Puslapio vaizdai

swift, sudden resentment for her swept over Shirley. She took the slim, delicate hand in hers and gently stroked it. There was pity in the touch. The child raised her eyes in a wondering way and smiled. That smile had the effect of quite disconcerting the American girl; there was an unconscious assumption of superiority in it. It suddenly occurred to her that this small specimen of pitiful Chinese womanhood bore the unmistakable stamp of race. She had once seen Prince Kung, and had readily agreed with her husband when he claimed that the Chinese prince would impress by his air of high birth and breeding even the select circles of Vienna, the most aristocratic city in the world. The Viennese dames, Shirley thought, would find their match in this child-wife of a Chinese aristocrat.

When the twilight deepened, the little lady was carried from the summer-house across the flowering court and into the women's apartments. Shirley followed, ardently hoping that now she would be allowed to return to her home and George.

That night the emperor's prayer was answered. The drought was broken. The rain fell softly at first, playing on the tiled roofs a mimic bass, and the wet willow leaves whispered an aërial soprano-a duet of natural harmonies. Then came the cloud-burst, with a roar as of a cataract, and the earth was deluged with water. The pond swelled; it overspread the garden with foaming waves, uprooted the grotesque juniper shrubs, so that they floated helplessly about, tore down the moss-grown grottoes, and lashed the pebble mosaics in the paths into wild confusion.

The piles under the summer-house gave way, and the frail structure crashed into the water. Later a howling wind swept the earthen ornaments off the roofs into the compound, and threw the rain like hailstones against the paper windows of the houses.

But the streets of Peking that night received a celestial scouring the like of which they had not known for twenty years.

In spite of her weariness, Shuley could not sleep. The increasing noise of the elements and her own uneasy thoughts kept her awake. She had not seen the master of the house until late that evening. He had thrown her a glance of cold dislike, and turning his back on her, spoke angrily

to his wife. His words produced a strange effect upon the little lady and her amahs; they displayed the utmost astonishment, mingled with something of admiration and yet pity, as they gazed on Shirley.

A eunuch was then summoned, who conducted her through long, winding corridors to her present room, which looked out on a stone-paved court. After padlocking the door from without, he left her. That this treatment was directly due to her encounter with the imperial procession that afternoon, Shirley had every reason to fear. She had thrown herself on the hard kang without undressing. She had no means of guessing how late it was when a violent rush of wind and rain tore the water-soaked paper in the window by her bed and drenched her.

She started up, but was arrested by a sound outside the window. The storm had lulled again, and, except for the distant barking of a dog and the stealthy splash of rain on the stones, all was still. No; there it was again!

Obeying an uncontrollable impulse, she crept to the window, thrust her head through the torn, pulpy paper, and with straining eyes peered out into the black night.

"Shirley!" came a sharp, eager whisper, and a figure crouching close to the wall by her window sprang erect. It was her husband.

Her heart throbbed so loudly that she thought he must hear it. She was seized with such a sense of relief and happiness, it was as the intoxication of strong wine. She reeled, and clutched the window-frame with her trembling hands. Then an immense fear swept over her that it might be a waking dream, and she leaned far out of the window to feel his nearness.

"Oh, George, is it really you?" Her voice was almost a sob.

"Yes, dear heart, it is I. Quick! Step on the window-sill and jump down."

Fortunately for Shirley, the dwellinghouses in Peking are always low. From the room to the ground was an easy leap, and soon the missionary held her in his outstretched arms. He pressed his wet face to hers, and while the storm raged with renewed fury and the rain fell in black sheets upon them, he sped silently through the court, carrying his bride strained against his breast.

In the outer court he paused to listen cautiously. The girl in his arms scarcely breathed; she fancied she could discern shadowy forms lurking near, ready to spring on them. She clung closer to her husband. They were not far from the gatekeeper's lodge; a lantern under the projecting eaves threw a dim light on the massive gate in the wall. Not a sound was heard but the steadily falling rain. Noiselessly the missionary pushed past into the adjoining park. He now for the first time released his hold on Shirley; she slipped from his arms and stood beside him. Whistling softly, he was answered by the flash of a lantern near them, revealing Sing's pale, anxious face. When he saw his mistress standing straight, unharmed, and happy, he drew a long sigh of relief, and hiding the lantern again beneath his tunic, led the way to a small door in the wall. A cart was waiting in the street. The missionary lifted his bride in, placed himself beside her dripping figure, Sing grasped the reins, and they drove rapidly away.

George," said the bride, as she nestled contentedly in her husband's protecting arms, "how did you find me?"

"It was Sing who found you, love," he answered. "When he saw the soldiers pursuing you, he was almost beside himself with fear. He knew his head would n't be worth a copper cash if he tried to interfere in your behalf. A short distance down the alley lives one of his acquaintances, night watchman to a wealthy nobleman in the neighborhood. There he gained admittance, and bribed a small boy to climb a

tree in the court and tell him what was going on outside. In this way he learned of your escape from the banner-men and your refuge in the park. He knew that the park was part of the grounds belonging to the nobleman for whom his friend works. This watchman expressed his conviction that his master would hand you over to the authorities. Sing now hastened home with the news. There was no time to lose."

The missionary paused a moment to control the emotion in his voice, then again took up the thread of his narrative. "I sought out the watchman, and with bribes won him to my service. I sent him to interrogate the servants and discover what attitude the nobleman had assumed toward you. His inquiries were successful; I learned that you were to be handed over to the Yamen in the morning. I knew your release could be demanded and in time granted through the proper official channels, but in the meanwhile you would be exposed to the horrors and filth of a Chinese prison. I could n't rest with the awful thought of it, and determined to release you this very night. With the connivance of the watchman, who admitted me privately into the grounds, and under cover of the darkness led me to your window, I succeeded."

"George," said the bride, presently, "I wish you were not a missionary-"

"And so do I, for the space of half an hour, during which I would pound that Chinese nobleman into a very close resemblance to a jellyfish," remarked the missionary, grimly.





"These were redeemed from among men."

A GLADDEN," said the farmer to his wife, as he brought in a brimming bucket of cold water from the well, "it air borne in upon me thet money air suttinly the fifth wheel in the wagon o' progress. It keeps folks up late, an' rises 'em airly. I hain't out o' bed afore the agents air hailin' me from the pike."

"I seen Kirk Buckberry ridin' up ter the fence," smiled Ma Gladden, "an' calkilated he war tryin' ter induce ye ter part with yer spendin'-money. Whut air his business afore breakfast? Did ye ast him in ?"

"He hed et airlier a place er two," replied Pa Gladden, setting up chairs to the table; "an' he hed ile sheers ter-day-ile sheers whar thar air actoolly no more ile than in thet empty lamp on the shelf. He war likewise soundin' me on Persephone a leetle. Warnted ter know ef I hed sot her down in my will. Hain't thet a leadin' question, ma?"

"Kirk air turnin' over in his mind whut other young fellers air studyin' on," said Ma Gladden, with a wise air. "Sence she got better, her vally hev riz. She don't look so like the last o' pea-time, either; an' ef she would only roach up her hair a leetle an' keer more fer frills, she 'd shorely hev every young feller an' widower up an' down trailin' here."

Pa Gladden looked sober.

"Saints an' sinners, ma! I s'posed she'd hed her time an' war over it-like the measles."

"Law, Asahel!" laughed his wife, in ac

tual merriment, "air ye still thet green ez ter effections o' thet sort? Them feelin's hain't often killed out by one trial at merryin'. I would n't undertake ter measure thet widder's feelin's. She is shyer than any gal I ever hev seen; but law! she air human. Thet 's why I been listenin' ter yer talk o' takin' a boy ter raise. Persephone air most likely ter go, an' we needs some one. I air only afeard I wull not be sympathizin' enough with young boys. Ye hev ter raise 'em real keerful ter make good men o' them. Persephone hev got leetle gentle, soft ways with men-folks, an' she would hev helped a powerful ermount."

"She hain't got merried yet," said Pa Gladden, humbly, "but I hain't goin' ter sot down on any projec' ter make womenfolks happier. The Lord shorely made one good thing on airth, an' thet air merried love-like ourn. I would n't grudge it ter my wust enemy, fer it air the true manna in the desert. I tell ye I uster think myself erway erbove ye, hones'; but the Lord hez took thet clean out o' me. Ye air the lead hoss."

"Sho, now!" cried Ma Gladden, shoving her pan of biscuits into the oven, "ter hear ye talk! Whut ercount air I without ye? I war plumb made ter fill up yer needs with good food an' ter look arter yer clothes."


JUNE came in that year with dawn-skies of mother-of-pearl over emerald fields and pastures; with noons of translucent glitter reflected from a high-hung sun-lamp above a brilliant world. Field hedges showed long, perfumed rows of white, pink, and amber. The air was heavy with mingled

scents. In the house-plots of the farms the greensward was covered day by day with the rose-petals from scrambling bushes.

The delicacy of the atmosphere, the exceptional verdancy and flowering of the fields, wooed forth the world. The rural folk went joyously and hopefully to heavy tasks. The old were young again, and care fled away in the promise of the year.

In this floral festival there walked a tall young woman who, from afar, might have been taken for the daughter of Ceres, who lightly trod the flowery plain. But, if she were a Proserpine, it was after her return from the dark prison-house of sorrow and care. A lovely face was that, but too calm, and hers a bright eye that had often been washed with tears. Silent were her footfalls in the grassy pathway along the hedge-row, but still softer ones followed. The farm collie, Sheila, had long ago sworn allegiance to Persephone's vagrant moods.

The robins flew unscared; the splendor of the cardinal's feathered garb flashed red between green tangles of brier and grape, ivy and woodbine, lovingly drawn together in close embraces. Along the low stone walls the wanderer stepped again and again over full-flowered branches of the wild scrambler rose or honeysuckle, and from her path she pushed aside tall and valiant daisy-stalks. Her soul responded to the splendid luxuriance of nature, and all black shadows were lifted.

The farmer's adopted daughter went on her way over the eastern field, through the farm woodland, to carry him an afternoon luncheon and cool drink. The old grove was a pitiful remnant of the once magnificent forest that had covered the valley and hill-slopes in the eighteenth century. It was of some fifteen or twenty acres, rolling ground, and so remote from lanes and roads that it was rarely disturbed by the foot of man. Persephone loved it well, and of late sought it often. She now lingered under the splendid iron beeches, oaks, and poplars, going reflectively over last year's upcurled and decaying leaves. She walked bareheaded in the shade, her ruffled bonnet carried in a split basket. She climbed up and over tree-covered ridges. Suddenly Sheila bristled and growled ominously. As if waking from a happy dream, Persephone looked about, to see a human being, with his face hidden, lying prone in the leaves and fern of the beech-wood slope.

Her woman's impulse was to slip quietly away as lightly as she had come. Then a wandering sun-ray, straight from the splendid lamp of heaven, pierced through the green gloom, and reflected a dazzling, answering spark from a thing that lay near the man's right hand. The sharp intuitions of past anguish sent a blighting truth home to the woman's heart. A man was dead or to die.

"Oh, Pa Gladden," cried her soul, "help him! help him!”

Into her mind came one of the farmer's quaint bits of advice: "In times of sudden trouble, jes hold yerself level."

Level? What would "level" mean in this case? Pa Gladden was not far away, but she might not be able to reach him and return in time to save the man if a critical moment were at hand. She soon saw that he was not dead, for his fingers moved and groped restlessly in the dead leaves. She hesitated a moment only, and during it he raised a dreadful face. She knew then that he was young, and that he had once been handsome, but now his face was disfigured with pain and desperation. He looked for his revolver, and even touched it with a seeking hand.

Then Persephone hushed Sheila's whinings with a stern gesture. A great, a stupendous courage rose in her-a daring to do a deed of salvation. Poising herself lightly, first upon one foot and then upon the other, she stepped forward as stealthily and as subtly as an Indian. Her breath was repressed, her fingers trembled. When she stood above the still figure with the grace of a descending angel, she hovered but an instant. With marvelous deftness she picked up the pistol and ran over the slope toward Pa Gladden's corn-field. The dog, in doubt, remained with the lunchbasket, but set up a furious barking.

At the foot of the slope Pa Gladden saw her running, and came toward her. She, white and shaking, met him with the pistol held aloft.

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Pa Gladden pointed at the revolver.

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Is thet weepon hisn?"

"Yes. I picked it up and ran as fast as I could."

"Waal," with a deep and relieved breath,-"onless he air carryin' a hull gun-shop, he shorely won't be dead till I arrive thar. How in Sam Hill did you git thet weepon?"

She told him in a few words. Pa Gladden regarded her with admiration.

"By the etarnal, honey! ye hev got a brave speerit! Hones', I did n't think it of ye. I'm goin' right up thar ter console him. Ye run on down an' tie up Prunelly afore she gits the hull corn-field inter thet onfoldin' stomick o' hern."

"Oh, do hurry! hurry! I'll see to the mare.'


"Don't ye worry, now. Hide thet ongodly thing in the fence-corner, an' jump eroun' home t' other way. I'll see ter the man, darter."

Persephone's voice trembled to tears. “Leave you, Pa Gladden? No; I can't do it."

"A nice, obedient darter ye shorely air," retorted Pa Gladden-"boun' ter have yer own woman's way. Don't ye come out of thet field ontil I see how he 's takin' itan' do ye mind me thar?"

widge. I plumb do believe ye been neglectin' yer meals."

The man drank slowly, but he refused the food.

"Please leave me," he said faintly.
Pa Gladden shook his head.

"Not wishin' to be ugly-like," he observed, "I can't do it noways at all. I'm goin' ter set right down here with ye till the big black shadder passes. Ye see, I hev got a reg'lar soft spot in my make-up fer all young folks an' their troubles. They 're likely ter be hevin' the bother of the univarse. They can't be reconciled ter the way the Lord runs the world, but air allers plannin' a play-actin' world o' thar own. Yes, it air mighty hard. I've been through the hull business myself, an' I 'd like to help ye pull yerself up out o' the ditch."

Guided by her master's tender tone, the collie had been creeping closer and closer to the stranger, and now slipped her nose into his palm in a friendly way. In an instant his whole frame was shaking.

Pa Gladden waited.

"Some folks air plumb down on dogs," he thought, as he sat on a convenient log. "Suttinly Sheiler knew ernough ter break the ice. Thet man air in a bad shape, an' yer Pa Gladden hez jes got ter land him on the shore."

Guided by the dog's persistent barking, Pa Gladden climbed the slope. Sheila stood in front of the basket, but her eye never left the distracted creature who was searching here and there in the leaves and muttering inarticulate and dreadful things. He did not see the shirt-sleeved figure behind him, and Pa Gladden observed him silently. "Whut air yer trouble, my son?" he in- availingly among the dry leaves. quired mildly.

After a little time he discreetly began:

"Now, son, I wanter tell ye thet ye must n't turn erway from sech friends as the Lord air sendin' ye in a dark hour. I ast ye, as man ter man, ter meet yer troubles an' go on endurin' of yer life. Ye must n't ever tamper with yer Master's doin's. He made us, an' not we ourselves." Still the nervous fingers searched un

The stranger faced about with a smothered cry.

"Ye do seem ailin' powerful," continued Pa Gladden. "Whut kin I do fer ye?"

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Ye might ez well quit thet," went on Pa Gladden, solemnly. "The Lord God Almighty actoolly sent an angel to seal the tomb ag'in' ye. Don't ye know thet leetle weepon war taken from under yer very hand a spell back?"

The young man sprang up, pallid and frightened.

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