to her.

"But you and I—just you and I, together, thinking the way we both do, seeing what we both see—the splendid sadness and the glory of living and loving—and being what we both are! Oh, it all comes back to me, I tell you; and I say I have not changed. I shall always call your hair 'dark as the night of disunion and separation'—isn't that what the oriental poet called it?—and your face, to me, always, always, always, will be 'fair as the days of union and delight.' No you've not changed. You're still just a tall flower, in the blades of grass—that are cut down. But wasted! What is in my mind now, when maybe it ought not to be here, is just this: What couldn't you and I have done together? Ah! Nothing could have stopped us!"

"What could we not have done?" she repeated slowly. "I've done so little—in the world—alone."

Something in her tone caught his ear, his senses, overstrung, vibrating in exquisite susceptibility, capable almost of hearing thought that dared not be thought. He turned his blackened face, bent toward her, looking into her face with an intensity which almost annihilated the human limitations of flesh and blood. It was as though his soul heard something in hers, and turned to answer it, to demand its repetition.

"Did you say, could have done?" he demanded. "Tell me, did you say that?"

She did not answer, and he went on. "Listen!" he said in his old, imperious way. "What couldn't we do together an the world, for the world—even now?"

For a long time there was silence. At last, a light hand fell upon the brown and blistered one which he had thrust out.

"Do you think so?" he heard a gentle voice reply.


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