[Home] [Book] [Expand] [Collapse] [Help]

Clear Search Expand Search


Hopkins, Pauline E.
Contending Forces

- Illustration

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."