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ONLY GIRLS.BYVIRGINIA F. TOWNSEND.BOSTON:LEE AND SHEPARD, PUBLISHERS.NEW YORK:.LEE, SHEPARD AND DILLINGHAM.1872.A
Entered, according to Act of Congress, in the year 1872,By LEE AND SHEPARD,In the Office of the Librarian of Congress, at Washington.ELECTROTYPED AT THEBOSTON STEREOTYPE FOUNDRY,19 Spring Lane.
Meanwhile the Cardinal Ippolito, in whom all my best hopes were placed, beingdead, I began to understand that the promises of this world are, for the most part,vain phantoms, and that to confide in one's self, and become something of worthand value is the best and safest course.MICHAEL ANGELO."*"-U
OK LY- GIRLS.CHAPTER I.A HE devil had entered into Keefe Bart-lett's soul that day; and Keefe had notsaid, "Get thee behind me, Satan."On the contrary, he had provided wide roomand hospitable entertainment; and the devil hadnot been slow to make himself at home in theinn which he found in Keefe's soul. For thatmatter, I suspect he never is, anywhere.These facts certainly do not make a happyintroduction for Keefe; yet, bad as they are,there is something to be said for him. He hadjust rounded the point of his seventeenth birth-day, and what a world it had been to him! Sucha hard, pinched, cruel face as it had turnedtowards him from the beginning! Yet it wasthe very same world which you and I know is94
10 ONLT GIRLS.full of green fields, and laughter of golden daisies,and birds with bubbling sweetness of song, and,better than all, full of great, warm, soft hearts,and blessed helping hands, which make it God'sdear, beautiful, happy world, despite the sin andthe misery.But the sin and the misery had fallen toKeefe's lot. Yet his history is not an uncom-mon one -more's the pity! If it were somethingquite out of the ordinary run of things, I shouldnot think it worth writing to-day.Keefe found himself stranded helpless uponthe world before he had mounted his eighthbirthday. His father, mate of a merchant vessel,with plenty of native shrewdness and ability,had undermined his constitution by frequentsprees when he was in foreign ports, and atlast died in a drunken brawl in Buenos Ayres.Keefe's mother, a small, worn, sallow-complex-ioned woman, took her husband's place at thefamily helm for a couple of years, which means,dropping all metaphor, went out to daily house-cleaning, and kept herself and her son from star-vation, and that was about all.The work-woman took cold one day. Exposureand privation aggravated the disease, which at
ONLT GIRLS. .11first did not seem serious, and she went out oflife in a swift consumption, and Keefe was left inthe world with his eight birthdays, and hishungry little stomach, and his small fists, to fighthis way into boyhood, without a solitary friend ora single dollar.He did what he could. Biped or quadruped,the instinct of life is strong. He fought off thatold, hungry, wolf of poverty, inch by inch, asshoe-black, horse-currier, news-boy, by turns; andso, with shoes out at the toes, and ragged coats,and a stomach whose normal condition seemedone of craving a good warm dinner, he managedsomehow to keep soul and body together up tothat day when the devil entered Keefe Bartlett.Two days before, he, with a number of thehands, had been turned off from the AgawamCotton Mills, a dull season rendering a reduc-tion of the working-corps necessary.Keefe had been employed at one of the loomsabout three months on the whole the happiestof his life. He had steady employment andsufficient food; clean country air, too, which wassomething to one whose lungs had been halfstarved in the close, crowded atmosphere of citylanes and alleys.
12 ONLT GIRLS.Agawam was a small manufacturing town lyingoff the main arteries of railroads, with which itwas connected by a branch line. It was a drowsy,picturesque old place, some two hundred milesfrom New York. Its large water-power had at-tracted some enterprising capitalists, and the oldfarming town had of late burgeoned into a flamingprosperity. Its mills gave work to hundreds ofemployees, and its quiet old farm-houses affordedshelter to swarms of city people, who alightedhere every summer for the tonic of the air, andthe great, still, restful greenery of woods andfields.Some thirst and longing for these had got intoKeefe Bartlett's blood that summer, chafing andstinging him night and day. The dark, swel-tering, noisome alleys, the thud and roar of thegreat city, deafened and sickened him as it hadnever done before. He panted for breadth andfreedom, as wild animals do shut up in iron-barred cages.He rushed away from all these at last, a gooddeal as a wild animal might do. He had onlyhis hands and feet, and whatever native pluckthere was in him, and whatever shrewdness hiseducation in the city purlieus had developed, to
ONL r GIRL S- 13clear a place for himself in the new world of thecountry.Keefe had made his way to Agawam. Whenhe left New York he had no goal in view, hardlyany purpose beyond getting away from the hotalleys and the crowded streets. But he hadfollowed the railroads, and slept under the treesat night, which was no hardship for one who hadmade his bed in the back yards of old warehousesand under piles of lumber, and dragged hischilled, stiffened limbs out in the morning, withthe thermometer at zero. So at last, when hisfeet were blistered, and his pockets emptied oftheir last copper, he heard of the Agawam CottonMills, and of employment there for a few extrahands. It was only another day's pull for thetired, blistered feet, and Keefe reached Agawam,which opened into Arcadia for him when hefound work in the cotton mills; and Youknow the rest, until that day when, as I havetold you, the devil came and found the door open,and whisked swiftly into the soul of KeefeBartlett.It happened in this wise: The morning afterhe had been turned off, he was hanging about thefactories, partly from habit, partly from a cling-A
14 ONL r GTRLS.ing fondness for the old place, when one of thepartners came up to the office, which supple-mented one side of the building near the cornerwhere Keefe was standing idly, his hands in hispockets, and a dull, hopeless look on his heavyface, which dic not improve it.The partner, however, did not notice Keefestanding there, a little in the shadow around thecorner. If he had, it would have made no differ-ence: the boy would only have been one of "thehands" to the sharp, bustling, prosperous manu-facturer useful when he could be put to service;when he could not, to be turned off, like any wornout beast of burden: not a bad man, either ur-bane, hospitable, jocose, in his own house."Only," taking, slowly, his Havana out ofhis mouth, while the smoke hung in little cloudycircles around the handsome iron-gray beard,"you cannot take religion and philanthropy intobusiness no, sir."The head proprietor was not alone this morn-ing. He was accompanied by his nephew, aslender, shapely youth, a junior, who had rundown to Agawam for a few days, to sniff themountain air, and boat, and ride horseback, andplay croquet with his pretty cousin, Edith Folger,"2
.ONL GIRLS. 15who, falling behind him a birthday or two, hadnot yet surmounted the equatorial line of herteens.This was the talk which Keefe Bartlett over-/heard that morning, standing in the shadow bythe corner of the brick factory. It never onceoccurred to him that he was listening. If it hadhe would probably have seen nothing to beashamed of in that act. His education hadhardly been of the sort to make his moral sus-ceptibilities very keen."Uncle Bryant, I want some money.""I've no doubt of it, Rox" (this name'beinga happy elision of his mother's maiden one-.Rochford). "It's a chronic want with youngfellows like you," meanwhile fumbling in hispocket for the office key. "How much do youwant now?""0, a couple of hundred will carry me overuntil I get back to town. You know I'm goodfor that amount.""I hadn't thought of it in that light, Rox,"with a pleasant laugh. "You shall have themoney, of course. I'll get it for you as soon asthe bank opens. Will that do ? ""Perfectly, thank you. Indeed, I shall have4s
16 ONL GIRLSno use for the money to-day, as I am off on alark with Edith this morning.""That foolish picnic business; yes, I remem-ber. You shall have the money to-morrow. Butwhat was all that talk at breakfast about -yourstarting for the city? You'd better stay at leasta fortnight longer."" Thank you, sir. Nothing would delight memore. But I'm bound for a rough-and-tumblewith some chums among the Adirondacks. I mustset off to-morrow, rain or shine, to join my party.""Sorry to hear it, Rox. We shall all miss you,especially Edith. Some aggravating business willtake me away from home to-night; but I willbring over the money at dinner, and in case youare not there, leave it in my desk. You'll find itin an envelope addressed to you.""Thank you again, uncle Bryant. I shall haveno use for the money, as I said, until to-morrowafternoon, when I turn my back on this Arcadiaof old Agawam; so, if you are to be absent, Imay not see you again. Shall we say good by?I half hate the word. Good, round, flavorous oldSaxon as it is, it leaves a little bitter tang in one'smouth, or thoughts." ." Don't say it, then, my boy. But I shall see
ONL GIRLS. 17you again. The train doesn't leave until fiveo'clock. I expect to be home by that time.""I meant to foot the first fifteen miles, though,and must set out early. I must get my limbs intraining for the Adirondacks, you see."The elder man laughed, and looked at hisnephew, half amused, and yet with a touch ofsadness, although Bryant Folger was not givento sentimentalizing over anything in the earthor the heavens above it."Ah, Rox," he said, "it's a capital thing to bea young fellow, with sound health, and plenty ofmoney to spend, and not a care in the world.Youth flies, my boy, like Phaeton's steeds. Youmust make hay while the sun shines.""I am doing my best at it, uncle Bryant,"answered the young man. "Don't I expect ajolly old time at the Adirondacks, camping out,taking big hauls of trout, and bringing downheaps of birds, and a fat deer occasionally!"" Well, good luck to you, Rox. Look out foryour neck. Your talk almost stirs my old bloodwith a hankering for a gun and a powder-pouch, afishing-line, and the wilderness.""Cut business and civilization for once, andcome along with us, uncle."24f
18 ONLY GIRLS.The elder man made a slight but significantgesture towards the mass of dull-red buildingswhich stared back at himn with their long rowsof windows, grim and remorseless as that olddesert Sphinx we are forever hearing about.- Nowords could have supplemented that gesture withany deeper meanings.The most practical people are exquisitely dra-matic once in a while, as was, for one instant, thehead partner of the Agawam cotton works." Good by, and good luck to you, Rox."The two men shook hands, the elder turninginto his office, the younger going down the road,humming some notes of a German air he hadheard at the last opera, with a crispness andsparkle all through them, like the drops of dewnot yet dried from the wilted grass by the road-side.All this time the figure in the corner by theoffice a small stone addition which had beenrecently added to the main building- had notstirred. It had overheard every word of theconversation which had just transpired. It cameout now and looked after the youth, going upthe road with his careless, jaunty air, and easyhalf-dominant grace in every movement, like that
ONL T GIRLS. 19of one quite assured of his place in the world, andwho felt that the best things in it the cake andthe wine--were his birthright share. The coarserpart of the feast -the bread and the cold meat--might fall to other lots and welcome.Look at Keefe Bartlett as he stands there,staring at that slender, graceful figure going upthe road. He is not of that mould himself, be-ing heavily built, with a slouch in his shoulders,and coarse, large hands, square, big features, witha tanned, pimply skin, lightish, bristly hair, theshade of leaves that have bleached all winterunder the snows; thick light eyebrows, too, andeyes that have a shrewd gleam in them: onceget a fair look there, you set a different valueafterwards on the dull, heavy features.The "turned-off hand" wears a suit of gray,coarse clothes -the best he ever had in his life.He has earned them since he came to Agawam.Since he came here, too, a great many strangethoughts have been working under the bristlyhair. Keefe has listened to the questions astir inhis brain, and all the steady whir and thud ofthe factory wheels could not drown them. Hewonders what these differences in human lotsmean; why all the hunger, and cold, and want,4
20 ONL GIRLS.the starved, miserable childhood, should havefallen to him, and the life, warmed, and spiced,and fragrant with love, and comfort, and luxury,to others.He has brooded over it by night and by day.A bitter sense of wrong and outrage has takenpossession of him more and more. He has a feel-ing of bitterness towards all rich men, as thoughthey had robbed him of his birthright, and gloatssometimes over the thought that a day of reckon-ing is to come, he cannot tell when or how; butit is to be a day of triumph for labor and poverty,when the rich shall no longer grind the poorunder their iron heel.Keefe talks over this matter more or less withthe workmen, when they hang, in the hot sum-mer evenings, about the piazza of the big factoryboarding-house down in the hollow. Not a veryattractive place, certainly, but a palace in compar-ison with Keefe's former homes.The boy is rather a favorite with the hands.He has a knack at acting, and entertains hiscompanions with comic shows of scenes he haswitnessed in the alleys and by-streets of thatgreat Babel, two hundred miles south of Agawam--scenes not delicate or refined, perhaps, but
ONL r GIRLS. 21touched all through with some strong, native,human life.Keefe is always sure of an audience that wouldhave made a ,study for Hogarth an audiencewith clay pipes, and loud guffaws, and admiringoaths, when he transforms himself into somestreet brawler, or shoe-black, or drunkensailor.One of the workmen has assured the boy hisvocation was the clown of a circus, and anotherhas recommended the Bowery Theatre; aftera while he "might make a big thing at thecomic parts."But Keefe had made no plans for the futurewhen he was turned off from the place where,to his credit, considering his previous vagabondlife and habits, he had worked steadily all sum-mer. He had not money to pay his board foranother week, and the winter was coming; andthe outlook was gloomy enough.Keefe thrust his hands into his pockets, andstrode away from the factory office that morningwith the talk which he had overheard at work inhis brain, and his thoughts swelling in a greatbitterness against the speakers, especially againstthe young man, just about his own age, who had
22 ONL GIRLS.wealth, and pleasure, ald friends at command;who had only to ask for a couple of hundreddollars, and lo! it was rained down upon himmuch as the clouds rained down their showersupon the thirsty grass.And here was Keefe, without a dollar in theworld, and with the old freezing and starvation heknew so well waiting for him a little way off! Andto-morrow, with his two hundred dollars stowedaway in his pocket, and his careless, jaunty air,which seemed an insulting defiance to Keefe, thisyouth would start all alone to walk over the roadto the station at Plum Forks, the road by whichKeefe had come to Agawam, and which he knewso well. And while his thoughts kept revolvingaround this central fact, all of a sudden, and soslyly that he did not know it, the devil enteredinto the soul of Keefe Bartlett.A mood half fierce, half sullen, possessed himnow. "What right had that Rox,' " Keefekept asking himself, "to this two hundred dol-lars, which he was going to squander in gaycarousals, with companions as lazy and luckyas himself, among the mountains? Those deli-cate fingers of his had never earned a dinner ora night's lodging;" and then Keefe drew his_______________________________
ONL GIRLS. 23hard, big hands out of his pockets, and staredat them with a smile fierce and bitter enough.The boy wandered off by himself. His blackthoughts were company enough for that day;and all the while he kept seeing, as in a vision,the slender figure moving rapidly along the track,with its careless, jaunty air. That would all beto-morrow. Keefe had taken in and rememberedall the points of the journey. Rox would have tostart about one o'clock in order to reach the downtrain in time. There were long lonely stretcheson the road. Keefe knew them; he knew, too,that he had twice the muscular power of thedelicately-bred student, for his vagrant life hadtoughened his naturally hardy constitution.Keefe was not without weapons, too; he re-membered now the pistol he had bought, for amere song, of one of the workmen, in order toshoot muskrats. Not that he meant to use that,- a cold sweat actually started all over him, ofcourse not; but, then, how easy it would be, forany one who knew what Keefe did, to follow theyoung student, and come upon him suddenlyfrom behind, in some lonely place on that longstretch of road, deal the fellow a blow that wouldknock sense and sight out of him for a few
24 ONL 2 GIRLS.minutes, and then rob him of that two hundreddQllars, to which he had no right!You may be sure, when such thoughts as thesestirred in Keefe's soul, the devil was not farbehind them. Keefe had had a conscience, nota very sensitive one, of course, with his educa-tion of old wharves and back alleys; still, he hadalways had the name of keeping his word amonghis brother boot-blacks and news-boys somememory of the pinched, sallow-faced little woman,who had gone to her grave so many years before,holding him back from committing any act whichthe world agrees to call crime, even when thetemptation had been very sharp.Even to-day he thought of her sometimes; buthe was hunted, maddened by disappointment,misery, and a burning sense of wrong; and all daylong he kept brooding over the solitary, rapidyoung figure, on the lonely road, and seeing thetwo hundred dollars stowed away in his wallet.An evil glitter came into the boy's eyes, and itgrew and grew there, until the whole face be-neath seemed to grow heavy and brutal.Keefe gloated over that money; his very bloodhankered and tingled for it; and at last, afterwandering that whole day' among the highways
ONL r GIRLS. 25and over the country roads, when the sun shotup one wide purple splendor over the distant hillsaround Agawam, Keefe set his big jaws together,and, with an awful look darkling all over hisface, swore that he would have the two hundreddollars.And the devil, sitting in Keefe's soul, laughedto himself!
26 ONL GIRLS.CHAPTER II." i. 'HY, Rox, you are the most unac-countable being! How in the worlddid you contrive to drop down herein this fashion ? "She came in from the garden, where she hadbeen gathering flowers honeysuckle, pinks, jes-samine, and sweet, fresh, dainty things of thatsort, and found him stretched upon one of thelounges in the sitting-room in his usual carelessfashion, only, whatever attitude Rox Coventrytook, it was never awkward or angular.Rox was Edith Folger's own cousin, and sheadored him. He stood to her in the place ofthe brother who had died just within the border-land of her memory, while the remoter relationgave just a relishing spice of romance to theirfeeling for each other.To say that Edith was a fairer flower than anyof those fragrant, blossoming things she brought
ONL GIRLS. 27in with her, would be as true as commonplace.She had a wonderfully sweet face, with big, duskyblue eyes, and glossy hair, with a flicker in itlike bright live things, and a little tremulous flushin her cheeks; and her smile well, of all thesweet things about Edith Folger, I think thatsmile was the sweetest.As for the rest, she was an only child, herfather's pet and darling, especially since hermother died."Perhaps I dropped down from the clouds,perhaps I came in on some dainty Ariel's back.Don't you know by this time I am not made ofcommon clay, and can, navigate earth or airin ways quite unknown to ordinary mortals?"Edith's laugh slipped out, a fresh, silvery thingenough."I am ready to believe almost anything aboutyou, Rox; but that mouthful is too huge; Icannot swallow it.""Well, you needn't. I walked in like anyother human biped, after a splendid swim, to askfor some lunch, and to tell you I must be off inhalf an hour.""Half an hour!" tossing her flowers on thetable with so hurried a movement that some4
28 ONLT GIRLS.of them were scattered on the carpet. "0, Rox,I hoped you had given up that frantic notionof walking over to Plum Point Station.""Frantic! Why, child, it is a most sensibleand practical conclusion on my part. I need alittle breathing for the Adirondacks, you know.Now, be the angel you always are, and ordermy lunch at once, and help me eat it, for I mustdevour it and really be off in half an hour.""There is nothing to be done, then, but tolet you have your own way, I suppose." Andshe went and touched the bell a little gravely."What will you have?""O, a leg of cold chicken, some sandwiches,and to top off with, a glass of fresh cream andsome berries."It was evident that Rox was quite at home athis uncle Bryant's.There was some more light, prankish talkbetween the two, with little silvery laughtersof Edith's between, and an occasional burst fromRox, and then the servant who had received thegirl's order brought in the lunch, and two had itin a pretty little alcove on one side of the bigroom."This is just delectable, Edith," exclaimed
ONL GIRLS. 29Rox, as he piled the girl's plate with raspber-ries which had not yet lost the fresh coolness ofmorning dews, in which they had hung two hoursbefore. "I pity the poor fellows who haven'tcousins to eat lunches with them."Edith would usually have been awake to theflavor of compliment in this remark. She hadher little vanities, and liked to be praised, as allgirls do; but she only smiled faintly as she tookher saucer of berries, and actually looked gravefor a moment before she said, -"There are so many people in the world whoare to be pitied, Rox !""I've no doubt of it," helping himself to thecold chicken with a crowned contentedness, suchas one could fancy the gods might feel at somebanquet, talking over the troubles of mortals.Perhaps Edith thought something of this kindas she watched her cousin for she had thoughtsbehind that pretty face of hers. In a minute Roxlooked up from his plate. It was evident thatno speculations on human affairs disturbed theappetite which he had brought in from his swimthat morning."What kind of people were you thinking of,Edith ?"~ *ii44
30 ONL GIRLS."All sorts of folks who are in trouble, andcan't see their way out of it.""They're a pretty huge lump, Edith," ex-claimed Rox, cheerfully. Don't think, now, hewas hard and selfish; he was only careles-s andthoughtless; but he had a real soft place in hisheart, if one could get down to it. "What's putthem into your head now ?""I don't know, unless it was something whichhappened while I was gathering the flowers, justbefore you came in."" Come, let's have it, Edith.""It was very curious. I was way off in thecorner by the hedge, hunting for some featherygreens to finish up my flowers, when all of asudden-I really can't tell whether I saw himfirst-I knew somebody was watching me out-side. There he was, when I turned round andlooked, sitting on the grass, a big, broad-shoul-dered fellow, in a coarse gray suit, and a square,coarse, homely face under a bit of a skull-cap.He was looking at me with a steady, curious gaze,out of such strange eyes! I can't tell what thelook meant; but there was some pain or mysteryin it. There he sat, staring at me, like some oldroughly-hewn statue,"
ONLT GIRLS. 31"He'd no business there," exclaimed Rox, witha slight growl."Perhaps not. He turned his eyes away whenours met; and yet, when I looked again, therethe figure sat, watching me with the indescribablelook. It gave me a curious feeling; and I wasturning to go away, when my curiosity got thebetter of me, and I just determined the fellowshould speak to me; so I faced right about, andasked what came into my mind first."' Are you in want of anybody or anything ?'""Bravo, Edith! That was like you," broke inRox."He seemed startled and confused at first." No; I don't wan't anything,' he answered,in a hurried way."I turned to go. I can't tell what made mestop and ask the next question; but I did.""' Is there anything in the world you want ?anything I can do for you ?'"He stared at me a moment before he spoke."' I should like twenty-five dollars,' he said.""Well, that was cool," broke in Rox again,who by this time was a good deal interested inEdith's story."I thought so. If he had asked me for a4
32 ONLY GIRLS.dollar, or even two of them, I would have gotit for him; but twenty-five was, of course, notto be thought of. It struck me all of a suddenthat the fellow might be crazy. I should haverun off then, for certain, if the hedge had notbeen between us. I told him I could not givehim anything like that; and then, feeling that hemight possibly be hungry, I added, -" But I will bring you something to eat.'"If you had seen the bitter, angry smile thatcame into his face!"' I ain't a beggar,' he said, roughly; I don'twant any of your cold pieces!' ""The brute!" exclaimed Rox. "I dare sayhe was prowling round for a chance to helphimself.""I don't think a real beggar would have actedlike that," answered Edith. "At any rate, Itold him I had not supposed he was one, and thathe must excuse me.""You did? " said Rox, with an amused smile."Yes; for I was afraid I had hurt his feel-ings. His whole face lightened and changedafter that."'You must excuse me, too,' he said, a gooddeal like a gentleman, 'I didn't expect you
ONLY GIRLS. 33would give me the money. The words cameout themselves; and he turned at that andwent off."Wasn't it all very curious, Rox?""Hugely so. Fellow either crack-brained or arogue. Bet you my new gold watch on that.""I cannot feel that he was either," answeredEdith, with a little grave shake of, her glossyhead. "Something, Rox, I can't tell what,makes me feel that twenty-five dollars was reallya matter of life and death to that boy; that hewanted it, as you and I have sometimes in ourlives wanted something, and for which we wouldhave given all the rest of the world.""Ah, Edith, all that comes of your beingsuch a sensitive, soft-hearted little puss. Whenyou get to be as old as I am," -here Rox bridleda little, and wiped his budding mustache with anair, -"you will learn that it doesn't do to trusttoo far to one's impressions.""Perhaps," said Edith, rather meekly andrather sceptically. " But, Rox, you did not seewhat I did the' look in that boy's eyes. Itmeant some dreadful trouble."Perhaps Rox was slightly impressed by Edith'sstory. However, he shook the feeling off enaCly,8
34 ONL T GIRLS.as ducks do. water,. and good-naturedly set him-self to work to brighten up Edith."Whatever it was, you and I are not respon-sible, and it will do no good to bother your sen-sitive little soul over it."By this time the lunch was finished. They hadboth left the table, and the girl was looking outof the window, while Rox, restless as usual, hadtaken to long strides up and down the room."It puzzles me," said Edith, half to herself."What ?" asked Rox, coming over to herside."Why God hasn't made things better thanthey are."He smiled a little at that. Her words alwayswent, sabre-like, with clean, smooth stroke, to thecore of a thing."Philosophers and theologians have been ask-ing that question ever since the world wasmade. It's a great boggle, dear. Don't fretover it.""But how can one help doing it, Rox? Allthe plums and the cake falling to our share, andsuch dry crumbs", to the others -the bigger half,too.""I know it. Sorry for 'em, poor souls. But
ONLT GIRLS. 35I'm not Atlas: I don't carry the world on myshoulders.""It seems as though God must love us betterthan he does them. But, as he is God, he can-not do that, Rox.""You are right there, Edith. I shouldn't liketo believe the seeming was true of him, eventhough the love was on our side. But you forgetthat the difference is not mostly his making. Itis the fault of the people themselves.""There is a great deal in that, I know, Rox.Yet so many of these people have not had achance!""Somebody's fault too, may be, in the longrun. Things sometimes take generations to workthemselves out. But, Edith, if you go on shoot-ing those hard bullets of theology at me, I shallnever reach Plum Point Station. I must be offstraightway. Clear up your face and bid mea good by that I shall carry over the fifteen milesof road."" Rox, what a big goose you are makingof yourself to take this awful tramp! But, asyou will do it, good by, and God speed."She gave him both her hands. He took thesoft, white things a moment, and kissed the fair
36 ONL r GIRLS.cheek with brotherly, cousinly freedom. Shestood in the front door and watched him go hisway through the dark larches and cedars, until atlast he reached the gate, and turning there, liftedhis hat to her, and went his way.Somebody else watched him, too. It was theboy whom Edith had seen that morning sittingby the hedge, and who had haunted her eversince.At some distance from the girl's residence wasa small hillock, crowned with half a dozen old,wide-spreading, knarled apple trees. Under theirshadow the boy had been crouched for the lasthour, watching the road, of which his positioncommanded a view. From his hiding-place theboy saw the light, alert figure going down to thetrack. A few minutes afterwards he, too, creptout and followed Rox Coventry.About three miles from Agawam the track ranfor some distance through a kind of hollowformed by low, wooded hills on either side.There was no more lonely place than this on thewhole road, which, twelve miles below, joined themain track at Plum Point Station.It was about three o'clock as Rox Coventryreached the hollow. He remembered the time
ONLY GIRLS. 37afterwards, because he happened to take out hiswatch and look at it. The place, as I said, waslonely enough; a narrow, tunnel-like perspectivebetween the hills; not a house in sight.Rox was no coward. He had walked the threemiles briskly; had been humming college tunesand making all sorts of plans for the grand"lark " among the Adirondacks; and some-times his last talk with his cousin Edith hadpushed in among the other things,- and made alittle grave background to them. The afternoonwas soft and still, one of those when the yearseems to hold her breath, and turn her head tolisten, as though she caught some hint of frostsand change that were coming. Soft, low cloudshung all over the sky, of a clear pearly-gray;a hum of insects everywhere, and dreamings ofwinds among the leaves.Suddenly Rox Coventry heard steps close be-hind him. He had always had remarkably keenears. It flashed across him then, for the firsttime, that the road was lonely, and that he hadbrought no weapons with him. He turnedsuddenly, and encountered a figure only a fewfeet from him, and evidently approaching stealth-ily; a figure in gray, slouching, heavily-built,4f
38 ONLY GIRLS.with a square, heavy face, too, the jaws set grimand hard, the expression just now dark and evilenough; but of this last Rox did not get the fullforce, for, as he turned sharply about, a startled,guilty look broke up every other in the -boy'sface.Rox's glance going over the figure recognized itat once as identical with Edith's description.Had not this been the case, there was somethingso suspicious in the stranger's whole appear-ance at that moment that it must have struckRox.But it never once occurred to him that thisstealthy approach and this singular attitude mustmean something sinister. He never even sus-pected that the stranger had been silently follow-ing him all the way from Agawam. He onlythought it was a curious kind of chance whichhad brought him face to face with Edith's de-scription.The two stood in the road, the soft, yellowishlights from the clouds upon them, the dark hollowstretching beyond. The contrast between thetwo was worthy an artist--that big, slouching,rather overgrown figure, and the slender, well-shaped student, instinct with a certain grace, even<j
ONLT GIRLS. 39in repose: the difference that between a dray-horse and some high-bred courser.The two stood a moment looking at each other.They had been brought up in the same city,perhaps not three miles, apart; they had watchedthe same shapes of clouds, the same stars, playedin the same snows, and stammered the samevernacular in their childhood. And yet, what adifferent world it had been to those two!Then Rox called out, in his cheerful, ringingvoice, -"Is there anything you want to say to me ?"Still that surprised, half-guilty look in the boy'seyes. "Was he insane, after all?" rememberinghis impression on hearing Edith's story, and feel-ing a little uneasy."No, I don't want anything," answered theboy, rather suddenly.Rox hesitated a moment; then he rememberedthat he had no time to spare, and plunged off intothe hollow.The boy stood still, staring after the lithe figuregoing up the road. His hand was in his pocket,and the big, cold fingers were fumbling abouta pistol there. His face was livid under the tanand pimples.)'
40 ONL r GIRLS.Keefe Bartlett there is no need I should tellyou it was he had come all this way to findRox Coventry. He could not give up his pur-pose now; and yet, for a moment after the stran-ger's kindly question, which still seemed to lingeramong the soft humming of the purple bees in thegrasses, Keefe was more than half a mind to sendthe pistol off at his own temples, Then the oldevil look came into his face again."I won't turn poltroon now," he muttered,with an oath. "I came out here for that fel-low's money; and I'll have it, or die;" and hestarted up the road.Rox, moving rapidly along, was having histhoughts, with no little sparkling interludes ofcollege airs this time."What if it was all true, that which Edithhad said, and the twenty-five dollars was amatter of life and death to this boy? Curious,how he had turned up in the road at this junc-ture "Rox thought of the pile of notes stuffed awayin his vest pocket."It would be an easy thing to take out twenty-five dollars, and go back and put it into the boy'shands. What if he should make a fool of him-
ONLr GIRLS. 41self, and do it now ? for, of course, none but afool would do so absurd a thing! Yet, if Roxwere as certain about the,matter as his prettycousin seemed to be, he would try the ex-periment."Suppose he should do it now? Of courseit would be an awful sell; but then Rox wouldhardly feel it. There was just time to go backand do the thing, and it was only a little ratherexpensive fun, after all, and nobody's businessbut his own."These thoughts and a good many more likethem went swiftly through the mind of RoxCoventry, underneath all, that soft place whichEdith's talk had touched that morning. Roxwas half ashamed of it, tried to invest the wholething with an air of cool fun. But of a suddenthe youth whirled about.There, close behind him, with his swift,stealthy pace, was the boy again. But Rox wastoo intent on his errand to be startled a secondtime. The two were almost in the heart of thehollow, the wooded hills rising darkly on eitherside, and overhead the gray, smoky-lookingclouds.Rox walked straight up to the boy, whose4j
42 ONLr GIRLS.face, just now, hardly improved on acquaint-ance."Are you the boy who told a young girl atAgawam this morning that you wanted twenty-five dollars ?"The big face was a blank of surprise for amoment or two. The fierce, evil look with whichhe was approaching his intended victim whollydisappeared."Yes," in a husky, half-frightened voice; buthis eyes held to his questioner's; "I said thatto her.""I should like to know- I've a reason" forasking what do you intend to do with thismoney, if you could get it."A smile, dark and bitter enough, struggledover the big mouth."I don't think it would take long to tell;but-I ain't a beggar," with a sudden fierce-ness." No; I did not take you for one; but," witha frank cordiality of manner which made RoxCoventry the favorite he was with everybody," I wish you would tell me just how much moneyyou have in the world. Don't think I am rude,"and, if it does not please you, don't do it."*
* ONL GIRLS. 43Something in the frank, pleasant manner halfcompelled Keefe Bartlett against his will. Heput his hand into his pocket, -he had droppedsomething in the grass a moment before, anddrew out twenty cents. With' some vague senseof conscience which haunted the poor, temptedsoul, the boy had settled with his landlady beforehe started out on his errand of crime." Is that all?" exclaimed Rox, touched andshocked." That is all.""And you have no way to get any more ?"" No."" Poor fellow! Been at work at the cotton-mills ?""Yes.""Well, you shall have the twenty-five dol-lars. But, mind, I don't think you are a beg-gar," giving the turned-off hand a friendlylittle slap on the shoulder; and then, takingout his wallet, Rox counted over the money,--a couple of tens and a five,--and put itin Keefe's hand. "There!" he said; "muchgood may it do you. Haven't time for anotherword. Good by." And with the instinctivegrace which is apt to follow a good action, Rox4
44 ONL r GIRLS.lifted his hat to the mill hand, and hurriedoff down the road again, leaving Keefe stand-ing in the hollow, with the purple bees hum-ming in the grasses, and the great, smoke-tinged clouds overhead; and over all these,I like to think, the glad faces of God's angelson the watch.-S
ONLr GIRLS. 45CHAPTER III.SOX COVENTRY, going at a brisk pace,felt a hand suddenly on his shoulder.S He was, perhaps, half a mile from thespot where the singular interview had takenplace between himself and Keefe Bartlett. He didturn around now with a start, and something muchlike a shudder, and confronted the youth again.This time Keefe's face was white--the pal-lor striking through the tan and freckles, whilethe eyes had a bright, scared stare, as they metRox Coventry's."Was Did you hear anything telling youto give me that money?" Keefe panted out in ahurried, frightened way."6 No. I shall take all the credit of that act tomyself. No doubt there is many a one I shouldbe glad to slip off on other shoulders, althoughmine are tolerably broad," shaking them in hiscomical fashion.* 4
46 ONL GIRLS." You are sure you didn't hear anything speak-ing to you out of the sky, or woods, or round ?"inquired Keefe, in a voice hardly above hisbreath.Rox caught the meaning in a moment. Itmight be some old ghostly ballad of the streets,or it might be the superstitious element whichlurks somewhere in all human souls, was at workin this boy's brain. Rox was touched a little, anda good deal amused."No, there wasn't a whisper of a ghost around,nor so much as the tip end of an angel's featherin sight. What put that absurd notion into yourhead, my dear fellow ? ""But what made you give me that money,then? " persisted Keefe, in the strangest kind ofvoice. I know of not word which precisely de-scribes it, only you felt it was a life-and-deathmatter to him." On*my honor, I can't tell you," said Rox,running his fingers through his hair. "Every-body has his soft streaks, you know. Perhaps thiswas one of mine. Come, don't stare at me likethat. Take the money and have a jolly timewith it."Then, remembering there was not another
ONL GIRLS. 47breath to lose, Rox wheeled about, without aword more, and set off rapidly for Plum PointStation.Keefe stood in the road and watched him untilthe 'swift, lithe figure was quite out of sight. Theyoung workman made a picture himself, -nota handsome one, certainly, but striking of its ownkind, -with his lips apart, and his hands fum-bling at each other, and his big, strongly-knitframe standing there in the hot road, like somecoarsely-hewn statue.Then he wheeled about suddenly, wiping offwith his coat sleeve some thick drops of perspira-tion which had gathered among the moles andfreckles; and then it was very curious heturned and went back to the very spot whereRox, ten minutes before, had given him themoney, and which he still held tightly clasped inhis hand.He sank down in the warm sand close- by thetrack; he spread the notes out on his knee, care-fully smoothing the edges, and counting themover one by one, with eyes that had a strange,bright glitter in them; then he looked upsuddenly into the great, drab masses of cloudsoverhead.
48 ONLY GIRLS."0 God," he cried out sharply, "if You areup there, look down and see that -You knowI meant to kill him, and that it saved me, andsaved him, too-the kind, generous fellow--"Keefe broke right off, something that was likea howl ending in a great, gulping sob. He laidhis square face in his big hands, flopped rightover, with about as much grace as a polar-bear,stretched himself at full length on the ground,while a great tempest of tears and sobs shook himfrom head to foot.He lay there for a full half hour, wallowing inthe warm sand, while that salt rain poured downhis cheeks; and some hardness, and pain, andbitterness were wept out of Keefe Bartlett's heartat that time which never got back to it again.He might live to be a gray, sodden-faced. oldman, but he would never forget that hour untilthe grave shut it away from him in soft, darksilence, and perhaps not then.At last Keefe rose up, wiping his red, swolleneyes with his cotton handkerchief, staring allaround him, as though it was a new world hegazed on, or as though he had been suddenlycaught up and landed in some corner of themoon.
ONL r GIRLS. 49Then Keefe's eyes caught a bright glitter ofsomething lying amongst a fringe of weeds closeto the track. He shuddered and drew hisbreath hard, as though he had caught sight ofthe scales of some deadly serpent lying in waitthere. The next moment he sprang to his feet,snapped his grim jaws together, and snatched up,the pistol which lay there amongst the weeds, andwith which he had meant toKeefe's thoughts turned away from the blackconclusion, and so my pen shall.It was a full half mile to the river. Keefe wentall the way on a swift run, and when he reachedthe bank he tossed the pistol into the waters, anda smile of unutterable relief and triumph cameinto his face as he saw them close over it and"bury the thing from his sight.He did not return to the track afterwards. Hetook the river road now, which wound throughthe broad, low pastures, and past old mills, andcthrough belts of woodlands.What a changed world it was to this KeefeBartlett, late from the city slums and the factorylooms! How new, and fair, and sweet all na-ture smiled on him. It seemed as though sheunderstood all about it, and was glad for him!4
50 ONLT GIRLS.He did not feel any longer solitary and shut outfrom all the beauty and gladness, but as thoughhe had his place and share in it. He heard thetwitter of the robins, the happy gurgle of windsamong the leaves, as though they broke up anddied away in dreams, the hum of insects in thegrass, and sometimes the sun almost came out ofthe clouds overhead to look at him, holding onlythe thinnest yellow gauze of vapor before her face,and then slipping behind the soft gray masses ofcloud.All these things Keefe observed curiously; allmade him strangely happy. The heart withinhim seemed changed to a child's heart. Some-times he turned somersaults, sometimes he leapedover stone walls, or lay down on the grass, or,springing up, ran and shouted until he was out.of breath, and was like a child let loose on itsfirst holiday. But for the most part Keefe wasquiet. There was a great, still gladness at hisheart, and the tears kept swelling in his eyes,and he would wipe them away with his coatsleeve.Every little while, too, he would thrust hishand in his pocket, and feel the small roll there,which meant so much more than money to him.
ONLT GIRLS. 51Keefe was just as much alone in the world asever; the future was precisely the same dark,looming future which it had always been to KeefeBartlett; but a new faith and trust had enteredinto him. He was not troubled or afraid anymore. The love which had taken the leaves,and birds, and the great world into its strong,tender care, had taken him also. He felt it allaround him. In the blackest moment of his lifeit had reached out suddenly and snatched him outof the very grasp of the devil.And sometimes the pinched, sallow face of hismother rose up before him, and he wondered ifshe knew and was glad for her boy.So Keefe wandered along hour after hour, untilthe afternoon was nearly gone. He had no ob-ject in view, no aim of any sort that he was con-scious of. He had money to pay for his night'slodging at some country tavern; or, if the worstcame, he could throw himself down in the shelterof some big, motherly tree, and drop into a sleepwhich many a pampered rich man might envy.At last he came where the road forked. Hetook the right one, went a few rods, and then,without any reason that he was conscious of,suddenly faced about and took the left road. It
52 ONLY GIRLS.passed pleasant, old-fashioned farm-houses occa-sionally, the smoke curling in blue, vaporous-look-ing clouds above the wide-mouthed chimneys,and hollyhocks and dahlias abloom in the frontyards.Poor Keefe! With that twenty-five dollarsstowed away in his pocket, he was richer thanhe had ever been in all his life before; and he hada feeling that the world belonged to him, whichis, perhaps, very much pleasanter than the realownership would prove.He was moving up a long, sloping stretch ofhill, with cornfields on either side, when, all ofa sudden, Keefe stood still. He had heard a cry,not loud, but there was some sound in it ofhuman pain and fright.In a moment he heard the cry again, this timea little louder, and he sprang over the bars andhurried through the cornfields in the direction ofthe sound.An old, broken stone-wall divided the corn-field from a lane, whence the cries proceeded,growing louder and shriller with terror as Keefeapproached them. It was the cry of a girl, hewas certain of that, as he plunged through thegrassy lane and under the deep shadows of the
ONL r GIRLS. 53scraggy wild-cherry trees, which had evidentlytaken root and flourished on their own re-sponsibility.At the point where the lane broadened stood adeserted old farm-house. It was a desolate placeenough, as, at the best, all country houses are,left to mice and spiders, and given up to thecarnival of winds and rains. The blackenedroof had fallen in more or less; the doors hadbeen carried away, and the wooden blindscreaked and flapped in the winds which roamed,in a pitying mood, about the lonely premises,and made the rafters and timbers quiver, asthough with old, plaintive memories of the hu-man life they had once sheltered and cherished.The shrill cries, convulsed with pain or fright,were close at hand now. Keefe made a divearound to the back of the' house, his ears keenand strained as a blood-hound's. There was anold well here, and a mouldy worm-eaten curb onone side. A pair of meagre brown hands clutchedfrantically at the boards, and a bit of glossybrown hair showed just above them.Keefe took in the whole with one glance. In aflash he was at the side of the well. It was anawful sight. There the little girl hung by those
54 ONLY GIRLS.brown sticks of arms, and twenty feet below, theblack, still circle of water waited to take herdown into its cold heart. It could not have manymoments longer to wait. The child's strengthwas almost exhausted by this time. Every in-stant threatened to be her last. She clungto the curb with the energy of despair. Itwas wonderful that her strength had not failedbefore." There, hold on!" shouted Keefe, as alouder shriek than ever smote the still air."Don't you see I'm here? And I've come tosave you."The girl looked up as well as she could. Keefesaw a small, thin, freckled face, with a pair ofbig dark eyes, fiercely bright now with theiragony of terror.Had a voice from heaven spoken to the girlit could not have sounded sweeter than Keefe'sloud, coarse tones, with the pity and the helpall through them; and the square, heavy face,with the world of sympathy in the light deep-seteyes which leaned over the well, looked morebeautiful to the child at that moment than anyface she had ever seen in her life.There was a quick, gasping sob. In the sudden* " lA
ONL GIRLS. 55revulsion of feeling, she came very near losing herhold. The small, frightened creature could notutter one word.It required steady nerves and swift hands now.Keefe had both. He got down on his knees,leaned his big, shambling body far over theshaking well-curb, which threatened to breakevery moment with the child's weight, light asthat was. It was all the work of an instant. Heput his hands under the girl's arms, and graspedthem with all his firm strength."Now, let go the boards, and put your armstight around my neck. Don't be frightened. I'llhave you out of this fix before you know it."The voice, full of kindly, helpful courage, sentits own confidence to the fluttering heart. Witha last shudder of fright and hope, the girl with-drew one arm and grasped the young man's neck,then the other closed around him, and the warm,meagre. arms clung to him as the dying cling totheir deliverer.The rest was easily done. Keefe lifted thelittle figure, with all possible care, over the well-curb, and set it down on the grass among thesweet-smelling mint.But the strain had been too great. With a little
56 ONL r GIRLS.moaning gasp, the child's head fell back on theground. She had fainted quite away. Keefe wasterribly frightened for a moment, the white, set'lips looked so much like the dead. But his fearstook at once the form of practical help. Hetwisted a big mullein leaf into a cup, and filledthis with cool water from a little stream amongthe weeds, and swabbed the child's forehead inthe kindest, clumsiest way.When the water trickled down between herlips, she opened her eyes, and saw the face bend-ing over her which had leaned over the well inthat moment of awful agony, and which hactlooked fair in her eyes as though it was theshining face of some angel which God had sentto rescue her."There; you feel better now don't you?"with a smile. If you had seen that, you wouldhave wondered at the mystery of change whichthe smile wrought in that homely face.She stared at him a moment in blank bewilder-ment; then she lifted up her head, shot a swiftglance around her and off to the well, and, witha little shuddering cry, grasped hold of Keefe'sarm with her small claws of fingers.
ONL GIRLS. 57" Never mind now; it's all over, you see, andhere you are, safe and sound."She was too much exhausted for any stormyburst of feeling, but she kept staring at him withthe big dark eyes, out of which the great tearskept oozing and trickling down the thin cheeks;and still she clung to him with both hands. Thesight moved Keefe to the heart. He wiped awaythe tears with a corner of the child's buff apron,noticing for the first time how nice and tastefuleverything was about her."It was lucky I heard you scream- wasn't it?I was in the road, across the fields, when I heardthe first cry, and, you better believe, I madetracks for it. Wasn't I just in the nick of time,though? Come, now, I wouldn't shed anothertear over it."" It was so dreadful! " said the small quiveringlips. " I am such a very little girl, you know.""Yes, I know; a very little girl, but a verybrave one, too."At that a little light came into the tear-filledeyes." But the water looked so dark, shining therebelow, and I thought I was going to be drownedin it.
58 ONLY GIRLS."Well, you wasn't; so the thoughts wasn'ttrue that time, you see."" But they came so close to being!""If they did, a miss is as good as a mile,you know."A bit of an amused smile came out on the child'slips. The big eyes stared in a pleased, trustfulway at Keefe."Where did you come from?" she asked,curiously." from a place they call Agawam, a greatways off."" O, I know. Uncle Richard has business theresometimes at the mills. He is going to take meover to see them some time, and the big looms,and the folks at work at them."" You'll find it worth going to see," glad toperceive that her thoughts, like all children's,slipped so easily away from the terror throughwhich she had passed, and noticing the flush com-ing back to the thin lips.In a moment, however, her face grew graveagain."It was very funny!""What ?""That you happened to be passing the corn-
ONL r GIRLS. 59fields, and heard me cry. I think God must havesent you. He does things sometimes, you know.""Yes, I know he does," Keefe answered verygravely, remembering what had happened a fewhours ago." Uncle Richard will take me on his knee, andsay, it was God did it, for certain, when I cometo tell him. But I forgot. You don't know whouncle Richard is."A few questions drew from the child some verystraightforward passages of autobiography, andthe circumstances which had brought her into theperil from which Keefe had rescued her.The child was returning from her grand-mother's, with whom she had been to pass theday, with a small basket of damsons, and, insteadof keeping the main road, she had taken a shortcut across the lots and the cornfields.An old, ruined building has always a wonderfulattraction to a child's imagination. The girlwandered around this a while, and then wentto see if she could find her face down in the darkblue mirror of the well. Leaning far over thelow curb, she became dizzy, and lost her balance.As she fell over, she clutched the boards, andhung there, probably not more than two minutes,
60 ONL Y GIRLS.although the time seemed hours to her. Allthings considered, her escape did savor of themiraculous.Keefe would not let her dwell on it long, forthe small face was growing white, and the smallfigure chilled and shuddering, as she went overwith the scene. Keefe found the hat which thechild had taken off and dropped in the grassbefore she surveyed herself in the well. It wasvery amusing to see the dainty way in which shesmoothed the fresh blue ribbons, and the air ofanxiety with which, after perching the hat onthat glossy brown head, she asked his opinionabout its appearance.He assured her that it looked as though ithad come straight from the show-window of themilliner, on which the child drew a long breathof immense relief and delight." What is your name ?" she asked, in amoment."Keefe Bartlett.""0, what a funny one! Where did youget it ?"" I got it long before I can remember; andI hadn't any choice in it. What is your name,little girl?"/
ONLT GIRLS. 61"Bessie Staines; nine years old last May.""Well, the sun is getting behind the hill, andit will be night before long. Can't you manageto walk now?"She got up with Keefe's help; but once on herfeet, she was quite equal to taking care ofherself."Have you very far to walk?"" Three quarters of a mile up the road to CreekFarm. That's where we live.""That is my way, too; so I will go alongwith you."They found the little covered basket, with thegreat purple damsons inside, under the old apple-tree where the girl had left it. Bessie insisted onKeefe's helping himself to these; and such juicy,honeyed ripeness had never crossed his lips andcooled his palate before.Then they took the basket between them andstarted off. Bessie had by this time largely re-covered from her fright, and chattered on to herfriend as though she had known him all her life.In the course of her talk it transpired that herfather had died several years before, and that shelived with her mother and her uncle RichardStaines, who was a widower, and had no children
62 ONz r GIRLS.of his own. But it was evident enough that thisuncle had managed to gain a father's full share inthe heart and admiration of his little niece, BessieStaines.Somehow, as she talked, Keefe's heart warmedsingularly towards this stranger, whose face hehad never seen. If he had only had such a fatheror such an uncle, Keefe fancied it would have allbeen so different with him! It did not seemdifficult now for Keefe Bartlett to believe therewere kind, generous people in the world.And the little girl, with her small, thin face,and the wonderful eyes, which had the purplishglow of the damsons in the basket, went on chat-tering to him like the soft rustle of a brook wind-ing and cooing among the reeds. She told himabout the wax doll with the wonderful eyes,which uncle Richard had brought from the citylast Christmas, and which was quite too large togo in her stocking; so they had to substitute oneof his; and of the pretty China tea-set white,with a rim of crimson -which he had given her onher last birthday; and the child's voice clung witha dainty lisp to the sibilants, and slipped witha little musical tinkle among the liquids.Poor Keefe! no fresh, innocent child's heart. 'd
ONL GIRLS. 63and thought had ever unveiled themselves to himbefore. It half seemed, as he moved along theold country roads, with the barberry bushes andthe flaming plumes of golden-rod on either 'hand,that an angel was walking by his side. If thatsmall, freckled, spare-faced Bessie Staines, whoseonly beauty was her wonderful plum-purplisheyes, had blossomed out suddenly with greatsilver wings, he would hardly have been amazed.At last she grew silent, gazing up into his face;and when he looked down into hers a little smilecame about Keefe's lips, and the little girlsmiled back in turn, a bright, trusting smile,which went away down into Keefe's heart andwarmed it."I was thinking what a good man you mustbe," she said."What made you think that, child? " greatlytouched and pleased."Because you started right off to find me, justas soon as you heard my cry, and knew somebodywas in trouble. If you had been a bad man youwould have passed right on and not minded.Don't you see? ""I don't see that I am a good man, Bessie,"an unutterable plaintiveness in his voice, as he
64 ONLY GIRLS.remembered how very near he had come to onedeed that day.The child instinctively felt the pain in Keefe'svoice. She could not have put her feeling intowords, but she unconsciously drew nearer to him,with a vague desire to do something for him, shecould not tell what, and her big, bright eyes keptthemselves on his face."Well, do I look like a good man? "He was sorry after the words were out. Itseemed to him that the child's pure instinct mustpenetrate to the evil which lay at the bottom ofKeefe's soul. He would have shrunk and turnedaway, but she held him by those wonderful,searching eyes. He half felt as though he stoodin the presence of some sibyl, who was to utterhis doom, only Keefe had never heard of tripods,and oracles, and things of that sort.In a few moments the answer came. The childwas not conscious of it; but she felt the pain andmournfulness in Keefe's eyes as he returnedher gaze."Yes, you do look like a good man; and Iknow you are one. Nobody in the whole worldcould make me believe anything else of you,"the thin face flushing with excitement.
ONL T GIRLS. 65Keefe fairly hugged himself with a sudden joy.After all, this child's fine, pure instinct foundsomething good in him. It must be there, then.He, too, would find it for himself. From thathour the Agawam mill-hand rose into some newsense of manliness, courage, self-respect.At that moment the two reached the summitof a long hill, and the farm-house stood full inview a wide, ample, gray old homestead, witha blue drift of smoke above the chimney, and thecows in the side-yard, and the orchard at theback, and, a little way off, the steely gleam of thecreek, which had given its name to the farm." That's my home," said the child, with a springof pleasure. "You will come along, too; and Ican tell them what you have done for me, andthey will like you so much! Uncle Richard willlay his hand on your head and bless you."How Keefe longed to go! How like Arcadia,how like the very golden gate of Paradise itself,the wide, motherly old farm-house looked to thefriendless, solitary youth!But Keefe did not know the hearts inside, anddid not suspect he had that day done a deedwhich would give him a life-long claim on theirgratitude.5 44
66 ONL r GIRLS."No, Bessie, I can't come now,,' the voice alittle strained and hoarse. "I hope I shall seeyou again some time; but now I must keep mov-ing on.""But where will you go ?" a shadow of anxietyand trouble in her face." O, I can't tell you. You wouldn't know ifI should try. Shake hands and bid me goodby now."She gave him the small, meagre things. Hegrasped and held them a moment in his big paws,then let them go, and hung the basket on herarm."Good by," Keefe said."Good by," answered Bessie.She was close by the front gate now. Sheturned back when she had gone a few steps,came close to him, and put up her mouth for akiss. And Keefe bent his lips down to hers, andgave her not one kiss, but two or three; and sothey parted without another word.He went on, while in the west the saffronclouds dulled slowly, and the brown twilightfilled the air. He had walked a long way, andhe found that he was growing very tired. Whenthe stars came, like conquerors, into the sky, and
______________________~2 _____________SY.:2fl, v" IdoYNANDREW-SCNB~sR TINS NN Y AS L. ae 6
ONLY GIRLS. 67filled the night with their immortal loveliness,Keefe went into a small grove of pines, whichgrew, like a dark, solid hem, on the edge of astrip of woodland, and flung himself down on thewarm, dry bed of cones and needles, luxurious tohis tired muscles as a couch of down.The air quivered with strong balsamy fra-grances, the winds rustled with plaintive mur-murs among the pines; and in a few moments aslumber, whose sound sweetness a king mighthave envied, fell upon Keefe Bartlett.A little way off, at Creek Farm, he would havebeen welcomed that night as no king could be.Bessie Staines had told the story of her peril andrescue as only a child could have told it, whileloving hearts listened with shudders of amazementand horror, and tears of unutterable thankfulness.The farm hands were started off in various di-rections to find him and bring him back. ButKeefe Bartlett slept on, with the plaintive rustleof the winds in the pines overhead.Rox Coventry reached Plum Point Stationprecisely two minutes in advance of the train.There were not many passengers on board. Roxstretched his tired muscles at full length on one
68 ONL GIRLS.of the seats; and, thinking over his tramp, thefigure, big and shambling, of Keefe Bartlett roseup before him."I've a good mind to write the whole thing toEdith, and let her know the fellow got hertwenty-five dollars, after all. Curious,' how heacted! It did seem, as Edith fancied, a matterof life and death to him."Suddenly Rox whipped a small portfolio out ofhis pocket, seized some paper and a pencil inside,and wrote rapidly; then the light faded in thewest, and with snort and shriek the train swepthim on to New York.
ONL GIRLS. 69CHAPTER IV.'iDITH FOLGER came up the lane that"( afternoon with her sun-hat aslant on herhead; in her cheeks a soft red-brown flush,like the streak in some great golden pear whenit is ripe to the core; her eyes just one widesparkle of happiness you could not have toldtheir color now; they looked like two roundwells of golden light; her hair, of a dark, chest-nut shade, with golden lustres, waved about hertemples; and her dress was some airy sort offabric that took to light flutters, in the swells ofthe breeze, almost as easily as the leaves over-head.It was a summer afternoon, the very last oneof that year; but there was no hint of frost orfalling away anywhere. There were overflowingwarmth, life, ripeness, in everything, in the greatpasture meadow on one side, with the cattle inthe moist, lush grass, and in the great apple
70 ONL rT GIRLS.orchards on the other, filling the air with a fine,pure sweetness.Edith Folger would have been puzzled herselfto tell why she was so happy this afternoon. Shehad been off in the woods for a couple of- hours,gathering flowers and things, soft, green pen-cillings of ferns, and swamp-pinks, and wild liliesthat looked as though they had gathered andheld the summer's heat in their great flamingtubes, and bits of curious mosses and lichens, allheaped together in a bit of curiously woven rusticbasket.She loves the cool, still woods, with all theirmysterious twitter and rustle of sounds; theRipples of breezes, or sudden tide-like swells ofwinds; the wide, solemn breadth and freedom;the laughters of little brooks that seem foreverblundering and catching their breaths among thestones. She likos to sit still under some vastgreenery of ash or chestnut, and imagine thebranches are the arches and groves of someGothic cathedral, or to go dabbling among theshort, crisp grass, the sassafras thickets, and fernyhollows, hunting for all kinds of treasures. Shenever comes home without finding them, too, anymore than those people who have eyes to see, go
ONLT GIRLS. 71down to the shore when the tide is out, andcome back without finding their treasures, shellsand sea-weed, with briny pungent scents clingingto them; and to crown all, those delicate, won-derful sea-plants, that seem like the ferns ofFairy-land.It is two years since Edith Folger stood in thefront door and said good by to her cousin, whenhe set out for his tramp to Plum Point Station.Looking at her to-day, however, you wouldhardly perceive that she has grown a weekolder. It is the same young, delicate face, withthe sweetness which goes deeper than the bloom,and seems a kind of "striking through" ofthe soul.Edith Folger has come up here to BayberryHills, for a week or two, just to feast sense andsoul with the beauty and blessedness of thecountry. Bayberry Hills is a thinly populated,old-fashioned town, a dozen miles from Agawam.It is a wonderful place, at least Edith thinks so,- with its delicious old wood-patches, its slopesof pastures, and sea-like sweeps of meadows, itsold road-forks, too, that lead to great motherlyfarm-houses, and past crumbling stone walls, and
72 ONL GIRLS.into such enchanting arcades of cool, greenhollows.Edith felicitates herself every day, that shecame here instead of going to some gay watering-place, which would have swept her into the greatorbit of parties and all kinds of fashionable dissi-pations.She has just had a week of perfect freedom,like the birds and the striped squirrels she seesdarting in and out among the brambles.The old country hotel, too, where she has beenstopping, with its wide, cool piazzas and its greatairy chambers, belongs to -a past generation. Oneof these days, perhaps, it will come out of its dearcld shell, and take on the fine airs of a fashion-able resort for city tourists; but it is not, thusfar, infected with any intermittent heats of am-bition.It stands broad, and pleasant, and homely be-hind the shades of its great black-heart cherries,where the birds wake up Edith every morning toa day full of blessedness, and peace, and beauty;to a life a good deal like that old paradise whereEve lost her crown.There are other people staying at the hotel,nice, quiet, sensible people; some of them family
ONLT GIRLS. 73acquaintances, who leave Edith to her own moods,and are not perpetually buzzing about and bother-ing her.Edith's father comes up every night or two.He was afraid she would be lonely when hebrought her out to this dead-and-alive old town.Edith has smiled to herself a good many times,as well she could, thinking of that groundlessfear.Then such feasts of fresh cream and mountainberries, and bread that seems to hold still someold honeyed flavor of the mellow grain-fields, andcold chicken and crystal spring-water, that makesEdith think of old, wet, mossy rocks, and cool,fresh mint, growing all around. "Papa, it isjust food for the gods," Edith says, once in awhile, in a burst of enthusiasm, and her littleripple of a laugh at the end.So, going up through the lane to-day, with thesummer's glow and ripeness all about her, Edithhears -suddenly the sound of the stage-horn, thehills and hollows which have been waiting all dayseizing hold of the sounds, and shaking themback in sweet wonderful echoes. Edith standsquite still in the broad lane to hear. A few rodsbeyond, it joins the highway, and less than a
74 ONL GIRLS.quarter of a mile below, you can see the broadwhite piazzas of the hotel.Edith Folger likes immensely the sound of thatold stage-horn, and the echoes that come rushingafter it. These carry her back to the stories herdead grandmother used to tell of life two thirdsof a century ago, of the work, and the frolics,and the gossip; and when the echoes faint, andfall, and fall among the hills, she thinks they arelike tender, mournful ghosts of voices out of thatold time. And so listening with her sun-hataslant on her head, and her willow basket of"wood things" in her hand, the stage comesalong, and the two or three passengers inside andthe driver catch a sight of the girl standing there,and of the sweet upturned face.Edith Folger has the graces and airs of young-ladyhood at command, but she has put them alloff at Bayberry Hills, and is as natural as thebirds and squirrels which she watches, and thatwatch her in turn among the branches. So shestands still, and looks up at the stage with a kindof childish curiosity, as it comes rolling andlumbering along. There are faces inside; that isabout all she is conscious of, for her eyes meet the
ONLT GIRLS. 75driver's, and somehow they stay there till he isout of sight." It is curious," murmured Edith to herself, asthe stage rolls on, churning up a yellow mist ofdust with every revolution of the wheels, "but Ihave seen that face before. I'm sure I have,somewhere."It was a large, square, sun-burnt face, thatstage-driver's; he wore a straw hat, the rim agood deal spattered with mud from the hollows inthe road, and a thin, brown coat, well enough inits way, and suited to his work.Yet Edith Folger had seen in his intent, puz-zled gaze, a half recognition like her own. "Itis very funny," she said to herself, two or threetimes.Then Edith remembered that it was almosttime for the train that stopped at the depot, twomiles away, and which would probably bring herfather, who would be set down at the door by thehotel-carryall, the stage running down daily fromthe up-hill country, into which the railroad hadnot yet been opened.Edith, coming out now on the highway, walkedat a more rapid gait. On either side lay the4
yOt76 ONL r GIRLS.wheat-fields sunning their brown reaches in thesummer's last light. There were stone walls withnetwork of raspberry'bushes, and ragged fringesof gnarled apple-trees.As Edith went on, there came up to hersuddenly, without any link of association that shecould find, yet she never thought of that; thingsgo and come with all of us without our huntingup their causes and connections, the face shehad seen two years before, looking at her fromover the hedge. She saw it all--the strange,fierce look in the deep-set eyes; the pain there,too, which had haunted her so afterwards, andmade an ache in her own heart. Then the talkwith Rox all flashed back as clear as though ithad happened yesterday; and then Edith remem-bered the letter he had written her on the cars,and the strange scene which had occurred on hiswalk to Plum Point Station. It was singular, too,Edith thought now, that she and Rox Coventryhad never alluded to this matter. It was a mereoversight on both sides. They were not youngpeople in whose lives very little was happening.They had change, excitement, variety, more orless; consequently a single incident, though itmight be quite absorbing at the moment, soon
ONLY GIRLS. 77slipped into the background to make room forothers.Edith had been immensely interested at Rox'saccount of that odd interview on the road, butshe had not seen him for some time after thisoccurred; and then there was so much else totalk about. She was so intent on all this, that *she did not hear the sound of wheels to theright of her. In a moment the carryall sweptround into the highway. She was close to thehotel now; there was a shout, "Halloa, Edith!"and turning around sharply, she saw her fatherand Rox Coventry sitting there in the oldvehicle, side by side. A few minutes later theywere in the house, and Rox was relating, in hisdroll way, what a search he had had after Edith,and how like some ancient knight he had followedher all the way from Agawam up to BayberryHills, in whose solemn depths she had chosen tobury herself, like some broken-hearted Ophelia, ina brook, he would like to say; only Rox declaredthat he had a tender muscle, that would twingeevery time he came to making fun of Ophelia.He never had quite forgiven that handsome,mooning Hamlet for treating her as he did. It4
4P-78 ONLY GIRLS.was very funny the way Rox talked; all throughflashes and ripples of Edith's laughter."I am so glad you have come, Rox! Won'twe have grand times! Such wonderful placesas I have to show you! Rockeries, and pineries,and glens, and deep cavern-like hollows, fair andodorous, where Titania might have built herthrone.""What a pretty fancy, uncle Bryant! She hasdrunk the nectar of these hills, and they havemade a poet of her."Edith's father laughed. ",0, you children,"he said, "how long do you suppose it will bebefore the hard, dull prose of life takes thispretty nonsense out of you?"He was used to their talk, and he enjoyed itsflash, and sparkle, or sometimes its keen, blade-like glitter, but thought the whole was worthabout as much as a handsome soap-bubble!-Edith was in a kind of seventh heaven ofecstasy now that Rox had come, and went onlaying plans for to-morrow in a rapturous fashion.He is very little changed from the Rox we lefttwo years ago, trudging down the railroad. Twomonths since he graduated at college, with a gooddeal of credit to himself.- Everything has gone
ONLT GIRLS. .79smoothly and gracefully with him all this time,as of old; he takes it for granted that it alwayswill.' Yet he is silent, and looks at the bright-ness in Edith's face with a kind of grave concern,while she is making her plans for the to-morrows." Won't it be just perfect, Rox? " she ends herpretty flowery programme of woods, and rocks,and "things."" It would be, Edith; only I must be off withuncle Bryant to-morrow morning."It all had to come out then. Rox was goingout west on the plains, up among the awful si-lences and eternal snows of the Rocky Mountains.This was to be no picturesque summer-holiday'scampaign among the Adirondacks, but a man'sstrong, muscular wrestle with the great primevalforests and forces of creation.Rox wanted to mingle in the mad rush and joyof the buffalo-hunt, to bivouac on the plains, tosteep thirsty soul and sense in that intoxicatingfreedom of mountain, and wilderness, and prairie.There was no use of book-burrowing while thissting and thirst were in his blood, Rox averred.What he must have now was the wild gallop ofthe plains; he must go to sleep at night wrappedin his blanket, with the roar of the winds in the
80 ONLr GIRLS.old pines, and the tramp of the thunder overhead.He would come back after a while, in a year atmost, and settle down to civilization and studyagain; but his mind was made up. He was tostart in a few days with several of his_ class-mates, who were to accompany him on his ex-pedition."There was a savage in every man. It musthave its day," Rox said, epigrammatically.Edith had listened to all this with a shadowgrowing into the brightness of her face. Rox'sprogramme shattered all her pretty flowery one;but she was a sensible girl. The hills, and woods,and all the wonder and beauty, would be waitingfor her still."Papa, what do you think about it all? " sheasked, anxiously, when Rox had slipped out amoment."I don't more than half approve of it," slowlysmoothing his whiskers, which had gathered anextra touch of frost in these two years. "Itstrikes me the whole thing is a hair-brainedadventure; but, then, every man must take hisown life into his hands, and shape it according tothe forces that are in him. This new, wild lifewill try Rox's mettle. He isn't old enough or
ONLY GIRLS. 81steady enough, I fear, and may fall into badcompany." 0, papa, don't! You make me shiver," brokein Edith, with the impatient abruptness of apetted child. "If anything should happen toRox- But at that moment the tea bell rang, and hecame back.After supper was over, they went out on theveranda, and sat there while a great yellow moonswung slowly up over the hills, and the earthgrew beautiful and transfigured with light, andyet it was not the light of the sun.On the other side of the veranda Edith's fa-ther talked politics and stocks with some of hi3friends."What are you thinking about, Edith ? " askedRox, 'at last.She had been sitting very still, watching thestars as they slowly drifted-bright, goldenpoints- among the depths of blue. She turnednow, and looked at her cousin, a little gravesmile just unbending the line of her lips." I was wondering what-would happen beforeyou and I saw another summer-moon come upamong her stars, and gaze down on us. Ah,64
82 ONL r GIRLS.Rox, it is a terribly long way to the RockyMountains !""And a jolly time I mean to have of it, goingback to primeval things, and living after thepattern of old Father Adam. I doubt whetherwe have improved much on him. Don't youthink it will be glorious, Edith? "- getting up,and leaning his head against one of the pillars,where a mass of clematis hung, the dark-greenembroidered thickly with ,its small, pale blossoms,like stars that have dropped from among theirsisters overhead, and grown a little dim beforethey reached the world." Yes," doubtfully, -"I suppose it is glorious.Only so many things might happen, you know;and if any evil should come to you of any kind,O, Rox, I think that would break my heart! "Rox Coventry looked at the sweet face up-turned to him in the moonlight; the trouble andthe tenderness there spoke to whatever was bestin him. He loved his cousin Edith, probably,better than anything in the world."My dear little Queen Mab,"--this was oneof the names he had given her when they wereboy and girl together,-"nothing harmful isgoing to happen to me. Don't you let any ab-
ONL GIRLS. 83surd fears get to croaking in your sensitive littlesoul. Send them packing. Do you know,"-going with his fine instinct straight to the coreof her words, "if I were about to go wrong, doanything that would make the devil have achuckle over me, the thought of your dear littleself would hold me back from all that ? "" Rox; it does me good to hear you saythat!""Does it? Well, then, here goes some moreto the same tune. If you were anything but myown cousin, Edith Folger, I should propose toyou one of these days, and if you refused me, andtook some other man, why, I would just shoothim! "" 0, Rox!"Perhaps she flushed a little at that speech, butI am not quite sure of it. She was so honest andsimple by her very birthright! and then theyouth sitting there was just her " cousin Rox,"so like a brother to her, that she could hardlyconceive of him in the relation of a lover; but shelaughed out a moment later, as the oddness of hisspeech struck her.Somebody, coming out on the side veranda thatmoment, heard the laugh, that had in it some soft,A
84 ONLT GIRLS.clear sound of billows shaken by the winds. Heturned and looked. It was the driver of theBayberry stage. He had just left the dining-hall,where he had taken his supper with the "hands,"and the sight of that great, golden shield of amoon drew him outside.That intent, puzzled gaze, with which he hadseen Edith standing in the lane that afternoon,came into his eyes again. Then they turned andrested on Rox. He gave a start; his jaws closedthemselves tightly together. You could -see thathis brown face grew pale in the moonlight. Hehad recognized Rox Coventry.Once or twice the driver half drew forward, asthough he was about to address Rox; then seeinghow immersed he was in his talk with Edith, hedropped back again; but he kept on watching thetwo, his fingers working nervously together, hisbreath coming in short, excited gasps, until thetears came into his eyes; and overhead the moonlooked down from her state in the skies, andpulses of wind throbbed and sank among thegleaming stars of the clematis; and at last, whenthe blur came into his eyes, and the figures grewdim before him, the stage-driver turned suddenlyon his heel, and walked away; and Rox and his' '*11
THE STAGE-DRIVER. Page 84.
ONL GIRLS. 85cousin, absorbed in their own affairs, had not somuch as known he was there.They went on with their talk for an hour ortwo afterwards. It was to be their last one fora long time, as Rox must take the earliest downtrain in the morning. In view of this the talkwas wonderfully grave, although every littlewhile the old gayety would break through ina glittering spray of jests.He made all sorts of fine promises to Edithof what he was to do. However, Rox Coventrywas a brave, manly fellow. When he made apromise he felt his honor was pledged to it, likethose old knights he was rather fond of quoting.He was standing just on the threshold of man-hood; he was his own master; he had plenty ofmoney; and the world was all before him, tomake of it what'he liked. The horoscope lookedvery fair, and yet and yet -After a while Edith's father and some of thehouse- guests came around to the side of the piazzawhere the cousins sat, and the talk becamegeneral.At last they all went into the house, and themoon and the stars had the night to themselves.Not quite. On one side of the house, under
86 ONLr GIRLS.the great, cavernous shadows of the black-heartcherries, broken into occasionally by long, stilettoshapes of moonlight, the stage-driver was pacingback and forth in a rapid way. He took off hishat, and wiped his forehead with a hand not juststeady."I know it must be he with the first glance,"he murmured to himself. "I should have knownthat face and that light, jaunty carriage of thehead if I'd met them in Gibraltar. Bless him!How I longed to speak to him, and tell him-But I never could tell him all. Part of thatmust be a secret until we both get where allsecrets are laid bare. Yet I should have likedto take his hand, and had him smile on me once,as he did that day."I know, too, I'd seen that girl's face before,when I came on it in the lane. It looks as thoughit might have dropped right down out of theskies. How softly she spoke to me that day,and what a great pity there was shining in hereyes, as they looked over the hedge at me! Ianswered her roughly, too, like a brute, when sheonly meant to do me good." How strange it's happened that we've allmet here under the same roof! It makes me**
ONLT GIRLS. 87hold my breath thinking how different it allmight have been, and there was only one mo-ment between."To-morrow I must see him, get a word, andthat shake of the hands; and, if there's time anda chance for it, I'll tell him what that twenty-fivedollars did for me."It was Keefe Bartlett, the stage-driver, pacingback and forth in the shadowy depths of thegreat black-hearts, who had this talk all tohimself..These two years have wrought a perceptiblechange in Keefe. Some inward force has beenworking outward with him. His limbs have knitthemselves into firmer shape; his gait hasimproved; the old slouch is slowly droppingfrom his shoulders; he looks at least five yearsolder; and his soul has got more and more intohis face, and softened and moulded the homelinessthere; the gray deep-set eyes, have an honest lookwhen they answer you, as they are always readyto do with their clear, open gaze.These two years have been chiselling out agood many things for Keefe Bartlett besides hisface- and figure. They have brought him intosome very hard places, it is true; but no hour
88 ONL T GIRLS.has ever closed around his soul its prison walls ofdespair; -no madness has fired brain and heart,as it did that day when he sat by the railroadin the hollow and waited, to this day nobody butKeefe knows for what nobody but Keefe Bart-lett and God!He has dipped into a variety of employmentduring this time; but no money that was notfairly earned has soiled that hard palm of his.He has sold papers on the cars, been porter,errand-boy, office-clerk; and one time, when hewas in great straits, he remembered his old knackat entertaining the Agawam hands with little,homely, improvised comedies; and with thefriendly advice of one of the applauding crowd,Keefe actually went to the Bowery Theatre, andmade an engagement on one of the minor partsin some old English comedy that happened to behaving a popular run at the time. He succeededso well in his part that it is altogether likely hewould have made a further engagement, had notan opportunity to drive an express-wagon turnedup at this juncture.Keefe thought he was wonderfully in luck now,and had kept at this business a number of months,when it brought another chance in his way. This
ONL r GIRLS. 89was, to take charge of the daily stage from Black-Hawk Mountain, a favorite up-country resort, toBayberry Hills, the distance between the twobeing a little less than forty miles. Keefe hadpassed most of these two years in the city; buthe still had the old longing for broad, greenreaches of fields, and springs by the wayside, andcool, sweet scents, and blessed silences of thewoods, which had driven him away from the hot,stifling city, and landed him at last in theAgawam Cotton Mills.It was now about two months since Keefe hadentered on this stage-driving. He enjoyed itvastly. Besides, it paid better than anything hehad ever done in his life before. Then Keefehad an eye for scenery; and the landscapes onthe whole route, with their hill and river views,their farm homesteads, and picturesque forks ofroads, and great surging billows of woods, seemedwaiting in glad patience for the artist who wasso long in coming. They could afford to wait--those hills, and fields, and woods of God!There was a point in the stage route, fromwhich the distance to Creek Farm could hardlybe more than three miles. Keefe never passedthis place without thinking of the little girl with
90 ONLT GIRLS.the thin, childish face, and the wonderful darkeyes,' that searched him with their curious, wistfulgaze; and he seemed to hear again the soft, lisp-ing voice in the warm, brown twilights, as it said,"0, you are a good man! I know you are agood man. Nobody could make me believe any-thing else of you." He had heard those verywords, with the catch and lisp in them, breakinginto the dark and chill of many an hour of hislife, and making warmth and glow there.Some day, when the chance offered, Keefe in-tended to go over to the old farm-homestead, andhave a look at it all. He had a kind of affectionfor the whole place the wide, ample house, thegreat barn-yard, set in a green oval of orchardsand pastures; and Keefe had a hope that hemight find hanging on the big front gate, or lean-ing out of some window, the little girl with thefreckled face and the wonderful eyes, which hadlooked up. at him in such wild terror from out ofthe old well. If he should see her,-the littleBessie Staines that had kissed him good by thatnight, he must go right up and speak to her;and Keefe forgot that in these two years shemight have changed, like himself.So at last he came out from the shadows of
-ONLT GIRLS. 91the trees into that still, saintly moonlight; andthere, because his heart was full with a reverent,overflowing gladness, Keefe instinctively, and forthe first time in his life, took off his hat andthanked God.The next morning, when he' inquired for RoxCoventry, he learned that he had left for thedown train an hour before.j
92 ONLY GIRLS.CHAPTER V." > OW, Brownie, isn't that a supper for aAsking, instead of a little bit of shinycolt like you?"It was a pretty sight, -the world is full ofjust such little homely improvised side scenes,and the artist never gets there at just the rightmoment, that young girl standing in the deep,grassy side-yard, and a colt close to her; a small,graceful five-months, with the glossiest chestnutcoat, a slender, tapering neck, and a nose tippedwith white, as though a great fleck of foam wascaught and hung there.The girl's hands were full of small summerapples. You could just see, straggling over thebarn-yard bars, the tip edges of the tree where shehad picked the fruit, sweet, mellow, with a sea-green tint, and an apple-y scent that would justhave made your mouth water.The girl was right. It was a lucky colt, that
ONLY GIRLS. 93was banqueted in that fashion, and he kept run-ning his cold, white-fringed nose into her handsin just that frank, greedy way, which is naturalalike to babies and quadrupeds.The girl had on a pink gingham dress, whichbecame her rather sallow skin. It would prob-ably clear up intd a ruddy olive by the time shegot deep among her teens; she looked as thoughshe might be skirting their edges now. She wasbareheaded, and the wind was taking small liber-ties with her hair, which was a bright brown,mopped carelessly about her head.The sunset light was all around the girl- allaround Creek Farm, indeed, at this time. It hada way of lying there lovingly before it went downbehind the broad, scraggy shoulder of the westernhills. The last warmth and light fell now uponmeadow and orchard, and broad wheat-fields andup-hill pasture-lands, which all went to make upthe great farmstead, and on one side, winding inand out among the hollows and fern-pastures likea big coiled chain, flashed the steely-blue watersof the creek which had given its own name to thewhole.There was no artist that time to catch Brownieand his young mistress, and the warm, fading*
94 ONLY GIRLS.light, and turn a square foot of canvas intopoetry; but there was a pair of eyes who sawthis picture, and who enjoyed it all in a waywhich no artist could possibly have done. It wasonly the driver of the stage from Bayberry Hillsto Black-Hawk Mountain. He had walked overfrom the hotel and lost his supper for this littlescene, and he would not have grudged the priceof a week's suppers for it.There he stands, leaning on the stone wall, inthe shadow of some big clumps of barberry bushes.His large features are mobile with expressionnow; the soul has got up into and quickenedthe tanned face; the deep-set eyes brighten andflash. How he watches the girl as she pats theface and smooths the shining coat, and slips theapples deftly into the colt's mouth, talking to thecreature, too, in little sentences that slide andripple softly along her young voice; the voice the"young man out there by the barberry busheswould have known anywhere, because of somewords it once said to him, and that he has beenhearing in his soul ever since--" 0, I know youare a good man! Nobody in the whole worldcould make me think you wasn't a good man."Keefe Bartlett has come over to Creek Farm