網頁圖片
PDF
ePub 版

over his forehead, and his face was flushed He took the note, and as he read, his face with the heat of the room till it looked turned to stone. He read it twice from like a ripe peach. As he ran up to his beginning to end-it was not long. Then, mother to snatch at a charm hanging quite quietly, he refolded the dainty sheet from the glittering chain about her neck, and returned it to its envelope, put it in she actually stooped and kissed him. his pocket, took off his overcoat and Ruth held her breath, marveling at Harry's handed it to the waiting butler, all without stolidity. She knew well that at the bottom a word, but still with that face of stone, of his selfish, hard little heart Harry and, turning, went slowly up the two long cared less for his mother than for the flights of stairs to his study, and there least precious of his countless toys; but shut himself in. the surprise of it hurt the little girl like a An extraordinary stillness settled down fresh wound at each manifestation of his all at once over the house. The servants, indifference. What was their beautiful mysteriously sagacious, went noiselessly mother for, if not to be worshiped by all about their business as usual, lighting all with the intense, self-effacing adoration the lights in all the great empty rooms, which in Ruth's soul was love's only form? and setting out the dining-table with its Late that evening the nurse called her customary elegance.

customary elegance. But Mr. Haviland from her bed to look at Mrs. Haviland as remained shut up in his study, and no she passed through the corridor, arrayed dinner was served, and no orders were for a ball in all her diamonds, looking like given, and Mrs. Haviland did not return. a dream of light. And when, attracted Miss Murray looked agitated and scared, by the little group at the bedroom door, and as if she were trying to shrink into Mrs. Haviland glanced toward it, smiling herself out of the way of an impending the same lovely impersonal sinile that she shower-bath, and Ruth was sent to bed had bestowed on her acquaintances in long before her hour. the afternoon's drive, Ruth's heart beat The next morning Mrs. Haviland still even faster than before, and she crept had not come back, and the same hush of back to bed in a silent rapture that kept uneasy expectancy pervaded the house her wide awake for some time. It was like a noxious atmosphere. Ruth had no such wonderful moments as these that had idea of what had happened. She knew counted for the chief pleasures in the only that her adored mother did not come, child's ten short years of life.

though she watched and watched all the The autumn passed, and still Mrs. day long, and could scarcely be gotten Haviland drove in the Park in her open away from the window. victoria, while the handsome blond gen- So some vacuous, miserable days went tleman reined in his bay by its side ; and by, each more wretched than the last. fewer and fewer people smiled as they Then one morning Mr. Haviland sumbowed. Then came an afternoon in early moned Miss Murray from the school-room December, when the sun was a glory and to his study, and she was gone some time. the earth seemed a heaven, and Mrs. When she came back, her soft, young-old Haviland went for her drive somewhat face had lost its delicate color, and she earlier than her wont. She went alone could hardly take the seat at her desk for this time. Ruth, just returned from a a nervous tremor through her. But the demure little walk with Miss Murray, children's wide-eyed stare of curiosity knelt at the school-room window and forced her to pull herself together, and breathlessly watched her as she drove after a few moments she said to them away. There was always the chance that quite simply, just as if she were stating a she might look back-might look up fact in physical geography, though with though she never did. She did not now. an uncontrollable twitching of her thin,

The carriage came back almost at once, ladylike lips, that Mr. Haviland wished but Mrs. Haviland was not in it. There them to know that their mother was never were only the two men on the box, and a coming back at all, but was the same as note from Mrs. Haviland to her husband. dead to them, and that they must be

When the footman brought it in, Mr. obedient children and never so much as Haviland was in the hall putting on his mention her name in his hearing. That overcoat to go for a walk up the avenue. was the point that Miss Murray laid the

was

most stress on—that they were never to and stern, where formerly he had been speak of her again.

only grave, that Ruth shrank from him. Harry did not mind a whit that his with her mother's going, a blank wall mother was gone away for always. He seemed to have risen between her and just opened his glorious eyes wider and everything else on earth. Miss Murray asked: “Then who will take me out to said of her with solicitous discontent that drive when I have my good clothes on?" she was a singularly old little girl. And so

Ruth made no outcry and asked no she was, since heartaches count for yeårs. question. But the blackness of night By degrees, as time went by and Ruth's descended upon her soul.

abstraction increased, the talk around her An hour later their father came in. grew less guarded, and one day, when Harry gave a whoop of delight, and, dash- two of the maids were whispering across ing his slate to the floor, ran to him tem- their sewing, she overheard something pestuously, shouting, “I want a nickell that drove her straight to her governess Dad, give me a nickel !"

with a point-blank question. Mr. Haviland stood stock still and Please, Miss Murray, where in this looked fixedly at his boy, the shadow upon city is my mother's new home ?" his marble face deepening into something Miss Murray was so taken aback and almost like contempt. Then he flung so flustered that all the little laces on her down a handful of small coins upon the gown were set to quivering. carpet quite angrily, and went out of the “Why, Ruthie-child-however-howroom immediately, without having said a ever did you find out that--that your mother syllable to any one.

was in the city at all?" she stammered. Harry laughed with glee as he flung « Ellen said so. She was talking to himself upon the rolling bits of silver. Sophie. She said that the new marriage The nurse chanced to be in the room, no better than a mock marriage. and Ruth saw her glance meaningly at She said that she was brazen-faced to Miss Murray as she muttered : “ It's come back and take a house not ten Master Harry's looks. He is as like her squares away from us." The child's tones as two peas, and not in looks only, more's were fierce with uncomprehending resentthe pity!"

ment. Ruth did not understand the full import Miss Murray's gentle face wrinkled all of the words, though their dimly appre- over with perturbation. She laid a frighthended scorn roused in her an impotentened, bloodless hand against Ruth's fury, and she clenched her tiny hands mouth. under the table. No one ever guessed Hush, dear, hush! Ellen must have what of desolation it meant to the child meant some one else. Ellen had no idea when her beautiful mother disappeared what she was saying. Ellen never meant so suddenly out of her life. But they all anything." saw how listless and apathetic she grew, Ruth pushed aside Miss Murray's hand and how dully she went through her rou- roughly. An obstinate determination was tine of small duties and pleasures, no one over all her face. of which interested or aroused her in the “I want to see my mother. Where is least. The moment she was left to her- my mother ?" she said, doggedly. self she always went directly to the The direct, insistent gaze was not to be school-room window, and sat there with avoided. Miss Murray's anxious brown her arms folded on the sill and her chin eyes twinkled through a blur of tears as resting upon them, motionless save for she looked at the child. the restless, roving eyes that missed no “ Don't ask me, dear,” she said, tremufigure that went by. But she never told lously, vaguely conscious of some hitherto any one for whom she was watching. unperceived need of pity. “I may not

Her father came regularly now to the tell you. You will know all soon enough, nursery, where he had been used to come poor child! You are too young to be told only occasionally. It was, however, merely now." to ask perfunctory questions of the nurse “ I want to see her. I want to see her," or governess as to the welfare of his chil. Ruth repeated, stubbornly. dren, and he was so changed, so silent But the firmness of the gentle is not to

little room,

be overcome, and Ruth received no more I have said good-night, and nobody will elucidating answer. The insistence went know, and you can take the latch-key out of her face at last, and she returned to let us in when we come back. Oh, to the window, sitting there in a submis- don't say no, Aggie! Don't! Don't! I sive, patient way that lulled Miss Murray's want to go so much! I must go, and disquiet to rest.

nobody else would take me if I asked.” Shortly afterward Ellen disappeared, The maid stood aghast at the audacity and Ruth rightly guessed that she had of the proposition. been dismissed as a warning to the house- “But I couldn't take you out at night hold against further indiscretions. The like that, Miss Ruth! I should lose my child apparently took no notice, but de place the minute it come to be known, spair seized upon her. She grew thinner, and good enough for me, too, if I did. wbiter, stiller. The desire to see her You know I can't, dear. You must see mother was eating up her soul.

I can't, or, indeed, I wouldn't want no In the extremity of her need a daring praying." scheme shaped itself in her quickened Ruth pressed close. Her agony of brain. The maid who took Ellen's place longing was like an outgoing, compelling was a kindly, light-hearted girl, and Ruth, force. in pursuance of her ends, began to make “ Aggie, you must! You must ! Where's friends with her in a covert, shy way, to the harm ? I only want to see all the pretty which the maid responded with easy good ladies in their fine gowns and gay cloaks, nature, soon coming to feel a genuine and the carriages hurrying up, and the liking for the reserved, odd child who horses jumping and kicking, and everybody thus singled her out for favor.

And so

shouting and calling. You never saw any. Ruth craftily matured her plan.

thing like it, Aggie! I heard somebody tell " Aggie,” she said one night, as the Harry once. We will just stand close by maid was putting her to bed in her lonely the door a tiny little bit of a while, and

“ isn't to-morrow your eve- nobody will ever know we have been. ning out?”

Oh, Aggie !" she suddenly threw her frail “Yes, Miss."

arms chokingly around the girl's neck, " Where are you going?”

and her voice broke into a childish, tear"I don't know, Miss. To see some ful, irresistible quaver. “Oh, Aggie, darfriends, maybe.”

ling, I never wanted to do anything so Ruth looked at her with troubled, un- much in all my whole life! Take me!

Take me! If you do, I will love you as "Do you know where the opera-house long as I live! I will love you with all my is, Aggie?"

heart and soul!!" Certainly, Miss. 'Tisn't so far from The girl hesitated, frightened yet fashere. I've passed it often.”

cinated at the bold idea. She was thought"Did you ever go there at night, Aggie? less and lively, eager to please and easily Did you ever stand outside and watch the led, and she saw no risk to the child in people go in and out? Did you?" the proposed escapade. And if Miss Ruth

"Why, no, Miss, I can't say as I have.” really wanted a bit of a frolic so much

Ruth had tight hold of the girl's arm. Thus it happened that on the following A suppressed excitement had taken the night little Ruth found herself on the place of her usual apathy.

streets of the huge city, with only a foolish “* Aggie, you must take me there to young nursemaid for protector.

It was morrow night. There is to be a new opera. an altogether new world to the child-a I heard Miss Murray say so. She said world full of distortions, dangers, and everybody would be there."

alarms. All the familiar landmarks were "But, Miss Ruth_” began the girl, obliterated. Everything was

Everything was changed. protestingly.

The houses were taller and wider, and The child shook her by the arm in her closed in before her crushingly. What frenzy of desire.

lurking horrors might not spring out upon “You are

not to say anything to her from any one of their dark vestibules ! anybody, Aggie, or they would not let It was like walking through a lane lined

But we can just slip out after with Jack-in-the-boxes. The electric lights

childlike eyes.

me go.

men.

glared at her savagely, with great angry of the steps, waiting for a pair of thoreyes through monstrous radiating lashes. oughbreds to prance their way to the A deadly terror was upon her. But her curbstone. She was holding the arm of purpose was stronger than her fear, and the tall blond gentleman whom Ruth had she kept on her way by Aggie's side, no once seen riding beside her carriage, and sound of fright escaping her, not even was talking gayly to a group of young when she was nearly run over by a cab,

An electric light blazed down full nor yet again when—more terrrifying upon her. The wind turned back the still—a policeman seized her and swung edges of her ermine cloak, disclosing the her over a puddle at a street-crossing. splendor of the gown beneath. Oh, how

So much time had been consumed in bewilderingly beautiful she was ! How her securing an unobserved exit from her smile flashed! How her jewels gleamed! home that when they reached the opera- How the white fur about her throat set house it was already late, and there was off the face above—the fair, pure, lovely nothing to be seen except rows of waiting face that had in it no least trace of evil ! carriages and dawdling footmen.

Ruth scarcely breathed. In her ecstasy Ruth rallied from her disappointment the slow, long torture of the past months as soon as its cause had been explained was as if it had never been. Her nonto her.

descript little face was transfigured. For “We will go to see your friends, the moment her ineffable love made her Aggie," she said, with quick decision. beautiful. “ You needn't mind taking me along. But the brougham was drawing up to Then we will come back when the opera the sidewalk. The gentleman whom Ruth is out. It is sure to be best fun of all remembered was moving toward it. The when the opera lets out."

lady was bowing her adieux. Now her And again Aggie yielded. It would be arched foot was upon the step. In ana shame for the child to miss what she other instant she would be gone-gone, had come for.

lost, forever! Two hours later they stood in the midst “Mother ! Mother ! Come back !" of a dense throng at the doors of the vast The cry rang out, importunate, passionbuilding. The evening was turned damp ate, agonized. and chilly, and the wind blew in rude The lady half turned, and threw a gusts down the avenue. But the scene startled glance over her shoulder at the was all that Ruth had depicted, and more, crowd. But the gentleman hurried her and Aggie became instantly an absorbed into the brougham and entered after her. 'spectator.

She sank dov on the cushions, her “Nearer, Aggie ! Nearer !" the child adorable face quite pale. whispered, excitedly. “ I must see them “I thought-I almost thought that was all. I mustn't miss any !"

Ruth's voice," she said. She tugged at the maid's sleeve, her "Nonsense,” the gentleman answered eyes hunting hungrily through the crowd. lightly, “how could it be? Besides, it What if she had not come!

would have been Harry's voice, not The people streamed out. Aggie and Ruth's, if you had heard it. Home, John." her charge were pushed mercilessly to one The footman touched his hat, sprang side. The child's heart beat to suffoca- to the box, and the brougham whirled tion. What if she were there, and she away through the sleet. should miss seeing her! She gave a sobbing cry.

It was half-past eight of the evening a “I can't see, Aggie! Oh, I can't see!" week later. The same lady, still more

It had begun to snow. The wind lifted charmingly dressed, still more ravishingly the awnings, and the wet flakes blew in beautiful, sat in her new drawing-room, an under. Ruth felt cold, moist touches on opera-cloak about her, fan and flowers her face and neck. Her feet and hands lying beside her on a table. The gentlewere ice. She shivered, and big despair- man whom Ruth had recognized stood ing tears welled over on her cheeks. by the mantelpiece. He took out his

Then suddenly the crowd parted, and watch. she saw her mother standing at the foot “ Patrick is late."

[ocr errors]

The lady glanced up with her entranc- ' vulsive sob that seemed to rack her body. icg smile.

A new, strange look swept blightingly ** Yes. It is the second time. He across her beauty. should be dismissed."

Her companion laid his hand upon her She let the cloak drop from her shoul- shoulder. The change in her appalled ders, nd, drawing the evening paper him. toward her, looked lazily down its " It is a frightful shock, of course, but columns. The gentleman yawned. why should you take it quite like this?"

Suddenly she gave a wild cry, and he said, in constrained remonstrance, leaped to her feet.

"You never cared for her, you know, and - George! George !!!

you were willing to give her up-to leave He was at her side instantly.

them both." " Darling, what is it?”

She was looking up at him, and all her She clutched at his arm, pointing to an frame cowered at his words. Yes, she item in the paper.

He bent over and had not cared, and she had been willing read it aloud.

to leave her. The thought gripped her "On Monday, March twenty-fifth, of as in a vice, resolving every sense into a pneumonia, Ruth, daughter of Harold frightened consciousness of an intolerable Haviland, aged ten years and nine anguish. Was this remorse? Is it in months.'"

such wise that souls are born ? The lady fell back into the chair, white She dropped her face on the table as death, twisting her hands as if in bodily speechlessly. She did not guess whose pain.

had been the cry of love and longing that "It is my child—my Ruth! He calls a short week before had faintly stirred a her only his daughter-do you see? But response in her slumbering mother-heart. she was mine, too. Ruth! Oh, Ruth !" But deep down in that region so seldom

She gasped as if for air, pulling at the entered, known to each as his true self, necklace about her throat. The string she knew that from henceforth the little broke and the great pearls rained down daughter she had never loved would call over her bosom. Again she wrung her to her forever from her grave to come hands, lifting her head with a long, con- back.

Books of the Week

This report of current literature is supplemented by fuller reviews of such books as in the judgment of the editors are of special importance to our readers. Any of these books will be sent by the publishers of The Outlook, postpaid, to any address on receipt of the published price, with postage added when the price is marked net." Ad Astra. Being Selections from the Divine indispensable to the serious student of history,

Comedy of Dante. Illustrated by Margaret and Helen and even to the student of geography, since Maitland Armstrong. R. H. Russell, New York. 9x12 in. 100 pages.

that latter science is of little value except in The selections from Dante printed in this its relation to the lives of men and to the elaborately illustrated volume are in the main

civilization of peoples. excellently chosen, but a singular fact is that

Battle with the Slum (The). By Jacob A. Riis. more come from the “ Purgatorio” than from Illustrated. The Macmillan Co., New York. 6x842 the better-known - Inferno" or from the in. 465 pages. $2, net. ** Paradiso." Every one will first turn to the Mr. Riis vitalizes every subject that he illustrations of Paolo and Francesca and of touches, and in this volume he has vitalized the fate of Ulysses-subjects familiar even to sociology. He has put his own life into the those who have never read a line of Dante. battle with the slum, and the book which is These and the rest are treated in a genuinely the outcome is almost as personal as “The reverential Dantesque spirit; and the book is Making of an American"-or, at all events, it a real addition to the year's Christmas volumes. is much more personal than most autobiogra

phies. The larger part of this volume has Atlas of the Geography and History of the already been reviewed in these columns under

Ancient World. Edited and Arranged by John
King Lord, Ph.D. Benjamin H. Sanborn & Co.,

the title “ A Ten Years' War," but in extending Boston. 774x12 in. 43 pages.

that narrative so as to cover the work of the Dr. Lord, of Dartmouth College, has published last three years-much of it along new lines of an extremely valuable atlas edited and arranged civic betterment-Mr. Riis has practically refrom the latest sources. Such an atlas is cast the whole, while the publishers, by means

« 上一頁繼續 »