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  --  AFTER MANY DAYS.   Table of Contents

Hopkins, Pauline E.
Contending Forces



All is ended now, the hope and the fear and the sorrow;
All the aching of heart, the restless, unsatisfied longing,
All the dull, deep pain, and constant anguish of patience!

Even as rivulets twain, from distant and separate sources,
Seeing each other afar, as they leap from the rocks, and pursuing
Each one its devious path, but drawing nearer and nearer,
Rush together at last, at their trysting-place in the forest;
So these lives
Rushed together at last, and one was lost in the other.

--Longfellow .

Three years rolled slowly away and were numbered with the past. Will Smith had finished his course at Heidelberg, and for nine months had traveled in foreign capitals. He was much changed. Honors were thick upon him; honores mutant mores . His bearing was that of a man accustomed to the respectful attention of his equals, sure of himself, his position, his attainments--a wealthy cosmopolitan. He had been a handsome young fellow; he added now to mere good looks, grace, ease, elegance, and an imposing, well-developed intellectuality which marked him as a thinker and an originator. His eyes alone were unchanged,

and had the same kindly expression, although there lurked within their hazel depths a sadness which in repose became absolute mournfulness.

The ambition of his life was the establishment of a school which should embrace every known department of science, where the Negro youth of ability and genius could enter without money and without price. This was his pet scheme for the future. No wife or child would ever be his, he told himself; but he would be a father to the youth of his race. Thus he mused and planned until one day there came a letter from his sister saying that his mother's health was very much broken, and that she longed for the presence of her boy. Will packed up, and April found him in the United States once more, at the home of his sister in New Orleans.

Thoughts of Sappho were seldom far from him; he thought of her as one gone to the land of delight--purified by her sufferings here. The first night that he passed on board ship he had dreamed of her. He dreamed that he stood in a grand cathedral, and listened to strains of delicious melody chanted by an invisible choir. Christe eleison, Kyrie eleison , floated to his ears, and the glad strains of the Gloria . Presently upon the altar before him appeared a vision of the Virgin and Child, but the face

of the mother was Sappho's, the child by her side was the little Alphonse. He tried to reach her in vain. She smiled and beckoned him on as she receded at his approach; then he awoke. His dream haunted him. He interpreted it as a promise that they should be united in heaven. The meeting with his mother and sister and the renewal of old ties somewhat deadened painful memories, until reawakened when he heard them call his sister's beautiful child "Sappho."

The home to which Doctor Lewis had taken his bride was very beautiful. One passed from the highway down a long avenue framed by majestic palms, and so upon the college campus which was surrounded by dormitories built of substantial brick. Doctor Lewis's house was a fine brick cottage, plentifully supplied with porches and piazzas. Its framework was a succession of terraces planted with gorgeous beds of flowers indigenous to the Southern clime. The long French windows stood open to catch the soft breezes of April. This house and the numerous dormitories, museums, the chapel, and buildings which held lecture-rooms and class-rooms, were all built by the pupils of the school. The students made the brick which entered into the composition of the various buildings; the carpenter shop, carriage and

blacksmith shops afforded fine facilities for imparting practical knowledge of these useful industries.

Beyond the college grounds--to the right--extended the market gardens, which not only supplied the school with vegetables, but also added a goodly sum to the college fund. There, too, were the grazing pastures for horses and cows. The dairy was a long, low, shedlike brick building, beautifully clean and sweet; its brick floors were spotless, the walls adorned with shining utensils for setting milk for cream, and for churning this same cream into butter. Hundreds of hens and chickens roved in small family bands about the immense poultry yards; from all of which came some revenue to help defray the expenses of this human hive of industry. "Many institutions do not spend one cent for domestic labor during the whole school term. The time usually given to football and other games in white colleges is utilized by the colored student in useful toil." Doctor Lewis's school was of this class. The tuition, board, lodging, laundry work and incidentals were not over twelve dollars per month. "People with such a love for knowledge that they are willing to toil for it, may be relied on to use that knowledge properly."

Will threw himself into the work of visiting

Doctor Lewis's pupils and the neighboring schools with eagerness. He acquainted himself thoroughly for future reference, with the curriculum of academical life as conducted along the lines pertaining to Negro education. After gaining a clear insight into it all, he said to Doctor Lewis:

"I hold that a man to gain true self-respect and independence must not be hampered in any way by prejudice. I would remove my school far from such influences."

"Where would your choice fall for the establishment of such a paradise?" asked Doctor Lewis with a smile.

"There are places enough in the world. One could easily find such an environment abroad. There across the water, associated on equal terms with men of the highest culture, the Negro shall give physical utterance to the splendid possibilities which are within him."

"Chimerical and quixotic," returned Doctor Lewis with a shake of the head. "It can't be done."

"I shall try it, nevertheless, and leave the results I hope for to the leveling hand of Time."

If ever a doubt of Dora's happiness had troubled Will's thoughts, it was dispelled now that he saw her a contented young matron, her

own individuality swallowed up in love for her husband and child. She had apparently forgotten that any other love had ever disturbed the peaceful current of her life. She was pained, however, to find, in their first private interview, that Will still clung to a hopeless memory, as it seemed to her.

"You say that you never expect to see her again, that you think her dead. Why not, then, seek to solace yourself for her loss by marrying some good girl who will make you happy?"

"Sappho is the kind of woman to occupy a man's thoughts. Beside her all others are uninteresting and tame."

"I know it, Will; but it would please me, and mother would die happy if she knew that you were at peace in your mind."

"Do not talk of it!" He cried impatiently; "I cannot please you in that way. I shall never marry."

After that Dora said no more, but tried to make his visit pleasant in every possible way. Will wished to establish a home with his mother in the North, but she was feeble, and he did not care to separate her from Dora. So he drifted with the tide, waiting for circumstances to direct his wandering feet.

"Have you visited the Sisters of the Holy Family yet?" asked Dora on Good Friday morning as they sat at breakfast.


"No," replied Will. "Arthur has promised to accompany me there, but something always intervenes."

"Don't miss it on Sunday morning. The Easter service is divine."

The convent of the Holy Family was founded in 1842 by three good women, in the very heart of the stronghold of slavery, and under the most depressing influences. There is but one other mother-house and novitiate for colored women in the United States, and that is in the city of Baltimore. The service held in the chapel by the Sisterhood of the Holy Family on Easter morning is famous throughout the South. Easter is Easter the world over, and the earth seems to take on an added beauty in honor of the day. But Easter in New Orleans is something to dream of, and defies description.

Will's thoughts were solemn ones, and mingled with pain, for was not this the anniversary of his greatest joy and his most bitter sorrow. He walked toward the chapel through silent streets filled with earnest worshippers on the way to early Mass. It was a familiar sight to Will, who had passed so many months in Catholic countries. Morn was breaking in the east; the air was filled with the faint sounds

of returning life; the sweet odor of the magnolia, mingled with a thousand other subtle perfumes, intoxicated the senses. The sun had not yet risen as he glided quietly into the church and took a seat in a secluded corner, to watch the entry of the congregation.

Until Easter morning the pictures of Christ, Mary and Joseph were veiled, but now the statues had emerged from their concealment in indication of the spiritual change in us which was wrought by the coming forth of Christ from the tomb. Tapers glowed and flowers bloomed everywhere. The Sisters stood with their dark faces uplifted in the full light which fell from the stained glass windows, making a picture long to be remembered. The stillness, the coolness, the swiftly moving, silent figures, the slanting rays of sunlight growing higher and higher, seemed to calm the troubled spirit of the man, and to impress his very soul with the greatness and glory of pure religious devotion. Involuntarily his thoughts were wafted upward in solemn supplication to the Father of all good.

He saw the entrance of the convent boarders, the orphan girls, the orphan boys and the novices, still in an exalted state of religious enthusiasm. All in the crowded edifice were on their knees now, listening to the intonations

of the gold-robed priest. The sun burst forth in full glory and poured its rays in dazzling hues through the rose-stained windows. Simultaneously, the choir of female voices filled the air with the heavenly strains of the Kyrie eleison , gliding swiftly into the grandeur of the Gloria in Excelsis . It filled every corner of the building, stole into the heart and overflowed into space. Then the whole congregation, led by the Sisters, moved toward the Holy Communion--backward and then toward the right. As the children passed him Will started to his feet and almost cried out, for there before his eyes was the figure of little Alphonse, clad in the regulation garb of the Orphanage! He restrained himself by a mighty effort, and fell back in his seat overcome. Tumultuous thoughts overwhelmed him. The mother must be near! Could it be possible that she lived? and if she lived, was she indeed dead to him in her refuge behind convent walls? He heard no more of the service, but waited impatiently for the end. It came at last.

It was some time before he could reach the street on account of the dense crowd, but finally he found himself upon the sidewalk, and asked a passer-by to direct him to the Orphanage. The stranger politely piloted him to the door of the house on St. Peter Street. He rang the

bell, and sent his card to the Mother Superior by a novice in the regulation black dress and white bonnet. She bade him enter, and left him in a bare room overlooking a paved court, where groups of children could be seen at play. He stood there with his back to the door, buried in deep thought and filled with misgivings. Suddenly a door opened behind him and a voice said: "I will bring him back tomorrow, Sister."

Surely he knew that voice! He turned, and there before his blinded vision stood the realization of his dream, holding the boy by the hand! One swift glance showed him that she was in street attire; that she was not a member of the Order. She saw and recognized him at the same instant. With a mighty cry of joy and thanks-giving he clasped her in his arms.

"O, that 'twere possible,
After long grief and pain,
To find the arms of my true love
Round me once again!"

Sappho was welcomed right royally by Doctor Lewis, Dora and her mother, as one risen from the dead; tears, smiles, kisses greeted her. It seemed that they would never be able to control their emotion. Then she told them

of her flight to New Orleans with the child, of the death of the old fortune-teller, and her own employment as a governess in the family of the wealthy colored planter in Opelausus, and the placing of the boy with the Sisters. She in her turn listened with wonder to the fairylike tale of the wealth that had come to her lover's family.

Late that afternoon she sat once again in close heart communion with her lover. Each had much to tell.

Seated beside her on the sofa, Will folded her closely to his heart again with one deep, heavy sob which attested the man's suppressed anguish.

"Oh," he said, at last, "it has been like a hideous nightmare since I read that letter which you sent me. I can scarcely believe in the blessed reality that I hold you safe in my arms once more."

She put back the clustering curls from his brow, noting with pain the many white hairs which threaded those raven locks. She laid her cheek against his as she said:

"I know only too well all you have gone through."

"Why did you leave me, Sappho? Had you no confidence in my love for you? How meanly you must have judged me if you

thought me capable of holding you responsible for the monstrous wrong committed against you."

"Ah, Will; I had suffered so much at the hands of selfish men! Can you wonder that I mistrusted you, and felt that you would only despise me when you knew all?"

Then he told her of his interview with John Langley, holding back nothing but the insulting insinuations.

"But, dearest, the detectives were at the convent; they even interviewed Luke Sawyer. Poor fellow, he was completely overcome when he found that you were alive, and he dropped his work and devoted months to tracing your whereabouts in this very city. How you have managed to hide yourself, and Dora living right here in New Orleans with you, is the mystery."

"Yes; but it is an easy matter to become lost in a great city like this. You must remember that I kept away from every familiar spot; even the Sisters in the convent had been changed, so that there was no one to remember me, the former Mother Superior having died. When I was strong enough to go about, you had ceased searching for me."

"And all this secrecy was for what?" asked Will reproachfully


"I thought it was for the best."

"I loved you, Sappho; could you not trust that love?"

"Ah, Will, forgive me for all the suffering I have caused you."

Will laid his cheek to hers. "What is there I would not forgive, if anything there were to forgive, for the sweet comfort of holding you once again to my desolate heart."

Then she wept a few delicious tears within the shelter of his arms, and he told her of his plans for her and the boy. They would go abroad; but first they would seek out Luke Sawyer and reward him for his faithfulness; every one who had ever been kind to her or the boy should be rewarded.

That evening Will accompanied Sappho home. Alphonse was left with Dora. Monsieur Louis was astonished to see a handsome stranger assisting Sappho from the carriage. Her joyous face told its own story, and the kind old man knew instinctively that she had found her lover and he had lost the joy of his old age. Will was delighted with all he saw and heard in the peaceful, happy home, the refuge of his love. In the soft twilight of the fragrant terrace Sappho told Monsieur Louis her story, her hand tightly clasped in Will's. "Ah!" cried Monsieur Louis, "I thought it; I

thought it!" Then Will supplemented it with the romantic history of his family, and his life since Sappho's flight. The old gentleman listened entranced. "It is indeed a fairy tale of love and chivalry such as we read of only in books," he said at last with a long-drawn breath. Then he told them many interesting tales of slave life and its complications as he had known them. It was nearly midnight when Will left, promising to return the next day and complete arrangements for a wedding which was to take place immediately. Monsieur Louis insisted that he should furnish the wedding dress and breakfast, and be allowed to give the bride away. So a second Easter Day closed on happy love--a love sanctified and purified by suffering.

John Langley, soon after Dora's marriage and the acquisition of fortune to the Smith family, suddenly gave up his business, and started off with the first daring adventurers who were allured from home by the dazzling promise of immense fortunes to be dug out of the earth in the new Eldorado--the Klondike gold-fields.

John was unhappy. He was willing to admit that he had viewed things in a false light, and consequently had made a mess of his own

happiness. He still retained an ardent enthusiasm for his profession, but he needed a change. He would divert his mind from his recent disappointments by travel in strange lands, and after he had acquired a large fortune he would settle down to the practice of law and do good among his fellows as a sort of atonement for his early mistakes. He placed his business in the hands of his partner, first making a will, in which he bequeathed to his mother's family in Bermuda the savings he would leave in the bank, in case he did not return.

"I only make this will for form's sake," said he to his partner, as he gave it into the latter's keeping. "I'll be back here inside of two years and dazzle you with my wealth."

He joined a party made up of hardy Eastern men, and they started on their journey with bright anticipations of a golden future. After many adventures and much sufferings they reached the goal, only to find gaunt famine awaiting them with gruesome countenance. Day by day the cold increased; day by day the stock of provisions dwindled. Each morning they counted up the dead. One morning it was five; the next, fifteen. Ten only remained alive out of a party of thirty, and these so weak as to be unable to remove the bodies from the common cabin. John learned to pray then: "May

the Lord, in His infinite mercy, come to our rescue."

One morning seven more bodies lay close together in the bunks. It was plain then that a few hours would end the sufferings of the remainder. The last spark of fire had gone out. Two biscuits and a quart of water was all the sustenance left. Delirium seized upon all but John. He felt sick at heart. He prayed "God's will be done!" All that night a heavy gale blew, and before morning two more poor souls went out into space. John was then alone, the last survivor of thirty gallant men. He dragged his body outside the door and away from the charnel-house. "Let me die under the open sky, with the moon and stars for company." He told himself that the old fortune-teller had been right in her prediction: the field of ice and snow which had been shown to him stretched before him in dreary, unbroken silence. Overhead unknown constellations looked down upon his misery; the moon, cold, large, and spectral, poured an intense yet dreary light upon the scene.

He recalled the deep wisdom of lessons he had recently learned--the philosophy of life and death, assurance of the soul's individuality, and the worthlessness of this earthly clay tenement. He thought of his newly found mother,

whom he had been ashamed to acknowledge. His sight failed, his limbs lost their feeling, his heart was nearly pulseless--it was death. "O God! receive my soul. Dear, dear mother"--The child of sunny climes folded himself more closely in his blankets for the last time, and slept to wake no more on earth. So the dawn of Easter Sunday found him. That undisciplined soul went forth to wander in celestial spheres, there to continue the salutary lessons begun on earth, under the guidance of God's angels, who minister to the needs of the immortal soul.

Not many months after a merry party might have been seen upon the deck of a Cunarder bound for Europe. It consisted of Doctor Lewis, Dora, little Sappho, Ma Smith, Will, Sappho--now Will's wife--and little Alphonse. They were all going to make the long-promised visit to Mr. Withington.

Sappho was happy in contemplating the life of promise which was before her. Will was the noblest of men. Alphonse was to him as his own child. United by love, chastened by sorrow and self-sacrifice, he and she planned to work together to bring joy to hearts crushed by despair.

They stood upon the deck that night long

after the others had retired to then staterooms, watching the receding shores with hearts filled with emotion too deep for words.

"My wife, my life. O, we will walk this world
Yoked in all exercise of noble end,
And so through those dark gates across the wild
That no man knows.

Lay thy sweet hands in mine and trust to me."

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