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   Chapter 24 No.24

Flower of the Dusk By Myrtle Reed Characters: 19006

Updated: 2017-11-30 00:05

The Bells in the Tower

The sea was very blue behind the Tower of Cologne, though it was not yet dawn. The velvet darkness, in that enchanted land, seemed to have a magical quality-it veiled but did not hide. Barbara went up the glass steps, made of cologne bottles, and opened the door.

The Tower Unchanged

She had not been there for a long time, but nothing was changed. The winding stairway hung with tapestries and the round windows at the landings, through which one looked to the sea, were all the same.

King Arthur, Sir Lancelot and Guinevere were all in the Tower, as usual. The Lady of Shalott was there, with Mr. Pickwick, Dora, and Little Nell. All the dear people of the books moved through the lovely rooms, sniffing at cologne, or talking and laughing with each other, just as they pleased.

The red-haired young man and the two blue and white nurses were still there, but they seemed to be on the point of going out. Doctor Conrad and Eloise were in every room she went into. Eloise was all in white, like a bride, and the Doctor was very, very happy.

Ambrose North was there, no longer blind or dead, but well and strong and able to see. He took Barbara in his arms when she went in, kissed her, and called her "Constance."

A sharp pang went through her heart because he did not know her. "I'm Barbara, Daddy," she cried out; "don't you know me?" But he only murmured, "Constance, my Beloved," and kissed her again-not with a father's kiss, but with a yearning tenderness that seemed very strange. She finally gave up trying to make him understand that her name was Barbara-that she was not Constance at all. At last she said, "It doesn't matter by what name you call me, as long as you love me," and went on upstairs.

An Unfinished Tapestry

One of the tapestries that hung on the wall along the winding stairway was new-at least she did not remember having seen it before. It was in the soft rose and gold and brown and blue of the other tapestries, and appeared old, as though it had been hanging there for some time. She fingered it curiously. It felt and looked like the others, but it must be new, for it was not quite finished.

In the picture, a man in white vestments stood at an altar with his hands outstretched in blessing. Before him knelt a girl and a man. The girl was in white and the taper-lights at the altar shone on her two long yellow braids that hung down over her white gown, so that they looked like burnished gold. The face was turned away so that she could not see who it was, but the man who knelt beside her was looking straight at her, or would have been, if the tapestry-maker had not put down her needle at a critical point. The man's face had not been touched, though everything else was done. Barbara sighed. She hoped that the next time she came to the Tower the tapestry would be finished.

In the Violet Room

She went into the violet room, for a little while, and sat down on a green chair with a purple cushion in it. She took a great bunch of violets out of a bowl and buried her face in the sweetness. Then she went to the mantel, where the bottles were, and drenched her handkerchief with violet water. She had tried all the different kinds of cologne that were in the Tower, but she liked the violet water best, and nearly always went into the violet room for a little while on her way upstairs.

As she turned to go out, the Boy joined her. He was a young man now, taller than Barbara, but his face, as always, was hidden from her as by a mist. His voice was very kind and tender as he took both her hands in his.

"How do you do, Barbara, dear?" he asked.

"You have not been in the Tower for a long time."

"I have been ill," she answered. "See?" She tried to show him her crutches, but they were not there. "I used to have crutches," she explained.

"Did you?" he asked, in surprise. "You never had them in the Tower."

"That's so," she answered. "I had forgotten." She remembered now that when she went into the Tower she had always left her crutches leaning up against the glass steps.

"Let's go upstairs," suggested the Boy, "and ring the golden bells in the cupola."

Barbara wanted to go very much, but was afraid to try it, because she had never been able to reach the cupola.

"If you get tired," the Boy went on, as though he had read her thought, "I'll put my arm around you and help you walk. Come, let's go."

Up the Winding Stairs

They went out of the violet room and up the winding stairway. Barbara was not tired at all, but she let him put his arm around her, and leaned her cheek against his shoulder as they climbed. Some way, she felt that this time they were really going to reach the cupola.

It was very sweet to be taken care of in this way and to hear the Boy's deep, tender voice telling her about the Lady of Shalott and all the other dear people who lived in the Tower. Sometimes he would make her sit down on the stairs to rest. He sat beside her so that he might keep his arm around her, and Barbara wished, as never before, that she might see his face.

The Angel with the Flaming Sword

Finally, they came to the last landing. They had been up as high as this once before, but it was long ago. The cupola was hidden in a cloud as before, but it seemed to be the cloud of a Summer day, and not a dark mist. They went into the cloud, and an Angel with a Flaming Sword appeared before them and stopped them. The Angel was all in white and very tall and stately, with a divinely tender face-Barbara's own face, exalted and transfigured into beauty beyond all words.

"Please," said Barbara, softly, though she was not at all afraid, "may we go up into the cupola and ring the golden bells? We have tried so many times."

There was no answer, but Barbara saw the Angel looking at her with infinite longing and love. All at once, she knew that the Angel was her mother.

"Please, Mother dear," said Barbara, "let us go in and ring the bells."

The Angel smiled and stepped aside, pointing to the right with the Flaming Sword that made a rainbow in the cloud. In the light of it, they went through the mist, that seemed to be lifting now.

"We're really in the cupola," cried the Boy, in delight. "See, here are the bells." He took the two heavy golden chains in his hands and gave one to Barbara.

"Ring!" she cried out. "Oh, ring all the bells at once! Now!"

Ringing the Bells

They pulled the two chains with all their strength, and from far above them rang out the most wonderful golden chimes that anyone had ever dreamed of-strong and sweet and thrilling, yet curiously soft and low.

With the first sound, the mist lifted and the Angel with the Flaming Sword came into the cupola and stood near them, smiling. Far out was the blue sky that bent down to meet a bluer sea, the sand on the shore was as white as the blown snow, and the sea-birds that circled around the cupola in the crystalline, fragrant air were singing. The melody blended strangely with the sound of the surf on the shining shore below.

The Angel with the Flaming Sword touched Barbara gently on the arm, and smiled. Barbara looked up, first at the Angel, and then at the Boy who stood beside her. The mist that had always been around him had lifted, too, and she saw that it was Roger, whom she had known all her life.

Barbara woke with a start. The sound of the golden bells was still chiming in her ears. "Roger," she said, dreamily, "we rang them all together, didn't we?" But Roger did not answer, for she was in her own little room, now, and not in the Tower of Cologne.

She slipped out of bed and her little bare, pink feet pattered over to the window. She pushed the curtains back and looked out. It was a keen, cool, Autumn morning, and still dark, but in the east was the deep, wonderful purple that presages daybreak.

Oh, to see the sun rise over the sea! Barbara's heart ached with longing. She had wanted to go for so many years and nobody had ever thought of taking her. Now, though Roger had suggested it more than once, she had said, each time, that when she went she wanted to go alone.

"I'll Try It"

"I'll try it," she thought. "If I get tired, I can sit down and rest, and if I think it is going to be too much for me, I can come back. It can't be very far-just down this road."

She dressed hurriedly, putting on her warm, white wool gown and her little low soft shoes. She did not stop to brush out her hair and braid it again, for it was very early and no one would see. She put over her head the white lace scarf she had worn to the wedding, took her white knitted shawl, and went downstairs so quietly that Aunt Miriam did not hear her.

She unbolted the door noiselessly and went out, closing it carefully after her. On the top step was a very small package, tied with string, and a letter addressed, simply, "To Barbara." She recognised it as a book and a note from Roger-he had done such things before. She did not want to go back, so she tucked it under her arm and went on.

It seemed so strange to be going out of her gate alone and in the dark! Barbara was thrilled with a sense of adventure and romance which was quite new to her. This journeying into unknown lands in pursuit of unknown waters had all the fascination of discovery.

An Autumn Dawn

She went down the road faster than she had ever walked before. She was not at all tired and was eager for the sea. The Autumn dawn with its keen, cool air

stirred her senses to new and abounding life. She went on and on and on, pausing now and then to lean against somebody's fence, or to rest on a friendly boulder when it appeared along the way.

Faint suggestions of colour appeared in the illimitable distances beyond. Barbara saw only a vast, grey expanse, but the surf murmured softly on the shadowy shore. Crossing the sand, and stumbling as she went, she stooped and dipped her hand into it, then put her rosy forefinger into her mouth to see if it were really salt, as everyone said. She sat down in the soft, cool sand, drew her white knitted shawl and lace scarf more closely about her, and settled herself to wait.

Sunrise on the Sea

The deep purple softened with rose. Tints of gold came far down on the horizon line. Barbara drew a long breath of wonder and joy. Out in the vastness dark surges sang and crooned, breaking slowly into white foam as they approached the shore. Rose and purple melted into amethyst and azure, and, out beyond the breakers, the grey sea changed to opal and pearl.

Mist rose from the far waters and the long shafts of leaping light divided it by rainbows as it lifted. Prismatic fires burned on the boundless curve where the sky met the sea. Wet-winged gulls, crying hoarsely, came from the night that still lay upon the islands near shore, and circled out across the breakers to meet the dawn.

Spires of splendid colour flamed to the zenith, the whole east burned with crimson and glowed with gold, and from that far, mystical arc of heaven and earth, a javelin of molten light leaped to the farthest hill. The pearl and opal changed to softest green, mellowed by turquoise and gold, the slow blue surges chimed softly on the singing shore, and Barbara's heart beat high with rapture, for it was daybreak in earth and heaven and morning in her soul.

She sat there for over an hour, asking for nothing but the sky and sea, and the warm, sweet sun that made the air as clear as crystal and touched the Autumn hills with living flame. She drew long breaths of the wind that swept, like shafts of sunrise, half-way across the world.

The Boy in the Tower

At last she turned to the package that lay beside her, and untied the string, idly wondering what book Roger had sent. How strange that the Boy in the Tower should be Roger, and yet, was it so strange, after all, when she had known him all her life?

Before looking at the book, she tore open the letter and read it-with wide, wondering eyes and wild-beating heart.

Roger's Letter

"Barbara, my darling," it began. "I found this book to-night and so I send it to you, for it is yours as much as mine.

"I think my father's wish has been granted and his love has been bequeathed to me. I have known for a long time how much I care for you, and I have often tried to tell you, but fear has kept me silent.

"It has been so sweet to live near you, to read to you when you were sewing or while you were ill, and sweeter than all else besides to help you walk, and to feel that you leaned on me, depending on me for strength and guidance.

"Sometimes I have thought you cared, too, and then I was not sure, so I have kept the words back, fearing to lose what I have. But to-night, after having read his letters, I feel that I must throw the dice for eternal winning or eternal loss. You can never know, if I should spend the rest of my life in telling you, just how much you have meant to me in a thousand different ways.

"Looking back, I see that you have given me my ideals, since the time we made mud pies together and built the Tower of Cologne, for which, alas, we never got the golden bells. I have loved you always and it has not changed since the beginning, save to grow deeper and sweeter with every day that passed.

"As much as I have of courage, or tenderness, or truth, or honour, I owe to you, who set my standard high for me at the beginning, and oh, my dearest, my love has kept me clean. If I have nothing else to give you, I can offer you a clean heart and clean hands, for there is nothing in my life that can make me ashamed to look straight into the eyes of the woman I love.

"Ever since we went to that wedding the other day, I have been wishing it were our own-that you and I might stand together before God's high altar in that little church with the sun streaming in, and be joined, each to the other, until death do us part.

"Sweetheart, can you trust me? Can you believe that it is for always and not just for a little while? Has your mother left her love to you as my father left me his?

"Let me have the sweetness of your leaning on me always, let me take care of you, comfort you when you are tired, laugh with you when you are glad, and love you until death and even after, as he loved her.

"Tell me you care, Barbara, even if it is only a little. Tell me you care, and I can wait, a long, long time.


Barbara's heart sang with the joy of the morning. She opened the little worn book, with its yellow, tear-stained pages, and read it all, up to the very last line.

"Oh!" she cried aloud, in pity. "Oh! oh!"

Fully understanding, she put it aside, closing the faded cover reverently on its love and pain. Then she turned to Roger's letter, and read it again.

First Flush of Rapture

Dreaming over it, in the first flush of that mystical rapture which makes the world new for those to whom it comes, as light is recreated with every dawn, she took no heed of the passing hours. She did not know that it was very late, nor that Aunt Miriam, much worried, had asked Roger to go in search of her. She knew only that love and morning and the sea were all hers.

The tide was coming in. Each wave broke a little higher upon the thirsting shore. Far out on the water was a tiny dark object that moved slowly shoreward on the crests of the waves. Barbara stood up, shading her eyes with her hand, and waited, counting the rhythmic pulse-beats that brought it nearer.

She could not make out what it was, for it advanced and then receded, or paused in a circling eddy made by two retreating waves. At last a high wave brought it in and left it, stranded, at her feet.

A Fragment

Barbara laughed aloud, for, broken by the wind and wave and worn by tide, a fragment of one of her crutches had come back to her. The bit of flannel with which she had padded the sharp end, so that the sound would not distress her father, still clung to it. She wondered how it came there, never guessing that it was but the natural result of Eloise's attempt to throw it as far as Allan had thrown the other, the day he took them away from her.

A great sob of thankfulness almost choked her. Here she stood firmly on her own two feet, after twenty-two years of helplessness, reminded of it only by a fragment of a crutch that the sea had given back as it gives up its dead. She had outgrown her need of crutches as the tiny creatures of the sea outgrow their shells.

"Build thee more stately mansions, O my soul,

As the swift seasons roll!

Leave thy low-vaulted past!

Let each new temple, nobler than the last,

Shut thee from heaven with a dome more vast,

Till thou at length art free,

Leaving thine outgrown shell by life's unresting sea!"

The beautiful words chanted themselves over and over in her consciousness. The past, with all its pain and grieving, fell from her like a garment. She was one with the sun and the morning; uplifted by all the world's joy.

The True Lover

Her blood sang within her and it seemed that her heart had wings. All of life lay before her-that life which is made sweet by love. She felt again the ecstasy that claimed her in the Tower of Cologne, when she and the Boy, after a lifetime of waiting, had rung all the golden bells at once.

And the Boy was Roger-always had been Roger-only she did not know. Into Barbara's heart came something new and sweet that she had never known before-the deep sense of conviction and the everlasting peace which the True Lover, and he alone, has power to bestow.

It was part of the wonder of the morning that when she turned, startled a little by a muffled footstep, she should see Roger with his hands outstretched in pleading and all his soul in his eyes.

Barbara's face took on the unearthly beauty of dawn. Her blue eyes deepened to violet, her sweet lips smiled. She was radiant, from her feet to the heavy braids that hung over her shoulders and the shimmering halo of soft hair, that blew, like golden mist, about her face.

Roger caught her mood unerringly-it was like him always to understand. He was no longer afraid, and the trembling of his boyish mouth was lost in a smile. She was more beautiful than the morning of which she seemed a veritable part-and she was his.

Flower of the Dawn

"Flower of the Dawn," he cried, his voice ringing with love and triumph, "do you care? Are you mine?"

She went to him, smiling, with the colour of the fiery dawning on her cheeks and lips. "Yes," she whispered. "Didn't you know?"

Then the sun and the morning and the world itself vanished all at once beyond his ken, for Barbara had put her soft little hand upon his shoulder, and lifted her love-lit face to his.


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Transcriber's Notes:

Obvious punctuation errors repaired.

The remaining corrections made are indicated by dotted lines under the corrections. Scroll the mouse over the word and the original text will appear.

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