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The Story of Lilith


(itt BLOHTS BMUTID.] The Story of Lilith BY DOROTHY BAIRD, or of By the Path of the Storm," Mr. Carton** Play." &c. A warm summer reigned gloriously in the (and. The broad acres in the sheltered qrsiley and breezy uplands were standing thick with yellow corn, and the pastures find clover fields were rich with flowers. But Hcwhere did the season reign so sweetly, so Imperiously, as in the old-world garden of the Rectory. Here, the mellow red of the trails was almoal hidden in a wealth of foli- 0S0 and fruit, ;> ud the high box hedge of 4fie pleasaunce fi rmed a restful background Ao the glory of flowers which filled it. Be- yond the smooth grass-plot, with its sundial pad its atone fish-pool, the old fashioned 4towerb grew in that orderly confusion of abundance which makes an old garden a joy. 1M ever. The yellow glory of the sky was deepening 09 crimson, and the sparrows were embark- ing in their evening squabbles over the cosy tperaerg in the ivy, when a voice floated out through the open windows of the drawing- nom, a woman's voice, pure contralto, rich 4Mtd mellow, a voice almost as full of joy as a jhird's, but more thrilling because it vibrateH with the pulse of passion, the latent capacity for love and sorrow which lies in every happy Hainan's heart. It was Lilith, th Rcctor's eldest daughter, ilitk, the village hack, the general facto- tum, whom gossips laughingly dubbed the iparate." It was she who aid the odds and fnds of work which falls to the mistress's #)&are in a hoasehold where only one servant JO kept. It was she who made and mendei. Aorned and patched, and contrived for the jHumcrous family of step-brothers and sisters, it was she who supcrirtended the Sunday- school, played the organ, trained the choir, organised the soup-kitchen, the charities, Attci the village library, she who found time Ao visit and cheer the poor. Lilith's step- father had no time for all this; she was not ued to arduous life, and such duties of a Cpuntry parson's wife xs lay outside her own « her neighbours' drawing-rooms tired her. JMie was glad to find someore who would re- lieve her. "The possession of a step-daughter lias its compensations," she said, laughingly, her friends. And Lilith was glad to slave for her. She fed fallen in love with her beautiful, fragile- Ipoking step-mother at first sight. Gladys JPield had always tried to do her best by the jjptnid who adored her, with the result that year by year Lilith took more and more of feer step-mother's irksome duties upon her- jvlf. At an incredibly early age she realised frhat life at the Rectory must be for Gladys, jcoming straight from what is known as a large establishment, accustomed to an army ,,1 servants to wait on her, to the season in -town, the Autumnal round of country-house visits, a trip to the south to escape the dull jlays. If ever the burden of work seemed to tie heavy upon her young shoulders, Lilith would think of the evening long ago when for the first and last time she had seen the jppung wife's self-control give way. 11 1 can't bear it," she had sobbed, burying £ er face in the child's hair. "I can't bear it. There's more than I can do. and it's so deadly dull and monotonous, and and I'm always tired." Gladys had never worried about that breakdown. Lilith was only a child, she said to herself, she would not understand and she would soon, forget. But Lilith had under- wood perfectly, and she had never forgotten. After all these years she loved Gladys just as fervently, was just as anxious to spare her grorry and weariness. This sunset hour was the time to which she ikxd looked forward all day, the moment when she could forget herself and her sur- roundings and all the frets of her daily life in song. It was her great gift, and being Useful one in a parson s daughter, money hucl, ffeen found to cultivate it. So she passed from song to song completely happy and con- sent. But at last she reluctantly closed the piano 4aild stepped through the open window into as garden. She did not look like a village ,&sck. She was, perhaps, a little calm and jwdate, a little mature m manner and figure, $9 suit her 4wenty-t,wo years But her sweet, Save face as yet bore no trace of worry, ere was no strain of anxiety in her soft 'bfown eyes, no lines of discontent about her faouth. Her work had been undertaken wil liitsrly, accomplished gl idly, and thereforeit tud strengthened her character without opoil- ing her votithfiilness, Moreover, her fcrown hair was becomingly dressed, her both pretty and suitable, though jpfaiple and obviously cheap. Suddenly there came a sound of quick. isager footsteps on the path behind her, and 4he turned round hastily, while a swift flush Apt pleasure crossed her face, "Martin she exclaimed, "I thought you jKPuld not return till to-morrowt" .I "So did T, but I managed it. I wanted to -poinehow I thought you would he alone h). .y." He stood holding her hand, his Whole Hgure instinct with youth and healthful ardour, his dark face showing clear-iit against the soft pinks and purples of the fading afterglow. There was a certain Jbreathlessness about his manner, a thrill in Jjig vpice, that made her resume her walk up the raossv path. It was distinctly agitating, And yet the woman who misses such agitation misses the very spring of the crowning lpyt øf life. "Is- -is it all rettled f" ahe asked, and ootigh she strove for the commonplace, her voice was far from calm. Vee. quite settled. I sail in May for th-, florth-West Territories." "'Sh! that is well." There was a catch in "r voice, and the yoi-ng man pacing at her ,oide:poticed it with a great joy growing in his iieart. "Yes, it is well," he repeated. "It will be ■jf), hard life, a wild life, but that makes for jpcid in a man if he has his work, and it keeps fjiin up on a higher level. I look forward to Jfay, Lilith." Yes, I am sure you do." Her tone had lo- buoyancy, the edga,- as it were, of its ^optented happiness. He would be sailing £ 9ray from England, from this cramped life monotonous routine of duty, to that far "d of wide spaces and freedom—freedom of foiling prairie and rugged mountain, wind- swept, storm-visited freedom of life, for the jtetters of convention hang loosely at the 4»dges of civilisation. And his Work was best all, for in that iand of freedom he was to the most glorious tidings it has ever given to man to deliver, to call men to that service which is yet perfect freedom. fihe would envy him when she was darning 0ocks in the faded morning room., or trudging the familiar lanes with tracts or clothes. And she would miss, him; how she would miss him! They did not meet often, for his curacy lay five miles away, but they had been friends for such years, and thpir friendship was one of those which takes little count of time and meetings. "Lilith," his voice. ardent, eager, bronco abruptly across her thoughts. "Lilith, dear, I am blessed exceedingly, I have been given the life I wanted, the work I wanted, but I want something more." I The girl halted, standing quite still, re- pressing the emotion which surged through Iter whole being. "I want a help-meet, he whispered, almost pantingly, for he was shaken to the very cora by the sudden terror which some times -wisails a man when the winning-r>"st 1.4 in sight, even though he is certain c f suc- cess. "I want a help-meet. Will you come with me in May?" In the great wave of unreasoning joy which possessed her she forgot Gladys, forgot the many chains of labour and usefulness which hound her to the village, forgot all except the imperytus, triumphant knowledge that the gates of freedom were opening for her too, flung wide by the love of the man she loved. "Yes," she said, but there was no need for the word. Her face had told the truth be- lore her lips had uttered it. Nearer, nearer, drawn by strong, pro- tecting arms. Yet once more he hesitated, half afraid. "The life is very hard, the country wild. Have you thought enough, darling?" I The glowing brown eyes had never left his face, but now they seemed misty, as a dewy meadow under a summer moon. "I would go with you to the ends of the world, she said, "for I have loved yon even since 1 knew you." The country lay still and white, shrouded in the grip of winter. Outside, a pale sun- shine lit up snowy fields, and called forth myriads of diamonds in the snowdrifts piled high in the rectory garden. Around the win- dows of the drawing-room the sparrows were fighting over a libesal supply of crumbs, and robins were warbling post-prandial gratitude from every bush. But within the old red house all was hushed and solemn stillness, for the pale sunlight, struggling through the faded rose-chintz curtains of the big bed. room, touched Gladys Field's fair, delicate face and yellow hair as she lay in the great four-poster sick unto death. Yes, the knowledge of coming parting lay heavy upon all the inmates of the rectory; upon the Rector, although he had taken the children to slide upon the Long Water- Gladys had been so anxious that they should have all the fun they could; upon the chil- dren themselves, who took their pleasure dolefully; dpon Lilith, who sat beside the cheery, crackling fire; upon Gladys herself, as she watched the sunlight creep from flower to flower upon the chintz, jealously counting the fleeting moments of her sink- ing life. "Life ebbs so much quicker than it flows," she murmured, half to herself. "And it aeems we do not realise how sweet it is till we are called to give it up." "Is there anything you want, dear?" asked Lilith, rising and going to the bedside. "Nothing, dear, except a talk with you, and—and, to live a little longer." Lilith sat down close to the bed, and gently stroked Gladys' hand. But, she, did not speak. Words seemed so futile, so stuKifyingly pal- try in the face of the tragedy of a young life anvffed out in its prime. "It is--it is so hard to go, Lilith, dear," Gladys continued. "Life was hard at first, wheu you were too young to understand, and the children came so quickly, and all was so strange and difficult. But even then it had its compensations, its hidden joys, worth, all the pain ttnd worry ten times over. And tow that the children are growing out of nur- sery ways, and you smooth all the difficulties that lie across the path, oh, it is hard to leave it all." "I know, I know," sighed Lilith, caressing the thin hand she held. "Yes, but you cannot know what it means to leave the children, never to be able to look into their future, never to know if they do well or ill, if they are sad or happy; never to know of the boys' successes, the girls' love affairs; to leave it to other women to watch them and love them and hear their pretty confidences—other women who will not love them half so well as I." "Hush, Gladys, dear. Your children will never go unloved, I love them. Ah! you eannot tell how dearly." "Yes, yes, I know. The blow would lose half its force if you were going to mother my bairns when I am gone. But you go in May, and then—oh, my dear, what will happen? Geoffrey dreams his dreams in the study and never knows what goes on, and Kathleen is only eight—ten years before she will be old enough to take the reigns of government into her own hands. Why, tihy did it please God to send me the four boys first?" The exceeding bitter cry wrung Lilitli's heart. Many thoughts buzzed through her brain, dazing her. How was it she had not thought of all this? How could she leave those four young boys, those three little girls to the tender mercies of strange governesses? And who would look after the poor? Who manage those tiresome clubs? Who arrange those hundred and one details of parish life which the Rector was too dreamy and studi- OU8 even to remember? "Lilith, Lilith, dear, have you no word of eomfojrtf Can't you think of anything to say which will make it less hard?" Lilith had risen and stood by the window, looking out. In her heart a desperate battle raged. Her membry tormented her with vi- sions of entrancing sunnier evenings, whea Martin's presence had turned the pleasaunca below her into au earthly Paradise- Her imagination was busy with that land of free- do&u to which she was going to escape from the many frets aud jars of her life. It was «ll jfO goklen, so ideal. How could she give I H "wpi j Qtlady was sobbing, quietly, bitterly. "Don't, dear, don't, crooned Lilith, turn- ing to her again, and kneeling close to caress her. "I have been brave so long, you must al- low my one little hour of weakness. I shall be hrave again, afterwards-urtil thjfe very end. It -is a poor. way of assuaging the heartache, hut it brings a little relief. I have no other. Even you can find no words of eoDIÚort., "Yea, Gladys, dear, I can. You must not worry about the children. Of course, so long as they need me, I should not think of leav- ) ing them, nor would Martin think of taking i me away." J She spoke very calmly. She must hide her j pangs from Gladya. But Gladys seemed to guem, "Not that, not that," she said, hopelessly, dully. "It would spoil your life—and his." "Two lives for eight," replied Lilith firmly. "And there is the village. Father cannot manage that alone." She could even laugh a little at the Rector's absentminded- nesc. If duty brings heart-break, she also brings great courage to her followers. When the Rector and his rosy children re- turned, they found Gladys, patient, content, almost happy. But Lilith was "writing letters"—a letter, rather, the despairing epistle which, it seemed, must break her heart. • • The spring sunshine flooded the drawing- room with joyous light, and the windows stood open, letting in the riotous warblings of the birds, and the strong breeze, rich with the scent of spring. Lilith stood by the piano, her black dress the one sombre patch, her sad face the one suggestion of sorrow on that exuberantly joy- ful spring morning. Here was April, in two days would come the day which should have greeted her as a bride, and yet to-day she and Martin must bid good-bye for ever. Martin had pleaded to be allowed to consider their marriage as only postponed, but Lilith was wiser. The time of waiting would be too long, no engagement could hang on like that, it was not fair to him. So it was at her re- quest that the good-bye was to be final, for all time. Martin had been in London since October. The break between them had been made by letter, she had not seen him since they had parted as lovers, in this very room. To-day the last good-bye must be spoken casually, cordially, as good friends speak it at the cro roads of life. The thought waa too bitter; it must be crushed down, stamped out. Lilith fell to turning ov-r the leaves of her songs. Perhaps she could forget, if only for a few minutes, in song. Here was one to her fancy. Boldly she struck the opening chords, and then her I voice rang out, telling its message straightly, truely, because it came from her heart. "Let us forget we loved each other much, Let us forget we ever have to part, I Let us forget that any look or touch, Firat let in either to the other's heart. Only we'll sit upon the daisied grass, 1 And hear the larks and see the swallows I pass; I Only we'll live awhile as children play, Without to-morrow, without yesterday." I That was how she felt. She must give up I the past, must forego the future, but that day, at least, was hers. For to-day, at least, I she could look on Martin's face hear his voice, enjoy the spring with him. A shadow fell across the page, and she looked up quickly. Martin stood in the open window. Come out," he said. And so, once more, they two together paced up the grassy path between the gay rows of nodding daffodils. It was spring, spring. All the world was instinct with life and hope and promise, and they, in their springtime must deaden life, crush hope, nullify promise with good-bye. '• Lilith!" An eager hand was upon her arm, Martin's voice rang insistent, imperi- ous in her ears. "The song is wrong, we must not forget. If either has read aught of beauty in the other's heart, let us guard it well; it is sacrilege to forget what love has taught." But the pain, oh, Martin, the pain!" cried Lilith, and her voice was sharpened with suffering. I "Will forgetfulness bring relief? No, {ear heart. Our joy must lie in remem- ranee. To-dsjy is ours, and after that, re- membranes, it is all that remains, therefore let us guard and keep it, warm and living < our hearts, a bond between us for ever and over. Lilith's hand clasped his in joyful acqui- escence. It seemed easier to bear the part- ing now. Once more they kissed within the summer house, the last long kiss, greeting and farewell in one. Come," he cried, enjoy this spring day with me." And so, laughing, they went out into the daisy-strewn sun-bathed meadows, but the laughter was that which comes from the well-springs of grief. The second day from that should have been their wedding-day. Autumn, the last lingering days of a warm and sodden autumn, slipping reluctantly into winter; roads and gardens buried in leaves dying sombrely, dampiv, without their usual splendours; overhead drifting grey clouds, heavy with coming rain; all dreary, depress- ing, doleful. Even Lilith Field felt the melancholy effect of the afternoon, as she wandered up the green path of the plea- saunce, picking the last of the white chry- santhemums whidh lingered in th, borders. But then, folks sail, she had enough trouble to make her sad, poor soul, and i oiks' were right. Her basket full, she went to the wicket gate in the box hedge, and so through the paddock and the outhouses to the church- yard. It would have been shorter to go by the drive and the street, but both these high- ways were up and unsightly. Local authority was fussing over drains, and Lilith shrank from the sight, because Local Authority was, as is so often the case, months too late in do- ing its work. Besides, she wanted to go round by all the familiar precincts of the Rectory and see them once more, for it wa4 good-bye. To-morrow she must leave this pleasant spot which had been her home ever since she could remember, all the old tiea must be severed, all her friends left behind. It seemed as if her life were one weary pro wes6ion of partings. She had come to the churchyard now, and Was placing her flowers on the graves of those she loved in mute token of farewell. There was her mother's grave, and Gladys', anil there the little patch where Queenie, Gladys' youngest and darling, had been laid to sleep four years ago. And then there were those four newly-made mounds, freshly turfed over, where rested the other two girls, the youngest boy,' and the old Rector, all victim* of the typhoid which had visited the village, the outcome of the cruel autumn and the delinquencies of the local authori- ties. Sadly, sadly she moved from one to the other, and the pilgrimage made her feel lone- lier, more desolate, than ever she had done before. Here lay all those dear barriers which had separated her from Martin. She was free, free fo follow him whither she cla,for the surviving boys had gone to their mother's people and would need her care no more. But her freedom had come too late. All through those long, weary years she had never forgotten. The remembrance was bitterly painful, yet it had helped her won- derfully through those years of monotonous work and worry. Often she had cried out in her pain that it would have been better to forget, but she had always repented of the cry, bugging close the consolations that re- membrance brought her. But now, among the graves, she was convinced that forgetful- ness would have been happier, better. For Martin had forgotten. During the first year of their separation he had written fre- quently, eagerly; and then, suddenly, with- out warning, came silence complete and baffling. She knew that he was alive, for her father had oace inquired at the officesof the missionary society which had sent him out. But that was all. In her bitterest momenta she felt that she would rather think of him as dead than faithless. She was free, free, but unwanted, desolate. The world held no other place for her than that of parish hack in some other village where she had no friends. She was still young, with all youth's ardours and capacity for happiness, yet all the happiness her life would know lay buried in those green graves at her feet. Slowly, wearily, she turned to retrace her steps, but at the wicket gate in the box- hedge she paused, and then stood motionless as one turned into stone. There, pacing slowly and painfully up and down the grassy path, was Martin-alred and worn, with the marks of suffering and hardship in hia face, obviously crippled in his gait, but Martin, the man she loved, had loved for so long. With a low, glad cry she sped towards him. And so they met. For a time they stood speechless, hand clamping hand, while each read in the other's face undying remem- brance despair and doubts now laid asiis, hope and joy new springing into life. At last they turned and paced towards the house. Ah, you are lame," cried Lilith, catching her breath. It was the one shadow upon the azure of her sky. "Yes," he answered quietly, "I lost that foot one wild night in the snow." "And I did not know," she cried, has voice sharp with pain. "No, so 1 have learnt this afternoon." Lilith looked up quickly. "You thought I knew?" He nodded. "I wrote, ah, how often? I was sent suddenly up to the far North, to such a wild, desolate region. I sent a line by each messenger, but the way was long, the mes- sengers most uncertain. And then I lost my foot, and when you never answered my letter about it, I thought, perhaps, you minded- that you would rather forget after all-and so I wronged you—I can see it now. But I was so far away, and no letters came, and, oh, my dear, can you not tell what I went through?" Lilith lifted her eyes, and all a woman's loving sympathy shone through them. "How you have suffered, my dear, my dearest," she said. "Some day I will tell you about the time I spent at that dreary outpost, among the most northerly settlements. When I was crippled I was sent further south. I meant to make my home there, form entirely new interests, and nover come back. And then I saw that list of deaths in an English paper, and I knew you would be alone unless you had made other ties. And so I came. But if yon wish, I can go back. Mv life lies in your hands, as it always has done, dear." For a moment Lilith was speechless. The joy coming so close on the heels of sorrow seemed to take away all power of utterance. The gates of freedom stood wide open for her once more, and there was no angel of duty with flaming sword to bar the way. At last she looked up again and held out her hands. "You must go back, again," the said. "Wa will go back together." And to this day Lilith is never tired of praising her husband for refusing to forget or to allow her to forget.