IT was one of those little ironies
of fate that are spoken about so much, that when Warren
Reyburn alighted from the train in Tinsdale Abijah
Gage should be supporting one corner of the station,
and contributing a quid now and then to the accumulations
of the week scattered all about his feet.
He spotted the stranger at once and
turned his cunning little eyes upon him, making it
obvious that he was bulging with information.
It was, therefore, quite natural, when Reyburn paused
to take his bearings, that Bi should speak up and
inquire if he was looking for some one. Reyburn
shook his head and passed on, but Bi was not to be
headed off so easily as that. He shuffled after
“Say!” he said, pointing
to a shackley horse and buckboard that stood near,
belonging to a pal over at the freight house.
“Ef you want a lift I’ll take you along.”
“Thank you, no,” said
Reyburn, smiling; “I’m not going far.”
“Say!” said Bi again as
he saw his quarry about to disappear. “You
name ain’t Bains, is it?”
“No!” said Reyburn, quite
annoyed by the persistent old fellow.
“From New York?” he hazarded cheerfully.
“No,” answered Reyburn,
turning to go. “You must excuse me.
I’m in a hurry.”
“That’s all right,”
said Bi contentedly. “I’ll walk a
piece with you. I was lookin’ fer
a doctor to take down to see a sick child. A doctor
from New York. You ain’t by any chance
a doctor, are you?” Bi eyed the big leather
“No,” said Reyburn, laughing
in spite of his annoyance. “I’m only
a lawyer.” And with a bound he cleared
the curb and hurried off down the street, having now
recognized the direction described in Jane’s
diagram of Tinsdale.
Abijah Gage looked after him with
twinkling eyes of dry mirth, and slowly sauntered
after him, watching him until he entered the little
unpainted gate of the Carson house and tapped at the
old gray door. Then Bi lunged across the street
and entered a path that ran along the railroad track
for a few rods, curving suddenly into a stretch of
vacant lots. On a convenient fence rail with
a good outlook toward the west end of the village
he ensconced himself and set about whittling a whistle
from some willow stalks. He waited until he saw
Bobbie Carson hurry off toward Hathaway’s house
and return with Lizzie Hope; waited hopefully until
the stranger finally came out of the house again, touching
his hat gracefully to the girl as she stood at the
open door. Then he hurried back to the station
again, and was comfortably settled on a tub of butter
just arrived by freight, when Reyburn reached there.
He was much occupied with his whistle, and never seemed
to notice, but not a movement of the stranger escaped
him, and when the Philadelphia express came by, and
the stranger got aboard the parlor car, old Bi Gage
swung his lumbering length up on the back platform
of the last car. The hounds were hot on the trail
It was several years since Bi Gage
had been on so long a journey, but he managed to enjoy
the trip, and kept in pretty good touch with the parlor
car, although he was never in evidence. If anybody
had told Warren Reyburn as he let himself into his
apartment late that night that he was being followed,
he would have laughed and told them it was an impossibility.
When he came out to the street the next morning and
swung himself into a car that would land him at his
office, he did not see the lank flabby figure of the
toothless Bi standing just across the block, and keeping
tab on him from the back platform, nor notice that
he slid into the office building behind him and took
the same elevator up, crowding in behind two fat men
and effacing himself against the wall of the cage.
Reyburn was reading his paper, and did not look up.
The figure slid out of the elevator after him and
slithered into a shadow, watching him, slipping softly
after, until sure which door he took, then waited
silently until sure that the door was shut. No
one heard the slouching footsteps come down the marble
hall. Bi Gage always wore rubbers when he went
anywhere in particular. He had them on that morning.
He took careful note of the name on the door:
“Warren Reyburn, Attorney-at-Law,”
and the number. Then he slid down the stairs as
unobserved as he had come, and made his way to a name
and number on a bit of paper from his pocket which
he consulted in the shelter of a doorway.
When Warren Reyburn started on his
first trip to Tinsdale his mind was filled with varying
emotions. He had never been able to quite get
away from the impression made upon him by that little
white bride lying so still amid her bridal finery,
and the glowering bridegroom above her. It epitomized
for him all the unhappy marriages of the world, and
he felt like starting out somehow in hot pursuit of
that bridegroom and making him answer for the sadness
of his bride. Whenever the matter had been brought
to his memory he had always been conscious of the first
gladness he had felt when he knew she had escaped.
It could not seem to him anything but a happy escape,
little as he knew about any of the people who played
the principal parts in the little tragedy he had witnessed.
Hour after hour as he sat in the train
and tried to sleep or tried to think he kept wondering
at himself that he was going on this “wild goose
chase,” as he called it in his innermost thoughts.
Yet he knew he had to go. In fact, he had known
it from the moment James Ryan had shown him the advertisement.
Not that he had ever had any idea of trying for that
horrible reward. Simply that his soul had been
stirred to its most knightly depths to try somehow
to protect her in her hiding. Of course, it had
been a mere crazy thought then, with no way of fulfilment,
but when the chance had offered of really finding
her and asking if there was anything she would like
done, he knew from the instant it was suggested that
he was going to do it, even if he lost every other
business chance he ever had or expected to have, even
if it took all his time and every cent he could borrow.
He knew he had to try to find that girl! The
thought that the only shelter between her and the great
awful world lay in the word of an untaught girl like
Jane Carson filled him with terror for her. If
that was true, the sooner some one of responsibility
and sense got to her the better. The questions
he had asked of various people that afternoon had
revealed more than he had already guessed of the character
of the bridegroom to whom he had taken such a strong
dislike on first sight.
Thus he argued the long night through
between the fitful naps he caught when he was not
wondering if he should find her, and whether he would
know her from that one brief sight of her in church.
How did he know but this was some game put up on him
to get him into a mix-up? He must go cautiously,
and on no account do anything rash or make any promises
until he had first found out all about her.
When morning dawned he was in a state
of perturbation quite unusual for the son and grandson
of renowned lawyers noted for their calmness and poise
under all circumstances. This perhaps was why
the little incident with Abijah Gage at the station
annoyed him so extremely. He felt he was doing
a questionable thing in taking this journey at all.
He certainly did not intend to reveal his identity
or business to this curious old man.
The little gray house looked exactly
as Jane had described it, and as he opened the gate
and heard the rusty chain that held it clank he had
a sense of having been there before.
He was pleasantly surprised, however,
when the door was opened by Emily, who smiled at him
out of shy blue eyes, and stood waiting to see what
he wanted. It was like expecting a viper and
finding a flower. Somehow he had not anticipated
anything flower-like in Jane’s family. The
mother, too, was a surprise when she came from her
ironing, and, pushing her wavy gray hair back from
a furrowed brow lifted intelligent eyes that reminded
him of Jane, to search his face. Ma did not appear
flustered. She seemed to be taking account of
him and deciding whether or not she would be cordial
“Yes, I had a telegram from
Jane this morning,” she was scanning his eyes
once more to see whether there was a shadow of what
she called “shiftiness” in them.
“Come in,” she added grudgingly.
He was not led into the dining-room,
but seated on one of the best varnished chairs in
the “parlor,” as they called the little
unused front room. He felt strangely ill at ease
and began to be convinced that he was on the very
wildest of wild goose chases. To think of expecting
to find Elizabeth Stanhope in a place like this!
If she ever had been here she certainly must have
flown faster than she had from the church on her wedding
So, instead of beginning as he had
planned, to put a list of logically prepared keen
questions to a floundering and suspecting victim, he
found the clear eyes of Ma looking into his unwaveringly
and the wise tongue of Ma putting him through a regular
orgy of catechism before she would so much as admit
that she had ever heard of a girl named Lizzie Hope.
Then he bethought him of her daughter’s letter
and handed it over for her to read.
“Well,” she admitted at
last, half satisfied, “she isn’t here at
present. I sent her away when I found you was
comin’. I wasn’t sure I’d let
you see her at all if I didn’t like your looks.”
“That’s right, Mrs. Carson,”
he said heartily, with real admiration in his voice.
“I’m glad she has some one so careful to
look out for her. Your daughter said she was
in a good safe place, and I begin to see she knew
what she was talking about.”
Then the strong look around Ma’s
lips settled into the sweeter one, and she sent Bob
after the girl.
“Are you a friend of hers?”
she asked, watching him keenly.
“No,” said Reyburn.
“I’ve never seen her but once. She
doesn’t know me at all.”
“Are you a friend of her-family?”
“Or any of her friends or relations?”
Ma meant to be comprehensive.
“No. I’m sorry I
am not. I am a rather recent comer to the city
where she made her home, I understand.”
Ma looked at him thoughtfully for
a moment. It wouldn’t have been called
a stare, it was too kindly for that, but Reyburn thought
to himself that he would not have liked to have borne
her scrutiny if he had anything to conceal, for he
felt as if she might read the truth in his eyes.
“Are you-please excuse
me for askin’-but are you a member
of any church?”
Reyburn flushed, and wanted to laugh,
but was embarrassed in spite of himself:
a member,” he said slowly, then with a frank
lifting of his eyes to her troubled gaze, “I
united with the church when I was a mere kid, but
I’m afraid I’m not much of a member.
I really am not what you’d call ‘working’
at it much nowadays. I go to morning service
sometimes, but that’s about all. I don’t
want to be a hypocrite.”
He wondered as he spoke why he took
the trouble to answer the woman so fully. Her
question was in a way impertinent, much like the way
her daughter talked. Yet she seemed wholly unconscious
“I know,” she assented
sorrowfully. “There’s lots of them
in the church. We have ’em, too, even in
our little village. But still, after all, you
can’t help havin’ confidence more in them
that has ‘named the name’ than in them
that has not.”
Reyburn looked at her curiously and
felt a sudden infusion of respect for her. She
was putting the test of her faith to him, and he knew
by the little stifled sigh that he had been found
“I s’pose lawyers don’t
have much time to think about being Christians,”
she apologized for him.
He felt impelled to be frank with her:
“I’m afraid I can’t
urge that excuse. Unfortunately I have a good
deal of time on my hands now. I’ve just
opened my office and I’m waiting for clients.”
“Where were you before that?
You did not just get through studying?”
He saw she was wondering whether he
was wise enough to help her protege.
“No, I spent the last three years in France.”
“Up at the front?” The pupils of her eyes
“Yes, in every drive,”
he answered, wondering that a woman of this sort should
be so interested now that the war was over.
“And you came back safe!”
she said slowly, looking at him with a kind of wistful
sorrow in her eyes. “My boy was shot the
first day he went over the top.”
“Oh, I’m sorry,”
said Reyburn gently, a sudden tightness in his throat.
“But it was all right.”
She flashed a dazzling smile at him through the tears
that came into her eyes. “It wasn’t
as if he wasn’t ready. Johnny was always
a good boy, an’ he joined church when he was
fourteen, an’ always kep’ his promises.
He used to pray every night just as faithful, an’
read his Bible. I’ve got the little Testament
he carried all through. His chaplain sent it
to me. It’s got a bullet hole through it,
and blood-marks, but it’s good to me to look
at, ’cause I know Johnny’s with his Saviour.
He wasn’t afraid to die. He said to me before
he left, he says: ‘Ma, if anythin’
happens to me it’s all right. You know,
Ma, I ain’t forgettin’ what you taught
me, an’ I ain’t forgettin’ Christ
is with me.’”
Mrs. Carson wiped her eyes furtively,
and tried to look cheerful. Reyburn wished he
knew how to comfort her.
“It makes a man feel mean,”
he said at last, trying to fit his toe into the pattern
of the ingrain carpet, “to come home alive and
whole when so many poor fellows had to give their
lives. I’ve often wondered how I happened
to get through.”
She looked at him tenderly:
“Perhaps your Heavenly Father
brought you back to give you more chance to do things
for Him, an’ get ready to die when your time
There was something startling to this
self-composed city chap in hearing a thing like this
from the lips of the mother whose beloved son was gone
forever beyond her teaching but had “been ready.”
Reyburn looked at her steadily, soberly, and then
with a queer constriction in his throat he looked
down at the floor thoughtfully and said:
“Perhaps He did.”
“Well, I can’t help bein’
glad you’re a church member, anyhow,” said
Mrs. Carson, rising to look out of the window.
“She needs a Christian to help her, an’
I’d sooner trust a Christian. If you really
meant it when you joined church you’ve got somethin’
to fall back on anyhow. Here she comes.
I’ll just go an’ tell her you’re