Read CHAPTER X - THE STORM REGATHERS of Bylow Hill, free online book, by George Washington Cable, on

On the other hand, things were going ill with the little church of All Angels.  Arthur kept his people as tensely strung as ever, but he no longer drew from them the chords of aspiration and enterprise.  It was a sad disenchantment, and none the less so because no one seemed to know what the matter was.  One darkly guessed he was writing a book, and the vestryman who had praised the lovely simplicity of the wedding lucidly explained that the young rector had “lost his grip.”

At times there were flashes of recovery.  One Sabbath the whole congregation came out under his benediction uplifted by his word that “loving is living.”

“The more we love,” they quoted him on their various ways home, “the more we live.  The deeper we love, the deeper we live.  The more selfishly or unselfishly, the higher, the broader, the purer, the wiser, we love, the more selfishly or unselfishly, the higher, the broader, the purer, the wiser, we live!” The rector’s gentle wife was visibly and ever so prettily rejoiced.

True, but hardly the whole truth.  In her mother’s cottage her smiles were almost sad, and when she had crossed the garden and got into her own room she dropped upon her bed and wept.  Yet she quickly ceased, and put on again a brave serenity, for a very tender reason which forbade such risks.

A bunch of the church’s best men got together and agreed that all Arthur needed was rest; that this bright moment was the right one in which to offer him a vacation; that his physician should flatly order him to take it; and that Byington should arrange the matter.

Leonard accepted the task, the physician spoke with startling flatness, and the whole kind plot worked well.  Arthur consented to go away up into the hills beyond all the jar of the busy world’s unrest.

Isabel was to go with him, and they were to sojourn at some point where she would still be within prompt reach of medical skill, yet from which he could make long jaunts into the absolute wilds.

Mrs. Morris was far from well when they left, and the day afterward she was seriously ill.  That night Ruth sat up with her, and the next day she was worse, yet begged that no telegram be sent to her daughter.

At the close of the day there came a letter from Isabel.  It said that Arthur, “already a new man,” would start the next morning at dawn for a three days’ trip into the wilderness.  He went; and he had not been three hours gone when Isabel received a dispatch calling her to her mother.  The only day train would leave in a few minutes, and she had the fortune to catch it.

Ruth met her at the station with the blessed word “better.”  They went up from the town in Ruth’s carriage, Martin Kelly driving, who let it be known that though the doctor’s name, “moy graciouz!” were signed to the telegram seven times over, the actual painstaker and sender was “Linnard Boyington, whatsomiver!”

Still Ruth called it the doctor’s telegram, and said it made no difference who sent it; but she saw Isabel was disturbed.  “Well, Martin, Doctor will have to wait on himself to-morrow; Leonard will be out of town.”

That evening, alone with her brother, she said, “But I thought you were to be out of town to-morrow.”

“No,” he replied, “I don’t think I’d better.”

Another day passed, another came, and Mrs. Morris was still in danger.  Isabel wrote Arthur that she would be with him the moment the peril was over, if he needed her; but if he did not, she would stay on for her mother’s fuller recovery.  Her letter had barely gone when she received a pencilled line brought in to the mountain hotel by a chance messenger and sent on to her, saying he would be out on his tramp five days instead of three.  On the fifth day she telegraphed that her mother was getting well so fast that she would come, now, at his word.

The next morning she betrayed to Ruth a glad sense of relief as she showed her a dispatch from Arthur, which read:  “Going on another trip to-morrow.  Stay till I write.”

Ruth repeated it to her father and brother at their noonday meal.  Leonard made no comment, but the General asked pleasantly-

“Is she certain he won’t come in on this evening’s express?” He was discerning more than any one wanted him to.

However, at dusk came the train, took water at the tank, stopped at the station, and passed on, and Arthur did not appear.

“Well, I’ll go to bed,” blithely spoke the General.  “I’m not so old as I used to be, but I’m tired, after writing that letter this afternoon-to Godfrey.  Good-night.”  So he gave fair notice that he had moved in this matter, himself.

“I didn’t know father had received a letter from Godfrey,” said Ruth, shading her face from the lamp, and lifting to Leonard a smile which implied that it would have been but fair for him to have told her.

“It came the day before Arthur went away,” replied Leonard, and Ruth reluctantly chose a new topic.

They rarely had an evening together thus, and with a soft rain falling at the open windows they sat and talked on many themes in what was to them a very talkative way.  When something brought up the subject of the late noted trial, Ruth asked her brother how it had first come to him to suspect so unsuspected a man.

His reply was tardy.  “Partly,” he said, and mused while he spoke, “because I am so unsuspected a man myself.”

He looked up with a smile, half play, half pain.  “I know what the mind of an unsuspected man is capable of-under pressure.”

The questioner looked on him with fond faith, and then, dropping her eyes to her needlework, said, “That wasn’t all that prompted you, was it?”

“No,” replied the brother, again musing.  “I had noticed the singular value of wanton guesswork.”

“I thought so,” said the sister.  Her needle flagged and stopped, and each knew the other’s mind was on the implacable divinations of one morbid soul.

Leonard leaned and fingered the needlework,-a worsted slipper, too small for most men, too large for most women.  “Is that for him?”

“Yes,” apologized Ruth; “it’s the thing every clergyman has to incur.  But I’m only doing it to help Isabel out; she has the other.”

The evening went quickly.  When Leonard let down the window sashes and lowered the shades, Ruth, standing by the lamp as if to put out its light, said, “I’ll not go up for a moment or two yet.”

She sent him an ardent smile across the room and turned to a desk.