THE LOVE MOON
THOMAS H. RADDALL
IT WAS a hagridden age, of course. The Yankee flesh in Nova Scotia still crept with the witch beliefs of its New England ancestry; Scottish and Irish had a Gaelic goose flesh of their own; the settlers of Lunenburg had spread along the coast their Hexe tales, transplanted from the Black Forest; and the negro slaves brought north by the Loyalists had added a strain of mumbo jumbo. These farfetched notions agreed on certain things, especially the moon, which gave the little town of Oldport something to think about o’ nights.
There were wet moons and dry moons, planting moons and harvest moons. Moons good or ill for birth and marriage and death; there were fishermen’s moons, and a hunter’s moon. And there was a slice of moon, tilted just enough that a powder horn might be hung on its lower tip, that had virtue for war—and for love. Such a moon hung in the west on that momentous summer evening of the year 1804 when Colonel Sumter Larrabee gave his dinner to the new Collector of Customs.
It was momentous for various reasons. For one thing it marked the changing times. The pioneer stage of the town’s life had slipped by. A well-to-do class had arisen out of the fishery and the West Indies trade, even out of the wars. Thriving merchants no longer called in an old woman to “Lorn my Daughter how to Spin,” but sent daughter off to Halifax to learn
the arts of genteel conversation, of painting and the pianoforte. His Majesty’s ships on the Halifax station noted Oldport as a hospitable port of call. Governors came to wine and dine. There were carriages on the main street, and smart sleigh turnouts in winter. And now Oldport was to have a Collector of Impost and Excise!
To be sure there had been some sort of impost for years, indifferently enforced and blandly ignored. But now old Taggart, the ‘‘Naval Officer” of Oldport for a generation, had doddered away to the grave at last, and the Government had sent a very different sort of man to take his place.
James Ogilvie was Nova Scotia born, and in his appointment Colonel Larrabee saw an omen that put all other signs of the new age in the shade. A generation of native-born had arisen and matured, and now was reaching out for the posts hitherto enjoyed by the favored of the pioneers. So it had come! It made the old loyalist feel a little resentful, against what he did not exactly know—life, perhaps. But at 54 his mind was still keen in its chosen groove, and he could see trouble afar. He 8a\v his duty too—and, in a way, he welcomed it. Hence the dinner at Larrabee House, and the presence of the new Collector—and of the leading merchants of the town.
The burden of the dinner fell upon Priscilla, the last of the Colonel’s daughters and now mistress of Larrabee House. The others had married and gone. Priscilla was handsom,e but cold, people said. She was too proud for the young men of Oldport, they said. But there were some who said she was wise—a fine
home, fine clothes and a fine independence. What Colonel Larrabee thought about it no one knew, but one thing was certain: Priscilla did make a perfect hostess.
‘‘It’s short notice, my dear,” he admitted with an air of embarrassment, ‘‘but there ’tis. The man came unannounced, like a bolt from the blue.”
‘‘Is he important?” Priscilla asked calmly.
She nodded, swinging her keys absently. With no further word she left the room, followed by the Colonel’s approving eyes. She would have made a good quartermaster.
Off went the negro Philip in the gig for a pair of turkeys from Larrabee’s farm at The Falls, and freshspeared salmon from the Indians there. Away went the black boy Juba to the water front, seeking a captain in from the West Indies with a turtle or two on deck. Up from the root cellar came potatoes and pickled cucumbers and beets in vinegar—it was too early for fresh vegetables—and jall3 of preserved blueberries and wild strawberries, and a crock of apple butter.
Sumter Larrabee himself—he would trust no other —went down to the dim cool bins beneath the house to draw the wines and place them on the sideboard in his lovely flint glass decanters.
The dinner hour was set at four, in the genteel Halifax fashion, and at four precisely they assembled in the big dining room where the great bay window looked upon Priscilla’s posy garden.
The Larrabee silver, saved in the flight from Caro-
lina, glistened on Priscilla’s best table linen, and two candelabra, branched like trees, held tapers of the finest spermaceti prepared to light the evening’s feasting.
On the sideboard the afternoon sunshine made a dazzle of the silver punch bowl and the long silver ladle with its curious twisted whalebone handle, the last relics of the mess plate of Tarleton’s Legion. And one ray, slanting along the line of decanters, brought out the lovely colors of the wines.
Old Mr. Bunt was there, getting pretty feeble now; and Hodden and Rumford, the West India merchants; and Groby, the tall black-haired old man, half Indian, who had made such a fortune in privateers; and Keaton and Griffin, two of Sumter’s old troopers, now prosperous in the timber trade; and Ambrose Van Gort landt, the loyalist, whose sons were building the best ships on the coast. And among the younger merchants were John Daggett, and Cutt, and pious Mather Jones, and John Riggs—“Handsome Jack”— the clever young skipper who had done so well in the wine trade.
Black Philip, in his best blue coat and brass buttons, opened the door as they came, and later took post in the dining room with the houseboy Juba. Philip’s wife, Hagar, bustled and roared in the kitchen, and two hired girls brought in from the lower town carried her cookery to Philip’s deft black hands¡in the diningroom door.
Priscilla had put on her favorite burgundy velvet with her mother’s lace at wrist and throat, and stood at her father’s side in the hall, greeting the guests as they came. They gave her polite compliments— poor Mr. Bunt regretting aloud that she would not sit at meat with them, she reminded him so of her dead mother and the old time that would never come back again.
And tall young Captain Riggs swept her with his daring blue eyes, and paused.
“Burgundy gives a warmth to your eyes, Miss Larrabee. For you, burgundy always, I swear!”
Priscilla flushed to the fringe of her dark hair. Compliments came as natural as breath from Captain Jack.
She curtsied mockingly. “Sworn like a wine merchant, sir!” Too late she caught her tongue between her teeth. She had made up her mind to please him. Jack Riggs was the catch of the town. Half the girls in Oldport had their caps set for him. They would have said something coy. She turned her fine black eyes to him with a look to make amends for her unruly tongue and found him smiling, a flash of strong teeth in the sunbeam that fell through the fanlight over the door. It was a little startling, that handsome disembodied head afloat in the gloom of the hall. Simon Fraser, the superstitious ferryman, would have called it a forerunner.
Of what? wondered Priscilla. She did not like Captain Jack particularly. She had never liked any man particularly except her father. And yet she wanted love—she was 28.
The meal began at once, Black Philip and Juba busy about the table, Priscilla moving between kitchen and hall with a housekeeper’s eye on the scurrying mouth-watering maids.
The drone of male voices flowed evenly over the click and slither of knives and forks, a peaceful chorus.
She speculated on the guest of honor, a man neither tall nor short, with a strong chest and shoulders and clipped dark hair, and wearing trousers—tongs!—which Oldport still considered sailors’ wear. Her father had said, since knee breeches began to go out of fashion, that a man who wore tongs in polite society must have something wrong with his legs.
Mr. Ogilvie had a snub nose and a stubborn jaw marked by two or three smallpox pits. His eyes were large and grey, alight with intelligence—or was it only good humor?—and missing nothing. A plain man.
Priscilla guessed his age at 30 and was a little surprised, for she had expected a young whippersnapper with superior Halifax airs.
Ogilvie looked like a farmer up to town for the market. He had little to say, and said it with an accent neither Carolinian nor New York nor Yankee nor Scottish nor English, and yet somehow suggesting them all.
Heavens! Was he a type of the country-born, the creation all New England was calling Bluenose?
It was more pleasant to look upon Captain Jack, who was old-colony-born like herself,
"Show me my true love tonight," said Priscilla to the moon — It did
and by the accounts of sentimental old loyalist ladies a son of the handsomest man in royalist New York. In that gathering of staid men, young and old, Captain Jack sparkled like a fire of split hemlock. He threw her a wink as she looked in the dining room to see that the pudding was served properly, and the wink had something intimate about it, as if to say, “You and I, my dear . . . but the rest!”
When the affair had drawn to walnuts and wine the Colonel sent Juba for her, as usual, and she stood beside his chair, tall and aloof, and received the compliments of the company upon the quality of the dinner. She bowed and fled thankfully to the cool air of the upper balcony.
Her father’s guests had been long over their food. A fine sunset had poured red fire over a few high and slowly sailing clouds, but candlelight was already pricking the dusk of the lower streets and the sun was down now and the sickle moon hung low in the western afterglow. She watched it, absorbed, with her slim back to one of the cool white pillars. This was the moon sweethearts talked about and believed in. Silly, of course, Superstition! What they really liked was its light—just enough to see a lover’s face and not enough to make him shy. But was that all? Mightn’t there be something in those old wives’ tales? Suddenly, unaccountably, all her longings, all her loneliness frothed inside her. Why not find out? Now! Tonight! Her father and his gentlemen would be talking far into the morning. They had dismissed her, politely, charmingly, but utterly as they always did. And always would. Always . . . that was a long time.
BATTERY POINT was a pleasant place by daylight. You could stand on the grassy rampart of the little fort and look down the harbor to Bear Island, or across the channel to Salt Creek, where Simon Fraser, the ferryman, awaited the summons of an old bugle hung on a post by the empty blockhouse; or you could gaze along the shore of Ballast Cove to the pinewoods, or contemplate the quiet graves of Dead Hill by the water.
But after dark there was a difference. Darkies shunned the place then. For that matter so did the whites, except they had need to cross the ferry. The fort had been deserted since the end of the American war—
21 long years. The blockhouse was tottering into ruin, the barrack a roofless shell, the rendezvous of military ghosts.
Priscilla found it all blue shadow, with the old guns squatting like silver pigs in the moonshine thrqugh the embrasures. She turned toward Ballast Cove, the cobbles of the beach top rattling under her shoes. Behind the beach lay the ravine where old Deborah Tupps had her dwelling, a marshy hollow bristling with tall cattail rushes and bordered by thickets of cat spruce and fir. The sea was smooth, twinkling softly in the rays of the thin moon and hissing faintly against the foot of the beach.
She hurried past Dead Hill, the small bare knoll where strangers and sailors were buried, and found Debby’s hut in the bushes beyond, a crooked thing of pine boards, like an old tea chest flung up from the sea in a storm. There was no light within but the chimney smoked faintly against the stars. Priscilla took a deep breath and rapped on the door.
“Who’s there?” called Debby Tupps.
“It’s me—Priscilla Larrabee.”
“Priscilla—Colonel Larrabee’s daughter.”
A silence followed the invoking of that name. Debby had been up before the town’s chief magistrate more times than she cared to count. Priscilla peered at the pane and saw her down on all fours baside the fireplace, blowing on a coal. A candle flamed suddenly. The latch was raised with a slow and furtive sound, and then the door flew open with astonishing suddenness. Debby’s candle guttered in the draught and Priscilla pressed her knees together to steady them. They regarded each other in silence.
The witch of Ballast Cove wore a flannel petticoat of a solid red and a short dimity bedgown that reached her bony hips. There was a black shawl about her shoulders and her grey hair hung down upon it, a loose untidy mass. Her feet were bare. A pair of hard blue eyes inspected Priscilla in a way that made her shiver a little, as if cold hands ran over her flesh.
“So!” uttered Debby. “It’s the old maid one!”
“I’m only eight-and-twenty,” Priscilla said.
A little air from the sea stirred the candle and there wras a smell of kelp.
“That’s as may be! Come in out o’ the dark, girl, an’let’s look at ye.” And within the door, “So! One o’ the high an’ mighty Larrabees comes callin’ on old Deborah! Debby, the thief! Debby, the beggar woman! Dirty old Debby Tupps, eh? And what might old Debby thank for the honor? But don’t tell me.” Debby smiled and showed the gaps in her teeth, and Priscilla shrank away from the forward thrust of that face, from the evil in it, so like a fairytale witch it was.
“Only eight-an’-twenty, eh? Only fiddlestick! You’re only an old maid, my fine Miss Larrabee, ain’t that the truth? An’ gettin’ worrit, as well ye might! Twenty-eight an’ no husband to be seen. Hoity-toity! Wouldn’t look at the Oldport young men, would ye? Not you! Your sister, Flora, could marry a common sailor, Arabella could off an’ marry an ensign o’ foot with no more than the red jacket to his back; but not our dear Miss Prissy, not our fine Miss Prissy! None o’ these tarry young sea captains, none o’ these sons o’ provincial merchants for the last daughter o’ Colonel Larrabee, late o’ Tarleton’s Legion! As if old Sabre Larrabee hadn't skedaddled out o’ Carolina two jumps ahead o’ the hangman!”
“As to that,” said Priscilla coldly, “I dare say there were others the hangman wanted— and not for their politics, either.”
The candle seemed to touch off a blue flame in Debby’s eyes. The witch said sulkily, “Got the Larrabee tongue in your head, ain’t ye! What d’ye want then?”
“You know what I want, Debby. This is a love moon, isn’t it?”
Deborah Tupps considered her once more. Priscilla was tall, like all the Larrabees, a touch too slim at the hips for the beauty of the times but full enough in the bodice to suit a regimental toastmaster. She had the family eyes, dark and glowing, and the forthright family gaze that young men found so disconcerting. Her mother’s nose, slender and uptilted, took the hardness from the firm Larrabee mouth.
“Set down,” Debby said abruptly. “Over yonder by the chimbley. Aye, pull your skirts about ye but the chair’s clean enough. You’re not a bad-lookin’ piece, for all you’re eight-an’-twenty an’ a bit long in the bones. A good ankle, I see, an’ a fair enough shape for them as likes ’em on the lean side. A pity Old Flintface
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Continued from page 17
made ye svvaller a ramrod. Men don’t like stiff-backed women. Ye must loosen up a bit for a man’s eye.”
“I don’t want a man’s eye,” said Miss Prissy, with an upward jerk of her chin. “Pm not sure that I want any part of a man. But if there’s to be one in my life Pd like to know what he looks like. It’s time.”
“Aye, time. Who told ye about me?” “Everybody knows about you, Debby. Tilda Hovenden vows you showed her the face of the man she married—and she hadn’t given Jo Hovenden a thought till then. Lois van Cortlandt the same. Well—Pm curious, that’s all.”
“That’s what they all say.”
The candle stood in a grease-clotted pewter dish on a pine table filched from the abandoned barracks. The table top had a pattern of small circular stains, and was charred by spilled pipes, and carved with the initials of men gone away and forgotten these 20 years. A tattered green drugget lay before the bricks of the fireplace, and between the door and table was a bearskin, worn down to the hide. A low cot stood in a corner. There was no other furniture but the half-barrel rocking chair in which Priscilla sat. All sorts of oddments hung from nails in the pine-board walls; a tangle of herring net, a maple-withe basket, a seaman’s tarpaulin hat, an army greatcoat, once brown with orange facings but faded now to a common buff and rotten with age and weather, a hank of cod line, some rabbit snares, a bundle of dried roots, a lanthorn with one glass broken.
“Fust,” Debby said shrewdly, “it takes a bit o’ silver. It takes a dollar.” “Tilda Hovenden said a shilling!” “For a Larrabee—an’ she eight-an’twenty—it’s a dollar an’ worth it.” Priscilla unknotted her handkerchief and selected a coin. Deborah took it, bit it, and gave it a bounce on the table, with her head cocked, listening. “Mmmm! Well enough!”
Priscilla glanced toward the door. “What’s that sound, Debby, out there toward the shore?”
“Like thunder far off, and yet . . .” “Keep your mind on your errand, girl, do, if ye want your money’s worth. Now listen to me. Out yonder”—she jerked her head to the west—“you’ll find a path that runs up the holler a bit. My well’s at the end, a shallow thing, an’ you’ll see the moon in it if you’ve got eyes at all an’ know up from down. A wooden cup hangs on the birch tree there. Take the cup an’ dip it full where the moon lies on the water—just there, mind—then turn an’ face the moon itself, the true moon up in the sky. Take a sip o’ the water. ‘Moon small,’ says you. ‘Moon bright,’ says you. ‘Show me my true love tonight,’ says you. Got that? Now! Sling the rest o’ the water over your left shoulder—the left, mind!—then turn your back on the moon an’ walk home the way ye came, an’ quick about it. If there’s to be a man in your life—I promise nothin’, mind! — why, it’ll he the fust man ye clap your black eyes on.”
“No matter who or where?” breathed Priscilla.
“No matter. Go on then, get done with it an’ off home. Old Flintface ’ud cut a fine caper if he knowed his fine gal was abroad at this hour, I lay. No lookin’ back, mind, or the spell’s broke.”
“No looking back,” whispered Priscilla.
THF] beaten path twisted and gleamed like a little stream in the bushes. At 50 steps or so Priscilla came to a hole, rock-lined, at the edge of the marshy bottom, where the cattails stood tall in the moonlight like giant black-eared grain. A disc of water shimmered at her feet, and in it floated the moon. The wooden cup rattled against the birch trunk under her groping fingers, and there was an outburst of voices from the hut in the thickets below. A man’s voice first: “Debby! Debby! Debby, ye drunken witch, why didn’t ye signal us? Where’s the wagons, eh? Here we are, the beach cluttered with casks, and not a hoof nor a wheel to be seen!”
Then Debby’s half scream, half whisper. “Hush, ye fool! There’s old Larrabee’s daughter within the chuck of a stone, an’ you roarin’ as if ye was on the broad ocean with sails to reef! She heard your lads rollin’ the casks up the beach an’ thought ’twas thunder.” “Thunder it is! What’s she doing here?”
“At the well, moon-lookin’—what else? Man-lookin’, if ye like. An’ what better sight for her eyes than a fine upstandin’ feller like Handsome Jack? Up with ye!”
“To stop her mouth, my fine fool; what else? Smugglin’s a hangin’ matter, or have ye forgot?”
Priscilla thought, “O lor, I’m going to swoon like a silly kitchen girl.” But the thought of all the lonely years stiffened her, turned her woodenly toward the moon. She sipped, and the cup shook in her hands.
Moon small, moon bright,
Shout me my true love tonight She flung the water over her left shoulder swiftly, turned to go, and saw with wide eyes a man rising like an apparition from the cattails behind the well. He was staring intently, not at Priscilla but at a pistol in his hand.
“Damme,” said Mr. Ogilvie, “you’ve wet my powder.”
“And timely done!” came the voice of young Captain Riggs from the path. Handsome Jack stood there, tall and confident, with his Hessians planted well apart and something glittering in his hand.
“Don’t move,” he said to Mr. Ogilvie, “for I’ve a filed trigger, a dry pan, and a barker that speaks once and for all. Priscilla, my dear, what the deuce are you doing here?”
“What are you doing here?” asked Priscilla, a little wildly.
“What are any of us doing here?” added Mr. Ogilvie coolly.
“Suppose you explain,” Priscilla said, clutching the empty cup.
“Yes,” said Handsome Jack. “Suppose you do, Mister Collector. But first give your barker a sling in the marsh.”
Mr. Ogilvie threw the wet pistol over his left shoulder, as if he were moon-looking himself.
“It’s a queer story,” he said, “and a bit on the long side.”
“Make it short then,” Handsome Jack said, “for I’ve short time and short temper.”
“Ah! Well, then, Miss Larrabee, I’ll begin with a law passed in the Assembly at Halifax many years ago, called, ‘An Act for more effectually raising a Duty of Excise on Wine, Rum, and Certain Other Enumerated Articles, and for preventing Frauds in the Collection of the Revenue.’ ”
“Long-winded thing, wasn’t it?” Handsome Jack said.
“It never took much breath of yours. But to go on, Miss Larrabee—that law was never enforced here in Oldport. Your father didn’t like it—what merchant would in a town where free trade had been the rule? But as chief
magistrate he tried to see it enforced. Hopeless, of course. Enforcement was in the hands of the naval officer—a man asleep on his feet for 20 years. Your father and some others paid the duty and brought the ships in to their wharves. The rest got their supplies somewhere else—from the air apparently—and smiled and said nothing and went to church a-Sundays.
“Lately the smuggling’s taken a jump. Stuff by the shipload. Your father couldn’t price his wines to match it. His enquiries got him nowhere. One day last spring a man, Mullins by name, hinted he knew who the chief smuggler was. Your father heard of it, went to see the man, and found him sitting very glum by his fireside with a rag wound about his head. Some person or persons had cut off his ears—a common accident to informers in the trade—and he’d no mind to talk any more.
“Well, that’s how it v/as. Then old Taggart died, and I came. I was for searching the stores and confiscating the smuggled stuff—and yanking the owners into court. Your father talked me out of it. ‘Let me give a dinner,’ he said, ‘where you can meet the merchants and let ’em know, in a genteel sort of way, that the free trade’s got to stop. After all, why stir up a rumpus amongst the merchants when there’s a chance to nab the smuggler himself and cut the thing off at the root?’ ‘How?’ said I. ‘Will you promise to come to my dinner?’ your father said. T will,’ said T. ‘Then,’ said he, ‘we’ll go now to Johnnie Mullins and sweat the truth out of him!’ And we did. He’s a terror, is your father, when roused. No offense, ma’am, I hope?”
“Your time’s getting short,” said Captain Riggs. Something cold in his voice gave Priscilla a stab of dismay but Mr. Ogilvie seemed quite at ease.
“So we went to your father’s dinner, Miss Larrabee—a marvellous dinner, I may say, and a credit to your charming and capable self. I’ve never eaten such food in my life, and I live in hope . . .”
“You live in my hand,” said Handsome Jack in that queer cold voice.
“Then I trust your hand’s cleaner than your conscience, sir.”
“Get on with your fairy tale!”
“You know the rest, my friend. After the first round of punch you made an excuse and left. Business, you said. Well, you’re a jolly companion, Handsome Jack, and the party wasn’t the same when you quit. So the Colonel called an end. We drank once more— ‘To an honest revenue and damnation to all smugglers’—and went about our business.”
“Now this,” said Captain Jack, “is the interesting part. What follows?”
“First, I found your waggoners— some of ’em surprising respectable, Jack—all hid in a lane by the fish flakes, axles greased, wheels muffled, no bells to the oxen—you do things well, Jack, that’s a fact. Whispering together, they were, and scared stiff. Why? They’d seen ‘Old Flintface’— that’s your father, Miss Larrabee, begging your pardon—Old Flintface’s daughter going down to Ballast Cove a minute before. ‘Game’s up,’ they said, ‘Jack’s had a long run.’ they said. Oh they were all ashiver, I tell you, Jack, like darkies on Hallowe’en. ’Twas laughable, I swear. ‘There’s been tattling,’ says one. ‘Some wife’s let her clapper run,’ says another, ‘—and yours, most likely, Jim Paddow, for her tongue’s hung in the middle and wags at both ends.’
“And before you could shake the reef out of a handkerchief they were at it, teeth and claws, like a lot of panicky rats caught under a barrel. I had to step in then, Jack, for fear you’d hear the rumpus. I quoted a bit of the Act—‘all horses, oxen, carts, wagons, boats, shallops or other craft, of vrhat kind soever, which shall be found,’ et cetera, and let ’em go. I’d bigger fish to fry, Jack, and no time to waste.” “You’ll fry on the other side in a minute,” said Handsome Jack. “Where’s Old Flintface?”
“At this moment,” Mr. Ogilvie said carefully, as if it were a matter for exact calculation, “I reckon the Colonel’s boarding your schooner, Happy Return, along with the sheriff and some others.”
“Then the game’s up?” “Gallows-high, Jack.”
“Then take this, Mister Collector, for your Impost and Excise!”
Handsome Jack’s pistol tore the night apart with a shocking noise and flame, and the bell sang. The wooden cup went to pieces in Priscilla’s hand in a stroke of magic that left her fingers tingling. She was at Mr. Ogilvie’s side, with an arm flung across his chest, and wondering how she got there. Mr. Ogilvie did not seem to like it. He swept Priscilla aside with a hard right arm, and his left hand whipped a pistol from his coattails.
“Take that,” said he, “for Johnnie Mullins’ ears!”
Again the night fell apart, and a stream of fire poured straight from the pistol muzzle to the middle button of Captain Jack’s fine blue coat. Handsome Jack said no more. His knees sagged, his chin dropped slowly to his chest. He turned completely about, crouching as he went, and struck the ground doubled up in a ball, and then uncoiled full length with the flexible ease of a drunken man.
“Eh!” cried old Debby Tupps from the path. “There’s another pretty man for the Hill!”
“I’m afraid—I’m afraid I’m going to faint,” gasped Priscilla.
“You can’t faint here,” said Mr. Ogilvie absurdly. He slipped a strong arm about her waist and she did not object. She was pleased and astonished. It was not only a comforting but a most agreeable sensation to be held like that.
“Father . . .”
“Your father’s on the beach by now, I fancy, and headed for the sound of the shooting, like* the old soldier he is.”
“Whatever shall I say to him?”
“Say nothing, my dear. When he comes put your head on my shoulder —you’d better kiss me then, I think— and let me do the talking. I’ll call you Priss; your name’s too long for emergencies—or for love-making. You saved my life very nicely, Priss. Would you take it very hard if I saved your good name with my own?”
“No,” said Priscilla faintly, and smiled at the moon with a whimsical turn of her lips. Only an hour ago she had vowed never to say that hard small word again.