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"Holding a lily in his hand
For Death's annunciation."
WHAT time the white day-lilies lift their faces
When purpling grapes upon the trellis cluster,
And floods the land and sea with silver splendor;
Then comes again, in shadowy completeness,
A face that faded once when lilies came; A face the whitest lilies could not shame For lack of any lovely grace or sweetness.
Nine years ago, in silent desolation,
I watched the fading of that perfect face Until I knew His presence in the place,— The awful Angel of Annunciation.
The August sun had set in all its glory,
And when the pomp of clouds had trailed away, And gold and flame were melted into gray,
I read the ending of love's sweetest story.
The balmy night came dewy-soft and stilly,
I felt the waving of the mystic lily.
And oh! I saw, as one sees in a vision
Where spell-bound, one may neither cry nor stir, Its dreary shadow stealing over her,
And darkening lips and eyes with slow precision. Nine years ago. But still the memory thrills me: All the wild sorrow and the yearning pain Come back to wring my quickened soul again, And the same sense of desolation fills me,
Whenever through the summer darkness sighing, Some wandering wind has brought me suddenly The scent of lilies, as it came to me
That night in August when my love lay dying.
BY ADELINE TRAFTON.
DO WE KEEP OUR LOVE TO PAY OUR DEBTS WITH?
"She had no intention of starving us, then; that is something," said the Professor in a low tone. But Katey had caught the words, and knew that his suspicions SHE awoke with the morning sun shin- were the same as her own. The scanty ing full upon her, conscious of a delicious breakfast was soon over. Professor Dyce warmth and restfulness. How heavy her scattered the brands of the fire as they preshawl had become! Then she rose hur-pared to leave their camping place. riedly.
"Professor Dyce, you have forgotten
"I have not suffered in the least, I can assure you. And now will you have a cup of coffee?
"Let me run down to the brook and bathe my face, first," Katey replied humbly, forbearing to thank him. It was all beyond words, but she should never forget.
She came back in a moment, her cheeks and finger-tips glowing from contact with the stream which had served also as a mirror before which to re-arrange the dark braids of heavy hair, and tie again the knot of flame-colored ribbon at her throat. She was looping the skirt of her pretty, gray gown over the bright petticoat beneath it as she approached the fire, trying with deft fingers to hide the numerous rents, the result of the forced march in the dark the night before.
"A blessing on the man who invented pins," she said, putting the last in place, and taking up the lunch basket; "and now, where are we, please?"
In spite of the light tone, her eyes, sweeping the unfamiliar landscape, where was no trace of road or cultivated field or homestead, were full of anxiety.
"Just where, or how near to La Fayette, it is impossible to tell," replied the Professor. "But there is a well-traveled road not far from here; probably the turnpike upon which we came from town yesterday; we have only to follow that."
"But first, breakfast," and Katey took out the remains of the last night's supper. "How fortunate that I brought this basket away! But now I think of it, Miss Wormley gave it to me."
"It was to have served a double purpose," he said grimly; "one would have sufficed. No, we will leave the basket," when Katey took it up from force of habit. "There is still a little coffee."
"We will take it and the cup; though we shall reach some village or La Fayette itself, before noon, without doubt. Are you equal to a long tramp?
"I think so;" and certainly her appearance was as fresh as when they started from town the day before. The bivouac under the stars had only brightened her eyes and reddened her cheeks.
They set off over the rough fields glistening with dew in the early morning sun, where they had wandered vainly in the darkness for a little while the night before. They climbed more than one low wall, the Professor leading the way in so straight a line that Katey knew he had explored it while she slept. The road was gained at last and he spoke for the first time.
"It cannot be far, whichever direction we take, to some village or farm-house. We need not hasten so."
Katey, breathless from the haste with which they had begun their journey, was glad to slacken her pace. It was much easier, too, to follow this well-beaten road than it had been to make their way over the rough fields, full of snares to unwary feet. The sun, though rising higher and higher, shone upon them still with only agreeable warmth; the air was fresh and exhilirating as they went on mile after mile, strong in the conviction that the next turn of the road must bring some human habitation into view.
But morning merged into noon; the sun had long since drank up every drop of dew, and poured down now blinding, vertical rays upon the white stretch of road, and still no village, no single farm-house even, had greeted their eyes. The belt of woods spread out, until it skirted the road
upon one side; upon the other the rough, neglected land stretched away to the horizon. Somewhere among the valleys hidden in the distance, villages might nestle, but they were not visible from this point, as again they hastened towards a bend in the road, only to find themselves upon the brow of a low hill with the same unchanging landscape before them.
Katey sat down upon a low, flat rock by the side of the way. She was faint and dizzy. They had eaten their scanty breakfast almost at day-break, and had been hours on the road. She rested her arms upon the rock and dropped her head as everything whirled around her.
"Do not be discouraged," said the Professor, with the patient cheerfulness which went to her heart. "We will rest at the foot of the hill under a clump of trees I see there, build a fire, and as a brook has straggled out of the woods most opportunely, you shall be served with coffee as you sit in the door of your tent. Come!" and thus encouraged, Katey made one more effort.
She lay down under the trees, when they were gained, her shawl rolled into a pillow, while the Professor gathered a little heap of sticks and dried leaves and essayed to light a fire. He uttered a quickly repressed exclamation. She opened her eyes. The match in his hand had gone out.
"But you have more?"
"I am afraid not ;" and he made a fruitless search.
She burst into tears. It was silly and childish, and she was ashamed of her weakness, but this was the last straw.
"Don't," he said gently. "Pray, don't. We shall certainly come to a house soon; this cannot last much longer. If I could only do something!" he broke out in sudden despair.
"I am sorry, I am ashamed," sobbed Katey. "You, too, must be tired and faint, and discouraged."
"Not discouraged," he said quickly; "nor very tired. I am stronger than you, you know. It is annoying, that is all. There, that is a brave girl," as the sobs became less violent. "Now, try to sleep awhile
But Katey sat suddenly upright, instead. "I had forgotten this," she said, dragging at her watch-chain. "Will not this light a fire?" and she held out a tiny globe of colorless rock-crystal.
"We will try it, at least," he replied. He
set himself to gathering the driest grasses, the most inflammable material within his reach, adding scraps from an old letter and placing them all upon a stone already heated by the sun. After repeated attempts, the little bauble thus turned unexpectedly to use, was coaxed to act the part of a burning-glass; a faint breath of smoke hovered over the pile, thickening, bursting into a feeble flame. They had succeeded.
Ah! no nectar of the gods ever equaled the draughts from the tin cup, a little later; no rest was ever to Katey like the short hour in which she lay curled up in the shadow of the long, thick branches of the laurels, the rough open fields about her.
They went on with new strength and courage, less impatient than before. But what we desire and seek after in hot haste, comes presently when we least expect it; we turn aside for a little time weary of the search, and lo! we stumble upon it. A break in the woods, and suddenly, almost in their faces, rose a little old farm-house, peaceful, quiet, homely, and not in the least disturbed. by the encounter, which is more than can be said of one of its inmates,—a frowzy Scotch terrier who rushed out to meet them, uttering shrill yelping cries which brought the mistress of the house to the door.
"Our troubles are over;" said Katey. It was the Professor who lagged now.
"They have but just begun;" he replied, in a low tone which did not reach her ear. "Wait here a moment," he said aloud, and went on to the door alone.
"My good woman," he began, raising his hat to the tall, raw-boned specimen of womanhood, who had yet a kindly face; "could you give us some dinner and by any means send us on to the next town?"
Surprise and curiosity at sight of the two who had apparently dropped from the skies, since there were no signs of ordinary human conveyance, changed to suspicion in the woman's countenance.
"I don' no," she replied slowly. "You shall be well paid for the trouble." ""Tain't the money." At this moment Katey approached. She gave her a sharp, keen glance. "Well, you can come in, I reckon; an' I'll find ye something to eat, she said at last, leading the way into a low kitchen, bare enough, but neat in its appointments, where a couple of tow-headed children playing upon the floor immediately hid themselves under the table.
"Perhaps you could give this lady a
room where she could rest while I see what can be done about going on," sug. gested the Professor; and Katey found herself shut into a tiny bed-room opening from the kitchen, with an outlook through its one window upon the green grass-plot before the front door. Here she strove to remove the traces of travel, making her toilet before a little glass hanging above the high chest of drawers, which distorted her features oddly. When, after a time, she returned to the kitchen, the woman had taken herself and her family out of the way, a lunch was spread upon the table, and the Professor stood with his back to her, before the window, alone. He turned as she closed the door after her. There was an expression of annoyance upon his face, which cleared at sight of Katey.
"I suppose we may sit down," he said, moving towards the table. His manner was constrained, and absent. They ate in silence; Katey wondering, but not daring to ask, what information he had gained, or how they were to proceed to La Fayette.
"I am going to find the man of the house, and see what means he has of sending us on," the Professor said when they rose at last. There had come a strange consciousness into his face, almost like embarrassment. He paused with his hand upon the door. "You had better remain in your room until I send for you. I will tell the woman that you are lying down, so that she need not disturb you. One never knows what such people may say," he added hastily, "don't talk with her." Then he went out, and shut the door.
"What they may say?" thought Katey. What could they say? She was too tired to think about it. She went back to the little close room, and threw herself upon the bed to rest during the brief time of waiting. Some one stood over her presently. It was the woman of the house, who touch
ed her arm.
"Your husband would, like to have you come out, ma-am, as soon as you are ready." Then she left her to herself again.
Katey sprang up, her face tingling, her fingers awkward over the tying of her hat. One never, indeed, knew what these people might say! She stood a moment, her hand upon the door latch. What if the Professor had heard the summons! She was shy at the thought of meeting him. Then, putting away her silly fears, and
making herself brave for the moment, she went out. The woman was alone in the kitchen, clearing away the remains of their lunch.
"He is in the parlor," she said without looking up, going on with her work, but nodding her head towards the door. Long afterwards that little room rested in Katey's memory-with its dull, home-spun carpet, its homely furniture set at ungainly angles, the queer silhouettes over the high mantel, the tiny window-panes, against which the branches of an apple-tree outside, stunted and gnarled, tapped unceasingly. The flush had not died out of her face, and there was a little tremor in her hands as she pushed open the door. The Professor rose from the sofa where he had been lying.
"What is it?" he said quickly, closing the door after her. "What has she said to you?"
"Nothing; or nothing of any consequence," Katey replied, angry at herself as she felt the color mount to her hair.
"I wish you would tell me if you can." Then she told, stammering over the words: "She only said—that is, she thought-that I was your wife."
"Oh!" he seemed greatly relieved by the brief sentence which had so embarrassed her "It is my fault-if there is any,"he went on, hesitating over the words, and yet speaking quite calmly. "I gave her to understand so."
"What do you mean? How dared you?" Katey turned upon him in indignant astonishment. But there was neither shame nor quailing in the eyes which met hers.
"You are very angry, then?"
He led her to the sofa, and made her sit down. "Think a moment," he said. How could I bring you to the door here, and say that you were nothing to me?"
"O, wait," cried Katey in distress. A painful, bewildering light was breaking upon her. Her hot face dropped into her hands.
"We are twenty miles from La Fayette. We must have shortened the distance in our wanderings across the country," he went on. "I hardly think we can have walked so far as that. It is full twenty miles by the road, this man informs me, and there is no way of reaching there from here, but by proceeding to A, ten miles farther on, and taking the train back to-night."
He rose and began to pace the room. Katey had made no reply. She had expressed neither surprise nor assent. She sat trembling and shivering in the corner of the old sofa.
"It will be better," he said, presently, drawing a chair and sitting down before her, "to understand the whole matter. Indeed, I must talk this over plainly with I had the misfortune, if it be one, to you. incur Miss Wormley's resentment a few weeks ago. She uttered some threats of revenge then, of which I thought nothing at the time. I am inclined to believe now that she has bided her time and taken this opportunity to wreak her vengeance. I could laugh at it, but for you. You can think, perhaps, what she may do for us in La Fayette," he added. She could not
have chosen a better time, and every hour of absence has weakened our position there."
Let us go back at once, then," and Katey made a hurried, trembling movement to put on her shawl.
"We cannot start at present. A stage will pass here in an hour or more on its way to A. We must take that."
Again he rose and paced the floor. Then he paused. "You promised yesterday that when I bade you leave La Fayette you would go, did you not?" Yes."
66 What, if I say now, do not return there? Indeed," he added quickly, "there is but one way in which I dare let you go back. Child! what might they not say to youdo to you! Go home to your sister."
"And let the teachers and the girls believe I was ashamed to return? And have strange stories come creeping after me? O never! How can you ask it? Besides, I cannot, if I would. Mrs. Estemere is abroad. The house is closed."
66 But you have a brother."
"Yes, Jack;" and Katey's eyes shone as she spoke his name. "He is on his way to the Army of the Potomac, I believe, before this time. His wife will follow him to Washington-perhaps she has already. You see I have no other home just now. I must return to La Fayette."
"But you have friends-the Durants." And could I go to any of them like this? Professor Dyce, you mean to be kind, but you are cruel."
He went away to the window without a word. He stood staring out into the apple
"That will make no difference. They will ask what has become of me."
He crossed the room and stood before her. "Miss Earle, will you be my wife? Katey shrank back without speaking. A shadow touched his face.
"It is too soon, I see," he said. And "You are too generous," she replied at the same moment.
"I fear I am not generous at all," he said. "I have thought for a long time that I should some day ask you that question. Years hence, perhaps, when I dared hope you would not say no.'
"And you ask me now because I am homeless?
He took up her words eagerly.
Yes, because you are homeless, and in trouble; because there is no one now to care for you but me! I wish with all my heart that you were alone in the world, as you are alone here. I could almost desire you to be cast out and despised, so that I-"
He stretched his arms towards her, but Katey, drawing back into her shadowy corner, gazed at him with fixed and frightened eyes. His arms fell, he turned abruptly to the window.
There was silence in the little, low room. Then by and by a hand touched the Professor's arm. Katey's face was very pale and grave.
"Would it be better for you-would it be easier for you to go back if you were married to me?"
"I suppose so. But don't think of that. I shall do well enough," and he made a little effort to shake off her hand.
"Then if you please," she went on meekly, "I will be your wife."
"And sacrifice yourself in your generosity? Not to me."