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midablc. Fresh onset after repulse, and, like the very crest of the toppling wave, one shadowy, horseman in all the dark lout, spurring forward, the fight reeling after him, the silver lone star fitfully flashing on his visor, the boy singled for his rifle; — inciting such fearless rivalry, his fall were the fall of a hundred. Something hindered; the marksman delayed an instant; he would not waste a shot; and watching him, the dim outline, the sweeping sabre, the proud prowess, a strange yearning pity seized Ray, and he had half the mind to spare. In the midst of the shock and uproar there came to him a pulse of the brain's double action; he seemed long ago to have loved, to have admired, to have gloried in this splendid valor. But with the hint, and the humanity of it, back poured the ardor of his sacred devotion, all the impulsions of his passionate purpose: here was God's work! And then, with one swift bound of magnificent daring and defiance, the horseman confronted him, the fore-feet of his steed planted firmly half up the abatis, and his steel making lightnings round about him. There was a blinding flare of light full upon Ray's fiery form;' in the sudden succeeding darkness horseman and. rider towered rigid like a monolith of black marble. A great voice cried his name, a sabre went hurtling in one shining crescent across the white arc of the waterfall. Too late I There was another flare of light, but this time on the rider's face, a sound like the rolling of the heavens together in a scroll, and Ray, in one horrid, dizzy blaze, saw the broad gleam of the ivory brow, of the azure fire in the eyes, heard the heavy, downfalling crash, and, leaping over the abatis, deep into the midst of the slippery, raging death below, seized and drew something away, and fell upon it prostrate. There, under the tossing torrent, dragging himself up to the seal of their agony and their reproach, Ray looked into those dead eyes, which, lifted beyond the everlasting stars, felt not that he had crossed their vision.
Far away from outrage and disaster, many a weary stretch of travel, the meadow-side cottage basked in the afternoon sunlight of late Indian-summer. All the bare sprays of its shadowing limes quivered in the warmth of their purple life against a divine depth of heaven, and the woody distances swathed themselves in soft blue smoke before the sighing south-wind.
Round the girl who sat on the low doorstone, with idle hands crossed before her, puffs of ravishing resinous fragrance floated and fainted. Two butterflies, that spread their broad yellow wings like detached flakes of living sunshine stolen out of the sweet November weather, fluttered between the glossy darkness of her hair and a little posthumous rose, that, blowing beside the door, with time only half to unfold its white petals, surveyed the world in a quaint and sad surprise.
Vivia looked on all the tender loveliness of the dying year with a listless eye: waiting, weary waiting, makes the soul torpid to all but its pain. It was long since there had been any letter from Ray.' In all this oppression of summer and of autumn there had come no report of Beltran. Her heart had lost its proud assurance, worn beneath the long strain of such suspense. Could she but have one word from him, half the term of her own life would be dust in the balance. A thousand fragmentary purposes were ever flitting through her thought. If she might know that he was simply living, if she could be sure he wanted her, she would make means to break through that dividing line, to find him, to battle by his side, to die at his feet! Her Beltran! so grave, so good, so heroic! and the thought of him in all his pride and beauty and power, m all his lofty gentleness and tender passion, in his strength tempered with genial complaisance and gracious courtesy, sent the old glad life, for a second, spinning from heart to lip.
The glassy lake began to ruffle itself below her, feeling the pulses of its interfluent springs, or sending through unseen sluices word of nightfall and evening winds to all its clustering companions that darkened their transparent depths in forest-shadows. As she saw it, and thought how soon now it would ice itself
anew, the remembrance rushed over her, like a warm breath, of the winter's night after their escape from its freezing pool, when Beltran sat with them roasting chestnuts and spicing ale before the fire that so gayly crackled up the kitchenchimney, a night of cheer. And how had it all faded! whither had they all separated? where were those brothers now? Heaven knew.
It had been a hard season, these months at the cottage. The price of labor had been high enough to exceed their means, and so the land had yielded ill, the grass was uncut on many a meadow; Ray's draft had not been honored; Vivia had of course received no dividend from her Tennessee State-bonds, and her peachorchards were only a place of forage. Still Vivia stayed at the cottage, not so much by fervent entreaty, or because she had no other place to go to, as because there were strange, strong ties binding her there for a while. Should all. else fail, with the ripened wealth of her voice at command, her future was of course secure from want. But there was a drearier want at Vivia's door, which neither that nor aoy other wealth would ever meet.
Little Jane came up the field with a basket of the last barberries lightly poised upon her head. A narrow wrinkle was beginning to divide the freckled fairness of her forehead. She kept it down with many an endeavor. Trying to croon to herself as she passed, and stopping only to hang one of the scarlet girandoles in Vivia's braids, she went in. The sunshine, loath to leave hsr pleasant little figure, followed after her, and played about her shadow on the floor.
Vivia still sat there and questioned the wide atmosphere, that, brooding palpitant between her and the lake, still withheld the desolating secret that horizon must have whispered to horizon throughout the aching distance.
Vol. xIIl. 8
hat the bells in all these silent spires Would clash their clangor on the sleeping
air, Ring their wild music out with throbbing
she sang, and trembled as she sang. But there the burden broke, and rising, her eyes shaded by her hand, Vivia gazed down the lonely road where a stage-coach rolled along in a cloud of dust. What prescience, what instinct, it was that made her throw the shawl over her head, the shawl that Beltran liked to have her wear, and hasten down the field and away to lose herself in the wood, she alone could have told.
The slow minutes crept by, the coach had passed at length with loud wheel and resounding lash, its last dust was blowing after it, and it had left upon the doorstone a boy in army-blue, with his luggage beside him. A ghastly visage, a shrunken form, a crippled limb, were what he brought home from the war. With his one foot upon the threshold, he paused, and turned the face, gray under all its trace of weather, and furrowed, though so young, to meet the welcoming wind. He gazed upon the high sky out of which the sunshine waned, on the long champaign blending its gold and russet in one, on the melancholy forest over which the twilight was stealing; he lifted his cap with a gesture as if he bade it all farewell, — then he grasped his crutch and entered.
Without a word, Mrs. Vennard dropped the needles she was sorting upon the mat about her. Little Jane sprang forward, but checked herself in a strange awe.
"Let me go to bed, auntie," said he, with a dry sob; "and I never want to get up again!"
Midnight was winding the world without in a white glimmer of misty moon* light, when the sharp beam of a taper emote Ray's sleepless eyes, and he saw Vivia at last standing before him. Over her wrapper clung the old shawl whose snowy web was sown with broidery of linnaea-bells, green vine and rosy blossom. Round her shoulders full her shadowy hair. Through her slender fingers the redness of the flame played, and on her cheek a hectic coming and going like ihe broad beat and flush of an artery left it whiter than the spectral moonlight on the pane. She took away her hand, and let the illumination fall full upon his face, — a face haggard as a dead man's.
"Ray," she said, "where is Beltran?" Only silence replied to her. He lay and stared up at her in a fixed and glassy glare. Breathless silence. Then Ray groaned, and turned his face to the wall. Vivia blew out the light.
The weeks crept away with the settingin of the frosts. Little Jane's heart was heavy for all the misery she saw about her, but she had no time to make moan. Ray's amputated ankle was giving fresh trouble, and after that was well over, he still kept his room, refusing food or fire, and staring with hot, wakeful eyes at the cold ceiling. Vivia lingered, subdued and pale, beside the hearth, doing any quiet piece of work that came to hand; no one had seen her shed tears,—she had shown no strenuous sorrow; on the night of Ray's return she had slept her first unbroken sleep for months; her nerves, stretched so intensely and so long, lay loosely now in their passionate reaction; some element more interior than they saved her from prostration. She stayed there, sad and still, no longer any sparkle or flush about her, but with a mildness so unlike the Vivia of June that it had in it something infinitely touching. She would have been glad to assist little Jane in her crowded duties, yet succeeded only in being a hindrance; and learning a little of broths and diet-drinks every day. she contented herself with sitting silent and dreamy, and transforming old linen garments into bandages. Mrs. Vennard, meanwhile, waited on her nephew and bewailed herself.
But for little Jane, — she had no time
to bewail herself. She had all these people, in fact, on her hands, and that with very limited means to meet their necessities. It was true they need not experience actual want, — but there was her store to be managed so that it should be at once wholesome and varied, and the first thing to do was to take an account of stock. The autumn's work had already been well done. She had carried berries enough to market to let her preserve her quinces and damsons in sirups clear as sunshine, and make her tiny allowance of currant and blackberry wines, where were innocently simulated the flavors of rare vintages. Crook-necked squashes decked the tall chimneypiece amid bunches of herbs and pearly strings of onions. She and Vivia had gathered the ripened apples themselves, and now goodly garlands of them hung from the attic - rafters, above the dried beans whose blossoms had so sweetened June, and above last year's corn - bins. That corn the first passing neighbor should take to mill and ie.\change a portion of for cracked wheat; and as the flour-barrel still held out, they would be tolerably well off' for cereals,-little Jane thought . They had kept only one cow, and Tommy Low would attend to her for the sake of his suppers, — suppers at which Vivia must forego her water-cresses now; but Janet had a bed of mushrooms growing down-cellar, that, broiled and buttered, were, she fancied, quite equal to venison-steaks. The hens, of course, must be sacrificed, all but a dozen of them; for, as there was no fresh meat for them in winter, they would n't lay, and would be only a dead weight, she said to herself, as, with her apron thrown over her neck, she stood watching them, finger on lip. However,"that would give them poultry all through the holidays. Then there were the pigs to be killed on halves by a neighbor, as almost everything else out-doors had now to be done; and when that was accomplished, she found no time to call her soul her own while making her sausage and bacon and souse and brawn. Part of the pork would produce salt fish, without which what farm-house would stand?—and with old hucklebones, her potatoes and parsnips, those ruby beets and golden carrots, there was many • Julien soup to be had. Jones's-root, bruised and boiled, made a chocolate as good as Spanish. Instead of ginger, there were the wild caraway - seeds growing round the house. If she could only contrive some sugar and some vanilla-beans, she would be well satisfied to open her campaign. But as there had been for weeks only one single copper cent and two postage - stamps in the house, that seemed an impossibility. Hereupon an idea seized little Jane, and for several days she was busy in a mysterious rummage. Garrets and closets surrendered their hoards to her; files of old newspapers, old ledgers, old letter-backs, began to accumulate in heaps,—everything but books, for Jane had a religious respect for their recondite lore; she cut the margins off the magazines, and she grew miserly of the very shreds ravelling under Vivia's fingers. At length, one morning, after she had watched the windows uuweariedly as a cat watches a mouse-hole;, she hurriedly exclaimed, —
"There he is!"
"Who ?" asked Mrs. Vennard as hurriedly, with a dim idea that people in their State received visits from the sheriff.
"Our treasurer!" said little Jane.
And, indeed, the red cart crowned with yellow brooms and dazzling tin, the delight of housewives in lone places, was winding along the road; and in a few moments little Jane accosted its driver, standing victorious in the midst of her bags and bundles and baskets.
"How much were white rags?"
Laconic, through the urgencies of tobacco.
"Wai, they were consider'ble."
"Six cents. 'T used to be half a cent. Six cents now."
"But the reason?" breathlessly. >
"Reckoned 't was the war 's much as anything."
One good thing out of Nazareth! Little Jane saw herself on the road to riches, and immediately had thoughts of sell* ing the whole household-equipment for rags. She displayed her commodities.
"Did he pay in money?"
"Did n't like to; but then he did."
"Fine day, to-day."
"Wai, 't was."
And when the reluctant tinman went on his way again, she returned to spread the fabulous result before her mother. There were sugars and spices and whatnot. And though — woe worth the day !-— she found that the sum yielded only half what once it would, still, by drinking her own tea in its acritude, they would do admirably; for tea even little Jane rtv quired as her tonic, and without it frit like nothing but a mollusk.
All this was very well, so far as it went; but the thrifty housekeeper soon found that it went no way at all. Those for whom she made her efforts wanted none of their results. She would have given all she had in the world to help these suffering beings; but her little cooking and concocting were all that she could do, and those they disregarded utterly. When in the dull forenoon she would have enlivened Vivia with her precious elderberry-wine, that a connoisseur must taste twice before telling from purplest Port, and Vivia only wet her lips at it, or when she carried Ray a roasted apple, its burnished sides bursting with juice and clotted with cream, and the boy glanced at it and never saw it, little Jane felt ready to cry; and she set to bethinking herself seriously if there were nothing else to be done.
One day, it was the day before Christmas, Jane took up to Ray's room one of her trifles, a whip, whose suave and frothy nothingness was piled over the sweet plum-pulp at bottom. Ray lay on the outside of the bed, with his thick poncho over him; he looked at her and at her tray, played with the teaspoon a momi-lit, then rolled upon his side and shut Id"s eyes. Little Jane took a half-dozen steps about the room, reached the door, hesitated, and came back.
"Ray," said she, under her breath and with tears in her voice, "I wish you would n't do so. You don't know how it makes me feel. I can't do anything for you but bring whips and custards; and you won't touch those."
Ray turned and looked up at her.
"Do you care, Janet ?" said he; and, rising on one arm, he lifted the glass, and finished its delicate sweetmeat with a gust.
But as he threw himself back, little Jane took heart of grace once more.
"Ray, dear,." said she, "I don't think it 'a right for you to stay here alone in the cold. Won't you come down where it's warm? It 's so much more cheerful by the fire."
"I don't want to be cheerful," said Ray.
Janet looked at the door, then summoned her forces, and, holding the high bedpost with both hands, said, —
"Ray, if God sent you any trouble, He never meant lor you to take it so. You arc repulsing Him every day. You are straightening yourself against Hun. You are like a log on His hands. Can't you bend beneath it? Dear Ray, you need comfort, but you never will find it till you take up your life and your duties again, and come down among us."
"What duties have I?" said Ray, hoarsely, looking along his footless limb. "The sooner my life f nds, oh, the bettsr! I want no comfort!"
But little Jane had gone.
Christmas day dawned clear and keen; the sky was full of its bluest sparkle, and, wheresoever it mounted and stretched over snowy fields, seemed to hold nothing but gladness. Vivia had wrapped herself in her cloak, and walked two miles to an early church-service, so if by any accord of worship she might put her heart in tune with the universe. She had been at.home a half-hour already, and sat in . her old nook with some idle work be
tween her fingers. A broad blaze rolled its rosy volumes up the chimney, and threw its reflections on the shining shelves and into the great tin-kitchen, that, planted firmly, held up to the heat the very bird that had moved so majestically over the spring meadow, and which Mrs. Vennard was at present basting with such assiduity, that, if ever the knife should penetrate the crisp depth of envelope, it would certainly find the inclosure unscathed by fire. Little Jane was stirring enormous raisins into some wonderful batter of a pudding,— for she remembered the time when somebody used to pick out all his plums and leave the rest, and she meant, that, so far as her skill and her resources would go, there should be no abatement of Christmas cheer to-day. And if, after all, everybody disdained the bounteous affair, why it could go to Tommy Low's mother, who would not by any means d'isdain it. Every now and then she turned an anxious ear for any movement in the cold distance, — but there was only silence.
Suddenly Vivia started. A door had swung to, a strange sharp sound echoed on the staircase, the kitchen-door opened and closed, and Ray set his back against it . He did not attempt to move-, but stood there darkly surveying them. Vivia looked at him a second, then rose quickly, crossed the room, and kissed him. Immediately Mrs. Vennard made a commotion, while the other led him forward and placed him in her chair. Little Jane pushed aside the pudding hastily, and proceeded to mull some of her mock Sherry, that his heart might be warmed within him; and the cat came rubbing against his crutch, as if she would make friends with it and take it into the family. Mrs. Vennard resumed her basting; Vivia began talking to him about her work and about her walk, murmuring pleasantly in her clear, low tone,—Janet now and then putting in a word. Ray sat there, sipping his spicy draught, and looking out with an unacquainted air at the stir to which his coming had lent some gladness. But his face was yet overcast