Page images
PDF
EPUB

sea.

that Anglice had been placed on board a vessel shortly to leave the island for some Western port.

The letter, delayed by storm and shipwreck, was hardly read and wept over when little Anglice arrived.

On beholding her, Antoine uttered a cry of joy and surprise - she was so like the woman he had worshiped.

The passion that had been crowded down in his heart broke out and lavished its richness on this child, who was to him not only the Anglice of years ago, but his friend Émile Jardin also.

Anglice possessed the wild, strange beauty of her mother the bending, willowy form, the rich tint of skin, the large tropical eyes, that had almost made Antoine's sacred robes a mockery to him.

For a month or two Anglice was wildly unhappy in her new home. She talked continually of the bright country where she was born, the fruits and flowers and blue skies, the tall, fanlike trees, and the streams that went murmuring through them to the

Antoine could not pacify her. By and by she ceased to weep, and went about the cottage in a weary, disconsolate way that cut Antoine to the heart. A long-tailed paroquet, which she had brought with her in the ship, walked solemnly behind her from room to room, mutely pining, it seemed, for those heavy Orient airs that used to ruffle its brilliant plumage.

Before the year ended, he noticed that the ruddy tinge had faded from her cheek, that her eyes had grown languid, and her slight figure more willowy than ever.

A physician was consulted. He could discover nothing wrong with the child, except this fading and drooping. He failed to account for that. It was some vague disease of the mind, he said, beyond his skill. So Anglice faded day after day. She seldom left the room

At last Antoine could not shut out the fact that the child was passing away. He had learned to love her so!

"Dear heart,” he said once, “what is 't ails thee?" "Nothing, mon père,” for so she called him.

The winter passed, the balmy spring had come with its magnolia blooms and orange blossoms, and Anglice appeared to revive. In her small bamboo chair, on the porch, she swayed

now.

to and fro in the fragrant breeze, with a peculiar undulating motion, like a graceful tree.

At times something seemed to weigh upon her mind. Antoine observed it, and waited. Finally she spoke.

“Near our house,” said little Anglice -"near our house, on the island, the palm trees are waving under the blue sky. Oh, how beautiful! I seem to lie beneath them all day long. I am very, very happy. I yearned for them so much that I grew ill — don't you think it was so, mon père ?"

“Hélas, yes!” exclaimed Antoine suddenly. “Let us hasten to those pleasant islands where the palms are waving.”

Anglice smiled.
"I am going there, mon père."

A week from that evening the wax candles burned at her feet and forehead, lighting her on the journey.

All was over. Now was Antoine's heart empty. Death, like another Emile, had stolen his new Anglice. He had nothing to do but to lay the blighted flower away.

Père Antoine made a shallow grave in his garden, and heaped the fresh brown mold over the child.

In the tranquil spring evenings, the priest was seen sitting by the mound, his finger closed in the unread breviary.

The summer broke on that sunny land; and in the cool morning twilight, and after nightfall, Antoine lingered by the grave. He could never be with it enough.

One morning he observed a delicate stem, with two curiously shaped emerald leaves, springing up from the center of the mound. At first he merely noticed it casually; but presently the plant grew so tall, and was so strangely unlike anything he had ever seen before, that he examined it with care.

How straight and graceful and exquisite it was! In the twilight it seemed to Antoine as if little Anglice were standing there in the garden.

The days stole by, and Antoine tended the fragile shoot, wondering what manner of blossom it would unfold, white, or scarlet, or golden. One Sunday, a stranger, with a bronzed, weather-beaten face like a sailor's, leaned over the garden rail, and said to him: -

“What a fine young date-palm you have there, sir!"

[ocr errors][ocr errors]

“Mon Dieu !” cried Père Antoine, starting," and is it a palm ?”

“Yes, indeed,” returned the man. “I didn't reckon the tree would flourish like that in this latitude."

“Ah, mon Dieu !" was all the priest could say aloud; but he murmured to himself, “Bon Dieu, vous m'avez donné cela !”

If Père Antoine loved the tree before, he worshiped it now. He watered it, and nurtured it, and could have clasped it in his arms. Here were Émile and Anglice and the child, all in one!

The years glided away, and the date-palm and the priest grew together -- only one became vigorous and the other feeble. Père Antoine had long passed the meridian of life. The tree was in its youth. It no longer stood in an isolated garden; for pretentious brick and stucco houses had clustered about Antoine's cottage. They looked down scowling on the humble thatched roof. The city was edging up, trying to crowd him off his land. But he clung to it like lichen and refused to sell.

Speculators piled gold on his doorsteps, and he laughed at them. Sometimes he was hungry, and cold, and thinly clad; but he laughed none the less.

“Get thee behind me, Satan!” said the old priest's smile.

Père Antoine was very old now, scarcely able to walk; but he could sit under the pliant, spreading leaves of his palm, loving it like an Arab; and there he sat till the grimmest of speculators came to him. But even in death Père Antoine was faithful to his trust.

The owner of that land loses it if he injure the date-palm.

And there it stands in the narrow, dingy street, a beautiful, dreamy stranger, an exquisite foreign lady whose grace is a joy to the eye, the incense of whose breath makes the air enamored. May the hand wither that touches her ungently!

Because it grew from the heart of little Anglice," said Miss Blondeau, tenderly.

A TURKISH LEGEND

A CERTAIN Pasha, dead these thousand years,
Once from his harem fled in sudden tears,

And had this sentence on the city's gate
Deeply engraven, Only God is great.

So those four words above the city's noise
Hung like the accents of an angel's voice,
And evermore, from the high barbican,
Saluted each returning caravan.

Lost is that city's glory. Every gust
Lifts, with dead leaves, the unknown Pasha's dust.

And all is ruin save one wrinkled gate
Whereon is written, Only God is great.

IDENTITY
SOMEWHERE - in desolate wind-swept space -

In Twilight-land -- in No-man's-land -
Two hurrying Shapes met face to face.

And bade each other stand.

“And who are you?” cried one agape,

Shuddering in the gloaming light. “I know not,” said the second Shape,

“I only died last night!”

ELMWOOD

IN MEMORY OF JAMES RUSSELL LOWELL

HERE, in the twilight, at the well-known gate
I linger, with no heart to enter more.
Among the elm-tops the autumnal air
Murmurs, and spectral in the fading light
A solitary heron wings its way
Southward save this no sound or touch of life.
Dark is that window where the scholar's lamp
Was used to catch a pallor from the dawn.

Yet I must needs a little linger here. Each shrub and tree is eloquent of him, For tongueless things and silence have their speech. This is the path familiar to his foot

[blocks in formation]

From infancy to manhood and old age;
For in a chamber of that ancient house
His eyes first opened on the mystery
Of life, and all the splendor of the world.
Here, as a child, in loving, curious way,
He watched the bluebird's coming; learned the date
Of hyacinth and goldenrod, and made
Friends of those little redmen of the elms,
And slyly added to their winter store
Of hazel-nuts: no harmless thing that breathed,
Footed or winged, but knew him for a friend.
The gilded butterfly was not afraid
To trust its gold to that so gentle hand,
The bluebird fled not from the pendent spray.
Ah, happy childhood, ringed with fortunate stars!
What dreams were his in this enchanted sphere,
What intuitions of high destiny !
The honey-bees of Hybla touched his lips
In that old New-World garden, unawares.

So in her arms did Mother Nature fold
Her poet, breathing what of strange and sweet
Into his ear the state-affairs of birds,
The lore of dawn and sunset, what the wind
Said in the treetops — fine, unfathomed things
Henceforth to turn to music in his brain:
A various music, now like notes of flutes,
And now like blasts of trumpets blown in wars.
Later he paced this leafy academe
A student, drinking from Greek chalices
The ripened vintage of the antique world.
And here to him came love, and love's dear loss;
Here honors came, the deep applause of men
Touched to the heart by some swift-wingèd word
That from his own full heart took eager flight -
Some strain of piercing sweetness or rebuke,
For underneath his gentle nature flamed
A noble scorn for all ignoble deed,
Himself a bondman till all men were free.

« PreviousContinue »