THE DEPARTURE OF THE CHARIOT
Down the hill, facing the tavern,
the shadows of night were slowly withdrawn, ushering
in the day of the players’ leaving. A single
tree, at the very top, isolated from its sylvan neighbors,
was bathed in the warm sunshine, receiving the earliest
benediction of day. Down, down, came the dark
shade, pursued by the light, until the entire slope
of the hill was radiant and the sad colored foliage
flaunted in new-born gaiety.
Returning from the stable, where he
had been looking after his horse, the soldier stood
for a moment before the inn, when a flower fell at
his feet, and, glancing over his shoulder, he perceived
Susan, who was leaning from her window. The venturesome
rose, which had clambered as high as the second story,
was gone; plucked, alas, by the wayward hand of a
coquette. Saint-Prosper bowed, and stooped for
the aspiring but now hapless flower which lay in the
“You have joined the chariot, I hear?”
“For the present,” he replied.
“And what parts will you play?”
she continued, with smiling inquisitiveness.
“What a pity! You would
make a handsome lover.” Then she blushed.
“Lud! What am I saying? Besides” maliciously “I
believe you have eyes for some one else. But
remember,” shaking her finger and
with a coquettish turn of the head “I
am an actress and therefore vain. I must have
the best part in the new piece. Don’t forget
that, or I’ll not travel in the same chariot
with you.” And Susan disappeared.
“Ah, Kate,” she said,
a moment later, “what a fine-looking young man
“Who?” drawled her sister.
“Mr. Saint-Prosper, of course.”
“He is large enough,” retorted Kate, leisurely.
“Large enough! O, Kate, what a phlegmatic
creature you are!”
“Fudge!” said the other as she left the
Entering the tavern, the soldier was
met by the wiry old lady who bobbed into the breakfast
room and explained the kind of part that fitted her
like a glove, her prejudices being strong against modern
“Give me dramas like ‘Oriana,’
‘The Rival Queens’ or Webster’s
pieces,” she exclaimed, quoting with much fire
for her years:
are only like dead walls or vaulted graves!’”
“And do not forget the ‘heavy’
in your piece!” called out Hawkes across the
table. “Something you can dig your teeth
“Nor the ‘juvenile lead,’”
chimed in the Celtic Adonis.
“Adonis makes a great hit in
a small part,” laughed Kate, appearing at the
door. “‘My lord, the carriage is waiting!’”
“My lady, your tongue is too
sharp!” exclaimed Adonis, nettled.
“And put in a love scene for
Adonis and myself,” she continued, lazily floating
into the room. “He is so fond of me, it
would not be like acting!”
This bantering was at length interrupted
by the appearance of the chariot and the property
wagon at the front door, ready for the journey.
The rumbling of the vehicles, the resounding hoofs
and the resonant voice of the stable boy awakened
the young lord of the manor in his chamber above.
He stretched himself sleepily, swore and again composed
himself for slumber, when the noise of a property trunk,
thumping its way down the front stairs a step at a
time, galvanized him into life and consciousness.
“Has the world come to an end?”
he muttered. “No; I remember; it’s
only the players taking their departure!”
But, although he spoke carelessly,
the bumping of boxes and slamming and banging of portable
goods annoyed him more than he would confess.
With the “crazy-quilt” a patch-work
of heptagons of different hues and patterns around
his shoulders, clothing him with all the colors of
the rainbow, he sat up in bed, wincing at each concussion.
“I might as well get up!”
he exclaimed. “I’ll see her once more the
perverse beauty!” And tossing the kaleidoscopic
covering viciously from him, he began to dress.
Meanwhile, as the time for their going
drew near, mine host down-stairs sped the parting
guest with good cheer, having fared profitably by
the patronage the players had brought to the inn; but
his daughter, Arabella, looked sad and pensive.
How weary, flat and stale appeared her existence now!
With a lump in her throat and a pang in her heart,
she recklessly wiped her eyes upon the best parlor
curtains, when Barnes mounted to the box, as robust
a stage-driver as ever extricated a coach from a quagmire.
The team, playful through long confinement, tugged
at the reins, and Sandy, who was at the bits, occasionally
shot through space like an erratic meteor.
The manager was flourishing his whip
impatiently when Constance and Susan appeared, the
former in a traveling costume of blue silk; a paletot
of dark cloth, and, after the fashion of the day, a
bonnet of satin and velvet. Susan was attired
in a jupe sweeping and immensely full to
be in style! and jacquette with sleeves
of the pagoda form. The party seemed in high
spirits, as from his dormer window Mauville, adjusting
his attire, peered through the lattice over the edge
of the moss-grown roof and leaf-clogged gutters and
surveyed their preparations for departure. How
well the rich color of her gown became the young girl!
He had told himself white was her best adornment,
but his opinion veered on the moment now, and he thought
he had never seen her to better advantage, with the
blue of her dress reappearing in the lighter shade,
above the dark paletot, in the lining of the bonnet
and the bow of ribbons beneath her chin.
“On my word, but she looks handsome!”
muttered the patroon. “Might sit for a
Gainsborough or a Reynolds! What dignity!
What coldness! All except the eyes! How
they can lighten! But there’s that adventurer
with her,” as the figure of the soldier crossed
the yard to the property wagon. “No getting
rid of him until the last moment!” And he opened
the shutters wider, listening and watching more closely.
“Are you going to ride in the
property wagon?” he heard Saint-Prosper ask.
“Yes; when I have a part to
study I sometimes retire to the stage throne,”
she answered lightly. “I suppose you will
ride your horse?”
Of his reply the listener caught only
the words, “wind-break” and “lame.”
He observed the soldier assist her to the throne, and
then, to Mauville’s surprise, spring into the
“Why, the fellow is going with
them!” exclaimed the land baron. “Or,
at any rate, he is going with her. What can it
mean?” And hurriedly quitting his post, his
toilet now being complete, he hastened to the door
and quickly made his way down-stairs.
During the past week his own addresses
had miscarried and his gallantry had been love’s
labor lost. At first he had fancied he was making
progress, but soon acknowledged to himself he had
underestimated the enterprise. Play had succeeded
play he could not have told what part favored
her most! Ophelia sighed and died; Susan danced
on her grave between acts, according to the program,
and turned tears into smiles; the farewell night had
come and gone and yet Constance had made
no sign of compliance to reward the patient wooer.
Now, at the sight of these preparations for departure,
and the presence of the stalwart stranger in the property
wagon, he experienced a sudden sensation of pique,
almost akin to jealousy.
Stepping from the tavern, it was with
an effort he suppressed his chagrin and vexation and
assumed that air of nonchalance which became him well.
Smilingly he bade Susan and the other occupants of
the chariot farewell, shook Barnes by the hand, and
turned to the property wagon.
“The noise of your departure
awakened me,” he said to the young girl.
“So I have come to claim my compensation the
pleasure of seeing you ”
“Depart!” she laughed quickly.
Momentarily disconcerted, he turned to the soldier.
“You ride early.”
“As you see,” returned the other, immovably.
“A habit contracted in the army,
no doubt!” retorted Mauville, recovering his
easy self-possession. “Well, a bumping trunk
is as efficacious as a bugle call! But au
revoir, Miss Carew; for we may meet again.
The world is broad yet its highways are
narrow! There is no need wishing you a pleasant
His glance rested on Saint-Prosper
for a moment, but told nothing beyond the slight touch
of irony in his words and then shifting to the young
girl, it lingered upon each detail of costume and outline
of feature. Before she could reply, Barnes cracked
his whip, the horses sprang forward, and the stable
boy, a confused tangle of legs and arms, was shot
as from a catapult among the sweet-williams. The
abrupt departure of the chariot was the cue for the
property wagon, which followed with some labor and
jolting, like a convoy struggling in the wake of a
pretentious ship. From the door Mauville watched
it until it reached a toll-gate, passed beneath the
portcullis and disappeared into the broad province
of the wilderness.