The Open Question by Elizabeth Robins (1898), Chapter 11

page 140


CLOSE as was her relationship with her father, there was more than one thing she never told him. She never spoke of her grandmother's brutality. She sympathized with him silently for having such a mother, and felt that they were fellow-sufferers under her iron rule. Did she not make him, too, do things he didn't want to do--make him go out and walk when he preferred to sit still, reprove him for trying his eyes by the waning light, and even at times pass severe strictures on his clothes and his opinions? He was much better and stronger after a couple of quiet years at the Fort; but it was cruel of her grandmother to speak in that way about his "yielding to lassitude and inertia," and hint that he was "quite as well now as many of the men who were carrying on the work of the world."

"Health," she would say, "is a comparative term. No one is perfectly healthy, any more than any one is perfectly good."

But this innocent-sounding platitude was evidently annoying to John Gano. It was after one of these painful talks about his rousing himself (of which Val heard only the concluding phrases) that he had tried to get back into the bank. It wasn't his fault that Mr. Otway couldn't make an opening for him. John Gano had even been urged into making visits to Cincinnati and New York to see if he could find something. He came back from these quests depressed and ill, not mentioning in Val's hearing having found anything but an unusually fine specimen of the Ardea herodias, or something of the sort, on the far Atlantic coast. But for long after these expeditions he would talk vehemently to his mother of the fierce competi-

page 141

tion of the great cities, of the growing costliness and cruelty of civilization, and speak darkly of the coming social revolution, when the poor should learn their power. But Val realized, and felt miserably certain her father realized, that Mrs. Gano did not much concern herself with the large historic outlook, that she would have preferred knowing her son had secured a clerkship, even under some bloated bondholder, rather than hear that the doom of capital was high, and that Henry George was revolutionizing opinion about the land-tax.

But this particular difference of view was a delicate matter, not seemly for a daughter to mention. Her father, being a kind of hero, of course never complained; neither would Val. His sense of loyalty even led him to excuse his mother when only her own misdeeds arraigned her, as when, after Emmie began to go to school, she was allowed to stay at home whenever she cried, whenever it rained, wherever she liked--and Val never on any pretext whatsoever.

"She thinks Emmie has a delicate chest, you see," her father had explained. "You are such a hard little nut--no danger of your cracking."

However, her grandmother, who seemed, oddly enough, to have some faint glimmering of justice, appreciated Val's superiority in some things. If she lost her spectacles, she would say to Emmie, hunting about with big blind eyes:

"You are good only at losing things, my dear. Call Val."

Or if a parcel was to be tied up, or something carefully lifted down from a height, she would trust Val rather than anybody in the house. This recognition of deft-handedness, small claim on consideration as it might seem, was still a balm to the child. She was wicked, she was hideous, she was unloved, but she never broke things as did the adored Emmie. No, Val was at least clever and quick in her movements; it might not be much out of the wreck of a heroine, but it was something. One other quality was admitted as time went on. If something questionable happened in the

page 142

house, something that had to be inquired into, it came in time to be Val's privilege to be called in to give a faithful and veracious account of it. Emmie was no keen observer, and she was prone to spare other people's feelings if her own were not too much engaged. Besides, Emmie had a high character to sustain; Val, having none, could brace herself and tell the horrid truth, even about herself. One proud day there was a great difference of opinion as to the exact circumstances attending the breaking of one of the coffee-mugs of great-grandfather Calvert's wonderful and priceless service of thin white china with the broad gold key. It lived in the mahogany buffet, and was washed once a year-- used, never! Val was called in before the assembled household to give her version, the summons being solemnly prefaced by "I've never known you to tell me a lie." That was what made it so proud a moment, in spite of the uneasy sense that the tribute was not deserved. When Miss Brown had required the girls in her class to go over the arithmetic lesson four times, no matter if they were sure they had got the sums right at first, Val had instructed the entire Preparatory Department to lay their books down on the ground and hop across them. This might next morning be reported as "going over" the sums as many times as Miss Brown liked.

"You are superficial," Professor Dawson said, detaining Val one day after the Latin lesson; "your oral translations are too often mere happy guesses instead of accurate knowledge. You must spend three-quarters of an hour at least on your Latin alone."

After the first fifteen minutes' application in the evening at home, Val would place her grammar and her little square red-edged Cæsar on the chair, and sitting uneasily on them for the remained of the prescribed time, she would look at the pictures in Don Quixote, and read bits here and there. But she might not have reported this as having "spent a whole hour on Cæsar," had she known that she was building up a reputation with her grandmother for incorruptible truth. The commendation quickened conscience.

page 143

As time went on, it became apparent, too, that if Mrs. Gano loved her more beautiful and amiable granddaughter the best, she took more interest in the school-work of the elder child. She looked over the lessons with what Val considered surprising understanding, helping her more and more as time went on, and revealing unexpected possibilities in topics hitherto barren. She scanned the reports with eagle eye, and gave special attention the following week to the study that had had the least satisfactory marks before. John Gano took only a broad general interest in the result, but it came to seem that there was one person, at any rate, to whom it mattered step by step if one did well or ill. She never forgot to inquire on Monday afternoon, "Have you the medal?" although the usual "Yes, Ma'am"--it must have been an easy honor--elicited no further word.

There was no surprise in Val's mind at over hearing a certain colloquy between her grandmother and the Principal of the Seminary. A state visit was made to the Fort once a term, and Miss Appleby was one of the few people Mrs. Gano conceived it her duty to see.

The Principal, as Val, playing "jack-stones" in the entry could faintly hear, was complimenting Mrs. Gano rather fulsomely on the extreme and wonderful cleverness of her grandchildren. Val could feel through the wall how bored her grandmother was becoming.

"I had to ask at the end of the last term," Miss Appleby's mincing little voice went on, "if there was only one girl in the Preparatory Department, since I seemed always to be giving the medal to Valeria Gano. Ah, how proud--how very proud you must be of your clever grandchildren!"

"No," said Mrs. Gano, "we expect these things of our children. If they did not do them, then we might give the matter some thought."

But Val wagged her head wisely and tossed the jack-stones in the air. Even Emmie, with her weak chest, when she did go to school, was expected to come home wearing, on a narrow pink ribbon, the Primary medal--a golden

page 144

shield, with "No Pains, no Gains," graven on its face. Val, being "Preparatory," now wore the one inscribed "Perseverantia omnia vincit" on a ribbon of pale blue, that most adorable of shades. Emmie loved green, but also bore with red; Val would have nothing of her "very best," if she could help it, that was not blue. It was not that she had quite recovered the shock of that discovery in the parlor mirror, although she had made up her mind, not having read Jane Eyre, that biographers rightly suppressed the fact that many a heroine had been in childhood not only wicked, but ugly, too; it was not that she realized then that blue was "her color," as the ladies say; but something in her responded to the hue. It made her happy just to open the drawer where her blue sash was kept. In visions of the future, she had never in her life seen herself clothed in anything but pale blue. Sometimes the satin was broidered with silver wheat, sometimes with pearls, but the blueness of it never faded or lost favor.

It was the rule of the house not to discuss the price of things. Money was not mentioned, except in a wide impersonal way. It was difficult to believe for a long time, but it came out by implication, that they were poor; otherwise Emmie would never have begged in vain for the charming green hat with plumes in Mrs. Crumbaker's millinery window. The "not suitable for a little girl" was too thin an excuse; besides, unsuitability could not be the ground of gran'ma's displeasure at the purchase of a new microscope, after the shock of seeing what the amount of her son's book bill was at the New Year. Very little was said on these occasions, but Val was angrily conscious that her father was made to feel uncomfortable. A grown man, and a hero to boot! It was strangely short-sighted of him to let his mother keep his money for him--as apparently he did--for he evidently didn't much relish asking for it, and he might have learned from Val's experience that she didn't like you to spend your pocket-money, except at long intervals, in miserable driblets. There was only one occasion when her father seemed more unwilling to open his

page 145

purse than his mother did. It was when the doctor's bill of two years' standing was left at the door. It was addressed to John Gano, Esq., and when he opened it he said, "Damnation!"

Val, who was doing lessons in a far corner, nearly dropped her slate. Mrs. Gano, instead of reproving her son roundly, looked over his shoulder and said, quietly:

"Very moderate indeed;" and she tried to take the paper out of his hand.

But he got up hastily, and paced the long room with knitted brows.

"I don't see how it's to be met," he said, presently.

"No trouble about that," she answered, calmly; "I've written Mr. Otway I wish to realize on some Baltima' and Ohio bonds."

He turned sharply in his restless walk, and looked at her with curious emotion. Then, quite low:

"This is about the last of them, isn't it?"

"Oh, there is my share of Valeria's still left."

"He turned away, and continued his walk. His mother watched him covertly.

"The waste of it, the futility," he muttered, "bolstering up a wreck, instead of launching new ships. The very savages are wiser. They don't stint the young to feed the useless, the dying."

"Don't talk nonsense."

She looked very angry.

"It's the rotten place in civilization," he went on, with some excitement--"skin-deep sentimentality, and a careless cruelty reaching down to the core of things. Devices of every kind to keep the unfit here, while the young and strong starve in the streets. Hospitals for the hopeless, not even bread for the ambitious--"

"Where is Emmeline?" interrupted Mrs. Gano, looking down the long room towards Val.

"I don't know."

"Go and find her, and don't make her cry. I'll call you both when I want you."

page 146

The next time that Emmie wept because she couldn't have something she saw in a store window, Val realized it was time that she should be taken into her confidence. When they were alone:

"Now, can you keep a famerly secret?"


"Cross your heart, and hope you may die if you ever tell."

Emmie complied with these requirements.

"Well, we're pore, all of us--gran'ma, too--awful, awful pore, and you mustn't hurt their feelin's askin' for green hats and things."

"'Tain't so. Gamma ain't pore."

"I tell you she is."

"Why"--Emmie laughed her silvery little laugh, and showed her small white teeth bewitchingly--"she's got a ole hair-trunk full o' money."

" No-o-o-o!"

"Yes, she has. I found a dusty ten-dollar bill in the fat blue china vase, and I 'minded her of it when she said she couldn't get me the red cloak at Alexander's you know."

"Yes, yes, yes; what'd she say?"

"Said the little trunk in the pack-room was full of bills like that, but all the same, I couldn't have the red cloak at Alexander's; that's why I always cry when I see it"--Emmie wound up with the air of one who takes a lawful pride in accomplishing a mission--"'cause with a trunk full o' money there's no excuse."

Here was news. Was she a miser, then? The very thought was enough to make one spin with excitement, and the growing belief that it was so kept Val "going," so to speak, for many a cheerful week.

There came a day when, after taking oaths of the most binding and blasphemous character, Julia Otway was let into the "famerly secret."

She was obviously disappointed that all this preparation led up to so little.

page 147

"Why, every human being in Noo Plymouth knows your gran'ma's a miser. My father says she was awful cute, sellin' out her negroes in the nick o' time, and she came here with heaps o' money; but she don't trust much of it to the bank, and she lives so close and never spends a cent, so o' course she's got a hoard som'ers."

Val was not pleased at the tone of this corroboration. The joy of having a real live miser in the "famerly" was clouded. She determined not to let her father be the only inhabitant of the town who was still in the dark on a subject touching his comfort so closely. The next time they were alone together she told him how much he was deceived as to the "famerly's" finances.

He laughed till the tears came into his eyes, and he fell to coughing, and then his mother appeared with the inevitable bottle of tolu, capsicum and paregoric, and compelled him, between his paroxysms of amusement and choking, to swallow an extra large dose.

When he told her the news, she laughed too, but a trifle grimly, and turned on Val with:

"I am surprised to hear that you discuss family affairs with the neighbors. It's not a Gano habit."

And she went back to her own room without vouchsafing the smallest defence or explanation. But Val's father took her in his lap, and told her a long consoling story, beginning, "In the year 18--" This communication, bristling, as usual, with dates, was to the effect that the "hidden hoard" was composed of worthless Confederate notes, and it was just because they had that trunk full of money that they were poor.

Nobody ever heard of a bill going unpaid or having to be presented twice at Mrs. Gano's door; but Val was very conscious as time went on that her "frocks," as her grandmother called dresses, were old and ugly and out of fashion. They had been lengthened, and turned, and dyed, and when they simply refused to hold together any longer, instead of getting a new one like Julia Otway's as she had dreamed, Val had the humiliation year by year of wearing her way, moth-

page 148

like, through her aunt Valeria's entire antiquated wardrobe. There were all kinds of objections to drawing on this family reserve. The things in themselves, to Val's eyes, were hideous, hideous--barèges unpleasant to the touch and sight, ugly reps, ancient bayadere silks and flowered organdies that tore if you looked at them hard; and the inhabitants of New Plymouth looked at them very hard indeed, and sometimes rubbed their eyes. Then, as if their being so out of fashion were not cross enough, these fabrics were fabulously precious to her grandmother's heart, and had to be worn, so to speak, with fasting and prayer. Woe to Val if she spilt milk, or dropped maple syrup, on Aunt Valeria's things, for these objectionable garments never to the bitter end became Val's own. The dead woman seemed to stretch a hand out of the grave to keep her hold on them, never for a moment remitting her claim. Spoiling your own pretty blue sash, that your mother had bought in New York, was naughty, but hurting anything of Aunt Valeria's was a crime of darker hue. Each time a new garment was required, Mrs. Gano, with set face and faltering hands, would open Aunt Valeria's trunk, and, with the air of one dealing out purple and fine linen, or like a monarch conferring orders of the Garter and the Cross, she would say to the dark-browed child:

"There! you shall have that!"

And Val would perforce disguise as well as she could her loathing of the gift.

The child's passionate hatred of the ugly and uncouth was an unending pain to her. She would shut her eyes tight as she passed old Mr. Thompson, with his great wen, conscious of the same sensation of sickness that would come over her at the malodorous neighborhood of a dead cat. She would jerk her head away in the street as if she had been struck when she met the idiot boy "Jake," more shaken and afraid than if she had seen a ghost. She would grit her teeth morning after morning with unabated rage and detestation as she put on a certain green poplin of Aunt Valeria's, with its pattern of yellow ochre palms.

page 149

There was something about the sad and faded green of this frock, something about the fat and filth-colored palms, that made the wearer long to smash everything within her reach. Some of Val's wildest misdeeds could have been traced to that green poplin. While the abhorred garment held together, even her pretty, slim bronze boots were powerless to cheer a heart so deep bowed down.

Emmie's clothes seemed never to wear out; it was part of her almost invariable advantage over Val. Mrs. Gano more than once pointed out that Val succeeded in working her toes through three pairs of boots while Emmie was carefully wearing one.

"Emmie isn't the captain at prisoner's base," the accused would say, in self-defence, "and she doesn't walk miles and miles with father on Sunday afternoons.

Val was very proud of these same walks, even if the conversation did usually begin with:

"Now that you are learning history, no doubt you can tell me what was happening in Paris 273 years ago to-day?" or, "This is the anniversary of a battle that settled the fate of an empire; of course you remember," etc.; or that less easily eluded form: "Whose birthday is this?" And while the child, innocent of a notion, seemed to be diving down into profound deeps of information after the required fragment, he would help her on with a hint--"One of the real benefactors of the race; did more for the good of humanity by his discovery than all the saints in the calendar. I recollect speaking of him just a year ago, later in the day than this, about five o'clock, as we stood with Professor Black by the pyrus japonica."

"Oh yes," Val would cry out with delight at having a "glimmer," though not of what he asked; "I remember perfectly, and I asked you if the pyrus was the kind of burning bush Moses saw."

" Exactly."

And the best feeling prevailed, it not occurring to John Gano that even now his daughter had not the dimmest

page 150

notion who the great man was who thus unseasonably intruded on their Sunday tête-à-tête.

She was very sensitive to his disapproval, and suffered acutely when he showed how he despised a person who forgot the difference between a sycamore and a balsam poplar.

"What's the use of your having eyes if you don't use them?"

And she silently determined to be more observant, and win back her father's respect.

"You should greet these good friends by name when you walk abroad," he would say. "You wouldn't pass a woman every day in the street, as beautiful as that silver birch, or a man as magnificent as the Otways' copper beech, without asking his name; and you wouldn't be content with knowing his intimates called him 'John.' 'What family does he belong to?' you'd say. 'What is his history?' Now, here have I taken the pains to introduce you to these desirable acquaintances, and yet you--"

"I shall know 'em next time," she would protest, humbly.

By-and-by her father didn't need to interrupt the main thread of his discourse more than to pause with pointed walking-stick for a second, while his little companion would interpolate briskly: " Ulmus Americana," or " Tilia." And if, instead of his instantly resuming story or homily, he still stood pointing, she would proceed: "Also commonly called bass, lime, or linden; bark used for matting and ropes; wood for sounding-boards; sap for sugar, and its charcoal for gunpowder."

He would nod and walk on, finishing his broken sentence as though nothing had intervened between subject and predicate. Although he was severe with her constitutional forgetfulness of dates, her father, at least, did not obtrude upon her the disgrace of extreme youth. He talked the gravest matters to her with an air of conferring with an equal. They discussed religion with no little openness, and, by dint of diligent inquiry, she heard, amazed, the extent of his unbelief. He had at first meant to be reticent, but as she got older and yet more inquiring, he had said:

page 151

"One thing, at least, a child has a right to expect from its parents, and that is truth. I am bound, as I see the matter, to give my child as faithful an account of the world as I am able. I am the traveller coming home, of whom the young one setting forth asks the way. Shall I advise him to go in the wrong direction because the old sign-posts misled me?" He would shake his head gloomily, and go on as if communing with his own soul: "Not consciously to mislead, that is the basic human obligation." Then he would look down on a sudden at the little schoolgirl trotting solemnly along by his side, and resume with a kind of severity: "I don't owe my child money"--he used to revert to this as if it were a sore point--"I don't owe my child worldly position or honors, or houses or lands, but I owe him honesty. I shall never consciously deceive him."

And so Sunday by Sunday she heard the Gospel preached at St. Thomas's in the morning, and in the later day the new tidings of science, and a sort of sublimated socialism, preached among the lanes and hills. She heard the story of the making of the world (not according to Genesis), and was invited to observe in "Nature's Workshop," as her father called the hills, how the making and transforming still went on.

"In these high places," he would say, with enthusiasm, "you may detect Nature in the very act."

Val was shown how busy the little brooks were, and the wide river as well, ever making "sedimentary deposits," still carving out its channel, wearing sown the fire-born rock as surely as the chalk cliffs in its "ancient incradicable inclination to the sea."

She saw for herself how the wind and the weather worked away day and night disintegrating, tearing down, until even to a child it was clear that one day the proud upstanding hills would be brought low, and lay their heads in the plain. There was a tragic element in the story and its ocular proof. It made the solid earth waver under the feet as in an earthquake. Her father had pointed out how

page 152

even the old Fort that had so stoutly withstood the fierce Red Man could not hold out against this subtler foe. He had shown her where even the great corner-stones were exfoliating; with his finger-tip he could flake off the loosened bits, but regretfully, and only as an object-lesson. No child must lift a finger to help this insidious enemy; and yet, rightly comprehended, Nature and Nature's laws were our best friends, Val was given to understand. It was the theologian who had spoiled man's legitimate satisfaction in the world. Christianity had been the greatest curse of Time (this came as a lightning-flash); Christianity had killed art, discouraged learning, and set back the clock of Progress 2000 years; had turned man's thoughts and energies from the righteous task of making a heaven on earth; had filled him with foreboding, and forbidden him natural joys.

John Gano had no need to tell his daughter not to convey to her grandmother any inkling of this indictment of the holy faith. It was a thrilling secret. To be a sharer in it was a proud distinction which led to Val's being permitted to remain in the room when Professor Black, a contributor to her father's favorite periodical, the Popular Science Monthly, came on flying visits, and they sat and talked of these real dark ages of the wold--Pliocene, Eocene, and the rest.

Mrs. Gano did not shrink from reading Darwin, and Spencer, and other books her son left about. As time went on she came to entertain the clearest views as to science being the handmaid of religion. In these later days of her own development, she had no quarrel with those "orthodox scientists," who regarded the Mosaic story with respect as "symbolical"--symbolical of what was not inquired. The vaster age of the world, the true story of the rocks, gave Mrs. Gano only a fresh and more passionate sense of the wonder and majesty of the ways of God. she corroborated and supported her new friends among modern historians and men of science as vehemently as of old she had upheld a favorite preacher, poet, or Biblical commen-

page 153

tator. She objected vigorously to much she found in Buckle and Lecky, and to certain Germans whose names she disdained to utter, and bestowed her unqualified approval upon some of the lesser lights whose Theism was sound.

After Professor Black was gone, or that other wise man from the East, the handsome and distinguished-looking editor of the Engineering and Mining Journal, Mrs. Gano would agitate the great red rocking-chair into an abortive rock, and lifting her chin with an air of disdain: "Humph!" she would say, "a mighty superior person!" Then, seeing her son would not respond to this obvious irony: "Who is he, to quarrel with the Bridgewater Treatises!"

"Black is too accurate a thinker to accept the theory of design carried to the highest perfection." And, hoping to stem the tide of further objurgation of his friend, he would demolish the Treatise on the Human Eye. "So far from its being the nicest adaptation of means to an end, the eye of man is a clumsy and pitiful production."

This was the kind of irreligion that in these days excited Mrs. Gano's ire more than any other. So hot would the argument grow, that sometimes her son would utterly lose sight of his determination never to disturb his mother's faith. He would turn upon her with all the enthusiasm of the passionate amateur.

"One glance through the magnifying-glass at the infinitely superior eye of the common house-fly is enough to--"

"Enough to make any Christian thankful, I should say, that his eyes are what Providence made them."

"The fly's eye is a far finer instrument."

"Humph! A pretty sigh we'd be with protruding goggles bigger than all the rest of the face!"

"I assure you the fly has a beautiful eye! And then the way it is placed! Magnificent! A group of powerful lenses mounted on rods, controlled by delicate muscles that turn the eye about so that without moving his body he can see all round him. There was an invention if you like!"

"I shouldn't have liked it in the least."

page 154

"Ah, that's because you don't realize that to examine certain insects through the magnifying-glass is to dispose at once and forever of the notion than an omnipotent Providence did His level best by man. As a mechanical contrivance the human eye is merely an intricate failure." Then, perhaps perceiving that these intricate failures in his mother's head were shooting lightnings, he would shield his audacities behind a foreign authority. "Helmholtz says he would be ashamed of any novice in his laboratory who should design so poor an optical appliance."

"Just like his German impudence! A nation of boors and atheists!"

John Gano would always end by pulling himself up, and accepting these strictures on his authorities and his friends (and by implication on himself) with a silent tolerance.

Val felt a fine superiority in thinking that she understood. The grandmother, who was such an autocrat, and thought so highly of her own judgment, was in reality very bigoted and lamentably behind the age. But Val and her father bore with her, not even exchanging covert glances when, with shining eyes and sibylline aspect, she would burst into Old Testament denunciation and prophecy. Her father was really a miracle of forbearance. His behavior to his mother, in spite of her shortcomings, was beautiful. He would sit and read Ruskin aloud to her by the hour, and would give her his arm of an evening and slowly pace the gravel paths, instead of going any more interesting and inspiring tramps with his brisker companion along river or over hill.

On the occasions when Val tagged after the pair, she was firmly convinced that the tone of her grandmother's conversation was adjusted to young ears. It made her long to shout out: "Oh, he tells me a great deal more than ever he tells you!"

Mrs. Gano would sometimes interrupt her son with scant ceremony and say, glancing back at the child: "Great is the mystery of godliness. There is a point at which the finite mind must stop," and so on.

page 155

Val's contempt for this was profound; she felt it was not in alignment with what they had been saying before she came up with them. She would slip her hand into her father's, and squeeze it gently, to restore the sense of secret understanding. They would often, when she was there, talk about the stars, perhaps as being "safe ground," if one may so speak of the plains of heaven.

Did John Gano say, dreamily, "The Polar star is dim to-night," she would as likely as not answer with significance: "Is it dim, or our eyes?"

"No fault of our eyes this time, for we can see Mars well enough. He's in a warlike mood to-night, flaming angrily."

Mrs. Gano would pause, and half to herself repeat:

"'The heavens declare the glory of God, and the firmament showeth His handiwork.'"

"Can you find the Scorpion, little girl?" her father would say.

And if she wasn't quick with eye and answer, her grandmother would stop, lifting her shawled arm with curious unmodern largeness of movement, and point the constellation out, half chanting:

"'By His Spirit He hath garnished the heavens; His hand hath formed the crooked serpents.'"

As if gently to divert her attention, the son would perhaps face about, and, walking slowly back with her to the house, would do a little quoting on his own account:

"'Many a night from yonder ivied casement, ere I went to rest,
Did I look on great Orion sloping slowly to the West.'

Ah! The music--the sheer music in that man!"

"There was music before his day. And Tennyson is one of them that hath ears to hear, as well as tongue to speak. Small doubt but from his ivied casement in the West he heard the voice of the Lord from out the chambers of the South. 'Canst thou bind the secret influences of Pleiades, or loose the bands of Orion? Canst thou bring

page 156

forth Mazzaroth in his season? Or canst thou guide Arcturus with his suns?'"

"I can see Cassiopeia," Val would observe, just to show that she was not quite out of it.

And she would grasp her father's hand tighter, to remind him of their agreement that the straggling W stood for "We"--Val and her father. Then he would find Lyra and the Little Bear, and tell how the Milky Way, instead of being, as Hiawatha and Val had thought, "pathway of the ghosts and shadows," was really star-dust, the scattered nebulæ of other suns and systems.

Mrs. Gano would look back before going in-doors, and say, with solemn upward gaze:

"Yes, yes! 'An undevout astronomer is mad.'"

Then they would go in silently to bed.

End Chapter 11
Next Chapter

Available since September 1998