The Atlantic Monthly/Volume 2/Number 5/Her Grace, the Drummer's Daughter
HER GRACE, THE DRUMMER'S DAUGHTER.
Foray, a mass of crags embellished by some greenness, looked up to heaven a hundred miles from shore. It was a fortified position, and a place of banishment. In the course of a long war, waged on sea and land between two great nations, this, "least of all," became a point of some importance to the authority investing it; the fort was well supplied with the machinery of death, and the prison filled with prisoners. But peace had now been of long continuance; and though a nation's banner floated from the tower of the fort, and was seen afar by mariners,—though the cannon occupied their ancient places, ordered for instant use,—though all within the fort was managed and conducted day by day with careful regard to orders,—the operations indicated, in the spirit of their conduct, no fear of warlike surprises. No man gave or obeyed an order as if his life depended on his expedition. Neither was the prison the very place it had been; for, once, every cell had its occupant,—an exile, or a prisoner of war.
The officials of the island led an easy life, therefore. Active was the brain that resisted the influences of so much leisure as most of these people had. But, under provocation even, Nature must be true. So true is she, indeed, that every violation of her dignities illustrates the meaning of that sovereign utterance, Vengeance is mine. She will not bring a thorn-tree from an acorn. Pray, day and night, and see if she will let you gather figs of thistles. Prayer has its conditions, and faith is not the sum of them.
But Nature's buoyant spirits must needs conquer the weight of influences whose business is to depress. And they, seeking, find their centre among things celestial, in spite of all opposing. Much leisure, light labor, was not the worst thing that could befall some of the men whose lot was cast on Foray.
Adolphus Montier was a member of the military band. He was drummer to the regiment by the grace of his capacity. Besides, he played on the French horn, to the admiration of his wife, and others; and he could fill, at need, the place of any missing member of the company, leaving nothing to be desired in the performance.
Adolphus came to Foray in the first vessel that brought soldiers hither. He saw the first stone laid in the building of the fort. Here he had lived since. He was growing gray in the years of peace. He had some scars from the years of strife, he was a brave fellow, and idleness, a devil's bland disguise, found no favor with him.
His daughter Elizabeth was the first child born on the island. Bronzed warriors smiled on her fair infancy; sometimes they called her, with affectionate intonation, "The Daughter of the Regiment." She deserved the notice they bestowed,—as infancy in general deserves all it receives,—but Elizabeth for other reasons than that she had come whence none could tell, and was going whither no man could predict,—for other reason than that she was the first discovered native of the island. She was a beautiful child; and I state this fact not specially in deference to the universal expectation that a character brought forward for anybody's notice should be personally capable of fascinating such. Indeed, it seems inevitable that we find our heroines and heroes in life beautiful. Miss Nightingale must needs remain our type of pure charity in person, as in character. Elisha Kent Kane among his icebergs must stand manifestly efficient for his "princely purpose," his eye and brow magnificent with beauty. Rachel, to every woman's memory, must live the unparalleled Camille.
Little Elizabeth—I smile to write her name upon the page with these—it were a shame to cheat of beauty by any bungle of description. Is not a fair spirit predestined conqueror of flesh and blood? Have we not read of the noble lady whose loveliness a painter's eye was the very first to discover? Where the likeness? The soul saw it, not the eye; and he understood, who, seeing it, exclaimed, "Our friend—in heaven!" While Adolphus Montier cleaned and polished his French horn, an occupation which was his unfailing resource, if he could find nothing else to do, or when he practised his music, business in which he especially delighted when off duty, it was his pleasure to have wife and child with him.
Imagination was an active power in the Drummer's sphere. He, away off in Foray, used to talk about the forms and colors of sounds, as if he knew about them; and he had not learned the talk in any school. He would have done no injury to transcendentalism. And he was a happy man, in that the persons before whom he indulged in this manner of speech rather encouraged it. Never had his Pauline's pride and fondness failed Adolphus the Drummer. Life in Foray was little less than banishment, though it had its wages and—renown; but Pauline made out of this single man her country, friends, and home. Never woman endeavored with truer single-heartedness to understand her spouse. In her life's aim was no failure. Let him expatiate on sound to the bounds of fancy's extravagance, she could confidently follow, and would have volunteered her testimony to a doubter, as if all were a question of tangible fact, to be definitely proved. So in every matter. For all the comfort she was to the man she loved, for her confidence in him who deserved it, for her patient endurance of whatsoever ill she met or bore, for choosing to walk in so peaceful a manner, with a heart so light and a face so fair, praise to the Drummer's wife!
Elizabeth, the companion of her parents in all their happy rambling and unambitious home-life, was their joy and pride. If she frolicked in the grass while her father played his airs, she lost not a strain of the music. She hearkened also to his deep discourse, and gave good heed, when he illustrated the meaning of the tunes he loved to play. And these were rarely the stirring strains with which the Governor's policy kept the band chiefly busy when the soldiers gathered on summer nights in knots of listeners, and the ladies of the fort, the Governor's wife, and the wives of the officers, came out to enjoy the evening, or when a vessel touched the rocky shore.
Elizabeth's vision was clearer than even love could make her mother's,--clearer than music made her father's; since a distinct conception of images seems not to be inevitable among the image-makers. The prophets are not always to be called upon for an interpretation. No white angel ever floats more clearly before the eyes of those who look on the sculptor's finished work than before the eyes of Elizabeth appeared the shapes and hues of sounds which swept in gay or solemn procession through the windings of her father's horn, floating over the blue water, dissolving as the mist. No bright-winged bird, fair flower, or gorgeous sunset or sea-wave, was more distinct to the child's eyes than the hues of the same notes, stately as palm or pine,--red as crimson, white as wool, rich and full as violet, softly compelling as amethyst.
Pauline Montier was by nature as active and diligent as Adolphus. She was a seamstress before the days of Foray and the Drummer, and still continued to ply her needle, though no longer urged by necessity. She sewed for the officers' wives, she knit stockings and mufflers for the soldiers. The income thus derived independently of Montier's public service was very considerable.
Born of such parents, Elizabeth would have had some difficulty in persuading herself that her business was to idle through this life.
Her early experiences were not as peaceful as those which followed her tenth year. The noise of battle, the cries of defeat, the shouts of victory, the sight of agonized faces, the vision of death, the struggles of pain and anguish, the sorrow of bereavement,—she had seen all with those young eyes. She had heard the whispered command in hushed moments of mortal danger, and the shout of triumph—in the tumult of victory,—had watched blazing ships, seen prisoners carried to their cells, attended the burial of brave men slain in battle, had marched with soldiers keeping time to funeral strains. Her courage and her pity had been stirred in years when she could do no more than see and hear. Once standing, through the heat of a bloody engagement, by the side of a lad, a corporal's son, who was stationed to receive and communicate an order, a random shot struck the boy down at her side. She saw that he was dead,—waited for the order, transmitted it, and then carried away the lifeless body of her fellow-sentinel, staggering under the weighty burden, never resting till she had laid him in the shelter of his father's quarters. After the engagement, this story was told through the victorious ranks by the witnesses of her valor, and a medal was awarded the child by acclamation. She always wore it, and was as proud of it as a veteran of his ribbons and stars.
But now, in times of peace, the fair flower of her womanhood was forming. Like a white hyacinth she grew,—a lady to look upon, with whom, for loveliness, not a lady of the fort could be compared. Not one of them in courage or unselfishness exceeded her.
The family lived in a little house adjoining the barracks. It was a home that could boast of nothing beyond comfort and cleanliness;—the word comfort I use as the poor man understands it. Neither Adolphus nor Pauline had any worldly goods to bring with them when they came to Foray. They lived at first, and for a long time, in the barracks; the little house they now occupied had once been used for the storage of provisions; but when the war ended, Adolphus succeeded in obtaining permission to turn it into a dwelling-house. Here the child was sheltered, and taught the use of a needle; and here she learned to read and write.
In the great vegetable garden which covered the space between the prison and the fort was a corner that reflected no great credit on the authorities. The persons who might reasonably have been expected to take that neglected bit of ground under their loving care did no such thing. The beds were weeded by Sandy, the gardener, and now and then a blossom rewarded that attention; but the flower-patch waited for Elizabeth.
The gardener knew very well how she prized the pretty flowers;—they appealed to his own rude nature in a very tender way. He loved to see the young girl flying down the narrow paths as swiftly as a bird, if she but spied a bloom from afar. There was a tree whose branches hung over the wall, every one of them growing, with dreadful perversity, away from the cold, hard prison-ground which held the roots so fast. Time was never long enough when she sat in the shade of those branches, watching Sandy at his work.
By-and-by it happened that the flower-garden was given over to the charge of the girl. It was natural that she, who had never seen other flower-beds than these, should, aided by the home-recollections of her mother, imagine far prettier,—that she should dare suggest to Sandy, until his patience and his skill were exhausted,—that the final good result should have come about in a moment when no one looked for it,—he giving up his task with vexation, she accepting it with humility, and both working together thereafter, the most helpful of friends.
It required not many seasons for Elizabeth to prove her skill and diligence in the culture of this garden-ground,—not many for the transformation of square, awkward beds into a mass of bloom. How did those flowers delight the generous heart! With what particular splendor shone the house of Montier through all the summer season! The ladies now began to think about bouquets, and knew where they could find them. From this same blessed nook the Governor's table was daily supplied with its most beautiful ornament. Men tenderly disposed smiled on the young face that from under the broad-brimmed garden-hat smiled back on them. Some deemed her fairer than the flowers she cared for.
One day in the spring of the year that brought her thirteenth birthday, Elizabeth ran down through the morning mist, and plucked the first spring flower. She stayed but to gather the beauty whose budding she had long watched; no one must rob her mother of this gift.
She carried off the prize before the gaze of one who had also hailed it in the bleak, drear dawn. This was not the gardener;—and there was neither man, woman, nor child in sight, during the swift run;—no freeman; but a prisoner in an upper room of the prison. Through its grated window, the only one on that side of the building, he had that morning for the first time looked upon the island which had held him long a prisoner.
Since daybreak he had stood before the window. The evening before, the stone had been rolled away from the door of his sepulchre,—not by an angel, neither by force of the resistless Life-spirit within, shall it be said? Who knows that it was not by an angel? who shall aver it was not by the resistless Life? At least, he was here,—brought from the cell he had occupied these five years,—brought from the arms of Death. His window below had looked on a dead stone-wall; this break in the massive masonry gave heaven and earth to him.
The first ray of daylight saw him dragging his feeble body to the window. He did not remove from that post till the rain was over,—nor then, except for a moment. As the clouds rose from the sea, he watched them. How strange was the aspect of all things! Thus, while he had lived and not beheld, these trees had waved, these waters rolled, these clouds gathered,—grass had grown, and flowers unfolded; for he saw the scarlet bloom before Elizabeth plucked it. And all this while he had lived like a dead man, unaware! Not so; but now he remembered not the days, when, conscious of all this life, he had deathly despair in his heart, and stones alone for friends.
Imprisonment and solitude had told upon the man. He was still young, and one whom Nature and culture had fitted for no obscure station in the world. He could, by every evidence he gave, perform no mere commonplaces of virtue or of vice. The world's ways would not assign his limitation. He was capable of devising and of executing great things,—and had proved the power; and to this his presence testified, even in dilapidation and listlessness.
His repose was the repose of helplessness,—not that of grace or nature. The opening of this prospect with the daylight had not the effect to increase his tranquillity. His dejection in the past months had been that of a strong man who yields to necessity; his present mood was not inspired with hope. The waves that leaped in the morning's gloomy light were not so aimless as his life seemed to him. He had heard a bird sing in the branches of a tree whose roots were in the prison-yard,—now he could see her nest; he had heard the dismal pattering of the rain,—and now beheld it, and the clouds from which it fell; he saw the glimpses of the blue beyond, where the clouds were breaking; he saw the fort, the cannon mounted on the walls, the flag that fluttered from the tower, the barracks, the parade-ground, and the surrounding sea, whose boundaries he knew not; he saw the trees, he saw the garden-ground. Slowly his eyes scanned all,—and the soul that was lodged in the emaciated figure grew faint and sick with seeing. But no tears, no sighs, no indications of grief or despair or desperate submission. He had little to learn of suffering;—that he knew. How could he greet the day, hail the light, bless Nature for her beauty, thank God for his life? Oh, the weariness with which he leaned his head against those window-bars, faint and almost dying under the weight of thoughts that rushed upon him, fierce enough to slay, if he showed any resistance! But he manifested none. The day of struggle was over with him. He believed that they had brought him to this room to die. If any thought could give him joy, surely it was this. He was right. Yesterday the Governor of the island, hearing the condition of the prisoner, this one remaining man of all whose sentence had been endured within these walls, had ordered a change of scene for him. His sentence was imprisonment for life. Did they fear his release by the hands of one who hears the sighing of the prisoner, and gives to every bondman the Year of Jubilee? Were they jealous and suspicious of the approach of Death?
Though he had been so long a prisoner, he showed in his person self-respect and dignity of nature. His hair and beard were grown long; many a gray thread shone in his chestnut locks; his mouth was a firm feature; his eyes quiet, but not the mildest; his forehead very ample; he was lofty in stature;—outside the prison, a freeman, his presence would have been commanding. But he needed the free air for his lungs, and the light to surround him,—the light to set him in relief, the sense of life to compel him to stand out in his own powerful individuality, distinct from every other living man.
By-and-by, while he stood at the window, looking forth upon the strange scenes before him, this new heaven and new earth, the landscape became alive. The first human creature he had seen outside his cell since he became an inmate of this prison appeared before his eyes,—the young girl skipping through the garden till she came to the flower-bed and plucked the scarlet blossom. If she had been a spirit or an angel, he could hardly have beheld her with greater surprise.
She was singing when she came. He thought he recognized that voice,—that it was the same he had often heard from the cell below. Many a time the horrible stillness of that cell had been broken by the sound of a child's voice, which, like a spirit, swept unhindered through the walls,—an essence of life, and a power.
It was but a moment that she paused before the flower; she plucked it, and was gone. But his eyes could follow her. She did not really, with her disappearing, vanish. And yet this vision had not to him the significance of the bow seen in the cloud, whose interpreter, and whose interpretation, was the Almighty Love.
All day he stood before that window. The keeper hailed the symptom. The Governor was satisfied with the report. Towards sunset the rain was over, and with the sun came forth abundant indications of the island life. The gardener walked among the garden-beds and measured his morrow's work, calculating time and means within his reach,—and vouchsafing some attention to the flower-garden, as was evident when he paused before it and made his thoughtful survey. The prisoner saw him smile when he took hold of the broken stalk which had been flower-crowned. And Sandy saw the prisoner.
The next day Elizabeth came out with the gardener, and they began their day's work together. They seemed to be in the best spirits. The smell of the fresh-turned earth, the sight of the fresh shoots of tender green springing from bulb and root and branch, acted upon them like an inspiration. The warm sun also held them to their task. Sandy was generous in bestowing aid and counsel,—and also in the matter of his land,—trenching farther on the ground allotted to the vegetables than he had ever done before.
"The land must pay for it," said he. "We'll make a foot give us a yard's worth. Cram a bushel into a peck, though 'The Doctor' said you never could do that! I know how to coax."
"Yes, and you know how to order, if you have not forgotten, Sandy. You frightened me once for taking an inch over my share."
"That was a long while back," answered honest Sandy,—"before I knew what the little girl could do. I've seen young folk work at gardening afore, but you do beat 'em all. How could I tell you would, though? You don't look it. Yes,—may-be you do, though. But you've changed since I first knew you."
"Why, I was nothing but a baby then, Sandy."
"Yes, yes,—I know; but you're changed since then!"
So they all spoke to Elizabeth, praising her, confiding in her with loving willingness,—the Daughter of the Regiment.
The gardener was proud of his assistant, and seemed to enjoy the part she took in his labor. They worked till noon, Elizabeth stopping hardly a moment to rest. All this while the prisoner stood watching by his window, and the gardener saw him. The sight occasioned him a new perplexity, and he gravely considered the subject. It was a good while before he said to Elizabeth, speaking on conviction, in his usual low and rather mysterious tone,—
"There's some one will enjoy it when all's done."
"Who is that?" asked she, thinking he meant herself, perhaps.
"One up above," was the answer.
But though Sandy spoke thus plainly, he did not look toward the prison,—and the prison was the last place of which Elizabeth was thinking. It was so long a time since the cell with the window had an occupant, that she was almost unconscious of that gloomy neighborhood. So, when the gardener explained that it was one up above who would enjoy her work, her eyes instantly sought the celestial heights. She was thinking of sun, or star, or angel, may-be, and smiling at Sandy's speech, for sympathy.
He saw her new mistake, and made haste to correct this also.
"Not so high," said he, cautiously.
Then, but as it seemed of chance, and not of purpose, the eyes of Elizabeth Montier turned toward the prison-wall, and fixed upon that window, the solitary one visible from the garden, and her face flushed in a manner that told her surprise--when she saw a man behind the iron bars.
"Oh," said she, looking away quickly, as if conscious of a wrong done, "what made you tell me?"
"I guess you will like to think one shut up like him will take a little pleasure looking at what he can't get at," said Sandy, almost sharply,—replying to something he did not quite understand, the pain and the reproof of Elizabeth's speech.
"Oh, yes!" she answered, and went on with her work.
But though she might be pleased to think that her labor would answer another and more serious purpose than her own gratification, or that of the pretty flowers, it was something new and strange for the girl to work under this mysterious sense of oversight.
"You have only got to speak the word," said the gardener, who had perceived her perplexity, and was desirous of bringing her speedily to his view of the case, "just speak, and he will be carried back to his old cell below, t'other side."
"Yes,—sure's you live, if he troubles you, Miss Elizabeth. Nobody will think of letting him trouble you."
"Oh, me!" she exclaimed, quickly, "I should die quicker than have him moved where he couldn't see the garden."
"I thought so," said Sandy, satisfied.
"Did you think I would complain of his standing by his window, Sandy?"
"How did I know you would like to be stared at?" asked he, with a laugh.
Elizabeth blushed and looked grave; to her the matter seemed too terrible.
"I might have said something," she mused, sadly.
"And if it had been to the wrong person," suggested Sandy;—"for they a'n't very fond of him, I guess."
"Who is he, then? I never heard."
"He has been shut up in that building now a'most five year, Elizabeth," said Sandy, leaning on the handle of the spade he had struck into the ground with emphasis.
"Summer heat, and winter cold. All the same to him. No wonder he sticks, as if he was glued, to the window, now he's got one worth the glass."
"Oh, let him!"
"If he could walk about the garden, it would be better yet."
"Won't he, Sandy?"
"I can't say. He's here for some terrible piece of work, they say. And nobody knows what his name is, I guess,—hereabouts, I mean. I never heard it. He won't be out very quick. But let him look out, any way."
"Oh, Sandy! I might have said something that would have hindered!"
"Didn't I know you wouldn't for the world? That's why I told you."
The gardener now went on with his spading. But Elizabeth's work seemed finished for this day. Above them stood the prisoner. He guessed not what gentle hearts were pitiful with thinking of his sorrow.
The next day the prisoner was not at the window, nor the next day, nor the next. Sandy was bold enough to ask the keeper, Mr. Laval, what was the meaning of it, and learned that the man was ill, and not likely to recover. Sandy told Elizabeth, and they agreed in thinking that for the poor creature death was probably the least of evils.
But the day following that on which they came to this conclusion, the sick man appeared before Sandy's astonished eyes. He was under the keeper's care. The physician had ordered this change of air, and they came to the garden at an hour when there was least danger of meeting other persons in the walks.
Sandy had much to tell Elizabeth when he saw her next. She trembled while he told her how he thought that he had seen a ghost when the keeper came leading the prisoner, whose pale face, tall figure, feeble step, appeared to have so little to do with human nature and affairs.
"Did he seem to care for the flowers? did he take any?" she asked.
"No,—he would not touch them. The keeper offered him whatever he would choose. He desired nothing. But he looked at all, he saw everything,—even the beds of vegetables," Sandy said.
"Did he seem pleased?" Elizabeth again asked.
"Pleased!" exclaimed Sandy. "That's for you and me,—not a man that's been shut up these five years. No,—he didn't look pleased. I don't know how he looked; don't ask me; 'tisn't pleasant to think of."
"I would have made him take the flowers, if I had been here," said Elizabeth, in a manner that seemed very positive, in comparison with Sandy's uncertain speech.
"May-be,—I dare say," Sandy acquiesced; but he evidently had his doubts even of her power in this business.
She must take no notice of the prisoner, she was given to understand one day, if she was to remain in the garden while he walked there. So she took no notice.
He came and went. Manuel, the keeper called him; and she was busy with her weeding, and neither saw nor heard. Ah, she did not!—did not see the figure that came moving like a spectre through the gates!—did not hear the slow dragging step of one who is weary almost to helplessness,—the listless step that has lost the spring of hope, the exultation of life, the expectation of spirit, the strength of manhood!—She did hear, did see the man. We feel the nearness of our friend who is a thousand miles away. Something beside the sunshine is upon us, and receives our answering smile. That sudden shadow is not of the passing cloud. That voice at midnight is not the disturbance of a dream.—He walked about the garden; he retired to his cell. It might have been an hour, or a minute, or a day. It does not take time to dream a life's events. How is the drowning man whirled round the circle of experiences which were so slow in their development!
Compassion without limit, courageous purpose impatient of inaction, troubled this young girl.
"You behaved like a lady," said Sandy,—"you never looked up. You needn't run now, I'm sure, when he thinks of taking a turn. All we've got to do is to mind our own business, Mr. Laval says. I guess we can. But I did want to let off those chains."
"What chains?" asked Elizabeth, as with a shudder she looked up at Sandy.
"His wrists, you know,—locked," he explained.
"Oh!" groaned the gentle soul, and she walked off, forgetful of the flowers, tools, Sandy, everything. But Sandy followed her; she heard him calling to her, and before the garden-gate she waited for him; he was following on a run.
"I can tell you what it's for," said he, for he had no idea of keeping the secret to himself, and he dared not trust it to any other friend.
"What is it?" she asked,—and she trembled when she asked, and while she waited for his answer.
"For lighting the Church. Would you think that? He did such damage, it wasn't safe for him to be at liberty. That's how it was. I think he must be a Lutheran;—you know they don't believe in the Holy Ghost! Of course,—poor fellow!—it's right he should be shut up for warring with the Church that came down through the holy Apostles, when you know all the rest only started up with Luther and Calvin. He ought to have knowed better."
"Who told you, Sandy?" asked Elizabeth, as if her next words might undertake to extenuate and justify.
"It came straight enough, I understand. But--remember—you don't know anything about it. His name is Manuel, though;—don't dare to mention it;—that's what Mr. Laval calls him. Are you going? I wouldn't have told you a word, but you took his trouble so to heart. You see, now, it's right he should be shut up. But let on that you know anything, all the worse for me,—I mean, him!"
"Yes," said Elizabeth, "you're safe, Sandy. Thank you for telling me."
Sandy walked off with a mind relieved, for he believed in Elizabeth, and had found the facts communicated too great a burden to bear alone.
She passed through the garden-gate most remote from the fort; it opened into a lonely road which ran inland from the coast, between the woods and the prison, and to the woods she went. The shadows were gloomy to-day, for she went among them lamenting the fate of the stranger;—the mystery surrounding him had increased, not lessened, with Sandy's explanation.
Fighting against the Church was an unimagined crime. Of the great conflict in which he had taken part, to the ruin of his fortunes, she knew nothing. The disputes of Christendom, had they been explained, would have seemed almost incredible to her. For, whatever was known and discussed in the circle of the Governor of the island, Drummer Montier, and such as he, kept the peace with all mankind. The Church took care of itself, and appeared neither the oppressor nor the Saviour of the world. What they had fought about in the first years of the possession of Foray, Montier could hardly have told,—and yet he was no fool. He could have given, of course, a partisan version of the struggle; but as to its real cause, or true result, he knew as little as the other five hundred men belonging to the regiment.
While Elizabeth wandered through those gloomy woods, she saw no flowers, gathered no wild fruits,—though flowers and berries were perfect and abundant. Now and then she paused in her walk to look towards the prison, glimpses of whose strong walls were to be had through the trees. At length the sound of her father's horn came loud and clear from the cliffs beyond the wood. It fell upon her sombre meditation and slightly changed the current. She hurried forward to join him, and, as she went, a gracious purpose was shining in her face.
When she returned home, it was by the unfrequented prison-way, her father playing the liveliest tunes he knew. For the first time in their lives they sat down by the side of the lonely road where they had emerged from the wood; Elizabeth's memory served her to recall every air that was sweet to her, and she listened while her father played, endeavoring to understand the sound those notes would have to "Manuel."
Montier could think of no worthier employment than the practice of his music. Especially it pleased him that his daughter should ask so much as she was now asking: he could not discern all that was passing in her heart, nor see how many shadows moved before those sweet, serious eyes.
They went home at night-fall together; and the young girl's step was not more light, now that her heart was troubled by what she must not reveal, even to him.
The next morning Sandy was very busy with Elizabeth, tying up some flowers which had been tossed about, and broken, many of them, in the night gale, when the keeper came through the gate, leading this Manuel, who, grim as a spectral shadow, that had been fearful but for its exceeding pitifulness, stood now between her and all that she rejoiced in. "There!" exclaimed Sandy. Looking up, she saw them approaching straight along the path that led past the flowerbeds.
"Your flowers had a pretty rough time of it in the storm," said Jailer Laval, as he drew near. He addressed the drummer's daughter,—but his eyes were on Sandy, with the suspicious and stern inquiry common to men who have betrayed a secret. But Sandy was busy with his delving.
"Yes," answered Elizabeth, and she looked from the ground up to the faces of these men.
"Is that a rose-bush? That was roughly handled," said Laval, pointing with his stick to the twisted rose-stalk covered with buds, over whose blighted promise she had been lamenting.
"Yes," said Elizabeth again; but she hardly knew what she said, still less was she aware of the expression her face wore when she looked at the prisoner. Yes,—even as Sandy said, big wrists were chained together; he was more like a ghost than a man; his face was pale and hopeless, and woful beyond her understanding was the majesty of his mien.
At such a price he paid for fights against the Church! But in truth he had not the look of an evil, warring man. His gravity, indeed, was such as it seemed impossible to dispel. But only pity stirred the heart of Elizabeth Montier as she looked on him. Surely it was a face that never, in any excess of passion, could have looked malignance. Ah! and at such a price he purchased his sunshine, the fresh air, and a near vision of this flower-garden!—in chains!
When she looked at him, his gaze was on her,—not upon the roses. She smiled, for pity's sake; but the smile met no return. His countenance had not the habit of responding to such glances. Sombre as death was that face. Then Elizabeth turned hastily away; but as the keeper also moved on a step, she detained him with a hurried "Wait a minute," and went on plucking the finest flowers in bloom. Like an iron statue stood the prisoner while she plucked the roses,—it was but a minute's work,—then she tied the flowers together and laid them on his fettered hands; whether he would refuse them, whether the gift pained or pleased him, whether the keeper approved, she seemed afraid to know,—for, having given the flowers, she went away in haste.
It was not long after this first act of friendly courtesy, which had many a repetition,—for the keeper was at bottom a humane man, and not disposed to persecute his charge, while he was equally far from any carelessness in guarding or leniency of treatment that would have excited suspicion as to his purpose, in the minds of the authorities of the island,—not long after this day, when the fine sympathy betrayed for him by Elizabeth fell on Manuel's heart like dew, that the wife of the jailer died.
Her death was sudden and unlooked-for, though neither Nature nor the woman could have been blamed for the shock poor Laval experienced. Death had fairly surrounded her, disarming her at every point, so that when he called her there was no resistance.
Jailer Laval took the bereavement in a remorseful mood. The first thing to be done now was the very last he would have owned to purposing during her life-time. Release from that prison had been the woman's prayer, year in and year out, these ten years, and Death was the bearer of the answer to that prayer,—not her husband.
But now, from the day of her sudden decease, the prison had become to him dreary beyond endurance. The mantle of her discontent fell on him, and, having no other confidant beside honest, stupid Sandy, he talked to him like a man who seriously thought of abandoning his labor, and retiring to that land across the sea for which his wife had pined during ten homesick years.
Sandy, who might have regarded himself in the light of an "humble instrument," had he been capable of a particle of vanity or presumption, told Elizabeth Montier, with whom he had held many a conference concerning prison matters, since Manuel first began to walk along the southern garden-walk, where the flower-beds lay against the prison-wall. What was her answer? It came instantly, without premeditation or precaution,—
"Then we must take his place, Sandy."
"We, Miss?" said Sandy, with even greater consternation than surprise.
"Yes," she replied, too much absorbed by what she was thinking, to mind him and his blunders,—"papa must take the prison."
"Oh!"—and Sandy blushed through his tan at his absurd mistake. Then he laughed, for he saw that she had not noticed it. Then he looked grave, and wondering, and doubtful. The idea of Adolphus Montier's pretty wife and pretty daughter changing their pretty home for life in the dark prison startled him. He seemed to think it no less wrong than strange. But he did not express that feeling out and out; he was hindered, as he glanced sideways at the young girl who gazed so solemnly, so loftily, before her. At what she was looking he could not divine. He saw nothing.
"I wouldn't be overly quick about that," said he, cautiously.
"No danger!" was the prompt reply.
"For I tell you, of all the places I ever see, that prison makes me feel the queerest. I believe it's one reason I let the flower-garden go so long," owned Sandy. He did not speak these words without an effort; and never had Elizabeth seen him so solemn. She also was grave,—but not after his manner of gravity.
"You see what I did with the poor flower-beds, Sandy," said she. "Wait now till you see what happens to the prison."
But it is one thing to purpose, and another to execute. Far easier for Elizabeth to declare than to conduct an heroic design. One thing prevented rest day and night,—the knowledge that Laval's intended resignation must be followed by a new application and appointment. With such a degree of sympathy had the condition of the captive inspired her, that the idea of the bare possibility of cruelty or neglect or brutality assuming the jailer's authority seemed to lay upon her all the responsibility of his future. She must act, for she dared not hesitate.
One evening Adolphus took his horn, and, attended by wife and child, went out to walk. He meant to send a strain from the highest of the accessible coast-rocks. But Elizabeth changed his plan. The time was good for what she had to say. Instead of expending his enthusiasm on a flourish of notes, he was called upon to manifest it in a noble resolution.
When Elizabeth invited her father to a prospect sylvan rather than marine, to the shady path on the border of the wood between it and the prison, Montier, easily drawn from any plan that concerned his own inclination merely, let his daughter lead, and she was responsible for all that followed in the history of that little family. So love defers to love, with divine courtesy, through all celestial movements.
After playing a few airs, Montier's anticipated evening ended, and another set in. The sympathies of a condition, the opposite to that of which he had been so happily conscious, pressed too closely against him. The musician could not, for the life of him, have played with becoming spirit through any one of all the strains of victory he knew.
Near him, under a tulip-tree, sat Pauline, with her knitting in her hand, the image of peace. Not so Elizabeth. She was doubting, troubled. But when the bird her father's music moved to sing was still, she spoke, as she had promised herself she would, asking a question, of whose answer she had not the slightest doubt.
"Papa, do you know that Mr. Laval is going away?"
"Why, yes, that's the talk, I believe."
"Will they get somebody to take his place?"
"Of course. There's a prisoner on hand yet, you know,—and the house to look after."
"A big house, too, and dreadful dreary," remarked the mother of Elizabeth. "Laval's wife used to say, when she came up to see me sometimes, it was like being a prisoner to live in that building. And now she's dead and gone, he begins to think the same."
"Suppose we take Laval's place," suggested Montier, looking very seriously at his wife; but the suggestion did not alarm her. Adolphus often expressed his satisfaction with existing arrangements by making propositions of exchange for other states of life, propositions which never disturbed his wife or daughter. They understood these demonstrations of his deep content. Therefore, at these words of his, Pauline smiled, and for the reason that the words could draw forth such a smile Elizabeth looked grave.
"I wish we could, papa," said she.
"You wish we could, you child?" exclaimed her mother, wondering. "It looks so pleasant, eh?" and the fair face of Pauline turned to the prison, and surveyed it, shuddering.
"For the prisoner's sake," said Elizabeth. "Who knows but a cruel keeper may be put in Laval's place? He is almost dead with grief, that prisoner is,—I know by his face. After he is gone, there won't be any prisoner there,—and we could make it very pleasant."
"Pleasant! What do you mean by pleasant?" asked Pauline, inwardly vexed that her child had suggested the question,—and yet too just, too kindly disposed, to put the subject away with imperative refusal to consider it. "I never was in a place so horrid."
"But if it was our home, and all our things were there," urged Elizabeth, "it would be different. It depends on who lives in a house, you know."
"Yes, that is so; it depends a little, but not entirely. It would be more than your mother could do to make a pleasant-looking place out of that prison. You see it is different in the situation, to begin with. Up where we live the sun is around us all day, if it is anywhere; and then the little rooms are so light! If you put a flower into them, you think you have a whole garden. Besides, it's Home up there, and down here it isn't."—Saying this, Adolphus rose up quickly, as though he had a mind to quit the spot.
"When they select a man to fill Laval's place, of course they will be careful to choose one as good and kind," said Pauline, with mild confidence.
"The jailer before him was not good and kind," remarked her daughter.
"They dismissed him for it," said Adolphus, quickly.
"But they said the prisoners were half-starved, and abused every way. It was a good while before it was found out. That might happen again, and less chance of any one knowing it. He is so near dead now, it wouldn't take much to kill him."
No one replied to this argument. Pauline and Adolphus talked of other things, and the musician returned to his music. But all in good time. Elizabeth was capable of patience, and at last her father said, looking around him to make sure that his remark would have only two listeners,—
"That prisoner isn't a man to be talked of about here. You never heard me mention him. Laval used to give a—a—bad account of him. He had to be kept alive."
"Till he heard your music, papa, and was moved up to the room with a window. Did he tell you that?" asked Elizabeth.
"He said he thought the music did him good," acknowledged Adolphus.
"May-be it was the same as with Saul when David played for him. But he does not look like a bad man, papa. He looks grander than any of our officers. And he has fought battles, they say. He is very brave."
Both Adolphus and Pauline Montier looked at their daughter with the most profound surprise when she spoke thus. Not merely her words, but her manner of speaking, caused this not agreeable perplexity. Her emotion was not only too obvious, it was too deep for their understanding. The mother was the first to speak.
"How did you hear all this, child? I never heard him talked of in this way. They don't talk about him at all,—do they, Adolphus?"
"No," he answered; but he spoke the word very mildly. The tone did not indicate a want of sympathy in the compassion of his daughter.
Elizabeth looked from her mother to her father. What friends had she, if these were not her friends?
"The jailer told Sandy, and Sandy told me," she said. "But they never talk to any other person. Oh! I was afraid to hear about it; but now I have heard, I was afraid not to speak. Would it be so dreadful for you to live here, when we could always have music and the garden? And these woods seem pleasant, when you get acquainted. Day or night I can't get him out of my mind. It is just as if you were shut up that way, papa. I am afraid to be happy when any one is so wretched."
The result was, that Elizabeth's words, and not so much her words as the state of things she contrived to make apparent by them, brought Adolphus Montier to a clear, resistless sense of the prisoner's fate. Over the features of that fate he was for days brooding. Now and then a word that indicated the direction of his thinking would escape him in his wife's hearing. Silently Pauline followed Adolphus to the end of all this thinking. Once she walked alone along the unfrequented road that ran between the prison and the wood, down to the sea; and she looked at the gloomy fortress, and tried to think about it as she should, if certain that within its walls her lot would soon be cast.
And more than once Montier walked home that way; and if it chanced that he had his horn or his drum with him, he marched at quickstep, and played the liveliest tunes, and emerged from the shadows of the wood with a spirit undaunted. He had played for the prisoner, whom he had never yet seen,—but not more for him than for himself.
One Sunday, when the little family walked out together, Adolphus and his wife fell into a pleasant train of thought,—and when they were together, thought and speech were generally simultaneous. As they passed the prison,—for Adolphus had led the way to this path,—Laval was standing in the door. They stopped to speak with him; whereat he invited them into his quarters.
In this walk, Elizabeth had fallen behind her parents. When she saw them going into the prison, she quickened her pace, for her father beckoned to her. But she was in no earnest haste to follow, as became sufficiently manifest when she was left alone.
They had not gone far in their talk, however, when she came to the doorway. Laval, in all his speech, was a deliberate man, and neither Adolphus nor his wife showed any eagerness in the conduct of the conversation now begun. The contrast between the gloom of the apartment and the light and cheerfulness of their own home was apparent to all of them. Elizabeth felt the oppression under which each of the little party seemed to labor, the instant she joined her parents. Susceptible as they all were to the influences of Nature, her sunshine and her shadow, this gloom which fell upon them was nothing more than might have been anticipated.
Jailer Laval was homesick, and innocent of a suspicion of what was passing in the minds of his guests; he was therefore free in making his complaints, and acknowledged that he was not fit to keep the prison,—it required a man of more nerve than he had. The dread of the place which his poor wife had entertained seemed to have taken possession of him since her death. All the arguments which he once used, in the endeavor to bolster her courage, he had now forgotten. He was very cautious when he began to speak of the prisoner, and tried to divert Adolphus from the point by saying that he would much prefer a house full of convicts to one so empty as this. There was at least something like society in that, and something to do.
Adolphus, in spite of his discontent at hearing merely these deductions of experience, when his desire was to know something of Manuel, heard nothing of importance. The speech of the jailer on this subject was not to be had. His mind seemed to be wandering, except when his wife, or his native land, was referred to; then he brightened into speech, but never once into cheerfulness. As he sat there in the middle of his chamber, he seemed to represent the genius of the place,—and anything less enlivening or desirable in the way of human life could hardly be imagined. Pauline looked at him and sighed. She looked at Adolphus;—a pang shot through her heart; the shadow of the man seemed to overshadow him. Out of this place, where all appeared to be fast changing into "goblins damned"!
It was she who led the way; but, pausing in the court-yard, Elizabeth evinced still greater haste to be gone, for she ran on with fleet step, and a heart heavy with foreboding as to the result of this interview. She was also impatient to get into the open sunlight, and did not rest in this progress she was making outward till she had come to the sea-shore. Elizabeth Montier was in a state of dire perplexity just then, and if she had been asked whether she would really choose to effect the change proposed in their way of living, it would have been no easy matter for her to discover her mind.
By the sea-shore she sat down, and her father and mother followed slowly on. They were not talking as they came. But as they approached the beach, Adolphus could not resist the prospect before them. Loud was the blast he blew upon his horn, nor did he cease playing until his music had restored him to a more natural mood than that in which the interview with Laval left him. The prison was becoming a less startling image of desolate dreariness to him. And Adolphus was the master-spirit in his family. If he was gay, it was barely possible for his wife and child to be sad. Of the prison not one word was spoken by either. They had not revealed to each other their inmost mind when they went into Laval's quarters; they did not reveal it when they came thence. But as they strolled along the rocky shore, or returned homeward, they thought of little beside the prison and the prisoner. As to Elizabeth, nothing required of her that she should urge the matter further. She had neither heart nor courage for such urging.
It was Adolphus himself who spoke to Pauline the next day, after he had deliberately thrown himself in the way of the prisoner, that he might with his own eyes see what manner of man he was; for seeing was believing.
"Pauline," said he, almost persuaded of the truth of his own words, "you and Elizabeth would make a different place of that prison from what it is now. I should like to see it tried."
Pauline Montier made no haste to answer; she was afraid that she knew what he expected of her.
"Do you see," continued Adolphus, "Elizabeth won't speak of it again? But what must she think of us? He is a man. They say we are all brothers."
"I know it," said, almost sighed, his wife.
"Looking out for our own comfort!" exclaimed Adolphus. "So mighty afraid of doing what we'd have done for us! Besides, I believe we could make it pretty pleasant. Cool in summer, and warm in winter. I'd whitewash pretty thorough. And if the windows were rubbed up, your way, the light might get through."
"Poor Joan Laval!" said Pauline. "Body and mind gave out. She was different at first."
"Do you think it was the prison?" asked Adolphus, quickly, like a man halting between two opinions,—there was no knowing which way he would jump.
"Something broke her down," replied his wife. She was looking from one window,—he from another.
"Joan Laval was Joan Laval," said Adolphus, with an effort. "Always was. Frightened at her own shadow, I suppose. But—there! we won't think of it. I know how it looks to you, Pauline. Very well,—I don't see why we should make ourselves miserable for the sake of somebody who has got to be miserable anyhow,—and deserves it, I suppose, or he wouldn't be where he is."
"Poor fellow!" sighed Pauline,—as if it were now her turn on the rack.
Here Adolphus let the matter rest. He had overcome his own scruples so far as honestly to make this proposal to his wife. But he would do no more than propose,—not for an instant urge the point. Surely, that could not be required of him. Charity, he remembered, begins at home.
But Pauline could not let the matter rest here. Her struggle was yet to come. It was she, then, who alone was unwilling to sacrifice her present home for the sake of a stranger and prisoner!
Now Pauline Montier was a good Christian woman, and various words of holy utterance began herewith to trouble her. And from a by no means tranquil musing over them, she began to ask herself, What, after all, was home? Was happiness indeed dependent on locality when the heart of love was hers? Could she not give up so little as a house, in order to secure the comfort of a son of misfortune,—a solitary man,—a dying prisoner? What she would not give up freely might any day be taken from her. If fire did not destroy it, the government, which took delight in interference, might see fit to order that the house they occupied should be used again for the original purpose of storage.
And then the discomforts of the prison began to appear very questionable. She remembered that Joan Laval was, as Adolphus hinted, weakly, nervous, 'frightened at her own shadow,'—a woman who had never, for any single day of her life, lived with a lofty purpose,—a cumberer of the ground, who could only cast a shadow.
She perceived that they would be close to the flower-garden; a minute's walk would lead them to the pleasant woods,—and Pauline Montier always loved the woods.
Indeed, when she began to take this ground, the first steps of occupation alone could be timid or doubtful. After that, her humanity, her sympathy, her confidence in her husband and daughter, drew the woman on, till she forgot how difficult the first steps had been.
She surprised both husband and daughter by saying to Adolphus, the moment she came to her conclusion, that he had better make inquiry of Laval whether he had signified his intention to resign, and forthwith seek the appointment from the Governor of the island.
When Pauline said this, she attested her sincerity by making ready to accompany Adolphus at once to the prison, that they might run no risk of losing the situation by delay. Seeing that they were of one mind, and entirely confiding in each other, they all went together to the prison to consult with Laval. Thus it came to pass, that, before the week ended, the charge of the prison had been transferred to Adolphus Montier.
The family made great efforts in order to impart an air of cheerfulness and home-comfort to their new dwelling-place. Adolphus whitewashed, according to promise; Pauline scrubbed, according to nature; they arranged and rearranged their little stock of furniture,—set the loud-ticking day-clock on the mantel-shelf, and displayed around it the china cups, the flower-vase, and the little picture of their native town which Adolphus cut from a sheet of letter-paper some old friend had sent him, and framed with more tender feeling than skill. They did their best, each one, and said to one another, that, when they got used to the place, to the large rooms and high ceilings and narrow windows, it would of course seem like home, to them, because—it was their HOME. Were they not all together? were not these their own household goods, around them? Still, they needed all this mutual encouragement and heartiness of coöperation which was so nobly, so generously manifested; and it was sincere enough to insure the very result of contentment and satisfaction which they were so wise as to anticipate. But the Governor thought,—The Drummer is getting ambitious; he wants a big house, and authority!
Ex-jailer Laval was exceedingly active in assisting his own outgoing and the incoming of Montier. He helped Adolphus in the heavy labors of removal, and laughed more during the conduct of these operations than he had been known to do in years. He said nothing to Prisoner Manuel of the intended change in jail-administration until the afternoon when for the last time he walked out with him.
The information was received with apparent indifference, without question or comment, until Laval, half vexed, and wholly sorrowful for the sad state of the prisoner, said,—
"I am sorry for you, Sir. I can say that, now I'm going off. I've been as much a prisoner as you have, I believe. And I wish you were going to be set free to-night, as I am. I am going home! But I leave you in good care,—better than mine. I never have gone ahead of my instructions in taking care of you. I never took advantage of your case, to be cruel or neglectful. If anything has ever passed that made you think hard of me, I hope you will forgive it, for I can say I have done the best I could or dared."
Thus called upon to speak, the prisoner said merely, "I believe you."
Whereat the jailer spoke again, and with a lighter heart.
"I am glad you're in luck this time,—for you are. You don't know who is coming to take the charge,—come, I mean, for they are all in, and settled. That's Montier, the little girl's father. He is a drummer, and a little of everything else. It's his horn that you hear sometimes. And you know Elizabeth, who was always so kind about the flowers. His wife, too, she's a pretty woman, and kind as kind can be."
"What have they come here for?" asked the prisoner, amazed.
"I'll tell you," said Laval, more generous than he had designed to be; but he knew how he should wish, when the sea rolled between him and Foray, that he had spoken every comfortable word in his knowledge to this man; he knew it by his recent experiences of remorse in reference to his buried wife, and was wise enough to profit by the knowledge;—"I'll tell you. It's on your account. They were afraid somebody that didn't know how long you have been here, and how much you have suffered, would get the place; so they all came together and asked for it. They had a pretty little house up nigh the barracks, but they gave it up to come here. You'll see Montier to-night. For when I go back to your room with you, then I'm going off to—to"———he hesitated, for foremost among his instructions was this, that he should remain silent about his purpose of returning home; he was not to go as a messenger for the prisoner across the ocean to their native land———"to my business," he said. "If you'll be kind to him, you will make something by it. I thought I would tell you,—so, when you saw a strange face in your room, you would know what it meant without asking."
"I thank you," said the prisoner; and to the jailer it now seemed as if the figure of the man beside him grew in height and strength,—as if he trod the ground less feebly and listlessly while he spoke these words. A divine consolation must have strengthened him even then, or he could never have added with such emphasis, "Wherever you go, take this my assurance with you,—you have not been cruel or careless. You have done as well as you could. I thank you for it."
"You don't ask me where I'm going," said the jailer, after a silence that seemed but brief to him,—such a deal of argument he had dispatched, so many difficulties he had overcome in those few moments, whose like, for mental activity and conclusiveness, he had never seen before, and never would see again. "I shall be asked if I have told you. But--where did you come from? Do not tell me your name. But whom did you leave behind you that you would care most should know you are alive and in good hands?"
These questions, asked in good faith, would have had their answer; but while the prisoner was preparing such reply as would have proceeded, brief and wholly to the point, from the confusion of hope and surprise, the Governor of Foray came in sight, drew near, and, suspicious, as became him, walked in silence by the prisoner's side, while Laval obeyed his mute instructions, leading Manuel back to his cell. A vessel was approaching the shore of Foray.
Having disposed of his prisoner, the jailer in turn was marched, like one under arrest, up to the fort, where he remained, an object of suspicion, until his time came for sailing, and, without knowing it, he went home under guard.
When Adolphus Montier ascended to the prisoner's room that night, he found him standing by the window. After Laval left him, he had looked from out that window, and seen the white sail of a vessel; he could not see it now, but there he stood, watching, as though he knew not that his chance of hope was over.
As Adolphus entered the room, the prisoner turned immediately to him,—asking quietly, as if he had not been suddenly tossed into a gulf of despair by the breeze that brought him hope,—
"Has Laval sailed?"
"When the cannon fired," was the answer.
Then Adolphus placed the dish containing the prisoner's supper on the table; he had already lighted the lamp in the hall. And now he wanted to say something, on this his first appearance in the capacity of keeper, and he knew what to say,—he had prepared himself abundantly, he thought. But both the heart and the imagination of Adolphus Montier stood in the way of such utterance as he had prepared. The instant his eyes fell on that figure, lonely and forlorn, the instant he heard that question, his kind heart became weakness, he stood in the prisoner's place,—he saw the vessel sailing on its homeward voyage,—he beheld men stepping from sea to shore, walking in happy freedom through the streets of home;—a vision that filled his eyes with tears was before him, and he was long in controlling his emotion sufficiently to say,—
"We are in Laval's place, Sir, and we hope you will have no cause to regret the change. I don't know how to be cruel and severe,—but I must do my duty. But I wasn't put here for a tyrant."
"I know why you are here; Laval told me," said the prisoner.
"Then we're friends, a'n't we?" asked Adolphus; "though I must do my duty by them that employ me. You understand. I'd set every door and window of this building wide open for you, if I had my way; though I don't know what you're here for. But I swear before heaven and earth, nothing will tempt me to forget my duty to the government;—if you should escape, it would be over my dead body. So you see my position."
"Yes," said the prisoner; and if anything could have tempted a smile from him, this manner of speech would have done it. But Adolphus was far enough from smiling.
"Come, eat something," said he, with tremulous persuasion. "My wife knows how to get up such things. She will do the best for you she can."
The prisoner again looked out of the window. It was growing dark; the outline of sea and land was fading out of sight; dreary looked the world without,—but within the lamp seemed shining with a brighter light than usual. And here was a person and a speech, a human sympathy, that almost warmed and soothed him.
He approached the table where Adolphus had spread his supper. He sat in the chair that was placed for him, and the Drummer waited on him, recommending Pauline's skill again, much as he might have presented a petition. The prisoner ate little, but he praised Pauline, and said outright that he had tasted nothing so palatable as her supper these five years. This cheered Montier a little, but still his spirits were almost at the lowest point of depression.
"You seem to pity me," remarked the prisoner, when Adolphus was gathering up the remains of the frugal supper.
"My God!—yes!" exclaimed Adolphus, stopping short, and looking at the man.
It was a sort of sympathy that could not harm the person on whom it was bestowed.
"I consider myself well off to-night," said he, quietly. "It is your little daughter that works in the garden so much? I have often watched her."
"Yes," said Adolphus, almost with a sob.
"And you are the man whose music has been so cheering many a time?"
"I want to know what airs you like best," said the poor Drummer, hurriedly.
"I never heard you play one that I did not like."—Precious praise!
"Then you like music? I can be pretty tolerably severe, Sir, if I make up my mind!" said Adolphus, as if addressing his own conscience, to set that at rest by this open avowal. "There's no danger of my doing wrong by the government. I'd have to pay for you with my life. Yes,—for it would be with my liberty. And there's my wife and child. So you understand where I am, as I told you before; but, by thunder! you shall have all the music you want, and all the flowers; and my little girl can sing pretty well,—her mother taught her. And if you're sick, there a'n't a better nurse in the hospital than Pauline Montier. There! good night!"
Adolphus took up the tray and hurried out of the room,—and forgot to fasten the door behind him until he had gone half way down the stairs. He came back in haste, and turned the great key with half the blood in his body burning in his face,—not merely an evidence of the exertion made in that operation, which he endeavored to perform noiselessly. He was ashamed of this caging business; but he would have argued you out of countenance then and there, had you ventured a word against the government,—though, as he said, he was in the dark concerning the prisoner's crime.
When he went down stairs he found supper prepared, and Pauline and their daughter waiting for him. He sat down in silence, seeking to avoid the questioning eyes which turned toward him so expectant and so hopeful. Discerning his mood, neither wife nor daughter troubled him with questions; at last, of himself, he broke out vehemently,—
"I wouldn't for the world have lost the chance! Laval wasn't the man to take care of that gentleman. But he don't say a word against Laval, mind you. He spoke about the flowers and the music. Oh, hang it!"
Here, in spite of himself, the Drummer was wholly overcome. He bowed his head to the table and broke into violent weeping. Another barrier gave way beside. Elizabeth flew to him. He seemed not to heed her, nor the sudden cry, "Oh, father!" that escaped her. She sat down by his side,—she wept as he was weeping. It was a stormy emotion that raged through her heart, when her tears burst forth. She was not weeping for pity merely, nor because her father wept. Long before he lifted his head, she was erect, and quiet, and hopeful,—but a child no more. She was a woman to love, a woman to dare,—fit and ready for the guiding of an angel.
By-and-by Adolphus said to Pauline,—
"If any one else had undertaken this job in our place, we should have deserved to be shut out of heaven for it. Thinking twice about it! I'm ashamed of myself. Why,—why,—he looks like a ghost. But he won't look that way long! We aren't here to browbeat a man, and kill him by inches, I take it."
"No, indeed!" said Pauline, as if the bare idea filled her with indignation. The three were surely one now.
[To be continued.]