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Title: Not Pretty, but Precious
Author: De Forest, J. W. (John William), 1826-1906 [Contributor], Minor, R. D. [Contributor], Guernsey, Clara F. (Clara Florida), 1836-1893 [Contributor], Spofford, Harriet Elizabeth Prescott, 1835-1921 [Contributor], Hosmer, Margaret, 1830-1897 [Contributor], Hay, John, 1835-1905 [Contributor], Hadermann, J. R. [Contributor], Hooper, Lucy Hamilton, 1835-1893 [Contributor], Hickox, Chauncey [Contributor], Field, Margret [Contributor]
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.
Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Not Pretty, but Precious" ***

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[Illustration: "My uncle followed his words with a brightening face,
and when they grew particularly mixed, he would exclaim, softly, 'It
is a great gift! a great gift!'"

The Victims of Dreams. Page 34.]



NOT PRETTY, BUT PRECIOUS, AND OTHER SHORT STORIES.

By

John Hay, Clara F. Guernsey, Margaret Hosmer, Harriet Prescott
Spofford, Lucy Hamilton Hooper, Etc.

Illustrated.


1872.



Contents.



Not Pretty, but Precious, _Margret Field_.
The Victims of Dreams, _Margaret Hosmer_.
The Cold Hand, _Clara F. Guernsey_.
The Blood Seedling, _John Hay_.
The Marquis, _Chauncey Hickox_.
Under False Colors, _Lucy Hamilton Hooper_.
The Hungry Heart, _J.W. De Forrest_.
"How Mother Did It," _J.R. Hadermann_.
The Red Fox, _Clara F. Guernsey_.
Louie, _Harriet Prescott Spofford_.
Old Sadler'S Resurrection, _R.D. Minor_.



Not Pretty, But Precious.



_Mille modi veneris!_


Part I.


Mr. Norval: It is now four weeks since your accident. I have made inquiry
of your physician whether news or business communications, however
important, brought to your attention, would be detrimental to you, cause
an accession of feverish symptoms or otherwise harm you. He assures me, On
the contrary, he is sure you have not been for years so free from disease
of any sort, with the sole exception of the broken bones, as now. This
being so, I venture to approach you upon a subject which I doubt not you
are quite as willing to have definitely arranged, and at once, as myself.
I can say what I mean, and as I mean it, so much better on paper than in
conversation--as I have so little self-possession, and am so readily put
out in the matter of argument--that I have determined to write to you,
thinking thus to be better able to make you understand and appreciate my
reasons and motives, since you can read them when and how you choose.

I have been your wife three weeks. The horrible strangeness of these words
is quite beyond me to compass; nevertheless, realize it or not, it is a
fact. I am your wife--you, my husband. Why I am your wife I wish simply to
rehearse here. Not that we do not both know why, but that we may know it
in the same way. You, a handsome, cultivated man, whose dictum is
considered law in the world of fashion in which you move and reign, with
an assured social position, a handsome fortune, and a popularity that
would have obtained for you the hand of any beautiful or wealthy woman
whom you sought, have deliberately chosen to make me, a poor, plain,
brown-faced little school-teacher, your wife. Not because you wanted _me_,
not because you thought or cared about _me_, one way or the other, but
simply because, in a time of urgent necessity, I was literally the only
available woman near you. It chanced, from many points of view and by a
chain of circumstances, that I was particularly available. So you married
me. The reasons for such a sacrifice of yourself were--you had behaved
badly, very badly, to a lady, compromising her name and causing a
separation between herself and her husband. Within a few months, her
husband having died, both herself and her father had determined to force
you to make her reparation by marriage. Going to work very warily, they
had taken an opportunity, after a very luxuriant and fast opera-supper,
when you were excited by your surroundings and flushed by the wine you had
been drinking, your head very light, your judgment very heavy, to draw
from you a promise of marriage at the expiration of the year of mourning
for her husband. As soon as you became aware of what you had done, you
ignominiously fled, and after a Western tour were about to sail for Europe
when this unfortunate accident overtook you. Your narrow escape from
death, upon having been thrown from the carriage of a distinguished
gentleman while driving with him behind a pair of celebrated racers, gave
such publicity to your adventure that your _amorata_ was at once aware of
your whereabouts. The fear of this had taken possession of you as soon as
you were able to think of anything, and the dread that she would follow
and marry you while you lay helpless was made a certainty by this telegram
from an intimate friend in New York, received the sixth day of your
illness:

"It's all up with you, old fellow. The R. has heard you're fast with a
broken leg, and she starts on Monday for Boston. Have the clergy ready,
for it's marriage."

Then in your bitter need you remembered having talked with me in this
hotel-parlor the very day of your accident. I had been a school-friend of
your dead sister, and for her sake, on the rare occasions of your seeing
me, you have always been polite and kindly patronized me. Now, lying
helpless and unable to extricate yourself from your dilemma, you recalled
the evident pleasure upon my foolish, tell-tale face at seeing you, the
delight I had betrayed in the attention you had shown me, such as finding
a seat at dinner for myself and my old lady friend, although some elegant
and fashionable girls were waiting with ill-suppressed eagerness for your
escort. Remembering all this, knowing as you did that I was poor, wearing
out my life in teaching, in your sore need you suddenly thought, "I wonder
if the girl wouldn't marry me? She'd make a good nurse, could look after
my traps, and, though she is as ugly as sin and a nobody, wouldn't be the
deuced disgrace to a fellow this Rollins woman will be. At all events,
she'll save me from that fate if she takes up with my offer. It's a choice
of evils, and this would be the least; and I'll try it." This, in plain,
unadorned speech, was what you thought. Then you sent for me, began very
pathetically to talk of your desolate state, your family all dead, and so
on; that it had been sadly brought home to you how alone you were while
lying sick, hour after hour, in this great hotel, with only your valet to
attend to you and take an interest in your well-being; and that, day after
day, as you lay thinking of your fate, my face had come before you,
recalling tender memories of your lost and dearly-loved sister. Then you
had remembered that as girl and boy we had been lovers, and really cared
very much for each other. As you got this far toward your _grande
dénouement_, something in my face, I suppose, made you realize that if you
were to compass your ends with me it must be by honesty only. Then you
blurted it all out--in, as I could not help thinking as I listened, as
school-boyish and abashed a way as if you had--well, as if you had not
been a consummate man of the world, rather noted for your _aplomb_.

It came across me (as I heard you in dumb amazement, with crimson face and
trembling frame) that even the best polish of years' laying on will crack
somewhere under very hard pressure. Well, you were honest and told me all,
never pretending, as you had at first essayed to do, that it was out of
any lingering regard for myself as your sister's friend that you sought me
now, but simply on account of my availability. Had there been some bright
young beauty with wealth and station at hand, no thought of me would ever
have entered your mind: all this I understood at once from your half
confessions--all this, I was glad to find, you had at least enough honor
to let me know, although you risked what to you in your actual situation
was very perilous--a refusal.

I asked until the next day to consider the matter--whether it would be
better to take service with you, exchange for my boarding, clothing and
incidental expenses the daily care of your comfort and pleasure, or earn
my bread in the old wearing way. And the second day after that we were
married. That is all. I believe that to be a simple statement of the facts
in your case: I am right, am I not?

The day after our marriage your lady-love and her paternal ancestor came.
At my own suggestion and with your eager consent I received them, and the
result you know.

Now for my own reasons for this strange marriage. You are aware that my
father was a professor of mathematics in various schools and colleges of
the city where he lived, teaching in the school, among others, in which
your sister and myself were pupils. I believe you know that when a young
man he had eloped with and married one of his scholars, the daughter of a
rich and proud family, who discarded her. For years she was a stranger to
them, until her husband had won a name and handsome fortune for himself:
then she was taken into favor again, her husband's distinction in the
scientific world being supposed to add lustre to the family name. Alas for
us! it was a favor that has cost us dear. I was their only child. When my
sweet, pretty mother lay dying she left to me, her sixteen-year-old child,
my dreamy, unworldly father as a legacy. "Take care of him: he knows no
guile, and your uncles will wrong him if they can," she said. And they
did, or one of them. Ere the bitter agony of my mother's death had enabled
him to return to his duties, it was discovered that one of her brothers
had forged his name and literally stripped him of everything.

Of course, then he went to work again to earn our daily bread--not with
his old love or ability, but in an inert, feeble way that was pitiful to
see. I think from the day my mother was buried he was dying. Some people,
you know, die hard--some part with life lightly, as if it was a faded robe
they shook off to don a brighter one. Others--my father was one, and I am
like him--see one by one their trusts, their hopes, their loves die: then
with a deathly throe sunder themselves from life. But pardon my
digression.

When I was twenty my father died. Since then, spite of expressions of
disapproval and offers of support from my mother's family, I have
maintained myself by teaching in the schools where my father had been
known, preferring to do without assistance so long as I had health. One of
my uncles desired to take me into his family, and thus wipe out the wrong
done my father by his brother, and my aunts proffered me an income out of
their private means. I mention this to do them every justice, but I think
even a man of fashion like yourself will acknowledge the impossibility of
my accepting, while I could avoid it, a life of dependence. I could not
accept favors from those who had treated my dear parents unkindly; so I
have e'en gone my own way for these last ten years, and led a not unhappy
life, if a busy and rather wearing one.

My gay cousins, all of whom you know well--the Wilber girls, Leta and
Jennie, pretty little Lou Barton, and another set of Wilbers whom I think
you do not know so well, who are married now--my gay cousins, then, most
of them beauties, all of them rich and fashionable, are somewhat ashamed
of me, and have let me feel it in every petty way that we women know so
well how to find. I am ugly and poor, my earning my own living is a spot
upon their gentility, and I have unfortunately, and quite against my will,
more than once given them cause for serious annoyance and apprehension.
Then, one of our uncles, who is a bachelor and very rich, has insisted
that I am never to be slighted--always to be invited to everything in the
shape of a party given by the family. If it lay with me, of course I would
never accept these invitations, but I have had it explained to me over and
over again that my not doing so is visited upon the party-givers in one
way or another by our masterful uncle Rufus. So, occasionally, very much
against my inclination, I leave my little third-story room, with its cozy
fire and humble adornments, and sit in the corner of their great rooms, a
"looker-on in Vienna" in every sense.

I have many kind friends: it would be strange if in all these years I had
not found some who did not care for outward advantages. I have dreamed my
sweet love-dream, and it is over, and the roses have grown above my buried
hopes.

Since then I have let one idea fill my life to the exclusion of everything
else, putting away from me all desires and thoughts of other needs; and
that too has left me. I call it an "idea" for lack of a better name. I had
put away all thought of marriage with my bright youth, but took into my
heart instead what I deemed would serve as well--a friendship for another
woman. For ten years we knew no separate life--I thought no separate
hopes. She had loved, been on the eve of marriage, her lover had died:
that was her heart's history, and henceforth the idea of love had fallen
out of both our lives--not the idea only, but the possibility of love. I
thought so--she _said_ so.

I trusted her and loved her with a perfect love. I wound my hopes about
her: I gave up all my life to her as if she had been my lover. I never
cared to form other friendships. I deprived myself of all possibilities of
making other ties of any sort, and with the first opportunity she whistled
me down the wind, and cared no more for me than if she had never professed
to love me. She had been my one bright thing--she was sweet and
winsome--the one golden gleam in my sombre life. My future was bound up in
her so completely that when she severed the fine, close cords (brittle,
yet so strong) which had bound us together for years, she cut into my
heart--nay more, wrested from me all my sweet trusts and faiths. If she is
false, who else in all God's earth is true? I pity myself very much. You,
of course, will not see why her marrying should make a difference if we
loved, and will call me selfish. Not so, not so! She might have married as
soon as it pleased her, and I should have been glad. It would have made a
difference, of course: she must in some sort have been parted from me, but
that I could have borne if it made her happy. But from her acceptance of
her lover--about whom we will say nothing, save that he was the sort of
man she had always held in abhorrence--she has coolly ignored my right to
any part or lot in her fate. She had told me (or I, poor fool! thought so)
every hope and fear of her life: now she told me what she chose, and was
astonished that I expected more--hurt that I seemed changed and did not
find my friendship flourish on crumbs after being nourished for years from
full loaves--was quite unhappy that I cared so little for the minor
concerns of her life, when, good lack! I did not know what I might or
might not ask and not be snubbed; for once she told me there were things
due to the man one is going to marry (at that time she had not got to the
extent of saying whom one loves) that could not be spoken of to me. Of
course she had only to mention the fact to me to make it perfectly plain,
and henceforth he and his doings, his belongings and himself, all of them
of the tamest sort at best, were a sealed book to me. And again she
quenched a feeble effort of mine to get back to my old place, by telling
me such topics she could discuss only with her sister, "her shadow sister"
she prettily called her. So I am desolate!

Knowing this, you may understand in some degree what could induce a little
waif like me to accept such an offer as yours. I think no one in all God's
earth is more desolate than I. In my heart I bear always that unforgotten
love in my life. I have only a barren waste to show. It is as if I had
started from a lovely, radiant garden in the fair morning of my life, in
which I had left the bright, sweet rose of my love, and walking along a
narrow, dark path, had clasped hands with, and drawn my light and warmth
from, a figure walking close beside me; and though from all sides as I
walked forms had come to me, offering me fair fruits and sweet flowers, I
declined them all without ever a word of thanks, being so content with my
one companion. And suddenly, when all my youth, all my prospects of other
things, had gone, this idealized one had withdrawn its hand-clasp, and
turning on me a face I did not know, faded into darkness, leaving me
nothing but my broken hopes, a wreath of withered flowers,

  "Tangled down in chains about my feet."

You do not of course realize how the old French _émigré_ blood in my
veins, inherited from my father, makes this a very vital matter to me. We
cling to our hopes very tenaciously while they abide--then we are
distraught. We loved, my father and I, very few, but those with a clinging
oneness that is wellnigh pain: he loved my mother and myself--that was
all. Likewise I had my two: they having failed me, my life is a blank. I
have heard of empty-hearted people: I know now what the phrase means. I am
empty-hearted: I have not one hope, one particle of faith, one real,
honest desire, except to "drie my weir," as the Scotch say, doing my duty
as best I may, as it comes to me. But I have a woman's hatred of pity: my
cousins have long accorded me a contemptuous pity for being an old maid. I
laughed their pity to scorn while I had Esther Hooper. What more did I
need? We could enact over again the sweet old life of the Ladies of
Llangollen.

We had planned our lives a thousand times. Poor we both were, yet we would
put something away every year for our old age, and work cheerily on until
we could work no more, then creep to our nest like a couple of old
kittens, and cuddle down by our warm, pleasant fire--together, and
therefore content. Well, you see it was not to be: she had grown
affrighted, I suppose, at the thought of all that weary life with only me,
and has married a man who outrages all her delicate instincts and
traditions of an accordant husband. But why speak of him? He supports her,
and she has escaped the obloquy of old-maidism. She has married a
maintenance. She says she loves him, so of course she does.

For myself, my health, which has always been very rugged, has failed me
utterly this last year; but as my bread depends upon my ability to endure
daily and constant fatigue, I have forced myself to endeavor to get up the
amount of strength required for my winter's work by the present
expedition, planned for me by a friend. Bah! what do I talk of friendship
for? An old lady who was once a teacher in the school from which my father
had married my mother, and who, I think, had cared with more than
friendship for him, has in these last few years fallen heir to a small
property--not a very great deal, but enough to enable her to live in
comfort, and exercise her kindly heart in deeds of charity occasionally.
She has chosen for years to occupy rooms beneath my own, and has always
been a sort of mother to me. Most of the pretty things that have fallen
into my life, and most of its pleasures, have come to me through her. She
has many troublesome faults, as we all have, but she is old, and I have
always had Esther to talk them over and laugh them off with, so have borne
them easily. This year, because she saw I was dying, she took me with her
to the mountains of Vermont, and I have got a new lease of life, and new
capacities for suffering as well.

On our way back she was suddenly attacked with the illness which detained
us at this Boston hotel. Here your accident laid you up, and the rest came
as I have told.

You have married me to rid yourself of a union with a woman you detest,
being utterly indifferent to me. I have married you because I cannot bring
myself to go back to that old teaching-life, now so cold and gray. I think
I can earn my board in taking care of your belongings, and the having
saved you from a dreadful fate must compensate to you for the little of my
presence you will for the future be compelled to endure. It need not be
much or long continued if we start with a fair comprehension of each
other.

This brings me to the reason of all this long history. I have always
looked upon marriage without love as nothing more or less than legalized
vice. I think you, who are so intrinsically a man of the world, will have
imbibed the (so-called) sensible and popular views upon such subjects, and
will at once coincide with me that in such a union as ours--a literal
_mariage de convenance_ on both sides--my ideas are not unwise. Since upon
you will henceforth depend my maintenance (as I of course understand that
a wife who worked for her own support would be a disgrace to you: indeed,
I doubt whether the having married a girl who has already done so is not a
cause of shame), I ask that now, when Mrs. Keller is about to leave me,
and my arrangements as your wife must be finally made--when, in fact, her
giving up her room necessitates my coming to yours, her leaving compelling
me either to go with her, or come, as of course I must, to you--we may
have a definite understanding as to our future relations.

You have been kind enough to approve of the little I have been able to do
for you since our marriage--to say to Mrs. Keller you did not know what it
was to be taken care of in sickness; and to myself you have more than once
laughingly spoken of a wife as a good institution, adding, that had you
known how comfortable it was to have some one about you to think of and
care for you, you would have invested in the article before; and so on. I
am glad of this: I am pleased that my society has not proved repugnant to
you; for since it has been no annoyance in its first trial, I think we can
manage that it shall not be so in the future. I would ask, as an especial
piece of mercy to "your handmaiden," that you will grant her some favors
at the outset of our somewhat tangled fate. Please let me be your sister.
It is for your well-being the world should know me as your wife, and, the
Lord helping me, I will be a willing, faithful helpmeet to you, caring
most for your comfort and happiness, spending and being spent in your
service; never demanding or desiring your attention, except so much as is
due me in outward seeming; interfering with none of your pleasures or
pursuits, or thrusting my needs or feelings never before you. I have no
expectation of winning your love: it has been an understood thing from the
first--that is something neither expects from the other--therefore any
show of caressing fondness upon your part would be quite out of keeping
with our position. I have watched with some amusement, and a little pain
that you should imagine it requisite, your attempts at petting me during
these last two weeks. Poor, helpless man! it was a little hard to have to
pretend an interest and tenderness you did not feel. Will you let this
cease, with every other demonstration of affection, in our private
relations?

For the rest, claiming nothing from you, giving you nothing but the
services for which you render me a full equivalent, I grant you, as far as
I have a right to do so, the largest liberty of action. We are only
jealous of those we love: therefore all women will be as free to you as
they have hitherto been or their will accords, save that you have debarred
yourself for a time from offering any one of them marriage. I hope to be
so little trouble to you, and so serviceable to you in many ways, that you
shall realize to the full that if an unloving union could be so much more
comfortable than a bachelor's life, a life passed with a loving and
beloved wife would be bliss indeed, and so when my life has ended you will
not be sorry that I stopped in your path a few years. For I shall not
trouble you very long. I am a poor little perfumeless flower, having no
sweetness or beauty with which to charm the eye or senses, only fit to
grow among the kitchen herbs--rue and thyme, and such old-fashioned
things. But I need a great deal of sunshine, spite of my plainness, to
keep life in me. And now that all the heat and passion of love, all the
sunny hopes and glow of friendship, have left me, I shall just fade and
fade until some day you will find the poor little weed has dropped to
earth for ever.

I am but two years younger than yourself, and women, especially women with
a great sorrow, age cruelly fast. I look and feel older than I am--you
wear your years like a crown, and appear younger than you are. I have made
my little venture on life's ocean--made and failed: my barque, freighted
with a few cherished hopes, has been wrecked, and though I have reached a
rock to which I can cling for a time, yet I am terribly hurt, the waves
have buffeted me cruelly, and in a little while I shall let go my hold and
float out--out into the ocean of eternity. Ah! there is comfort after all:
life _is_ hard, but afterward there is peace and rest!

I am nearly through this long tirade. Pardon its length: it is my first,
and shall be my last, heart-outpouring to you; and if it make you
comprehend me, I shall not have written or you have read in vain.

Your income will not support the establishment your position in society
would require if we went to housekeeping; besides, you would feel as if
you must then be more stationary, more in your own home, than is at
present your custom, therefore in a degree in bondage. And a hotel-life is
very expensive and very cheerless. You have kindly said you intended
dividing your income with me, giving me half. At first I was indignant at
the idea, but now I think I see that it will be in every way the best. One
of my cousins has been occupying a very elegantly-appointed suite of rooms
on Twenty-fourth street. Harry writes me he is going very suddenly to
Europe. His rooms will of course be vacant: he talks of renting them
furnished. I have thought, if you would not object to it, we might take
them off his hands. I have calculated that the part of your means you
intend for me will meet all our expenses of every sort if you permit me to
have the arranging, of our daily affairs. I will pay the rent and meet all
the expenses of our living out of this sum, leaving you your reserved
funds to meet your ordinary requirements and pleasures. By this
arrangement, you see, I shall get my living free, and I am sure shall have
a surplus over and above our expenses, as I am a good manager and used to
making the most of everything.

There is one sacrifice which, do we enter into this arrangement, I must
ask of you--that when we return to New York you give up your valet. For
more than one reason: I cannot have a spy upon the mode of life we are to
lead. I am foolishly sensitive of the position of a neglected wife, and I
feel assured your gentlemanly instincts will prevent your ever offering
any observable slight to the woman who bears your name. Besides, in the
apartments I propose our taking there will be no room for a man-servant,
and one of the maids connected with the house will be all the assistant I
shall require. When you are away on your frequent excursions to all parts
of the world it will be very easy to provide yourself a servant. Will you
try for a few weeks how well I can supply, or have the place supplied, of
this man, whom you intend in any case to dismiss? This is all. Next week,
the doctor thinks, you may be moved to a lounge, and perhaps the week
after be able to travel, or at farthest the week following.

I acknowledge to the womanish feeling of being exultant at the idea of the
envy I shall awaken in the breasts of your adoring circle of lady
friends--my lady cousins among them--in having, spite of my
unattractiveness, secured the husband they have long striven by every wile
to win. Ah! they little know, and I trust never may, why I, without
seeking, have ensnared their _rara avis_ to be my legal bondsman. Rather a
contradiction in terms!

The pretty fiction of our sudden marriage being a renewal of an old
love-affair is more of an untruth than I am used to letting pass, and yet
has enough truth in it to make it reality, since you were the hero of my
girlish dreams. So we will let the explanation thus worded, which you have
written to my uncles and stated verbally to Mrs. Keller, stand; also, that
the undue haste was caused by your pressing need of me during your
accident. I think, indeed, from my cousin Harry's letter yesterday, and
one from Shelton last week, they have taken the idea that we have been
spending the summer together, and that you were following me home when you
were stayed in your mad career by a broken leg.

I am done; are you not thankful? There have been some things in this
letter very hard to say, which, if I were braver or knew you better, I
should have liked to be more outspoken about. But enough has, I think,
been said to make you appreciate my earnest desires and my reasons for
them. I am most truly,

PERCY.

And he, prone upon his back this warm September day, read this long
epistle from his new wife, then laid it down and closing his eyes murmured
softly, "What a strange little puss it is!" Lying in the dim light her
hand had created for him, he thought of his own troubles and hers, just as
she had stated them. The blood would flush up to his brow as her cool
ignoring of his surpassing attractions, to which all other women accorded
their full meed of praise, rose up before him. He of whom it had been said
if he beckoned with his finger women left their duties, gave up their very
life to do his pleasure!--he to have the girl he had honored by making his
wife, a little brown woman, plain and almost _passé_ (he was man enough
not to care for her poverty), show she cared no more for his love than he
did for hers I--was as indifferent to him as he to her! Indifference from
a woman was a new experience to him, and annoyed him.

Yet her quaint, frank letter touched him. What did she mean by dying soon
and letting him be free again? Poor little midge! was she dying of a
broken heart because a treacherous woman had fooled her out of a part of
her life? Poor little robin! she was his wife now, and he could heal the
worst heartache in any woman's breast. He had tried that thing before, and
succeeded, even if he broke the heart afterward. Die, indeed! Not if he
knew it: even Death should not have a little woman he meant to be good to.

And as he remembered all her faithfulness to him during these weary weeks
of pain, he thought, "By Jove! beauty's not all, for no woman, had her
face been like that of Phryne of Thebes, or her charms as entrancing as
the bewitching Dudu's, could have been more lovely in her kindness to me.
How brave and strong she has been! What a faithful little soul it is!
Always ready, day and night, to do just what I want done and in the way I
want it, never knocking things about or fidgeting round, but just
ready-handed, neat and bright. God knows, a handsome woman wouldn't have
risked the spoiling her beauty by all these weary, sleepless nights,
especially for a man she did not love." And then to think she was actually
willing to work and slave for him, and support him out of her share of the
booty, and let him fool away his own on other women! "Wonder what the
little dame means to buy her own fine things with, for even robins must
get clothing? I'll ask her that. Bless the little woman's soul! she makes
me think of her so much that I believe I'm half in love with her. Um!" and
he stopped: "I'm getting sentimental and poetic, I swear! But if it were
in me to love anything that was not beautiful, I believe I could love this
little girl, who has come into my life so strangely. She owns up to having
loved, and is done with all the stale farce. Some fools," and he felt very
indignant, "slighted her because she had no beauty, though, upon my soul,
now I think of it, I'm not so certain about that. There's a something in
her face takes a man's breath--something that one would rather die than
lose if he once loved it, and which once loved would be better than any
beauty. What's that Spenser says?--

  'A sweet, attractive kind of grace,...
  The lineaments of gospel books,'

That's just it: it's a look that makes one think about one's prayers, if
one only knew them. But whether the man slighted her or not, he missed
it--confound him!--in losing such a love. I'll make her tell me his name.
And as for being my sister, that's all nonsense, of course, as she's my
wife." Then more thoughtfully, "Well, maybe not: a household where there
is no love is cruel--I knew that in my early home--and children are a
beastly trouble, and as expensive as a man's wines. She's a brick, this
wife of mine, and as sensible as steel. I'll put myself in her hands for
better or for worse, I vow I will!

"The jolly way she manged that Rollins affair was proof poz of her
ability. Her cool assumption of wifely dignity--her actually bringing them
up to see me without announcing their coming to me, and never letting them
have one bout at me, was beyond anything! It's like a dip in the sea to
recall it all. Her breezy voice coming in before them was all the warning
I had: 'Oh certainly, you can come up and look at him, but not talk to
him: he's nervous and feverish, and I cannot permit even such old friends
as you doubtless are to say anything to him. You know, of course, the
doctor thought he needed constant attention, and caused us to hurry our
marriage in a most Gretna-Green style; but I could not nurse him unless we
were married. And it did not matter so much, after all, since we had
loved'--and she hesitated with the prettiest affectation of having said
something she ought not--'we had cared for each other since we were quite
children. Ross's sister Bell was my school-friend.' Then she brought them
straight to the bed, and stooping down gave me the only kiss with which
she has honored me--her show kiss, I call it--saying, 'My darling' (how
soft she said it, too, with a little trilling cadence upon the sweet old
word!)--'My darling, you are not to speak, or even look, save this once:
now I must cover up my dearie's eyes;' and she laid her cool hand over my
eyes and held it there while they stayed. 'These are some kind New York
friends, Mr. Rollins and his good wife'--and a faint pressure on my face
emphasized the joke--'who are come to see you. I cannot understand all
they mean, except that you have been behaving badly, making these good
people's daughter believe you meant to marry her, when of course you were
only going to marry your little, ugly Percy. Oh, my bad boy, what shall I
ever do with you? Oh the hearts you have broken while you have been
waiting for me! Ah! dear, bad boy!'--and, as if overcome with tenderness,
she laid her cheek down on mine. I clasped my arms about her--the first
and last time I've had a chance, by George!--but she sprang away with a
laugh: 'No, you shall not be petted for being bad. Why, Ross, these dear
people came to take you and marry you to their beautiful daughter, for I
know she's a beauty, since her mother is still so handsome.'

"Oh, it was gorgeous, to see the Rollins standing there in all her
Cleopatra-like splendor, utterly upset and put down by my little brown
berry! And the impossibility of correcting such a mistake without putting
herself in an absurd position actually stopped the Rollins speech,
and--Lord help me!--I thought that mouth could only be closed by bon-bons
and a man's kisses--any man's, _par exemple_. And her poor old catspaw of
a _pater_ stood helpless before my little hurricane--a very reed shaken by
the wind. Then my sea-breeze spoke again: 'But the doctor will shed vials
of wrath upon me for letting you see strangers.' (It must have cut the
Rollins sore to be called a stranger to me!) 'But these kind friends could
not realize your being ill, so I was fain to let them see my Apollo in his
box; but we will go now if you please;' and she positively ushered them
out in wordless dismay, bidding them good-bye at once, and seeing them no
more. I thought she would have rushed back to laugh the scene over with
me, but that shows how little I know her. When, in the course of an hour,
she did come, it was with such an utter ignoring of having done a smart
thing, waving aside my admiration of her _finesse_, that I was taken
aback. She said sadly, 'I am unused to falsehood, and _finesse_ of any
sort is distasteful to me. I quenched this woman this time, but, in spite
of her bad, hard face, I pity her very much. You, and such men as you,
have, I suppose, made her what she is, God help her!' So by this good
little girl's management I am rid of my troubles. I declare I'll do just
what she wishes, and be thankful my follies have worked me no more harm."

Then he began to wish she'd come in, and to feel aggrieved and neglected
because she did not come--to feel an eager desire to see her and talk the
matter of the letter over with her. But he had read it through again twice
ere she appeared, and then, to his dismay, equipped for a journey, and
saying, in the most matter-of-fact, nonchalant manner possible, "Ross,
Mrs. Keller has come to say good-bye. I am going with her to Newport,
where she makes the only perilous part of the trip--the, to her, dreadful
change from cars to boat. So I shall be away all night, of course."

Then Mrs. Keller came forward with--"I hope you don't mind my taking her
off, Mr. Norval?"

"But I do mind it deucedly, madam," he said. "Why, Percy, I don't like
your traveling alone this way at all. Why can't James go with Mrs.
Keller?"

"Not for the world, Ross, thank you. I'm used to taking care of myself,
and of Mrs. Keller too, for that matter. I'm not much of a traveler,
because I have not had much of a chance--none, indeed, except what she's
given me--but somehow I always manage to come out right. You are very kind
to offer to spare James, but he's your necessity. I have told him about
the medicines, and how to loosen the bandages at night. So I expect to
find you better than usual when I get back. He knows your ways so much
better than I, and I sha'n't be here to interfere;" and she went about
arranging little matters as she spoke, and not looking at him.

But Mrs. Keller saw the look of annoyance upon his face, and said, "But,
Percy, Mr. Norval dislikes your going, and you're bound to stay."

"Oh, nonsense, Mrs. Keller! Of course he don't care particularly, as I am
going to be away but one night, and he's got to spend all my life with
me;" and her face saddened, he thought. "I'm sure to come back to-morrow:
my cousin Shelton says, 'Percy always manages to be at hand when she's
wanted.' Am I to write to Harry that we will take the rooms? I must do it
at once, or he may let some one have them;" and she came and stood beside
him.

He answered, sullenly, "Do just as you like about it: it's no concern of
mine."

"Of course I shall do nothing of the kind. If you had liked the idea, been
very much pleased with it, it would have been different. I only threw out
the suggestion as a mere suggestion. But we will think of it no more." All
this in her quick, bright way, without a shade of annoyance visible, and
she began talking of something else as if the matter was settled: "The
hotel-keeper will put a sofa-bed into your dressing-room for me to-morrow,
so I shall be quite out of the way when your callers are here. I have told
them about bringing my trunk in there from Mrs. Keller's room: James will
attend to it all for me. So, as long as you are a 'prisoner of hope' in
here, I'll reign supreme in the dressing-room. Now say 'Good-bye,' Mrs.
Keller: James will put you in the coach while I finish my adieux."

"But, Percy, you mistake," he said, quite humbly, when her old friend was
gone: "you do talk a fellow down so confoundedly," with a laugh. "I like
your idea about the rooms most heartily: indeed, I like all your ideas,
all your letter, except where you are so deucedly severe upon me; but even
that is true, and I like it when you tell me of it. I think your
management the best in everything, and I expect to be as happy as a king,
or rather a good subject, with my little queen to rule over me and keep me
in order in our new domain."

She clasped her hands in a quick, passionate sort of way at his words, as
if they gave her a pang. He saw that, but her calm face and voice made him
half doubt if it meant anything. "Are you quite sure, or are you only
saying it because you think I have a wish to go there? I thought you did
not seem to like it just now, and indeed I do not care: I shall be quite
content with whatever you arrange when you are well."

"No, Percy: write and say we will take the rooms from the time he leaves
them. I"--with a half-abashed laugh--"I was only cross because you are
going away. I shall miss you sorely, dear, and I'm sorry you're going and
are so glad to go--that's all."

Her face turned crimson to the very temples, and she said, "I'm sorry I
made my arrangements without consulting you: I will not do so in future. I
did not think you would care one way or the other."

"You've been so good to me, little one, and I'm so unused to being cared
for except as a society ornament, that I think I shall never be able to
get along without you again."

Her eyes filled with tears which she would not let fall, and she said,
"You are very kind to say so: I will be more careful in future. But I must
go now." He waited in quite an eager expectancy to see if she would kiss
him. "Take good care of yourself, and be sure I shall come by the first
train;" and she started to leave the bedside.

He caught her dress and drew her toward him, holding her hands: "Is that
all, Percy? Is there nothing else?"

"I think not, Ross," she said, doubtingly, but coloring painfully.

"Kiss me good-bye, Percy." She held down her face instantly, and when he
had kissed her, drew herself away without a word; but he clasped his arm
about her: "You have not kissed me after all, my darling."

"My kisses are nothing worth now, Ross: their sweetness died out years
ago. Yours are good enough for both;" and she laughed and left him.

He was bitterly chagrined: it seemed a little thing to make him feel so
mortified. That she should leave him willingly, that doing so she should
refuse to grant him so small a favor, when almost all other women--her own
pretty cousins among them--had denied nothing he chose to ask, it was
incomprehensible!

"By Jove! I never cared so much for a little thing in my life as her
leaving me and not caring to kiss me. I swear, I'm a perfect baby about
her! Little, truthful, honest soul! I believe she could make another
creature of me if she cared enough for me to try. There is something
restful in truth and honest purity, after all: one feels safe, and
grounded on a sure place. It's good to have a little fairy lying close in
one's bosom; and I vow I'll have my little brownie there yet, though I
have to go as suitor on a regular courting expedition to my own wife
before I win her heart. Curse this old lover of hers, who bars her heart
against me! And curse my own past follies, which make a good woman fear to
trust me! Marriage is a sell generally, even when a vast amount of
so-called love is brought to the sacrificial altar; so perhaps I shall not
make a bad thing of it if I win my wife's heart after she knows me _au
fond_, instead of in the glamour of gas-light flirtations. Poor little
heart! What a pitiful story it is! How quaintly she writes her pathetic,
desolate history! What a ready pen the little woman holds!" and he took
out her letter again. "I declare, the child has better attractions than
beauty--a lovely, faithful soul."

But though he was tender of her in his thoughts, he was a hard master that
night: everything went wrong, nothing pleased or contented him, and the
sullen, much-tried servant at last announced that with the morning he
would leave his master to his own devices.

"Go, and be damned to you!" was the savage reply; and the man took him at
his word, decamping, after making a few necessary arrangements, as soon
after breakfast as he could.

"And I have been as good to that fellow the year he has lived with me as I
could," thought Ross Norval as hour after hour he lay alone wanting
everything--water, the papers, a handkerchief. There was nothing he did
not want, and he could reach nothing but those nauseous medicines.
"Service cannot be bought: in very truth, love and patience must be a free
gift. However, now even love and patience seem to have fled from me. I
want my wife--I want her awfully."

Percy, with her sad little heart lying as heavy as a plummet in her
breast, was just as bright and useful and entertaining to her cranky old
friend as if life was a boon instead of a bane to her. You know from her
letter how bitter life was to her; and I think if you have ever known
sorrow and a great disappointment, you will comprehend how it was possible
for her, with the fear of God before her, and a desire to be His faithful
child, to make this match for herself. Anything was better than the dull
stagnation into which she had fallen: she had felt this year, unless some
great change came to her to take her out of this weary groove in which she
was set, she must go melancholy mad. She had laid out a hundred schemes,
all of them, she knew, impracticable; and now, in a strange, providential
way, this chance to change every thought and action of her whole life had
come to her. Do you wonder much she accepted it? I think it was not
strange.

That night after his offer (the night she had asked for in which to
decide, although she said to herself, with a bitter little shrug as she
made the request, "A woman who hesitates is lost"), as she lay awake
pondering the whole matter, she thought: "It can't be worse than it is,
and it won't be very long either way, I think. I can be faithful to him,
make and mend, dig and delve, if needs be, for his benefit, in return for
the honor he does me in giving me his name and protection. I shall expect
nothing, literally nothing, from him that wives usually demand. I, who
have borne for years with the caprice of school-girls, can surely bear the
humors of one man, especially when his name shields me from other sorts of
ills. I have rather plumed myself these last few months upon having
learned the depth of meaning and force of truth there is in that
expression from _Sartor Resartus_ I used to think so wicked: 'Say to
happiness, I can do without you--in self-renunciation life begins,' I can
try it now. I need not be a spaniel or fawn upon my lord, and yet I can
obey and honor, if he will let me, this man to whom I shall vow myself for
life. For life! Can I endure it all the years I may have to live an
unloved wife--so near and yet so far from him to whom I am bound? Will it
not be a death in life? Will it be better than this dead, cold monotony I
now bear? Better or worse? Ah, there's the rub! I can never hope to win
his faithful, abiding love. Even did use make me acceptable to him, I
could not trust its continuance. And yet who knows whether, if I try to
keep a pure life and an honest purpose to walk before him worthily every
day, I may not win from him at last a sort of respect and friendship that
will be next to love? I will some time let him know of the friends my
literary efforts have brought me. I know he will be proud of the judgment
that scholarly men, whose opinions he honors, have placed upon the
heirloom of intellectual ability that has been my sole dower from my dear
father and his learned ancestors. And when I am Ross Norval's wife I will
reveal myself to these letter-friends of my inner life, and, meeting them
no longer in the spirit only, let them see eye to eye their hidden sister,
their 'nebulous child,' as they have half playfully, half angrily, called
me. A husband's hand shall rive the rock in which their crystal has been
for years embedded.

"Oh, Ross, I shall be glad to come to my inheritance through you; to
gather my band of chosen ones into my actual, as I have long held them in
my inner, life; to know those at last whom my unprotected woman's state
has hitherto forbidden me to know. And if I take him, if I give myself to
him, I shall at last have the desire of my life. Ah, Ross! you will never
know that your boyish flattering, which meant nothing to you, and should
have meant nothing to me, did really mean so much that it simply broke my
heart, leaving me at sixteen so utterly incapable of loving any man but
yourself that since then no hand has ever touched the seal which closed
the fountain of love and passion in my heart for ever. Ah! I wonder what
penalty there is for those who carelessly destroy our hopes and blot out
all possibilities of love from us? What would you say, Ross Norval, if you
knew that the last kiss I ever gave to any man was given you that cold,
dark day they buried my father? You came with a note from Bell--she was
dying, she said; after to-day no one but her family would be admitted to
her: would I come and say good-bye to her, even from my father's grave? I
went with you, and stayed an hour with her. Then you brought me, more dead
than alive, back to my desolate home, and taking me in your arms carried
me from the carriage to my bed. As you laid me down you said, 'My sister's
little friend, I am glad to have seen you once again. Bell tells me all
these years I have been absent you have been pleasant friends to each
other. You are dear and sweet because she loved you. I shall never see you
again perhaps, for when she dies I shall have no ties here and shall go
elsewhere. Kiss me good-bye,' and I did.

"For a year after that I was alone: then Esther Hooper came, and I was not
wretched. I have had my share of lovers and friends--what girl has
not?--have had rare treats of music, of books and paintings, and shared
their pleasant harmonies with an appreciative soul; and I have been very
contented.

"But now I am desolate again, and out of the darkness you have come and
beckoned me to follow you and stand near you all the rest of my life. It
will be happiness enough, as much as is good for me, to live with you,
even if I am nothing to you, for, oh, I love you very faithfully!"

And so, you know, they were married, with only the doctor and Mrs. Keller
to witness the ceremony; and at once, with her little decided way, the
sort of certainty that years of self-dependence give, she became his
nurse, attending to him as persistently and indefatigably as if the sole
purpose for which she had been born was that. From the first service she
rendered him--bathing his head and face through an intense August day with
iced water delicately perfumed, arranging the curtains so that the air,
when there was a breeze, blew freely to him, though the glare of the sun
was gone, and his room in dim, soothing shadow--she seemed a blessing to
him. Some hours after she came with her bright, quick ways, arranging his
disordered room, bringing order out of chaos on his dressing-table, never
peeping into things, and yet getting them into beautiful order, and,
wonderful to relate, keeping them so: the air seemed to grow cooler, his
medicine less bitter, the time shorter, and his broken leg and weary back
to ache less acutely.

One day she said in a shy way, "Mr. Norval, if you will let James lay out
your things, I will see what mending they need, and will sit here and do
them, so you sha'n't spend so many hours alone. Mrs. Keller has made some
friends in the house, and they kindly sit with her so much that she does
not need me."

"But, Percy, what's the use of James having a hand in it? Here are my
keys," with a laugh as he handed them to her: "you know they are a part of
the worldly goods with which I did thee endow; and the keys always belong
to the female department by right, don't they?"

She took them with a vivid blush. "Shall I look over your trunks and
bureau, then?" she asked.

"Certainly, while I go to sleep and dream what a jolly thing it is to have
you here." Then, pretending to sleep, he watched her with careful hands
examine his belongings, with a contemptuous little smile at this piece of
bungling mending or an anxious frown over that frayed place. Then how
neatly she folded and laid back all the good, and seated herself with a
pile before her and began to sew! When he opened his eyes she handed him
the keys.

"No, Percy, keep them: I make all right and title to them over to you," he
said.

From that day he seemed to feel delight in her companionship, reading to
her hour after hour while she sewed, always choosing some poetical or
light bit of reading--"To suit my capacity," she thought.

So they had gone on week after week--with the single exception of the
Rollins episode--without any change. He was a rare favorite in society,
and every day received a host of calls from gentlemen, baskets of fruits
and flowers from ladies. Always, when a card was sent up, she would gather
all her womanish "traps" together and go to Mrs. Keller--this, too, in
spite of his earnest invitation to her to remain.

"No: you can have a pleasanter call with no ladies present, and Mrs.
Keller needs me. I'll be back in time for your medicine."

Once or twice some one, more intimate or free than usual, would run up
unannounced and catch her there. Her acceptation of the situation was, he
thought, perfect. Without a shadow of embarrassment she acknowledged the
introduction, "My wife," did the honors of the occasion, said a few words
regarding his state, and with some such words as "I will be back in an
hour or so, Ross," would leave the room.

Thus he was utterly unaware of what her abilities were. Whether she was
capable of holding a conversation, or could hold her own in society, he
could not opine; and it annoyed him keenly, for he was, like most
society-men, very punctilious regarding the manners of the particular
woman who belonged to him. That she was, in fact, an elegant
conversationalist, quick and brilliant at repartee, a fine linguist and an
intelligent thinker for a woman, he did not dream.

Nevertheless, the mere having her about him day after day, with her dainty
little ways, grew to be a pleasure to him: the making her grave little
face, with its haunting look of sorrow, break into smiles, the light come
into her soft gray eyes, became a real delight to him. Then the color
flushed over her cheek at his lightest word, and he found a real interest
in watching it glow and fade from her pale face.

"She's the sort of _brune_ that colors well," he thought. "Old Sir John's
fancy of--

  'Her cheek was like a Cathrine pear,
  The side that's next the sun'--

suits her exactly. And her hair, with the glint of gold in the chestnut
hue, would be a glory in a beautiful woman. Every motion of her heart
shows in her face. She'd never make a woman of the world: she cannot hide
her feelings, but lets one read them like an open book." Which was all he
knew about it, since, spite of her treacherous color, those years of hard
duty had trained her into the most perfect self-control on all needful and
great occasions and matters.

How he missed her light step! how he had wanted her all these two days!
for, though it was scarcely past noon, and she had gone late the day
before, he was sure it was that--"And seems like six, by George!" But, as
he lay feverish and famished for a drink, a very ill-used man, she opened
the door, and the air seemed lightened of its troubles at once.



Part II.


"Shall we go to Niagara for our wedding-trip?" Mr. Norval asked when the
doctor had taken his last fee, pronouncing his patient cured.

"Unless you care particularly about it, I would rather go straight to New
York. I have canceled all my school-engagements by letter, having taken a
new service"--and she bowed to him--"and Mrs. Keller promised to see to my
little rooms and their belongings; but I should like to see Harry before
he sails."

"Want to make him promise to be a good boy while he's away?" said he with
a smile.

"Something like it," she answered, laughingly. "But Harry's not a bad
fellow, at all."

"Well, then, let's start for home to-morrow;" and they made their
arrangements to that effect, though he was disappointed, for in an
unwonted moment of confidence she had told him of the pictures of travel
to be taken, the glories to be first seen together, never apart, both in
Europe and America, that had been among the happiest dreams and made up a
large part of the talks between herself and her lost friend, Esther
Hooper. He felt that her indifference to seeing the glories of Niagara and
the sublimities of the White Mountains was caused by his companionship not
being her heart's choice (which was all he knew about it!), and the idea
gave him angry pain and a passionate desire to win her in spite of all.

As they stood the next morning ready equipped for their journey, he put
his arm around her, saying, "I've been very happy, little wife, here with
you. Are you glad you happened to be here that August day, and that I saw
you?"

"I have had no cause to regret it," she said quietly.

"But you are not glad," he said, taking his arm away.

"As glad, Ross, as I can be for anything--more glad than I am for most
things."

He looked at her with a sigh. "My father--and I am like him--loved only
once." Her words came constantly into his mind. "I came too late," he
thought; and it seemed to him this little plain woman, looking wan and
pale in the early morning light, was better worth winning than any other
earthly thing he had ever known. He had left her side, and was standing
looking with a frown out of the window as they awaited the summons to
breakfast. After a while she came and stood beside him, leaning her head
against his arm. He turned slightly toward her, but took no further notice
of the action. She stayed so for a while, then said, softly stealing her
hand in his as it lay upon the window-ledge, "Dear Ross, I _am_ glad: I am
happier than I ever dreamed it possible for me to be. I would not undo the
deed we have done so long as you are content. I like being with you
dearly, and I like to think that so long as I live I shall be your
wife--your little girl to whom you are so very tender and good."

"My Preciosa"--and he drew her into his arms--"so long as we both shall
live, you mean. I want no life without you now." Then turning her, face
up, he scanned it hastily: "You are so white, my pet, so deathly pale! Are
you ill, my Percy?"

"No, no," she said quickly. "I think I need my breakfast: I have been up a
couple of hours, and I did not sleep very much all night."

"My poor little girl; when I get you safely home in those famous rooms of
ours, perhaps you'll get some rest. But you talk in this strange way of
dying: just now you did, and once before in your letter. What makes you do
it? Is there anything the matter of which you have not told me?"

"Nothing--only my life seemed ended, Ross, as if all my places were filled
and I was no more needed, so that I had got in the way of hoping for death
as a boon which God would send me soon."

"But you do not now?--you don't want to die and leave me desolate?"

"No, dear! indeed, no! though I don't think you'd care really." He clasped
her in a closer embrace and kissed her reproachfully. "Well, yes, just at
first, perhaps. Yet so long as you want me, I want to stay and be your
willing, working wife. I've got a new reason and aim now: I have you, dear
old Ross."

"Oh, Percy, I _do_ care. God knows even the thought of it gives me a
bitter agony, I know you cannot trust me yet, because I married you so
carelessly, and because you think I can't be true to one woman with my
battered old heart. But that's because you judge me by what my long,
unloved life has made me. No good woman ever made me love her before. I
never knew how beautiful a pure life was, my darling, until I knew it
through watching yours. When I think of all you have saved me from, which
would have caused my undying gratitude had I learned to hate you--as if I
ever could!" and he paused to kiss her--"when I think of all the new and
better hopes you have awakened in my heart, I feel--God knows I do--as if
He had sent my angel, and let her drag me out of a hell into which I was
plunged, and year after year sinking deeper. Stay with me, dear: I will be
true. I never cared for any woman in the way--in the deep, absorbing
way--I do for you. I wish you would believe me."

"I do, Ross--you are so good to me, so good! Oh, Ross, Ross!" and she held
up her face to his, "you are so good to me!" She clung to him one moment,
then suddenly, as soon as she could trust her voice, said gayly, "But it's
breakfast-time, and your wife is so unromantically hungry;" and with a
sigh that nothing more ever came of their talks he took her down.

When they reached New York the next afternoon, they drove at once to the
rooms they had engaged. Percy's cousin, Harry Barton, was there to welcome
them, having come round from his hotel for the purpose.

"Why, Norval," said he--they were old acquaintances--"you've won our bone
of contention, after all. I wonder what we shall do, now that Percy's
safely landed out of our reach? You're a brave man to dare our rage."

"Don't, Harry!" said Percy, putting her hand on his arm.

"I won't, dear, if you say not;" and he covered her hand with his own. "I
always did do your lightest bidding, little girl, didn't I?"

"Yes, you're a dear old cousin. Ross knows how much I appreciate your
kindness to me always. Why, I gave up what he calls my 'bridal tour,'
partly because I wanted to come back and say 'good-bye' to you."

His face flushed crimson at her words, and, all his careless, fashionable
manner gone, he said, "Did you, Percy? You always were good."

"That, and because--because I shall be so sorry if you join this African
expedition."

"Don't ask me not to, Percy--don't ask me to stay now you have broken my
hope for ever. I shall go to the dogs, dear, if I stay here now."

"I don't want you to, Harry. Only your mother is so delicate and getting
old, and she loves you beyond all the rest of the world, though you think
she don't because she has been cruel to me. It will break her heart if you
join this dangerous enterprise. Stay in Europe, go to Heidelberg and
finish the course you so foolishly broke up. They'll blame me, Harry, for
all the evil that comes to you."

"Well, I'll think about it, dear." Then to Ross; "Does she kiss you,
Norval?"

"Well, I can't say she does," said that gentleman, who had been a
surprised listener to their talk, and it annoyed him to have to confess
she did not.

"Nor let you kiss her, either?"

"Well, yes," with a laugh. "She can't very well help that, you know."

"Don't you believe it: if she didn't want you to, you'd never kiss her, I
know. Why, we three cousins, Sheldon, Mac and I, have tried every way to
get her to kiss us for years, and never succeeded. You're a lucky dog!"

"He's my husband, Harry;" and she laid her head down on Ross's arm.

"Don't, Percy!" said her cousin with a quick motion of his hand: "I'll be
gone soon;" then hurriedly and gayly: "Let me do the honors of your new
domains. And, Norval, I have a great favor to ask of you. My little
cousin's _amour propre_ won't be touched, or herself involved now she's a
married woman, by taking an honest gift from me, and all brides take
bridal gifts, you know. I want you to let me give her all the traps I've
left in the rooms. It isn't much grace to ask, old fellow, seeing you're
to have her always and I not at all."

"Why, certainly, Barton, I have no objections if she has none."

"Percy, you've never let me give you anything all these years, you proud
little soul, nor any of the rest of us: you've come scot-free from all our
endeavors to snare you through all your hard-working life. You won't go
quite empty-handed to your husband's arms, just to plague me, will you?"

"No, indeed! I'm delighted to have all your pretty things. I saw them
once, you know, when you gave your mother her birth-night party;" and they
began their round of inspection. "But, Harry, you've refurnished the whole
suite!"

"You didn't think I was going to make you and Norval (I can't call you
Cousin Ross yet, old fellow--I hate you too bad, you know) cast your lines
among my smoke-and-wine-scented traps, did you?"

As she saw how exquisitely he had chosen everything, how delicately he had
regarded every one of her tastes in his selection, and thought how little
reason he had to be good to her, she turned quickly and put her arms about
him. With a shuddering sob he held his own out as if to clasp her, saying,
"May I, Ross?" The answering nod was scarcely given ere he had gathered
her to his breast, murmuring, "Percy! Percy! my lost darling!"

As he held her thus, she said softly, "Promise me, Harry--dear old
Hal--promise me this!"

"Anything, everything, Percy," he said.

"That you will give up Africa and go to Heidelberg."

"I will, I will, since you wish it."

She drew his face down and kissed him on his mouth, two long, sweet
kisses, saying, "Good-bye, and God bless you, cousin!"

He stood like a blind man as she gently drew herself from his embrace,
then wringing Ross's hand in a grasp that made him wince, he strode out of
the house without a word.

Percy, going to where her husband sat, said humbly, "I was so sorry for
him, I could not help it. You do not care--very much?"

"Harry Barton loved you and wanted to marry you?"

"Yes, Ross. I've been very unhappy about it for years, he's wasted his
life so, and angered his family. Indeed, it was not my fault: I never gave
him reason."

"Yet you married me without a pretence of love, and he's richer and
handsomer and a better man than I, every way? I don't understand it,
child."

"Yes, I married you, knowing you did not love me." His arms almost crushed
her at that truth. "He may be richer: he is no better, I think,
and"--holding his face between her hands with a quizzical survey for an
instant--"it's barefaced scandal to assert that he is as handsome, by one
half. Poor, handsome Ross, to think that all your manifold charms should
have purchased you only ugly little me!" and she laughed a merry, mocking
laugh at his protesting hug. "It's true, though--it's the very climax of
opposites, a perfection of contrasts." Then, her light manner gone, she
added: "You are very, very good to me, Ross. He would never have been so
patient of my old griefs and lost loves. I told you my masculine cousins
were always crying for the grapes that hung out of their reach, you know."
Then suddenly growing grave: "Oh, Ross, it was not my fault: I could not
help it. I think the boys got to pitying me because they thought my life
was hard, and because their sisters treated me very cruelly sometimes.
Then my uncles very foolishly ordained that I should teach their sons
their Latin and help them with their studies. So out of school-hours my
time was mostly spent with one or the other, or all of them. Sheldon
Wilber and I are of the same age, and having been my father's constant
companion, I was better up in all his studies than he was himself; so I
used to do his college lessons with him, until he got to thinking, as he
used to say, I was his very breath. Then afterward I gave the other two
the benefit of what we had studied, got them out of scrapes, and indeed,
being with them so much, kept them out. Don't let's talk about them any
more, Ross: I have 'fessed' all now."

"Not all, my sweet: you have not told me who it is that has shut your
heart from us all."

"Don't, Ross!" and she shrank away from him as if he had struck her a
blow.

"Ah, well, my wife, keep your secret: I'll not touch your sacred past.
I'll try to learn to be content with my little sister, thankful I have so
much."

"Oh, Ross, my good, kind Ross!" and she clasped her arms around his neck
in passionate, longing regret, "if I might tell you all--if I might!"

"Tell me nothing, dear, you would rather keep. I am infinitely content to
even have you thus, and know you love me somewhat. Yes, I know, sweet," he
said with a sad smile as she kissed his hand in passionate regret--"the
very best you can, with all the heart you have. I know, I know!"

Quite late in the evening, Sheldon Wilber came. After sitting an hour or
so, talking gayly, he rose to go. When they were standing he said, "Percy,
I had just left the Flemmings before I came in here."

"Had you? I hope they are all well, especially Miss Lizzie, who is so
pretty."

"They're all well enough. She--Miss Lizzie the pretty--is going to be
married."

"To be married!--to whom?" she asked.

"To my honorable self: don't you congratulate her?"--with a bitter laugh.
"I asked her to-night if she'd have me, and she said 'Yes.'"

"I am so glad, Sheldon--so very glad!" and she held out her hand.

"Are you? It's more than anyone else is but my mother. Well, no--I suppose
the Flemmings are, to get another daughter off their hands, and she to
have a safe man to pay her bills. And of course all our cousins and
sisters will be glad to have another house to dance the German in; so it
is rather a jubilee occasion, taking it all in all."

"Oh, Sheldon, how hard and bitter you are! She loves you, I know, and the
rest think you will be happier with a good wife to care for."

"Yes, the wife I cared for would have made me supremely happy, but _vive
la bagatelle!_ I want to know when I am to tie this knot?"

"Whenever she wishes, of course," she answered.

"By the Lord, no! If she gets me, she's got to take me when _I_ choose."

Percy went up to him and put her hands in his: "She'll be a good wife,
and, dear Sheldon, you'll be a good husband to her."

He looked at her curiously, then answered, "I'll try: I'll begin by
letting her set the hanging--no, I mean the wedding--day. Norval, I know
you'll be good to our little girl--better, likely as not, than the rest of
us would have been had we got possession of her. Only remember, old
fellow, the shadows must never come to her through you, or some of us will
make a shadow of you. Would you mind my coming around sometimes to see the
little woman? If you'll let me come and spend an evening now and then with
you both, it will keep me from getting utterly down-hearted, and maybe
will make me a better husband to the future Mrs. Sheldon Wilber. I'll
never come without sending word to know if I may." And the poor fellow
took himself away.

"How they love you, dear! It's strange you took me, and I thought I was
conferring a favor on you! I'm ashamed to remember it now, but it was so."

"Yes, I know"--and she laughed--"but it's not strange, Ross. Any woman
would have chosen you: I have always heard of your successes with women.
And you know it was take or lose when you gave me my chance. I had but one
choice; it was not likely you would drop your handkerchief before me a
second time; so I took you quick, before some other woman caught you."

She kept a light, gay tone thus far, standing the other side of the grate
from him, but when he came near as if to draw her toward him, she said
hurriedly, "These boys have been too much for me, and tried me terribly.
If you will not care, Ross, I think I'll say 'Good-night,' though it's
early. Don't stay in, if you would like to go to your club or anywhere,
because it is our first evening. You see, I am going to desert you first.
It's part of the compact, you know, that I am never to be in your way."

"Oh, Percy," he said, in a very boyishly aggrieved tone, "I don't want to
go anywhere where you are not."

"You will soon get tired of that, Ross. But I'm glad you don't want to go
to-night: I doubt your being quite able to walk much in the evening. Yet I
feel as if I must say 'Good-night' and get myself in the dark. Why? I'm
unstrung. The newness of my life with you, the traveling, this coming home
with you to a place where I am to know either joy or woe, and all this
talk with Harry and Sheldon, have been almost more than I could bear;" and
her lip quivered. "It's all I have been able to do this last hour to keep
from crying, and I do hate to cry before people." The long-suppressed
emotion of all these weeks had broken bounds and she shook with sobs,
while every nerve seemed quivering, and all she said was, "Ross, Ross!
please forgive me! I am so sorry to be so foolish!" And though he strove
by every tender method to comfort and soothe her, it was in vain; and at
length, really frightened, he carried her to the little room she had
appropriated for herself, and as tenderly as a mother, though as shyly as
a girl, put his poor little done-out wife in her bed, too weak to resist
his kind services, indeed, scarcely noticing them.

The next day, when he returned from what he and his friends, by an
agreeable fiction, called an "office," where he generally spent as many
hours as served to give him a flavor of business and a figurative title as
a businessman--where were to be found the best cigars and choicest wines,
and generally a pleasant circle of good fellows congregated--he found
Percy with the most charming little dinner awaiting him; the table
exquisite in the finest, whitest napery, gleaming with silver, sparkling
in glass, and every dish cooked and served in quite Parisian style, and
the little lady herself in the brightest toilette, with such a matronly
air that he could hardly realize the scene of the last night's misery.

"Tears all gone, Ross, tragedy played out, and the little woman who keeps
house for you is herself again, and has been as busy as a nailer. Are
nailers busier than other men, I wonder? All your boxes came. Such bliss
as it was to us poor women to feast our eyes upon all that heritage of
linen and silver, and china and glass! Your mother must have been a famous
manager, Ross, to leave you such a store. I'm so glad we've got that old
place on the Harlem stored with all this beautiful array. Do you know,
Ross, I think I've discovered my especial calling to-day? It's
housekeeping, and I elect myself to go some time to that lovely old
mansion and expend myself in hospitality. I'll invite you to come and
visit me."

Flying about the room, then making him seat himself in the cozy chair
which was placed for him at the table--"the side that's next the fire,"
she said--rattling gayly on of all her day's employment, she caught the
look upon his face and came to his side. "What were you thinking of,
Ross?" she asked, anxiously.

"What a little tornado you were, for the first thing, and how I liked
seeing you busy among our household gods; also and moreover, that you had
not given me a chance to say a word; and worst of all, that you had never
given me my kiss of welcome, my rightful perquisite." Instantly she held
up her face. "Ah, pet, you are always submissive; but never aggressive:
still, this is sweet. And I was wondering what had become of the weeping
willow I left."

"Wasn't I a silly goose, Ross?" she said, a little breathlessly.

"Well, no, dear: you were very nervous and worn-out."

"I hate nervous, fidgety women so: they're detestable with their whims."

"I did not find you so, but I'm glad you're over it, all the same."

"And so am I. You could not make me cry like that again, Ross, if you were
to pinch me."

"But I did not make you cry."

"Yes you did, though. In truth, I was unstrung, and you were so kind and
unlike what any one had ever been to me before, so different from what I
had expected when we were married "--and her lips quivered--"that it
touched me to the quick."

"Why, darling, did you think I was going to be a brute to you?"

"I thought you would be nothing to me, one way or the other--simply forget
me, and be utterly indifferent so long as I kept your clothes made and
mended, and did not bother you about my wants or tastes or opinions."

A flush came over his face at the truth of her words. It would have been
just so had he found her what he expected her to be; but he said, "I don't
think any one could treat you like that, little girl." Then, while they
ate their dinner, he told her of his day's doings and of his determination
for the future: "I have a good opening--no man better. I mean to attend to
my practice hereafter, make a name and fortune for my sweetheart, and in a
few years we'll go to Europe and see the sights. Ah, Percy, such a vista,
such a new life, such a bright future, as I see opening before me! But,
first of all, I am going shopping with you, young lady, to-morrow. I have
ordered a carriage at eleven, and we'll buy all those pretty fixings you
women doat on. Do you know, little bride, I think all my vanity is going
to take the form of having you more prettily dressed than your cousins,
mine ancient flames when I was a bad boy?"

"Oh, Ross," with a little laugh, "you can't do it: you can't make a rival
specimen out of your bad bargain. Nothing will make me a beauty."

"Don't, Percy! I do like beauty. I have run after and made a fool of
myself for years over pretty women, but I like your face, just as it is,
better than any other woman's face I ever knew. If I could change you any
way, I would not do it. Your face is beautiful to me, though I know it is
not a pretty one: you are like sunlight to me." His voice shook, and he
strained her slight form to him with a clasp that was positive pain. "I
said I would not change you, but I would if I might put that old love out
of your heart for ever. Why, in those far-off years when we were childish
friends, did I not know my truest life lay in winning you? It is strange!
I have never failed to gain the love I wanted until now, when I want the
only one that would complete my life. Dear Percy, love me all you can. If
there are things in me--and I know there are many--which turn you from me,
tell me of them and I will change them if I can."

"Oh, Ross, don't, don't! I am not worthy of such words."

"Oh, little Preciosa, I am glad to have even a little of your heart: the
half of your love has come to be more to me than the love of all the world
besides."

Do you think it was not agony for her to hear such words as these and make
no response to them, fearing lest with assurance should come satiety? And
yet the knowledge of his growing love was very sweet to her, and worth the
agony.

They settled down in their new home, and were purposely "out" to all
callers during the next month--then returned the cards that had been left
for them. As they grew accustomed to their new life, she thought to see
his pleasure and interest in it wane as the novelty wore away, but it was
not so. That love of home which is, after all, the truest test of a really
manly nature, seemed to grow upon him. It was always so bright and cheery
by their cozy fire, the glare of public rooms, the noise and glitter of
theatres and concert-rooms, struck him with a feeling akin to disgust,
after the soft, subdued light of his home, and his wife's merry, breezy
voice. He sang and played for her, never giving a thought to her having
any musical ability, since she never touched the instrument. He read to
her hour after hour, having at last discovered her taste and ability to
understand the kind of books he relished, perfectly content if she would
favor him by sitting near enough to him to let him pull down that wealth
of "tresses brown," a glossy cloud about her.

Of course this Arcadian life could not continue in the very heart of
Sodom. Society was not going to lose Ross Norval if he _had_ made a fool
of himself and married a little nobody. So callers flowed in upon them,
and Ross, having in boyish glee arrayed himself in purple and fine linen,
took her in state to see his friends.

Of course her cousins and their friends hated her: she had won their
_bonne louche_, and the crimson of her plainness and poverty, of the
having to "have Percy always around to please Uncle Rufus," was pink to
the enormity of her being Ross Norval's wife. And "why he married her,"
and "of course he's dead tired of her by this time," were their politest
surmises.

One morning they paid a cousinly visit--a triple call. "And, by Jove!"
thought Ross as he watched her haughty little face and _nonchalant_
manner, "she's no milk-and-water nature, though she's always so
sweet-tempered with me. She's got all the temper a true nature ought to
have."

"To think of your ever getting married, Percy, and to Mr. Norval, of all
men!" said Miss Leta Wilber. "Why, we thought him engaged to the beauty
and belle of last winter, Miss Agnes Lorton."

"Well, yes, Leta, old girls like you and I are rather off the cards: we
don't expect to catch the prizes generally--we leave that for these
younger ones, like Jennie and Lucille," said Percy, coolly.

"A Roland for your Oliver, Leta!" laughed Jennie Wayne. "I never venture
to break a lance with Percy: she always has an arrow in reserve to pierce
you with. I suppose you've found that out, Mr. Norval?"

"Found what out? I fear I don't follow you, Miss Jennie," said he.

"That she's very able to take her own part, this little cousin of ours,"
said she, her beautiful face scarlet at his manner.

"Is she, though? Well, I like that amazingly, do you know?"

"Like ill-tempered people?" said Miss Leta, snappishly. "Is it possible?"

"Ill-tempered people?" with a wellbred stare. (Is there such a thing?)
"No, indeed! Why, birdie"--and he leaned over, and, taking her hand,
raised it to his lips--"to think of any one calling you ill-tempered!"

"You silly boy!" laughed she. "I'll take my hand if you please, and don't
you believe but what you've married a termagant."

The girls said afterward, in recounting the scene, it was simply
disgusting. Leta vowed, "The little baggage must be a witch and throw
spells over people. Look what fools she's made of our boys for years, and
Ross Norval, with all his splendid endowments, is just as bad."

"And he did use to admire your form, Leta," said Jennie, maliciously.
"I've seen him waltz you until it was hard to tell which face that long
blonde moustache belonged to."

"Ditto, cousin, and worse, if gossips speak the truth. But don't let's say
ugly things to each other. We both hoped to win him once, and we have both
lost him. The little wretch will watch him like a hawk, and never let him
come near a body."

"Oh dear!" said her sister Laura, "if I only knew I was to do a German
with him to-night, I'd be happy: he holds one better than any man I know;
and if Percy will let him dance with a body occasionally, I'd as leave she
should have him as the rest of you."

"Unless he'd chosen yourself, Laura, I suppose?"

"Well, yes, that would have made a difference, even to my laziness,
especially if she'd have made dear old Harry stay at home by marrying
him."

That's the way they talked, yet in a couple of weeks after each house had
sent her an invitation to a large party--"for you and Mr. Norval, dear
Percy"--and the invitation-cards stated the fact.

"It's my Viking they want," laughed she: "they take his mouse in for the
sake of securing him. He's such a credit to the family!"

"Well, it's your Viking they won't get," said he.

"Now, Ross, don't be a bother, dear, and complicate matters. They will
say--and be glad of the chance--that it's my fault. You've such a passion
for dancing, they will say I prevented your coming. And besides, as I
dance so little, you'll ask them as much as ever?"

"How do you know I am so fond of it, Percy?"

"I've watched you too many years not to know that. You forget that, though
a flower unnoticed and unseen--a very wall-flower in fact--I have been a
looker-on in Vienna. I might have made a point of that, Ross, if I'd
thought in time, and 'hung i' the walls of Venice, a sightly flower.' You
were the bright particular star, or sun, in whose light all the fairest
flowers disported themselves. Why, I could tell you every woman--that is,
of your own set--you've been what Jennie calls 'bad about,' for years." He
held up his hand deprecatingly: she laughed gayly. "Never fear. I don't
intend to name them: I have not time to go over such a thing of shreds and
patches. Ah! the hopes I've watched you raise to heaven and then dash to
earth!"

"Oh, Percy, I don't wonder that you are afraid to trust me now: I am
paying the penalty of my years of folly."

"That's nonsense, Ross. I don't believe in fashionable women's hearts. You
were too good for them, and they led you on always," she said, almost
passionately.

"That's my good darling trying to excuse her sinner. But how was it you
never danced at any of those parties? Harry and Mac are both good dancers,
and Sheldon's the best waltzer I ever saw. How is it you never danced with
them?"

"With them, indeed! Why, that would have been an aggravation past enduring
to my rich relations. Sheldon had actually the insolence to tell his
sister Leta that I was the best waltzer in society. Think of the prize
you've got, young man!"

"I do always, sweetheart," he said, answering her gay tone with a grave
one. "Did you waltz much with Sheldon and the others?"

"I never waltzed with any of them in my life. Why, Ross, I never let them
speak to me at parties, except by turns to take me out to supper and
home."

"But how have you managed to keep up your waltzing then?"

"Oh, Mr. Vanity, men are not all. Esther and I waltzed constantly: then I
used to help Lucille, who is my favorite cousin, 'along in her paces;' and
the children at our school-parties doat on me as a partner. Would you like
to know who was the last man, and indeed almost the only one, I ever went
round a room with?" and her face turned crimson, though she laughed.

"Indeed I should--curse him!" he said under his breath.

"Your honorable self, at Madame's school-party;" and she sprang away from
his outstretched hands with a mocking laugh.

The day of the party she wrote a few little violet-perfumed notes, and
sent them off. This is a specimen:

  "DEAR DOCTOR: You have so often wanted to know your 'nebulous child,'
  and been indignant that she hid her face from you behind her veil of
  clouds, you will be pleased to know that the sunshine has dispelled the
  clouds, and made her at last able to meet the starry train of which you
  are the sun. Will you greet Ross Norval's bride at the Wilber party
  to-night as the child you have trained and been so good to in the past,
  and who, ever honoring you, is still your loving child for the future?
  If you'll ask me prettily to-night, I'll sing the foolish words I made
  for the sweet, tripping Languedoc air you sent me last year. I am, now
  and ever,

  "MIRA CANAM."

In consequence of these notes, when Ross led his wife into the room,
arrayed in a crimson cloud of his choosing, which made even her brown face
a picture, all her bronze hair, her husband's glory, floating round her
far below her waist, confined lightly here and there by diamond clusters,
which sparkled like stars amidst its creped luxuriance--"Daring to dress
in the very height of the fashion," said Leta, "and all those diamonds on
her--his mother's, of course;" and of course they were--the consequence, I
say, was, that first one distinguished man and then another met her with a
warm greeting--"deucedly warm," thought the jealous fellow, who was so
uncertain of her yet, and wanted all of her--and were introduced to "my
husband." Taking for granted that "my husband" was glad to get her off his
hands, they took possession of her, to his infinite disgust.

These were the men with whom she could talk, whose minds struck diamond
flashes from her own, whose thoughts she had followed for years, and who
looked upon her as their peer, and deferred to her opinion on many things.
And she, knowing Ross was her amazed listener, was stirred to do her best
before him--glad her triumph over her relatives should be in his presence
and brought to her through his means. It may not have been a lovely thing
in her to desire or enjoy a victory, but ah! it is so natural, and my
little heroine had had hard lines meted out to her for years. Besides, no
woman is free, you know, from vanity: only men are that.

She stood near the door of the dancing-room. Ross came to her after every
dance, but it was always, "Not me yet, Ross--Leta, or Jennie," or whoever
stood nearest her. Even the girl to whom report had given him (with
reason) the year before was, at her open entreaty, which he could not
evade, his partner; but half the time he stood beside her, forgetful of
the dance in listening to the conversation in which she bore so large a
part.

A lull in the music after supper announced the suspension of dancing
hostilities for a time, that due strength might be gathered for the last
waltz, and then the German. The time was occupied by a very weak tenor,
who came to an ignominious end in the middle of "Spirito Gentil." Miss
Jennie Barton and her cousin Laura gave a sweet duo, in rather a tearing
style, Jennie being a fast young lady everyhow; another lady sang a
Scottish ballad as if it had been manipulated by Verdi; then one of the
gentlemen said, "Mr. Norval, I hope you will lay your commands on your
wife to sing for us."

"_I_ hope that will not be needed," he said, bowing (thinking with a pang,
"They all know her better than I do"). "I am sure she will do equally well
if we all beg the favor of her."

"She has promised me to sing," said Dr. B----, "my pretty Languedoc air,
which she has--"

"Now that's enough, you foolish old doctor!" and she went to the piano.
"Foolish old doctor!" He was the great gun of the scientific world: the
people about looked aghast at such impertinence, but the "great gun" only
laughed and said, "I am mute if you command."

How her hands trembled as she began! This was her last and greatest card:
by it she had always felt she must hold him to her for ever, or lose her
husband's love in time. She had never touched the piano before him or sung
a note, but much of her leisure since their return to New York had been
taken up, when he was out, in keeping herself in practice against the time
when she should have a chance to play for him and sing to him. She played
the sweet air, with its Mozart-like, mournful cadences, entirely through
ere she felt nerved enough to begin. Then she sang in such a voice as made
the most indifferent pause--a voice that was like purple velvet for
richness, as sweet as the breath of an heliotrope to which the sun had
just said adieu, as clear as the notes of an English skylark--this little
song:

  "See, love! the rosy radiance gleams
  Athwart the sunset sky:
  List, love! and hear the bird's sweet notes
  In lingering cadence die.
  Clasp, love, thy clinging hands in mine,
  And, holding fast by me,
  Trust, love! I will be true, my dove,
  Be ever true to thee--
  So true, sweetheart, I'll be,
  Sweetheart, to thee!

  "Come, love! I waiting pine so long,
  And weary watch for thee:
  Dear love! amidst my darkest night
  Thy star-like face I see.
  Heart's love! ah, come thou close to me:
  I'll shelter thee from harms,
  From every foe or secret woe,
  Close clasped within my arms:
  Lie safe from all alarms,
  Sweetheart, with me."

While they listened to her, those careless men and women, they thought
they began to understand why this little, plain girl had won Ross Norval.
While everybody praised her, he stood utterly silent, too moved for words
she saw, and refusing to sing again, she went up to him as the band began
to play. "My waltz, Ross," she said. He put his arm around her with a
loving gesture that made those about them smile, and whirled her off.

"He's the hardest hit man I've seen for years," said one.

"And that such a thing should come to pass, as Ross Norval in love with
his own wife, is beyond belief--after making love to everybody else's!"

"That's it! He was always the darling of fortune: the choicest fruit
always dropped his side the wall."

But Ross, as he held her in that "tight hold" which was so much admired by
his partners, said only, "Percy! Percy! I do not know you at all. How
cruel you are to me! Everybody knows you and your gifts but me."

When the German had commenced he came to her and whispered, "Do you care
for it?"

"The German, Ross? Indeed no: I am tired too, and was just coming to ask
you if I might let old Mr. L---- take me home: he says it will be no
trouble."

"And you would not have asked me to take you?" he said, reproachfully.

"Take you away from the German, Ross! Such an unheard-of thing as that!
You must think me very selfish. Indeed; I am not where your pleasure is
concerned: I only want you to enjoy yourself."

"Then, for Charity's sake, let's go home," he said.

"With all my heart if you really wish it!" and she started; then pausing:
"Are you going because you think I want to go? I do not indeed: I will
stay gladly."

"I am going because I want to--because I am dead tired, and long, with a
perfect passion, for our cozy room, the dim firelight, and my darling
toasting her pretty slippers."

"You dear, foolish Ross!" and she was gone like the wind. On their way
out, Sheldon Wilber met them in the hall, and, handing her something,
said, "To-night, little girl: if you have ever doubted, doubt no more. And
remember, a trusting heart is a priceless one;" and he was gone.

When they were home and comfortable, Ross said, "My wife, it was cruel to
let me learn your wonderful gifts through strangers: it has hurt me
cruelly."

"Oh, Ross, don't say so! Hurt you! I hurt you, my love, my love! I had
hoped no pang of the lightest sort would ever reach you through me, and
now I've grieved you sorely! It's all due to my morbid fancies, dear. I
could not ask to sing to you lest you should not like my singing: I think
I should have gone mad if you had not liked my voice, Ross I have so hoped
it would be pleasant to your ear! Do you like it, Ross? Is my voice sweet
to you?" and she held his face between her hands and looked eagerly and
steadfastly into his eyes.

"The sweetest thing I ever heard. It thrills my blood yet, that love-song
you sang."

She gave a little cooing laugh: "That is _your_ love-song, dear--your very
own." Then she said, gravely, "I must tell you _all_ about myself now,
Ross, so you shall never be able to reproach me with having given you
pain. No matter, dear: it was, true," she said in answer to his caressing
protest, "and I feel the hurt through you. I am your wife. The reason
those gentlemen are so fond of me is because--Wait;" and she slid from his
embrace and brought a pile of books: "this and this are mine; these two I
translated from the German, others from the old Provençal tongue, with
which my father made me familiar." Then she told him how lovingly she did
this work, how kind scholarly men had been to her, and how eagerly they
had sought to know her otherwise than by letter--"Until, to-night, I bade
them find Ross Norval's wife, and know the little girl who, shielded by
his name, feared nothing any more."

"Percy," he said, quite humbly, "you must bear with me, dear. I lose all
hope of winning you when I learn these things of you."

"But you are not sorry, Ross? I will not write any more if you dislike
literary women."

But he stopped her: "Dislike it! I am proud as a king of all your
endowments. But, sweetheart, you said a word just now that is worth all
else that you have told me--a word, I know, you said only half meaning it.
Oh, my little girl, will there ever come a time when, meaning it and out
of a full heart, you will say, My love! my love!"

She held him tight a long, long moment, then with one lingering love-kiss
on his lips--her very first--she said faintly, putting him away from her,
"Ross, not now--wait, my dearest. Sheldon gave me this to give to you
to-night;" and she held out a little worn letter, then buried her face
upon his breast and tremblingly waited while he read it. It ran thus:

  "Sheldon, my cousin, it can never be: give up all hope for ever. I kill
  it now, because it is best you should know the truth. I almost give up
  my life, my cousin, when I make my heritage of woe known to you. You
  will pity me, Sheldon, when you realize what agony the confession you
  thus wring from me gives my heart. But if it cures your passion it is
  not borne in vain. I love with an undying love, a faith that knows no
  change, an endurance that years of neglect have not weakened, that years
  of cruelty could never change, a man who would laugh to scorn my very
  name. I love--and have loved since I was sixteen years old, until
  now--Ross Norval. Keep my secret.

  "PERCY HASTINGS."

It was dated four years back.

"Ross, Ross! you know it now! Oh, my love! my love!"

       *       *       *       *       *

I will attempt no painting of the effect that confession had upon him. But
after a long, long time she whispered, "I will sing the last verse of your
song, dear, which only you shall ever hear." And lying on his breast, she
sang--

  "Dear love I thy face above me gleaming
    A sunset radiance gives:
  Ah, love! thy tones' sweet cadence dying
    Sings in my heart and lives.
  Clasped, love, close to thy heart, thy birdling
    Foldeth her wings in peace--
  Trusts, love! feeling nor cold nor shadow,
    Finding at last her ease,
    From fear a safe release,
      Heart's love, with thee."

MARGRET FIELD.



The Victims of Dreams.



My friend Bessie Haines had no mother, but her father was such a very
large man that I remember thinking, when I was quite a child, that a kind
Providence had intended to make up her loss in that way. She and I did not
live in the same city, but managed to keep up a lively friendship through
the medium of correspondence and half-yearly visits.

I was a complete orphan, and my uncle, with whom I lived, was her father's
attached friend. She had a very happy home, and I was glad to enjoy it
with her, particularly when my uncle accompanied me, for then her father
and he became absorbed in each other, and left us to our own devices--not
very evil ones, but too childish and trifling to claim the sympathy of
such very grave men as they were.

We had both become tall, womanly girls, but Uncle Pennyman and Mr. Haines
called us children, and treated us as such; and Bessie was just writing to
me about her father's telling her she must begin to think of serious
things, when my uncle remarked to me that the time was approaching when I
should prepare myself to assume the duties and responsibilities of a
rational female. Just as if we had waited to be told this, when in fact
Bessie and I had been consulting about our bonnets and dresses in the most
grave and mature manner for years past, and arranging our future on plans
that for variety and agreeability could not have been surpassed had we
been brought up on the _Arabian Nights_ and Moore's _Poems_, instead of
Baxter's _Saint's Rest_ and Pollok's _Course of Time_.

"There are several questions of vital importance that have been growing
daily stronger in my mind," said my uncle Pennyman. "My friend Thomas
Haines has a gift in clearing points and expounding meanings; so that I
feel it to be for my mind's edifying and my soul's profit to go to him for
counsel."

I was delighted to hear this. I wanted to see Bessie, and I blessed the
bond that united these good brothers in Israel and drew us together so
often. Mr. Haines was good at texts, and my uncle was wonderfully expert
at dreams. Mr. Haines was a great dreamer, and my uncle constantly
stumbled over passages needing elucidation. So we lived in harmonious
intercourse, and Bessie and I talked of all our plans and delights while
they got themselves entangled in obscurities with a commentary under each
arm.

It would have appeared, from Mr. Haines' dreams, that Bessie's mother had
been a most fussy and bothering lady, though I was told by the
housekeeper, who knew her well, that she was the mildest and most timid of
little wives while living.

According to these visions, she was constantly troubled in her spiritual
state on the greatest variety of small subjects; and my expert uncle, in
expounding her communications, was always able to draw from them strong
religious lessons, and to administer much strengthening comfort to his
friend the dreamer.

"I was hoping papa would soon have a vision," said Bessie when we were
settled together all comfortably, and she had told me how glad she was to
see me again. "Mrs. Tanner said last week that she was sure he was going
to have another, because the spire which he felt he was directed in his
last dream to put on the little chapel was all complete, and the
missionary outfit which he had believed himself called upon to provide was
ready and gone to the South Seas, and he naturally looked for more work.
When he said last week, 'Bessie, I have sent for Brother Pennyman
concerning a visitation in the night,' I was so glad, for, Winnie
dear--would you believe it?--I have been dreaming too, and I want you to
tell me if I have read my dream aright."

Now, this was the most wonderful thing that Bessie Haines could have told
me--the most startling and least to be expected altogether; for if ever
there was a wide-awake girl, it was she.

I suppose my perfectly frank stare said as much, for she blushed a little,
and continued with a very suspicious flutter, which I had learnt, in the
case of young engaged persons I knew, to look on as a bad symptom:

"I do not mean dreaming with my eyes shut, you know, but having deep,
serious thoughts, unlike the gay fancies that have held me captive all my
life."

"Dress trimmings and poetry?" I suggested.

"Yes, yes--all the useless, perishable fancies of thoughtless youth," she
replied.

This sounded more like an Essay on Vanity than Bessie Haines, and I really
was astonished, and had nothing to say for a little while, during which
she, being full of her subject, went on:

"I can scarcely trace the beginning of the--the awakening, shall I call
it?"

"You called it a dream before."

"Yes, dear Winnie, but it is so hard to know how to classify new emotions,
and this is such a peculiar one that it seems nameless. You know papa
feels bound, ever since that water-dream he had, to go down to the
Mariners' Chapel on Sunday afternoon, and I used to read solemn poetry
when it was too warm or too cold to go with him. Well, about two months
ago it was fearfully warm, and papa had come home a fortnight earlier from
the shore, on account of a suspicion he had that he had dreamed something
and had forgotten it as soon as he awoke. This indistinct warning made him
think we had better go home at all events, and home we came the first week
in September, to the roasting, dusty city. But I did not then know that I
was perhaps drawn back for a purpose; and oh, dear Winnie, there may be
something in papa's visions, after all."

"He has had a good many of them," I said.

"So he has," assented Bessie; "and I was inclined to be impatient at this
one, since it brought me home in the heat, and the house seemed so lonely,
because Mrs. Tanner was still in the country with her married daughter."

"She having received no spectral warning," I hinted.

"Oh dear! no. Mrs. Tanner never dreams: she's opposed to it. Well, the
first Sunday was so warm that I took up _Solemn Thoughts in Verse_ instead
of the Mariners'; and after I had read eight pages, it really seemed as if
I had better have tried the heat out of doors, it was getting so gloomy
within. So I got up and dressed, meaning to walk out and meet papa, and
return with him. I don't know whether it was the _Solemn Thoughts_ that
confused me, or whether I was not paying attention, but I actually lost my
way by turning at the wrong corner, and so came down Barton street toward
a little chapel that I had often noticed before. Two dreadfully red-faced
and short-haired little boys were at the entrance by the small iron gate.
They had disagreed about something, I suppose, just as I came up, and they
instantly began to fight, with the wickedest determination visible in
their freckled little faces. At first, they kicked at each other, and
growled out some awful words without the least sense, but with a great
deal of profanity in them, and then they laid down their little books and
tracts, and apparently tried to pull each other's head off. Of course it
made me quite wretched to see them hurt each other in that shocking way,
and so I interfered and tried to reconcile them, but the naughty little
souls must have had a certain amount of kicking and scratching on hand to
dispose of, for they united in bestowing it all on me the moment I came
between them.

"I was just trying to save my dress and lace sacque from their boots and
claws, when a reverend gentleman appeared at the door, and the bad boys
became sneaking cowards at sight of him. I picked up their little tracts,
while he tried to apologize for them; and it was so sad, Winnie, to think
that those dear children had not profited by their lessons: one was called
'Love One Another,' and the other, 'Be Meek and Lowly.'

"While we were talking a lady joined us, and I went into the school at
their invitation.

"Winnie, do you know anything practical about Sunday-school?"

"I went to one, and was for years in the class of an elderly maiden lady
who urged us all to learn Scripture and hymns. I was so expert and high in
favor that I could repeat forty verses at a time as glibly as a parrot."

"But I don't quite mean that sort of thing," said Bessie. "I mean a real,
earnest teaching-place, where children are gathered in and told all about
Christ's love and mercy--where they are softened and won to better
thoughts and kinder actions, and their poor little minds filled with
shining truth, instead of street dirt and abuse."

"I never thought about it before, but such an institution could not help
being a popular one, and a very useful one too," I confessed.

"Oh, I am so glad, so very glad, that you approve, dear, for I am engaged
in that work; and I did not want to write it to you, for somehow it seemed
so strange for such a thoughtless, silly girl as I have been to attempt
such a serious thing."

"As teaching in a Sunday-school?"

"Yes, in a sort of mission school for little scholars of the lower
classes. Miss Mary Pepper and I have at this time nearly two hundred boys
and girls of all ages, and some of them are very interesting and lovable,
while others are--"

"Like the two gladiators who introduced you to the scene?"

"Yes. I am afraid there are quite a number of that kind; but, Winnie, you
must like Miss Mary Pepper. Oh, she is one of the most excellent women I
ever knew, so truly, so nobly, so devotedly good. You cannot imagine what
a comfort it is to me to be with her--to feel that I am under her
influence, and may learn from her to be a little like her."

"Miss Mary Pepper?" I repeated: "then she is a young lady?"

"No--not young: indeed, she is rather elderly."

"An old maid," I remarked, coldly. "She is pretty and sweet, though faded,
I suppose."

"Why, no--not to look at: her nature is beautiful, but her manner and
figure are rather--rather unprepossessing at first."

"A stiff, hard, straight-laced old maid," I said, contemptuously. "Well,
really, I cannot see the fascination--"

Bessie's face flushed painfully: "I confess that dear Miss Pepper's person
is not so beautiful as her nature, but, Winnie, it is the cause of doing
good and trying to be good that draws us together so closely; and of
course I do not love her as I love you, my dear, precious first friend."

These last words were full of balm, for of course it was the sting of
jealousy that had made my heart resent the venerable Pepper's powerful
influence over my dear Bessie. Being once assured that it was a
second-rate power, and that I still held my supremacy, I entered into the
Sunday-school question like a second Raikes, and volunteered to help, and
try to learn the way to the young hearts that beat under the pugilistic
exterior of the juveniles of Canon lane, where the mission chapel was.

Then, having become one on this serious subject, we began to wonder what
Mr. Haines' dream might portend this time, and prepare our minds for the
verse from the prophecies over which dear Uncle Pennyman had made his
latest stumble.

"Mrs. Tanner thinks it was something about a journey, and she is quite out
of sorts on the subject: for, as she says, the house can't be shut up
without worriment, and as to staying in it alone she really has not got
the nerve."

"I do not think that Uncle Pennyman will interpret it that way, because he
cannot go too, as he is at present very deep in the minor prophets, and
has fallen out of humor with all the commentaries."

"I am so glad!" said Bessie, placidly--"so glad, I mean, that we need not
go: I think every one must find his life-work at home."

I stared a little at this, because I knew that only a few months before
Bessie Haines had wanted very much to find style and fashion abroad; but I
remembered the Sunday-school, and tried to be as serious and convinced as
I could; and to that end I talked a good deal of church interests, and the
prophecies, and _Light in Obscurity_, a new work which had utterly
confused me at the first chapter, but which I had read through to Uncle
Pennyman one warm July day when he stayed at home to keep Tom's birth-day.

That reminds me: I have not mentioned Tom, but as he was away at college,
and Bessie never seemed to like to talk of him--I'm sure I can't see
why--it is quite natural that he slipped out of my memory.

He was a ward of Uncle Pennyman, who called him his son, and indeed had
adopted him formally.

How two such opposite people ever came to love each other as they did, I
never can explain. It was not a natural, commonplace affection: it was a
strong, deep, earnest love, as firm in the hearts of both as the life that
caused their throbbings.

Tom was wild and full of frolic: if there is a graver word than gravity,
it should be used to describe Uncle Pennyman's demeanor. Tom was quick and
restless by nature, but his good sense and determination to make a niche
for himself in life, and fill it respectably, had toned down his exuberant
spirits into active energy; while Uncle Penny man's naturally slow
tendencies had become aggravated by the ponderous character of his
pursuits and tastes: all hurry was obnoxious to him, and he firmly
believed that haste was another name for sin. Yet the solemn, slow old man
loved the busy, merry young one, and neither saw any fault or failing in
the other.

There was no earthly relationship between Thomas Gray Pennyman and me, and
yet I was always spoken of as his sister by my dear, worrying old uncle.
Tom did not seem to like it, and I knew I did not.

People often said to me, "What a splendid brother you have, Miss Pennyman
but what a pity that all these handsome brothers have to be given up to
stronger ties!"

How utterly silly! I never had any patience with such nonsense.

There was not much comfort in talking to Bessie about him. I'm sure I do
not know why, but I suppose she saw that I avoided the subject; so I was
really quite surprised when she said to me, laughing and looking a little
mischievous--

"Mr. Tom is to join us by and by, your uncle says. I hope we may be able
to make it pleasant for him. I believe he likes Mrs. Tanner: he used to
like her buns when he was a boy, and I hope he has not forgotten the
fancy."

Tom coming to visit the Haines! Such a thing had never happened before,
and must mean something now. I began to feel quite uneasy, though I really
could not have explained why.

We never had much of my uncle's or Mr. Haines' society except in the
evening: they spent the day going about together and worrying texts of
Scripture with other good old men, before whom Mr. Haines liked to show
off uncle's Bible knowledge. They took some pious excursions in company,
and had a solemnly festive time, I have no doubt, for they always came in
looking perfectly satisfied with the result of their day.

It generally took some time to hear the dream and find its proper
interpretation. While it was pending the expounder generally gave out his
puzzling verses, and then both pondered a good while before they arrived
at their conclusions and made them known.

Both the dream and the text must have been of an unusually difficult
nature this time, for a whole week went by without either transpiring; and
although Bessie and I watched for some allusions to them in our morning
and evening family worship, at which the two good men officiated
alternately, yet not a hint could we gain until one night at the end of
the week it seemed from Uncle Pennyman's prayer that the matter in some
wise referred to Bessie, since Divine guidance was sought under many
rhetorical forms for the welfare, future and temporal, of "the young
handmaiden, the daughter of thy servant, who would fain know thy will
concerning her."

"Bessie," said I that night, when we got up stairs, "I think I have found
out what your father's last dream was: I solemnly believe that he means to
send you out as a missionary."

Now I thought I had said something calculated to make Bessie turn pale and
gasp, but I could scarcely believe it when I looked up, expecting to find
her almost fainting, and saw her pensively, but by no means alarmedly,
shaking her head.

"I am not devoted enough, Winnie, love," she remarked. "I have not the
grand self-abnegating spirit necessary for such a work. No; mine is a home
field."

If I had not known about the young warriors of Canon lane, I should have
thought her demented: as it was, I could scarcely wait for the next day,
which was Sunday, to be introduced to the scene which had already produced
such a marked change in her character and tastes.

It transpired during breakfast that Uncle Pennyman's peace had been
disturbed by a verse in the book of Nahum, that talked about the lions and
lionesses, and their whelps and prey, in what appeared to him a mysterious
manner. Mr. Haines, who was a dear, good man, elaborated it so that we all
felt as if we had made a visit to the Zoological Gardens, and afterward
been carried into Babylonish captivity. My uncle followed his words with a
brightening face, and when they grew particularly mixed and
long-syllabled, he would exclaim softly,

"It is a great gift! a great gift!" and seem really overcome with the
magnitude of his friend's powers.

I never saw any harm in Uncle Pennyman's texts: they never worried any one
but himself; though I must confess that verse about Ephraim being a cake
not turned affected us a little. But that was because he had the ague, and
Mr. Haines was attending some kind of convention; and what with the
chills, and that unexplained cake of Ephraim's, we were kept a little
uncomfortable for a time.

But Mr. Haines' visions were perplexing: no one could tell where their
signification might point; and this sending for Tom (of course he would
never have thought of coming if he had not been sent for) made me quite
uneasy.

I began to fear that this would be the first time I had ever gone to see
Bessie without enjoying the visit; and as we walked along to Canon Lane
Chapel together, her manner was so absent and fluttered that I really did
not know what to do.

"It is a delightful and meritorious thing to be pious, no doubt," I said
to myself, "but it has not improved the manner of my dear Bessie: on the
contrary, I should say it has entirely shaken her nerves, and given her
palpitation of the heart."

When we reached the chapel we found quite a number and variety of youths
already collected around the door, and when we went into a large and airy
room, well lighted and filled with seats, a goodly selection awaited us
there.

A lady stood on a small platform with a bell in her hand: she had a large,
bony figure, and a long, bony face, and turned her eyes toward us without
changing their expression into any beam of recognition, as she used her
voice without any softening tone or tender cadence whatever:

"Miss Haines, good-afternoon. Mary Bryan, where's your brother? John Mott,
you have dropped your tract. Miss Pennyman, glad to see you. Sarah Harper,
give your sister a seat."

Bessie had pushed me on her attention between the monotonous sentences she
jerked out at her scholars, and she gave me five words just like the rest,
and dropped me off again.

Bessie seemed to become calmer after she had looked around the room once
in a hasty, fluttered way, and placing a chair for me, she threw herself
energetically into her philanthropic work.

I never knew before what a serious thing it was to be a Sunday-school
teacher, or how varied the requirements for such duty were. Thirst seemed
to be a prevailing agony among the scholars, and it seized its victims as
an epidemic does--without warning. They would just reach their seats and
drop into them listlessly, or gain them by energetic contest with some
previous intruder, and after an empty stare around them would be taken
with a sudden pang, expressed in writhing, shaking the right hand wildly
and gasping, "Teacher, I want a drink! I want a drink!"

Then they were subject to a terrible vacillation on the subject of their
hats: they would almost consign them to the care of a monitor appointed to
hang them on the pegs made and provided, when a sense of their
preciousness would suddenly present itself to their minds, and they would
rescue them wildly, and throw themselves on the defensive while they sat
upon or otherwise protected the contested article of dress.

There were six windows with broad sills in the room, and every child
seemed beset with a passionate desire to leave its seat and lodge itself
in a surreptitious manner on one of these perches, as if they had been
posts of honor.

Whether bits of bright tin, glass bottle-stoppers, ends of twine, broken
sticks and marbles were accessions to biblical instruction, or were only
so considered by the pupils themselves, did not transpire, but poor Bessie
seemed to find them stumbling-blocks in her path, and Miss Pepper had no
sooner confiscated one lot than another appeared in circulation and broke
the story of Joseph's coat into a parenthetical narrative:

"Israel loved Joseph so much that as a particular proof of his parental
regard (James Moore, stop putting that stick in your brother's eye) he
prepared a variegated garment known as a 'coat of many colors.' (John
Mink, take that marble out of your throat, or you'll swallow it.) The
bestowal of this beautiful gift (Mary Dunn, put your ticket away, and,
Sally Harris, let her hair alone) awakened feelings akin to envy and
bitterness in (Jane Sloper must not borrow her cousin's bonnet in
Sunday-school) the bosoms of his perverted brethren. (Hugh Fraley will
leave those strings at home, and, William Grove, stop climbing over the
bench.) Alas! what sorrow can evil and disobedient sons, too little
conscious (Dicky Taylor, bring that insect to me) of the sacrifices and
prayerful struggles of their venerable parents (no, Henry, not another
drink), call down upon their already care-burdened minds!"

Of course I felt sure that Miss Pepper was in earnest and meant to do
good, but I suspected that she had not what my uncle called "a gift" with
children, and I saw how much harder it made it for Bessie, who really was
a natural teacher, and who contrived to rule with a steady but gracious
firmness, and to win with a sweet simplicity that explained itself to the
minds of little ones.

I wondered not a little at her infatuation on the Pepper question when I
saw how contrary their ways and influence were. There were plenty of nice,
interesting little girls among the two hundred, and some very well-behaved
boys too; but Bessie set herself to win the unruly, and it was a lesson to
thoughtless me to see her do it. One terrible little soul, with a thin,
wiry body and tight-cropped head, fell into a conflict with a square-set,
hard-faced boy, and they rolled under the seats together just as Miss
Pepper had succeeded in raising the ill-used Joseph out of the pit with
words of three syllables. Bessie went to the rescue, and separated and
inverted the combatants, only the soles of whose boots had been visible a
moment before. She sat down with them, and although I could not hear her
words, I saw that they were slowly smoothing the angry creases of both the
thin and the square face.

"Then let him stop a-callin' me 'Skinny,'" was the last outbreak of the
injured lean one, and his antagonist confessed--

"I won't say nothin' to you no more if you stop grinning 'Flathead' at
me."

Before Miss Pepper had succeeded in describing the paraphernalia of
Eastern travel and the approach of the Ishmaelites, the two were induced
to shake hands silently across their gentle mediatrix, whose face suddenly
grew radiant with the sweetest blush I ever saw as the door opened and a
new feature was added to the scene.

I do not mean to detract from the good impulses or high motives of my dear
girl when I say that this was the key that opened the subject to me, and
made it bright and plain. It wore the form of a truly good and
good-looking young gentleman, who had just enough of the clergyman in his
appearance to show that he honored his holy calling above all things. He
gave Bessie a glance that set my heart at rest--for I naturally felt
anxious that the blush and brightness and other signs should not be thrown
away on an unappreciative object--and then he went right into his work. Oh
dear! what a difference! One could not imagine, without seeing for one's
self, what a beautiful sympathy could do with material that a hard, dry
purpose could only irritate. Of course he bowed to me, and met Miss Pepper
like an old friend, and then he began, and in beginning caught every
single wandering mind, and held it with that mysterious fascination which
individualizes, and convinces each one that he is the particular soul
addressed.

He had been spending the hour of his absence from us in the chamber of a
little fellow, one of our number, who had been terribly hurt by the
machinery of a factory in which he worked. He took every one of us there
with him, awakening our liveliest interest, and making us anxious to be
helpful to every suffering fellow-creature. Some of us had to cry a little
at the kind remembrances the poor crushed child sent us, and we felt quite
self-reproachful that we had not thought more of him, and been quieter and
more orderly in every way. Then, without any dry, hard preaching, he
planted that lesson, left it to take root without digging it up again with
personal exhortation, and told us something else. Surely no one could have
better divined just what we wanted to know, and just how we would have
liked it related. Love first of all; then cheerfulness, simplicity, and a
strong, earnest enthusiasm that made attention compulsory and the
attraction irresistible.

I do not believe I ever felt better satisfied in my life than when he
closed and the orderly dismission began: then he turned to Bessie, and I
saw that my friend had found the mission of heart-and soul-work, and was
being drawn heavenward by the hand she loved. Such a timid tenderness as
pervaded his every look and word! such a sweet consciousness as lighted
hers! I laughed at my folly about Tom, and felt that I should be delighted
to see him at Haines', and introduce him to the dear, good clergyman whom
Bessie had the good sense to appreciate.

The Rev. Charles Pepper was the nephew of Miss Mary. I soon changed my
prejudiced opinion of that lady into a clearer view of her merits. She was
the Paul that planted: being a woman of wealth and strong religious bias,
she had built the mission chapel, gathered together the children and
taught them, while her good nephew added the superintendence of the school
to his church duties in a different quarter.

"Bessie, does your father know--?" I began as we went homeward together.

She interrupted me: "About Miss Pepper? Oh yes, indeed! She called to ask
his permission for me to teach them, and has been at our house twice
since.

"You know I don't mean her at all," I said, laughing. "I mean her nephew,
Bessie Haines."

But Bessie faltered: she had not the courage to speak freely, since it was
evident they had not spoken so to each other yet. She knew she loved and
was beloved, but could not force the delicate secret into words, since it
was yet unavowed between them.

"All I am afraid of, Bess," said I, determined to make her practical, for
she was as ethereal as if she and her love meant to live in the clouds all
their days--"all I am afraid of is, that your father's vision may threaten
your peace; for, rely on it, Bess, it is about you and you alone, or why
should uncle keep praying for you as a 'young damsel,' and 'handmaiden,'
and 'female pilgrim,' and all that?"

Bessie seemed troubled, but she could not be brought to confidence until
the minister had opened his heart to her. I saw that, and though I had
never had a warning dream in my life, I felt it was my mission to help
her.

The Rev. Charles and I had had a little, a very little, talk, but I saw
that Bessie had named me to him--that pleased me; that he was very
desirous of gaining my good-will--that pleased me too. So I had happened
to say that I admired church architecture, particularly Gothic: some one
had said that his church belonged to that style, and he immediately,
offered to take us to examine it. I asked him to call for us next day, and
he delightedly promised that he would.

I told Bessie, and the ungrateful creature was alarmed and nervous, and
gave way to all sorts of nonsense; but I consoled her and admired him in a
way that seemed to give her satisfaction. The next morning I made a
startling discovery. I went into the little bookroom that opened out of
the great old-fashioned back parlor, where uncle and Mr. Haines sat every
morning with Scott and Clarke and Cruden open before them: I went in very
quietly, and didn't make much noise when there. Mr. Haines was talking in
a slow, set way, and I could hear the scratching of a pen over stiff
paper.

"Would you mention my reasons for recording this, my dear Daniel?" he said
to Uncle Pennyman.

"I have set them down at the commencement," said my uncle, who was acting
as scribe. "I have said that, your mind being clear and your feelings at
ease, you retired to your couch on the night of the 28th of October; that
the form of your dear wife seemed waiting for you, since you became
conscious of her presence immediately after your sinking asleep; and so
on."

"Yes," said Mr. Haines, witty a deep sigh: "it is a great thing, no doubt,
to be so guided in the visions of the night, and I have many times
considered myself greatly favored by the knowledge of the ministry of my
dear wife's blessed spirit; but, friend Daniel, if she had been a little
more explicit in this instance it would have been a great comfort to me.
Follow me now, friend Daniel. You have got it down to where she spoke.
Well, she raised her hand and seemed to point to the couch of Dorcas
Elizabeth" (that was what Bess had been baptized, and was called by her
father on solemn occasions)--"my thoughts had been dwelling on the child,
and her increasing age and future duties--and she said, 'Marry her wisely
to Thomas,' and repeated the words three times."

I heard the scratching pen and Mr. Haines' depressed, uncertain sigh, and
my own heart sank heavily. There was no Thomas to marry her to but our
Tom, and such a thing was simply preposterous and wicked. I could not, I
would not, bear even to think of it.

Oh, good Mrs. Haines, departed so long ago! why should you come back
troubling us about such, things? and, above all, why could you not as well
have said Charles as Thomas?

"I have that set down," said Uncle Pennyman. Mr. Haines sighed again in
that anxious, uncertain way of his:

"During the first day after the visitation, Daniel, I could not recall
whether my wife's appearance said, 'To Thomas, marry her wisely,' or as we
now put it down; but since you have set it clearly before me, and your son
will so soon be here, I feel that I am justified in having it stated in
that way, and that Providence is guiding me."

Oh how my heart rose against Uncle Pennyman as I listened! He was the one
to blame for such a shameful, foolish notion stealing into Mr. Haines'
head! Left to himself, any name would have suited him equally well, and
here was Tom's thrust in without any earthly reason. It was really
dreadful! I could scarcely stand on my feet when I remembered how Tom
loved his adopted father, and with what unselfish devotion he always spoke
of him. "If he's told that it will be a family blessing, he never will
have the heart to deny them and grieve Uncle Pennyman. Poor Tom! he is so
shockingly unselfish himself that he would rather enjoy a sacrifice than
otherwise, I suppose." So ran my thoughts, and I grew desperate.
Desperation awakens courage. Tom would be there in the evening, and if
anything could be done it had to be done at once.

I slipped out silently as I came: no one heard me. I did not mean that
they should do so, for, to confess the truth, I was listening on purpose.
I dressed to go out with Mr. Pepper; so did Bessie, though I must say she
was very nervous and uncertain about it. "You know papa does not know him
in--in the character of a friend of mine," she said, hesitatingly. "Miss
Pepper introduced him, and that is all."

"But that is no reason why it should be all," I said to myself, and paid
no attention to her little bashful fussiness.

When he arrived, I saw in his eyes that he meant to take advantage of the
opportunity I was making for him, and so I boldly carried out my plan. We
started, and had gone a block or two when I discovered that they were
becoming unaware of my existence and completely absorbed in each other.
"Poor dears!" I thought, "let them have a still better chance." So I
stopped in the most natural way possible at a window where trimmings were
displayed, and began to stare at some ribbon. "The very shade!" I said: "I
would not miss it for anything. Pray go on slowly, and I'll join you
presently. Keep on till you reach the church--I know the way. And be sure
you stay till I come. No, you shall not come in: I insist that you go
right on, and do not bother. I have a sort of pride in making bargains,
and they never can be made in company, you know." I laughed and wouldn't
listen to their waiting, and managed it so well that they went away as
unsuspecting and tender as two lambs. I waited till they were out of
sight, and then I started straight for home.

I was in high glee till Mrs. Tanner came up stairs.

"There are great preparations making for Mr. Tom," said she with a
portentous face. "Mr. Haines has given more orders about his reception
than I ever knew him to issue before; and, what seems strange, he actually
insists on my calling him Mr. Thomas, when I never can get my tongue round
anything but Mr. Tom, in the world."

Both seemed threatening--the preparations and the name; and when Mrs.
Tanner asked where Miss Bessie was, and heard that she had gone out, she
shook her head and said that she was afraid her pa wouldn't like it. This
convinced me that she too had guessed the nature of the vision, and made
me more than ever anxious to save poor Bessie and Tom from mutual
unhappiness. The first effort was made, and I must consider the next step.
I felt nearly sure that by this time the two dear Sunday-school workers
had become personal in their conversation, and taking up my position on
the broad sofa in the quiet, shady back parlor, I set myself to thinking
out the plan. It was a great, solidly-furnished old room, staid and
handsome like the rest of the house, and meant for comfort in every
particular. Over the mantelpiece, and directly opposite to me, was a
life-size picture of Mrs. Haines, a very young lady with a mild shyness of
expression and a great deal of flaxen hair. She had died when Bessie was a
baby, and was altogether a more childlike and undecided person than her
daughter. The wonder therefore was that she should have become so
dictatorial in the visions of the night, and undertaken to control the
family affairs after so many years, never having meddled with them while
there was a living opportunity.

I was just thinking how useless it would be to appeal to Uncle Pennyman
without--without saying something about Tom (and that under the
circumstances could not be thought of: it made me burn all over merely to
have it in my mind for a moment), when I became drowsy, and had not time
to question the feeling until I was sound asleep.

A murmur of voices roused me, or perhaps I was going to wake at any rate,
for they were singularly low, and the speakers quite unconscious of my
presence. I looked up, and in the faint light coming between the bowed
shutters and lace curtains I saw the Rev. Charles and Bessie directly
under the portrait of Mrs. Haines. He had thrown his arm around her, and,
although she struggled just a little in the embrace, held her to his
heart.

"Oh, I cannot believe it," she was saying: "it is like a dream. And Winnie
too!--to forget all about dear Winnie just because I am so happy. It is
selfish and unkind, dear, I am afraid."

He told her I was too good, too lovable to quarrel with their bliss, and
held her to his heart while he looked up to the flaxed-haired, baby-faced
mother for a blessing with quite a glow of feeling on his face and real
tears in his eyes.

There was something in mine I suppose, for when I looked too I could
scarcely believe them: the portrait seemed to show a different face
entirely. The blue eyes bent down on those upturned to meet them with a
look I had never beheld in them before, and the delicate little pink mouth
seemed to tremble with a blessing.

"Am I dreaming?" I almost asked it aloud, and the question and the sound
of Uncle Pennyman's voice in the book-room gave me a new idea. Softly I
slipped from my place and out at the open door, leaving the absorbed ones
to themselves, and joined my uncle and Mr. Haines where they were
preparing for another conflict with the commentators.

"I have had a dream," I said solemnly.

"A dream!" repeated they.

"Yes, and it was so lifelike that I must tell it to you, for I am
convinced it is no common warning, but one full of meaning and truth."

They gazed at me blankly, and I went on, fearing to stop an instant lest I
should lose my courage:

"I was lying on the sofa opposite Mrs. Haines' portrait--"

"The very place where I lay when last I dreamed," murmured her husband.

"And I saw Bessie and a gentleman hand in hand beneath it, looking up into
the sweet face for a blessing; and oh such a heavenly smile lighted it
while the beautiful lips seemed to murmur, 'She will marry wisely, dear
Thomas!'"

Mr. Haines was so shaken by my words that my heart misgave me. He covered
his face with his hands. "She used to call me dear Thomas," he said, and
the tears ran through his fingers.

"Then the name was _yours_" said Uncle Pennyman with weighty
consideration. "You remember I said it was capable of a double
application: those things are wonderful, and interpret each other. Winnie,
my dear girl, could you distinguish this person's face?"

Before I could answer, Mrs. Tanner at the door said, "Here's Mr. Tom,
bless his heart! I never can learn to call him anything else."

Tom was _so_ glad to see me! Yes, I may as well tell it, for it told
itself: dear Tom never seemed so glad before.

"Was it his face, Winnie?" whispered Mr. Haines.

If ever _No_ was said with energy and decision, it was in my reply. The
parlor door opened just as we were about to go in all together, shaking
hands and making kind speeches over Tom, and Bessie and the Rev. Charles
appeared in the act of taking leave of each other.

"That's the face!" I cried dramatically; and then I really and truly did
faint--stone dead, as Mrs. Tanner said afterward--for I was not used to
telling lies, and even white ones were exciting things to tell, and
scarcely justified themselves to my conscience by the magnitude of the
good they were to do.

When I came to myself, Bessie was hanging over me with all the love she
had left from Mr. Charles, I suppose; and I heard Mr. Haines and Uncle
Pennyman talking with Tom, and trying to explain to him the remarkable
nature of the vision that had overcome me. I sat up, and tried to laugh
and declare that it was nothing at all, though my heart kept throbbing.

"You have all had dreams," said Tom: "you have yet to hear mine. Uncle, I
dreamed that Winnie and I loved each other, and that I asked you for her
and you said yes."

"No, Thomas," said Uncle Pennyman gravely, but with a kind of breaking
about his mouth: "your eyes were open when you had that vision, and you
must not jest with serious subjects. But it is well you mentioned it, dear
boy, and it is well our child Winnie received such a remarkable direction,
since it throws light on friend Haines' visitation, and apparently the
happiness of that excellent young minister and our dear Bessie here."

"The young man has just expressed himself in corroboration of the vision,"
said Mr. Haines, much affected.

Bessie threw her arms round her father, then round me, and then she ran
away. Mr. Haines and Uncle Pennyman went out to their commentaries, Mrs.
Tanner to see to her buns: Tom and I were alone.

"What is this about, Winnie darling?" he said.

"Tom," said I, "we are all the victims of dreams."

MARGARET HOSMER.



The Cold Hand.



There is a rocky hill in what was till recently the town of Dorchester,
looking out over Boston Bay. It takes its name from the stiff black savins
with which it is covered, and which contrive to find nourishment and
support in the rock to which they cling. Some of these trees show their
great age by their gnarled and knotted trunks and boughs. Black and
impassive they stand, alike in the brightest summer or the grayest winter,
sighing restlessly in the breeze, but wailing piteously when the sea-winds
sweep over the hill. Partway up the little rocky eminence stands an old
house, now fast falling to pieces. It is a low building, with a gambrel
roof and a huge chimney. It has stood there many years, for it was built
not long after the Revolution, and it might have stood many years more had
it not been suffered to go to decay with a carelessness which seemed to
belie the general thrift of the town.

Wandering over the hill one bright winter day, with no companion but a
large dog, I stopped to look in at the window of the old house. The glass
was gone from the sash, and the sash itself was broken in many places; but
the obscurity was so deep within that I obtained only a partial glimpse of
an interior which to my fancy had a peculiarly deserted and eerie look. I
felt a desire to explore the place, attracted rather than repelled by its
forlorn look of falling age; for I came from a part of the country where
the most ancient relic dates back only forty years, and the aspect of
everything old and quaint in the place had a charm for me which I suspect
it offers to few of the natives. The front door was locked, but I obtained
an entrance without difficulty at the back, and made my way through a
little shed, which was evidently of more modern construction than the main
part of the building. I came first into the kitchen, where was a large
fireplace blackened with the smoke of long-dead fires, and a narrow, high
mantelpiece. A little cupboard was let into the side of the great chimney,
which projected far across the floor. The room was long and narrow,
running the whole length of the house, with a window at each end. The
blackened plaster was dropping from the walls and ceiling, exposing in
some places the heavy beams, and the floor was dark and discolored with
age and dust, although quite firm to the tread. By a low door I passed
into a small room lighted by two windows--one in front, the other at the
end of the house, and presenting the same appearance of desolate decay.
There were four doors in this room--the one through which I had just
entered, another leading to the rooms above, a third, secured by a bolt,
which I did not then open, and a fourth leading into a narrow passage, in
which was the locked front door. I crossed this passage, and found myself
in a room of the same size as the one I had just left. It was that into
which I had attempted to look from the outside. Here I missed the dog, who
had hitherto followed me, though with seeming reluctance, and no
persuasion could induce him to cross the threshold. This room was in
rather better repair than were the other two. There was the same high
mantelpiece, rather less narrow, and the same little cupboard let into the
massive chimney. The floor was less discolored, but there was a deep burnt
spot on it near the fireplace, as if some one had dropped a shovelful of
hot coals, or rather as if some corrosive fluid had been spilled. I
remained here a few moments, idly wondering what might have been the
history of the former tenants, and what could have induced any one to
build a house in a spot so bleak and exposed, where scarcely a pretence of
soil offered itself for a garden. As I stood there, a singular impression
came upon me that I was not alone. For a moment, and a moment only, I
became conscious of another presence in the room. The impression passed as
suddenly as it had come, but, transient as it was, it awoke me from my
reverie. Smiling at myself for the fancy, I recrossed the passage and
ascended the steep, narrow winding stairs to the chambers above. There
were four small rooms, opening one into the other, with a closet
partitioned off in each, and so low that in the highest part a tall man
could but just have stood upright. Here the ruin was farther advanced. The
floor creaked under my foot, the plaster had nearly all fallen from the
ceiling and was peeling from the walls, while deep stains on the remaining
portion showed that the rain and thawing snow had made their way through
the roof. The place had a lonesome, forlorn look, even more than usually
belongs to a deserted house, though such might not have been its aspect to
other than my unaccustomed Western eyes.

Turning, I made my way down the short staircase, and was about to leave
the house when the third door, as yet unopened, caught my eye. I drew with
some difficulty the rusted bolt, and found myself at the head of a steep
flight of stairs, seemingly longer than that which I had just descended.
It led to the cellar, and though the afternoon was getting on, I thought I
would finish my exploration, and therefore went down, though repelled by
the close and peculiarly damp air. The cellar was blasted and hewn in the
solid rock to a depth which, considering the extreme hardness of the
stone, seemed remarkable in a house so unpretending. A dim light made its
way through a narrow window at each end and fell upon the stone floor. I
walked forward, looking up at the windows, but I had not taken ten steps
before I recoiled with a start. At my feet lay a pit, seemingly of
considerable depth, and filled with water to within four feet of the top.
The cellar did not lie under the kitchen, but only under the two front
rooms and the passage, and this pit occupied the whole length and fully
half the breadth of the space of the rooms above, and, what was more
peculiar, seemed to extend even farther forward than the house itself.
Another step, and I should have fallen into it. Curious to try its depth,
I picked up a little fragment of stone and dropped it in. As the stone
touched the water, and the circles on the sullen surface began to widen, a
current of air rushed down the stairs, and the door above shut violently.
At that moment the impression which I had experienced in the room above
came back upon me with tenfold distinctness, and was accompanied with a
feeling of exceeding horror. It seemed as if there was closing around me
some evil influence, from which I could only escape by instant flight. For
one moment I resisted the unreasonable terror, and made an attempt to
explain, or at least analyze, a sensation so unwonted: the next, the
loathing dread grew too strong. I turned and hurried across the damp
floor, up the narrow stairs, and, opening the door, made my way as quickly
as possible into the outside air. The dog was waiting for me in the little
shed, and seemed delighted at seeing me again. I closed the door, ashamed
of my senseless fright, but nevertheless I was thankful that I had found
no trouble in getting out. I am not quite prepared to say, however, that
these sudden and apparently unreasonable starts are independent of
external causes. The Vermont-bred horse will be thrown into an agony of
fright when the closed cage of a lion passes by, though he has never
learned by experience that lions will kill horses, and though the lion
himself is unseen.

I walked briskly home. I had some distance to go, and had quite lost the
impression of my ghostly terror when I reached the house where I was
staying, a modern shingle Gothic erection, which in vain endeavored to
disguise its barny appearance with sundry wooden adornments modeled after
crochet-work.

"Freda," said I to my friend after tea, when she and I were sitting
comfortably by the fire in the library, "do you know anything about the
old yellow-gray house up on the hill?"

"Why, what of it?"

"Nothing, only I went into it to-day. What is its history?"

"Nothing particular. It was built for a Doctor Haywood. Have you read
Alp's last essay on the Semi-occasional?"

"Yes, and great stuff it is."

Freda looked inexpressibly shocked. I had better have condemned law and
gospel together than made light of Alp; but she put up with it, probably
considering it excusable as the utterance of a savage from the wilds of
New York.

"Never mind him now. He shall proclaim his figs in the name of the Prophet
for all time if you will tell me about the old house. I know it has a
story."

She rose and took from the drawer an old manuscript volume, which she
placed in my hands. It was a little note-book, in which the entries were
made not from day to day, but at irregular intervals, in a singularly
clear, precise hand:

"_Nov._ 3, 1784. This day my neighbor Ball's cow, getting out of the
pasture and running on the highway, was put in the pound. Took her out,
and cautioned my neighbor to have more care of the creature. _Mem.:_ To
bespeak a pair of shoes for her eldest girl.

"_Jan._ 1, 1785. This day the wind very high.

"_Jan._ 10. Neighbor Ball's cow, getting among my wife's rosebushes, did
do some damage, whereat she was much vexed. Caught the said cow, and
begged my neighbor to keep her at home, which she promised to do, but in
an hour back again. However, she is a widow.

"_Jan._ 13. Doctor Haywood, newly come to this place from the old country,
has taken lodging with Neighbor Ball. Said to be a learned man--has much
baggage, and they say some curious machines. Is curious about plants and
the like. Neighbor Ball did hint to my wife that he knew about matters
better let alone, whereat my wife did tell her that she wished he would
give her a charm to keep her cow out of our yard.

"_Jan._ 15. Dr. Haywood has bought a lot on the hill, and is to build upon
it. Has spoken to me about it. Have drawn the plan, and shall make the
estimate.

"_Feb._ 1. Doctor Haywood hurries on the work--says he is in haste to get
into his own house. Saw Indian Will to-day, quite drunk. With much trouble
got him to our house, where my wife did let him lie in the kitchen all
night. Had she not done so, the poor man might have frozen to death before
morning, for it was a very cold night. Argued with him in the morning,
whereat he promised amendment.

"_Feb._ 10. My daughter Faithful this day, with my consent, promised
herself to John Clark, skipper of the Federalist schooner.

"_Feb._ 18. Blasting out the cellar for Haywood's house. He wants it more
than common deep--says it makes the house warm.

"_Feb._ 21. Came this day upon a great hollow in the rock filled with
water, which ran in as soon as pumped but. The doctor much displeased at
first--talked of beginning over again, but finally contented himself.

"_June_ 3. Doctor Haywood moved into his house this day. Has much curious
stuff. The minister says he is a chemist.

"_June_ 8. Went up to the doctor's house to settle with him. He came to
the door and said he was too busy then, but would drop round soon. They
say he lets no one inside the place since he moved. Has taken a pew in the
meeting-house, and comes once of a Sabbath.

"_July_ 22. Doctor Haywood and me did settle accounts. He beat everything
down to the last penny--offered to pay part in attendance on my family if
sick. Did not care to settle that way, knowing his charges. Charged James
Sumner five dollars for one visit to his child, which child, nevertheless,
he did greatly help.

"_August_ 18. News came this day that the Federalist went down in the gale
of the tenth, off Marblehead, with all on board. A sore affliction to my
daughter Faithful. The Lord's will be done!

"_August_ 26. Neighbor Ball's eldest girl gets lower. Doctor Cray does no
good. She would call in Doctor Haywood if she dared, but his charges are
so high. James Sumner and me did consult together and agree to take the
charges between us. I have heard say that he has helped several poor
people free: did especially help Indian Will when he lay like to die of
pleurisy at Neponset Village.

"_Sept._ 1. Neighbor Ball, going up the hill last night to call Doctor
Haywood to her daughter Hepsey, did tell my wife that she had a look into
the south room as he opened the door, and that there were queer things
there, such as a brick furnace, all red with fire; and she did say, too,
that she saw things like snakes, only thin like mist, twisting about in
the air by the firelight, which I do hold to be her own invention or mere
foolish notions.

"_Sept._ 2. Doctor Haywood has helped Hepsey Ball some considerable,
though he says he cannot cure her, for she has consumption.

"_Sept._ 16. Doctor Haywood told James Sumner and me that he would ask
nothing for attending Hepsey Ball, but would keep on to ease her what he
could as long as she lived. He told my wife she might last a year.

"_Nov._ 3. Jonathan Phelps told me that Doctor Haywood had borrowed one
hundred dollars of him, giving security on the house and lot.

"_Nov._ 8. James Sumner this day, his wife being dead a year, did ask my
daughter Sophonisba to marry him, the which she did refuse, and snapped
him off too short. Then he spoke to Faithful, and she burst out crying and
ran up stairs, and could by no means be got to listen. Recommended James
to Hannah Gardner.

"_Nov._ 16. Doctor Hay wood this day borrowed fifty dollars of me. If he
had not been so considerate to Widow Ball should not have felt like
letting it go.

"_Dec._ 16. Coming home from Boston last night, overtook Indian Will. He
showed me a big iron tobacco-box nearly full of money--silver, with two
gold-pieces, one a Spanish piece, the other an English half guinea. He got
it for a lot of deer-skins in Boston. Begged him not to drink it all up,
which he said he would not do, but would give it to his squaw. Did ask him
to come home with me, which he refused, as he meant to go on to Neponset
Village.

"_Dec._ 17. The wind blowing these two days to the land made it very high
water, coming nearly up to Governor Stoughton's elm, and covering the
road.

"_Dec._ 18. A great gale last night--much damage at sea, doubtless. The
water very high.

"_Dec._ 19. Two men out in a boat found an old hat and blanket floating by
the Point, said to belong to Indian Will: no one has seen him since the
16th. Likely he went to the tavern and got drunk, so missed his way and
was drowned by the tide.

"_Dec._ 20, Last night Indian Will's body came ashore, much beaten by the
rocks, but known to be his by those who knew him. The verdict was,
'Drowned by the tide.'

"_Feb._ 11, 1786. Doctor Haywood spent the evening at our house. He has
been more social of late, going a good deal among people, especially poor
people, to help them. Has never paid me the fifty dollars, but makes
promises. I was led on to speak of Indian Will. The doctor said the night
of the 16th he thought he heard some one cry out, but thought it some
drunken person, and besides was busy with his studies, and so did not
mind. My wife asked him what he studied. He said a good many different
matters, but that he had given it all up now, and meant to practice.
Shortly after jumped up and went away very sudden."

Here the journal came to an abrupt end. The rest of the book was filled
with accounts relating to the business of a milliner and dressmaker.
Slipped in between its leaves were two letters, written in a cramped,
scratchy hand and rather irregular in spelling. They were directed to
Sophonisba T----, Salem, Massachusetts, and seemed to be from a mother to
her daughter:

  "DORCHESTER, May 1, 1786.

  "My Dear Child: I take my pen in hand to let you knew that we are all in
  good health, and hope you are enjoying the same blessing. James Sumner
  is married to Hannah Gardner. Most people think she will have her hands
  full with his children. Parson H---- married them. She wore a blue silk
  at two dollars the yard. Hepsey Ball is dead. She departed this life on
  the 29th of April, at half-past eight in the evening, being quite
  resigned and in good hope of her election to grace. She had not much
  pain at the last. Doctor Haywood called to see her in the morning, and
  she being then, as we thought, asleep, did start up and cry out that
  there was a black shadow, not his own, always following after him, which
  made me think her light-headed; but her mother says the doctor turned as
  pale as a sheet, and made as if to go off again. Your sister Faithful is
  at Mr. Trueman's, helping to make up Lorenda's wedding-clothes. I would
  not have had her go, but she seemed willing to undertake it. Your loving
  mother, ANNA T----."

The second was also addressed to Sophonisba, who on the 3d of June was yet
visiting friends in Salem. After a few details of domestic news, it went
on:

  "Doctor Haywood is missing: no one knows where he is gone. He has been
  looked for in Boston, but they have found no news of him; only that a
  little black boy says he saw a man like him go on board a ship bound for
  the East Indies. Now he is gone, they find he owes money to a great many
  besides your father. He owes to people in Boston for drugs and
  medicines--some, it is said, very costly, and sent for express to the
  old country. Mr. Sewell, the bookseller there, says he tried to dispose
  of his books to him; and when he did not buy them, thinks he sent them
  to the old country. He owes every one he could get to trust him. It is
  odd what he did with all the money. It is thought Jonathan Phelps will
  get the house. They went up to it and found the door unlocked. They
  found nothing in the house but the furniture, and that very common and
  cheap. There were none of all those things they said he had; only in the
  south room a lot of bottles and jars, and a brick place built up with a
  vent outside, which Parson H---- says is a furnace such as folks use
  that study chemistry. There was a great heap of ashes in the fireplace,
  as if he had burned papers or books there, and a great burned spot on
  the floor right before it."

"Who was the writer of these?" I asked as I refolded the little old
letter, "and what became of Doctor Haywood? Was nothing more heard?"

In answer to these questions my friend gave the following narration.

The writer of the journal was my great uncle, Silas T----. Sophonisba and
Faithful were my mother's cousins. Both were much older than she, but I
have often seen Faithful when I was a girl, and I had all the story there
is from herself. The little house on the hill fell into the hands of the
chief creditor, who took down the furnace in the south room and offered
the place to rent, but no tenant ever remained there long, either because
of the bleak situation or the want of a garden. There were rumors that the
place was not quite canny. One woman, indeed, went so far as to declare
that she had seen the doctor's figure, dim and unsubstantial, standing
before the fireplace in the twilight, and that once, as she came up the
cellar stairs, something followed her and laid a cold hand on her
shoulder; but as she was a nervous, hysterical person, and moreover was
known to be somewhat given to exaggeration, no one paid much attention to
her tale.

It was certain, however, that there was a great deal of sickness in the
house. One family who rented the place lost three children by fever in one
summer, and it was remarkable that all three seemed to fall under the same
delusion, and insisted that something or some one, coming behind them,
laid upon their shoulders a cold hand. One of them, toward the last, said
that a shadow kept moving to and fro in the room, and kept the sunshine
all away. The woman who had seen the vision of the old doctor became a
widow the next month, and so much sickness and death took place in the
house that at last no one would live there, and it was shut up by its
owner.

In due course of time the father and mother of Sophonisba and Faithful
were laid in Dorchester burial-ground. Mr. T---- had never been a rich man
by any means, and when he died there was little left for the two girls,
even after the sale of the homestead. They did not, however, consider
themselves poor, but with their fifteen hundred dollars in the bank and
their trade of milliner and dressmaker thought themselves very well to do
in the world. Sophonisba, the elder, was at that time a little under
fifty--an energetic, hard-working woman, with a constitution of wrought
iron and bend leather, and no more under the influence of what are called
"nerves" than if they had been left out of her system entirely. If ever a
woman was born into this world an old maid, it was Sophonisba T----. Her
fine name was the only romantic thing about her. She had had more than one
offer of marriage in her day, but she had no talent for matrimony, and had
turned such a very cold shoulder on her admirers that the swains became
dispirited, and betook themselves to the courtship of more impressible
damsels. There was no hidden romance or tale of unreturned affection in
Miss Sophonisba's experience. The simple fact was, she had never wished to
be married. Miss Faithful was five years her sister's junior. She had
never found room in her heart for a second love since John Clark went down
in the Federalist. She had been a young and pretty girl then, and now she
was a thin, silent, rather nervous little body, depending entirely upon
her sister with a helpless kind of affection that was returned on Miss
Sophonisba's part by a devotion which might almost be called passionate.

"I tell you what it is, Faithful," said Miss Sophonisba one evening, as
they sat over their tea, "if they raise the rent on us here, I won't
stay."

The sisters had lived in the house ever since the death of their mother,
five years before. Their business had prospered, and they were
conveniently situated, but, for all that, Miss Sophonisba had no mind to
pay additional rent.

"No?" said Faithful, inquiringly.

"That I won't! We pay all it's worth now, and more too. It ain't the extra
four shillings," said Miss Sophonisba, rubbing her spectacles in
irritation, "but I do hate to be imposed upon."

"It will be some trouble to find a new place," suggested Miss Faithful
meekly, "and we can afford it, I suppose."

"I don't care if we can afford it a dozen times over," said her sister,
with increased decision. "I won't be imposed upon. If I've got either to
drive or be driven, I'd rather drive."

"Of course," said Miss Faithful, who had never driven any living creature
in the whole course of her life.

"I saw Peter Phelps to-day," said Miss Sophonisba, "and he says he'll let
us have the old house up on the hill for anything we like to give."

Miss Faithful gave a little start: "Would you like to live there,
Sophonisba?"

"Why, it's a good convenient situation, and plenty big enough for you and
me and the cat."

"But you know," said Miss Faithful, timidly, "they have told such queer
stories about it." "Stuff and nonsense!" said Miss Sophonisba. "You don't
believe them, I hope?"

"No," hesitated her sister, "but then one remembers them, you know. Widow
Eldridge always said she saw old Doctor Haywood there."

"Stuff and nonsense!" said Miss Sophonisba again. "You know perfectly well
you couldn't trust a word she said about anything."

"Oh, Sophonisba, she's dead!" said Miss Faithful, shocked.

"I can't help that, child. It don't hinder her having told fibs all her
lifetime."

"Her husband died the next month."

"Well, so he might anywhere. My wonder is he lived as long as he did,
considering."

"And Mrs. Jones's three children died there."

"Well, and didn't Mrs. Gardner lose her two and that brother of hers? and
I never heard their place was haunted; and didn't two die out of the
Trueman house? and ever so many more all over town? It was a dreadful
sickly summer."

"And Sarah Jane McClean was taken sick there with fever."

"Well, they had dirt enough to account for anything. Doctor Brown told me
himself that they had a great heap of potatoes sprouted in the cellar, and
there ain't anything so bad as that."

The last vestige of a ghost was demolished: Miss Faithful had nothing more
to say.

"It's nigh twenty-five years since the old doctor went off," said Miss
Sophonisba. "It ain't very probable he's alive now; and if he is, he won't
be very apt to come back: and if he is dead, he certainly won't. If he
did, I'd like to ask him why he never paid father that fifty dollars. I
saw Peter Phelps to-day, and he says he'll fix the place all up for us if
we'll have it, but of course I wouldn't say anything about it till I'd
spoken to you."

"Just as you please, Sophonisba," said Miss Faithful.

"He says he'll give us a bit of ground down on the flat for a garden, and
let his man dig it up for us. I went up and looked at the house. It ain't
so much out of repair as you'd think."

"Did you see the burnt spot on the floor?" asked Miss Faithful with some
interest.

"Yes, I saw it--a great blackened place. Most likely he spilled some of
his chemical stuff on it."

Miss Sophonisba was not, as she expressed herself, one to let the grass
grow under her feet. She concluded the bargain for the house next day, and
informed their landlord--who, by the by, was a son of their old neighbor,
Widow Ball--of their intention to move. That gentleman was not at all
pleased at the idea of losing his tenants. In vain he offered to recede
from the obnoxious demand of four shillings more. Miss Sophonisba told him
that she had made up her mind, and that _she_ wasn't in the habit of going
back from her bargains when she had given her word, whatever other people
might be.

"Well, Miss T----," said Mr. Ball, "I hope you won't repent. They've said
queer things about that house ever since the old doctor went off so
mysterious. Some folks said he drowned himself in that place in the
cellar."

"Stuff and nonsense!" said Miss Sophonisba. "The old doctor never hurt any
one when he was alive, except by borrowing money of them, and it ain't
likely he'll want to do that now that he's dead; and if he did, I
shouldn't let him have it."

"Well, my mother was in the house when Miss Eldridge came running up the
stairs as pale as a sheet, and said he came behind her and caught hold of
her shoulder."

"Joanna Eldridge was always a poor, miserable, shiftless, narvy thing,"
said Miss Sophonisba, "and half the time you couldn't believe a word she
said."

"Well she was a connexion of our'n, Miss T----, and I always thought there
was something in it. Narves won't account for everything."

"Well, I never trusted her a bit more for that," said Miss Sophonisba. "I
know one time she told mother a long story about how you sent in a bill
for shoes to Widow Sumner that James had paid you before he died, and she
said you'd have made her a deal of trouble if she hadn't ha' found the
receipt. A good many folks talked about it, but I always said it was just
one of Joanna's stories."

Mr. Ball was put down, and took his leave.

As soon as the necessary repairs were finished the sisters moved into the
house, and during that summer found reason to congratulate themselves on
their change of abode. The high, airy situation was very pleasant in warm
weather, and the view over the waters of the bay across to Boston and far
out to sea, with the coming and departing ships, afforded much pleasure
and a subject of conversation to the sisters. Their little garden on the
flat throve well, and was a source of never-ending interest. They had been
troubled by no ghostly visitations. Miss Sophonisba had indeed once heard
a mysterious noise in the cellar, but on going down stairs she found that
the cat had jumped on the hanging shelf and was helping herself out of the
milk-pan.

The sisters were sitting one day toward the end of November--I think it
was the twenty-fifth--in the north room, which they had made their
work-room. The south room, according to the custom of our ancestors, still
religiously preserved among us, was shut up "for company." The kitchen
served them also for dining-room, and the largest room up stairs was their
bed-chamber. Miss Sophonisba was trimming a bonnet, a task for which she
had an especial gift. Ladies came to her even from Boston, saying that her
work had an air and style quite its own, while her charges were not nearly
so high as those of the more fashionable milliners in the city. Faithful
was altering a dress of her own. Both were much engaged with their work,
and neither had spoken for some time. Suddenly, Faithful started slightly,
and the needle dropped from her hand.

"What's the matter?" asked her sister.

"Nothing," said Faithful, rather confused.

"Yes, there is," said Miss Sophonisba. "People don't jump that way for
nothing. What is it?"

"Oh, I don't know," hesitated Miss Faithful. "I guess I pricked my
finger."

"Umph!" said Miss Sophonisba in a very incredulous way, but she pushed her
inquiries no farther.

As soon as her sister was silent, Miss Faithful's conscience began to
chide her for her little evasion. Twice she opened her mouth to speak, and
as often checked herself, but the third time the words were uttered: "If I
tell you, Sophonisba, you will laugh at me."

"Well, that wouldn't kill you, child."

"No; but--well--it was only that I thought all of a sudden some one was
standing behind my chair."

"How could you think so when there was no one there?"

"I don't know, but it felt as if there was."

"Nonsense, Faithful! If you didn't see any one, how did you know there was
any one? Have you got eyes in the back of your head?"

"I didn't see it--I sort of felt so."

"'Sort of felt so!'" said Miss Sophonisba, with good-natured contempt. "If
I was you, I'd take some catnip tea when I went to bed: you're kind of
narvy."

Miss Faithful assented, and went on quietly with her sewing, but she
changed the seat which she had occupied, with her back to the cellar door,
for one close to her sister.

No further disturbance occurred till the middle of December. It had been a
very windy day. The bay was tossing in long gray-green lines of waves
crested with flying foam. The black savins sighed and wailed as they bent
to the cutting blast. The wind was east, and it took a good deal of fire
to keep the old house warm, but wood was cheap in those days, and Miss
Sophonisba, though prudent and economical, was not given to what New
England expressively calls "skrimping."

Miss Faithful, not feeling very well, had gone up stairs to bed soon after
tea. A windy day always made her uncomfortable, recalling, too vividly
perhaps, the gale in which the Federalist had gone down. Miss Sophonisba,
having some work on hand which she was anxious to finish, was sitting up
rather beyond her usual hour. Pausing for a moment in her sewing, she
heard some one walking about in the room above her to and fro, with a
regular though light step, as of bare or thinly-shod feet, on the boards.

"Why, what can ail the child," she said to herself, "to be walking about
barefoot this time of night? She'll get her death of cold;" and she put
down her work and went up stairs, intending to administer a sisterly
lecture. To her surprise, Faithful was fast asleep in bed, and no other
living creature was in the room. It could not have been the cat this time,
for Puss was comfortably purring before the fire down stairs. Miss
Sophonisba stood by the bed for a moment, candle in hand, listening for a
repetition of the sound.

Suddenly a wilder gust shook the house perceptibly. Miss Faithful started
from her sleep with a cry of terror. "Oh, I have had such a dream!" said
she, clinging to her sister.

"What was it?" said Miss Sophonisba, soothing and quieting her like a
child.

"I thought I was lying in bed just as I was, when all of a sudden I knew
that Something had come in, and was going up and down, up and down the
room."

"What was it like?" asked her sister, rather impressed in spite of
herself.

"I couldn't see: it was all shifty and mist-like--like the shadow of smoke
on the ground--and I couldn't tell if it was like a human being or not;
but it seemed to me as if I ought to know it and what it was, and as if it
was trying to make me understand something, and couldn't, just as it is
when the cat sits and looks at you. You know the creature wants something,
if she could tell what it was."

"She wants something out of the cupboard most generally," said Miss
Sophonisba; "but go on."

"And finally," said Miss Faithful with a nervous shudder, "after it had
gone back and forth two or three times--and I could hear it on the floor
too, just like some one walking in their stocking-feet--it came close up
to me and seemed to bend over me, or to be all around me in the air some
way--I can't tell you how--and I was dreadfully scared, and woke up."

"It made a noise, did it?" said Miss Sophonisba.

"Yes; and somehow the noise made me feel as if I ought to know what it
wanted and what it was."

"It was the wind," said Miss Sophonisba. "It got mixed up in your dreams,
I expect. How it does blow!--fit to take the roof off. There! the cellar
door has started open. That latch doesn't catch: I must go down and bolt
it."

At that moment the cat rushed up the short staircase from the lower room,
and springing on the bed, stood with bristling tail and glaring eyes,
intently watching the door.

"Has she got a fit?" exclaimed Miss Sophonisba; and she put out her hand
to push the cat off, but it turned to Miss Faithful, who was sitting up in
bed, and crawling under the bed-clothes, lay there trembling and mewing in
a very curious fashion.

"Some one has got in down stairs," said Miss Faithful, turning white. "Oh,
Sophonisba, we shall all be murdered!"

"Nonsense!" said Miss Sophonisba, quite restored to herself at the thought
of actual danger. She caught up a great pair of tongs and started down
stairs, the candlestick in one hand, the tongs in the other, Miss
Faithful, who dared not stay behind, threw a shawl over her night-dress
and followed close at her sister's heels, while the cat crawled still
farther under the clothes, and refused to answer to Miss Sophonisba's
call. There was nothing unusual down stairs. The two outside doors were
locked, the fire was burning brightly, and Miss Sophonisba's work lay on
the table just as she had left it. The cellar door indeed, which latched
imperfectly, stood open.

"Some one has come in and locked the door after them, and gone down
cellar," was Miss Faithful's whispered suggestion.

"How could they?" said Miss Sophonisba. "We didn't hear any one; and
besides, they would have left their tracks on the floor this wet night;
but I'll go down and look. You stay here by the fire."

But Miss Faithful preferred to follow her sister. They found nothing out
of place in the cellar, into which, if you remember, there is no outside
door. Every tub and barrel and milk-pan was in its place, and the surface
of the pit of water, which served the family as a cistern, was
undisturbed.

"It must have been the door flying open that scared the cat," said Miss
Sophonisba, "Faithful, you're as white as a sheet. I shall just heat up
some elderberry wine and make you drink it;" which she did then and there,
and, no further disturbance taking place, the sisters went to bed. The
cat, however, whose usual place was by the kitchen fire, would not go down
stairs, and when at last turned out, she mewed so piteously and scratched
so persistently at the bed-room door that Miss Sophonisba gave way to her
and let her in to sleep all night at the foot of the bed.

No further annoyance took place, nor was Miss Faithful troubled with a
repetition of her curious dream. The next week, however, as Miss
Sophonisba was in the kitchen making preparations for tea, she was
startled by a scream from her sister in the next room, succeeded by the
sound of a heavy fall. She hurried into the work-room. Miss Faithful lay
on the floor quite insensible. It was some time before her sister's
anxious exertions were rewarded by signs of returning animation. When at
last she opened her eyes, she burst into a fit of hysterical sobbing and
crying.

"For gracious sake, sister!" said Miss Sophonisba, really alarmed, "what
is the matter?"

"Oh dear! oh dear!" sobbed Miss Faithful. "It was John! I know it was
John, and I could not speak to him!"

"What?" said Miss Sophonisba, alarmed for her sister's wits. "What was
John?"

"It--that--the thing that came behind me: I know it was!"

"When?" asked her sister.

"As I was sitting there in my chair something came behind me and put a
hand on my shoulder. It was John--I know it was. His hand was all cold and
wet: he came out of the sea to call me."

"Now just look here, Faithful!" said Miss Sophonisba. "John was one of the
most careful, considerate fellows I ever knew, and he was always
particular careful of you. Do you think it's likely he wouldn't have no
more sense, now that he's a saint in heaven, than to come scaring you out
of your wits in that way? Is it like him, now?"

"But oh, sister, if you had felt it as I did, clear into the bone!"

"Then it's over twenty-five years since the Federalist was lost. Do you
suppose he's been going round the other world all this while without
getting a chance to be dry? Did you see him?"

"No, but I felt it."

"Well, now if there'd been anything real there, anything material, you'd
have seen it; and if it wasn't material, how could it be wet?"

Faithful was not prepared to answer, but it was evident that she had
received a great shock. In vain did her sister argue, reason and coax. She
could not explain, but that something had come behind her, and that this
Something had touched her, she was convinced; and she added: "I do believe
it was John I saw the other night. I thought then I was awake all the
time, and now I know I was."

This last assertion quite overset Miss Sophonisba's patience, "If ever any
one was asleep," she said, "you were when I came up stairs. I thought I
heard you walking about with your bare feet, and I came up to see."

"Then you: heard it too?" said Miss Faithful, eagerly.

It was an unlucky admission, but Miss Sophonisba would not allow that she
had made it.

"I heard the wind make the boards creak, I suppose; and do you think John
wouldn't have more sense than to be walking about our room at half-past
ten at night? What nonsense!"

"You may call it nonsense as much as you like, Sophonisba," said Miss
Faithful, beginning to cry afresh, "but I know what I know, and I can't
help it."

"Well, well, dear, we won't think of it any more. You're nervous and
worried, and you'd just best put on your wrapper and lie down and try to
go to sleep."

"I don't like to stay alone just now," said Miss Faithful, timidly.

"I don't want you to: I'll bring my work up stairs and stay with you."

Miss Sophonisba helped her sister up stairs, and began to assist her to
undress. As she took into her hand the cape of Miss Faithful's woolen
dress she nearly uttered an exclamation of surprise, but checked herself
in time. On the left shoulder was a wet spot, and the dress directly
beneath was quite damp. Miss Sophonisba said nothing, of this matter to
her sister, but she made an excuse to leave the room for a moment, and
going down stairs looked to see if any water had been spilled on the
floor. There was none, and Miss Sophonisba was puzzled. She remembered
that when her sister was startled before she had occupied the same seat,
with her back to the cellar door. She noticed that the door was slightly
ajar, and it occurred to her that the cold air blowing through the crack
might account for her sister's feeling of sudden chill, if not for the
dampness. She went down the cellar stairs, carrying with her a lighted
candle. Bold as she was, a singular sensation came over her when she saw
upon each stair a print, as if some one with wet feet had ascended or
descended, and that very recently. The track was not such as would be left
by a person heavily shod: it was rather like that of one wearing a
stocking or thin slipper.

"What under the sun--" was her perplexed exclamation as she went down,
following the marks of the unknown feet until they were lost on the stone
floor. It was certain that there was no one in the cellar, but as she went
up again, and paused for a moment at the top of the staircase, she heard,
or thought she heard, close to her ear, a long, weary sigh, as of one in
pain, and a sudden breath of cold air swept past her down the stairs. She
turned, and crossing the little passage went into the south room. The
burned spot on the floor was covered by the neat rag carpet, but there
were still some slight marks on the wall of the old doctor's brick
furnace. Miss Sophonisba glanced round the room, but her eyes fell upon
nothing but the familiar and well-preserved furniture; yet there came over
her a strange sense that she was not alone. She saw nothing, but in spite
of herself a feeling of a Presence not her own gathered about her. It was
but for a moment, and then her habitual firmness and common sense
reasserted themselves.

"Stuff and nonsense!" she said. "I am getting as bad as Faithful;" and
leaving the room, she went back to her sister. Miss Faithful had sought
comfort in her devotions, and was more composed than could have been
expected. Neither felt inclined to comment on the recent disturbance. Miss
Faithful's health seemed to have received no permanent harm from the
sudden shock she had undergone, but she had a nervous dread of being
alone, which was a source of some inconvenience to her sister.

The month of December passed, and the uncomfortable impression left by
Faithful's attack was beginning to fade away from the minds of both, when
it happened that the disturbance was renewed in a singular manner.

Miss Sophonisba was alone, her sister having gone to a household in the
village to take the measure for some mourning garments to be made up
immediately. Miss Sophonisba was busy with a black bonnet intended for a
member of the same family, and was thinking of nothing but the folds of
the material directly under her fingers. Gradually there came over her a
feeling that she was not alone. She struggled against it, and resolutely
bent her mind on her work; but the impression grew upon her, and with it a
sensation of horror such as she had never before experienced. The idea
that something stood behind her became so strong that she raised her eyes
from her work and looked around. Was there anything actually there, or was
the shapeless darkness anything more than an accidental shadow? Another
instant, and something touched her cheek--something like soft, cold, moist
fingers. The touch, if such it was, was very gentle, such as a child might
give to attract attention. Miss Sophonisba would not give way. She took up
her work and went quietly on with it, though her fingers trembled. The
same long sigh fell upon her ear, the same chill breath of air swept past
her, and the Presence, if such it was, was gone, and with it the shadow.

"Well," said Miss Sophonisba to herself, "some things _are_ kind of
curious, after all!"

There had certainly been no living creature in the house but herself, for
their cat had disappeared some days before, and the loss of their favorite
had been a great vexation to both sisters. The shadow behind her chair, if
indeed it had been anything but fancy, had been too indistinct to allow
her to say that she had really seen it before it had vanished, but what
had given her the touch, the recollection of which yet caused a shiver?
She put up her hand to her cheek. The place was wet--an actual drop of
water adhered to her finger.

"Dear me!" said she, "I wish I did know what to think."

To one of her temperament the uncertainty was very annoying. She could not
bear to think that her experience was not directly owing to natural--by
which she meant, common--causes. "I am very glad Faithful was not here,"
she thought as she turned to her work again. She would not indulge herself
by changing her seat, but kept her place with her back to the cellar door,
though she could not help now and then casting a glance over her shoulder.
Neither shadow nor substance, however, made itself manifest.

That same night Miss Sophonisba woke from her sleep with the feeling that
some one had called her. She found herself mistaken, however, and lay
quietly awake, thinking over the events of the afternoon. The more she
thought the more puzzled, and even provoked, did she become. She was one
of those people who cannot bear to feel themselves incapable of accounting
for anything that is brought under their notice. A mystery, as such, is an
exasperation to them, and they will sometimes adopt an explanation more
perplexing than the phenomenon itself, rather than say, "I don't know." As
she lay there thinking over the matter, and trying to make herself believe
that the afternoon's experience was the effect of the wind or her own
fancy, she was startled by a step on the floor of the lower room--the same
light step. It crossed the floor, and she heard it on the stairs. Miss
Sophonisba raised her head from her pillow and looked around. There could
be no doubt that she was awake. She could see everything in the room: her
sister slept quietly at her side, and the moonlight shone in brightly at
the window. The slow step came up the stairs and in at the open door. She
heard it on the boards: her eyes beheld the shadow of her sister's vision,
so wavering and indistinct that she could not say with certainty that it
wore the semblance of a human form. The blood at her heart seemed to stand
still, but yet she neither screamed nor fainted, nor tried to wake her
sister. She watched the Thing as it moved to and fro in the chamber.
Suddenly it came toward her, and stood at the bedside, seeming indeed, as
Faithful had said, to be "all around her in the air," and weigh upon her
with a sense of oppression almost unendurable as the shadowy Presence
obscured the moonbeams. Miss Sophonisba bent all her will to the effort,
and with an heroic exertion she put out her hand to try by the sense of
touch if indeed she was in her waking senses. Her fingers were met by
others, soft, cold and damp. For a second, which seemed an hour, they
grasped her extended hand with a close, clinging touch that some way
seemed half familiar. For one instant the shapeless gloom appeared to take
definite form--a tall human figure, a man in poor and ragged clothes; for
one instant a pair of wistful, eager eyes looked into her own; the next,
the cock without crowed loud and shrill. Her hand was released, and with
the same long, weary sigh the ghostly Presence passed away. Miss
Sophonisba sank back on her pillow nearly insensible. She did not know how
long she lay there, but when she at last gathered her senses she saw and
felt, with an involuntary shudder, that her hand was wet and cold, and
that across the floor, plain in the moonlight, leading to the half-open
door, were the marks of wet feet. She did not waken her sister, who still
slept quietly at her side, but it was with unspeakable relief that she saw
the morning dawn at last.

In spite of herself, Miss Sophonisba was forced to the conclusion that,
except on the supposition that some inhabitant of another world had been
permitted to approach her, her experience was wholly inexplicable. "If it
comes again," said she to herself, "I'll certainly speak to it. Goodness
me!" she added, somewhat irritated in spite of her terror, "if it's got
anything to say, why don't it speak and be done with it?"

She said nothing of the matter to her sister, and she so far controlled
herself as to preserve her usual manner.

The sisters were busily engaged all day over the mourning dresses, when
toward night Miss Faithful's thread gave out and her work came to a
stand-still.

"How provoking!" said she. "Three yards more would finish, and now I shall
have to go down to the village and buy a whole skein, just for that."

"No," said Miss Sophonisba, who would not have acknowledged to herself her
dread of being alone in the house, "I think there's some like that in the
chimney cupboard in the south room: I'll get it."

She put down her work, and taking a candle went into the south room.
Placing the light on a chair, she opened the cupboard door and began
searching for the thread among a variety of miscellaneous matters. Some
slight noise startled her. She turned, and saw standing before the
fireplace an elderly gentleman, whose face was, as she thought, familiar,
though she could not recall at the moment where she had seen it. It did
not occur to her that her companion was not a living man, and she stood
for a moment with a look of surprised inquiry, expecting him to speak. The
eyes met hers in a fixed stare, like that of a corpse. She had not seen
the figure move, yet the same instant it was at her side. It, was too
much, even for her. She turned and sprang through the open door into the
passage, but not before it had flashed across her mind that the dead face
bore a horrible resemblance to the old doctor. The Thing did not follow
her, and she stood still in the passage, not daring to alarm her more
timid sister, and yet dreading inexpressibly to re-enter the haunted room.
Her terror was not merely the oppression, the natural fear of the unknown,
the sense of a nature differing from her own, which she had experienced
the past night: it was all this, together with a sense of an evil
influence, a feeling of loathing and horror, that made her sick in soul
and in body. However strong her resolution, Miss Sophonisba felt that she
could never endure, much less question, this frightful Presence. The
candle was yet burning on the chair where she had left it, and, summoning
all her strength, with an inward prayer she recrossed the threshold. The
light still burned brightly, the thread she had come to seek lay on the
floor where she had dropped it, but the figure was gone. She looked about
the room: there was no trace of living presence save her own. She had even
the courage to stoop down and examine the place on the carpet where the
Shape had stood, and which covered the burned spot on the floor; but this
time the mysterious footsteps had failed to leave their mark.

"Whatever shall I do?" said Miss Sophonisba to herself. "If Faithful was
to see what I have, she'd nigh go crazy; and what excuse can we make for
leaving the house?"

If no one but herself had been concerned, I think she would have stood a
siege from the hosts of the unknown world rather than confess that she
left the house because it was haunted. She caught herself up as the word
was formed in her thoughts. "Haunted, indeed!" she said. "I'll think I'm
losing my wits first. Stuff and nonsense!" But she paused, for through the
middle of the room, close by her side, making an angry gesture as it
passed, swept the same Shape, visible for one moment, vanishing the next.
She went back into the other room, and giving her sister the thread, sat
down so as to hide her face, busying herself with her work until she could
in some measure regain her wonted steady composure.

Miss Faithful was much engaged with her sewing just at that moment, and
her sister's unusual agitation escaped her notice. Presently she said,
"Sophonisba, isn't there a bit of old black ribbon in that cupboard? I
want something of the kind, just to put round inside the neck of the
dress, and then it will be done."

"Yes--I don't know--I think not," said her sister, with a hesitation so
unlike her usual promptness that Miss Faithful looked up surprised. "I
mean, I think there is," said Miss Sophonisba. "If you'd like to look,
I'll hold the candle for you."

"Oh, you needn't put down your work for that," said Miss Faithful, but
Miss Sophonisba dropped the ribbon she was plaiting and followed her
sister with the candle. She threw a half-frightened glance around the room
as she entered, but the Vision did not reappear. It was some time before
the ribbon was found. It had been pushed into the farther corner of the
lower shelf, which was a wide and very thick pine board, slipping easily
on the cleats by which it was upheld. One end of the roll had caught
behind this shelf, and Miss Faithful pulled the board a little forward. As
she did so a little roll of paper fell into the bottom of the cupboard.
Miss Sophonisba picked it up. It consisted of several stained and
discolored sheets of paper, seemingly torn from an account-book or
journal, and covered all over with very fine and closely-written though
perfectly legible characters, in a very precise hand.

"What is that?" said Miss Faithful.

"It's nothing of ours, I'm pretty sure," said her sister, looking at it.
"But come, if you've got what you want: let's go into the other room--it's
cold here."

As they crossed the threshold, Miss Faithful started.

"What's the matter?" said her sister, though she well knew the reason. She
too had heard the same long sigh felt the same breath of chill air.

"Why, it seemed as if something breathed close to my ear," said Miss
Faithful, turning white; "and what's more," she continued, as they crossed
the passage and entered the work-room, "I believe you heard it too, and
that you've seen things in this house you haven't told me of."

"Well, child," said Miss Sophonisba in a subdued tone, "there _are_ some
queer things in this world, that's a fact--queerer than ever I thought
till lately."

Miss Faithful did not press for an explanation: she went quietly on with
her dressmaking, and her sister, hurried though she was about her work,
set herself to examine the papers.

I remember seeing the original manuscript when I was a little girl, but it
was unfortunately destroyed by an accident. My father, however, had copied
part of it, and this copy is yet in my possession. Miss Sophonisba could
make very little of the record, which related to scientific matters of
which she was quite ignorant; and as the most important words were
indicated by signs and figures, she was completely puzzled. The writer
seemed to have been seeking in vain some particular result. She looked on
through the dates of the year 1785, and saw here and there familiar names,
and at last commenced reading at these words:

"_June_ 3. This day took possession of my house. Busied in making
arrangements. Shall build my own furnace. Am sure now that I am in the
right way. Am determined no one shall come into the house."

Much followed which Miss Sophonisba could not understand, until, under the
date of July 1, she found recorded:

"Being over at Neponset, looking for the plant witch-hazel, bethought
myself to ask of the fellow they call Indian Will. Going to the little
hovel he lives in, found him lying very ill with pleurisy. By the grace of
God was able to help him. His wife told me where to find what I sought. To
my surprise, discovered she knew much of its virtues. It may be these
people have a knowledge of simples worth investigating.

"_Sept._ 3. No nearer my great end. My means fast growing less. Have
borrowed from Jonathan Phelps, but the sum is but a drop for such a
purpose. Most like some of these people, who complain of my price for the
exercise of my skill, would give me threefold did they know what I work
for, if they might share in its result. Yet I know I am in the right way.
Should I die before I come to its end--Is Death the gate of knowledge?"

"_Oct._ 7. I advance just so far and no farther. Why is it that I see my
path so plain just to the one point, and there it stops? How small our
understanding of the endless mysteries around us! yet should something
differing from every day's experience befall us, how quickly we speak of
the _supernatural_!

"_Oct._ 29. No nearer, no nearer, and my money all but done. Took some of
my books into Boston and offered them to sell. Refused, of course. How
should they know their value? Have sent them to London. It was hard, but
patience! patience!"

"_Oct._ 30. This day Indian Will brought the plants I wanted. Have bade
him never to tell any one that he comes here. He only has ever entered. So
far as I know, he has obeyed. He thinks me like one of his own powahs.

"_Dec._ 15. At last! I have passed the crisis, and without accident. How
simple it seems, now that I know! It was my last bit of the essential
metal: like from like. Each element has its seed in itself. The poor
people say I have been good to them. Should success be final, I can indeed
help mankind.

"_Dec._ 16. Last night, lifting the crucible from the furnace, spilled the
liquor on the floor. Had I one particle more of the essential element! All
was utterly lost: no one will lend to me.

"_Dec._ 18. What have I done that I should feel guilt? What was worth the
life of such a useless creature to the interests of mankind? Why did he
not trust my word and give me what I needed when I asked him? If he had
not waked from his half-drunken sleep when I made the attempt, I would
have given him threefold. I gave him his life once: why will not that
atone? No one will know ever. I will devote my life to relieve distress.
What is such as his, weighed in the balance with my purpose? It is strange
that since then I have forgot the very essential thing in the process. I
cannot read my own cipher in which I wrote it down; but it will come, it
will come.

"_Dec._ 19. Have been all day trying to read the cipher in vain. Have lost
the key, have forgotten the chief link. Until I can recall it the metal is
useless. What if it should never come to me? This night went down to the
Point. Threw into the sea the evidences of what I have brought to pass.
The tide will soon wash them away.

"_Dec._ 20. Surely it is not meant this thing should be known. To-day a
body came on shore, bruised and shattered, but said to be identified by
those who should have known best. Now, no one will ever search this house.
Twice to-day I have been to look at the place: nothing can be seen.
Providence means I should live to finish my work--to complete that which I
alone of mortal men have rightly understood. Why is it this link is broken
off in my mind, and the cipher I myself wrote darker than before? Would
the creature but have given it up quietly! It was in self-defence I struck
at last. What was it to repent of? Some have held that such as he are not
human--only animals a little more sagacious than the brutes about us.

"_Dec._ 22. Useless, useless! My memory fails me entirely. I have tried to
go on in vain. What is this that is with me now these last two days?

"_Dec._ 25. Once I kept Christmas in another fashion than this. I had no
guest but one I dare not name--

  'Tumulum circumvolat umbra.'

"_Dec._ 27. To day it put out its hand: the soft wet fingers touched me. I
will go out into the world, I will go out into the world. I will help
those who are sick and in misery. Will it not be at peace then?"

Then the journal paused: there was no further entry till April 29, 1786:

"The girl, Hepsey Ball, died to-day. Her eyes were opened to see what I
see all the hours in the day. I must go. I have not dared to leave, lest
the awful Thing should be found in its hiding-place. They begin to press
me for money. The house will go on the mortgage. Heard Phelps say if it
was his he would drain the place in the cellar. To-day received fifty
dollars from the sale of apparatus. Could not part with it before,
thinking I should recover my lost knowledge, and should use it. Perhaps it
will come back to me if I go away: it may be This will not follow me. I
will drop the gold into the same place: if it is that it wants, it will
rest. I cannot tell what I have done, my life is too precious. I only, of
all men, have seen unveiled the mystery. I will leave This behind. When I
am safe it may be found, and they will lay it to rest in the earth, if
that is what it seeks. Then it will cease to persecute me with its step
close at my back, its loathsome clinging touch."

Miss Sophonisba (my friend went on) looked up from her reading with such a
strange expression that her sister was startled. "Put on your bonnet,
Faithful," said she: "I'm going down to see the minister."

"What do you mean?" said Miss Faithful: "it's nearly nine o'clock."

"I don't care if it's midnight. I'm going to show these to him, and tell
him what's happened here, and he may make what he can of it."

"Then you have seen something?" said Miss Faithful, turning pale.

Miss Sophonisba made a sign of assent; "I'll tell you all about it when we
get there, but do come along now. You're work's done, and I'll take the
bonnet with me and finish it there."

They lived at some distance from the parsonage, and the roads were in even
worse condition than they are now. It was a tiresome walk, and Miss
Faithful, clinging to her sister's side, was almost inclined to wish they
had braved the terrors at home rather than ventured out into the dark. The
clergyman was a middle-aged bachelor, a grandson of the Parson H----
mentioned by Mrs. T----. He heard Miss Sophonisba's story in silence, but
without any sign of dissent. Faithful, in spite of her terror, could not
but feel a mild degree of triumph in her sister's evident conviction that
what she had seen was, to say the least, unaccountable.

Mr. H---- looked over the papers which had been found in the cupboard, and
which Miss Sophonisba had brought with her. "This is undoubtedly Doctor
Haywood's writing," he said at last. "I have a book purchased of him by my
grandfather, and which has marginal notes in the same hand."

"What shall we do, sir?" asked Miss Sophonisba.

"If I were you I should leave the house as soon as possible. If there is
anything in the air which induces such--" Mr. H---- hesitated for a
word--"sensations as these, it would be better to go."

"Sensations!" said Miss Sophonisba, almost indignant. "I tell you I saw it
myself; and what made the wet spot on Faithful's cape, and the rest?"

"I can't undertake to say, Miss T----; but if you like I will just come up
to-morrow, and we will look into the matter a little. My cousin,
Lieutenant V----, is here from his ship, and he will assist me. And
meantime you had best stay here to-night: my sister will be very glad to
see you."

Miss H---- was a particular friend of the sisters, but she could not but
feel a little curious to know the object of their visit. Miss Sophonisba
would have kept the matter to herself, but Miss Faithful, in her
excitement, could not but tell the story of their experiences. Miss H----,
however, was a discreet woman, and kept the tale to herself.

The next evening the clergyman, his cousin the lieutenant and Miss
Sophonisba went quietly about dusk to the old house. They went down into
the cellar, and the drag which the sailor had constructed brought up some
bleached bones, and at the second cast a skeleton hand and a skull. As the
latter was disengaged from the drag something fell glittering from it upon
the cellar floor: two coins rolled to different corners. Mr. H----, picked
them up. One was a Spanish piece, the other an English half guinea.

"Miss T----," said the clergyman in a low tone, "I will see that these
poor relics are laid in the burial-ground; and then--really I think you
had better leave the house."

Miss Sophonisba made no opposition.

The three ascended the cellar stairs, but as they entered the room they
paused terror-stricken, for across the floor, making, as it passed, a wild
gesture of despair, swept the Shape, living yet dead.

"What was that?" said the clergyman, who was the first to recover himself,
"_It_," said Miss Sophonisba in a whisper.

"I have seen that face before," said the sailor. "Once on a stormy passage
round the Cape we came upon a deserted wreck rolling helplessly upon the
waves. I, then a young midshipman, went in the boat which was sent to
board her. No living creature was there, but in the cabin we found a
corpse, that of an old, old man. The look of the Thing was so awful that I
could not bear it and hid my face. One of the sailors, however, took from
the dead hand a paper covered with characters in cipher, which no one
could read. This paper afterward fell into my possession, and I submitted
it in vain to several experts, all of whom failed to read it. By an
accident it was destroyed, and the secret, whatever it was, is hidden for
ever; but the face of that corpse was the face I have just seen in this
room."

CLARA F. GUERNSEY.



The Blood Seedling.



In a bit of green pasture that rose, gradually narrowing, to the tableland
that ended in prairie, and widened out descending to the wet and willowy
sands that border the Great River, a broad-shouldered young man was
planting an apple tree one sunny spring morning when Tyler was President.
The little valley was shut in on the south and east by rocky hills,
patched with the immortal green of cedars and gay with clambering
columbines. In front was the Mississippi, reposing from its plunge over
the rapids, and idling down among the golden sandbars and the low, moist
islands, which were looking their loveliest in their new spring dresses of
delicate green.

The young man was digging with a certain vicious energy, forcing the spade
into the black crumbling loam with a movement full of vigor and malice.
His straight black brows were knitted till they formed one dark line over
his deep-set eyes. His beard was not yet old enough to hide the massive
outline of his firm, square jaw. In the set teeth, in the clouded face, in
the half-articulate exclamations that shot from time to time from the
compressed lips, it was easy to see that the thoughts of the young
horticulturist were far from his work.

A bright young girl came down the path through the hazel thicket that
skirted the hillside, and putting a plump brown hand on the topmost rail
of the fence vaulted lightly over, and lit on the soft springy turf with a
thud that announced a wholesome and liberal architecture. It is usually
expected of poets and lovers that they shall describe the ladies of their
love as so airy and delicate in structure that the flowers they tread on
are greatly improved in health and spirits by the visitation. But not
being a poet or in love, we must admit that there was no resurrection for
the larkspurs and pansies upon which the little boots of Miss Susie
Barringer landed. Yet she was not of the coarse peasant type, though her
cheeks were so rosy as to cause her great heaviness of heart on Sunday
mornings, and her blue lawn dress was as full as it could afford from
shoulders to waist. She was a neat, hearty and very pretty country girl,
with a slightly freckled face, and rippled brown hair, and astonished blue
eyes, but perfectly self-possessed, and graceful as a young quail.

A young man's ears are quick to catch the rustling of a woman's dress. The
flight of this plump bird in its fluttering blue plumage over the
rail-fence caused our young man to look up from his spading: the scowl was
routed from his brow by a sudden incursion of blushes, and his mouth was
attacked by an awkward smile.

The young lady nodded, and was hurrying past. The scowl came back in
force, and the smile was repulsed from the bearded mouth with great loss:
"Miss Tudie, are you in a hurry?"

The lady thus addressed turned and said, in a voice that was half pert and
half coaxing, "No particular hurry. Al, I've told you a dozen times not to
call me that redicklis name."

"Why, Tudie, I hain't never called you nothing else sence you was a little
one so high. You ort to know yer own name, and you give yerself that name
when you was a yearling. Howsom-ever, ef you don't like it now, sence
you've been to Jacksonville, I reckon I can call you Miss Susie--when I
don't disremember."

The frank amende seemed to satisfy Miss Susie, for she at once interrupted
in the kindest manner: "Never mind, Al Golyer: you can call me what you
are a-mind to." Then, as if conscious of the feminine inconsistency, she
changed the subject by asking, "What are you going to do with that great
hole?--big enough to bury a fellow."

"I'm going to plant this here seedlin', that growed up in Colonel Blood's
pastur', nobody knows how: belike somebody was eatin' an apple and throwed
the core down-like. I'm going to plant a little orchard here next spring,
but the colonel and me, we reckoned this one 'ud be too old by that time
for moving, so I thought I'd stick it in now, and see what come out'n it.
It's a powerful thrifty chunk of a saplin'."

"Yes. I speak for the first peck of apples off'n it. Don't forget.
Good-morning."

"Hold on a minute, Miss Susan, twell I git my coat. I'll walk down a piece
with you. I have got something to say to you."

Miss Susie turned a little red and a little pale. These occasions were not
entirely unknown in her short experience of life. When young men in the
country in that primitive period had something to say, it was something
very serious and earnest. Allen Golyer was a good-looking, stalwart young
farmer, well-to-do, honest, able to provide for a family. There was
nothing presumptuous in his aspiring to the hand of the prettiest girl on
Chaney Creek. In childhood he had trotted her to Banbury Cross and back a
hundred times, beguiling the tedium of the journey with kisses and the
music of bells. When the little girl was old enough to go to school, the
big boy carried her books and gave her the rosiest apple out of his
dinner-basket. He fought all her battles and wrote all her compositions;
which latter, by the way, never gained her any great credit. When she was
fifteen and he twenty he had his great reward in taking her twice a week
during one happy winter to singing-school. This was the bloom of
life--nothing before or after could compare with it. The blacking of shoes
and brushing of stiff, electric, bristling hair, all on end with frost and
hope, the struggling into the plate-armor of his starched shirt, the tying
of the portentous and uncontrollable cravat before the glass, which was
hopelessly dimmed every moment by his eager breath,--these trivial and
vulgar details were made beautiful and unreal by the magic of youth and
love. Then came the walk through the crisp, dry snow to the Widow
Barringer's, the sheepish talk with the old lady while Susie "got on her
things," and the long, enchanting tramp to the "deestrick school-house."

There is not a country-bred man or woman now living but will tell you that
life can offer nothing comparable with the innocent zest of that old style
of courting that was done at singing-school in the starlight and
candlelight of the first half of our century. There are few hearts so
withered and old but they beat quicker sometimes when they hear, in
old-fashioned churches, the wailing, sobbing or exulting strains of
"Bradstreet" or "China" or "Coronation;" and the mind floats down on the
current of these old melodies to that fresh young day of hopes and
illusions--of voices that were sweet, no matter how false they sang--of
nights that were rosy with dreams, no matter what Fahrenheit said--of
girls that blushed without cause, and of lovers who talked for hours about
everything but love.

I know I shall excite the scorn of all the ingenuous youth of my time when
I say that there was nothing that our superior civilization would call
love making in those long walks through the winter nights. The heart of
Allen Golyer swelled under his satin waistcoat with love and joy and
devotion as he walked over the crunching roads with his pretty enslaver.
But he talked of apples and pigs and the heathen and the teacher's wig,
and sometimes ventured an illusion to other people's flirtations in a
jocose and distant way; but as to the state of his own heart, his lips
were sealed. It would move a blasé smile on the downy lips of juvenile
Lovelaces, who count their conquests by their cotillons, and think nothing
of making a declaration in an avant-deux, to be told of young people
spending several evenings of each week in the year together, and speaking
no word of love until they were ready to name their wedding-day. Yet such
was the sober habit of the place and time.

So there was no troth plighted between Allen and Susie, though the youth
loved the maiden with all the energy of his fresh, unused nature, and she
knew it very well. He never dreamed of marrying any other woman than Susie
Barringer, and she sometimes tried a new pen by writing and carefully
erasing the initials S.M.G., which, as she was christened Susan Minerva,
may be taken as showing the direction of her thoughts.

If Allen Golyer had been less bashful or more enterprising, this history
would never have been written; for Susie would probably have said Yes for
want of anything better to say, and when she went to visit her aunt
Abigail in Jacksonville she would have gone _engaged_, her finger bound
with gold and her maiden meditations fettered by promises. But she went,
as it was, fancy free, and there is no tinder so inflammable as the
imagination of a pretty country girl of sixteen.

One day she went out with her easy-going aunt Abigail to buy ribbons, the
Chancy Creek invoices not supplying the requirements of Jacksonville
society. As they traversed the court-house square on their way to Deacon
Pettybones' place, Miss Susie's vagrant glances rested on an iris of
ribbons displayed in an opposition window. "Let's go in here," she said
with the impetuous decision of her age and sex.

"We will go where you like, dear," said easy-going Aunt Abigail. "It makes
no difference."

Aunt Abigail was wrong. It made the greatest difference to several persons
whether Susie Barringer bought her ribbons at Simmons' or Pettybones' that
day. If she had but known!

But, all unconscious of the Fate that beckoned invisibly on the threshold,
Miss Susie tripped into "Simmons' Emporium" and asked for ribbons. Two
young men stood at the long counter. One was Mr. Simmons, proprietor of
the emporium, who advanced with his most conscientious smile: "Ribbons,
ma'am? Yes, ma'am--all sorts, ma'am. Cherry, ma'am? Certingly, ma'am. Jest
got a splendid lot from St. Louis this morning, ma'am. This way, ma'am."

The ladies were soon lost in the delight of the eyes. The voice of Mr.
Simmons accompanied the feast of color, insinuating but unheeded.

The other young man approached: "Here is what you want, miss--rich and
elegant. Just suits your style. Sets off your hair and eyes beautiful."

The ladies looked up. A more decided voice than Mr. Simmons'; whiter hands
than Mr. Simmons' handled the silken bands; bolder eyes than the weak,
pink-bordered orbs of Mr. Simmons looked unabashed admiration into the
pretty face of Susie Barringer.

"Look here, Simmons, old boy, introduce a fellow."

Mr. Simmons meekly obeyed: "Mrs. Barringer, let me interduce you to Mr.
Leon of St. Louis, of the house of Draper & Mercer."

"Bertie Leon, at your service," said the brisk young fellow, seizing Miss
Susie's hand with energy. His hand was so much softer and whiter than hers
that she felt quite hot and angry about it.

When they had made their purchases, Mr. Leon insisted on walking home with
them, and was very witty and agreeable all the way. He had all the wit of
the newspapers, of the concert-rooms, of the steamboat bars at his
fingers' ends. In his wandering life he had met all kinds of people: he
had sold ribbons through a dozen States. He never had a moment's doubt of
himself. He never hesitated to allow himself any indulgence which would
not interfere with business. He had one ambition in life--to marry Miss
Mercer and get a share in the house. Miss Mercer was as ugly as a
millionaire's tombstone. Mr. Bertie Leon--who, when his moustache was not
dyed nor his hair greased, was really quite a handsome fellow--considered
that the sacrifice he proposed to make in the interests of trade must be
made good to him in some way. So, "by way of getting even," he made
violent love to all the pretty eyes he met in his commercial travels--"to
have something to think about after he should have found favor in the
strabismic optics of Miss Mercer," he observed, disrespectfully.

Simple Susie, who had seen nothing of young men besides the awkward and
blushing clodhoppers of Chaney Creek, was somewhat dazzled by the
free-and-easy speech and manner of the hard-cheeked bagman. Yet there was
something in his airy talk and point-blank compliments that aroused a
faint feeling of resentment which she could scarcely account for. Aunt
Abigail was delighted with him, and when he bowed his adieux at the gate
in the most recent Planters'-House style, she cordially invited him to
call--"to drop in any time: he must be lonesome so far from home."

He said he wouldn't neglect such a chance, with another Planters'-House
bow.

"What a nice young man!" said Aunt Abigail.

"Awful conceited and not overly polite," said Susie as she took off her
bonnet and went into a revel of bows and trimmings.

The oftener Albert Leon came to Mrs. Barringer's bowery cottage, the more
the old lady was pleased with him and the more the young one criticised
him, until it was plain to be seen that Aunt Abigail was growing tired of
him and pretty Susan dangerously interested. But just at this point his
inexorable carpet-bag dragged him off to a neighboring town, and Susie
soon afterward went back to Chaney Creek.

Her Jacksonville hat and ribbons made her what her pretty eyes never could
have done--the belle of the neighborhood. Non cuivis contingit adire
Lutetiam, but to a village where no one has been at Paris the county-town
is a shrine of fashion. Allen Golyer felt a vague sense of distrust
chilling his heart as he saw Mr. Simmons' ribbons decking the pretty head
in the village choir the Sunday after her return, and, spurred on by a
nascent jealousy of the unknown, resolved to learn his fate without loss
of time. But the little lady received him with such cool and unconcerned
friendliness, talked so much and so fast about her visit, that the honest
fellow was quite bewildered, and had to go home to think the matter over,
and cudgel his dull wits to divine whether she was pleasanter than ever,
or had drifted altogether out of his reach.

Allen Golyer was, after all, a man of nerve and decision. He wasted only a
day or two in doubts and fears, and one Sunday afternoon, with a beating
but resolute heart, he left his Sunday-school class to walk down to
Crystal Glen and solve his questions and learn his doom. When he came in
sight of the widow's modest house, he saw a buggy hitched by the gate.

"Dow Padgett's chestnut sorrel, by jing! What is Dow after out here?"

It is natural, if not logical, that young men should regard the visits of
all other persons of their age and sex in certain quarters as a serious
impropriety.

But it was not his friend and crony Dow Padgett, the liveryman, who came
out of the widow's door, leading by the hand the blushing and bridling
Susie. It was a startling apparition of the Southwestern dandy of the
period--light hair drenched with bear's oil, blue eyes and jet-black
moustache, an enormous paste brooch in his bosom, a waistcoat and trowsers
that shrieked in discordant tones, and very small and elegant varnished
boots. The gamblers and bagmen of the Mississippi River are the best-shod
men in the world.

Golyer's heart sank within him as this splendid being shone upon him. But
with his rustic directness he walked to meet the laughing couple at the
gate, and said, "Tudie, I come to see you. Shall I go in and talk to your
mother twell you come back?"

"No, that won't pay," promptly replied the brisk stranger. "We will be
gone the heft of the afternoon, I reckon. This hoss is awful slow," he
added with a wink of preternatural mystery to Miss Susie.

"Mr. Golyer," said the young lady, "let me interduce you to my friend, Mr.
Leon."

Golyer put out his hand mechanically, after the cordial fashion of the
West. But Leon nodded and said, "I hope to see you again." He lifted Miss
Susie into the buggy, sprang lightly in, and went off with laughter and
the cracking of his whip after Dow Padgett's chestnut sorrel.

The young farmer walked home desolate, comparing in his simple mind his
own plain exterior with his rival's gorgeous toilet, his awkward address
with the other's easy audacity, till his heart was full to the brim with
that infernal compound of love and hate which is called jealousy, from
which pray Heaven to guard you.

It was the next morning that Miss Susie vaulted over the fence where Allen
Golyer was digging the hole for Colonel Blood's apple tree.

"Something middlin' particular," continued Golyer, resolutely.

"There is no use leaving your work," said Miss Barringer pluckily. "I will
stay and listen."

Poor Allen began as badly as possible: "Who was that feller with you
yesterday?"

"Thank you, Mr. Golyer--my friends ain't fellers! What's that to you, who
he was?"

"Susie Barringer, we have been keeping company now a matter of a year. I
have loved you well and true: I would have give my life to save you any
little care or trouble. I never dreamed of nobody but you--not that I was
half good enough for you, but because I did not know any better man around
here. Ef it ain't too late, Susie, I ask you to be my wife. I will love
you and care for you, good and true."

Before this solemn little speech was finished, Susie was crying and biting
her bonnet-strings in a most undignified manner. "Hush, Al Golyer!" she
burst out. "You mustn't talk so. You are too good for me. I am kind of
promised to that fellow. I 'most wish I had never seen him."

Allen sprang to her and took her in his strong arms: she struggled free
from him. In a moment the vibration which his passionate speech had
produced in her passed away. She dried her eyes and said firmly enough,
"It's no use, Al: we wouldn't be happy together. Good-bye! I shouldn't
wonder if I went away from Chaney Creek before long."

She walked rapidly down to the river-road. Allen stood fixed and
motionless, gazing at the light, graceful form until the blue dress
vanished behind the hill, and leaned long on his spade, unconscious of the
lapse of time.

When Susan reached her home she found Leon at the gate.

"Ah, my little rosebud! I came near missing you. I am going to Keokuk this
morning, to be gone a few days. I stopped here a minute to give you
something to keep for me till I come back."

"What is it?"

He took her chubby cheeks between his hands and laid on her cherry-ripe
lips a keepsake which he never reclaimed.

She stood watching him from the gate until, as a clump of willows snatched
him from her, she thought, "He will go right by where Al is at work. It
would be jest like him to jump over the fence and have a talk with him.
I'd like to hear it."

An hour or so later, as she sat and sewed in the airy little entry, a
shadow fell upon her work, and as she looked up her startled eyes met the
piercing glance of her discarded lover. A momentary ripple of remorse
passed over her cheerful heart as she saw Allen's pale and agitated face.
He was paler than she had ever seen him, with that ghastly pallor of
weather-beaten faces. His black hair, wet with perspiration, clung
clammily to his temples. He looked beaten, discouraged, utterly fatigued
with the conflict of emotion. But one who looked closely in his eyes would
have seen a curious stealthy, half-shaded light in them, as of one who,
though working against hope, was still not without resolute will.

Dame Barringer, who had seen him coming up the walk, bustled in:
"Good-morning, Allen. How beat out you do look! Now, I like a stiddy young
man, but don't you think you run this thing of workin' into the ground?"

"Wail, maybe so," said Golyer with a weary smile--"leastways I've been
a-running this spade into the ground all the morning, and--"

"_You_ want buttermilk--that's your idee: ain't it, now?"

"Well, Mizzes Barringer, I reckon you know my failin's."

The good woman trotted off to the dairy, and Susie sewed demurely, waiting
with some trepidation for what was to come next.

"Susie Barringer," said a low, husky voice which she could scarcely
recognize as Golyer's, "I've come to ask pardon--not for nothing I've
done, for I never did and never could do you wrong--but for what I thought
for a while arter you left me this morning. It's all over now, but I tell
_you_ the Bad Man had his claws into my heart for a spell. Now it's all
over, and I wish you well. I wish your husband well. If ever you git into
any trouble where I can help, send for me: it's my right. It's the last
favor I ask of you."

Susceptible Susie cried a little again. Allen, watching her with his
ambushed eyes, said, "Don't take it to heart, Tudie. Perhaps there is
better days in store for me yet."

This did not appear to comfort Miss Barringer in the least. She was
greatly grieved when she thought she had broken a young man's heart: she
was still more dismal at the slightest intimation that she had not. If any
explanation of this paradox is required, I would observe, quoting a phrase
much in vogue among the witty writers of the present age, that Miss Susie
Barringer was "a very female woman."

So pretty Susan's rising sob subsided into a coquettish pout by the time
her mother came in with the foaming pitcher of subacidulous nectar, and
plied young Golyer with brimming beakers of it with all the beneficent
delight of a Lady Bountiful.

"There, Mizzes Barringer! there's about as much as I can tote. Temperance
in all things."

"Very well, then, you work less and play more. We never get a sight of you
lately. Come in neighborly and play checkers with Tudie."

It was the darling wish of Mother Barringer's heart to see her daughter
married and settled with "a stiddy young man that you knowed all about,
and his folks before him." She had observed with great disquietude the
brilliant avatar of Mr. Bertie Leon and the evident pride of her daughter
in the bright-plumaged captive she had brought to Chaney Creek, the spoil
of her maiden snare. "I don't more'n half like that little feller." (It is
a Western habit to call a well-dressed man a "little feller." The epithet
would light on Hercules Farnese if he should go to Illinois dressed as a
Cocodès.) "No honest folks wears beard onto their upper lips. I wouldn't
be surprised if he wasn't a gamboller."

Allen Golyer, apparently unconscious in his fatigue of the cap which Dame
Barringer was vicariously setting for him, walked away with his spade on
his shoulder, and the good woman went systematically to work in making
Susie miserable by sharp little country criticisms of her heart's idol.

Day after day wore on, and, to Dame Barringer's delight and Susie's
dismay, Mr. Leon did not come.

"He is such a businessman," thought trusting Susan, "he can't get away
from Keokuk. But he'll be sure to write." So Susie put on her sun-bonnet
and hurried up to the post-office: "Any letters for me, Mr. Whaler?" The
artful and indefinite plural was not disguise enough for Miss Susie, so
she added, "I was expecting a letter from my aunt."

"No letters here from your aunt, nor your uncle, nor none of the tribe,"
said old Whaler, who had gone over with Tyler to keep his place, and so
had no further use for good manners.

"I think old Tommy Whaler is an impudent old wretch," said Susie that
evening, "and I won't go near his old post-office again." But Susie forgot
her threat of vengeance the next day, and she went again, lured by family
affection, to inquire for that letter which Aunt Abbie _must_ have
written. The third time she went, rummy old Whaler roared very improperly,
"Bother your aunt! You've got a beau somewheres--that's what's the
matter."

Poor Susan was so dazzled by this flash of clairvoyance that she hurried
from that dreadful post-office, scarcely hearing the terrible words that
the old gin-pig hurled after her: "_And he's forgot you!--that's what's
the matter._"

Susie Barringer walked home along the river-road, revolving many things in
her mind. She went to her room and locked her door by sticking a pen-knife
over the latch, and sat down to have a good cry. Her faculties being thus
cleared for action, she thought seriously for an hour. If you can remember
when you were a school-girl, you know a great deal of solid thinking can
be done in an hour. But we can tell you in a moment what it footed up. You
can walk through the Louvre in a minute, but you cannot see it in a week.

_Susan Barringer (sola, loquitur)_: "Three weeks yesterday. Yes, I s'pose
it's so. What a little fool I was! He goes everywheres--says the same
things to everybody, like he was selling ribbons. Mean little scamp!
Mother seen through him in a minute. I'm mighty glad I didn't tell her
nothing about it." [Fie, Susie! your principles are worse than your
grammar.] "He'll marry some rich girl--I don't envy her, but I hate
her--and I am as good as she is. Maybe he will come back--no, and I hope
he won't;--and I wish I was dead!" (_Pocket handkerchief._)

Yet in the midst of her grief there was one comforting thought--nobody
knew of it. She had no confidante--she had not even opened her heart to
her mother: these Western maidens have a fine gift of reticence. A few of
her countryside friends and rivals had seen with envy and admiration the
pretty couple on the day of Leon's arrival. But all their poisonous little
compliments and questions had never elicited from the prudent Susie more
than the safe statement that the handsome stranger was a friend of Aunt
Abbie's, whom she had met at Jacksonville. They could not laugh at her:
they could not sneer at gay deceivers and lovelorn damsels when she went
to the sewing-circle. The bitterness of her tears was greatly sweetened by
the consideration that in any case no one could pity her. She took such
consolation from this thought that she faced her mother unflinchingly at
tea, and baffled the maternal inquest on her "redness of eyes" by the
school-girl's invaluable and ever-ready headache.

It was positively not until a week later, when she met Allen Golyer at
choir-meeting, that she remembered that this man knew the secret of her
baffled hopes. She blushed scarlet as he approached her: "Have you got
company home, Miss Susie?"

"Yes--that is, Sally Withers and me came together, and--"

"No, that's hardly fair to Tom Fleming: three ain't the pleasantest
company. I will go home with you."

Susie took the strong arm that was held out to her, and leaned upon it
with a mingled feeling of confidence and dread as they walked home through
the balmy night under the clear, starry heaven of the early spring. The
air was full of the quickening breath of May.

Susie Barringer waited in vain for some signal of battle from Allen
Golyer. He talked more than usual, but in a grave, quiet, protecting
style, very different from his former manner of worshiping bashfulness.
His tone had in it an air of fatherly caressing which was inexpressibly
soothing to his pretty companion, tired and lonely with her silent
struggle of the past month. When they came to her gate and he said
good-night, she held his hand a moment with a tremulous grasp, and spoke
impulsively: "Al, I once told you something I never told anybody else.
I'll tell you something else now, because I believe I can trust you."

"Be sure of that, Susie Barringer."

"Well, Al, my engagement is broken off."

"I am sorry for you, Susie, if you set much store by him."

Miss Susie answered with great and unnecessary impetuosity, "I don't, and
I am glad of it!" and then ran into the house and to bed, her cheeks all
aflame at the thought of her indiscretion, and yet with a certain comfort
in having a friend from whom she had no secrets.

I protest there was no thought of coquetry in the declaration which Susan
Barringer blurted out to her old lover under the sympathetic starlight of
the May heaven. But Allen Golyer would have been a dull boy not to have
taken heart and hope from it. He became, as of old, a frequent and welcome
visitor at Crystal Glen. Before long the game of chequers with Susie
became so enthralling a passion that it was only adjourned from one
evening to another. Allen's white shirts grew fringy at the edges with
fatigue-duty, and his large hands were furry at the fingers with much
soap. Susie's affectionate heart, which had been swayed a moment from its
orbit by the irresistible attraction of Bertie Leon's diamond breastpin
and city swagger, swung back to its ancient course under the mild
influence of time and the weather and opportunity. So that Dame Barringer
was not in the least surprised, on entering her little parlor one soft
afternoon in that very May, to see the two young people economically
occupying one chair, and Susie shouting the useless appeal, "Mother, make
him behave!"

"I never interfere in young folks' matters, especially when they're going
all right," said the motherly old soul, kissing "her son Allen" and
trotting away to dry her happy tears.

I am almost ashamed to say how soon they were married--so soon that when
Miss Susan went with her mother to Keokuk to buy a wedding-garment, she
half expected to find, in every shop she entered, the elegant figure of
Mr. Leon leaning over the counter. But the dress was bought and made, and
worn at wedding and _in-fair_ and in a round of family visits among the
Barringer and Golyer kin, and carefully laid away in lavender when the
pair came back from their modest holiday and settled down to real life on
Allen's prosperous farm; and no word of Bertie Leon ever came to Mrs.
Golyer to trouble her joy. In her calm and busy life the very name faded
from her tranquil mind. These wholesome country hearts do not bleed long.
In that wide-awake country eyes are too useful to be wasted in weeping. My
dear Lothario Urban us, those peaches are very sound and delicious, but
they will not keep for ever. If you do not secure them to-day, they will
go to some one else, and in no case, as the Autocrat hath said with
authority, can you stand there "mellering 'em with your thumb."

There was no happier home in the county, and few finer farms. The good
sense and industry of Golyer and the practical helpfulness of his wife
found their full exercise in the care of his spreading fields and growing
orchards. The Warsaw merchants fought for his wheat, and his apples were
known in St. Louis. Mrs. Golyer, with that spice of romance which is
hidden away in every woman's heart, had taken a special fancy to the
seedling apple tree at whose planting she had so intimately assisted.
Allen shared in this, as in all her whims, and tended and nursed it like a
child. In time he gave up the care of his orchard to other hands, but he
reserved this seedling for his own especial coddling. He spaded and
mulched and pruned it, and guarded it in the winter from rodent rabbits
and in summer from terebrant grubs. It was not ungrateful. It grew a noble
tree, producing a rich and luscious fruit, with a deep scarlet satin coat,
and a flesh tinged as delicately as a pink seashell. The first peck of
apples was given to Susie with great ceremony, and the next year the first
bushel was carried to Colonel Blood, the Congressman. He was loud in his
admiration, as the autumn elections were coming on: "Great Scott, Golyer!
I'd rather give my name to a horticultooral triumph like that there than
be Senator."

"You've got your wish, then, colonel," said Golyer. "Me and my wife have
called that tree The Blood Seedling sence the day it was transplanted from
your pastur'."

It was the pride and envy of the neighborhood. Several neighbors asked for
scions and grafts, but could do nothing with them.

"Fact is," said old Silas Withers, "those folks that expects to raise good
fruit by begging graffs, and then layin' abed and readin' newspapers, will
have a good time waitin'. Elbow-grease is the secret of the Blood
Seedlin', ain't it, Al?"

"Well, I reckon, Squire Withers, a man never gits anything wuth havin'
without a tussle for it; and as to secrets, I don't believe in them,
nohow."

A square-browed, resolute, silent, middle-aged man, who loved his home
better than any amusement, regular at church, at the polls, something
richer every Christmas than he had been on the New Year's preceding--a man
whom everybody liked and few loved much--such had Allen Golyer grown to
be.

       *       *       *       *       *

If I have lingered too long over this colorless and commonplace picture of
rural Western life, it is because I have felt an instinctive reluctance to
recount the startling and most improbable incident which fell one night
upon this quiet neighborhood, like a thunderbolt out of blue sky. The
story I must tell will be flatly denied and easily refuted. It is absurd
and fantastic, but, unless human evidence is to go for nothing when it
testifies of things unusual, the story is true.

At the head of the rocky hollow through which Chaney Creek ran to the
river, lived the family who gave the brook its name. They were among the
early pioneers of the county. In the squatty yellow stone house the
present Chaney occupied his grandfather had stood a siege from Black Hawk
all one summer day and night, until relieved by the garrison of Fort
Edward. The family had not grown with the growth of the land. Like many
others of the pioneers, they had shown no talent for keeping abreast of
the civilization whose guides and skirmishers they had been. In the
progress of a half century they had sold, bit by bit, their section of
land, which kept intact would have proved a fortune. They lived very
quietly, working enough to secure their own pork and hominy, and regarding
with a sort of impatient scorn every scheme of public or private
enterprise that passed under their eyes.

The elder Chaney had married, some years before, at the Mormon town of
Nauvoo, the fair-haired daughter of a Swedish mystic, who had come across
the sea beguiled by dreams of a perfect theocracy, and who on arriving at
the city of the Latter-Day Saints had died, broken-hearted from his lost
illusions.

The only dowry that Seraphita Neilsen brought her husband, besides her
delicate beauty and her wide blue eyes, was a full set of Swedenborg's
later writings in English. These became the daily food of the solitary
household. Saul Chaney would read the exalted rhapsodies of the Northern
seer for hours together, without the first glimmer of their meaning
crossing his brain. But there was something in the majesty of their
language and the solemn roll of their poetical development that
irresistibly impressed and attracted him. Little Gershom, his only child,
sitting at his feet, would listen in childish wonder to the strange things
his silent, morose and gloomy father found in the well-worn volumes, until
his tired eyelids would fall at last over his pale, bulging eyes.

As he grew up his eyes bulged more and more: his head seemed too large for
his rickety body. He pored over the marvelous volumes until he knew long
passages by heart, and understood less of them than his father--which was
unnecessary. He looked a little like his mother, but while she in her
youth had something of the faint and flickering beauty of the Boreal
Lights, poor Gershom never could have suggested anything more heavenly
than a foggy moonlight. When he was fifteen he went to the neighboring
town of Warsaw to school. He had rather heavy weather among the well-knit,
grubby-knuckled urchins of the town, and would have been thoroughly
disheartened but for one happy chance. At the house where he boarded an
amusement called the "Sperrit Rappin's" was much in vogue. A group of
young folks, surcharged with all sorts of animal magnetism, with some
capacity for belief and much more for fun, used to gather about a light
pine table every evening, and put it through a complicated course of
mystical gymnastics. It was a very good-tempered table: it would dance,
hop or slam at the word of command, or, if the exercises took a more
intellectual turn, it would answer any questions addressed to it in a
manner not much below the average capacity of its tormentors.

Gershom Chaney took all this in solemn earnest. He was from the first
moment deeply impressed. He lay awake whole nights, with his eyes fast
closed, in the wildest dreams. His school-hours were passed in trancelike
contemplation. He cared no more for punishment than the fakeer for his
self-inflicted tortures. He longed for the coming of the day when he could
commune in solitude with the unfleshed and immortal. This was the full
flowering of those seeds of fantasy that had fallen into his infant mind
as he lay baking his brains by the wide fire in the old stone house at the
head of the hollow, while his father read, haltingly, of the wonders of
the invisible world.

But, to his great mortification, he saw nothing, heard nothing,
experienced nothing but in the company of others. He must brave the
ridicule of the profane to taste the raptures which his soul loved. His
simple, trusting faith made him inevitably the butt of the mischievous
circle. They were not slow in discovering his extreme sensibility to
external influences. One muscular, black-haired, heavy-browed youth took
especial delight in practicing upon him. The table, under Gershom's
tremulous hands, would skip like a lamb at the command of this Thomas Fay.

One evening, Tom Fay had a great triumph. They had been trying to get the
"medium"--for Gershom had reached that dignity--to answer sealed
questions, and had met with indifferent success. Fay suddenly approached
the table, scribbled a phrase, folded it and tossed it, doubled up, before
Gershom; then leaned over the table, staring at his pale, unwholesome face
with all the might of his black eyes.

Chaney seized the pencil convulsively and wrote, "Balaam!"

Fay burst into a loud laugh and said, "Read the question?"

It was, "Who rode on your grandfather's back?"

This is a specimen of the cheap wit and harmless malice by which poor
Gershom suffered as long as he stayed at school. He was never offended,
but was often sorely perplexed, at the apparent treachery of his unseen
counselors. He was dismissed at last from the academy for utter and
incorrigible indolence. He accepted his disgrace as a crown of martyrdom,
and went proudly home to his sympathizing parents.

Here, with less criticism and more perfect faith, he renewed the exercise
of what he considered his mysterious powers. His fastings and vigils, and
want of bodily movement and fresh air, had so injured his health as to
make him tenfold more nervous and sensitive than ever. But his faintings
and hysterics and epileptic paroxysms were taken more and more as
evidences of his lofty mission. His father and mother regarded him as an
oracle, for the simple reason that he always answered just as they
expected. A curious or superstitious neighbor was added from time to time
to the circle, and their reports heightened the half-uncanny interest with
which the Chaney house was regarded.

It was on a moist and steamy evening of spring that Allen Golyer, standing
by his gate, saw Saul Chaney slouching along in the twilight, and hailed
him: "What news from the sperrits, Saul?"

"Nothing for you, Al Golyer," said Saul, gloomily. "The god of this world
takes care of the like o' you."

Golyer smiled, as a prosperous man always does when his poorer neighbors
abuse him for his luck, and rejoined: "I ain't so fortunate as you think
for, Saul Chaney. I lost a Barksher pig yesterday: I reckon I must come up
and ask Gershom what's come of it."

"Come along, if you like. It's been a long while sence you've crossed my
sill. But I'm gitting to be quite the style. Young Lawyer Marshall is
a-coming up this evening to see my Gershom."

Before Mr. Golyer started he filled a basket, "to make himself welcome and
pay for the show," with the reddest and finest fruit of his favorite apple
tree. His wife followed him to the gate and kissed him--a rather unusual
attention among Western farmer-people. Her face, still rosy and comely,
was flushed and smiling: "Al, do you know what day o' the year it is?"

"Nineteenth of Aprile?"

"Yes; and twenty years ago to-day you planted the Blood Seedlin' and I
give you the mitten!" She turned and went into the house, laughing
comfortably.

Allen walked slowly up the hollow to the Chaney house, and gave the apples
to Seraphita and told her their story. A little company was assembled--two
or three Chaney Creek people, small market-gardeners, with eyes the color
of their gooseberries and hands the color of their currants; Mr. Marshall,
a briefless young barrister from Warsaw, with a tawny friend, who spoke
like a Spaniard.

"Take seats, friends, and form a circle o' harmony," said Saul Chaney.
"The me'jum is in fine condition: he had two fits this arternoon."

Gershom looked shockingly ill and weak. He reclined in a great hickory
arm-chair, with his eyes half open, his lips moving noiselessly. All the
persons present formed a circle and joined hands.

The moment the circle was completed by Saul and Seraphita, who were on
either side of their son, touching his hands, an expression of pain and
perplexity passed over his pale face, and he began to writhe and mutter.

"He's seein' visions," said Saul.

"Yes, too many of 'em," said Gershom, querulously. "A boy in a boat, a man
on a shelf, and a man with a spade--all at once: too many. Get me a
pencil. One at a time, I tell you--one at a time!"

The circle broke up, and a table was brought, with writing materials.
Gershom grasped a pencil, and said, with imperious and feverish
impatience, "Come on, now, and don't waste the time of the shining ones."

An old woman took his right hand. He wrote with his left very rapidly an
instant, and threw her the paper, always with his eyes shut close.

Old Mrs. Scritcher read with difficulty, "A boy in a boat--over he goes;"
and burst out in a piteous wail, "Oh, my poor little Ephraim! I always
knowed it."

"Silence, woman!" said the relentless medium.

"Mr. Marshall," said Saul, "would you like a test?"

"No, thank you," said the young gentleman. "I brought my friend, Mr.
Baldassano, who, as a traveler, is interested in these things."

"Will you take the medium's hand, Mr. What's-your-name?"

The young foreigner took the lean and feverish hand of Gershom, and again
the pencil flew rapidly over the paper. He pushed the manuscript from him
and snatched his hand away from Baldassano. As the latter looked at what
was written, his tawny cheek grew deadly pale. "Dios mio!" he exclaimed to
Marshall. "This is written in Castilian!"

The two young men retired to the other end of the room and read by the
tallow candle the notes scrawled on the paper. Baldassano translated: "A
man on a shelf--table covered with bottles beside him: man's face yellow
as gold: bottles tumble over without being touched."

"What nonsense is that?" said Marshall.

"My brother died of yellow fever at sea last year."

Both the young men became suddenly very thoughtful, and observed with
great interest the result of Golyer's "test." He sat by Gershom, holding
his hand tightly, but gazing absently into the dying blaze of the wide
chimney. He seemed to have forgotten where he was: a train of serious
thought appeared to hold him completely under its control. His brows were
knit with an expression of severe almost fierce determination. At one
moment his breathing was hard and thick--a moment after hurried and
broken.

All this while the fingers of Gershom were flying rapidly over the paper,
independently of his eyes, which were sometimes closed, and sometimes
rolling as if in trouble.

A wind which had been gathering all the evening now came moaning up the
hollow, rattling the window-blinds, and twisting into dull complaint the
boughs of the leafless trees. Its voice came chill and cheerless into the
dusky room, where the fire was now glimmering near its death, and the only
sounds were those of Gershom's rushing pencil, the whispering of Marshall
and his friend, and old Mother Scritcher feebly whimpering in her corner.
The scene was sinister. Suddenly, a rushing gust blew the door wide open.

Golyer started to his feet, trembling in every limb, and looking furtively
over his shoulder out into the night. Quickly recovering himself, he
turned to resume his place. But the moment he dropped Gershom's hand, the
medium had dropped his pencil, and had sunk back in his chair in a deep
and deathlike slumber. Golyer seized the sheet of paper, and with the
first line that he read a strange and horrible transformation was wrought
in the man. His eyes protruded, his teeth chattered, he passed his hand
over his head mechanically, and his hair stood up like the bristles on the
back of a swine in rage. His face was blotched white and purple. He looked
piteously about him for a moment, then crumpling the paper in his hand,
cried out in a hoarse, choking voice, "Yes, it's a fact: I done it. It's
no use denying on't.. Here it is, in black and white. Everybody knows it:
ghosts come spooking around to tattle about it. What's the use of lying? I
done it."

He paused, as if struck by a sudden recollection, then burst into tears
and shook like a tree in a high wind. In a moment he dropped on his knees,
and in that posture crawled over to Marshall: "Here, Mr. Marshall--here's
the whole story. For God's sake, spare my wife and children all you can.
Fix my little property all right for 'em, and God bless you for it!" Even
while he was speaking, with a quick revulsion of feeling he rose to his
feet, with a certain return of his natural dignity, and said, "But they
sha'n't take me! None of my kin ever died that way: I've got too much sand
in my gizzard to be took that way. Good-bye, friends all!"

He walked deliberately out into the wild, windy night.

Marshall glanced hurriedly at the fatal paper in his hand. It was full of
that capricious detail with which in reverie we review scenes that are
past. But a line here and there clearly enough told the story--how he went
out to plant the apple tree; how Susie came by and rejected him; how he
passed into the power of the devil for the time; how Bertie Leon came by
and spoke to him, and patted him on the shoulder, and talked about city
life; how he hated him and his pretty face and his good clothes; how they
came to words and blows, and he struck him with his spade, and he fell
into the trench, and he buried him there at the roots of the tree.

Marshall, following his first impulse, thrust the paper into the dull red
coals. It flamed for an instant, and flew with a sound like a sob up the
chimney.

They hunted for Golyer all night, but in the morning found him lying as if
asleep, with the peace of expiation on his pale face, his pruning-knife in
his, heart, and the red current of his life tinging the turf with crimson
around the roots of the Blood Seedling.

JOHN HAY.



The Marquis.



Mrs. Ruggles lived near Crawfish Creek. Crawfish Creek ran near Thompson
City. Thompson City was in a Western State, but now is in a Middle one. It
was always in the midst of a great country--accepting local testimony and
a rank growth of corn and politicians as the tests of greatness. The earth
there was monotonously parched in summer, and monotonously muddy at all
other times. The forests were gigantic, the air carbonic, and when the
citizens wished to give Thompson City the highest commendation, they did
so by saying that "fevernagur" was worse in some other places.

In the parlor of Mrs. Ruggles, which was also her kitchen and dining-hall,
hung a frame containing a seven-by-nine mirror, which was the frame's
excuse for being, although a compartment above and one below held squares
of glass covered with paint instead of mercury. The lower one was colored
like the contents of a wash-tub after a liberal use of indigo; and in the
centre was a horizontal stroke of red, surmounted by a perpendicular dash
of white, intersected by an oblique line of black--all of which
represented a red boat, with a white sail and black spar, making an
endless voyage across the lake of indigo. The black crosses in the sky
were birds. The black lines on the left were bulrushes. And among these
bulrushes a certain gloomy little object was either a Hebrew prophet or a
muskrat.

Above the mirror was painted a long-tailed coat, from behind which
extended a hand holding a bell-crowned hat, to whose scarlet lining the
holder seemed inviting the spectator's particular attention. There were
also a pair of legs and boots, a heavy shock of hair, a labyrinth of
neckcloth and a florid human face. Under the boots were the words,

MARQUIS DE LA FAYETTE.

And the beholder was ever in doubt whether the marquis was trying to stand
exclusively upon this title or was unconsciously trampling it into the
ground.

Mrs. Ruggles admired this picture. Her knowledge of French was not great,
but her ear was delicate; and thinking the words "sounded handsome," she
had deliberately conferred them in full on her first-born. When in
good-humor she was content with calling him "Marquis-dee." In fact, it was
only when chasing him into the street with a lilac bush in her hand that
she insisted on addressing him by his full name. At such times, between
each flourish of the lilac bush and each yell of the young nobleman, she
pronounced with significant fullness, with fearful exactness, the
handsome-sounding name of Marquis de la Fayette Ruggles. His playmates,
however, had not the delicate ear of the mother, and as the son had brown
specks on his face, he was popularly known as "Frecky Rug."

Mrs. Ruggles and her late husband were pioneers in the Crawfish Valley.
Subsequent settlers knew little, and apparently cared less, about her.
They knew, however, that she had been a Peables, and that Peables blood
was still doing its duty in her veins. And from her independence and
reserve they argued that the Peableses must have been "high up"--at least
in the estimation of Mrs. Ruggles. After Mr. Ruggles had been overcome by
malaria in clearing the creek bottoms the pride of the Peables blood had
sustained her in a long, brave fight with circumstances.

It was while he lay one night upon his deathbed, mistaking a watching
neighbor for his wife, that he started up, saying, "Becky, if I could
prove it to you afore I died!"

"Out of his head," was the quiet remark of Mrs. Ruggles to the watching
neighbor by the bedside. There was no further sign of delirium. That
exclamation of the dying Mr. Ruggles was a mystery to the women of
Crawfish Creek, and remains so to this day.

It may be that the pride of Mrs. Ruggles was in excess of her wisdom. It
may be if that pride had been a little more respected by the irreverent
Crawfish settlers, they would not have had occasion to wonder, as they did
wonder, how a heart so true, an honesty so stoical, a discrimination so
acute could exist with an independence so absurd, a mind so uncultured, a
sense of dignity so ridiculous as were found united in her character. It
may be that the Peables blood was worthy of receiving honor as great as
the ridicule it did receive. It may be if the world had known the
Peableses it would have been as proud of them as she was.

She was a person of scrupulous neatness, careful never to be seen by
strangers except in a tidy dress, and with her hair in a Grecian knot,
gracefully secured by a leather string and a wooden peg. "Weak creepings"
were her main reliance in the way of disease. She was also troubled, at
times, with a "fullness of the head." In addition, there were other times
when her right side "felt separate." But she seldom complained of anything
belonging to herself. Even her maladies, she took pleasure in knowing,
were very different from those enjoyed by certain other women. Unwilling
to be too familiar with any one baser than a Ruggles, she usually dined,
as she lived, alone with her noble son.

On a certain summer evening she stirred her tea a long time in silence.
She stirred it vigorously, creating a maelstrom inside her cup, where,
very like a whale in the story-books, a little crust of bread disappeared
and reappeared, and sailed round and round as if very much perplexed. Then
she unconsciously reversed the current of the maelstrom, sending the baked
and buttered whale to the bottom.

[Illustration: "She smilingly waited a moment for the composure of the
young naturalist's feelings."]

"I never see that air Miller, no odds how well I be," she remarked
mechanically to the tea-pot, "but what I feel weak creepin's come over me.
He puts dye-stuff on his baird. An' when a man's whiskers is gray an' his
head keeps black, it's a sign he uses his jaw more'n he does his brains.
An' that yaller-headed doll-baby o' his'n--the peert thing:--I'll lay
fifty cents she never washed a dish. To think o' her sayin' a thing like
that about Markis-dee!--an' there's more o' the Peables in him to-day--But
I s'pose she don't know no better." And Mrs. Ruggles rose from the table,
while the corner of her apron made a sudden journey to the corner of her
eye. It was evident her moral nature had received a wound that rankled.

A year before this time the marquis and his playmates had watched several
vigorous fellows plant a theodolite on the bank of Crawfish Creek, very
much as the natives must have watched the Spaniards plant their first
cross on San Salvador. The contract for grading the new railway bed was in
the hands of a stranger named Miller, who was said to have known better
days, and in the time of his prosperity had been thought a proper person
to be called Colonel. He was a bluff man of forty years, who appeared to
have known both the ups and downs of life, and whose determination to wear
a black beard was equaled only by its determination to be gray. Rumor said
that he had been a railroad president, that he made and spent vast sums of
money, and that his home was somewhere in the East.

His only child, Alice, ten or twelve years old, bright, fair, full of
animal spirits, who was indulged to the last degree by the roughly
generous colonel, sometimes accompanied him about the half-developed
country, searching for strange birds and blossoms in the woods or watching
demurely the laborers ply their picks and shovels while he inspected their
work.

The two rode almost daily between Thompson City and the line of
excavation, passing the house of Mrs. Ruggles and a cool spring by the
roadside near it, whence that lady had obtained the water which made the
tea which was stirred into the maelstrom which has been described. While
obtaining it, clad in her working garb, the patter of hoofs and a clear
girlish laugh--sweet as the carol of a meadow lark--came ringing along the
road. As the colonel and Alice halted to let her high-mettled pony and his
heavier Morgan drink, Mrs. Ruggles, who could not otherwise escape
observation, with becoming pride and modesty stepped behind the thick
willows, leaving the marquis with a pail of water between his legs and a
bunch of mottled feathers in his hand.

He stood dumb before the lovely girl, with her face sparkling from
exercise and enjoyment, and her golden hair escaping from its prison of
blue ribbons. While the horses drank she espied a cluster of cool violets
brightening the damp grass near the spring. The marquis had presence of
mind enough left to step forward and pluck them. Her "Thank you!" added
greatly to his embarrassment, which he expressed by vigorously twisting
the mottled feathers.

"What bird are those from?" asked Alice.

The question so increased his embarrassment that now the marquis could
express it only by chewing his cap, and she smilingly waited a moment for
the composure of the young naturalist's feelings.

"She was a low, chunky hen," said he, at length--"she was a low, chunky
hen, an' she laid a hundred an' seven eggs, an' then she had spazzums an'
whirled roun' till she died."

A burst of irrepressible laughter escaped Alice, with the exclamation,
"Did anybody ever see such a boy?" as she and her father rode away. And
those were the exceptionable words concerning her son which so rankled
that evening in the heart of Mrs. Ruggles.

The marquis gazed with hungry eyes after the airy little figure as it
dashed down the unlovely, worm-fenced road. The golden hair, overflowing
its boundaries of blue ribbon, was more glorious to him than the golden
sunshine overflowing the blue sky. They met no more at the spring, but
several times a week, from a respectful distance, he watched her riding
by. From Thompson City to the little log bridge over Crawfish Creek the
road lay for four miles through heavy woods. Then came cleared fields, and
soon the house of Mrs. Ruggles.

So the summer days went by. The season was waning, the grading was almost
done, and soon the contractor would be elsewhere. Then came one
particularly warm and sultry day. The screams of locusts everywhere
suggested that they were frying. The colonel, riding once more slowly out
toward the workmen with his daughter, was near the middle of the forest.
The trees on either hand were tall, and the road was so straight and
narrow that the sunlight scarcely touched it. The marquis, in the top of a
tall chestnut that overhung the road near the edge of the wood, was
overhauling a nest of flying squirrels--perhaps in the hope of finding
mottled feathers on their wings. From his elevation he could see for a
great distance down the level, dusty road between the trees, and far
across the surrounding country.

The sun did not shine bright, yet no cloud was in the sky. The atmosphere,
thick, oppressive, opaque, veiled the horizon with strange gloom. Not a
leaf could stir in the vast forest. Not a dimple nor the semblance of a
current broke the surface of the sluggish creek. Not a sound, save the
interminable frying of the locusts.

The colonel slackened his pace, surprised that his horse should so soon
begin to drip and pant--Alice, familiar with the road, in the mean time
riding a mile ahead. The marquis clung to the topmost branches, looking at
the still sky far above him, the still stream far below him, the still
tree-tops far around him, till he caught a glimpse of the only interesting
object to be seen--a black pony bearing its usual burden, if Alice Miller
could be called a burden, and pacing leisurely up the road beneath him. He
gazed as far as the palisade of trees permitted, but her father was not
yet in sight.

Suddenly, in the west, a single vein of lightning darted down the sky. A
few trees shuddered as if to shake the gathering shadows from their
bosoms. Then tenfold stillness. A bird flew past with a scream of terror,
the marquis looking in vain to see a hawk pursuing it. The distant moan of
a cow came from the fields. Not another sound, it seemed, was in the
world.

In an instant the south-west was black. A strange, remote murmur smote the
colonel's ear. Overhead he could see but a strip of hot, hazy sky. Had he
seen the whole heavens, he could have done nothing but go on. Quickly the
murmur became an awful muttering, then a deafening roar. The clatter, the
rush, the crash of a tornado were behind him. The groans of the very earth
were about him. The darkness of twilight was upon him. Alice and Death
were before him. A cloudy demon, towering high as the heavens, in whose
path nothing could live, was striding near and nearer.

Farm-houses were overthrown. Trees were twisted off from their roots and
torn to pieces. Wild animals and birds were dashed to death. Streams were
emptied of their waters. Human beings and horses and cattle were lifted
into the air, hurled hither and thither and thrown dead upon the earth.

The whirlwind was following the line of the road! Colonel Miller had no
opportunity to see this, nor could he ride aside from that line if he
chose. He could but cry aloud, "My darling! O God! Alice!" and lash his
horse forward. The high, close forest would keep the wind from lifting his
horse from the ground or himself from the saddle. But the great trees
crashed like thunder behind him. Their fragments whirled above him. Their
branches fell before him. The limb of a huge oak grazed his face, crushed
his horse, and both rolled to the ground, blinded with dust, imprisoned
within a barricade of splintered trunks and shattered tree-tops.

The marquis, from his high lookout, saw, before any one else, the
approaching tornado, and, descending like a flash, he yet noted its
direction. As Alice reached the foot of his tree he was on the ground, had
seized the pony's mane, was half seated and half clinging in front of her,
had snatched the reins from her hand, and was urging the frightened animal
to its utmost speed. Overcome with terror and confusion, Alice clung
instinctively to the saddle and to him, without hearing his hurried advice
to "stick like a old burdock."

They shot like an arrow up the road. The noise of the tempest was audible.
Closer it was coming, crushing, rending, annihilating all before it. The
way grew darker. The terrified pony scarce touched the ground. His only
will was to go forward, and he still obeyed a firm use of the bit. But who
could hope to outrun a hurricane? Twelve miles an hour against eighty! The
marquis heeded nothing. Not far behind, the road was but a slash of
fallen, writhing tree-tops. The sweat dropped from his face. He dared not
look behind.

They reached it--the lane, by the log bridge, running at right angles to
the road--and in a moment, behind them, that lane was choked with whirling
debris.

But in that moment they had cleared the track of the whirlwind. For the
first time Alice comprehended the conduct of the marquis. For the first
time he turned to see. A quarter of a mile each side the road the
hurricane had carried complete desolation. But after passing the heavy
timber it had veered several degrees, and was sparing the house of Mrs.
Ruggles.

With a white face she met them at the gate. A word of explanation from the
marquis--an ejaculation of mental anguish from the girl. Two fugitive
tie-choppers from the woods turned back to find the colonel's body. Mrs.
Ruggles, carrying Alice in her arms to the door--the yaller-headed
doll-baby that never washed a dish--did what she could to soothe her, but
did it as silently as possible.

Mrs. Ruggles intercepted the returning tie-choppers in the lane. A look of
eager joy was in their faces. The bruised colonel, assisted to the
threshold, sank into the big arm-chair, and Alice was in his arms. Mrs.
Ruggles did not see their meeting, not at all. No, her back was toward
them, but the corner of her apron made another journey to the corner of
her eye as the father folded his lost child once more to his heart.

His desire to express his gratitude to Mrs. Ruggles and her boy was
equaled only by her fears that he would do so. As a last resort he called
the marquis to him, and, while a tear stood on his rough cheek, drew a
handful of money from his pocket. But a bony hand appeared majestically
between them, and a voice said, "Not by no means. We're not them kind o'
persons. Markis-dee, put away the camfire."

Then a rickety gig rattled up to the gate: "Contusion--severe--no
danger--there!--be lame a while--so!--the other bandage--bridge
gone--creek half dry--bend your leg--so!--current turned up-stream--now
the shoulder--not strange Crawfish Creek should run backward--he! he!" And
the rickety gig rattled merrily off in search of broken bones.

Alice, meeting the marquis outside the door, approached him in a way that
made him tremble. What was said will never be known, but she placed her
white little hand upon his shoulder, the golden head bowed for a moment
and her sweet lips touched his sunburnt face.

By remaining quiet that night the colonel would be able to get back to
Thompson City in the morning. Before nine o'clock he was at rest in the
bed-room. A couch for Alice had been prepared in the same room. In the
other--kitchen, parlor and dining-hall--a blanket was thrown down for the
marquis, and two chairs fixed for the bed of Mrs. Ruggles. Before
retiring, however, she sat down at her lonely table, where,
notwithstanding the tea she drank to keep them off, an unusual number of
weak creepings came over her.

"I couldn't help it," was all she said to the tea-pot. Whether she
referred to the tornado, or her kindness to the sufferers, or to the
manner of rendering the kindness, no one knows. That was all she said to
the tea-pot, but to her son, who sat for a while beside her, she spoke in
a low tone: "Markis-dee, you could never c'verse with her. You're better'n
she is. Put her out o' yer head. She laughed at ye."

"But she kissed me wi' tears in 'er eyes afterward," was his answer as he
turned toward his bed on the floor.

An hour later the tea was exhausted, but Mrs. Ruggles yet sat at her
lonely table, as still as the sleepers around her. The clock struck ten:
she nervously drew a soiled paper from her bosom. Eleven: she rose with
hesitation and set the tallow candle behind the door. Then she softly
entered the bed-room and stood before the window where Alice lay. The sky
was clear again. The moon shone on the face and form of the sleeping girl,
making softer their graceful lines, richer the shadows in the golden hair,
tenderer the tint of cheek and lip.

She stepped again into the shade and stole to the colonel's bedside. His
disturbed mind had turned backward over the path of life from the sudden
death escaped, and, sleeping or waking, his memory had been busy with the
people and events of other days.

"John Miller!" she said, in a suppressed tone. He started. "John Miller, I
know ye. Common name--I wa'n't sure afore to-day. When you pulled that
money out o' yer pocket I see that in yer face that satisfied me. It's fer
the good name o' the dead I've come. Elseways I never'd ha' troubled ye."
The astonished colonel shifted his position painfully, prepared to speak
or to listen. "There yer girl lies in the light o' heaven. Nex' room my
boy lies in the shadder an' dark. He don't know, an' he never will. John
Miller, I married as honest an' as good a man as ever you see. Folks has
come to me in sickness an' trouble, an' gone behin' my back to talk. Some
said I done right to take him--'twas Christian in me. Some said I must ha'
been a fool. Some said we wa'n't married a-tall. Wasn't I a Peables?
Didn't I know 'twould be flung up to my face? Wasn't I prouder'n any on
'em?"

A moment's confusion and doubting of senses: then, as the suppressed voice
went on, the colonel remembered. A dozen years ago; before he had meddled
with railroads; back in the old town; soon after taking his father's shop;
he was plaintiff; Ruggles worked in the first room; Porter's testimony;
Becky Peables the sweetheart of both; burglary; loss trifling; George
Ruggles, for one year; came back and married when released; went West. The
old case had scarce crossed his mind for years.

"Yes, you sent him, an' I waited fer him. The day he come out I married
him. We had to dig hard. I'd do it ag'in. Now his boy's saved yer girl's
life to pay ye fer puttin' his father'n State's pris'n. Two year ago
didn't Bill Porter--sick an' a-dyin'--hunt till he foun' me here? Didn't
he go an' swear? Done fer spite. Didn't he sen' me the affydavy?--an' I've
got it safe. Got it swore to by him, with the justice o' the peace's name
signed, an' two witnissis, an' the judge's red seal on top o' that. Could
I go back an' show that paper'n tell how 'twas? Too late! George was dead.
I couldn't go. My folks a'most disowned me when I took him. I said then I
never'd step my foot into their doors. Them that gives me the col'
shoulder once don't do it no more. Come to me?--well an' good. Go to
them?--never."

The bewildered colonel, promising every possible reparation, would have
thrown himself at her feet, could he have done so, for the part he had
taken in the prosecution. But she permitted no interruption, and
continued: "He lay by the winder where yer girl lies. The moon come in on
his bed as it does on her'n. In the night, when I see the light o' the sky
shine there where he died, I feel his sperit in the room. I moved the bed
to this corner, where it's darker. I wa'n't good enough to lie there. But
'twas on his mind. He said, 'Becky, if I could prove it to you afore I
died!' An' I say, George's sperit sent Bill Porter here, an' sent you
here, an' sent me into this room to-night. Now, fer the sake o'him an'
Markis-dee, go back an' tell the truth!"

Speaking the word "truth," she vanished across the light to her dark place
of rest.

Next morning the colonel examined and copied the confession while a buggy
waited for him at the door. Respecting the evident wishes of Mrs. Ruggles,
he went away with no attempt to express the feelings that were uppermost
in his heart.

She sleeps beside her husband in the orchard. Her old log-house has been
replaced by a large white box, of which her son the marquis is proprietor.
Each year adds to his acres or his stock. An able-bodied wife, whose
industry and English are equal to his own, sits near him at the door on a
summer evening, while he smokes his pipe, takes an oakum-headed child upon
his knee, and gazes quietly in the direction of the spring and across the
grain-fields where once he saw--or rather heard, without waiting to see--a
forest swept down in a moment. He smokes and gazes as he sees again a
dazzling creature ride down the dreary road, and wonders where on earth
that face can be, and how much it has changed, and whether, through so
many years, any memory of him can linger in her heart. He says nothing.
But he hugs closer the oakum-headed child as he remembers the one romance
in his hard, humdrum life.

CHAUNCEY HICKOX.



Under False Colors.



Chapter I.

Hoisting The Flag.



A dreary, murky November day brooded over Southampton, and an impenetrable
fog hung over sea and shore alike, penetrating the clothing, chilling the
blood and depressing the spirits of every unlucky person who was so
unfortunate as to come within the range of its influence. The passengers
on the steamship America, from Bremen for New York via Southampton, found
the brief period of their stay at the latter port almost unendurable; and
while some paced the wet decks impatiently, others grumbled both loudly
and deeply in the cabins, or shut themselves up in their state-rooms in
sulky discomfort. Those who remained on deck had at least the amusement of
watching for the steamboat which was to bring the Southampton
passengers--a pastime which, however, being indefinitely prolonged, began
to grow wearisome. It came at last--a wretched little vessel, rather
smaller than the smallest of the noisy tugs that puff and paddle on our
American rivers--and the wet, sick, unsheltered passengers were gradually
transferred to the deck of the ship.

Among those who appeared to have suffered most severely from the rocking
of the miserable little steamboat was a young, fair-haired girl,
apparently about seventeen years of age, who seemed almost insensible. She
would have fallen had not one of her fellow-travelers, a lady evidently
not much her senior, thrown her arm around her; thus aided, she managed to
reach the steamer's deck and to totter down the staircase leading to the
ladies' cabin. The active, busy steward at once bustled up to the two
young girls:

"Your names, ladies, if you please. I will point out your state-rooms in a
moment. Miss Marion Nugent--Miss Rhoda Steele? Miss Nugent, berth No. 20,
state-room G--"

"Cannot I occupy the same state-room with this young lady?" interrupted
the taller girl, who was still lending the support of her arm to sustain
her half-fainting companion.

"Do not leave me, please," murmured the sufferer.

The steward threw a compassionate glance upon the pair, went away, and
after a short consultation with the unseen powers, returned and said that
the arrangement had been effected, and that they could take possession at
once of their state-room, into which he proceeded to usher them. It was
more spacious than such apartments usually are, and abounded with all
those little contrivances for comfort and convenience for which the
steamers of the North German Lloyds are justly famed. The invalid sank
down on the soft-cushioned little sofa and gasped painfully for breath.

"For Heaven's sake, get me some wine or some brandy!" exclaimed her
companion. "This poor thing seems very ill; and do tell the doctor to come
here at once."

With a quick, energetic movement, as she spoke she unclasped the heavy
waterproof cloak of the sufferer and threw it back, thus revealing a fair,
pallid face, framed in loosened curls of silky golden hair. It was a face
that must have looked singularly lovely when tinted with the rosy hues of
health, so delicate were the features and so large and blue the
half-closed eyes, but it was ghastly pale, and a livid, bluish tinge had
settled around the small mouth, whose ruby hues had fled to give place to
a sickly purple. The steward speedily returned with some brandy, the
bull's-eye was thrown open, and the cold sea air and potent spirit soon
asserted their restorative powers. She sat up, a more natural color
over-spreading her countenance, and she murmured inarticulately a few
words of thanks, while the kind-hearted steward hastened away again in
search of the doctor.

"I am subject to these attacks," she said, faintly; to her companion when
they were again left alone. "Only feel how my heart is beating."

The ship's surgeon soon made his appearance. He was a young, light-haired,
solemn-looking German, who shook his head and looked very grave as he
listened to the labored breathing and felt the bounding, irregular pulse
of the sufferer.

"It is a pity that the ship has started," he said in very good English,
"for I hardly think you are fitted to bear the fatigues of a sea-voyage at
this season of the year; and had we been still at anchor, I should have
counseled you to return to shore. But it is too late now, and you must try
to keep as quiet as possible. I would advise you to retire to your berth
at once: it will probably be a stormy night, and you had better settle
yourself comfortably before the motion begins to be unpleasant. I will see
you again in the morning, and if you feel worse meanwhile, let me know at
once."

The doctor and the steward then quitted the state-room, and its two
occupants, being left alone, surveyed each other curiously.

The active and energetic girl who had acted as spokeswoman and directress
throughout the brief scene we have just described had let fall her
waterproof cloak and stood arrayed in a black velvet jacket and dark silk
skirt, both much the worse for wear, and contrasting sadly with the neat
but simple traveling costume of her companion. But about her slender,
finely-proportioned figure there was an air of style and grace which lent
an elegance even to her shabby and faded finery, and which was wanting in
the owner of the fresher and more appropriate attire. Her face was
beautiful, with a singular and weird beauty which owed nothing of its
fascinations to the ordinary charms of delicate outlines and dainty
coloring. Her features were small and attenuated, and her complexion was
of a sallow paleness, whose lack of freshness seemed caused by dissipation
and late hours or by the ravages of illness. Heavy masses of soft silken
hair, black as midnight, with bluish reflections on its lustrous waves
_(bleu à force d'être noir_, as Alexandre Dumas describes such tresses),
untortured by crimping-pins or curling-tongs, were rolled back in plain
folds above her low, broad brow. Her eyes would have lent beauty to a
plainer face. Large almost to a fault, of that dark, clear blue which is
too perfect and too transparent ever to look black even under the shadow
of such long, thick eyelashes as shaded them in the present instance, they
were perfectly magnificent; and their lustrous azure and ever-varying
expression lent to the mobile countenance of their possessor its most
potent and peculiar charm.

She was the first to speak. "Do you not think you had better retire to
your berth?" she asked. "The rocking of the ship is increasing, and we had
better, early as it is, settle ourselves for the night, before it becomes
so violent as to prevent us from moving."

At this moment two porters made their appearance laden with packages. Two
small new trunks--one marked R.S., the other M.N.--were deposited on the
floor and identified by their possessors. The sick girl then attempted,
with trembling hands, to disembarrass herself of her apparel, but it was
not without much assistance from her companion that she was enabled to
remove her traveling costume and make her preparations for retiring. At
last, however, she was ready, and was about to make an attempt to reach
the upper berth, which was the one allotted to her by number, when a
quick, imperative gesture from her companion stopped her.

"No, no," she said: "you must take the lower berth. I can reach the upper
one without any trouble, and you are not strong enough for so much
exertion."

"You are very, very kind," said the invalid, gratefully. She sank back on
the pillow and watched the other for some minutes in silence, as she
quietly and quickly gathered up and put in order the scattered articles
with which the state-room was strewn.

"Will you not give me that little black bag?" she said at last. "Thanks!
that is it. I wished to be certain that I had put my letter of
introduction in it. Ah! here it is, quite safe. It would never do for me
to lose that letter, for the lady with whom I am going to live as
governess has never seen me, and she might take me for an impostor were I
to come without it. An English lady who was her most intimate friend
engaged me for her. I wonder what New York is like?--very rough, and wild,
no doubt, and I am afraid I shall be much annoyed by the rattlesnakes. You
are going to New York too, are you not?"

"I am."

"Have you friends there?"

"None."

"I wish I had some acquaintances among our fellow-passengers, but I do not
know a single one. Do you?"

"No."

"You have not told me your name yet. Mine is Marion Nugent; and yours--"

"Is not so pretty a one--Rhoda Steele."

There was something in the tone of these replies that quelled the
invalid's disposition to talk, and she remained silent while her companion
finished her arrangements and prepared to take possession of her berth. It
was time that she did so. The threatened gale was by this time blowing in
earnest, and the ship was commencing to roll fearfully; so, after securing
all the boxes and bags as well as possible, and hanging up all the
scattered garments, she made a hasty retreat to her couch, and lay there
only half undressed, but utterly prostrate, and as unable to touch the tea
and biscuits brought by the attentive stewardess as was her more delicate
and suffering room-mate.

Time passed on: the daylight faded from the sky, a feeble glimmering lamp
shed its faint rays into the state-room, and the great steamship went
steadily on, though rocked and tossed like a plaything by the whistling
winds and angry sea. Then midnight came: the lights in the state-rooms
were extinguished and a profound silence reigned throughout the cabins,
broken only by the ceaseless throb of the mighty engines and the noisy
clanking of the screw.

The state-room was wrapped in profound darkness when Rhoda Steele awoke
with a start as from some troubled dream. Was she still dreaming, or did
she indeed hear a strange choking sound proceeding from the lower berth?
She sprang to the floor at once, heeding neither the darkness nor the
violent motion, and clinging to the side of the berth she called aloud.
There was no answer: even the gurgling, choking sound she had at first
heard had ceased. She put out her hand, and it encountered her companion's
face. It was deathly cold, and the features quivered as if convulsed under
her touch. Again she called aloud--still no answer; and then, thoroughly
frightened, she caught up a cloak from the sofa, threw it around her, and
opening the state-room door, she rushed into the cabin. It was almost
deserted. The lamps swung heavily overhead, swayed by the unceasing
rolling of the ship; a drowsy waiter slumbered at one of the tables, his
head resting on his folded arms; and one or two sleepy passengers tried to
maintain a recumbent posture on the broad sofas that lined the sides. The
cries of the terrified girl soon brought several of the waiters to her
assistance, and Captain Wessels himself, who had not retired to rest,
owing to the stormy weather, came to ascertain the cause of the unusual
disturbance. Her story was quickly told: lights were brought, and the
captain accompanied her back to the state-room.

It was a pitiful sight that met their eyes. The young girl lay motionless
in her berth, her face tinged with a livid bluish hue, her eyes closed,
and her small hands clenched as if in agony.

"The doctor!--run for the doctor!" was the instant and universal
exclamation. The doctor came. One look at the pallid face, one touch on
the slender wrist, and he turned with a grave face to the bystanders.

"There is nothing to be done," he said. "She is dead. I feared some such
catastrophe when I saw her last evening. She was in the last stages of
heart disease."

"And who was she?--what was her name?" asked kind-hearted Captain Wessels,
looking down with pitying eyes at the fair pale face.

The steward brought his lists.

"Berth No. 22," he read--"Miss Rhoda Steele."

"And this young lady?" continued the captain, turning to the other
occupant of the state-room, who had sunk back as if exhausted on the sofa,
still enveloped in the shrouding folds of her large waterproof cloak.

She raised her head. The answer came after a moment's hesitation--came
with a strange, defiant ring in its tone:

"My name is Marion Nugent."



Chapter II.

Under Full Sail.


More than a year has passed away since the events narrated in our first
chapter took place, and the curtain now rises on a far different scene--a
dinner-party in one of the most splendid of the gorgeous mansions on
Madison avenue, New York.

Mrs. Walton Rutherford, the giver of the entertainment in question, was a
member of a class unhappily now fast dying out of New York society--one of
those ladies of high social position and ancient lineage who adorn the
station which they occupy as much by their virtues as by their social
talents. A high-minded, pure-souled matron, a devoted wife and mother, as
well as a queen of society, inheriting the noble qualities of her
Revolutionary forefathers as well as their great estates--such was the
lady who presided over the brilliant festivity we are about to describe.
She had been left for many years a widow, and her surviving children--two
sons, Clement and Horace--were both of mature age; Horace, the younger,
being just thirty years old, and Clement, the elder, some seven years his
senior. Mrs. Rutherford herself was a few years over sixty. A year or two
before the period at which our story opens a terrible misfortune had
befallen her. Amaurosis--that most insidious and unmanageable of diseases
of the eye--had attacked her vision, and in a few months after it declared
itself she was totally, hopelessly blind. But, although debarred by her
infirmity from going into society, she still received her friends in her
own home; and her evening receptions and elegant dinners were always cited
as being among the most agreeable and successful entertainments of the
season.

Another sorrow had recently come to trouble the calm of her honored and
tranquil existence--the marriage of her eldest son. Clement Rutherford,
unlike any other member of the family, was a cold, reserved man,
unpleasant in temper and disagreeable in manner. When he was still quite a
boy, his mother's only sister, Miss Myra Van Vleyden, had died, and had
bequeathed to him the large fortune which she had inherited conjointly
with Mrs. Rutherford from her father, the two sisters being the only
children of Schuyler Van Vleyden. She was a soured, morose old maid, and
probably saw some congeniality of disposition in her eldest nephew which
caused her to single him out as her heir. After he attained to years of
manhood, he always manifested a decided antipathy to ladies' society, and
was generally looked upon as a confirmed old bachelor; so that when he
announced to his mother the fact of his engagement to Mrs. Archer's pretty
governess, Miss Nugent, her distress of mind was fully equaled by her
astonishment. The match met with her strongest disapproval, as was to have
been expected; for it was hardly probable that she, the oldest surviving
representative of the old Knickerbocker family the Van Vleydens, an
acknowledged leader of society by the triple right of wealth, birth and
intellect, should be inclined to welcome very warmly as a daughter-in-law
the penniless beauty who had been occupied for some months past in
teaching Mrs. Archer's little daughters the rudiments of French and music.
Moreover, the investigations and inquiries respecting the young lady's
origin which she had at once caused to be instituted on hearing of her
son's engagement, had revealed a state of affairs which had placed Miss
Nugent in a very unenviable light. Her parents were well born, though
poor. She was the daughter of a curate in the North of England, who had
lost his young wife by heart disease when Marion was but a few months old,
and two years later Mr. Nugent died of consumption, leaving his little
daughter to the care of his unmarried and elderly brother, the Reverend
Walter Nugent, who, though the living he held was but a small one,
contrived to rear and educate his niece as his own child. He had only
allowed her to leave him and become a governess on the assurance of the
village physician that her health was seriously impaired, and that a sea
voyage and complete change of scene would prove the best and surest of
restoratives. But the pained though manly tone of the letter in which he
replied to Mrs. Rutherford's inquiries had prepossessed that warm-hearted,
high-minded lady most strongly against her future daughter-in-law. "I
loved Marion always as though she were my own child," wrote Mr. Nugent,
"and I cannot but look upon her total neglect of me since her arrival in
America as being wholly inexcusable. She has never even written me one
line since her departure, and I learned of her safe arrival only by the
newspapers. I can but infer from her obstinate and persistent silence that
she wishes to sever all ties between herself and me, and I have resigned
myself to the prospect of a lonely and cheerless old age. I trust that she
may be happy in the brilliant marriage which, you say, she is about to
make, and I can assure her that her old uncle will never disturb her in
her new prosperity."

Mrs. Rutherford had one long, stormy interview with her eldest son, and
learning therein that his determination to marry Miss Nugent was fixed and
unalterable, she had with commendable wisdom accepted the situation, and
resolved to so order the conduct of herself and her relatives as to give
the scandalous world no room for that contemptuous pity and abundant
gossip which an open rupture between herself and her son would doubtless
have occasioned.

The manner of the wooing had been in this wise: John Archer, a sober,
staid gentleman of great wealth, was Clement Rutherford's most intimate
friend, and naturally, when the Archers moved into their new and splendid
villa at Newport, Clement was invited to spend a few weeks with them--an
invitation which he readily accepted. A few days after his arrival, Mrs.
Archer, who was a pretty, lively little coquette, not in the least sobered
by some thirteen years of married life, offered to drive him out in her
little phaeton. "John has just given me a new pair of ponies," she
said--"such perfect beauties and so gentle that I long to drive them." So
the pretty, stylish equipage, with its fair driver and faultless
appointments, made its first appearance on the avenue that afternoon, and
also, I am sorry to say, its last; for the "gentle beauties" afore-said,
excited to emulation by the number of spirited steeds around them, became
ambitious of distinction, and sought for and decidedly obtained it by
running away, thereby overturning the phaeton, breaking the harness,
bruising Mrs. Archer severely and dislocating Mr. Rutherford's ankle.

Mrs. Archer was as well as ever in a few days, but the injuries received
by her guest proved sufficiently serious to compel him to maintain a
recumbent position for a long time, and prevented him from walking for
several weeks. She made every arrangement possible for his comfort, and
she had a charming little reception-room on the ground floor, adjoining
the library, fitted up as a bed-chamber, and installed him there; so that
as soon as he was able to quit his bed for a sofa, he could be wheeled
into the latter apartment, and there enjoy the distractions of literature
and society. For a few days after he made his first appearance there his
lovely hostess was all attention and devotion; but, finding that he was
anything but an agreeable or impressionable companion, she soon wearied of
his society. Mr. Archer, shortly after the accident had taken place, had
been summoned from home by important business connected with some mining
property which he possessed, and which necessitated his presence in the
interior of Pennsylvania; so Mrs. Archer, thus left with the entertainment
of her most uncongenial guest exclusively confided to her care, came
speedily to the conclusion that he was a nuisance, and began to look about
for a substitute to relieve her from her unwelcome duties. She decided
that her pretty governess, who spoke French so well, and sang little
French _chansonettes_ so sweetly, and got herself up in such a charming
manner, giving so much "chic" and style even to the simplest of toilettes,
was just the person to take upon herself the task of amusing the
uninteresting invalid.

"_Do_ look after Mr. Rutherford a little, there's a dear, good creature,"
whispered Mrs. Archer confidentially to Miss Nugent. "He is dreadfully
tiresome, to be sure, but John thinks the world of him, you know, and it
would not exactly do to leave him alone all the time. I wish him to
receive every attention while he is in the house, of course; but as for
sitting for hours at a time with him in that stuffy little library--just
in the height of the season, too--why, I cannot think of doing it. If you
will just go and sit with him sometimes, and read to him a little, it will
be an absolute charity to me. I'll see that Alice and Emily do not get
into any mischief."

Which, considering that the young ladies in question were, one twelve, the
other ten years of age, and both much addicted to flirtation and dancing
the "German," was rather a rash promise and inconsiderately made.

So Miss Nugent was definitely installed as reader and _garde malade_ in
general, and Clement Rutherford soon learned to await her coming with
impatience and to welcome her with delight. All his life long will he
remember those summer days, when her voice and the low plash of the
far-off ocean waves wove themselves together into music as she read, and
when the blue splendors of her lustrous eyes lent a new meaning to the
poet's story as it flowed in melodious verses from her lips. Then came a
day when the book was laid aside, and the impassioned utterances of poetry
gave place to the more prosaic but not less fervent accents of a
newly-awakened passion. Cold, silent and morose as Clement Rutherford had
always been, it had so happened that but few women had ever attempted to
attract him, notwithstanding his wealth and social position; and the
interested motives of those few had been so apparent that he had been
repelled and disgusted, instead of being fascinated, by their wiles; so
that Miss Nugent's grace and beauty and syren charms proved all too potent
for his unoccupied though icy heart to resist; and thus it chanced that
the day before Mr. Rutherford left Newport he astonished his hostess by
requesting a private interview with her, and therein announcing his
engagement to her governess.

"You could have knocked me down with a feather," Mrs. Archer said
afterward to an intimate friend. "I never should have suspected that such
a quiet, stupid man as he was would fall in love in that ridiculous kind
of a way. Good gracious! how indignant old Mrs. Rutherford will be! and I
shall be blamed for the whole affair, no doubt. I wish John had never
brought the man here--I never _did_ like him; and then, too, it is so
provoking to lose Miss Nugent just now, while we are at Newport. Of course
I can find no one to replace her till we return to New York. Well, I
always _was_ an unlucky little woman."

The marriage took place in the latter part of September, only a few weeks
after the engagement had been first announced. Mrs. Rutherford, true to
her resolution of making the best of the affair, was careful that none of
the usual courtesies and observances should be neglected. The bridal gifts
from the Rutherford family, if less splendid, were as numerous as they
would have been had Mr. Rutherford married a member of his mother's
decorous, high-bred "set," and all his immediate relatives called most
punctiliously on the bride when the newly-wedded pair arrived in New York
after their six weeks' trip to Philadelphia and Washington.

Mr. Rutherford decided to take rooms at the Brevoort House till he could
purchase a suitable residence. His mother's splendid home was not thrown
open to receive him and his unwelcome bride, as it would have been had he
made a choice more consonant with her wishes.

But we have wandered far from the dinner given by Mrs. Rutherford in honor
of her new daughter-in-law, and with which our chapter commences.

It was a superb entertainment, as the Rutherford dinners usually were. The
service of gold plate purchased by Schuyler Van Vleyden when he was
minister to Austria adorned the table, which was also decorated with three
splendid pyramids of choicest flowers. An exquisite bouquet bloomed in
front of each lady's plate, and the painted blossoms on the peerless
dinner-service of rare old Sèvres vied in every respect save fragrance
with their living counterparts. An unseen orchestra, stationed in the
conservatory, sent forth strains of music, now grave, now gay, as Gounod
or Offenbach ruled the tuneful spirit of the hour. Twelve guests only were
present, including Mrs. John Archer, to whom Mrs. Rutherford had in this
fashion testified her forgiveness, and who had accepted the proffered
olive-branch with delight, wearing, in order to do honor to the occasion,
an exquisite dress, fresh from one of the most renowned _ateliers_ of
Parisian fashion. Mrs. Rutherford, as usual, notwithstanding her
infirmity, presided with unfailing grace and dignity; and in her splendid
dress of black satin, brocaded with bouquets of flowers in their natural
hues, her cap and collar of priceless old point lace, and her antiquely
set but magnificent ornaments of sapphires and diamonds, she still looked
a queen of society. A well-trained servant was stationed behind her chair,
who from time to time placed before her suitably-prepared portions of the
various delicacies of the entertainment, of which she slightly partook, in
order to obviate the restraint which her presence at the festivity without
participating in it would have occasioned. On her left hand sat her
younger son, Horace, whose watchful eyes followed her every movement, and
whose loving care anticipated her every wish. He was a tall,
stalwart-looking young man, fair-haired and blue-eyed, like his elder
brother, but his frank, joyous expression and winning manners bore no
resemblance to the sullen countenance and surly demeanor of Clement.

The bride was, of course, the, cynosure of all eyes. Attired in rich,
creamy-white satin, the corsage shaded with folds of delicate lace, with
coral ornaments on her neck and arms, and with the heavy masses of her
dark hair interwoven with coral beads, she looked extremely beautiful, and
was pronounced by the ladies present to be "handsome and stylish-looking,
but decidedly dull." This latter accusation was more truthful than such
charges usually are. Mrs. Clement Rutherford did feel unusually stupid.
She was _ennuyé_ by the long, formal, stately dinner; she knew but few of
the persons present; and her point-lace fan was frequently called into
requisition to conceal her yawns. The game had been served before her next
neighbor, a sprightly young New Yorker, who had been rather fascinated by
her beauty, contrived to arouse her into something like animation. He
succeeded at last, however, and it was not long before an unusually
brilliant sally drew a merry laugh from her lips. Her laugh was
peculiar--a low, musical, trilling sound, mirthful and melodious as the
chime of a silver bell.

As its joyous music rang on the air, Mrs. Rutherford turned ghastly pale.
She gasped convulsively, half rose from her seat and fell back in a
deathlike swoon.

Of course all was instantly confusion and dismay. The guests sprang up,
the waiters hurried forward--Horace was instantly at his mother's side.

"She has only fainted," he said in his clear, decided tones. "She will be
better in a few moments. Let me beg of you, my friends, to resume your
seats. Clement, will you oblige me by taking our mother's post?"

With the help of Mrs. Rutherford's special attendant, Horace supported the
already reviving sufferer from the room. They conveyed her to her sleeping
apartment, where restoratives and cold water were freely used, and she
soon regained perfect consciousness. But returning animation seemed to
bring with it a strange and overwhelming sorrow. When the servant had
retired, leaving her alone with her son, she refused to answer any of his
queries, and burying her face in her pillow, she wept with convulsive and
irrepressible violence. At length the very vehemence of her grief seemed,
by exhausting itself, to restore her to comparative calm: her tears ceased
to flow, her heavy sobs no longer shook her frame, and she remained for
some time perfectly quiet and silent. At length she spoke:

"Horace!"

"What is it, mother?"

"Describe to me the personal appearance of your brother's wife--minutely,
as though a picture were to be painted from your words."

It was no unusual request. Horace was in the habit of thus minutely
describing persons and places for his mother's benefit.

"She is rather below the middle height, and her form, though slender, is
finely moulded and of perfect proportions. Her hands and feet are
faultless, and her walk is extremely graceful, resembling more the gait of
a French-woman than that of an English girl. Her complexion is pale and
rather sallow, and her countenance is full of expression, which varies
constantly when she talks. The lower part of her face is somewhat too thin
for perfect beauty, and the chin is inclined to be pointed, and the cheeks
are rather hollow, but the upper part is superb. Her brow is low and
broad, and she folds back from it the heavy waves of her black hair in the
plainest possible style. Her eyes are her chief beauty, and would
transfigure any face into loveliness. They are very large, and of a dark,
transparent blue, of so lustrous and so perfect an azure that not even in
shadow do they look black. Stay--I can give you a better idea of her
appearance than by multiplying words. Did you, when you were in Munich,
visit the Gallery of Beauties in the Royal Palace?"

"I did."

"Do you remember the portrait of Lola Montez?"

"Certainly--as though I had seen it yesterday."

"Marion resembles that portrait very strikingly, particularly in the shape
and carriage of her head."

"I am not mistaken--it is she. Would that I had never lived to see this
day!" And Mrs. Rutherford wrung her hands in an agony of helpless,
hopeless distress.

"It is she?" repeated Horace, in perplexity. "Whom do you mean, mother?
Who was Marion Nugent?"

"She is not Marion Nugent--this impostor who has thrust herself into our
midst, bringing scandal and dishonor as her dower."

"And who, then, is she?"

Mrs. Rutherford turned toward him and fixed on his face her tear-bathed
eyes, as though sight were restored to her, and she were trying to read
his thoughts in his countenance.

"Why should I tell you?" she said, after a pause: "why reveal to you the
shameful secret, and tell of a misfortune which is without a remedy?
Clement is married: what words of mine can divorce him? And who will
believe the evidence of a blind woman? If I were not blind, I might openly
denounce her, but now--" And again she wrung her hands in unspeakable
anguish.

Horace knelt beside his mother's couch and folded her hands in his own.

"I will believe you, mother," he said, earnestly. "Trust me--tell me all.
If this woman whom my brother has married be an impostor, he may yet be
freed from the matrimonial chain."

"Could that be possible?"

"It may be. Let me try, at least. I will devote myself to your service if
you will but confide in me."

"Close the door, and then come near me, Horace--nearer still. I _will_
tell you all."

Two days later the steamship Pereire sailed from New York for Brest,
numbering among her passengers Horace Rutherford.



Chapter III.

Striking the Flag.


The events narrated in our last chapter took place early in November, and
it was not till the following March that the astonished friends of Horace
Rutherford saw him reappear amongst them as suddenly and as unexpectedly
as he had departed. "Business of importance" was the sole explanation he
vouchsafed to those who questioned him respecting the motive of his brief
European tour; and with that answer public curiosity was perforce obliged
to content itself. Society had, in fact, grown weary of discussing the
affairs of the Rutherford family. Clement Rutherford's _mesalliance_, his
mother's sudden illness at that memorable dinner-party, her subsequent
seclusion from the world, and Horace's inexplicable absence, had all
afforded food for the insatiable appetite of the scandal-mongers. Then
Gossip grew eloquent respecting the flirtations and "fast" manners of
Clement Rutherford's wife, and whispered that the old lady's seizure had
been either apoplexy or paralysis, brought on by her distress of mind at
her son's marriage, and that she had never been herself since. Next, the
elegant establishment of the newly-wedded pair on Twenty-sixth street,
with its gorgeous furniture and costly appointments, furnished a theme for
much conversation, and doubts were expressed as to whether the "Upper Ten"
would honor with its august presence the ball which Mrs. Clement
Rutherford proposed giving on Shrove Tuesday, which in that year came
about the middle of March. But as to that, it was generally conceded that
they would. Youth, beauty, wealth and the shadow of an old family name
could cover a multitude of such sins as rapid manners, desperate
flirtations and a questionable origin; and notwithstanding her fastness,
and, worse still, her _ci-devant_ governess-ship, Mrs. Clement Rutherford
was a decided social success.

On the day succeeding that oh which he had arrived, Horace made his
appearance at his brother's house. Clement had not heard of his return,
and received him with a cordiality strikingly at variance with his usual
manner.

"Come into the library," he said, after the first greetings had been
exchanged. "I have some fine cigars for you to try, and you can tell me
something about your travels."

"Thank you, Clement: I believe I must decline your offer. I have a message
for your wife: can I see her?"

A cloud swept over the brow of the elder brother.

"I suppose you can," he said, coldly, looking at his watch as he spoke.
"Two o'clock. She took breakfast about half an hour ago, so she is
probably at home. You had better go up stairs to her _boudoir_, as she
calls it, and Christine, her maid, will tell her that you wish to see
her."

He turned away, and was about to leave the room when Horace caught his
hand.

"Clement! brother! Answer me one question: Are you happy in your married
life?"

"Go ask the scandal-mongers of New York," was the bitter reply: "_they_
are eloquent respecting the perfection of my connubial bliss."

"If she had been a kind and affectionate wife, if she had made him happy,"
muttered Horace as he ascended the stairs, "my task would have been a
harder one. Now my duty is clear, and my course lies smooth and straight
before, me."

The room into which he was ushered by Christine, the pretty French maid,
was a perfect marvel of elegance and extravagance. It was very small, and
on every part of it had been lavished all that the combined efforts of
taste and expenditure could achieve. The walls had been painted in fresco
by an eminent Italian artist, and bevies of rosy Cupids, trailing after
them garlands of many-hued flowers, disported on a background of a
delicate green tint. The same tints and design were repeated in the
Aubusson carpet, and on the fine Gobelin tapestry which covered the few
chairs and the one luxurious couch that formed the useful furniture of the
tiny apartment. Étagères of carved and gilded wood occupied each corner,
and, together with the low mantelshelf (which was upheld by two dancing
nymphs in Carrara marble), were crowded with costly trifles in Bohemian
glass, Dresden and Sèvres porcelain, gilded bronze, carved ivory and
Parian ware. An easel, drawn toward the centre of the room, supported the
one painting that it contained, the designs on the walls being unsuited
for the proper display of pictures. This one picture had evidently been
selected on account of the contrast which it afforded to the gay coloring
and _riante_ style of the decorations. It was a superb marine view by
Hamilton--a cloudy sunset above a stormy sea, the lurid sinking sun
flinging streaks of blood-red light upon the leaden waters that, in the
foreground, foamed and dashed themselves wildly against the rocks of a
barren and precipitous shore.

Horace stood lost in contemplation before the easel, when the door opened
and his sister-in-law entered. He turned to greet her, and her beauty,
enhanced as it was by the elegance of her attire, drew from him an
involuntary glance of admiration. Her dress was an exemplification of how
much splendor may be lavished on a morning-costume without rendering it
absolutely and ridiculously inappropriate. She wore a robe of
turquoise-blue Indian cashmere, edged around the long train and flowing
sleeves with a broad border of that marvelous gold embroidery which only
Eastern fingers can execute or Eastern imaginations devise. A band of the
same embroidery confined the robe around her slender, supple waist, and
showed to advantage the perfection of her figure. A brooch and long
ear-pendants of lustreless yellow gold, and a fan of azure silk with
gilded sticks, were the adjuncts to this costume, whose rich hues and
gorgeous effects would have crushed a less brilliant and stylish-looking
woman, but which were wonderfully becoming to its graceful wearer.

"Welcome home, Horace!" she said in that low sweet voice which was one of
her most potent charms. "How kind it is of you to pay me a visit so soon
after your return!"

She placed herself on the couch and motioned to him to take a seat near
her. He drew up his chair, and a short, embarrassed pause succeeded.

Mrs. Rutherford toyed with her fan and stole glances from under her long
black lashes at her visitor, who sat twisting one of his gloves and
wishing most ardently that Providence had entrusted the painful task
before him to some one of a more obdurate and less chivalrous nature.

Wearied of silence, the lady spoke at last.

"Have you nothing of interest respecting your travels to tell me?" she
asked.

Her voice seemed to break the spell which paralyzed him. He turned toward
her with the look of one who nerves himself up to take a desperate
resolution:

"Yes: I have a story to relate to you, and one of more than common
interest."

"Really!" She yawned behind her fan. "Excuse me, but I was at Mrs.
Houdon's ball last evening, and the 'German' was kept up till five o'clock
this morning. I am wretchedly tired. Now do go on with your story: I have
no doubt but that I shall find it amusing, but do not be much surprised if
I fall asleep."

"I think you will find it interesting, and I have no fear of its putting
you to sleep. But you must make me one promise. I am but a poor narrator,
and you must engage not to interrupt me."

"I have no hesitation in promising to remain perfectly quiet, no matter
how startling your incidents or how vivid your descriptions may be."

She leaned back among the cushions with another stifled yawn and shaded
her eyes with her fan. Without heeding the veiled impertinence of her
manner, Horace commenced his narrative:

"Some twenty-five years ago a friendless, penniless Englishwoman died at
one of the cheap boarding-schools in Dieppe, where she had officiated for
some time as English teacher and general drudge. She left behind her a
little girl about five years of age--a pretty, engaging child, whose
beauty and infantile fascinations so won the heart of Madame Tellier, the
proprietress of the establishment, that she decided to take charge of the
little creature and educate her, her project being to fit her for the post
of English teacher in her school. But the pretty child grew up to be a
beautiful but unprincipled girl, with an inborn passion for indolence and
luxury. At the age of seventeen she eloped from the school with a young
Parisian gentleman, who had been spending the summer months at one of the
seaside hotels in Dieppe, and her benefactress saw her and heard of her no
more.

"We will pass over the events of the next few years. It would hardly
interest you to follow, as I did, each step by which the heroine of my
history progressed ever downward on the path of vice. We find her at last
traveling in Italy under the protection of the Count von Erlenstein, an
Austrian noble of great wealth and dissolute character. She has cast aside
the name she once bore, and, anticipating the jewel-borrowed cognomens of
Cora Pearl and La Reine Topaze, she adopts a title from the profusion of
pink coral jewelry which she habitually wears, and Rose Sherbrooke is
known as Rose Coral."

Horace paused. A short, sharp sound broke the momentary silence: it was
caused by the snapping of one of the gilded fan-sticks under the pressure
of the white, rigid fingers that clasped it. But the listener kept her
face hidden, and but for that convulsive motion the speaker might have
fancied that she slept, so silent and motionless did she remain. After a
short pause Horace continued:

"The attachment of Count von Erlenstein proved to be a lasting one, and we
find Rose Coral at a later period installed in a luxurious establishment
in Vienna, and one of the reigning queens of that realm of many
sovereigns, the _demi-monde_ of the gay capital of Austria. But the count
falls ill; his sickness speedily assumes a dangerous form; his death
deprives Rose Coral of her splendor; and the sunny streets of Vienna know
her fair face no more. I will not retrace for you, as I could do, each
step in her rapid descent from luxury to poverty, from splendor to vice,
from celebrity to ruin. But one day she makes her appearance, under the
name of Rhoda Steele, on board the steamship America, bound for New York.
The state-room which she occupies is shared by a young girl named Marion
Nugent, whose future career is to be that of a governess in the United
States. On the first night out one of the occupants of the state-room is
taken suddenly ill and dies, the corpse is committed to the deep, and it
is reported throughout the ship that the name of the deceased is Rhoda
Steele. The tale was false: it was Marion Nugent who died--it was Rose
Sherbrooke, _alias_ Rose Coral, _alias_ Rhoda Steele, who lived to rob the
dead girl of her effects and to assume her name!"

The broken fan was flung violently to the floor, and Mrs. Rutherford
sprang to her feet, her face livid with passion and her blue eyes blazing
with a steel-like light.

"How dare you come here to assert such falsehoods?" she cried. "You have
always hated me--you and all the rest of your haughty family--because it
pleased Clement Rutherford to marry me--me, a penniless governess. But I
am your sister-in-law, and I _demand _ that you treat me with proper
respect. You came here to-day simply to insult me. Well, sir, I will
summon my husband, and he shall protect me from your insolence."

She turned toward the door as she spoke, but he motioned her back with an
imperative and scornful gesture.

"Softly, Rose Coral," he said, with a sneer: "the manners of the Quartier
Brèda are not much to my taste, nor do they suit the character you have
been pleased to assume. Do you think me so void of common sense as to
return home without full proof of your identity? I have in my possession a
large colored photograph of you, taken some years ago by Hildebrandt of
Vienna, and endorsed by him on the back with a certificate stating that it
is an accurate likeness of the celebrated Rose Coral. Secondly, I have
brought home with me two witnesses--one is Jane Sheldon, late housekeeper
for the Rev. Walter Nugent, and formerly nurse to the deceased Marion
Nugent; and the other is a French hairdresser who lived many years in
Vienna, and who, for several months, daily arranged the profuse tresses of
Rose Coral. One will prove who you are _not_, and the other will as
certainly prove who you _are_."

"Who I _was_" she said, defiantly. "I will deny it no longer: I am Rose
Sherbrooke, once known as Rose Coral, and, what is more to the purpose, I
am the wife of Clement Rutherford. Have a care, my brother Horace, lest
you reveal to the world that your immaculate relatives have been touching
pitch of the blackest hue and greatest tenacity. Prove me to be the vilest
of my sex, I remain none the less a wedded wife--your brother's wife--and
I defy you. The game is played out, and I have won it."

She threw herself back in her chair and cast on him a glance of insolent
disdain. Horace Rutherford looked at her with a scornful smile.

"The game is _not_ played out," he said, calmly. "One card remains in my
hand, and I produce it. It is the Ace of Diamonds, and its title is The
Rose of the Morning."

A livid paleness overspread Mrs. Rutherford's features, and a stifled cry
escaped from her lips. She half rose from her seat, but, seeming to
recollect herself, she sank back and covered her face with her hands.
Horace continued, after a momentary pause:

"My investigations into the history of the Count Wilhelm von Erlenstein
during the last years of his life revealed the fact that he had lost the
most valuable of the jewels of his family. It had been stolen. It was a
pink diamond of great size and beauty, known to gem-connoisseurs by the
name of The Rose of the Morning--one of those remarkable stones which have
a history and a pedigree, and which are as well known by reputation to
diamond-fanciers as are Raphael's Transfiguration and the Apollo Belvidere
to the lovers of art. This gem was worn by Count Wilhelm as a clasp to the
plume in his toque at a fancy ball given by one of the Metternich family,
at which he appeared in the costume of Henri III. of France. He afterward,
with culpable carelessness, placed it, amongst his studs, pins,
watch-chains and other similar bijouterie, in a small steel cabinet which
stood in his bed-chamber. His illness and the dismissal of Rose Coral
occurred soon after the fancy ball in question, and it was not till his
heir, the present count, had been for some time in possession of the
estates that it was discovered that the great diamond was missing. It was
not to be found, and suspicion immediately fell upon the late count's
valet, a Frenchman named Antoine Lasalle; who was found to have been
mysteriously possessed of a large sum of money after the count's death. He
was arrested, and it was conclusively proved that he had stolen a number
of valuable trinkets from his dying master, but still no trace of The Rose
of the Morning could be discovered, and Lasalle strenuously denied all
knowledge respecting it. The family offered large rewards for its
recovery, and the detectives of all the large cities of Europe have been
for some time on the alert to discover it, but in vain. As soon as I heard
this story, I thought that I could make a tolerably shrewd guess as to the
whereabouts of the missing jewel; and I caused investigations to be set on
foot in New York by a trusty agent, which resulted in the discovery that
The Rose of the Morning had been sold some six months before to a jeweler
in Maiden lane for about one-twenty-fifth of its value, the peculiar tint
of the stone, and the purchaser's ignorance of the estimation in which it
is held by the gem-fanciers of Europe, having militated against the
magnitude of the valuation set upon it. It was secured for me at a
comparatively trifling price. The person who sold it to the jeweler some
six months ago, in spite of a partial disguise and an assumed name, was
easy to recognize, from the description given, as that lady of many names,
Mrs. John Archer's governess. Now, Rose Coral, what say you? You may be
Mrs. Clement Rutherford, my brother's lawful wife, but you are not the
less a thief and a criminal, for whom the laws have terrible punishment
and bitter degradation."

"This is but a poor invention: where are your proofs?" she cried, looking
up as she spoke, but her faltering voice and quivering lips contradicted
her words.

"Here is my chief witness." He drew off his left-hand glove as he spoke,
and extended his hand toward her. On the third finger blazed the beautiful
gem of which he had spoken, its great size and purity fully displayed in
the pale afternoon sunlight that flashed back in rosy radiance from its
bright-tinted depths.

"It is almost too large to wear as a ring," he said with great coolness,
looking at the jewel, "but I wish it to run no further risks till I can
transfer it to its lawful owner, which will be as soon as it has played
its talismanic part by freeing my brother from his impostor-wife."

The lady rose from her seat, pale, calm and resolved.

"Further insults are useless, sir," she said. "The game is ended now, and
you have won it. What is it that you wish me to do?"

"You must sail for Europe in one of next week's steamers, leaving behind
you such a confession of guilt as will enable my brother to procure a
divorce without revealing the shameful fact that he was the innocent means
of introducing an impostor--a _ci-devant_ lorette--to his family and
friends as his wife. Better this scandal of an elopement than the horror
of having such a story made public. An income amply sufficient for your
wants will be settled upon you, on condition that you never return to the
United States, and never, in any way, proclaim the fact that Mrs. Clement
Rutherford and Rose Coral were one and the same person."

"I accept your conditions," she said, wearily. "I will go, never to
return. Now leave me. But stay: will you not answer me one question?"

"I will, certainly."

"Who was it that discovered my secret?"

"My mother--my blind mother. Some years ago, before she lost her sight, I
accompanied her on a short European tour, in which we visited England,
France, Switzerland, and finally Italy. While we were at Rome I fell ill
with the fever of the country, and my physicians gave orders that as soon
as I was well enough to travel I should leave Italy for a more bracing
climate. We had not visited Naples, and I was anxious that my mother
should not return home without seeing the wonders of that city; so as soon
as I became convalescent I prevailed upon her to leave me in the care of
some friends and to join a party who were going thither. During her stay
she went frequently to the opera. One evening she was greatly disturbed by
the loud talking and laughing of some persons in the box next to the one
she occupied, and she was much struck with the beauty, the brilliant
toilette and the boisterous conduct of one of the female members of the
party. She inquired the name of the person she had thus remarked. It was
yourself, and she learned not only your name, but your whole history. When
at her own dinner-table she heard the sweet and singular laugh that had so
struck her on that occasion, the sensitiveness of hearing peculiar to the
blind caused her to recognize the sound at once; and the description which
I afterward gave her of your personal appearance only changed torturing
doubt into agonizing certainty."

"Thanks for your courtesy: I will detain you no longer."

Horace bowed and approached the door. Suddenly, as if moved by a sudden
impulse, he turned back.

"Believe me, this task has been a hard one," he said, earnestly. "And
remember, if hereafter you may need pecuniary aid, do not hesitate to
apply to me. For Heaven's sake, do not return to the life you once led.
There was one redeeming feature in the imposture which you practiced: it
showed that some yearning for a pure name and an innocent life was yet
possible to you."

"I want no sermons," she answered, abruptly. "Only leave me at peace. Go:
I am sick of the sight of you."

As he closed the door he cast one parting glance on the room and its
occupant. She stood leaning against the back of a large arm-chair, her
clasped hands resting on the top, and her white, rigid face set in the
fixed calmness of total despair.

Thus left alone, she remained standing for some time as motionless as
though she were a marble statue and not a living woman. Suddenly she
seemed to take some desperate resolve: she threw back her head with a
bitter, mirthless laugh, and going to the bell she rang it. Her maid
quickly appeared.

"I have a wretched headache, Christine," she said. "I shall not come down
to dinner, and do not disturb me till nine o'clock: that will give me time
enough to dress for Mrs. Winchester's ball. I will wear the pale-blue
satin and my point-lace tunic. Be sure you change the white roses that
loop it for pink ones, and lay out my parure of pearls and diamonds, and
my point-lace fan and handkerchief. Now bring me the two phials that stand
on the third shelf of the closet in my bed-chamber."

Christine departed on her errand and soon returned, bringing with her two
bottles, the smallest of which was labeled "Solution of Morphia--POISON.
Dose for an adult, ten drops;" while the largest Was simply inscribed
"Sulphuric Ether." These she placed on the chimney-piece, and then
proceeded to arrange the cushions of the lounge and to draw the curtains.
"I will now leave madame to her repose," she said. "Does madame need
anything more?"

"No, I shall want nothing more," was the reply. The door closed upon the
maid's retreating form, and Mrs. Rutherford instantly shot the bolt.

She cast a sad and wistful glance around the dainty room and on its
glittering contents. "_J'etais si bien ici_," she said regretfully. "I had
found here the existence which suited me, and now the end has come. It is
not in my nature to remain satisfied with a life of poverty and
respectability, and I will not return to one of degradation and vice. But,
after all, what does it matter? My fate would have found me sooner or
later, and this soft couch is better than a hospital bed or the slabs of
La Morgue: this draught is more soothing than the cold waters of the
Thames or the Seine. Life is no longer a game that is worth the candle:
let us extinguish the lights and put the cards away."

She took up the phial of morphia, drew the little sofa nearer to the
fireplace and extended herself upon it. The daylight faded from the sky
and night came, and with the night came sleep--a sleep whose dream was of
Eternity, and whose wakening light would be the dawn of the resurrection
morning.

"Accidental death" was the verdict of the coroner and the newspapers, and,
in fact, of the world in general--a conclusion much assisted by the
evidence of Christine, who testified that her mistress was in the habit of
using narcotics and anaesthetics in large quantities to relieve the pain
of the neuralgic headaches from which she was a constant sufferer. Society
said, "How sad! Dreadful, is it not?" and went on its way--not exactly
rejoicing, for the death of Mrs. Rutherford deprived its members of her
long-promised, long-talked-of Shrove-Tuesday ball, and consequently the
gay world mourned her loss very sincerely for a short time; in fact, till
a well-known leader of fashion announced her intention of giving a
fancy-dress party on the night thus left vacant, whereupon Society was
consoled, and Mrs. Rutherford's sad fate was forgotten.

Only two persons--Horace Rutherford and his mother--suspected that her
death was not an accidental one; but they guarded their secret carefully,
and Clement Rutherford will never learn that his dead wife was other than
the innocent English girl she represented herself to be. Walter Nugent
wrote a pathetic letter to Mrs. Rutherford, begging that a lock of his
lost and now forgiven darling's hair might be sent to him; and it cost
Horace a sharp pang of regret when he substituted for the black, wavy
tress furnished by Clement a golden ringlet purchased from one of the
leading hairdressers of New York.

"Heaven forgive me!" he said to himself, remorsefully, as he sealed the
little packet; "but I really think that this is one of the cases wherein
one cannot be blamed for not revealing the truth."

A few months later, Horace Rutherford stood in Greenwood Cemetery
contemplating with curiosity and interest the inscription on a
recently-erected monument of pure white marble.

"Sacred to the memory of Marion Nugent, beloved wife of Clement
Rutherford," he read. "Well, this is consistent at least. She wears the
disguise of a virtuous woman in her very tomb. Marion Nugent rests beneath
the waves of the Atlantic ocean, and here Rose Sherbrooke sleeps in an
honored grave beneath the shelter of the dead girl's stainless name. But
the deception has power to harm no longer, so let us leave her in peace.
It is well for our family that, even as a sunken wreck, we still find this
pirate bark Under False Colors,"

LUCY HAMILTON HOOPER.



The Hungry Heart.



A village on the coast of Maine; in this village a boarding-house; in this
boarding-house a parlor.

This parlor is, strictly speaking, a chamber: it is in the second story,
and until lately it contained a bed, washstand, etc.; but a visitor from
New York has taken a fancy to change it to a reception-room. In the rear,
communicating with it, is a sleeping-closet.

The room is what you might expect to find in a village boarding-house: the
floor of liliuptian extent; the ceiling low, uneven, cracked and yellow;
the originally coarse and ugly wall-paper now blotched with age; the
carpet thin, threadbare, patched and stained; the furniture of various
woods and colors, and in various stages of decrepitude.

But a tiny bracket or two, three or four handsome engravings, two fresh
wreaths of evergreens, two vases of garden flowers, a number of Swiss and
French knickknacks, and a few prettily-bound books, give the little nest
an air of refinement which is almost elegance.

You judge at once that the occupant must be a woman--a woman moreover of
sensibility and taste; a woman of good society. Of all this you become
positive when you look at her, take note of her gracious manner and listen
to her cultured voice.

Her expression is singularly frank and almost childlike: it exhibits a
rapid play of thoughts, and even of emotions: it is both vivacious and
refined, both eager and sweet. It would seem as if here were the
impossible combination, the ideal union, so often dreamed of by poets and
artists, of girlish simplicity and innocence with womanly cleverness and
feeling.

In a large easy-chair reclines her rather small, slender and willowy form,
starting slightly forward when she speaks, and sinking back when she
listens. Her sparkling eyes are fixed on the eyes of her one visitor with
an intentness and animation of interest which should be very fascinating.

He, a young man, not five years older than herself, very gentle in manner
and with a remarkably sweet expression of face, evidently is fascinated,
and even strongly moved, if one may judge by the feverish color in his
cheeks, the eager inquiry of his gaze and the tremor of his lips.

The first words of hers which we shall record are a strange utterance to
come from a woman:

"Let me tell you something which I have read lately. It sounds like a
satire, and yet there is too much truth in it: 'Every woman in these days
needs two husbands--one to fill her purse, and one to fill her heart; one
to dress her, and one to love her. It is not easy to be the two in one.'
That is what I have read, and it is only too true. Remember it, and don't
marry."

A spasm of intense spiritual pain crossed the young man's fine and kindly
face.

"Don't say such things, I beg of you!" he implored. "I am sure that in
what you have quoted there is a slander upon most women. I know that it
slanders you."

Her lips parted as if for a contradiction, but it was evidently very
pleasant to her to hear such words from him, and with a little childlike
smile of gratification she let him proceed.

"I have perfect confidence in you," he murmured. "I am willing to put all
my chances of happiness in your hands. My only fear is that I am not half
worthy of you--not a thousandth part worthy of you. Will you not listen to
me seriously? Will you not be so kind?"

A tremor of emotion slightly lifted her hands, and it seemed for a moment
as if she would extend them to him. Then there was a sudden revulsion:
with a more violent shudder, evidently of a painful nature, she threw
herself backward, her face turned pale, and she closed her eyes as if to
shut him from her sight.

"I ought to ask your pardon," she whispered. "I never thought that it
would come to this. I never meant that it should. Oh, I ask your pardon."
Recovering herself with singular quickness, a bright smile dancing along
the constantly changing curves of her lips, like sunbeams leaping from
wavelet to wavelet, she once more leaned cordially toward him, and said in
a gay yet pleading tone, "Let us talk of something else. Come, tell me
about yourself--all about yourself, nothing about me."

"I cannot speak of anything else," he replied, after looking at her long
in silence. "My whole being is full of you: I cannot think of anything
else."

A smile of gratitude sweetly mastered her mouth: then it suddenly turned
to a smile of pity; then it died in a quiver of remorse.

"Oh, we cannot marry," she sighed. "We must not marry, if we could. Let me
tell you something dreadful. People hate each other after they are
married. I know: I have seen it. I knew a girl of seventeen who married a
man ten years older--a man who was Reason itself. Her friends told her,
and she herself believed it, that she was sure of happiness. But after
three years she found that she did not love, that she was not loved, and
that she was miserable. He was too rational: he used to judge her as he
would a column of figures--he had no comprehension for her feelings."

There was a momentary pause, during which she folded her hands and looked
at him, but with an air of not seeing him. In the recollection of this
heart-tragedy of the past and of another she had apparently forgotten the
one which was now pressing upon herself.

"It was incredible how cold and unsympathizing and dull he could be," she
went on. "Once, after she had worked a week in secret to surprise him with
a dressing-gown made by her own hands--labored a week, waited and hoped a
week for one word of praise--he only said, 'It is too short.' Don't you
think it was cruel? It was. I suppose he soon forgot it, but she never
could. A woman cannot forget such slights: they do not seem little blows
to her; they make her very soul bleed."

"Don't reproach _me_ for it," whispered the young man with a pleading
smile. "You seem to be reproving me, and I can't bear it. I am not
guilty."

"Oh, not you," she answered quickly. "I am not scolding you. I could not."

She did not mean it, but she gave him a smile of indescribable sweetness:
she had had no intention of putting out her hands toward him, but she did
it. He seized the delicate fingers and slowly drew her against his heart.
Her face crimson with feeling, her whole form trembling to the tiniest
vein, she rose to her feet, turning away her head as if to fly, and yet
did not escape, and could not wish to escape. Holding her in his arm, he
poured into her ear a murmur which was not words, it was so much more than
words.

"Oh, _could_ you truly love me?" she at last sobbed. "Could you _keep_
loving me?"

After a while some painful recollection seemed to awaken her from this
dream of happiness, and, drawing herself out of his embrace, she looked
him sadly in the eyes, saying, "I must not be so weak. I must save myself
and you from misery. Oh, I must. Go now--leave me for a while: do go. I
must have time to think before I say another word to you."

"Good-bye, my love--soon to be my wife," he answered, stifling with a kiss
the "No, no," which she tried to utter.

Although he meant to go, and although she was wretchedly anxious that he
should go, he was far from gone. All across the room, at every square of
the threadbare carpet, they halted to renew their talk. Minutes passed, an
hour had flown, and still he was there. And when he at last softly opened
the door, she herself closed it, saying, "Oh no! not yet."

So greedy is a loving woman for love, so much does she hate to lose the
breath of it from her soul: to let it be withdrawn is like consenting to
die when life is sweetest.

Thus it was through her, who had bidden him to go, and who had meant that
he should go, that he remained for minutes longer, dropping into her ear
whispers of love which at last drew out her confession of love. And when
the parting moment came--that moment of woman's life in which she least
belongs to herself--there was not in this woman a single reservation of
feeling or purpose.

These people, who were so madly in love with each other, were almost
strangers. The man was Charles Leighton, a native of Northport, who had
never gone farther from his home than to Boston, and there only to
graduate in the Harvard College and Medical School.

The lady was Alice Duvernois: her name was all that was known of her in
the village--it was all that she had told of herself. Only a month
previous to the scene above described she had arrived in Northport to
obtain, as she said, a summer of quiet and sea-bathing. She had come
alone, engaged her own rooms, and for a time seemed to want nothing but
solitude.

Even after she had made herself somewhat familiar with the other inmates
of the boarding-house, nothing positive was learned of her history. That
she had been married was probable: an indefinable something in her face
and carriage seemed to reveal thus much: moreover, her trunks were marked
"James Duvernois."

And yet, so young did she sometimes look, so childlike was her smile and
so simple her manner, that there were curious ones who scouted the
supposition of wifehood. People addressed her both as "Miss" and "Mrs.";
at last it was discovered that her letters bore the latter title: then she
became popularly known as "the beautiful widow."

It would be a waste of time to sketch the opening and ripening of the
intimacy between Doctor Leighton and this fascinating stranger. On his
part it was as nearly a case of love at first sight as perhaps can occur
among people of the Anglo-Saxon race. From the beginning he had no doubts
about giving her his whole heart: he was mastered at once by an emotion
which would not let him hesitate: he longed with all his soul for her
soul, and he strove to win it.

Well, we will not go over the story: we know that he had triumphed. Yes,
in spite of her terror of the future, in spite of some withholding mystery
in the past, she had granted him--or rather she had not been able to
prevent him from seizing--her passionate affection. She had uttered a
promise which, a month before, she would not have dreamed herself capable
of making.

In so doing she had acquired an almost unendurable happiness. It was one
of those mighty and terrible joys which are like the effect of opium--one
of those joys which condense life and abbreviate it, which excite and yet
stupefy, which intoxicate and kill. With this in her heart she lived ten
of her old days in one, but also she drew for those ten days upon her
future.

After one of her interviews with Leighton, after an hour of throbbing, of
trembling, of vivid but confused emotions, her face would be as pale as
death, and her weakness such that she could hardly speak. The hands which,
while they clung to his, had been soft and moist, became dry and hot as
with fever, and then cold as ice. At night she could scarcely sleep: for
hours her brain throbbed with the thought of him, and of what stood
between him and her. In the morning she was heavy with headache, dizzy,
faint, hysterical; yet the moment she saw him again she was all life, all
freshness.

From the point of confession there was no more resistance. She would be
his wife; she would be married whenever he wished; she seemed mad to
reward him for his love; she wanted somehow to sacrifice herself for his
sake. Yet, although she hesitated no longer, she sometimes gazed at him
with eyes full of anxiety, and uttered words which presaged evil.

"If any trouble springs from this, you must pardon me," she more than once
whispered. "I cannot help it. I have never, never, never been loved
before; and oh, I have been so hungry, so famished for it, I had begun to
despair of it. Yes, when I first met you, I had quite despaired of there
being any love in the world for me. I could not help listening to you: I
could not help taking all your words and looks into my craving heart; and
now I am yours--forgive me!"

Stranger as she was in Northport, everybody trusted the frank sweetness in
her face, and sought no other cause for admiring her and wishing her
happiness. The whole village came to the church to witness her marriage
and to doat upon a bridal beauty which lay far more in expression than in
form or feature. A few words of description--inadequate notes to represent
the precious gold of reality--must be given to one who could change the
stare of curiosity to a beaming glance of sympathy.

Small, slender, fragile; neither blonde nor brunette; a clear skin, with a
hectic flush; light chestnut hair, glossy and curling; eyes of violet
blue, large, humid and lustrous, which at the first glance seemed black
because of the darkness, length and closeness of the lashes, and capable
of expressing an earnestness and sweetness which no writer or artist might
hope to depict; a manner which in solitude might be languid, but which the
slightest touch of interest kindled into animation; in fine, white teeth
that sparkled with gayety, and glances that flashed happiness.

She was married without bridal costume, and there was no wedding journey.
Leighton was poor, and must attend to his business; and his wife wanted
nothing from him which he could not spare--nothing but his love.
Impossible to paint her pathetic gratitude for this affection; the
spiritual--it was not passionate--fondness which she bore him; the
softness of her eyes as she gazed for minutes together into his; the
sudden, tremulous outreachings of her hands toward him, as she just
touches him with her finger and draws back, then leans forward and lies in
his arms, uttering a little cry of happiness. Here was a heart that must
long have hungered for affection--a heart unspeakably thankful and joyous
at obtaining it.

"I have been smiling all day," she sometimes said to him. "People have
asked me why I looked so gay, and what I had heard that was funny. It is
just because I am entirely happy, and because the feeling is still a
surprise. Shall I ever get over it? Am I silly? No!"

Her gladness of heart seemed to make her angelic. She rejoiced in every
joy around her, and grieved for every sorrow. She visited the poor of her
husband's patients, watched with them when there was need, made little
collections for their relief, chatted away their forebodings, half cured
them with her smile. There was something catching, comforting, uplifting
in the spectacle of that overbrimming content.

The well were as susceptible to its influence as the sick. Once, half a
dozen men and twice as many boys were seen engaged in recovering her veil
out of a pond into which the wind had blown it; and when it was handed to
her by a shy youth on the end of a twenty-foot pole, all felt repaid for
their labors by the childlike burst of laughter with which she received
it. Now and then, however, shadows fell across this sunshine. In those
dark moments she frequently reverted to the unhappy couple of whom she had
told Leighton when he first spoke to her of marriage. She was possessed to
describe the man--his dull, filmy, unsympathetic black eyes, his
methodical life and hard rationality, his want of sentiment and
tenderness.

"Why do you talk of that person so much?" Leighton implored. "You seem to
be charging me with his cruelty. I am not like him."

The tears filled her eyes as she started toward him, saying, "No, you are
_not_ like him. Even if you should become like him, I couldn't reproach
you. I should merely die."

"But you know him so well?" he added, inquiringly. "You seem to fear him.
Has he any power over you?"

For a moment she was so sombre that he half feared lest her mind was
unstrung on this one subject.

"No," she at last said. "His power is gone--nearly gone. Oh, if I could
only forget!"

After another pause, during which she seemed to be nerving herself to a
confession, she threw herself into her husband's arms and whispered, "He
is my--uncle."

He was puzzled by the contrast between the violence of her emotion and the
unimportance of this avowal; but as he at least saw that the subject was
painful to her, and as he was all confidence and gentleness, he put no
more inquiries.

"Forget it all," he murmured, caressing her; and with a deep sigh, the
sigh of tired childhood, she answered, "Yes."

The long summer days, laden with happiness for these two, sailed onward to
their sunset havens. After a time, as August drew near its perfumed death,
Alice began to speak of a journey which she should soon be obliged to make
to New York. She _must_ go, she said to Leighton--it was a matter of
property, of business: she would tell him all about it some day. But she
would return soon; that is, she would return as soon as possible: she
would let him know how soon by letter.

When he proposed to accompany her she would not hear of it. To merely go
on with her, she represented, would be a useless expense, and to stay as
long as she might need to stay would injure his practice. In these days
her gayety seemed forced, and more than once he found her weeping; yet so
innocent was he, so simple in his views of life, so candid in soul, that
he suspected no hidden evil: he attributed her agitation entirely to grief
at the prospect of separation.

His own annoyance in view of the journey centred in the fact that his wife
would be absent from him, and that he could not incessantly surround her
with his care. Whether she would be happy, whether she would be treated
with consideration, whether she would be safe from accidents and alarms,
whether her delicate health would not suffer, were the questions which
troubled him. He had the masculine instinct of protection: he was as
virile as he was gentle and affectionate.

The parting was more painful to him than he had expected, because to her
it was such an undisguised and terrible agony.

"You will not forget me?" she pleaded. "You will never, never hate me? You
will always love me? You are the only person who has ever made the world
pleasant to me; and you have made it so pleasant! so different from what
it was! a new earth to me! a star! I will come back as soon as this
business will let me. Some day I will come back, never to go away. Oh,
will not that be delightful?"

Her extreme distress, her terror lest she might not return, her
forebodings lest he should some day cease to love her, impressed him for a
moment--only for a truant moment--with doubts as to a mystery. As he left
the railway station, full of gratitude for the last glance of her loving
eyes, he asked himself once or twice, "What is it?"

What was it?

We will follow her. She is ominously sad during the lonely journey: she is
almost stern by the time she arrives in New York. In place of the summer's
sweetness and gayety, there is a wintry and almost icy expression in her
face, as if she were about to encounter trials to which she had been long
accustomed, and which she had learned to bear with hardness if not with
resentment.

No one meets her at the railway station, no one at the door of the sombre
house where her carriage stops--no one until she has passed up stairs into
a darkling parlor.

There she is received by the man whom she has so often described to
Deighton--a man of thin, erect form, a high and narrow forehead, regular
and imperturbable features, fixed and filmy black eyes, a mechanical
carriage, an icy demeanor.

At sight of her he slightly bowed--then he advanced slowly to her and took
her hand: he seemed to be hesitating whether he should give her any
further welcome.

"You need not kiss me," she said, her eyes fixed on the floor. "You do not
wish to do it."

He sighed, as if he too were unhappy, or at least weary; but he drew his
hand away and resumed his walk up and down the room.

"So you chose to pass your summer in a village?" he presently said, in the
tone of a man who has ceased to rule, but not ceased to criticise. "I hope
you liked it."

"I told you in my letters that I liked it," she replied in an
expressionless monotone.

"And I told you in my letters that I did not like it. It would have been
more decent in you to stay in Portland, among the people whom I had
requested to take care of you. However, you are accustomed to have your
own way. I can only observe that when a woman will have her own way, she
ought to pay her own way."

A flush, perhaps of shame, perhaps of irritation, crossed her hitherto
pale face, but she made no response to the scoff, and continued to look at
the floor.

After a few seconds, during which neither of them broke the silence, she
seemed to understand that the reproof was over, and she quietly quitted
the room.

The man pushed the door to violently with his foot, and said in an accent
of angry scorn, "That is what is now called a wife."

Well, we have reached the mystery: we have found that it was a crime.

In the working of social laws there occur countless cases of individual
hardship. The institution of marriage is as beneficent as the element of
fire; yet, like that, it sometimes tortures when it should only have
comforted.

The sufferer, if a woman, usually bears her smart tamely--with more or
less domestic fretting and private weeping indeed, but without violent
effort to escape from her bed of embers. Divorce is public, ugly and
brutal: her sensibility revolts from it. Moreover, mere unhappiness, mere
disappointment of the affections, does not establish a claim for legal
separation. Finally, there is woman's difficulty of self-maintenance--the
fact that her labor will not in general give her both comfort and
position.

What then? Unloved, unable to love, yet with an intense desire for
affection, and an immense capacity for granting it, her heart is tempted
to wander beyond the circle of her duty. A flattering shape approaches her
dungeon-walls; a voice calls to her to come forth and be glad, if only for
a moment; there seems to be a chance of winning the adoration which has
been her whole life's desire; there is an opportunity of using the
emotions which are burning within her. Shall she burst open the gate on
which is written LEGALITY?

Evidently the temptation is mighty. Laden with a forsaken, wounded and
perhaps angry heart, she is so easily led into the belief that her
exceptional suffering gives her a right to exceptional action! She feels
herself justified in setting aside law, when law, falsifying its purpose,
violating its solemn pledge, brings her misery instead of happiness. She
will not, or cannot, reflect that special hardships must occur under all
law; that it is the duty of the individual to bear such chance griefs
without insurrection against the public conscience; that entire freedom of
private judgment would dissolve society.

Too often--though far less often than man does the like--she makes of her
sorrow an armor of excuse, and enters into a contest for unwarrantable
chances of felicity. Only, in general, she is so far conscious of guilt,
or at least so far fearful of punishment, as to carry on her struggle in
the darkness. Few, however maddened by suffering, openly defy the serried
phalanx of the world. Still fewer venture the additional risk of defying
it under the forms of a legality which they have ventured to violate.

Why is it that so few women, even of a low and reckless class, have been
bigamists? It is because the feminine soul has a profound respect, a
little less than religious veneration, for the institution of marriage;
because it instinctively recoils from trampling upon the form which
consecrates love; because in very truth it regards the nuptial bond as a
sacrament. I believe that the average woman would turn away from bigamy
with a deeper shudder than from any other stain of conjugal infidelity.

But there are exceptions to all modes of feeling and of reasoning.

Here is Alice Duvernois: she is a woman of good position, of intellectual
quickness, of unusual sensitiveness of spirit; yet she has thought out
this woeful question differently from the great majority of her sex. To
her, thirsty for sympathy and love, bound to a man who gives her neither,
grown feverish and delirious with the torment of an empty heart, it has
seemed that the sanctity of a second marriage will somehow cover the
violation of a first.

This aberration we can only explain on the ground that she was one of
those natures--mature in some respects, but strangely childlike in
others--whom most of us love to stigmatize as unpractical, and who in fact
never become quite accustomed to this world and its rules.

On the very evening of her arrival home she put to her husband a question
of infantile and almost incredible simplicity. It was one of the many
observations which made him tell her from time to time that she was a
fool.

"What do they do," she asked, "to women who marry two husbands?"

"They put them in jail," was his cool reply.

"I think it is brutal," she broke out indignantly, as if the iron gates
were already closing upon her, and she were contesting the justice of the
punishment.

"You are a pretty simpleton, to set up your opinion against that of all
civilized society!" was the response of incarnate Reason.

From that moment she trembled at her danger, and quivered under the
remorse which terror brings. At times she thought of flying, of abandoning
the husband who did not love her for the one who did; but she was afraid
of being pursued, afraid of discovery. The knowledge that society had
already passed judgment upon her made her see herself in the new light of
a criminal, friendless, hunted and doomed. The penalty of her illegal
grasp after happiness was already tracking her like a bloodhound.

Yet when she further learned that her second marriage was not binding
because of the first, her heart rose in mutiny. Faithful to the only love
that there had been for her in the world, she repeated to herself, a
hundred times a day, "It _is_ binding--it _is_!"

She was in dark insurrection against her kind; at times she was on the
point of bursting out into open defiance. She stared at Duvernois, crazy
to tell him, "I am wedded to another."

He noticed the wild expression, the longing, wide-open eyes, the parted
and eager lips, the trembling chin. At last he said, with a brutality
which had become customary with him, "What are you putting on those airs
for? I suppose you are imagining yourself the heroine of a romance."

With a glare of pain and scorn she walked away from him in silence.

It is shocking indeed to be fastened speechless upon a rack, and to be
charged by uncomprehending souls with counterfeiting emotion. She was so
constituted that she could not help laying up this speech of her husband's
against him as one of many stolid misdoings which justified both contempt
and aversion. In fact, his inability or unwillingness to comprehend her
had always been, in her searching and sensitive eyes, his chief crime. To
be understood, to be accepted at her full worth, was one of the most
urgent demands of her nature.

The life of this young woman, not only within but without, was strange
indeed. She fulfilled that problem of Hawthorne's--an individual bearing
one character, living one life in one place, and a totally different one
in another place--upon one spot of earth angelic, and upon another vile.

Stranger still, her harsher qualities appeared where her manner of life
was lawful, and her finer ones where it was condemnable. At Northport she
had been like sunlight to her intimates and like a ministering seraph to
the poor. In New York she avoided society: she had no tenderness for
misery.

The explanation seems to be that love was her only motive of feeling and
action. Not a creature of reason, not a creature of conscience--she was
only a creature of emotion, an exaggerated woman.

Unfortunately, her husband, methodical in life, judicial in mind,
contemptuous of sentiment, was an exaggerated man. Here was a beating
heart united to a skeleton. The result of this unfortunate combination had
been a wreck of happiness and defiance of law.

Duvernois had not a friend intelligent enough to say to him, "You _must _
love your wife; if you cannot love her, you must with merciful deception
make her believe that you do. You must show her when you return from
business that you have thought of her; you must buy a bouquet, a toy, a
trifle, to carry home to her. If you do these things, you will be
rewarded; if not, you will be punished."

But had there been such a friend, Duvernois would not have comprehended
him. Ho would have replied, or at least he would have thought, "My wife is
a fool. She is not worth the money that I now spend upon her, much less
the reflection and time that you call upon me to spend."

Two such as Alice and Duvernois could not live together in peace.
Notwithstanding her old dread of him, and notwithstanding the new alarm
with which she was filled by the discovery that she was a felon, she could
not dissemble her feelings when she looked him in the face. Sometimes she
was silently contemptuous--sometimes (when her nerves were shaken) openly
hostile. Rational, impassive, vigorous as he was, she made him unhappy.

The letters of Leighton were at once a joy and a sorrow. She awaited them
impatiently; she went every day to the delivery post-office whither she
had directed them to be sent; she took them from the hands of the
indifferent clerk with a suffocating beating of the heart. Alone, she
devoured them, kissed them passionately a hundred times, sat down in
loving haste to answer them. But then came the necessity of excusing her
long absence, of inventing some lie for the man she worshiped, of
deterring him from coming to see her.

During that woeful winter of terror, of aversion, of vain longing, her
health failed rapidly. A relentless cough pursued her, the beautiful flame
in her cheek burned freely, and a burst of blood from the lungs warned her
that her future was not to be counted by years.

She cared little: her sole desire was to last until summer. She merely
asked to end her hopeless life in loving arms--to end it before those arms
should recoil from her in horror.

No discovery. Her husband was too indifferent toward her to watch her
closely, or even to suspect her. As early in June as might be she obtained
permission to go to the seaside, and with an eagerness which would have
found the hurricane slow she flew to Northport.

Leighton received her with a joy which at first blinded him to her
enfeebled health.

"Oh, how could you stay so long away from me?" were his first words. "Oh,
my love, my darling wife! thank you for coming back to me."

But after a few moments, when the first flush and, sparkle of excitement
had died out of her cheeks and eyes, he asked eagerly, "What is the matter
with you? Have you been sick?"

"I am all well again, now that I see you," she answered, putting out her
arms to him with that little start of love and joy which had so often
charmed him.

It absolutely seemed that in the presence of the object of her affection
this erring woman became innocent. Her smile was as simple and pure as
that of childhood: her violet eyes reminded one of a heaven without a
cloud. It must have been that, away from punishment and from terror, she
did not feel herself to be guilty.

But the day of reckoning was approaching. She had scarcely begun to regain
an appearance of health under the stimulus of country air and renewed
happiness, when a disquieting letter arrived from Duvernois. In a tone
which was more than usually authoritative, he directed her to meet him at
Portland, to go to Nahant and Newport. Did he suspect something?

She would have given years of life to be able to show the letter to
Leighton and ask his counsel. But here her punishment began to double upon
her: the being whom she most loved was precisely the one to whom she must
not expose this trouble--the one from whom she was most anxious to conceal
it.

In secret, and with unconfided tears, she wrote a reply, alleging (what
was true) that her feeble health demanded quiet, and praying that she
might be spared the proposed journey. For three days she feverishly
expected an answer, knowing the while that she ought to go to Portland to
meet Duvernois, should he chance to come, yet unable to tear herself away
from Leighton, even for twenty-four hours.

In the afternoon of the third day she made one of her frequent visits of
charity. At the house of a poor and bed-ridden widow she met, as she had
hoped to meet, her husband. When they left the place he took her into his
gig and carried her home.

It was a delicious day of mid June: the sun was setting in clouds of
crimson and gold; the earth was in its freshest summer glory. In the
beauty of the scene, and in the companionship of the heart which was all
hers, she forgot, or seemed to forget, her troubles. One hand rested on
Leighton's arm; her face was lifted steadily to his, like a flower to the
light; her violet eyes were dewy and sparkling with happiness. There were
little clutches of her fingers on his wrist whenever he turned to look at
her. There were spasms of joy in her slender and somewhat wasted frame as
she leaned from time to time against his shoulder.

Arrived at the house, she was loth to have him leave her for even the time
required to take his horse to the stable.

"Come soon," she said--"come as quick as you can. I shall be at the
window. Look up when you reach the gate. Look at the window all the way
from the gate to the door."

In an instant, not even taking off her bonnet, she was sitting by the
window waiting for him to appear.

A man approached, walking behind the hedge of lilacs which bordered the
yard, and halted at the gate with an air of hesitation. She turned ghastly
white: retribution was upon her. It was Duvernois.

With that swift instinct of escape which sensitive and timorous creatures
possess, she glided out of the room, through the upper hall, down a back
stairway, into the garden behind the house, and so on to an orchard
already obscure in the twilight. Here she paused in her breathless flight,
and burst into one of her frequent coughs, which she vainly attempted to
smother.

"I was already dying," she groaned. "Ah, why could he not have given me
time to finish?"

From the orchard she could faintly see the road, and she now discovered
Leighton returning briskly toward the house. Her first thought was, "He
will look up at the window, and he will not see me!" Her next was, "They
will meet, and all will be known!"

Under the sting of this last reflection she again ran onward until her
breath failed. She had no idea where she should go: her only purpose was
to fly from immediate exposure and scorn--to fly both from the man she
detested and the man she loved. Her speed was quickened to the extent of
her strength by the consideration that she was already missed, and would
soon be pursued.

"Oh, don't let them come!--don't let them find me!" she prayed to some
invisible power, she could not have said what.

Mainly intent as she was upon mere present escape from reproachful eyes,
she at times thought of lurking in the woods or in some neighboring
village until Duvernois should disappear and leave her free to return to
Leighton. But always the reflection came up, "Now he knows that I have
deceived him; now he will despise me and hate me, and refuse to see me;
now I can never go back."

In such stresses of extreme panic and anguish an adult is simply a child,
with the same overweight of emotions and the same imperfections of reason.
During the moments when she was certain that Leighton would not forgive
her, Alice made wild clutches at the hope that Duvernois might. There were
glimpses of the earlier days of her married life; cheering phantoms of the
days when she believed that she loved and that she was beloved--phantoms
which swore by altars and bridal veils to secure her pardon.

She imagined Duvernois overtaking her with the words, "Alice, I forgive
your madness: do you also forgive the coldness which drove you to it?"

She imagined herself springing to him, reaching out her hands for
reconciliation, putting up her mouth for a kiss, and sobbing, "Ah, why
were you not always so?"

Then of a sudden she scorned this fancy, trampled it under her weary,
aching feet, and abhorred herself for being faithless to Leighton.

At last she reached a sandy, lonely coast-road, a mile from the village,
with a leaden, pulseless, corpselike sea on the left, and on the right a
long stretch of black, funereal marshes. Seating herself on a ruinous
little bridge of unpainted and wormeaten timbers, she looked down into a
narrow, sluggish rivulet, of the color of ink, which oozed noiselessly
from the morass into the ocean. Her strength was gone: for the present
farther flight was impossible, unless she fled from earth--fled into the
unknown.

This thought had indeed followed her from the house: at first it had been
vague, almost unnoticed, like the whisper of some one far behind; then it
had become clearer, as if the persuading fiend went faster than she
through the darkness, and were overtaking her. Now it was urgent, and
would not be hushed, and demanded consideration.

"If you should die," it muttered, "then you will escape: moreover, those
who now abhor you and scorn you, will pity you; and pity for the dead is
almost respect, almost love."

"Oh, how can a ruined woman defend herself but by dying?" She wept as she
gazed with a shudder into the black rivulet.

Then she thought that the water seemed foul; that her body would become
tangled in slimy reeds and floating things; that when they found her she
would be horrible to look upon. But even in this there was penance, a
meriting of forgiveness, a claim for pity.

Slowly, inch by inch, like one who proposes a step which cannot be
retraced, she crept under the railing of the bridge, seated herself on the
edge of the shaky planking and continued to gaze into the inky waters.

A quarter of an hour later, when the clergyman of Northport passed by that
spot, returning from a visit to a dying saint of his flock, no one was
there.

We must revert to the two husbands. Duvernois had long wondered what could
keep his wife in a sequestered hamlet, and immediately on her refusal to
join him in a summer tour he had resolved to look into her manner of life.

At the village hotel he had learned that a lady named Duvernois had
arrived in the place during the previous summer, and that she had been
publicly married to a Doctor Leighton. He did not divulge his name--he did
not so much as divulge his emotions: he listened to this story calmly, his
eyes fixed on vacancy.

At the door of the boarding-house he asked for Mrs. Duvernois, and then
corrected himself, saying, "I mean Mrs. Leighton."

He must have had singular emotions at the moment, yet the servant-girl
noticed nothing singular in his demeanor.

Mrs. Leighton could not be found. None of the family had seen her enter or
go out: it was not known that she had been in the house for an hour.

"But there comes Doctor Leighton," remarked the girl as the visitor turned
to leave.

Even in this frightful conjuncture the characteristic coolness of
Duvernois did not forsake him: after a moment's hesitation and a quick
glance at his rival, he said, "I do not know him: I will call again."

On the graveled walk which led from the yard gate to the doorstep the two
men met and passed without a word--the face of the one as inexpressive of
the strangeness and horror of the encounter as the mind of the other was
unconscious of them.

Leighton immediately missed Alice. In a quarter of an hour he became
anxious: in an hour he was in furious search of her.

Somewhat later, when Duvernois came once more to the house, accompanied by
a fashionably-dressed youth, who, as it subsequently appeared, was his
younger brother, he found the family and the neighborhood in wild alarm
over the disappearance of Mrs. Leighton. The two at once returned to the
hotel, procured saddle-horses and joined in the general chase.

It was ten o'clock at night, and the moon was shining with a vaporous,
spectral light, when the maddest of chances brought the two husbands
together over a body which the tide, with its multitudinous cold fingers,
had gently laid upon the beach.

Leighton leaped from his horse, lifted the corpse with a loud cry, and
covered the white wet face with kisses.

Duvernois leaned forward in his saddle, and gazed at both without a word
or a movement.

"Oh, what could have led her to this?" groaned the physician, already too
sure that life had departed.

"Insanity," was the monotoned response of the statue on horseback.

The funeral took place two days later: the coffin-plate bore the
inscription, "Alice Leighton, aged 23." Duvernois read it, and said not a
word.

"If you don't claim her as your wife," whispered the brother, "you may
find it difficult to marry again."

"Do you think I shall want to marry again?" responded the widower with an
icy stare.

He was aware that he had lost a shame and a torment, and not aware that
she might have been an honor and a joy, if only he had been able to love.

J. W. DE FOREST.



"How Mother Did It."



The year 1839--that is, the year in which I was born--is of no manner of
importance to myself or anybody else. The year 1859--that is, the year in
which I began to _live_ (Charlie and I got married that year)--is of
considerable importance to myself and to somebody else. The two decades
forming the interim between those years constitute my Dark Age, in which I
teethed and measled and whooping-coughed, and went to school, and wore my
hair in two long pig-tails, and loved molasses candy, and regarded a
school-room as purgatory, a ball-room as heaven--when I sang and danced
and grew as the birds and grasshoppers and flowers sing and dance and
grow, because they having nothing else to do.

Then came my Golden Age. That means, then came Charlie into my life, when
I felt for the first time that there was music in the birds' voices and
perfume in the flowers--that there was light in the heavens above and on
the earth beneath, for God was in heaven and Charlie was on earth--when I,
who had all along been hardly more than a human grasshopper, became the
happiest of happy women--so much happier, I thought, than I deserved. For
who was I, and what great thing had I ever done, that I should be crowned
with such a crown of glory as--Charlie? why should I, insignificant I, be
so blest among women as to be taken to wife by Charlie?

I was insanely sentimental enough to rather resent the fact that Charlie
was prosaically well off: his circumstances were distressingly easy. It
would have been so much nicer, so deliciously romantic, if there had been
an opportunity afforded me to show how ready, nay, eager, I was to
sacrifice friends, home and country for his dear sake. But Charlie didn't
want me to sacrifice my friends; nor did it require any great amount of
heroism to exchange my modestly comfortable home for his decidedly
luxurious one; and as for country, nothing on earth could have induced
Charlie to leave his own country, much less his own parish, much less his
own plantation. So we were married without any talk of sacrifice on either
side, and moved quietly enough from father's small plantation to Charlie's
large one.

There was but one drawback to the perfectness of my happiness: there was
so little hope of my ever having an opportunity to air those magnanimous
traits of character upon the possession of which I so plumed myself. I
felt sure that I could meet the most adverse circumstances with the most
smiling patience, but circumstances obstinately refused to be adverse. I
was inwardly conscious that the most trying emergency could not shake my
heroic but purely feminine fortitude; but, alas! my fortitude was likely
to rust while waiting for the emergency. Injury and wrong should be met
with sublime dignity, but the most wildly speculative imagination could
not look upon Charlie's placidly handsome face and convert him into a
possible tyrant.

To tell how the longed-for opportunity to exercise my powers of endurance,
and my dignity, and all the rest of it, did finally come about, and to
tell how I bore the test, is the object of this paper.

For the first six months of our married life, Charlie and I were simply
ridiculously happy--selfishly happy too. We resented a neighbor's visit as
an act of barbarous invasion, and the necessity of returning such visits
was acknowledged with a sublimity of resignation worthy of pictorial
representation in that exquisite parlor manual, Fox's _Book of Martyrs_.
If Charlie left the house for an hour or two, I looked upon his enforced
absence as a cruel dispensation of Providence, which I did _not_ bear with
"fortitude and sublime dignity," but pouted over like the ridiculous baby
I was. Bare conjugal civility required that on leaving the house Charlie
should kiss me three times, and on returning six times: anything short of
that I should have considered a pre-monitory symptom of approaching
separation. If Charlie had ever been so savage as to call me plain
"Lulie," I should have felt certain he was sick and tired of me, and was
repenting of having married me instead of that spectacled bas-bleu, Miss
Minerva Henshaw, who read Buckle and talked dictionary. I believe I was
intoxicated with my own happiness, and was a little nonsensical because I
was so happy.

Fortunately for the comfort of both Charlie and myself, his domestic
cabinet consisted of a marvelously well-trained set of servants, who were
simply perfect--as perfect in their way as Charlie was in his. They had
been trained by Charlie's mother, who had been the head of affairs in his
house up to the hour of her death--an event which had occurred some dozen
years before my first meeting with Charlie. Everybody said she had been a
celebrated housekeeper, and Charlie's devotion to her had been the talk of
the country-side. There were people malicious enough to say that if
Charlie's mother had never died, he would never have married, but I take
the liberty of resenting such an assertion as a personal insult; for,
although I don't doubt the dear old lady was a perfect jewel in her way,
yet, looking at the portrait of her which hangs over our parlor
mantelpiece, I see the face of a hard, determined-looking woman with cold
gray eyes and rigidly set mouth, in a funny-looking black dress, neither
high-necked nor low-necked, having a starchy white ruffle round the edge,
in vivid white contrast to the yellow skin; with grizzly, iron-gray curls
peeping out from under a cap that is fearfully and wonderfully made, with
a huge ruffled border radiating in a circumference of several feet, while
its two black-and-white gauze ribbon strings lie in rigid exactness over
her two rigidly exact shoulders. Looking on this portrait, I do not thank
anybody for saying that it was only because death chose that shining mark
that I had found favor in Charlie's eyes.

We had been married, I suppose, about six months, when, sitting one
evening over a cozy wood-fire in our cozy little parlor, just under the
work of art I have described at such length, Charlie committed his first
matrimonial solecism. He yawned, actually gaped--an open-mouthed, audible,
undeniable yawn!

Glancing up at him from my work (which consisted of the inevitable worked
slippers without which no woman considers her wifehood absolutely
asserted), I caught him in the act. "Are you tired, Charlie?" I asked in
accents of wifely anxiety.

Tired! Poor fellow! he ought to have been, for he had ridden all over the
plantation that day, had written two business letters, and smoked there's
no telling how many cigars, and had only taken one little cat-nap after
dinner.

He was leaning back in his arm-chair, with his eyes fixed in mournful
meditation upon his mother's portrait (at least I thought so), when I
asked him if he was tired, and I fancied he was thinking sad thoughts of
the mother who had not been dead so very long as never to trouble the
thoughts of the living; so, laying down my slippers, I crossed the rug and
perched myself on Charlie's knee.

"Talk to me about her, Charlie dear."

"About whom, little one?" asked Charlie, turning his eyes toward me with a
little lazy look of inquiry.

"About your mother, Charlie: weren't you thinking about her just now?"

"I don't know--maybe I was. Dear mother! you don't find many women like
her now-a-days."

Reader, that was my first glimpse of Charlie's hobby. And from the
luck-less moment when I so innocently invited him to mount it, up to the
time when I forcibly compelled him to dismount from it, I had ample
opportunity to exercise my "smiling patience, sublime dignity and heroic
fortitude." Whether or not I improved my opportunities properly, I will
leave you to judge for yourself. But for two whole years "how mother did
it" seemed to be the watchword of Charlie's existence, and was the _bête
noir_ of mine.

So long as Charlie and I were in Paradise the house kept itself, and very
nicely it did it too, but by the time we were ready to come back to earth
the perfect servants, who had been taking such good care of themselves,
and our two daft selves into the bargain, were found to be sadly
demoralized. The discovery came upon us gradually. I think my husband
noticed the decadence as soon as I did, but I wasn't going to invite his
attention to the fact; and he, I suppose, thought that I thought that
everything was just as it should be.

One of Charlie's inherited manias was for early rising--a habit which
would have been highly commendable and undeniably invaluable in a laboring
man, but which struck me, who had an equally strong mania for not rising
early, as extremely inconvenient and the least little bit absurd. Charlie
got up early simply because "mother did it" before him; and after he had
risen at earliest dawn and dressed himself, he had nothing better to do
than walk out on the front gallery, locate himself in a big wicker chair,
tilt his chair back and elevate his feet to the top of the banisters, and
stare out over the cottonfields. This position he would maintain,
probably, about twenty minutes. Then the pangs of hunger would render him
restless, and he would draw out his watch to note the time of day. The
next step in the formula would bring him back to my room door while I was
still sleepily trying to reconnect the broken links of a dream, from which
vain effort he would startle me into wide-awake reality by a stentorian
"Lulie, Lulie! Come, wife--it's breakfast-time."

Upon which, instead of "heroic fortitude," I would treat him to a little
cross "Please yell at the cook, Charlie, and not at me. I'm sure if people
_will_ get up at such unearthly hours, they should expect to be kept
waiting for their breakfast."

Then the spirit of unrest would impel Charlie toward the back door, where
I would hear him commanding, exhorting, entreating.

Mentally registering a vow to give my husband a dose of Mrs. Winslow's
Soothing Syrup on the coming night, I would relinquish all hope of another
nap, get up and dress myself, and join my roaring lion on the front
gallery, where we would both sit meekly waiting for the allied forces of
kitchen and dining-room to decide upon the question of revictualing us.

"Lulie," said Charlie to me one morning at the breakfast-table, "things
are getting all out of gear about this house, somehow or other."

I put down the coffee-pot with a resigned thump and asked my lord, with an
injured air, to please explain himself.

"Well, when mother was alive I never knew what it was to sit down to my
breakfast later than six o'clock in summer or seven in winter."

"How did she manage it, Charlie?" I asked, very meekly.

"Why, by getting up early herself. No servant on the face of the globe is
going to get up at daybreak and go to work in earnest when she knows her
mistress is sound asleep in bed. I will tell you how mother did: she had a
pretty good-sized bell, that she kept on a table by her bedside, and every
morning, as soon as her eyes were open, she would give such a peal with
that old bell that all the servants on the premises knew that 'Mistress
was awake and up,' and bestirred themselves accordingly. There was no
discount on mother: that was the way she made father a rich man, too."

"But, Charlie, you're already a rich man, and why on earth should we get
out of bed at daybreak just because your mother and father did so before
us?"

"Of course, Lulie," said Charlie, the least little bit coldly, "I have no
desire in the world to force you to conform to my views: I only told you
how mother did it."

Reader, you know how I loved Charlie, and after that I out-larked the lark
in early rising; and although Charlie and I did little more than gape in
each other's faces for an hour or two, and wish breakfast would come, and
wonder what made them take so long, he was perfectly satisfied that we
were both on the road that was to make us healthier, wealthier and wiser.

Among other points on which my husband and I were mutually agreed was a
liking for good strong coffee, and we also held in common one decided
opinion, and that was, that our coffee was gradually becoming anything but
good and strong.

Charlie broached the subject first. "Lulie, our coffee is getting to be
perfectly undrinkable," said he one morning, putting his cup down with a
face of disgust.

"It is indeed, Charlie: it's perfectly villainous. Milly ought to be
ashamed of herself: I shall speak to her again after breakfast."

"Maybe you don't give out enough coffee?" suggested Charlie.

"I don't know how much Milly takes," I replied, innocently.

"Takes! Do you mean to say that you don't know how much coffee goes out of
your pantry, Lulie? I don't wonder we never have any fit to drink!"

If I had been of an argumentative turn, I would have asked Charlie to
explain how giving the cook carte blanche in the matter of quantity should
have had such a disastrous effect in the matter of quality. But I was not
of an argumentative turn, so I took no notice of his queer logic.

"Why should I bother about every spoonful of coffee, Charlie? You assured
me, when I first came here, that every servant you had was as honest as
you or I, and I'm sure Milly knows better than I do how much coffee she
_ought_ to take."

"Well," said Charlie with a sigh of mock resignation, "that may be the way
they do things now-a-days, but I remember exactly how mother managed to
have good coffee." Here the hobby broke into a brisk canter: "I recollect
she had a little oval wooden box, that held, I suppose, about a quart--or
two, maybe--of roasted coffee, and that box stood on the mantelpiece in
her room; and every morning, as soon as her bell rang, Milly would come
with a cup and spoon, and mother would measure out two table-spoonfuls of
coffee with her own hands and give it to the cook, and the cook knew
better than not to have good coffee, I can tell you."

"Are you sure it was only two spoonfuls, Charlie?"

"I am sure," responded Charlie, solemnly.

As good-luck would have it, while rummaging in the store-room a day or two
after that coffee talk, I came upon a little old oval wooden box, the lid
of which I detached with some difficulty, and as the scent of the roses
hung round it still, I had no difficulty in identifying my treasure-trove
with the wooden box that had played such a distinguished part in the good
old times when cooks "knew better than not to have good coffee, I can tell
you."

Hoping that some relic of my dead predecessor might prove more
awe-inspiring to contumacious Milly than my own despised monitions, I
exhumed the wooden box, had it thoroughly cleansed, filled with roasted
coffee and placed upon my mantelpiece, giving Milly orders to come to _me_
hereafter, every morning, for the coffee.

Charlie gave me a grateful little kiss when he saw the old box in the old
place, either as a reward for my amiable endeavor to do things as mother
did, or because he took the old wooden box for an outward and visible sign
of the inward and spiritual grace that was to move Milly to make good
coffee.

But somehow or other, in spite of the unsightly old wooden box on my
mantelshelf, the coffee didn't improve in the least. Maybe the charm
failed to work because Charlie had forgotten which end of the mantelpiece
his mother used to keep it on, or I used the wrong spoon. I'm inclined to
lay it on the spoon myself, but there's no telling.

The first cotton-picking season that came round after my marriage seemed
to afford Charlie no end of opportunities for riding his hobby at a fast
and furious pace. It seemed as if there was no end to the things that
mother used to do at that important season. I suppose she really was a
wonderful woman, and I humbly hope that by the time I have lived as long
as she did, and get to looking as she does in her portrait, and can wear a
wonderful-looking cap with the wonderful composure she wore it with, and
have little iron-gray curls hanging round my iron-gray visage, I may be
only half as wonderful.

"Would I see to the making of the cotton sacks? That was one thing mother
always did." Thus Charlie.

Of course I would: why should I object to doing anything that would
forward my husband's interests? Besides, I was actually pining for some
healthful occupation: I was tired of playing at living. I resolved on a
brilliant plan. I would out-mother mother, for she only _saw_ to the
making of the sacks: I would make them myself, every one of them, on my
sewing-machine. If I couldn't make cotton-sacks on it, what was the use of
having it?

Charlie had informed me that he would send me down seven or eight women
from the quarters to make the sacks. I informed him with a flourish that I
should need but one: I should want her to cut the sacks out. Charlie
thanked me, and Martha and I and "Wheeler & Wilson" made the sacks.

Was I to blame that the wretched things burst in twenty places at once the
first time they were used? Was I to blame that two women were kept busy
mending my sacks until they ceased to be sacks? Charlie might think so,
but I did not.

He reported the failure of my cotton-sack experiment with very unbecoming
levity, as it struck me, accompanying his report with a somewhat unjust
comment upon new-fangled notions, such as sewing-machines, etc., etc.,
winding up with--"Now, when mother was alive" (I fairly winced), "the
house was not considered too good for the darkies to sit on the back
gallery with their work and make the sacks right under mother's
eye--sewing them with good strong thread, too, that was spun for the
purpose. I can remember the old spinning-wheel: it used to sit right at
that end of the gallery."

Like Captain Cuttle, I "made a note of it" for future use.

I often had occasion to wonder, during the early years of my married life,
how it happened that the son of such an exceptionally perfect woman as I
was compelled to presume my respected mother-in-law to have been, should
have grown up with such shockingly disorderly habits as had my Charlie.
The wretched creature would stalk into my bed-room--which I was
particularly dainty about--fresh from shooting or fishing, with pounds of
mud clinging to his boots, bristling all over with cockleburs, his hands
grimed with gunpowder; and helping himself to water from my ewer, he would
begin dabbling in my china basin until he had reduced its originally pure
contents into a compound of mud and ink, and would wind up by making a
finish of my fresh damask towel, and throwing it on the bed or a chair
instead of returning it to the rack, as he should have done.

"Charlie," said I one day, saucily inviting a dose of "what mother did,"
"what did mother used to do when you came into her room and turned it into
a pig-stye, and then left it for her to clean up again?"

"She never let me do it," said Charlie with a laugh. "I'll tell you how
she did. She had a tin basin on a shelf on the back gallery, and one of
those great big rolling towels that lasted about a week; and after her
washstand was fixed up in the morning, we knew better than to upset it, I
can tell you."

"Very well, sir: I intend you shall know better than to upset mine, I'll
show you."

In fact, things had come to that pass that I had mentally resolved to
"show" Charlie a great many things. I firmly believed that the secret of
the power that Charlie's mother had exercised over her household, and
still exercised over him in memory, lay in the fact that she made them all
afraid of her: so I firmly resolved that they should all be afraid of me,
poor little me! It is true, I was but twenty, and she was fifty; I was but
a pocket edition of a woman, and she was a _Webster Unabridged_; I had
little meek blue eyes, that dropped to the ground in the most shamefaced
manner if a body did but look at me, and she had hard, cold gray eyes,
that not only looked straight at you, but right through you. Still, I
hoped, notwithstanding these trifling drawbacks, to make myself very
awe-inspiring by dint of a grand assumption of spirit.

To put it into very plain language, I resolved to bully Charlie off his
hobby. He had thrown his mother at my head (figuratively speaking, of
course) until, if she had been present in _propria persona_, I should have
been tempted to try Hiawatha's remarkable feat with his grandmother, and
throw her up against the moon. But as I could not revenge myself upon her
personally, I began to lay deep and subtle plans for inducing Charlie to
leave her to her repose.

As the veritable bell which, in the days when "mother did it," had acted
as a sort of Gabriel's trump, was still extant, minus clapper and handle,
I was enabled to provide myself with its fac-simile. Armed with this
instrument of retribution, I laid me down to sleep by Charlie's side,
gloating in anticipation over my ripening scheme of vengeance.

It was a rare thing for me to wake up before Charlie, but I did manage to
do so on the morning in question, by dint, I think, of a powerful mental
resolution to that effect made the night before. I raised myself very
softly, so as not to disturb my husband's gentle slumbers, and, possessing
myself of my big bell, I laid on with a will, raising such a clatter in
the quiet morning air that Charlie fairly bounded into the middle of the
room before he in the least comprehended where it came from.

"In the name of God, Lulie, what is the meaning of that?" he exclaimed,
looking at me as if he half doubted my sanity.

"That's the way mother did it, Charlie," I replied placidly enough, and,
replacing my big bell on the table, I settled myself on my pillow once
more, ostensibly to go to sleep again--in reality to have my laugh out in
a quiet fashion, for it was enough to have made the very bed-posts laugh
to see Charlie's funny look of astonishment and indignation. But of course
he couldn't say a word, you know.

For two more mornings I clattered my bell about his precious old head, and
then he paid me to quit, and after that began riding his hobby at a little
slower gait.

The next direct intimation he gave that his faith in inherited ideas was
growing shaky was a plaintive little request that I would not stick so
close to the old wooden box, but give out enough coffee to ensure him
something to drink for his breakfast.

Now, I had no wish that my husband should drink bad coffee just because
Providence had seen fit to remove his mother from this sublunary sphere: I
merely wanted to cure him of telling me how mother did it; so as soon as
he thus tacitly acknowledged that his suggestion had not been a success, I
took matters into my own hands, and proved to him that coffee could be
made as well by young wives as by old mothers.

In the due revolution of the seasons King Cotton donned his royal robes of
ermine once more, and sacks again became the one thing needful. It was the
very rainiest, wettest, muddiest picking-season that had ever been seen.
In pursuance of my plan, I had seven or eight women down from the
quarters, and a spinning-wheel also, which was set to humming right under
our bed-room window.

The rainy weather had kept Charlie in the house, and he was lounging on a
couch in my room, enjoying a pleasant semi-doze, when the monotonous
whirr-r-r of the spinning-wheel first attracted his attention. "Lulie," he
asked, rising into a sitting posture, "what is that infernal noise on the
back gallery?"

"The spinning-wheel, Charlie. They are spinning thread to make the sacks
with," I answered, without looking up from my work.

"Oh!" and Charlie subsided for a while. "Ahem! Lulie, my dear, how long is
that devilish spinning to be kept up?"

"Devilish! Why, Charlie, that's the way mother did it."

"Well," said Charlie, scratching his head and looking foolish, "I know she
did, Lulie, but I'll be confounded if I can stand it much longer."

"Why, Charlie, you used to stand it when mother did it," I answered
maliciously.

"I was hardly ever about the house in those days, Lulie: I suppose that
was why I didn't mind it."

"Why weren't you about the house much in those days, Charlie?"

"Because you weren't in it, you witch, I suppose."

This was such a decided triumph over the old lady of the portrait that I
could afford to be amiable; so, giving him a spasmodic little hug and an
energetic little kiss, I went out and stopped the spinning nuisance
immediately.

After that the hobby went slower and slower, feebler and feebler. One more
energetic display of my bogus spirit and "the enemy was mine."

Winter came on in its duly-appointed time, bringing with it the usual
quantity of wild ducks and more than the usual degree of severe cold.
Charlie was an inveterate duck-shooter, and with the return of the season
came the return of mud and dirt in my bowls.

I determined to do as mother did. A tin basin made its appearance on the
back gallery, four yards of crash sewed together at the end were made to
revolve over the roller, and by way of forcing the experiment to a
successful issue orders were given that my own pitchers should be filled
only after nightfall.

I was sitting in my bed-room sewing away, in placid unconsciousness of
outside cold and discomfort, when Charlie got home from his first hunt of
the season.

"No water, Lulie?" and the monster took hold of my nice pitcher with a
pair of muddy, half-frozen hands.

"On the gallery, dear, just where mother used to keep it;" and I smiled up
at him angelically.

With a muttered something or other, poor Charlie bounded out to the back
gallery. He came back in a minute, his hands as muddy and cold as ever.

"Look here, Lulie: the water's all frozen in that confounded tin basin out
there."

"I'll have it thawed out for you," I said sweetly, rising as I spoke.

"I say, wifey"--and the great, handsome fellow came close up to me with
his mud and his burs--"do you think it's exactly fair, when a fellow's
been out all the morning shooting ducks for your dinner, to make him stand
out on the gallery such a day as this and scrub the mud off his frozen
hands?"

"That's the way mother did," was all my answer.

"Look here, Lulie, I cry quits. If you'll only let a body off this once,
you may keep house on your own plan, little lady, and I'll never tell you
how mother did it again so long as I live."

"Well, then, don't, that's a dear," I replied, "for you'll only make me
dislike her memory, without doing any good. Just be patient with me,
Charlie, and maybe after a while I'll be as good a housekeeper as your
mother was before me. The mistake you and all other men make is, in
comparing your wives at the end of their first year of housekeeping with
your mothers, whose housekeeping you knew nothing about until it was of
ever so many years' duration. I'm young yet, but I'm improving in that
matter every day, Charlie."

With which little moral lecture I gave Charlie a kiss, and some water to
wash the mud from his poor red hands.

_Moral._--My dear girls, don't you ever marry a man that cannot take his
affidavit he never had a mother, unless it is expressly stipulated in the
marriage contract that he is never to tell you how his mother did it.

J.R. HADERMANN.



The Red Fox: A Tale of New Year's Eve.



It was New Year's Eve, 184-. I and my two little boys, children of five
and seven, were alone in the house. My husband had been unexpectedly
called away on business, and the servant had gone to her friends to spend
the coming holiday.

It was drawing toward night. The cold shadows of the winter twilight were
already falling. A dull red glow in the west told where the sun was going
down. Over the rest of the sky hung heavy gray clouds. A few drops of rain
fell from time to time, and the wind was rising, coming round the corner
of the house with a long, mournful howl like that of a lost hound.

I am not a very nervous person, but I did not like the idea of spending by
myself the long evening that would come after the children's bed-time.

We were living then in a very new place in Michigan, which I shall call
Maysville. My husband, an ex-army officer, had resigned the sword for the
saw-mill. Our house was the oldest in the village, which does not speak
much for its antiquity, as five years before Maysville had been unbroken
forest. The house stood outside the cluster of houses that formed the
little settlement: it was a quarter of a mile to our nearest neighbor.

Now, Maysville calls itself a city, has an academy and a college, and a
great quantity of church in proportion to its population. Then, we "went
to meeting" in a little white-painted, pine box of a thing, like a barn
that had risen in life. The stumps stood about the street: the cows
wandered at will and pastured in the "public square," an irregular
clearing running out into indefinite space. Here also the Indians would
encamp when they came to town from their reservation about five miles
away, and here also, I regret to say, they would sometimes get drunk, and
add what Martha Penney calls "a revolving animosity to the scenery." The
squaws, however, would generally secure the knives and guns before the
quarrelsome stage was reached. Not unfrequently the ladies would bring the
weapons to Mrs. Moore or myself to hide away till their lords and masters
should be sober. Then, feeling secure that no great harm could happen,
they would look on with the utmost placidity at the antics of their better
halves until they dropped down to sleep off their liquor.

There were no Indians in town that night, however, and if there had been,
I was not at all afraid of them, for we were on excellent terms with the
whole reservation. My feeling about staying alone was merely one of those
unreasonable sensations that sometimes overtake people of ill-regulated
minds.

I went to the door and looked out at the gray, angry sky. It was not cold,
but chill. The wind howled and shivered among the leafless branches:
everything promised a storm.

I was not at all sorry to see Mr. and Mrs. Moore drive up in their light
buggy, with their two high-stepping, little brown horses. Mrs. Moore had
in her arms a bundle in a long blue embroidered cloak--a baby, in short.
She and her husband firmly believed this infant to be the most beautiful,
most intelligent and altogether most charming creature which the world had
ever seen. They had been married three years, and little Carry was their
first child.

Mr. and Mrs. Moore were by no means ordinary people. Mrs. Moore--born
Minny or Hermione Adams--was a very small woman, exceedingly pretty, with
light brown curly hair, dark blue eyes and a complexion like an apple
blossom.

Mr. Moore was the son of a Seneca mother and Cherokee father, with not a
drop of white blood in his veins. So he thought, at least, but I never
could quite believe it, because he could and did work, and never so much
as touched even a glass of wine. His parents had died when he was very
young, and he had been brought up and educated by a missionary, a gentle,
scholarly old Presbyterian minister, whose memory his adopted son held in
loving reverence.

The story of our acquaintance with Richard Moore is too long to be told
here. Four years before he had come with us from the Pawnee country. He
had married Minny Adams with the full consent of her parents and the
opposition of all her other friends. Contrary to all prophecies, and with
that inartistic disregard of the probable which events often show, they
had been very happy together.

Mr. Moore--otherwise Wyanota--was a civil engineer, and stood high in his
profession.

"Look here, mamma," he said as he drove up. "Will you take in the wife and
the small child for to-night? I must go away."

"Certainly," said I, overjoyed. "But where are you going, to be caught in
a storm?"

"Oh, they have got into a fuss with the hands over on the railroad, and
have sent for me. I might have known Robinson wouldn't manage when I left
him?"

"Why not?"

"English!" said Wyn, most expressively. "No one can stand the airs he puts
on."

Now, such airs as Mr. Moore possessed--and they were neither few nor far
between--were not put on, but were perfectly natural to him.

"Can't you come in and get your tea?" I asked as he handed me the baby and
helped his wife down.

"No: I must go over directly and compose matters. Good-bye, little woman:
by-bye, baby! Do you know, we think she's beginning to say 'papa?'" said
Wyn, proudly; and then he kissed his wife and child and drove away.

I carried the infant phenomenon into the house and took off its wrappings.
She was my namesake, and I loved the little creature, but I can't say she
was a pretty baby. She was a soft, brown thing, with her father's
beautiful southern eyes and her mother's mouth, but otherwise she
certainly was not handsome. She was ten months old, but she had a look of
experience and wisdom in her wee face that would have made her seem old at
twenty years. She sat on my lap and watched me in a meditative way, as
though she were reviewing her former estimate of my character, and
considering whether her opinions on that subject were well founded. There
was something quite weird and awful in her dignity and gravity.

"Isn't she a wise-looking little thing?" said Minny. "She makes me think
sometimes of the fairy changeling that was a hundred and fifty years old,
and never saw soap made in an egg-shell."

"This baby never would have made such a confession of ignorance, you may
depend. She would not have acknowledged that anything lay out of the range
of her experience. Take your chicken till I get tea, for I am my own girl
to-night."

We had a very merry time over the tea-table and in washing up the dishes.
Until the boys went to bed we were in something of a frolic with them and
the baby, and it was not till the little one was asleep in her crib and Ed
and Charley were quiet in bed that we noticed how wild the weather was
getting.

The rain, which had at first fallen in pattering drops, was now driving in
sheets before a mighty wind, which roared through the woods back of the
house with a noise like thunder. The branches of the huge oaks in the
front yard creaked and groaned as only oak boughs can. The house shook,
the rain lashed the roof, and the wind clawed and rattled the blinds like
some wild creature trying to get in.

"I hope Wyn is safe under shelter,'' said Mrs. Moore.

"He will have reached the end of his journey long before this. I hope he
will have no trouble with the men, but he is not apt to. I pity poor Mr.
Robinson. When Wyn chooses, his extreme politeness is something quite
awful."

"I will say for my husband," observed Mrs. Moore, "that when he sets
himself to work to be disagreeable, he can, without doing one uncourteous
thing, be more aggravating than any one I ever saw in my life."

"It is perfectly evident that he never tries his airs on you, or you would
not speak so. Hear the wind blow!"

"It is no use listening to the weather. The house will stand, I suppose.
Have you got your work? Then let me read to you. It will seem like old
times, before I was married."

Minny Moore was in some respects a very remarkable woman. Though little
Carry was her first baby, she _could_ talk on other subjects. She did not
expect you to listen with rapture to the tenth account of how baby had
said "Da-da," or thrill with agony over the tale of an attack of wind. She
had been her husband's friend and companion before the baby was born: she
did not entirely throw him over now that it had come. She had always been
fond of reading, and she continued to keep up her interest in the world
outside of her nursery. She thought that as her daughter grew up her
mother would be as valuable as a guide and friend if she did not wholly
sink the educated woman in the nurse-maid and seamstress. These habits may
have been "unfeminine," but they certainly made Mrs. Moore much more
agreeable as a companion than if she had been able to talk of nothing but
the baby's clothes, teeth and ailments.

I took out my work, and Minny began to read _Locksley Hall_, which was
then a new poem on this side the water. I had never heard it before, and I
must confess I was much affected--more than I should be now. Mrs. Moore,
however, chose to say that she thought Amy had made a most fortunate
escape, that she had no doubt but the hero would have been a most
intolerable person to live with, and that their marriage, had it come to
pass, would have ended in Amy's taking in sewing to support both herself
and her husband. As for the Squire, why we had no word for his character
but his disappointed rival's, and his drinking might be all a slander. As
to his snoring, why poets might snore as well as other people. If he loved
his wife "somewhat better than his dog, a little dearer than his horse,"
"Why what more," said Mrs. Moore, "could any woman ask of a man given to
horses and hunting? If Calvin Bruce ever cares more for a woman than he
does for his brown pointer and his fast trotter, she may think herself
happy indeed."

At that instant a sudden and furious blast rushed out of the woods, and
tore and shook at the four corners of the house as if to wrench it from
its foundations.

"It's quite awful to hear the wind scream like that," said Minny. "It is
like the banshee. Hark! is not that some one knocking at the back door?"

I listened, and amid the rattling and shaking of blinds and timbers I
heard what sounded like a hurried, impatient knock at the side door. "Who
can it be on such a wild night?" I said, and took the candle and went to
open the door. I set the light in the hall, for I knew the wind would blow
it out. In spite of this precaution, however, the flame was extinguished,
for as I drew back the bolt and lifted the latch the blast threw the door
violently back on its hinges, and rushed into the hall as though exulting
in having finally made an entrance.

"Pretty bad weather, mamma," said some one in the softest, sweetest voice,
like a courteous flute, and there entered my old friend the Black Panther.

This gentleman measured seven feet in his moccasins, and as he stood in
our little entry he looked gigantic indeed. He closed the door with some
difficulty, and I relit the candle.

"You are quite wet through," I said, for the water dripped from his
blanket and woolen hunting-frock. He carried his rifle in his hand, and I
thought the old man looked very tired and sad, and even anxious.

"You all well?" he asked, earnestly.

"Certainly. The captain has gone away, and Minny and the baby are here for
the night. My dear friend, where have you been in this weather? There is a
good fire in the kitchen. Come and get dry there, and let me make you a
cup of hot coffee and get you something to eat."

Here Minny came out into the hall and held up her hands in sunrise.

"Oh, uncle," she said, calling him by the name she had used toward him
since her childhood, "how could you come out in all this rain, and bring
on your rheumatism? How do you think any one is ever going to find dry
clothes for such a big creature as you?"

The Panther gave a little grunt and a smile. He was used to Minny's
lectures, and he followed us both into the kitchen, where she made him sit
down by the fire and took off his wet blanket, waiting on him like a
daughter, and scolding him gently meanwhile. The old gentleman had of late
years been subject to rheumatism, and it was too likely that this exposure
would bring on another attack. The Panther patted her two little hands
between his own. Like most of his race, he had beautiful hands, soft and
rounded even in his old age, with long taper fingers that had, I dare say,
taken more than one scalp in their time.

"Pooh!" said he, lightly. "You think old Ingin melt like maple sugar? You
well?" he asked, anxiously.

"Quite so."

"And little one?"

"As well as a little pig, fast asleep in the other room."

"Where your husband?"

"Gone over to the railroad on business."

"And yours?" he asked, turning to me.

"Gone to Carysville. Do you know anything about him? is anything the
matter?" I asked, a little alarmed at his persistent questioning and an
indefinite something in the old man's tone and manner.

"Oh no," said he, earnestly. "I come right over from our place."

"Walked from the reservation in this storm!" said I. "What could have made
you do such a thing?"

"Nothing--just to see you. Not very strange come see two nice women," said
the old gentleman, with a little complimentary bow.

The Panther was somewhat vain of his knowledge of what he called "white
manners," but I never saw a white man who could be so gently dignified, so
courteous, so altogether charming in manner, as the old chief when he
chose. He hardly knew one letter from another, but he had had sixty-five
years of experience in war and council. Many a man "got up regardless of
expense" in college and society might have taken lessons in deportment
from this old Pottawatomie. He had known Minny from her childhood. Her
father's farm had been the first clearing in all that part of the country.
Deacon Adams had always been on excellent terms with the Indians, and his
little daughter had found her earliest playmates among their children. The
Panther had carried Minny in his arms when she was a baby; and as his own
family of boys and girls died one after another, he clung closer to the
child who had been their pet as well as his own.

The Panther was one of those big, soft, easy men who seem made to be ruled
by one woman or another. He was greatly respected in his tribe, and had
much influence. When they had been a nation he had been one of their most
distinguished warriors, and his word had been law. He had always
maintained toward the "young men" a somewhat imperious manner. He had
conducted himself with dignity and decision in all his visits to
Washington, where he had been a great lion, and in all his dealings with
the United States he had shown much wisdom and ability. But report said
that when once within the domestic circle and before his squaw, the
diplomatist and warrior was exceedingly meek. He bore his wife's death
with resignation, but he had never married again. He loved Minny Adams
better than anything on earth, and the girl had great influence over him.
She, in her turn, was very fond of him. From her earliest years he had
been her friend, confidant and admirer. He looked so fierce and dangerous,
and was so kind and simple, that the alliance between the girl and himself
was very much like that between a little child and a big mastiff--the
child protected and leader, the dog protector and led.

Minny made flannel shirts for him, and he wore them: she trimmed his
moccasins, and the dainty cambric ruffles which he wore when in grand
costume were got up by her hands. The Panther, however, did not often
appear in full dress. She tried to teach him to read, and she did get him
through the alphabet, but he greatly preferred hearing stories read to
learning to do it for himself, and was especially fond of the _Arabian
Nights_, which he quite believed. She even coaxed him to go to church with
her, and might have made a convert of him but for the interference of an
exceedingly silly young clergyman. The Panther rather liked to hear the
Bible, but I fear he was more attracted by the sound than the sense: his
favorite chapter was the story of David and Goliah. He used to say that
"Ingin religion was good for Ingin, and white religion was good for white
man." However, he never offered the least opposition to the missionary who
had settled among his people: indeed, he rather patronized that gentleman.

He and Wyanota were excellent friends. It was good to see the deference
and respect with which the younger man treated the elder. I always said
that it was the Panther who made the match between Minny and Mr. Moore.
Their house was one of his homes, and he was a frequent guest at our own.
He petted and spoiled my two children: he was very soft and kind to me,
whom he called "Mamma," after Wyn's example, and he considered that my
husband "understood good manners"--a compliment which he did not pay to
every one.

A dear little daughter whom we had lost had been very fond of him: the
child had died in his arms. I was alone at the time, and the old man's
sympathy was such a comfort to me in my trouble that for his own sake, as
well as for our little girl's, he had become very dear to us.

For an Indian, the Panther might be called almost a sober character. He
was seldom drunk more than four or five times a year, and when he was, he
always was very careful to keep out of the way of his white friends until
he was sober, when he would lecture the young men on the evils of
intemperance in most impressive fashion. He was a good deal of an orator,
possessing a voice of great sweetness and power; and though he was such an
immense creature, all his movements were light and graceful as those of a
kitten. He could speak perfectly good, even elegant, English when he
chose, but he did not always choose, and generally omitted the pronouns;
but his voice, manner and gestures in speaking were perfectly charming
when he was in a good temper. When he was not, he was somewhat awful, but
it was only under great provocation that he became savage. In general, he
was an amiable, kind, lazy creature, whom it was very easy to love.

I could not but wonder that night, as I set out the table and made the
coffee, what had brought the Panther so far in such wild weather. He did
not seem like himself. He was usually very conversable, and would chat
away by the hour together, in a fashion half shrewd, half simple, often
very interesting; but now he was silent and _distrait_.

"Carry," said Mrs. Moore, "are there not some of Wyn's things here yet in
that old trunk in your lumber-room?"

"Yes. Perhaps you can find something the chief can put on, and bring down
a pair of the captain's socks and slippers."

"Oh, never mind, never mind," said the damp giant.

"But I will mind," said the little woman; and she went out and soon
returned with the things, which she insisted he should go and put on.

"Well, always one woman or another," said the Panther in a tone of
resignation: "always squaw git her own way. You see that little girl,
mamma? Could squeeze her up just like a rabbit. Always she order me round
since she so high, and I just big fool enough let her;" and he went into
the next room, and presently came out arrayed in dry garments, as to his
upper man at least. I set the table with the best I had in the house, and
Minny and I sat down to get a cup of coffee with our guest.

At any other time the old gentleman would have purred and talked over this
little feast like an amiable old cat, but now he was rather silent; and I
noticed that in the pauses of the wind he would stop as though listening
for some expected sound. I began to think he was concealing from me some
misfortune or danger, and the same thought was evidently in Minny's mind,
for she watched him anxiously.

When we went back into the parlor the Panther walked to the baby's crib,
and stood for a moment looking at the sleeping child with a tenderness
which softened his whole aspect. Then he asked for the little boys.

"They are fast asleep in the next room," I said. "Go and look at them, and
you will be sure."

The Panther smiled, but he went into my room, which opened from the
parlor, and bending down softly kissed the two little faces resting on the
same pillow.

I drew a large chair to the fire for him, and Minny filled his pipe, for I
had "followed the drum" too long to object to smoking. The giant stretched
his length of limb before the fire, but he did not seem quite at ease,
even under the influence of the tobacco. He looked a little troubled and
anxious, and lifted his head once or twice with a sudden motion, like a
dog who has misgivings that something is wrong out-doors.

The baby stirred in her sleep, and the chief began gently to rock the
cradle. "'Spose she order me about too, by and by," he said, "like her
mother."

"Oh, you like to make that out," said Minny, "because you are such a great
big, strong man. If you were a little bit of a creature, you would always
be standing on your dignity to make yourself look tall. The last time Wyn
and I were at Detroit we went to church, and I heard the very smallest man
I ever saw preach a tremendous sermon about the man being the head of the
woman, insisting mightily on the respect we all owe to the other sex. When
we came out I asked Wyn what he thought, and he said he thought it was
exactly such a sermon as such a very tiny man might be expected to
preach."

"Ah! and he heard you both, my dear," said I; "and he says Mr. Moore has
no element of reverence in his character!"

Here the Panther dropped his pipe, and starting from his chair looked like
his namesake just ready for a spring, as the sharp, quick bark of a little
dog was heard from the nearest house.

"Only dog," he said in a tone of relief, and resumed his smoking.

"Uncle," said Minny, "I do wish you would tell me what the matter is, or
what you are listening for. You make me think there is something wrong."

I looked up and seconded Minny's request.

"'Spose I tell you, you think it all Ingin nonsense," he said, looking a
little embarrassed.

"Even if I did, sir, I should feel more comfortable," I said.

"Yes, do tell us, please," said Minny, earnestly.

"Well, then," said the old man, speaking with an effort, "last night went
out after a coon--up in the woods right back of here--"

"Yes: well?"

"And went up on that little hill over your pasture, and then," said the
old man lowering his voice and speaking with great earnestness, "hear _red
fox bark_--one, two, three times out loud, and then again farther off.
There, now!"

I was greatly relieved at finding that I was threatened by nothing worse
than the oracle of the red fox. I knew the Indian superstition that if
this animal is heard to bark anywhere near a dwelling, he foretells death
within twenty-four hours to some one beneath its roof.

"But," said I, "the red fox is only a sign for Indians. He does not bark
for white people, and you were not under a roof at the time, so it cannot
apply to you."

"Don't know!" said the Panther, shaking his head. "Never know that sign
fail. Then here this little woman and this baby--all the same as Ingin
now."

Minny looked a little troubled. In spite of his reading, his college
education and mathematics, Wyanota had sundry queer notions and
superstitions, about which he very seldom spoke, but which nevertheless
had some weight with him, and it is possible that he had in some degree
communicated his ideas to his wife.

"I don't believe in signs," said Minny, but nevertheless she looked
annoyed.

"So I thought," said the chief with a little smile. "Know mamma here think
it all nonsense, or else come over this morning to tell her. Then think
she not believe it and not mind, and so keep quiet. Then storm come up and
wind blow, and couldn't stand it; so set out and walk over here to take
care of her; and she--maybe she laugh at me?"

"No indeed, sir," said I, greatly touched by the anxious affection which
had brought the old man so far in such weather. "How good you are to me!
You mean to stay here to-night of course, and in the morning you will see
that the red fox was simply barking for his own amusement; but I am sorry
he drove you to take such a toilsome walk, though we are glad to have you
here."

"My business take care of you when your men gone. Got no one my own
blood," he said, rather sadly: "boys dead, girl dead, squaw dead--no one
but you two care much for old man."

Minny went and kissed him softly. "You know I belong to you," she said,
"and baby has no grandfather but you."

"Ah! your father!" said the Panther, rocking the cradle. "He and I always
good friends. 'Member when you come, your mother she got no milk for you,
poor little starved thing! My squaw she lose her baby--nice little boy
too," said the old man, with a sigh--"she tell your mother she nurse you;
so she did. You git fat and rosy right off. You all the same one of us
after that. No spoil your pretty white skin, though," said the Panther,
patting Minny's cheek with his brown fingers. "Seem just like that happen
yesterday: now you got baby yourself. Ah! your father--mighty well pleased
he be 'spose he see that little one."

"How often I wish he could!" said "Minny with a sigh, for both her father
and mother were dead.

"You 'pend upon it, he comfortable somewhere," said the chief,
consolingly. "Deacon Adams, he real good man. Look here, mamma! Like to
ask you question. You say when we die white man go to one place, Indian go
to another--"

"I don't say so, sir. I don't pretend to know all this world by heart,
much less the other."

"Well, that what Indian say, any way. Now 'spose that so, what come of
half-breed, eh?"

"What do you think?" I asked, for neither Minny nor I could venture an
opinion on this abstruse point.

"Don't know," said the old man. "Saw young Cherokee in Washington: he
marry pretty little schoolmistress go down there to teach, and their
little boy die. Then that young man feel bad, and he fret good deal 'bout
where that baby gone to, and he ask me, and I no able tell him. Guess me
find out when get there: no use to trouble till then, You make these?" he
asked, changing the subject, and looking with admiration at the captain's
embroidered slippers which I had lent him.

"Yes. They were pretty when they were new. I'll make you a pair just like
them, if you wish. Shall I?"

The old gentleman looked greatly delighted, for he was as fond of finery
as any girl, and took no small pride in adorning his still handsome
person.

I brought out all my embroidery-patterns, and the giant took as much
pleasure as a child in the pretty painted pictures and gay-colored wools
and silks. I made all the conversation I could over the slippers, willing
to divert him from the melancholy which seemed to have taken possession of
his mind. Over my work-basket he brightened a little, and chatted away
quite like himself, and listened with pleasure to Minny's singing. We did
not rise to go to bed till eleven o'clock, which was a very late hour for
Maysville. When the Panther spent the night at our house, as was
frequently the case, he never would go regularly to bed, but would take
his blanket and lie down before the kitchen fire. With great politeness he
insisted on getting the wood ready for morning, a thing he never would
have dreamed of doing for a woman of his own race.

As he came back into the kitchen from the shed he took up his rifle, which
he had set down by the door. As he did so an angry look came over his
face. "Look here," he said: "somebody been spoil my rifle!"

I looked at the piece in surprise, for the lock was broken. "It cannot
have been done since you came," I said. "There is no one in the house but
ourselves."

"Of course not, of course not!" said the Panther, eager to show that he
had no suspicion of his friends.

"Did you stop anywhere on your way?"

"Yes," said he with some slight embarrassment. "Stop at Ryan's,"
mentioning a low tavern on the borders of the reservation, which was a
terrible thorn in the side of all the missionary's efforts. "Stop a minute
light my pipe, but no drink one drop," he added with great earnestness;
"but they ask me good deal."

"Did you put your gun down?"

"Guess so," he said after a moment's reflection. "Yes, know did put it
down a minute or two."

"Then that was when the mischief was done, you may be sure. This lock was
never broken by accident. It must have been a mere piece of spite because
you would not stay. I wonder you did not notice it when you came out."

"In a hurry, and kept the buckskin over it, not to git it wet. Wish knew
who did that," said he, with a look not good to see. "Guess not do it
again."

"I am very sorry, but it can easily be mended."

I spread out on the floor for him the comfortable and blankets I had
brought for his use, and hung up his woolen hunting-frock, now quite dry.

As I took it into my hand, I felt something very heavy in the pocket.

"I hope you have nothing here that will be spoiled with wet?" I said.

"Oh, nothing but money," said the chief, carelessly. "Mean to tell Minny
to take some of it and buy clothes for me."

He took out as he spoke a handful of loose change--copper, silver and two
or three gold-pieces--and a roll of bills a good deal damp, and put it all
into my apron. I counted the money and found there were seventy-five
dollars. Strong indeed must have been the attraction which had brought the
old man away from the tavern-fire in his sober senses with such a sum of
money in his pocket.

"Just got that," he said. "Part from Washington, part sell deer-skins."

There was no need to tell me that it had not been long in his possession.
Money in the Panther's hands was like water in a sieve.

"You give me five dollars, give the rest to Minny," he said; and as this
was by much the wisest arrangement for him, I did as he wished.

"You got captain's gun?" he asked me. "Never like to go to sleep without
something to catch up: hit somebody 'spose somebody come."

"I am sorry to say the captain has his rifle with him, and I lent the
shotgun to Jim Brewster this afternoon."

He looked annoyed, but he went out into the woodshed and returned with the
axe, which was new and sharp. "Have something, anyway," he said, doggedly.

"Why, what do you think can possibly happen?"

"Don't know. Always like to have something to catch up. Good-night, mamma.
You go to sleep."

I went to bed and fell asleep almost on the minute, but I could not have
slept long when I was wakened by the noise of the wind against the
shutters. The rain had ceased, but the blast was still roaring without.
Minny and her child were in a room which opened out of the parlor opposite
my own. The lamp which was burning there threw a dim light into my
chamber, and showed me each familiar object and my little boys asleep
beside me.

Some one says that between the hours of one and four in the morning the
human mind is not itself. I fully believe it. In those hours you do not
"fix your mind" on melancholy subjects--they fix themselves upon you. If
you turn back into the past, there comes up before you every occasion on
which you made a fool of yourself, every lost opportunity, every slight
injury you ever experienced. If you look at the future, you see nothing
but coming failure and disappointment. The present moment connects itself
with every tale you ever heard or read of ghosts, murder, vampires or
robbers.

That night, either because of the wind or because I had taken too strong
coffee, I fell into "the fidgets," as this state of mind is sometimes
called, and selected for immediate cause of discomfort the Panther's
presentiment about the red fox. Who could explain the mysterious way in
which animals are warned of approaching danger? Perhaps the old science of
divination was not so entirely a delusion; and then I remembered all the
old stories in Roman history of people who had come to grief by neglecting
the oracles. The old idea that whatever incident is considered as an omen
will be such in reality, seemed to me at that hour of the night not wholly
an unreasonable theory.

I had known, to be sure, some fifty presentiments which came to nothing,
but then I had known as many as three which had been verified: perhaps the
present case might be one of the exceptions to the rule. Then I remembered
all the stories in Scott's _Demonology_, which I had lately read, and
quite forgot all the arguments intended to disprove them.

[Illustration: The Attack on the "Panther."]

I thought of the broken gun-lock: I thought it not improbable that the
Panther had, when at Ryan's, mentioned that he was coming to our house,
and that it was very likely he had let it appear that he carried his money
with him. Ryan's was one of the worst places in all the State. I
remembered that the money was in the house, and I began to wish, like the
Panther, that I had something to "catch up." Then there were so many
noises about! I heard footsteps, which you will always hear if you listen
for them on a windy night. When our petted old cat jumped from his place
on the parlor sofa to lie down before the fire, I started up in bed in a
sudden fright.

I must have been in this uncomfortable state of mind and body for the best
part of an hour before I remembered that in a drawer in the front parlor
lay two little old-fashioned pistols, unloaded but in good order.

I had grown so excited and uneasy that I felt as if I could not rest
unless I got up, found those pistols and loaded them, though nobody had
ever heard of a burglary in Maysville, and half the time the doors were
left unlocked at night. Rather despising myself for my nervousness, but
yielding to it nevertheless, I rose, put on my dressing-gown and slippers,
lit my candle and went to find the two little pistols. I stepped very
softly, not to disturb Minny, for I should have been quite ashamed then to
have her know my cowardice. I looked in at the door as I passed. She was
sound asleep, with her baby on her arm. The baby, however, was broad
awake, but lying perfectly still, with her little finger in her mouth. Her
eyes shone in the lamplight as she turned them on me--not startled like
another child, but simply questioning. The little creature looked so
unnaturally wise and self-possessed that I was reminded perforce of a wild
tale Wyanota had once told me about a remote ancestress of his who had
married some sort of a wood-demon. The legend ran that Wyanota's family
was descended from the offspring of this marriage, and I think Wyn more
than half believed the story.

I passed on, and going into the next room found the pistols, carried them
back to my own chamber, and loaded them carefully. I was quite accustomed
to the use of firearms. There had been times in my life when I never sat
down to my work or went to rest without having rifle or pistol within easy
reach of my hand. When I had loaded the weapons, I put them on the table
by my bed and lay down again. My excitement seemed to have subsided, and I
was just falling asleep when I heard a door in the kitchen violently burst
open. I thought the wind had done it, and waited a moment to hear if the
Panther would rise and shut it.

The next instant there was a shot, a wild cry as of mingled pain and fury,
the sound of a heavy fall and a struggle. Before I had well realized that
the noise was in the house, I found myself at the kitchen door with my
pistols in my hand. I was greatly startled, but my one idea was to help my
old friend. The miserable door resisted me for a moment. Seconds passed
that seemed hours. When at last I tore it open, I saw a man in his shirt
sleeves lying dead on the floor, his head shattered apparently by a blow
from the axe: another, a large, powerful Irishman, was kneeling on the
Panther's breast, with his hands at the old man's throat.

I sprang forward, but something swifter than I darted past me with a
savage cry, and, tearing and biting with claws and teeth, flung itself
full at the ruffian's face and naked throat. It was our big old brindle
cat, Tom, roused from his place before the fire. The unexpected fierceness
of Tom's assault took the man quite by surprise. Before he could tear the
creature away I had the pistol at his head.

"If you move," I said, "I'll kill you;" for, as I saw that my old friend
was hurt, wrath took the place of fear.

He gave in directly. Indeed the cat, a large, powerful animal, had almost
scratched his eyes out. In the most abject tones the fellow implored me to
let him go.

"Don't you do it, mamma," said the Panther, faintly.

"I don't mean to," I said.

Under the kitchen stairs was a dark closet with a strong outside bolt. I
ordered the man into this place. He obeyed, and I drew the bolt upon him.
His face and throat were streaming with blood from Tom's teeth and claws.

All this passed in much less time than it takes to tell it. Roused by the
noise, the children, and Minny with the baby in her arms, were already in
the kitchen.

"Oh, my dear, my poor darling!" said Minny, kneeling by the old man's
side, "you are hurt!"

"Yes," he said, quietly, "pretty considerable bad. Charley, you fasten
that door;" for the door into the shed, which had been secured only by a
button, was wide open. "You get the hammer and two, three big nails, and
drive 'em in," he continued. "Maybe more them darn scamps round."

Charley obeyed directions in a way which did him credit. Little Ned, with
wide, surprised eyes, clung to me in silence; little Carry, seeing her
mother in tears, put up a piteous lip and sobbed in her unbaby-like,
sorrowful fashion; the old cat, in great excitement, went purring and
talking from one to another.

"Tell me where you are hurt," I said, holding the chief's hand.

He had been shot through the stomach with a great, old-fashioned
smooth-bore musket, which lay on the floor--a gun not carrying less than
twenty-five to the pound. I had seen gunshot wounds before, and I knew
that this was serious. It did not bleed much externally, but the edges of
the wound were torn and discolored.

"That fellow dead?" asked the Panther.

"Yes indeed!" for the man's head was split like a walnut.

The old warrior looked gratified. "Mamma," he said, touching his
hunting-knife, "you take that fellow's scalp."

"Don't think of such a thing," I said, not so much shocked as I might have
been had I not lived on the Indian frontier. "Do you know who they are?"

"See them to Ryan's. Guess they some folks that mizzable railroad bring
into this country. 'Spect they follow me. Mamma," said the Panther,
looking up into my face, "tell you, red fox not bark for nothing. Better
be old man than you."

"Oh, my dear old friend, if you had only not come to us to-night! It was
all your love for us that has done this, but I pray God you may get well.
Charley, do you think you can go for Doctor Beach?"

"Yes, mamma," said the boy, though he turned pale.

"No, no," said the Panther. "You no send that little fellow out in the
dark. Besides, no good. You go wrap yourselves up. You two, you git bad
cold."

At that moment we heard the sound of wheels and horses' feet.

"Go, Charley," said Minny. "Stop whoever it is, and tell them what has
happened."

Charley ran out, and soon returned with Dr. Beach, who, happily for us,
had been out on one of those errands which are always rousing doctors from
their beds.

Dr. Beach was a burly, rough-mannered sort of man, but he could be very
kind and tender in the exercise of his profession. He wasted no time in
questions, but looked grave when he saw how the old man was hurt.

"Needn't tell me," said the Panther, quietly. "Know it's the end. Kill one
of 'em, anyhow!" he concluded in a tone of calm satisfaction.

"And I wish with all my heart you had killed the other," said the doctor,
bitterly. "He got off, I suppose."

The Panther showed his white teeth in a laugh. "No," he said, pointing to
me: "she got him--she and the cat. Pretty well for one little squaw and
pussy-cat. Mamma, you keep that kitty always."

"Where is the scoundrel?" asked the doctor.

"Shut up in that closet."

Here the man within cried out that he was "kilt" already, and should be
hung if we did not let him go.

"I hope you will, with all my heart," said the doctor.

With some difficulty we helped the Panther into the parlor and laid him on
the sofa.

He told us the story in a few words. He had been asleep when the door was
burst open. The man whom he had killed had fired the shot. He had kept his
feet to strike one blow with the axe, and the other man had sprung upon
him as he fell.

The doctor did what little he could to ease his patient, and then went
away, but soon returned with some men from the village, who were quite
ready to lynch the criminal when they heard what he had done. They took
the man away, however, and I am happy to say he afterward received the
heaviest sentence the law would allow. He confessed that, knowing the
chief had a large sum in his possession, himself and his companion had
broken the lock of the rifle, intending to waylay the old man and shoot
him in the woods. They had not, however, been able to overtake him till he
reached the clearing, and then, fearing to encounter him, they had
followed him at a distance and watched him enter our house. Knowing that
the captain was gone, they had waited until all was quiet, and then made
their entrance as described.

The Panther asked that some one might go to the reservation and send over
three of his friends, whom he named. He was very anxious to see Wyanota,
and Calvin Bruce, who had come with the doctor, instantly volunteered to
take his trotting mare and do both errands. The chestnut did her work
gallantly, though unhappily in vain, for the old man did not live to see
his friends.

"Don't you fret, you two," he said, softly, as Minny and I watched over
him. "Great deal the best way for old Ingin. Die like a man now: not cough
myself to death, like an old dog. Minny, little girl, you tell your
husband be good to our people, well as he can. Not much of our nation left
now--not good for much, either," he added; "but you tell him and the
captain stand their friends, won't you?"

"Indeed, indeed they will," said Minny in tears.

A Methodist clergyman of some kind, who preached in Maysville at that
time, hearing what had happened, came in to offer his services and to pray
with the dying man. The Panther thanked him courteously, but he clung to
the simple creed of his fathers and his belief that "Ingin religion was
good for Ingin;" and Mr. Lawrence had the sense and feeling not to disturb
him by argument.

"Want your Charley to have my rifle," he said to me. "Nobody left of our
people but my cousin's son, and he most a mizzable Ingin. You 'member
that, please," he said to Mr. Lawrence, who sat quietly at the head of the
sofa. "Do you think," he asked wistfully of the clergyman, "that I ever
see these two again where I go?" The minister--Heaven bless him!--answered
stoutly that he had not a doubt of it. "All right, then," said the
Panther, quietly. "Now, mamma, you see red fox know, after all."

Minny brought her baby for him to kiss. Little Carry's dark eyes were full
of tears, for, like most babies, she felt the influence of sorrow she
could not understand. She did not scream, as another child would, but hid
her face on her mother's bosom and sobbed quietly, like a grown-up woman.
My two little boys, understanding all at once that their old friend was
going away, burst out crying.

"Hush! hush!" he said, gently. "You be good boys to your mother. Say
'good-bye.'"

We kissed him, keeping back the lamentations which we knew would trouble
him.

"Good-bye," he said, softly, and then he spoke some few words in his own
tongue, as Minny told me afterward, about going to his lost children. Then
a smile came over his face, a look of sweet relief and comfort softened
the stern features, the hand that had held mine so close slowly relaxed;
and with a sigh he was gone.

The old minister gently closed his eyes. "My dear," said Mr. Lawrence to
Minny, who was in an agony of grief, "God knows, but it was His Son who
said, 'Greater love hath no man than this--that a man lay down his life
for his friends!'"

When we buried the old chief we wrote those words on the stone we placed
over his grave.

Since then the New Year's Eve brings back to me very vividly the memory of
the augury that so strangely accomplished its own fulfillment.

CLARA F. GUERNSEY.



Louie.



The great river was flowing peacefully down to the sea, opening its blue
tides at the silver fretting of the bar into a shallow expanse some miles
in width, a part of which on either side overlay stretches where the
submerged eel-grass lent a tint of chrysoprase to the sheathing flow, and
into which one gazed, half expecting to see so ideal a depth peopled by
something other than the long ribbons of the weed streaming out on the
slow current--the only cool sight, albeit, beneath the withering heat of
the day across all that shining extent. Far down the shores, on the right,
a line of low sand-hills rose, protecting the placid harbor from sea and
storm with the bulwark of their dunes, whose yellow drifts were ranged by
the winds in all fantastic shapes, and bound together by ropes of the wild
poison-ivy and long tangles of beach-grass and the blossoming purple pea,
and which to-day cast back the rays of the sun as though they were of
beaten brass. Above these hills the white lighthouse loomed, the heated
air trembling around it, and giving it so vague and misty a guise that,
being by itself a thing of night and storm and darkness, it looked now as
unreal as a ghost by daylight. On the other side of the harbor lay the
marshes, threaded by steaming creeks, up which here and there the pointed
sails of the hidden hay-barges crept, the sunshine turning them to white
flames: farther off stood a screen of woods, and from brim to brim between
swelled the broad, smooth sheet of the river, coming from the great
mountains that gave it birth, washing clean a score of towns on its way,
and loitering just here by the pleasant old fishing-town, whose wharves,
once doing a mighty business with the Antilles and the farther Indies,
now, in the absence of their half dozen foreign-going craft, lay at the
mercy of any sand-droger that chose to fling her cable round their
capstans. A few idle masts swayed there, belonging to small fishers and
fruiters, a solid dew of pitch oozing from their sides in the sun, but not
a sail set: a lonely watchman went the rounds among them, a ragged urchin
bobbed for flounders in the dock, but otherwise wharves and craft were
alike forsaken, and the sun glared down on them as though his rays had
made them a desert. The harbor-water lay like glass: now and then the tide
stirred it, and all the brown and golden reflections of masts and spars
with it, into the likeness of a rippled agate. Not one of the boats that
were ordinarily to be seen darting hither and yon, like so many
water-bugs, were in motion now; none of the white sails of the gay
sea-parties were running up and swelling with the breeze; none of the
usual naked and natatory cherubs were diving off the wharves into that
deep, warm water; the windows on the seaward side of the town were closed;
the countless children, that were wont to infest the lower streets as if
they grew with no more cost or trouble than the grass between the bricks,
had disappeared in the mysterious way in which swarms of flies will
disappear, as if an east wind had blown them; but no east wind was blowing
here. In all the scene there was hardly any other sign of life than the
fervent sunbeams shedding their cruel lustre overhead: the river flowed
silent and lonely from shore to shore; the whole hot summer sky stretched
just as silent and lonely from horizon to horizon; only the old ferryman,
edging along the bank till he was far up stream, crossed the narrower tide
and drifted down effortless on the other side; only an old black brig lay
at anchor, with furled sail and silent deck, in the middle channel down
below the piers, and from her festering and blistering hull it was that
all the heat and loneliness and silence of the scene seemed to exude--for
it was the fever-ship.

It was a different picture on the bright river when that brig entered the
harbor on the return of her last voyage, to receive how different a
welcome! But pestilence raged abroad in the country now, and the people of
the port, who had so far escaped the evil, were loth to let it enter among
them at last, and had not yet recovered from the recoil of their first
shock and shiver at thought of it in their waters--waters than which none
could have fostered it more kindly, full as they were in their shallow
breadth of rotting weeds and the slime of sewers. Perhaps the owner of
some pale face looked through the pane and thought of brother or father,
or, it may be, of lover, and grew paler with pity, and longed to do kind
offices for those who suffered; but the greater part of all the people
hived upon the shores would have scouted the thought of going out with aid
to those hot pillows rocking there upon the tide, and of bringing back
infection to the town, as much as though the act had been piracy on the
high seas. And they stayed at home, and watched their vanes and longed for
an east wind--an east wind whose wings would shake out healing, whose
breath would lay the destroying fever low; but the east wind refused to
seek their shores, and chose rather to keep up its wild salt play far out
on the bosom of its mid-sea billows.

Yes, on that return of the last voyage of the brig the stream had swarmed
with boats, flags had fluttered from housetops and staffs, piers and quays
had been lined with cheering people, all flocking forth to see the broken,
battered little craft; for the brig had been spoken by a tug, and word had
been brought to the wharves, and had spread like wild-fire through the
town, that, wrecked in a tempest and deserted by the panic-stricken crew,
the steadfast master and a boy who stood by him had remained with her, had
refitted her as best they might when the storm abated, and had brought her
into port at last through fortunate days of fair weather and slow sailing.
The town was ringing with the exploit, with praise of the noble
faithfulness of master and boy; and now the river rang again, and no
conquering galley of naval hero ever moved through a gladder, gayer
welcome than that through which the little black brig lumbered on her
clumsy way to her moorings.

But though all the rest of the populace of the seaport had turned out with
their greetings that day, there was one little body there who, so far from
hurrying down to shore or sea-wall with a waving handkerchief, ran crying
into a corner; and it was there that Andrew Traverse, the person of only
secondary importance in the river scene, rated as a boy on the brig's
books, but grown into a man since the long voyage began,--it was there he
found her when the crowd had let him alone and left him free to follow his
own devices.

"It's the best part of all the welcome, I declare it is!" said he,
standing in the doorway and enjoying the sight before him a moment.

"Oh, Andrew," cried the little body with a sob, but crouching farther away
into the corner, "it was so splendid of you!"

"What was so splendid of me?" said he, still in the doorway, tall and
erect in the sunshine that lay around him, and that glanced along his red
shirt and his bronzed cheek to light a flame in the black eyes that
surveyed her.

"Standing by him so," she sobbed--"standing by the captain when the others
left--bringing home the ship!"

"It's not a ship--it's a brig," said Andrew, possibly too conscious of his
merit to listen to the praise of it. "Well, is this all? Ain't you going
to shake hands with me? Ain't you glad to see me?"

"Oh, Andrew! So glad!" and she turned and let him see the blushing, rosy
face one moment, the large, dark, liquid eyes, the tangled, tawny curls;
and then overcome once more, as a sudden shower overcomes the landscape,
the lips quivered again, the long-lashed eyelids fell, and the face was
hidden in another storm of tears. And then, perhaps because he was a
sailor, and perhaps because he was a man, his arms were round her and he
was kissing off those tears, and the little happy body was clinging to him
and trembling with excitement and with joy like a leaf in the wind.

Certainly no two happier, prouder beings walked along the sea-wall that
night, greeted with hearty hands at every step, followed by all eyes till
the shelter of deepening dusk obscured them, and with impish urchins,
awe-struck for once, crying mysteriously under their breath to each other,
"That's him! That's the feller saved the Sabrina! That's him and her!" How
proud the little body was! how her heart beat with pleasure at thought of
the way in which all men were ready to do him honor! how timidly she
turned her eyes upon him and saw the tint deepen on his cheek, the shadow
flash into light in his eye, the smile kindle on his lips, as he looked
down on her--glad with her pride and pleasure, strong, confident, content
himself--till step by step they had left the town behind, wandering down
the sandy island road, through the wayside hedge of blossoming wild roses
and rustling young birches, till they leaned upon the parapet of the old
island bridge and heard the water lap and saw the stars come out, and only
felt each other and their love in all the wide, sweet summer universe.

Poor Louie! She had always been as shy and wary as any little brown bird
of the woods. It was Andrew's sudden and glorious coming that had
surprised her into such expression of a feeling that had grown up with her
until it was a part of every thought and memory. And as for
Andrew--certainly he had not known that he cared for her so much until she
turned that tearful, rosy face upon him in welcome; but now it seemed to
him that she had been his and he hers since time began: he could neither
imagine nor remember any other state than this: he said to himself, and
then repeated it to her, that he had loved her always, that it was thought
of her that had kept him firm and faithful to his duty, that she had been
the lodestar toward which he steered on that slow homeward way; and he
thanked Heaven, no doubt devoutly enough, that had saved him from such
distress and brought him back to such bliss. And Louie listened and clung
closer, more joyful and more blest with every pulse of her bounding heart.

After all, sudden as the slipping into so divine a dream had been, it had
need to be full as intense and deep, for it was only for a little while it
lasted. A week's rapt walking in these mid-heavens, where earth and care
and each to-morrow was forgotten, and there broke in upon them the voice
of the Sabrina's owner seeking for Andrew Traverse.

Of course such conduct as that of one who preferred to do his utmost to
save a sinking ship rather than seek safety with her flying crew, was
something too unusual to go unrewarded: it must be signalized into such a
shining light that all other mariners must needs follow it. And if the sky
had fallen, Andrew declared, he could have been no more surprised than he
was when he found himself invited with great ceremony to a stately
tea-drinking at the house of the owner of the Sabrina. "Now we shall catch
larks," said he; and dressed in a new suit, whose gray tint set off the
smoothness of his tanned cheek with the color sometimes mantling through
the brown, he entered the house with all the composure of a gentleman used
to nothing but high days and holidays. Not that either the state or
ceremony at Mr. Maurice's required great effort to encounter with
composure--trivial enough at its best, wonderful though it was to the
townsfolk, unused to anything beyond. But Andrew had seen the world in
foreign parts, and neither Mr. Maurice's mansion-house and gardens, nor
his gay upholstery, nor his silver tea-service, nor his condescending
manners, struck the least spark of' surprise from Andrew's eyes, or gave
them the least shadow of awe.

"This is some mistake," said the owner graciously, after preliminary
compliment had been duly observed. "How is it that you are rated on the
books as a boy--you as much a man as you will ever be?"

"A long voyage, sir, slow sailing and delays over so many disasters as
befell us, three years out in the stead of a year and a half--all that
brings one to man's estate before his reckoning."

"But the last part of the time you must have done able seaman's service?"

"The captain and I together," said Andrew with his bright laugh. "We were
officers and crew and passengers, cox'n and cook, as they say."

"A hard experience," said Mr. Maurice.

"Oh, not at all, but worth its weight in gold--to me, at least. Why, sir,
it taught me how to handle a ship as six years before the mast couldn't
have done."

"Good! We shall see to what purpose one of these days. And you have had
your share of schooling, they tell me?"

"All that the academy had to give, sir."

"And that's enough for any one who has the world to tussel with. How
should you like to have gone through such hard lines, Frarnie?" turning to
his daughter, a pale, moon-faced girl, her father's darling.

"Were you never afraid?" she asked in her pretty simpering way.

"Not to say afraid," answered Andrew, deferentially. "We knew our
danger--two men alone in the leaky, broken brig--but then we could be no
worse off than we were before; and as for the others--"

"They got their deserts," said Mr. Maurice.

"The poor fellows left us in such a hurry that they took hardly any water
or biscuit; and at the worst our fate could not be so bad as theirs, under
the hot sun in those salt seas."

"Well, well!" said Mr. Maurice, who loved his own ease too much to like to
hear of others' dis-ease. And to turn the conversation from the possible
horrors into which it might lapse, he invited his guest out into his
gardens, among his grapehouses, his poultry and his dogs. It was a long
hour's ramble that they took there, well improved on both sides, for
Andrew of course knew it to be for his interest to please the brig's
owner; and Mr. Maurice, who prided himself on having a singularly keen
insight into character, studied the young man's every word and gesture,
for it was not often that he came across such material as this out of
which to make his captains; and to what farther effect in this instance be
pursued his studies might have been told, by any one keener than himself,
through the tone of satisfaction with which, on re-entering the parlor, he
bade his daughter take Andrew down the rooms and tell him the histories of
the surprising pictures there. For Mr. Maurice, one of the great fortunes
of the seaport, being possessed by a mania of belief that every youth who
cast tender eyes upon his daughter cast them not on her, but on her future
havings and holdings, had long since determined to select a husband for
her himself--one who evinced no servile reverence for wealth, one whom he
could trust to make her happy. "And here," he said, "I am not sure but
that I have him."

When Andrew went in to see Louie a moment on his way home that night, he
was in great spirits over the success of his visit, and, dark as it was,
made her blush the color of the rose over the low doorway where they stood
when he asked how she would like to go captain's wife next voyage. And
then he told her of Mr. Maurice's scrutiny and questioning, and the half
hint of a ship of his own to sail some day, and of the pale-faced Miss
Frarnie's interest, and of the long stroll down the parlors among the
pictures, the original of one of which he had seen somewhere in the
Mediterranean, when he and a parcel of sailors went ashore and rambled
through the port, and looked in at a church, where, in the midst of music
and incense and a kneeling crowd, they were shearing the golden locks off
of young girls and making nuns of them. And Andrew forgot to tell of the
way in which Miss Frarnie listened to him and hung upon his words: indeed,
how could he? Perhaps he did not notice it himself; but if he had had a
trifle more personal vanity, and had seen how this pale young
girl--forbidden by a suspicious father much companionship with
gallants--had forgotten all difference of station and purse, and had
looked upon him, nobly made, handsome, gay, knowing far more than she did,
much as upon a young god just alighted by her side a moment,--if Andrew
had been aware of this, and had found any words in which to repeat it,
then Louie might have had something to startle her out of her blessedness,
and pain might have come to her all the sooner. But since the pain would
have been as sharp then as at any future time, it was a pitying, pleasant
Fate that let her have her happiness as long as might be. For Louie's love
was a different thing from the selfish passion that any clown may feel:
she had been happy enough in her little round of commonplace satisfactions
and tasks before Andrew came and shed over her this great cloud of
delight--happy then just in the enjoyment of that secret love of hers that
went out and sought him every night sailing over foreign sunlit waters,
and hovered like a blessing round his head; and now that he had come and
folded her about and about with such warm devotion, it was not for the new
happiness he gave her that she loved him, but in order to make his own
happiness a perfect thing; and if her heart's blood had been needed for
that, it would have been poured out like water. The pale-faced Frarnie--if
question could be of her--might never know such love as that: love with
her could be a sentiment, a lover one who added to her pleasure, but a
sacrifice on her part for that lover would have been something to tell and
sing for ever, if indeed it were possible that such a thing should be made
at all.

So day by day the spell deepened with Louie, and for another week there
was delightful loneliness with this lover of hers--strolls down through
the swampy woods hunting for moss to frame the prints he had brought home
uninjured, and which were to be part of the furnishing of their future
home; others across the salt meadows for the little red samphire stems to
pickle; sails in the float down river and in the creeks, where the tall
thatch parted by the prow rustled almost overhead, and the gulls came
flying and piping around them: here and there, they two alone, pouring out
thought and soul to each other, and every now and then glancing shyly at
those days, that did not seem so very far away, when they should be
sailing together through foreign parts; for Louie's father, the old
fisherman, was all her household, and a maiden aunt, who earned her
livelihood in nursing the sick and attending the dead, would be glad to
come any day and take Louie's place in the cottage.

At the end of the week, Mr. Maurice sent for Andrew to his counting-room;
and after that, on one device or another, he had him there the greater
part of every day, employing him in a score of pleasant ways--asking his
advice as to the repairs of the Sabrina, taking him with him in his chaise
jogging through the shipyard, where a new barque was getting ready for her
launching, examining him the while carefully from time to time after his
wont; at last taking him casually home to dinner with him one day, keeping
him to tea the next, and finally, fully satisfied with the result of his
studies in that edition of human nature, giving him the freedom of the
family as much as if he had been the son of the house.

"I've some plans ahead for you, my boy," said he one day with a knowing
shake of the head; and Andrew's innocent brain began to swim straightway
between the new barque and the Sabrina.

"Look at him!" said Mr. Maurice to his wife one evening as Andrew walked
in the garden with Miss Frarnie. "My mind's made up about him. He's the
stuff for a sea-captain, afraid neither of wind nor weather nor the face
of clay--can sail a ship and choose her cargo. He's none of your coxcombs
that go courting across the way: he's a man into the core of his heart,
and as well bred as any gentleman that walks; though Goodness knows how he
came by it."

"These sea-coast people," said his wife, reflectively (she was inland-born
herself), "see the world and learn."

"Well, what do you say to it? I don't find the flaw in him. If Heaven had
given me a son, I'd have had him be like this one; and since it didn't,
why here's my way to circumvent Heaven."

"Oh, my dear," said the wife, "I can't hear you talk so. And besides--"

"Well? Besides what?"

"I think it is always best to let such things take their own course. We
did."

"Of course we did," laughed Mr. Maurice. "But how about our fathers and
mothers?"

"I mean," said Mrs. Maurice, "not to force things."

"And who intends to force them? It's plain enough the young fellow took a
fancy to our Frarnie the first time he laid eyes on her, isn't it?"

"I mean," said Mrs. Maurice again, "that if Frarnie should have the same
fancy for him, I don't know that there'd be any objection. He is quite
uncommon--quite uncommon when you consider all things--but I don't know
why you want to lead her to like any one in particular, when she has such
a nice home and is all we have."

"Girls will marry, Mrs. Maurice. If it isn't one, it will be another. So I
had rather it should, be one, and that one of my own choosing--one who,
will use her well, and not make ducks and drakes of her money as soon as
we are gone where there's no returning, and without a 'thank you' for your
pains. Look at them now! Should you imagine they thought there was any one
else on earth but each other at this moment? They're fond of each other,
that's plain. They'd be a remarkable-looking couple. What do you think of
it?"

"Frarnie might have that India shawl that I never undid, to appear out
in," said Mrs. Maurice, pensively, continuing her own reflections rather
than directly replying. "And I suppose we needn't lose her really, for she
could make her home with us."

And so the conspiracy advanced, its simple victims undreaming of its
approach--Louie sighing faintly to think she saw so little of Andrew now,
but content, since she was sure it was for his best interest to make the
friendship of the Sabrina's owner; Andrew fretting to see how all this
necessary submission to superiors kept him from Louie, but more than half
compensated with the dazzling visions that danced before his eyes of the
Sabrina in her new rig--of the barque coming down for her masts and sails
from her launching.

The Sabrina had been so badly injured by her disasters that it took much
more time to repair her than had at first been thought. "I'm going to
stand by the old brig," said Andrew to some one--by accident it was in Mr.
Maurice's hearing. "But if I'd known it was going to take so long to have
her whole again, I should have made a penny in taking a run down the bay,
for I had an offer to go second mate on the Tartar."

"I'll go one better than that," said Mr. Maurice then. "Here's the
Frarnie, nearly ready to clear for New Orleans and Liverpool, with your
old captain. You shall go mate of her. That'll show if you can handle a
ship. The Sabrina won't be at the wharf till the round voyage is over and
the Frarnie coming up the stream again. What say you?"

Of course what Andrew said was modest thanks--what he felt was a rhapsody
of delight; and when he told Louie that night, what she said was a sob,
and what she felt was a blank of fright and foreboding. Oh what should she
do? cried the selfish little thing--what should she do in the long, long,
weary days with Andrew gone? But then in a moment she remembered that this
was the first step toward going master of that craft in which her bridal
voyage was to be taken. "And what a long step it is, Andrew!" she cried.
"Was the like of it ever known before? What a long, long step it would be
but for that bitter apprenticeship when you and the captain brought the
wreck home!"

"Ay," said Andrew, proudly: "I served my time before the mast then, if
ever any did."

"And I suppose with the next step you will be master of the Sabrina? Oh, I
should so like it!"

"I don't know," said Andrew, more doubtfully than he had used to speak.
"I'm afraid the owners will think this is enough. This is a great lift.
I'll do my best to satisfy them, though; for I'd rather sail master of the
Sabrina than of the biggest man-of-war afloat."

"We used to play round her when we were children," said Louie,
encouragingly. "Don't you remember leading me down once to admire the lady
on her stern?--like a water-witch just gilded in the rays of some sunrise
she had come up to see, you said."

"Yes; and we used to climb her shrouds, we boys, and get through the
lubber-hole, before we could spell her name out. She's made of heart of
oak: she'll float still when the Frarnie is nothing but sawdust. We used
to watch for her in the newspapers--we used to know just as much about her
goings and comings as the owner did. Somehow--I don't know why--I've
always felt as if my fate and fortune hung upon her. It used to be the top
of my ambition to go master of her. It is now. I couldn't make up my mind
to leave her when the others did that cruel morning after the wreck; and
when the captain said he should stay by her, my heart sprang up as if she
had been a living thing, and I stayed too. And I'd rather sail her than a
European steamer to-day--that I would, by George!"

"Oh, of course you will," said the sympathizing voice beside him.

"I don't know," said Andrew again, more slowly and reflectively. "I've the
idea--and I can't say how I got it--that there's some condition or other
attached to my promotion--that there's something Mr. Maurice means that I
shall do, and if I don't do it I don't get my lift. It can't be anything
about wages: I don't know what it is!"

"Perhaps," said Louie, innocently, and without a glimpse of the train her
thoughtless words fired--"perhaps he means for you to marry Frarnie!"
laughing a little laugh at the absurd impossibility.

And Andrew started as if a bee had stung him, and saw it all. But in a
moment he only drew Louie closer, and kissed her more passionately, and
sat there caressing her the more tenderly while they listened to a thrush
that had built in the garden thicket, mistaking it for the wood, so near
the town's edge was it, and so still and sunny was the garden all day long
with its odors of southernwood and mint and balm; and he delayed there
longer, holding her as if now at least she was his own, whatever she might
be thereafter.

As he walked home that night, and went and sat upon the wharf and watched
the starlit tide come in, he saw it all again, but with thoughts like a
procession of phantoms, as if they had no part even in the possible things
of life, and were indeed nothing to him. How could they have any meaning
to him--to him, Louie's lover? What would the whole world be to him, what
the sailing of the Sabrina, without Louie? And then a shiver ran across
him: what would Louie be to him without the sailing of the Sabrina! for
that, indeed, as he had said, was the top of his ambition, and that being
his ambition, perhaps ambition, was as strong with him as love.

But with this new discovery on Andrew's part of Mr. Maurice's desires,
Andrew could only recall circumstances, words, looks, hints: he could not
shape to himself any line of duty or its consequences: enough to see that
Mr. Maurice fancied his simple and thoughtless attentions to Frarnie to be
lover-like, and, approving him, looked kindly on them and made his plans
accordingly; enough to see that if he should reject this tacit proffer of
the daughter's hand, then the Sabrina was scarcely likely to be his; and
that in spite of such probability, the first and requisite thing in honor
for him to do was to tell Mr. Maurice of his marriage engagement with
Louie, and then, if the man had neither gratitude nor sense enough to
reward him for his assistance in saving the brig, to trust to fortune and
to time, that at last makes all things even. As he sat there listening to
the lapping of the water and idly watching the reflected stars peer up and
shatter in a hundred splinters with every wash of the dark tide, he could
not so instantaneously decide as to whether he should make this confession
or not. "What business is it of Maurice's?" he said to himself. "Does he
think every one that looks at his scarecrow of a daughter--" But there he
had need to acknowledge to himself his injustice to Miss Frarnie, a modest
maiden who had more cause to complain of him than he of her, since he had
done his best to please her, and her only fault lay in being pleased so
easily. She was pleased with him: he understood that now, though his
endeavors to enlist her had been for a very different manifestation of
interest. Perhaps it flattered him a little: he paused long enough to
consider what sort of a lot it would be if he really had been plighted to
Frarnie instead of Louie. Love and all that nonsense, he had heard say,
changed presently into a quiet sort of contentment; and if that were so,
it would be all the same at the end of a few years which one he took. He
felt that Frarnie was not very sympathetic, that her large white face
seldom sparkled with much intelligence, that she would make but a dull
companion; but, for all that, she would be, he knew, an excellent
housewife: she would bring a house with her too; and when a man is
married, and has half a dozen children tumbling round him, there is
entertainment enough for him, and it is another bond between him and the
wife he did not love too well at first; and if she were his, his would be
the Sabrina also, and when the Sabrina's days were over perhaps a great
East Indiaman, and with that the respect and deference of all his
townsmen: court would be paid to him, his words would be words of weight,
he would have a voice in the selection of town-officers, he would roll up
money in the bank, and some day he should be master of the great Maurice
mansion and the gardens and grapehouses. It was a brilliant picture to
him, doubtless, but in some way the recollection of two barelegged little
children digging clams down on the flats when the tide was out, with the
great white lighthouse watching them across the deserted stretches of the
long bent eel-grass, rose suddenly and wiped the other picture out, and he
saw the wind blowing in Louie's brown and silken hair and kissing the
color on her cheeks; he saw the shy sparkle of her downcast eyes, lovely
and brown then as they were now; and as he stood erect at last, snapping
his fingers defiantly, he felt that he had bidden Mr. Maurice's ships and
stocks and houses and daughter go hang, and had made his choice rather to
walk with Louie on his arm than as master of the Sabrina.

It was a good resolution; and if he had but sealed it by speaking next day
to Mr. Maurice of his engagement, there would not have been a word to say.
But, though he valiantly meant to do it, it was not so easy, after all, as
he had thought, and so he put it off for a more convenient season, and the
season did not come, and the day of sailing did. And the outfit that went
on board the Frarnie was made and packed by the hands of Mrs. Maurice and
her daughter--such an outfit as he had never dreamed of; such warm woolens
for the storms, such soft linens for the heats, such finery for port, such
dainties and delicacies as only the first mate of the Frarnie could think
to have. And as for Louie, it was no outfit, no costly gift of gold or
trouble either, that she could give him: she had nothing for him but a
long, fine chain woven of her own hair, and she hung it round his neck
with tears and embraces and words that could not be uttered and sighs that
changed to sobs, and then came lingering delay upon delay, and passionate
parting at the last. But when the crew had weighed anchor and the sails
were swelling and the waves beyond the bar crying out for them, Miss
Frarnie and her mother could still be seen waving their handkerchiefs from
an upper window; and half blind with the sorrow and the pain he choked
away from sight, and mad with shame to think he had found no way but to
accept their favors, Andrew felt that their signal must be answered, and
sullenly waved his own in reply; and then the pilot was leaving the
barque, and presently the shore and all its complications, and Louie
crying herself sick, were forgotten in the excitement of the moment and
its new duties.

"Didn't say a word of love to Frarnie, eh?" remarked Mr. Maurice in answer
to his wife's communications that evening. "A noble lad, then! I like him
all the better for it. He shall have her all the sooner. He won't abuse
our confidence: that's it. He'll wait till he's bridged over the gap
between them. The first mate of a successful voyage is a better match for
my daughter than the boy who stayed by the Sabrina, brave as he was. He's
fond of her? Don't you think so? There's no doubt about that? None at all!
All in good time--all in good time. I'll speak to him myself. They're
going to write to each other? I thought so."

Short as the trip was that the Frarnie made in that favorable season, it
seemed to Louie an interminable period; but from the cheerful, hopeful
smile upon her lips no one would ever have known how her heart was longing
for her lover as she went about her work; for the little housekeeper had
quite too much to do in keeping the cottage clean, the garden weedless,
the nets mended, to be able to neglect one duty for any love-sick fancies
it might be pleasant to indulge. From morning till night her days were
full in bringing happiness to others: there was her father to make
comfortable; there were the sick old women, of whom her aunt brought word,
to concoct some delicacy for--a cup of custard, to wit, a dish of the
water-jelly she had learned how to make from the sea-moss she gathered on
the beach, a broiled and buttered mushroom from the garden; there were the
canaries and the cat to be cared for, and the dog that Andrew left with
her to feed and shower caresses on; and there was the parrot's toilet to
be made and her lesson to be taught, and the single jars of preserves and
pickles and ketchups to be put up for winter, and the herbs to be dried:
there were not, you may see, many minutes to be wasted out of that busy
little life in castle-building or in crying. One day there came a letter
with Victoria's head and the Liverpool stamp upon it: she knew it by heart
presently, and wore it next her heart by night and day; and even if she
had known that Miss Frarnie Maurice received one in the same handwriting
by the same mail, it would hardly have made much difference to her; and
one day the Sabrina, all freshly coppered and painted and repaired, with
new masts and sails, and so much else that it was not easy to say what
part of her now represented the old brig, came round to her old wharf and
began to take in cargo. Louie ran down one evening with her father, and
went all over her from stem to stern, only one old sailor being aboard;
and she could have told you then every rope from clew to ear-ring; and, as
if it were all the realization of a dream, a thousand happy, daring
thoughts of herself and Andrew then filled her fancy like birds in a nest;
and so swiftly after that did one day flow into another for Louie that the
Frarnie lay in the mid-stream once more before she had more than begun to
count the days to that on which her Liverpool letter had promised that she
should see its writer come walking into her father's cottage again.

But she never did see him come walking into her father's cottage again.
That promised day passed and the night, and another--a long, long day that
seemed as if it would never quench its flame in sunset, and a night that
seemed as if it would never know the dawning; but the threshold of the
fisherman's cottage Andrew Traverse crossed no more.

For Mr. Maurice, on his notable errand of circumventing Heaven, had been
ahead of Fate, and had gone down on the pilot-boat to meet the
Frarnie--with no settled designs of course, but in his own impatient
pleasure; and, delighted with the shipmaster's report and with the
financial promise of the voyage, the cargo, the freights, and ventures and
all, had greeted Andrew with a large-hearted warmth and after a manner
that no churl could withstand; and unwilling to listen to any refusal, had
taken Andrew up to the mansion-house with him the moment the ship had
touched the wharf.

"You don't ask after her?" said Mr. Maurice when they were alone in the
chaise together. And knowing well enough what he meant, Andrew blushed
through all his bronze--knowing well enough, for had he not gone below in
a mighty hurry and tricked himself out in his best toggery so soon as he
understood there was no escape from the visit? Louie would have been glad
enough to see him in his red shirt and tarpaulin!

"Oh, you scamp!" said Mr. Maurice, quickly then detecting the blush.
"Don't say a word! I've been there myself: I know how you're longing to
see her; and she's been at the window looking through the glass every half
hour, the puss!"

"Mr. Maurice," began Andrew, half trembling, but wholly resolved, he
thought--although it must be confessed that with time, and distance, and
Frarnie's effusive letters and flattering prospects on the other hand,
Louie's image was not so bright at that moment as it had been at others,
and for that very reason Andrew was taking great credit to himself for his
upright intentions--credit enough to tide him over a good deal of baseness
if need were,--"Mr. Maurice--" he began; and there he paused to frame his
sentence more suitably, for it was no easy thing to tell a man that he was
throwing his child at one who did not care for her, and that man the
disposer of his fortunes.

But Mr. Maurice saved him any such trouble. "I know all you're going to
say," he exclaimed. "I understand your hesitation, and I honor you for it.
But I'm no fool, and there's no need to have you tell me that you want my
Frarnie, for I've known that long ago."

"Mr. Maurice!"

"Yes, I have," answered the impulsive gentleman. "Mrs. Maurice and I
talked it over as soon as we saw which way the wind lay; but of course we
decided to say nothing till we were sure, quite sure, that it was Frarnie
and not her prospects--"

"Oh, sir, you--"

"Tush, tush! I know all about it now. But it becomes a father to be wary,"
continued the other, taking the words from Andrew's lips in spite of
himself, and quite wary enough not to mention that in Frarnie's
easily-excited favor a young scapegrace was very likely to supplant Mr.
Andrew if things were not brought to a point at once. "It was my duty to
look at all sides," he said, without stopping for breath. "Now I know you,
and I see you'd rather give the girl the go-by for ever than have her
think you wanted her because she was her father's daughter, and not some
poor fisherman's."

"Indeed, indeed--" began Andrew again, leaning forward, his cheeks
crimson, his very hands shaking.

"Of course, my boy," interrupted his companion as before--"of course.
Don't say a word: you're welcome to her at last. I never thought I'd
surrender her to any one so freely; but if I were choosing from all the
world, Andrew, I don't know any one I'd choose sooner for my son. She's a
sensible girl, my Frarnie is, at bottom. We know her heart: it's a good
heart--only the froth of all young girls' fancies to be blown off. And the
Sabrina always was a pet of mine, and, though I've said nothing of it,
I've meant her for Frarnie's husband this many a day." And before Andrew,
in his flurry and embarrassment and bewilderment, could enunciate any
distinct denial of anything or avowal of anything else, the chaise was at
the door, and Mrs. Maurice was waiting for him with extended hands, and
Frarnie was standing and smiling behind, half turned to run away. And Mr.
Maurice cried out: "Captain Traverse of the Sabrina, my dear! Here,
Frarnie, Frarnie! none of your airs and graces! Come and give your
sweetheart an honest kiss!" And Andrew, doubting if the minister were not
behind the door and he should not find himself married out of hand,
irresolute, cowardly, too weak to give up the Sabrina and that sweet new
title just ringing in his ears, was pushed along by Mr. Maurice's foolish,
hearty hand till he found himself bending over Frarnie with his arm around
her waist, his lips upon her cheek, and without, as it seemed to him,
either choice or volition on his part. But as he looked up and saw the
portraits of the girl's grandfathers, where they appeared to be looking
down at him stern and questioning, a guilty shame over the wrong he was
doing their child smote him sorely: he saw that he had allowed the one
instant of choice to slip away; the sense came over him that he had sealed
his own doom, while a vision of Louie's face, full of desolation and
horror, was scorching in upon his soul; and there, in the moment of
betrothal, his punishment began. He stole down to the Sabrina's wharf that
evening, after the moon had set, and looking round to see that it was
quite forsaken at that hour, he took from his neck a long, slender
hair-chain to drop over into the deep water there; but as he held the
thing it seemed suddenly to coil round his hand with a caress, as if it
were still a part of Louie's self. He stamped his foot and ground his heel
into the earth there with a cry and an oath, and put the chain back again
whence he had taken it, and swore he would wear it till they laid his
bones under ground. And he looked up at the dark lines of the brig looming
like the black skeleton of an evil thing against the darkness of the
night, and he cursed himself for a traitor to both women--for a hypocrite,
a craven, a man sold to the highest bidder. Well, well, Captain Traverse,
there are curses that cling! And Louie sat in the gloom at the window of
the fisherman's cottage down below the town, and sighed and wondered and
longed and waited, but Captain Traverse went back to the Maurices'
mansion.

       *       *       *       *       *

It is one of the enigmas of this existence how women forgive the wrong of
such hours as came to Louie now--hours of suspense and suffering--hours of
a misery worse than the worm's misery in blindness and pain before it
finds its wings.

At first she expected her lover, and speculated as to his delay, and
fretted to think anything might detain him from her; and now she was
amazed, and now vexed, and now she was forgiving the neglect, accusing
herself and making countless excuses for him; and now imagining a thousand
dire mishaps. But as the third day came and he was still away--he who had
been always wont to seek her as soon as the craft was made fast to
wharf--then she felt her worst forebodings taking bodily shape: he was
ill, he had fallen overboard, he had left the vessel at Liverpool and
shipped upon another, and a letter would come directly to say so; or else
he had been waylaid and robbed and made away with: not once did she dream
that he was false to her--to her, a portion of his own life!

How it was with him there were numberless ways in which she might have
discovered, for every soul of her acquaintance knew Andrew, and must be
aware of the fact if he were missing or ailing, or if any other ill chance
had befallen him. But as often as she tried to address one or another
passing by the window, her voice failed her and her heart, and she asked
no questions, and only waited on. A life of suspense, exclaims some one, a
life of a spider! And when we are in suspense, says another, all our aids
are in suspense with us. Day after day she stayed continually in the
house, looking for him to come, never stirring out even into the garden,
lest coming she might miss him. Night after night she sat alone at her
window till the distant town-clocks struck midnight--now picturing to
herself the glad minute of his coming, the quick explaining words, the
bursting tears of relief, the joy of that warm embrace, the touch of those
strong arms--now convinced that he would never come, and her heart sinking
into a bitter loneliness of despair.

It grew worse with her when she knew that he was really in the town, alive
and well; for, from the scuttle in the roof, by the aid of her father's
glass, she could see the Sabrina, and one day she was sure that a form
whose familiar outlines made her pulses leap was Andrew himself giving
orders on the deck there; and after that she tortured herself with
conjectures till her brain was wild--chained hand and foot, unable to
write him or to seek him in any maidenly modesty, heart and soul in a
ferment. Still she waited in that shuddering suspense, with every nerve so
tightly strung, that voice or footfall vibrated on them into pain. If
Andrew, in the midst of the gayeties by which he found himself accepted of
the Maurices' friends, was never haunted by any thought of all this, his
heart had grown stouter in one year's time than twenty years had found and
left it previously.

But Louie's suspense was of no long duration, as time goes, though to her
it was a lifetime. A week covered it--a week full of stings and fevered
restlessness--when her father came in one day and said bitterly, thinking
it best to make an end of all at once: "So I hear that a friend of ours
has been paid off at last. Captain Andrew Traverse of the Sabrina is going
to marry his owner's daughter Frarnie. Luck will take passage on that
brig!" And when Louie rose from the bed on which she lay down that night,
the Sabrina had been a fortnight gone on her long voyage--a voyage where
the captain had sailed alone, postponing the evil day perhaps, and at any
rate pleading too much inexperience, for all his dazzling promotion, to be
trusted with so precious thing as a wife on board during the first trip.
He had not felt that hesitation once when portraying the possibilities of
the voyage to another.

It was not a long illness, Louie's, though it had been severe enough to
destroy for her consciousness both of pain and pleasure. Her aunt had left
other work and had nursed her through it; but when, strong and well once
more, she went about her old duties, it seemed to her that that
consciousness had never returned: she took up life with utter listlessness
and indifference, and she fancied that her love for Andrew was as dead as
all the rest. The poor little thing, laying this flattering unction to
heart, did not call much reason to her aid, or she would have known that
there was some meaning in it when she cried all day on coming across an
old daguerreotype of Andrew. "It isn't for love of him," she sobbed. "It's
for the loss of all that love out of my life that was heaven to me. Oh no,
no! I love him no longer: I can't, I can't love him: he is all the same as
another woman's husband." But, despite this stout assertion, she could not
bring herself to part with that picture: he was not in reality quite the
husband of another woman, and till he was indeed she meant to keep it. "He
is only promised to her yet, and he was promised first to me," she said
for salve to conscience; and meanwhile the picture grew so blurred with
conscious tears, and perhaps with unconscious kisses, that it might have
been his or another's: Miss Frarnie herself, had she seen it, could not
have told whose it was.

Notwithstanding all the elasticity of youth, life became an inexpressibly
dull thing to Louie as the year wore into the next--dull, with neither aim
nor object, the past a pain to remember, the future a blank to consider.
She could live only from day to day, one day like another, till they grew
so wearisome she wondered her hair was not gray--the pretty hair that,
shorn from her head in her illness, had grown again in a short fleece of
silky curls--for it seemed to her that she had lived a hundred years. And
because troubles never come alone, and one perhaps makes the other seem
lighter and better to be borne, in the thick of a long winter's storm they
brought home her father, the old fisherman, drowned and dead.

Captain Traverse knew of the old fisherman's death through the newspapers
that found him in his foreign ports--not through Miss Frarnie's letters,
for she knew almost nothing of the existence or non-existence of such low
people; and therefore, conjecture as he needs must concerning Louie's
means of livelihood now, there was no intelligence to relieve any anxiety
he might have felt, or to inform him of the sale of the cottage to pay the
debt of the mortgage under which it was bought, or of the support that
Louie earned in helping her aunt watch with the sick and lay out the dead:
he could only be pricked with knowledge of the fact that he had no right
to his anxiety, or to the mention of her name even in his prayers--if he
said them.

Poor little Louie! A sad end to such a joyous youth as hers had been, you
would have said; but, in truth, her new work was soothing to her: her
heart was simply in harmony with suffering, with death and desolation, and
by degrees she found that comfort from her double sorrows in doing her
best to bring comfort to others which it may be she could never have found
had she been the pampered darling of some wealthy house. Often, when she
forgot what she was doing, Louie made surmises concerning Frarnie Maurice,
wondering if she were the noble thing that Andrew needed to ennoble
him--if she were really so strong and beautiful that the mere sight of her
had killed all thought or memory of an older love; trying to believe her
all that his guardian angel might wish his wife to be, and to acknowledge
that she herself was so low and small and ignorant that she could only
have injured him--to be convinced that it was neither weakness, nor
covetousness, nor perjury in Andrew, having met the sun, to forget the
shadows; wondering then if Frarnie cared for him as she herself had done,
and crying out aloud that that could never be, until the sound of her own
sobs woke her from her forbidden dream. But at other times a calm came to
Louie that was more pathetic than her wildest grief: it was the
acquiescence in what Providence had chosen for Andrew, cost herself what
it might--it was the submission of the atom beneath the wheels of the
great engine.

It is true that as, late in the night, when all the town was asleep and
only silence and she abroad, she walked home by herself from some deathbed
whose occupant she had composed decently for the last sleep, she used to
wish it were herself lying there on that moveless pillow, and soon to be
sheltered from the cruel light by the bosom of the kindly earth. For now,
as she passed the birches softly rustling in the night wind, and hurried
by, she remembered other times when she had passed them, and had stopped
to listen, cared for, protected, with Andrew's arm about her; and now, as
the clocks, one after another, remotely chimed the hour, the sound smote
her with a familiar sweetness full of pain; and now, as she came along the
sea-wall and saw the dark river glimmering widely and ever the same, while
its mysterious tide flowed to meet the far-off spark of the lighthouse
lantern, she recalled a hundred happy hours when she and Andrew in the
boat together had rocked there in soft summer nights, with sunset melting
in the stream and wrapping them about with rosy twilight; or those when
whispers of the September gales swelled the sail, and the boat flew like a
gull from crest to crest of the bar; or those when misty sea-turns crept
up stream and folded them, and drowned the sparkle of the lighthouse and
the emerald and ruby ray of the channel lights, and left them shut away
from the world, alone with each other on the great gray current silently
sweeping to the sea--times when she knew no fear, trusting in the strong
arm and stout heart beside her, before the river had brought death to her
door; when the whole of life seemed radiant and rich--times that made this
solitary night walk trodden now seem colder and drearier and darker than
the grave--that made her wish it ended in a grave.

And so at length the year slipped by, and spring had come again, and the
sap had leaped up the bough and burst into blossom there, and the blood
had bubbled freshly in the veins of youth, and hope had once more
gladdened all the world but Louie. With her only a dull patience stayed
that tried to call itself content, until she heard it rumored among the
harbor-people that the Sabrina was nearly due again, and with that her
heart beat so turbulently that she had to crush it down again with the
thought that, though Andrew every day drew nearer, came up the happy
climates of southern latitudes and spread his sails on favoring gales for
home, he only hastened to his wedding-day. And one day, at last, she rose
to see a craft anchored in the middle channel down below the piers,
unpainted and uncleaned by any crew eager to show their best to shore--a
black and blistered brig, with furled sails and silent deck; and some men
called it the fever-ship, and some men called it the Sabrina.

As the news of the brig's return and of her terrible companion spread
through the town, a panic followed it, and the feeling with which she was
regarded all along the shore during that day and the next would hardly be
believed by any but those who have once been in the neighborhood of a
pestilence themselves. Exaggerated accounts of a swift, strange illness,
by many believed to be the ancient plague revived again and cast loose
through the land from Asiatic ships had reached the old port; and aware
that they were peculiarly exposed by reason of their trade, small as it
was, the people there had already died a thousand deaths through
expectation of the present coming of the fever already raging in other
parts. Hitherto, the health-officers, boarding everything that appeared,
had found no occasion to give anything but clean papers, and the town had
breathed again. But now, when at last it spread from lip to lip that the
fever lay at anchor in mid-channel, knees shook and cheeks grew white, and
health-officer and port-physician, in spite of the almost instantaneous
brevity of their visit to the infected vessel, were avoided as though they
were the pestilence themselves, and not a soul in all the town was found
to carry a cup of cold water to the gasping, burning men cared for only by
those in less desperate strait than themselves, and who, having buried
two-thirds of their number in deep-sea soundings, were likely to be denied
as much as a grave on shore themselves; while to Mr. Maurice, half wild
with perplexity and foreboding and amazement at Miss Frarnie's yet wilder
terror,--to him the red lantern hung out by the brig at nightfall
magnified itself in the mist into a crimson cloud where with wide wings
lurked the very demon of Fever himself.

Not a soul to carry the cup of cold water, did I say? Yes, one timid
little soul there was, waiting in a fever of longing herself--waiting that
those who had a right to go might do so if they would--waiting till
assured that neither Frarnie Maurice nor her parents had the first
intention of going, though affianced husband and chosen son lay dying
there--waiting in agony of impatience, since every delay might possibly
mean death,--one little brave and timid soul there was who ventured forth
on her errand of mercy alone. The fisherman's old boat still lay rocking
in the cove, and the oars stood in the shed: Louie knew how to use them
well, and making her preparations by daylight, and leaving the rest till
nightfall, lest she should be hindered by the authorities, she found means
to impress the little cow-boy into her service; and after dark a keg of
sweet water was trundled down and stored amidships of the boat, with an
enormous block of ice rolled in an old blanket; a basket of lemons and
oranges was added, a roll of fresh bed-linen, a little box of such
medicines as her last year's practice had taught her might be of use; and
extorting a promise from the boy that he would leave another block of ice
on the bank every night after dark for her to come and fetch, Louie
quickly stepped into the boat, lifted the oars, and slipt away into the
darkness of the great and quiet river.

When, three days afterward, Captain Traverse unclosed his eyes from a
dream of Gehenna and the place the smoke of whose torment goes up for
ever, a strange confusion crept like a haze across his mind, tired out and
tortured with delirium, and he dropped the aching lids and fell away into
slumber again; for he had thought himself vexed with the creak of cordage
and noise of feet, stived in his dark and narrow cabin, on a filthy bed in
a foul air, if any air at all were in that noisome place, reeking with
heat and the ferment of bilge-water and fever-smell; and here, unless a
new delirium chained him, a mattress lay upon the deck with the awning of
an old sail stretched above it and making soft shadow out of searching
sun, a gentle wind was blowing over him, a land-breeze full of sweet
scents from the gardens on the shore, from the meadows and the marshes.
Silence broken only by a soft wash of water surrounded him; a flake of ice
lay between his lips, that had lately been parched and withering, and
delicious coolness swathed his head, that had seemed to be a ball of
burning fire. The last that he remembered had been a hot, dry, aching
agony, and this was bliss: the sleep into which he fell when waking from
the stupor that had benumbed his power of suffering--a power that had
rioted till no more could be suffered--lasted during all the spell of that
fervid noon sun that hung above the harbor and the town like the unbroken
seal of the expected pestilence. A strange still town, fear and heat
keeping its streets deserted, its people longing for an east wind that
should kill the fever, yet dreading lest it should blow the fever in on
them; a strange still harbor, its great peaceful river darkened only by
that blot where the sun-soaked craft swung at her anchor; a strange still
craft, where nothing stirred but one slender form, one little being that
went about laying wet cloths upon this rude sailor's head, broken ice
between the lips of that one, moistening dry palms, measuring out cooling
draughts, and only resting now and then to watch one sleeper sleep, to
hang and hear if in that deep dream there were any breathing and it were
not the last sleep of all. And in Louie's heart there was something just
as strange and still as in all other things throughout that wearing,
blinding day; but with her the calm was not of fear, only of unspeakable
joy; for if Andrew lived it was she that had saved him, and though he
died, his delirium had told her that his heart was hers. "If he dies, he
is mine!" she cried triumphantly, forgetting all the long struggle of
scruple and doubt, "and if he lives, he shall never be hers!" she cried
softly and with that inner voice that no one hears.

And so the heat slipped down with the sun to other horizons, coolness
crept in upon the running river's breast with the dusk, dew gathered and
lay darkly glittering on rail and spar and shroud as star by star stole
out to sparkle in it; and Andrew raised his eyes at length, and they
rested long and unwaveringly on the little figure sitting not far away
with hands crossed about the knees and eyes looking out into the last
light--the tranquil, happy face from which a white handkerchief kept back
the flying hair while giving it the likeness of a nun's. Was it a dream?
Was it Louie? Or was it only some one of the tormenting phantoms that for
so many burning days had haunted him? He tried in vain to ask: his tongue
clove to the roof of his mouth; he seemed to be in the power of one of
those fierce nightmares where life depends on a word and the word is not
to be spoken. Only a vision, then: he closed his lids thinking it would be
gone when he lifted them, but he did not want it to be gone, and looked
again to find it as before. And by and by it seemed to him that long
since, in a far-off dream, he had gathered strength and uttered the one
thought of his fever, "Louie, what do you do now?" and she had answered
him, as though she thought aloud, "I stroke the dead;" and he had cried
out, "Then presently me too, me too! And let the shroud be shotted heavily
to bury me out of your sight!" And he was crying it out again, but while
he spoke a mouth was laid on his--a warm, sweet mouth that seemed to
breathe fresh spirit through his frame--his head was lifted and pillowed
on a breast where he could hear the heart beneath flutter like a happy
bird, and he was wrapped once more in slumber, but this time slumber sweet
as it was deep.

Morning was dawning over the vessel's side, a dream of rosy lustre sifting
through the purple and pearly mist, behind which the stars grew large and
lost while it moved away to the west in one great cloud, and out of which
the river gleamed as if just newly rolled from its everlasting
fountains,--morning was dawning with the sweet freshness of its fragrant
airs stealing from warm low fields, when Andrew once more lifted his eyes
only to find that tranquil face above him still, that happy heart still
beating beneath his pillowed head. "Oh, Louie," he sighed, "speak to
me--say--have I died?--am I forgiven?--is this heaven?"

"To me, dear--oh to me!" answered she with the old radiant smile that used
to make his pulse quicken, and that, ill as he yet was, reassured him as
to his earthly latitude and longitude.

"And it was all a dream, then?" he murmured. "And I have not lost you?" He
raised his wasted hand and drew from his breast the little hair chain that
he had hidden there so long ago. "It was a fetter I could not break," he
whispered. "I wrote her all about it long ago. I wrote her father that he
should have his vessel back again--and I would take my freedom--and not a
dollar's wages for the voyage would I ever draw of him. But I should never
have dared see you--for--oh, Louie--how can you ever--"

"Hush, hush, dear!" she breathed. "What odds is all that now? We have our
life before us."

"Only just help me live it, Louie."

"God will help us," she answered. And as she spoke a sudden rainbow leaped
into the western heaven as if to seal her promise, and as it slowly faded
there came a wild salt smell, an air that tingled like a tonic through the
veins: the east wind was singing in from sea, bringing the music of
breaker and shore, and the fever was blasted by its breath throughout the
little Sabrina.

HARRIET PRESCOTT SPOFFORD.



Old Sadler's Resurrection:

A Yarn of the Mexican Gulf.



"Talking about ghosts," said the captain, "listen while I spin you a bit
of a yarn which dates back some twenty-five years ago, when, but a wee bit
of a midshipman, I was the youngster of the starboard steerage mess on
board the old frigate Macedonian, then flag-ship of the West India
squadron, and bearing the broad pennant of Commodore Jesse Wilkinson.

"It would hardly interest you to tell what a clever set of lieutenants and
ward-room officers we had, and how the twenty-three reefers in the two
steerage messes kept up a racket and a row all the time, in spite of the
taut rein which the first lieutenant, Mr. Bispham, kept over us. He wore
gold-rimmed spectacles; and I can see him now, with the flat
eagle-and-anchor buttons shining on his blue coat, as he would pace the
quarter-deck, eyeing us young gentlemen of the watch, as demurely we
planked up and down the lee side, tired enough, and waiting for eight
bells to strike to rush below and call our relief. He was an austere man,
and, unlike the brave old commodore, made no allowance for our pranks and
skylarking.

"Among our crew, made up of some really splendid fellows, but with an odd
mixture of 'Mahonese,' 'Dagos,' 'Rock-Scorpions,' and other countrymen,
there was an old man-of-war's man named Sadler--a little, dried-up old
chap of some sixty years, who had fought under Nelson at Trafalgar, so he
said, and had been up and down, all around and criss-cross the world so
often that he had actually forgotten where he had been, and so had all his
geography lessons, learned by cruising experience, sadly mixed up in his
head; which, although small, with a little old, weazened frontispiece, was
full of odds and ends of yarns, with which he used to delight us young
aspirants for naval honors, as he would spin them to us on the booms on
moonlight nights, after the hammocks had been piped down. How well do I
remember the old fellow's appearance!--his neat white frock and trowsers,
his low-quarter purser's shoes, with a bit of a ribbon for a bow; no
socks, save the natural, flesh-tinted ones, a blue star, done in India
ink, gleaming on his instep; his broad blue collar, decorated with stars
and two rows of white tape, falling gracefully from a neck which, as we
youngsters asserted, had received its odd-looking twist from hanging too
long by a grape vine, with which the Isle of Pines' pirates had strung him
up when he was chasing them under old Commodore Kearney's command. Anyhow,
old, sharp-faced, wrinkled and tanned to the color of a sole-leather
trunk, the whole cut of his jib told you at once that he was a regular
man-of-war's man--one of a class whose faults I can hardly recall while
remembering their sense of duty, their utter disregard of danger, and the
reliance with which you can lead them on to attack anything, from a
hornet's nest to an iron-clad.

"Well, it so happened, one hot day, while cruising in the Gulf of Mexico,
that the news came to us that old Sadler was dead; and sure enough it was
so, for the old fellow had quietly slipped his moorings, and, as we all
hoped, had at last gone to where the sweet little cherub sits up aloft who
looks out for the soul of poor Jack. Then, after the doctors had had a shy
at him, to see why he had cleared out so suddenly, his remains were taken
in charge by his messmates, who rigged the old man out in his muster
clothes, sewed him up in his clean white hammock, with an eighteen pound
shot at his feet, and reported to the officer of the deck that the body
was ready for burial. So, about six bells in the afternoon watch, the
weather being very hot, and not a breath of air to ripple the glassy
surface of the water, the lieutenant of the watch directed one of the
young gentlemen to tell the boatswain to call 'All hands to bury the
dead;' and soon fore and aft the shrill whistles were heard, followed by
that saddest of all calls to a sailor at sea--'All hands bury the dead!'

"Our good old boatswain, Wilmuth, seemed to linger on the words with a
feeling akin to grief at parting with an old shipmate, and as the last man
reached the deck, he touched his hat and in a sad sort of way reported,
'All up, sir,' to the first lieutenant, who in his turn reported,
'Officers and men all on deck, sir,' to the commodore, who thereupon gave
an order to the chaplain to go on with the services.

"The courses were hauled up, main-topsail to the mast, band on the
quarter-deck, colors half-mast, and all hands, officers and men, stood
uncovered, looking silently and sadly upon the body as it lay upon the
gang-boards in its white hammock, ready for the last rites. Solemnly and
most impressively were the services read, and at the words, 'We commit his
body to the deep,' a heavy splash was heard, and poor old Sadler had gone
to his long home for ever. Some of us youngsters ran up in the lee main
rigging to see him go down, and as we watched him go glimmering and
glimmering down to a mere speck, we wondered where he was bound, and how
long it would take him to fetch Davy Jones' locker on that tack.

"'Pipe down, sir,' says the commodore to Mr. Bispham; 'Pipe down, sir,'
says Mr. Bispham to Mr. Alphabetical Gray, who was officer of the deck;
'Pipe down, sir,' says Mr. Gray to the gentleman of the watch; 'Pipe down,
sir,' says this youngster to the boatswain; and then _such_ a twitter of
pipes followed this order, and all hands were piped down, while poor old
Sadler was still off soundings, and going down as fast as the
eighteen-pound shot would take him.

"Now, you know that people coming from a funeral on shore always have a
gay sort of air, suppressed it may be, but still cropping out; and just so
is it with sailors at sea; for, Sadler's body committed to the deep, all
hands felt better: the fore and main tacks were hauled aboard, the main
yard was filled away, and the jib sheet hauled aft, and we all settled
down into every-day life, which, after all, is not half so monotonous on
board a man-of-war as you might suppose.

"Well, as I have said, the weather was very hot, the surface of the water
was as smooth as a mill-pond, the wind was all up and down the mast, and
so the old ship was boxing the compass all to herself, and not making a
foot of headway.

"At one bell in the first dog watch, Boyle, the ship's cook, reported the
tea-water ready, and after this came the inevitable evening-quarters--and
some old man-of-war's men would think the country was going to 'Jemmy
Square-toes' stern first if they didn't have quarters--then down hammocks
for the night at six bells, and after that just as much of fun, frolic,
dance, song and yarn spinning as all hands wanted until eight bells, when
the watch was called.

"John Moffitt, the sailing master, the best fellow in the ward-room mess,
and a great favorite with the youngsters, was officer of the deck from six
to eight o'clock; and my messmate, Perry Buckner, of Scott county,
Kentucky, the most dare-devil midshipman of us all, was master's mate of
the forecastle; Hammond, Marshall, Smith and I were the gentlemen of the
Watch; Rodney Barlow was quartermaster at the 'con;' the lookouts had just
been stationed; the men were singing, dancing, spinning yarns and
otherwise amusing themselves about the decks, while the old ship was
turning lazily around in the splendid moonlight as if admiring herself.

"Discipline, you know, is the very life of a man-of-war, and this must
account for what now took place. Tom Edwards, a young foretopman, had the
lee lookout, and as seven bells struck he sang out, 'Lee cat-head;' but
the last syllable died away on his lips as his eyes rested upon an
object--a white object--standing bolt upright in the water before him,
about a hundred yards distant and broad off on the lee bow. Suppressing a
strong desire to shriek, and recovering himself, he touched his hat and
said, 'Mr. Buckner, will you step up here, sir, if you please?'

"'What is she, Edwards?' said Buckner, as he quickly mounted the
hammock-rail.

"One look, a dip down, a shiver, and, O Lord! what did he see but _old
Sadler standing straight as a ramrod, and heading right for the ship!_

"It took Buck a full minute to recover himself, and then, with one eye on
the lee bow and the other on the quarter-deck, he walked aft and
deliberately touching his cap, reported to Moffitt, 'Old Sadler broad off
on the lee bow, sir.'

"'The d---- he is!' exclaimed Moffitt; but, checking himself, he said,
'Mr. Hammond, report Sadler's arrival to the commodore; and you, Mr.
M----, report it to the first lieutenant, sir.'

"My eyes were as big as saucers as I rushed down the steerage ladder and
into the ward-room, where I found the first lieutenant quietly seated
reading over the black list; and when, with my heart in my throat, I said,
'Mr. Bispham, old Sadler is on the lee bow, sir,' he serenely replied,
'Very well, Mr. M---- I'll be on deck directly.'

"'O Lord!' said I to myself--'to take a ghost as easily as all that!'
Bolting up the ladder on my way back to the deck, and trembling lest I
should see the ghost popping his head in through one of the gun-deck
ports, I ran into Hammond, who dodged me like a shot.

"When I got on deck the news was all out, for Tom Edwards couldn't stand
it any longer, but had just yelled out, 'Ghost ho! ghost ho! Look out!
stand from under! here he comes!' and bolted aft, scared out of his wits.

"In ten seconds all hands were on deck--ship's cook, yeoman, 'Jemmy Legs,'
'Jemmy Ducks,' 'Bungs,' Loblolly boy,' captain of the hold, and, by this
time, all the officers too, with the midshipmen scuttling up the ladders
as fast as their legs and hands could carry them.

"Moffitt had hauled up the courses and squared the main yard, as much to
make a diversion as anything else, although the men thought it was to keep
old Sadler from boarding us; and as they rushed up on deck they filled the
booms; lee rigging, hammock--netting and every available spot from which a
sight of the old fellow could be had.

"Very soon they saw that he was not approaching the ship: the old sinner
was just turning and turning around in the water, like a fishing-cork,
dancing away all to himself, while the moonlight, first on one side, and
then on the other, in light and shadow, gave a queer sort of look to his
features, sometimes sad and sometimes funny.

"After watching him for a few minutes, Bill Ellis, the second captain of
the foretop, hailed him thus: 'Sadler, ahoy! What do you want?'

"No answer being received, one of the mizzentop boys suggested that the
old man had come back for his bag and hammock, and that they ought to be
thrown overboard to him; but all this was cut short by the appearance of
the commodore on the quarter-deck, and upon him all eyes were turned as he
stepped upon the port horseblock, where a good view could be had.

"Now, old Jess was as brave an old fellow as ever sailed a ship, but he
did not fancy ghosts, and the knowledge that all hands were looking at him
to see how he took it made him feel a little nervous; but with a firm
voice he called for his night-glass, and when the quartermaster, with a
touch of his hat, handed it to him, he quietly arranged the focus, and, as
we all supposed, was about to point it at Sadler, who was still dancing
away for dear life all to himself. But old Jess was too smart for that: he
quietly directed his glass to another quarter, to gain a little time, and,
gradually sweeping the horizon, brought it at last, with a tremor of
mortal dread, to bear dead upon the ghost. Bless my soul! how the old
gentleman shook! But recovering himself, with a big gulp in his throat he
turned to the chaplain and said, 'Did you read the _full_ service over him
to-day, Mr. T----?'

"'I did, sir, as well as I can remember,' replied Mr. T.

"'Then, sir,' said the commodore, turning to Mr. Bispham and speaking in
an authoritative tone, 'we must send a boat and bring him on board.'

"'O Lord! O Lord!--bring a ghost on board!' groaned the men.

"'Silence, fore and aft!' said Mr. Bispham, 'and call away the second
cutter.'

"'Away there, you second cutters, away!' sung out the boatswain's mate.
But they didn't 'away' one step, and we youngsters could hear the men
growling out, 'What does the commodore want with old Sadler? This isn't
his place: let the old man rip: he is dead and buried all right. We didn't
ship to go cruising after ghosts: we shipped to reef topsails and work the
big guns; and if old Jess wants old Sadler on board, he had better go
after him himself.' Some said he had come back after his bag and hammock,
and the best way was to let him have them, and then he would top his boom
and clear out. Others said the purser had not squared off his account; and
one of the afterguard was seen to tickle the mainmast and whistle for a
breeze, to give the old fellow a wide berth. But it wouldn't do:
discipline is discipline; and after a free use of the colt and a good deal
of hazing, the boat's crew came aft, the cutter was lowered, and the men,
with their oars up and eyes upon the ghost, were waiting the order to
shove off, the bow oarsman having provided himself with a boarding-pike to
'fend off,' as he said, if the old man should fight.

"We youngsters knew that _somebody_ else was needed in that boat, and that
_somebody_ was a midshipman with his side-arms; but not a boy of us said a
word about it, and we were afraid even to catch the first lieutenant's
eye, lest he should be reminded that no young officer had, as usual, been
ordered to go; but the order came at last. When Moffitt asked the first
lieutenant, 'What officer, sir, shall I send in that boat?' we scattered
like a flock of birds, but all too late; for Mr. Bispham referred the
matter to the commodore, who, with a twinkle in his eye, said, 'Who
discovered the ghost, sir?'

"'Midshipman Buckner reported him, sir,' was the reply.

"'Then,' said the commodore, 'by priority of discovery he belongs to Mr.
Buckner, who will take charge of the cutter and bring him on board.'

"I heard all this from my place behind the mizzen mast, and you may guess
how glad I was not to have been selected; but a groan, a chattering of the
teeth, a trembling and shaking of bones close by my side, caused me to
look around, and there was poor Buck, with his priority honors thick upon
him.

"'Get your side-arms, sir,' said Moffitt: 'take charge of the cutter and
carry out the commodore's order.'

"'Ay, ay, sir!' said Buck, but oh with what a change in his voice! As he
buckled on his sword I could see what a struggle he was making to feel
brave. As he went over the gangway to get into the boat I caught his eye,
and if you could have seen that forlorn look you would have pitied him;
for there was old Sadler turning and turning in the water, looking first
this way, and then the other, and, as Buck thought, just ready to hook on
to him and carry him down among the dead men.

"It is no light matter to go up to a ghost, front face, full face, and
look him in the eye; but what must it be when you have to go up to him
_backward_, as that cutter's crew had to do while pulling their oars,
leaving only Buck and the cox-swain to face him? They just couldn't do it,
and at every stroke they would suddenly slew around on their thwarts and
look at the old fellow, who seemed to them as big as an elephant, and just
ready to clap on to them, boat and all, as soon as they turned to give
another stroke. Poor fellows! they made but little headway, and what with
catching crabs, fouling their oars, blasting old Sadler's eyes, and
denouncing him generally (one fellow fairly yelled outright when the bow
oarsman accidentally touched him), they had a hard pull of it; but still
they made some progress, and when Buck sang out, 'Way enough,' every oar
flew inboard, every man faced suddenly around, and with this the cutter
keeled over, and, her bow touching old Sadler on his shoulder, ducked him
out of sight for a second, at which all hands shouted, thinking that he
had gone for ever; but in a moment more up he popped, fresh as a lark,
higher than ever before, and this time right abreast of the stern-sheets,
where he bobbed and bowed to Buck, at which, with a yell of terror, all
hands went overboard, and, floundering in the water, begged for mercy. The
cutter had some little headway, and this of course brought Sadler astern
on the other quarter, and then there was a wild rush to get back into the
boat, for fear the old fellow was doubling on them to make a grab.

"The commodore, hearing the row and fearing disaster, ordered another boat
to the rescue, but ere it reached the spot, Buck had, in some manner,
quieted his men, who, seeing the ghost still standing bolt upright in the
water and dancing away as if nothing had happened to scare _him_, manned
their oars again and pulled cautiously toward him; while he, with that
changeable moonlight grin on his face, was bobbing up and down to the
boat's crew, as if Buck were the commodore himself coming to pay him a
visit.

"'Stand by, there in the bow, to hook on to him,' sang out Buck.

"'Ay, ay, sir! I'll fix him;' and with that, and a heavy expletive in
regard to the old fellow's eyes, the bow oarsman slammed his boarding-pike
right into the ghost, just abaft his left leg, and as the sharp steel
touched the body, a whizzing sound, like the escape of steam, was heard,
and without a word old Sadler vanished from sight for ever."

"But, captain, tell us what really brought the old gentleman back," said
one of the auditors.

"Well, just think of that tight white hammock, the light weight of the
shot, and the very hot weather--think, too, how easily a fishing-cork is
balanced in the water by a very small sinker, and lastly how confined air
will buoy up anything--and you have the whole secret of his coming back.
Let that air suddenly escape, and you have the secret of his
disappearance.

"Buck used to say that 'priority of discovery' was a good thing in the
days of Columbus, but if it was to be continued in force in the United
States navy, hang him if he should ever report another ghost, even if he
should see him walking the quarter-deck with the speaking-trumpet under
his arm."

R. D. MINOR.





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