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   Chapter 5 No.5

The Hallam Succession By Amelia E. Barr Characters: 35462

Updated: 2017-11-29 00:04


"I loved you alway, I will not deny it; not for three months, and not for a year; but I loved you from the first, when I was a child, and my love shall not wither, till death shall end me."-GAeLIC SONG.

"Our own acts are our attending angels, in whose light or shadow we walk continually."

The Fontaine place was a long, low, white building facing a tumbling sea, and a stretch of burnt sea-sands. It had no architectural beauty, and yet it was a wonderfully picturesque place. Broad piazzas draped in vines ran all around the lower story, and the upper revealed itself only in white glimpses among dense masses of foliage. And what did it matter that outside the place there were brown sand-hills and pale-sailed ships? A high hedge of myrtles hid it in a large garden full of the scents of the sun-burnt South-a garden of fragrant beauty, where one might dream idly all day long.

It was four o'clock in the afternoon of an August day, and every thing was still; only the cicadas ran from hedge to hedge telling each other, in clear resonant voices, how hot it was. The house door stood open, but all the green jalousies were closed, and not a breath of air stirred the lace curtains hanging motionless before the windows. The rooms, large and lofty, were in a dusky light, their atmosphere still and warm and heavy with the scent of flowers. On the back piazza half a dozen negro children were sleeping in all sorts of picturesque attitudes, a bright mulatto women was dozing in a rocking-chair, and the cook, having "fixed" his dinner ready for the stove, had rolled himself in his blanket on the kitchen floor. Silence and dusk were every-where, the dwelling might have been an enchanted one, and life in it held in a trance.

In one of the upper rooms there was an occupant well calculated to carry out this idea. It was Phyllis, fast asleep upon a white couch, with both hands dropped toward the floor. But the sewing which had fallen from them, and the thimble still upon her finger, was guarantee for her mortality. And in a few minutes she opened her soft, dark eyes, and smiled at her vacant hands. Then she glanced at the windows; the curtains were beginning to stir, the gulf breeze had sprung up, the birds were twittering, and the house awakening.

But it was pleasant to be quiet and think in such an indolent mood; and Phyllis had some reasons for finding the "thinking" engrossing. First, she had had a letter from Elizabeth, and it was in a very hopeful tone. Antony and George Eltham were doing very well, and, as Lord Eltham had become quietly interested in the firm, the squire felt more easy as to its final success. Second, Mr. North was leaving Hallam, his term there had expired, and the Conference, which would determine his next movement, was then sitting. Her thoughts were drifting on these two topics when a woman softly entered the room. She looked at Phyllis's closed eyes, and with a smile went here and there laying out clean white muslins, and knots of pink ribbons, and all the pretty accessories of a young maiden's evening toilet.

"Thar now, Miss Phill! I'se ready-and I 'spects thar's some good news for you, honey!"

Phyllis opened her eyes. "I heard you, Harriet. I was not asleep. As for good news, I think you are always expecting it-besides, I had some to-day."

"Dat's de reason,-Miss Phill-'whar you going good news? Jest whar

I'se been afore.' Dat's de way. I reckon I knows 'bout it."

"What makes you know this time, Harriet? Has the postman been, or a bird whispered it to you, or have some of Waul's servants been making a call here?"

"I don't 'ceive any of de Waul's servants, Miss Phill. I'se not wanting my char'ctar hung on ebery tree top in de county. No, I draws my s'picions in de properest way. Mass'r Richard git a letter dis morning. Did he tell you, Miss Phill?"

"I have not seen him since breakfast."

"I thought he'd kind ob hold back 'bout dat letter. I knows dat letter from Mass'r John. I'se sure ob it."

"Did you look-at the outside of it, I mean-Harriet?"

"No, Miss Phill, I didn't look neider at de outside, nor de inside;

I's not dat kind; I look at Mass'r Richard's face. Bless you, Miss

Phill! Mass'r Richard kaint hide nothing. If he was in love Harriet

would know it, quick as a flash-"

"I think not, Harriet."

"Den I tell you something, Miss Phill. Mass'r Richard been in love eber since he come back from ober de Atterlantic Ocean. P'raps you don't know, but I done found him out."

Phyllis laughed.

"I tell you how I knows it. Mass'r Richard allays on de lookout for de postman; and he gits a heap ob dem bluish letters wid a lady's face in de corner."

"That is Queen Victoria's face. You don't suppose Master Richard is in love with Queen Victoria?"

"Miss Phill, de Fontaines would fall in love wid de moon, and think dey pay her a compliment-dey mighty proud fambly, de Fontaines; but I'se no such fool as not to know de lady's head am worth so many cents to carry de letter. But, Miss Phill, who sends de letters? Dat am de question."

"Of course, that would decide it."

"Den when Mass'r Richard gits one of dem letters, he sits so quiet-like, thinking and smiling to himself, and ef you speak to him, he answers you kind ob far-away, and gentle. I done tried him often. But he didn't look like dat at all when he git de letter dis morning. Mass'r Richard got powerful high temper, Miss Phill."

"Then take care and not anger him, Harriet."

"You see, when I bring in de letter, I bring in wid me some fresh myrtles and de tube roses for de vases, and as I put dem in, and fixed up de chimley-piece, I noticed Mass'r Richard through de looking-glass-and he bit his lips, and he drew his brows together, and he crush'd de letter up in his hand."

"Harriet, you have no right to watch your master. It is a very mean thing to do."

"Me watch Mass'r Richard! Now, Miss Phill, I'se none ob dat kind! But I kaint shut my eyes, 'specially when I'se 'tending to de flower vases."

"You could have left the vases just at that time."

"No, Miss Phill, I'se very partic'lar 'bout de vases. Dey has to be 'tended to. You done told me ober and ober to hab a time for ebery thing, and de time for de vases was jist den."

"Then, the next time you see Master Richard through the glass, tell him so, Harriet; that is only fair, you know."

"Go 'way, Miss Phill! I'se got more sense dan tell Mass'r Richard any sich thing."

Phyllis did not answer; she was thinking of a decision she might be compelled to make, and the question was one which touched her very nearly on very opposite sides. She loved her brother with all her heart. Their lives had been spent together, for Phyllis had been left to his guardianship when very young, and had learned to give him an affection which had something in it of the clinging reliance of the child, as well as of the proud regard of the sister. But John Millard she loved, as women love but once. He was related by marriage to the Fontaines, and had, when Phyllis and Richard were children, spent much of his time at the Fontaine place.

But even as boys Richard and John had not agreed. To ask "why" is to ask a question which in such cases is never fully answered. It is easy to say that Richard was jealous of his sister, and jealous of John's superiority in athletic games, and that John spoke sneeringly of Richard's aristocratic airs, and finer gentleman ways; but there was something deeper than these things, a natural antipathy, for which there seemed to be no reason, and for which there was no cure but the compelling power of a divine love.

John Millard had been for two years on the frontier, and there had been very meager and irregular news from him. If any one had asked Richard, "Are you really hoping that he has been killed in some Indian fight?" Richard would have indignantly denied it; and yet he knew that if such a fate had come to his cousin Millard, he would not have been sorry. And now the man with the easy confidence of a soldier who is accustomed to make his own welcome, wrote to say "that he was coming to New Orleans, and hoped to spend a good deal of his time with them."

The information was most unwelcome to Richard. He was not anxious for his sister to marry; least of all, to marry a frontier settler. He could not endure the thought of Phyllis roughing life in some log-cabin on the San Marino. That was at least the aspect in which he put the question to himself. He meant that he could not endure that John Millard should at the last get the better of him about his own sister. And when he put his foot down passionately, and said, between his closed teeth, "He shall not do it!" it was the latter thought he answered.

He felt half angry at Phyllis for being so lovely when she sat down opposite him at dinner time. And there was an unusual light in her eyes and an indescribable elation in her manner which betrayed her knowledge of the coming event to him.

"Phyllis," he asked, suddenly, "who told you John Millard was coming?"

"Harriet told me you had a letter from him this morning."

"Confound-"

"Richard!"

"I beg your pardon, Phyllis. Be so good as to keep Harriet out of my way. Yes; I had a letter-a most impertinent one, I think. Civilized human beings usually wait for an invitation."

"Unless they imagine themselves going to a home."

"Home?"

"Yes. I think this is, in some sense, John's home. Mother always made him welcome to it. Dear Richard, if it is foolish to meet troubles, it is far more foolish to meet quarrels."

"I do not wish to quarrel, Phyllis; if John does not talk to you as he ought not to talk. He ought to have more modesty than to ask you to share such a home as he can offer you."

"Richard, dear, you are in a bad way. There is a trustees' meeting to-night, and they are in trouble about dollars and cents; I would go, if I were you."

"And have to help the deficiency?"

"Yes; when a man has been feeling unkindly, and talking unkindly, the best of all atonements is to do a good deed."

"O, Phyllis! Phyllis!"

"Yes, Richard; and you will see the Bishop there, very likely; and you can tell the good old man what is in your heart, and I know what he will say. 'It is but fair and square, son Richard, to treat a man kindly till he does you some wrong which deserves unkindness.' He will say, 'Son Richard, if you have not the proofs upon which to blame a man, don't blame him upon likelihoods.'"

"My good little sister, what do you want me to do?"

"I want you to meet John, as we were met at Hallam, with trusting courtesy."

"If you will promise me to-"

"I will promise you to do nothing secretly; to do nothing my mother would blame me for. To ask more, is to doubt me, and doubt I do not deserve. Now put on your hat and go to church. They will be disappointed if you are absent."

"It will cost me $100."

"A man ought to pay his debts; and it is nicer to go and pay them than to compel some one to call here and ask you to do it."

"A debt?"

"Call it a gift, if you like. When I look over the cotton-fields, Richard, and see what a grand crop you are going to have this year, somehow I feel as if you ought to have said $200."

"Give me my hat, Phyllis. You have won, as you always do." And he stooped and kissed her, and then went slowly through the garden to the road.

She did not see him again that night, but in the morning he was very bright and cheerful "I am going to ride to Greyson's Timbers, Phyllis," he said; "I have some business with Greyson, and John will be almost sure to 'noon' there. So we shall likely come back together."

She smiled gladly, but knew her brother too well to either inquire into his motives or comment upon them. It was sufficient that Richard had conquered his lower self, and whether the victory had been a single-handed one, or whether the Bishop had been an ally, was not of vital importance. One may enjoy the perfume of a good action without investigating the processes of its production.

In the middle of the afternoon she heard their arrival. It was a pleasant thing to hear the sound of men's voices and laughter, and all that cheerful confusion, which as surely follows their advent as thunder follows lightning. And Phyllis found it very pleasant to lie still and think of the past, and put off, just for an hour or two, whatever of joy or sorrow was coming to meet her; for she had not seen John for two years. He might have ceased to love her. He might be so changed that she would not dare to love him. But in the main she thought hopefully. True love, like true faith, when there seems to, be nothing at all to rest upon,

"Treads on the void and finds

The rock beneath."

Few women will blame Phyllis for being unusually careful about her toilet, and for going down stairs with a little tremor at her heart. Even when she could hear Richard and John talking, she still delayed the moment she had been longing for. She walked into the dining-room, looked at the boy setting the table, and altered the arrangement of the flowers. She looked into the parlor, raised a curtain, and opened the piano, and then, half ashamed of her self-consciousness, went to the front piazza, where the young men were sitting.

There was a subtle likeness between Richard and his English ancestors that neither intermarriage, climate, nor educational surroundings had been able to overcome; but between him and John Millard there were radical dissimilarities. Richard was sitting on the topmost of the broad white steps which led from the piazza to the garden. With the exception of a narrow black ribbon round his throat, he was altogether dressed in white; and this dress was a singularly becoming contrast to his black hair and glowing dark eyes. And in every attitude which he took he managed his tall stature with an indolent grace suggestive of an unlimited capacity for pride, passion, aristocratic-or cottonocratic-self-sufficiency. In his best moods he was well aware of the dangerous points in his character, and kept a guard over them; otherwise they came prominently forward; and, sitting in John Millard's presence, Richard Fontaine was very much indeed the Richard Fontaine of a nature distinctly overbearing and uncontrolled.

John Millard leaned against the pillar of the piazza, talking to him. He had a brown, handsome face, and short, brown, curly hair. His eyes were very large and blue, with that steely look in them which snaps like lightning when any thing strikes fire from the heart. He was very tall and straight, and had a lofty carriage and an air of command. His dress was that of an ordinary frontiersman, and he wore no arms of any kind, yet any one would have said, with the invincible assurance of a sudden presentiment, "The man is a soldier."

Richard and he were talking of frontier defense, and Richard, out of pure contradiction, was opposing it. In belittling the cause he had some idea that he was snubbing the man who had been fighting for it. John was just going to reply when Phyllis's approach broke the sentence in two, and he did not finish it. He stood still watching her, his whole soul in his face; and, when he took her hands, said, heartily, "O, Phyllis, I am so happy to see you again! I was afraid I never would!"

"What nonsense!" said Richard, coldly; "a journey to Europe is a trifle-no need to make a fuss about it; is there, Phyllis? Come, let us go to dinner. I hear the bell."

Before dinner was over the sun had set and the moon risen. The mocking-birds were singing, the fire-flies executing, in the sweet, languid atmosphere, a dance full of mystery. The garden was like a land of enchantment. It was easy to sit still and let the beauty of heaven and earth sink into the heart. And for some time John was contented with it. It was enough to sit and watch the white-robed figure of Phyllis, which was thrown into the fairest relief by the green vines behind it. And Richard was silent because he was trying to conquer his resentment at John finding satisfaction in the exquisite picture.

Perhaps few people understand how jealous a true brotherly love can be, How tenderly careful of a sister's welfare, how watchful of all that pertains to her future happiness, how proud of her beauty and her goodness, how exacting of all pretenders to her favor. His ideal husband for Phyllis was not John Millard. He wondered what she could see to admire in the bronzed frontier soldier. He wondered how John could dare to think of transplanting a gentlewoman like Phyllis from the repose and luxury of her present home to the change and dangers and hardships of pioneer life.

It would have been an uncomfortable evening if the Bishop had not called. He looked at John and loved him. Their souls touched each other when they clasped hands. Perhaps it was because the nature of both men was militant-perhaps because both men loved frontier fighting. "I like," said the old soldier of Christ, "I dearly like to follow the devil to his outposts. He has often fine fellows in them, souls well worth saving. I was the first Methodist-I may say the first Protestant preacher-that entered Washington County, in Texas. Texas was one of our mission stations in 1837. I never was as happy as when lifting the cross of Christ in some camp of outlaws."

"Did they listen to you?"

"Gladly. Many of them clung to it. The worst of them respected and protected me. One night I came to a lonely log-house in the Brazos woods-that was 'far, far West' then. I think the eight men in it were thieves; I believe that they intended to rob, and perhaps to murder, me. But they gave me supper,

and took my saddle-bags, and put up my horse. 'Reckon you're from the States,' one said. 'Twelve months ago.' 'Any news?' 'The grandest. If you'll get your boys together I'll tell you it.'"

"They gathered very quickly, lit their pipes, and sat down; and, sitting there among them, I preached the very best sermon I ever preached in my life. I was weeping before I'd done, and they were just as wretched as I like to see sinners. I laid down among them and slept soundly and safely. Ten years afterward I gave the sacrament to four of these very men in Bastrop Methodist Church. If I was a young man I would be in the Rio Grande District. I would carry 'the glad tidings' to the ranger camps on the Chicon and the Secor, and the United States forts on the Mexican border. It is 'the few sheep in the wilderness' that I love to seek; yea, it is the scape-goats that, loaded with the sins of civilized communities, have been driven from among them!"

Richard started to his feet. "My dear father, almost you persuade me to be a missionary!"

"Ah, son Richard, if you had the 'call' it would be no uncertain one! You would not say 'almost;' but it is a grand thing to feel your heart stir to the trumpet, even though you don't buckle on the armor. A respectable, cold indifference makes me despair of a soul. I have more hope for a flagrant sinner."

"I am sure," said John, "our camp on the San Saba would welcome you. One night a stranger came along who had with him a child-a little chap about five years old. He had been left an orphan, and the man was taking him to an uncle that lived farther on. As we were sitting about the fire he said, 'I'm going into the wagon now. I'm going to sleep. Who'll hear my prayers?' And half a dozen of the boys said, 'I will,' and he knelt down at the knee of Bill Burleson, and clasped his hands and said 'Our Father;' and I tell you, sir, there wasn't a dry eye in camp when the little chap said 'Amen.' And I don't believe there was an oath or a bad word said that night; every one felt as if there was an angel among us."

"Thank you, John Millard. I like to hear such incidents. It's hard to kill the divinity in any man. And you are on the San Saba? Tell me about it."

It was impossible for Richard to resist the enthusiasm of the conversation which followed. He forgot all his jealousy and pride, and listened, with flashing eyes and eager face, and felt no angry impulse, although Phyllis sat between the Bishop and John, and John held her hand in his. But when the two young men were left alone the reaction came to Richard. He was shy and cold. John did not perceive it; he was too happy in his own thoughts.

"What a tender heart your sister has, Richard. Did you see how interested she was when I was telling about the sufferings of the women and children on the frontier?"

"No; I fancied she was rather bored."

John was at once dashed, and looked into Richard's face, and felt as if he had been making a bragging fool of himself. And Richard was angry, and ashamed, for a gentleman never tells a lie, though it be only to his own consciousness, without feeling unspeakably mean. And by a reflex motion of accountability he was angry with John for provoking him into so contemptible a position.

The "good-night" was a cooler one than the evening had promised; but Richard had recollected himself before he met John in the morning; and John, for Phyllis's sake, was anxious to preserve a kindly feeling. Love made him wise and forbearing; and he was happy, and happiness makes good men tolerant; so that Richard soon saw that John would give him no excuse for a quarrel. He hardly knew whether he was glad or sorry, and the actions and speech of one hour frequently contradicted those of the next.

Still there followed many days of sunshine and happy leisure, of boating and fishing, of riding upon the long stretch of hard sands, of sweet, silent games of chess in shady corners, of happy communion in song and story, and of conscious conversations wherein so few words meant so much. And perhaps the lovers in their personal joy grew a little selfish, for; one night the Bishop said to Phyllis, "Come and see me in the morning, daughter, I have something to say to you."

He was sitting waiting for her under an enormous fig-tree, a tree so large that the space it shadowed made a pretty parlor, with roof and walls of foliage so dense that not even a tropical shower could penetrate them. He sat in a large wicker-chair, and on the rustic table beside him was a cup of coffee, a couple of flaky biscuits, and a plate of great purple figs, just gathered from the branches above him. When Phyllis came, he pulled a rocking-chair to his side, and touched a little hand-bell. "You shall have some coffee with me, and some bread and fruit; eating lubricates talking, dear, and I want to talk to you-very seriously."

"About John, father?"

"Yes, about John. You know your own mind, Phyllis Fontaine? You are not playing with a good man's heart?"

"I told you two years ago, father, that I loved John. I love him still.

I have applied the test my leader gave me, and which I told you of.

I am more than willing to take John for eternity; I should be miserable

if I thought death could part us."

"Very good-so far; that is, for John and yourself. But you must think of Richard. He has claims upon you, also. Last night I saw how he suffered, how he struggled to subdue his temper. Phyllis, any moment that temper may subdue him, and then there will be sorrow. You must come to some understanding with him. John and you may enjoy the romance of your present position, and put off, with the unreasonable selfishness of lovers, matter-of-fact details, but Richard has a right to them."

"Am I selfish, father?"

"I think you are."

"What must I do?"

"Send John to speak plainly to Richard. That will give your brother an opportunity to say what he wishes. If the young men are not likely to agree, tell John to propose my advice in the matter. You can trust me to do right, daughter?"

"Yes, I can."

In the evening Phyllis called on the Bishop again. He was walking in his garden enjoying the cool breeze, and when he saw her carriage he went to meet her. A glance into her face was sufficient. He led her into the little parlor under the fig-tree. "So you are in trouble, Phyllis?"

"Yes, father. The conversation you advised had unfortunately taken place before I got an opportunity to speak to John. There has been a quarrel."

"What was said?"

"I scarcely know how the conversation began; but Richard told John, that people were talking about his intimacy with me; and that, as marriage was impossible between us, the intimacy must cease."

"What else?"

"I do not know; many hard things were said on both sides, and John went away in a passion."

"Go home and see your brother, and make some concessions to his claim upon your love. Tell him that you will not marry John for two years; that will give John time to prepare in some measure for your comfort. Promise in addition any thing that is reasonable. I fear Richard's temper, but I fear John's more; for the anger of a patient man is a deep anger, and John has been patient, very. Don't you be impatient, Phyllis. Wait for time to carry you over the stream, and don't fling yourself into the flood, and perish."

"Two years!"

"But reflect-a quarrel becomes a duel here very readily-dare you provoke such a possibility?"

"Dear father, pray for me."

"I will. Trust God, and every rod shall blossom for you. Be patient and prudent. Birds build their nests before they mate, and love needs the consecration of a home. Tell John to make one for you, and then to come and speak to Richard again. I don't say, wait for riches; but I do say, wait for comforts. Comforts keep men innocent, bind them to virtue by the strong cords of friends, families, homes, and the kindnesses of kindred."

But when Phyllis arrived at home Richard was not there. He had gone to the plantation, and left word for his sister that he might not return until late the following day. Phyllis was very wretched. She could hardly trust the message. It was possible that Richard had considered flight from temptation the wisest course, and that he expected John would leave during his absence. On the other hand, it was just as likely that John would not leave, and that the quarrel would be renewed at the hotel, or upon the street, under circumstances where every influence would be against the young men.

She was sure that if she had John's promise to keep peace with Richard, that he would not break it; but she did not know whether he was still in the village or had gone away altogether. If the latter, she would certainly receive some message from him; and, if no message came, she must conclude that he was waiting for an opportunity to see her.

Harriet was sure that he was at the village 'hotel.' "Dime done seen him thar," she said, positively, "and Mass'r John no sich fool as go 'way widout talkin' up for himself. I was 'stonished dis afternoon, Miss Phill, he took Mass'r Richard's worryin' dat quiet-like; but I could see de bearin's ob things mighty plain."

"You heard the quarrel, then, Harriet?"

"Couldn't help hearin' ob it, Miss Phill, no way; 'case I right thar. I was in de dinin'-room fixin' up de clean window curtains, and de young gen'lemen were on de p'azza. Cassie never do fix de curtains right; she's not got de hang ob dem, Miss Phill; so I jist made up my mind to do 'em myself; and while I was busy as a honey-bee 'bout dem, Mass'r Richard, he walk proud-like up to Mass'r John, and say, 'he want to speak a few words wid him.' Den I kind ob open my ears, case, Miss Phill, when gen'lemen want to 'say a few words,' dey're most ob de time onpleasant ones."

"Did Master John answer?"

"He looked kind ob 'up-head,' and says he, 'Dat all right. I'se nothin' 'gainst you sayin' dem.' So Mass'r Richard he tell him dat he hear some talk down town, and dat he won't have you talked 'bout, and dat as thar was to be no marryin' 'tween you two, Mass'r John better go 'way." "Did Master Richard say 'go away,' Harriet?"

"Dat's jist what he say-'go 'way,' and Mass'r John he flash up like, and say, he sorry to be turn'd out ob de ole home, and dat he'll go as soon as he see you. Den Mass'r Richard, he git up in one ob his white-hot still tempers, and he say, 'No gen'lemen need more 'an one word;' and Mass'r John say, 'No gen'leman eber say dat one word;' and Mass'r Richard say, 'Sir, you in my house, and you 'sume on dat position;' and Mass'r John say he 'mighty soon be in some oder house, and den Mass'r Richard not hab sich 'cuse;' and, wid dat, he stamp his foot, and walk off like both sides ob de argument 'long to him."

"Then what, Harriet?"

"Mass'r Richard tear roun' to de stables, and he tole Moke to saddle up Prince, and whilst de poor boy doin' his best, he storm roun' at dis thing and dat thing, till Prince work himself up in a fury, too, and I 'spects dey's both tired out by dis time. Prince he jist reared and kicked and foamed at de mouth, and did all de debil's own horse could do to fling Mass'r Richard, and Mass'r Richard, he de whitest white man any body eber seen. Ki! but de whip come down steady, Miss Phill."

"O, Harriet, how wretched you do make me."

"Dar isn't a bit need to worry, Miss Phill. Prince done tried himself wid Mass'r Richard 'fore dis, and he allus come in de stable meek as a lamb. When Mass'r Richard's got dat dumb debil in him, he'd ride a ragin' lion, and bring him home like a lamb."

"It's not that, Harriet; it's not that. But if he meet Master John there will be trouble-and O, the sin of it."

"Dat am true as preachin', Miss Phill."

"If I could only see John Millard."

"I'll mighty soon go for him, ef you say so."

"No; that will not do."

For Phyllis was aware that such a messenger would only make more trouble. Harriet was known to be her maid, and John was known to be her lover. To do anything which would give cause for ill-natured remarks was to find Richard the excuse which would permit him active interference. "I must avoid the appearance of evil," she said, anxiously. "What must I do?"

"Clar' I don't know, Miss Phill. 'Pears like you'se on a bery dangerous road. I reckon you'd best pray for de grace to choose de cleanest, safest steppin'-stones."

"Yes; that is best, Harriet."

But Phyllis was not one of those rash beings who rush into the presence of God without thought or solemnity. Slowly bending, body and soul, she communed with her own heart and was still, until it burned within her, and the supplication came. When she rose from her knees, she was resigned in all things to God's will, no matter what self-denial it involved; and she was not unhappy. For, O believe this truth, the saddest thing under the sky is a soul incapable of sadness! Most blessed are those souls who are capable of lodging so great a guest as Sorrow, who know how to regret, and how to desire, and who have learned that with renunciation life begins.

And Phyllis foresaw that renunciation would be the price of peace. At the commencement of the inquiry with her own soul she had refused to entertain the idea. She had tried to find reasons for seeking some other human adviser than Bishop Elliott, because she feared that he would counsel hard things to her. Ere she slept, however, she had determined to go to him very early in the morning.

But while she was drinking her coffee John Millard entered the room.

He took her hands, and, looking sorrowfully into her face, said,

"Phyllis, my dearest, it was not my fault."

"I believe you, John."

"And you love me, Phyllis?"

"I shall always love you, for I believe you will always try to deserve my love. But we must part at present. I was just going to ask the Bishop to tell you this. I can trust you, John, and you can trust me. He will tell you what you ought to do. And don't think hard of me if I say 'good-bye' now; for though Richard went to the plantation last night, he may be back any hour, and for my sake you must avoid him."

"Phyllis; you are asking a very hard thing. Richard has said words which I can scarcely ignore. Two or three men have inquired if I was going to put up with them?"

"What kind of men?"

"Captain Lefferts and Jim Wade and-"

"Nay, you need say no more. Will you sacrifice my happiness to the opinion of Captain Lefferts and Jim Wade? Are you their slave? Richard is not himself now; if you permit him to force a fight upon you, you will both sorrow for it all your lives."

"I will go and see the Bishop, and do whatever he tells me. If I need a defender from ill words-"

"You may safely leave your good name in his care, John. And who would dare to dispute a word he said? Dear John, I knew I could trust you. Goodbye, my love!"

He drew her to his breast and kissed her, and with a look of fervent, sorrowful love, was leaving the room, when Richard entered by another door. He intercepted the glance, and returned it to John with one of contemptuous defiant anger. It did not help to soothe Richard that John looked unusually handsome. There was a fire and persuasion in his face, a tenderness and grace in his manner, that was very irritating, and Richard could neither control his hands nor his tongue. He began at once to feel for his pistol. "Why is John Millard here?" he asked of Phyllis. "Answer me that."

"He is here to promise me that he will not put the name of Phyllis Fontaine in the month of every drunken gambler and scornful man and woman to satisfy his own selfish, false pride."

"He is too big a coward to fight a gentleman, he prefers fighting half-armed savages; but I propose to honor his behavior with more attention than it deserves unless he runs away."

"John, dear John, do not mind what Richard says now. He will be sorry for it. If you care for me, ever so little, you will not fight about me. The shame would kill me. I don't deserve it. I will never marry a man who drags my name into a quarrel. Richard, for our mother's sake, be yourself. Brother, you ought to protect me! I appeal to you! For God's sake, dear Richard, give me that pistol!"

"Phyllis," said John, "I will go. I will not fight. Your desire is sufficient."

"Coward! You shall fight me! I will call you coward wherever I meet you."

"No one, who knows us both, will believe you."

It was not the taunt, so much as the look of deep affection which John gave Phyllis, that irritated the angry man beyond further control. In a moment he had struck John, and John had cocked his pistol. In the same moment Phyllis was between them, looking into John's eyes, and just touching the dangerous weapon. John trembled all over and dropped it. "Go your ways safely, Richard Fontaine. I could kill you as easy as a baby, but for Phyllis's sake you are safe."

"But I will make you fight, sir;" and as he uttered the threat, he attempted to push Phyllis aside. Ere one could have spoken, she had faced Richard and fallen. Her movement in some way had fired the cocked pistol, and, with a cry of horror, he flung it from him. John lifted her. Already the blood was staining the snowy muslin that covered her breast. But she was conscious.

"Kiss me, John, and go. It was an accident, an accident, dear. Remember that."

"Stay with her, Richard. I will go for a doctor, my horse is saddled at the door;" and John rode away, as men ride between life and death. Richard sat in a stupor of grief, supporting the white form that tried to smile upon him, until the eyes closed in a death-like unconsciousness.

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