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Title: The Dreamer - A Romantic Rendering of the Life-Story of Edgar Allan Poe
Author: Stanard, Mary Newton, 1865-1929
Language: English
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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.

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THE DREAMER

A Romantic Rendering of the Life-Story of Edgar Allan Poe

by

MARY NEWTON STANARD
(Author of "The Story of Bacon's Rebellion")



     "They who dream by day are cognizant of many things which
     escape those who dream only by night. In their gray visions
     they obtain glimpses of eternity, and thrill, in waking, to
     find they have been upon the verge of the great secret."

     --_Edgar Allan Poe, in "Eleanora"_



Richmond, Virginia
The Bell Book and Stationery Company
1909
Copyright 1909
By Mary Newton Stanard



[Illustration: THE HERMITAGE PRESS
Bindery of L.H. Jenkins
Richmond, Va.]



    In the Sacred Memory
          of
    My Father and Mother



TO THE READER


This study of Edgar Allan Poe, poet and man, is simply an attempt to
make something like a finished picture of the shadowy sketch the
biographers, hampered by the limitations of proved fact, must, at best,
give us.

To this end I have used the story-teller's license to present the facts
in picturesque form. Yet I believe I have told a true story--true to the
spirit if not to the letter--for I think I have made Poe and the other
persons of the drama do nothing they may not have done, say nothing they
may not have said, feel nothing they may not have felt. In many
instances the opinions, and even the words I have placed in Poe's mouth
are his own--found in his published works or his letters.

I owe much, of course, to the writers of Poe books before and up to my
time. Among these, I would make especial and grateful acknowledgment to
Mr. J.H. Ingram, Professor George E. Woodberry, Professor James A.
Harrison and Mrs. Susan Archer Weiss.

But more than to any one of his biographers, I am indebted to Poe
himself for the revelations of his personality which appear in his own
stories and poems, the most part of which are clearly autobiographic.

M.N.S.



THE DREAMER



CHAPTER I.


The last roses of the year 1811 were in bloom in the Richmond gardens
and their petals would soon be scattered broadcast by the winds which
had already stripped the trees and left them standing naked against the
cold sky.

Cold indeed, it looked, through the small, smoky window, to the eyes of
the young and beautiful woman who lay dying of hectic fever in a dark,
musty room back of the shop of Mrs. Fipps, the milliner, in lower Main
Street--cold and friendless and drear.

She was still beautiful, though the sparkle in the great eyes fixed upon
the bleak sky had given place to deep melancholy and her face was
pinched and wan.

She knew that she was dying. Meanwhile, her appearance as leading lady
of Mr. Placide's company of high class players was flauntingly announced
by newspaper and bill-board.

The advertisement had put society in a flutter; for Elizabeth Arnold Poe
was a favorite with the public not only for her graces of person and
personality, her charming acting, singing and dancing, but she had that
incalculable advantage for an actress--an appealing life-story. It was
known that she had lately lost a dearly loved and loving husband whom
she had tenderly nursed through a distressing illness. It was also known
that the husband had been a descendant of a proud old family and that
the same high spirit which had led his grandfather, General Poe,
passionately denouncing British tyranny, to join the Revolutionary Army,
had, taking a different turn with the grandson, made him for the sake of
the gifted daughter of old England who had captured his heart--actress
though she was--sever home ties, abandon the career chosen for him by
his parents, and devote himself to the profession of which she was a
chief ornament. A brief five years of idylic happiness the pair had
spent together--happiness in spite of much work and some tears;--then
David Poe had succumbed to consumption, leaving a penniless widow with
three children to support. The eldest, a boy, was adopted by his
father's relatives in Baltimore. The other two--a boy of three years in
whom were blended the spirit, the beauty, the talent and the ardent
nature of both parents, and a soft-eyed, cooing baby girl--were clinging
about their mother whenever she was seen off the stage, making a picture
that was the admiration of all beholders.

The last roses of the year would soon be gone from the gardens, but Mrs.
Fipps' windows blossomed gallantly with garlands and sprays more
wonderful than any that ever grew on tree or shrub. Not for many a long
day had the shop enjoyed such a thriving trade, for no sooner had the
news that Mr. Placide's company would open a season at the theatre been
noised abroad than the town beaux addressed themselves to the task of
penning elegant little notes inviting the town belles to accompany them
to the play, while the belles themselves, scenting an opportunity to
complete the wreck of masculine hearts that was their chief business,
addressed themselves as promptly to the quest of the most ravishing
theatre bonnets which the latest Paris fashions as interpreted by Mrs.
Fipps could produce. As that lady bustled back and forth among her
customers, her mouth full of pins and hands full of ribbons, feathers,
flowers and what not, her face wore, in spite of her prosperity, an
expression of unusual gravity.

_She could not get the lodger in the back room off her mind._

Mr. Placide, who had been to see the sick woman, was confident that her
disorder was "nothing serious," and that she would be able to meet her
engagements, and charged the thrifty dealer in fashionable head-gear and
furnished rooms by no means to let the fact that the star was ill "get
out." But the fever-flush that tinged the patient's pale cheeks and the
cough that racked her wasted frame seemed very like danger signals to
good Mrs. Fipps, and though she did not realize the hopelessness of the
case, her spirits were oppressed by a heaviness that would not be shaken
off.

Ill as Mrs. Poe, or Miss Arnold, as she was still sometimes called, was,
she had managed by a mighty effort of will and the aid of stimulants to
appear once or twice before the footlights. But her acting had been
spiritless and her voice weak and it finally became necessary for the
manager to explain that she was suffering from "chills and fevers," from
which he hoped rest and skillful treatment would relieve her and make
it possible for her to take her usual place. But she did not appear.
Gradually her true condition became generally known and in the hearts of
a kindly public disappointment gave place to sympathy. Some of the most
charitably disposed among the citizens visited her, bringing comforts
and delicacies for her and presents for the pretty, innocent babes who
all unconscious of the cloud that hung over them, played happily upon
the floor of the dark and bare room in which their mother's life was
burning out. Nurse Betty, an ample, motherly soul, with cheeks like
winter apples and eyes like blue china, and a huge ruffled cap hiding
her straggly grey locks from view--versatile Betty, who was not only
nurse for the children and lady's maid for the star, but upon occasion
appeared in small parts herself, hovered about the bed and ministered to
her dying mistress.

As the hours and days dragged by the patient grew steadily weaker and
weaker. She seldom spoke, but lay quite silent and still save when
shaken by the torturing cough. On a Sunday morning early in December she
lay thus motionless, but wide-eyed, listening to the sounds of the
church-bells that broke the quiet air. As the voice of the last bell
died away she stirred and requested, in faint accents, that a packet
from the bottom of her trunk be brought to her. When this was done she
asked for the children, and when Nurse Betty brought them to the bedside
she gave into the hands of the wondering boy a miniature of herself,
upon the back of which was written: "For my dear little son Edgar, from
his mother," and a small bundle of letters tied with blue ribbon. She
clasped the baby fingers of the girl about an enameled jewel-case, of
artistic workmanship, but empty, for its contents had, alas, gone to pay
for food. She then motioned that the little ones be raised up and
allowed to kiss her, after which, a frail, white hand fluttered to the
sunny head of each, as she murmured a few words of blessing, then with a
gentle sigh, closed her eyes in her last, long sleep.

The baby girl began to whimper with fright at the suddenness with which
she was snatched up and borne from the room, and the boy looked with awe
into the face of the weeping nurse who, holding his sister in one arm
dragged him away from the bedside and out of the door, by the hand.
There was much hurried tramping to and fro, opening and closing of doors
and drawing to of window-blinds. These unusual sounds filled the boy
with a vague fear.

That night the children were put to bed upon a pallet in Mrs. Fipps' own
room and Mrs. Fipps herself rocked the baby Rosalie to sleep and gave
the little Edgar tea-cakes, in addition to his bread and milk, and told
him stories of Heaven and beautiful angels playing upon golden harps.
The next day the children were taken back to their mother's room. The
shutter to the window which let in the one patch of dim light was now
closed and the room was quite dark, save for two candles that stood upon
stands, one at the foot, the other at the head of the bed. The air was
heavy--sickening almost--with the odor of flowers. Upon the bed, all
dressed in white, and with a wreath of white roses on her dark ringlets,
lay their mother, with eyelids fast shut and a lovely smile on her
lips. She was very white and very beautiful, but when her little boy
kissed her the pale lips were cold on his rosy ones, as if the smile had
frozen there. It was very beautiful but the boy was a little frightened.

"Mother--" he said softly, pleadingly, "Wake up! I want you to wake up."

The weeping nurse placed her arm around him and knelt beside the bed.

"She will never wake up again here on earth, Eddie darling.
Never--nevermore. She has gone to live with the angels where you will be
with her some day, but never--nevermore on earth."

With that she fell to weeping bitterly, hiding her face on his little
shoulder.

The child, marvelling, softly repeated, "Nevermore--nevermore." The
solemn, musical word, with the picture in the dim light, of the sleeping
figure--asleep to wake nevermore--and so white, so white, all save the
dusky curls, sank deep into his young mind and memory. His great grey
eyes were wistful with the beauty, and the sadness, and the mystery of
it all.

The next day the boy rode in a carriage with Mrs. Fipps and Nurse Betty
who had left off the big white cap and was enveloped from head to foot
in black, up a long hill, to a white church in a churchyard where the
grass was still green between the tombstones. The bell in the white
steeple was tolling slowly, solemnly. Soft grey clouds hung over the
steeple and snow-flakes as big as rose-leaves began to fill the air.
Presently the bell ceased tolling and he and Nurse Betty moved up the
aisle behind a train of figures in black, with black streamers floating
from their sleeves. The figures bent beneath a heavy burden. It was long
and black and grim, but the flowers that covered it were snow-white and
filled the church with a sweet smell. A white-robed figure led the way
up the aisle, repeating, as he walked, some words so solemn and full of
melody that they sounded almost like music. The church was dim, and
quiet, and nearly empty. The organ began to play--oh, so softly! It was
very beautiful, but still the boy shuddered, for he dimly realized that
the grim box held the sleeping form that seemed to be his mother, but
was not his real mother. _Her_ kisses were not frozen, and _she_ was in
Heaven with the angels.

The choir sang sweet music and the white-robed priest said more solemn
words that were like spoken music; then the procession moved slowly down
the aisle again and out of the door. The bell in the steeple was silent
now, and the organ was silent. Silently the procession moved--silently
the snow came down. Silently and softly, like white flowers. The green
graves were white with it now, like the flowers on the coffin lid; but
the open grave in the churchyard corner, near the wall--it was dark, and
deep and terrible! The boy's heart almost stood still as, clinging to
Nurse Betty's hand, he stared into its yawning mouth. He felt that he
would choke--would suffocate. They were lowering the box into that deep,
dark pit! What if the sleeping figure should awake, after all--awake to
the darkness and narrowness of that narrow bed!

With a piercing shriek the child broke from his nurse's hand and thrust
himself upon the arm of one of the black figures who held the ropes, in
a wild effort to stay him; then, still shrieking, was borne from the
spot.



CHAPTER II.


"Since it seems you have set your heart upon this thing, I do not forbid
it; but remember, you are acting in direct opposition to my judgment and
advice, and if you ever live to regret it (as I believe you shall) you
will have no one but yourself to blame."

John Allan's voice was harsher, more positive, than usual; his shoulders
seemed to square themselves and a frowning brow hardened an always
austere face. His whole manner was that of a man consenting against his
will. His young wife hung over his chair vainly endeavoring to smooth,
with little pats of her fair hands, the stubborn locks that _would_
stand on end, like the bristles of a brush, whatever she did. Her soft
and vivacious beauty was in striking contrast to the strength and
severity of his rugged and at the same time distinguished countenance.
His narrow, steel-blue eyes, deep sunk under bushy brows and a high, but
narrow, forehead, were shrewd and piercing; his nose was large and like
a hawk's beak. His face too, was narrow, with cheek-bones high as an
Indian's. His mouth was large, but firmly closed, and the chin below it
was long and prominent and was carried stiffly above the high stock and
immaculate, starched shirt-ruffles. Her figure, as she leaned against
the chair's high back, was slender and girlish,--childish, almost, in
its low-necked, short-waisted, slim-skirted, "Empire" dress, of some
filmy stuff, the pale yellow of a Marshal Niel rose. Her face was a
pure oval with delicate, regular features. Her reddish-brown hair,
parted in the middle, was piled on top of her small head, and airy
little curls hung down on her brow on either side of the part. Her
eyes--the color of her hair--were gentle and sweet and her mouth was
tenderly curved and rosy. With her imploring attitude, the sweetness of
her eyes and mouth and the warmth of her plea, her fresh beauty glowed
like a flower, newly opened. All unmoved, John Allan repeated,

"You will have no one but yourself to blame."

Her ardor undimmed by the chariness of the consent she had gained, she
showered the lowering brow with cool, delicate little kisses until it
grew smooth in spite of itself.

"Oh, I know I never shall regret it, John," she cooed. "He is such a
beautiful boy--so sweet and affectionate, so merry and clever! Just what
I should like our own little boy to be, John, if God had blessed us with
one."

"I grant you he seems a bonny little lad enough, Frances. But I realize,
as it seems you do not, the risk of undertaking to rear as your own the
child of any but the most unquestionable parentage. I confess the
thought of introducing into my family the son of professional players is
extremely distasteful to me."

"But John, dear, you know these Poes were not ordinary players. The
father was one of the Maryland Poes and I understand the mother came of
good English stock. She certainly seemed to be a lady and a good, sweet
woman, poor thing! The Mackenzies have decided to adopt the baby
Rosalie, though they have children, as you know; and with this charming
little Edgar for my very own I shall be the happiest woman alive."

"Well, well, keep your pretty little pet, but if he turns out to be
other than a credit to you, don't forget that you were warned."

       *       *       *       *       *

And so the little Edgar Poe--the players' child--became Edgar Allan,
with a fond and admiring young mother who became at once and forever his
slave and whose chief object in life henceforth was to stand between him
and the discipline of a not intentionally harsh or unkind, but strict
and uncompromising father; who though he too was fond of the boy, in a
way, and proud of his beauty and little accomplishments, was constantly
on the lookout for the cloven foot which his fixed prejudice against the
child's parentage made him certain would appear.

In her delight over her acquisition, Frances Allan was like a child with
a new toy. She almost smothered him with kisses when, accepting her
bribe of a spaniel pup and his pockets full of sugar-kisses, he agreed
to call her "Mother." With her own fingers she made him the quaintest
little baggy trousers, of silk pongee, and a velvet jacket, and a tucker
of the finest linen. His cheap cotton stockings were discarded for
scarlet silk ones, and for his head, "sunny over with curls" of bright
nut-brown, she bought from Mrs. Fipps, the prettiest peaked cap of
purple velvet, with a handsome gold tassel that fell gracefully over on
one shoulder. Thus arrayed, she took him about town with her to show
him to her friends who were ecstatic in their admiration of his pensive,
clear-cut features, his big, grey eyes and his nut-brown ringlets; of
his charming smile and the frank, pretty manner in which he gave his
small hand in greeting.

"Oh, but you should hear him recite and sing," the proud foster-mother
would say. "And he can dance, too."

She gave a large dinner-party just to exhibit the accomplishments of her
treasure--actually standing him upon the table when it had been cleared,
to sing and recite for the guests. Even her husband unbent so far as to
applaud vigorously the modest, yet self-possessed grace with which the
mite drank the healths of the assembled company--making a neat little
speech that his new mother had taught him.

The boy's young heart responded to the affection of the foster-mother to
a certain degree; but, mere baby though he was, his real heart lay deep
in the grave on the hill-top, where the earthly part of that other
mother was lying so still, so white, with the roses on her hair and the
frozen smile on her lips.

The churchyard on the hill was but a short distance away from his new
home, and as spring opened, became a favorite resort of nurses and
children. The negro "mammy" who had replaced Nurse Betty used often to
take him there, and often, as she chatted with other mammies, her charge
would wander from her side to the grave against the wall, where he would
stretch his small body full length upon the turf and whisper the
thoughts of his infant mind to the dear one below; for who knew but
that, even down under ground she might be glad to hear, through her
white sleep, her little boy's words of love and remembrance--though
never, nevermore she could see him on earth. He would even imagine her
replies to him, until the conversations with her became so real that he
half believed they were true.

At night, when bed-time came, he said his prayers at the knee of his
pretty new mother, who told him jolly stories and sang him jolly songs,
and patted him and soothed him with caresses which he found very
agreeable, and accepted graciously. But he always took the miniature
which had been his dying mother's parting gift to bed with him and he
was glad when the new mother kissed him goodnight and put out the light
and softly closed the door behind her; for it was then, with the picture
close against his breast, that the visions came to him--the visions of
angels making sweet music upon golden harps and among them his lost
mother, with her sweet face saddened but made sweeter still by that
thought of nevermore.

Oh, that wondrous word nevermore! Its music charmed him, its
hopelessness filled and thrilled him with a strange, a holy sorrow, in
which there was no pain.

With the lovely vision still about him, the picture still clasped to his
breast, he would sink into healthful sleep to wake on the morrow a
bright, joyous boy, alive to all the pleasures of the new
day--delighting in the beauties of blue sky and sunshine, of whispering
tree and opening flower, ready for sport with his play-fellows and his
pets, and full of all manner of merry pranks and jokes. For in the frame
of this small boy there dwelt two distinct personalities--twin
brothers--yet as utterly unlike as strangers and foreigners, thinking
different thoughts, speaking different languages, and dominating
him--spirit and body--by turns. One of these we will call Edgar
Goodfellow--Edgar the gay, the laughter-loving, the daring, the real,
live, wholesome, normal boy; keen for the society of other boys and
liking to dance, to run, to jump, to climb, even to fight. The other,
Edgar the Dreamer, fond of solitude and silence and darkness, for they
aided him to wander far away from the everyday world to one of make
believe created by himself and filled with beings to whom real people
were but as empty shadows; but a world that the death and burial of his
beautiful and adored young mother and the impression made upon him by
those scenes, had tinged with an eternal sadness which hung over it as a
veil.

The life of Edgar the Dreamer was filled with the subtle charm of
mystery. It was a secret life. The world in which he moved was a secret
world--an invisible world, to whose invisible door he alone held the
key. Edgar the Dreamer was himself an invisible person, for the only
outward difference between him and his twin brother, Edgar Goodfellow,
lay in a certain quiet, listless air and the solemn look in his big,
dark grey eyes which his playmates--bored and intolerant--took as
indications that "Edgar was in one of his moods," and his
foster-father--eyeing him keenly and with marked displeasure--as an
equally unmistakable indication that he was "hatching mischief."

There were times when in the midst of the liveliest company this
so-called "mood" would possess the child. He would fall silent; his
mouth would become pensive, his dark grey eyes would seem to be
impenetrably veiled; his chin would drop upon his hand; he would seem
utterly forgetful of his surroundings. The familiar Edgar--Edgar
Goodfellow--would have given place to Edgar the Dreamer, who though
apparently of the company, would really have slipped through that
invisible portal and wandered far afield with the playmates of his
fancy.

At such times Mrs. Allan would say, "Eddie, what are you thinking
about?" And brought back to her world with a jolt, the boy would answer
quickly (somewhat guiltily it seemed to Mr. Allan--noting the startled
expression),

"Nothing." It was his first lie, and a very little one, but one that was
often repeated; for he that would guard a secret must be used to
practice deception.

Mr. Allan would say, "Wake up, wake up, child! Only the idle sit and
stare at nothing and think of nothing. You'll be growing up an idle,
trifling boy if you give way to such a habit."

Between the Allans and Edgar the Dreamer a great gulf lay--for how
should a dreamer of day-dreams reveal himself to any not of his own
tribe and kind? Upon Edgar Goodfellow Mrs. Allan doted. All of her
friends agreed with her that so remarkable a child--one so precocious
and still so attractive--had never been seen, and Mr. Allan was
secretly, as proud of his wrestling, running, riding and other out-door
triumphs as his wife was of his pretty parlor accomplishments. Their
friends agreed too, that she made him the best of mothers, barring the
fact (for which weakness she was excusable--he was such a love!) that
she spoiled him, and perhaps permitted him to rule her too absolutely.
Was he grateful? Oh, well, that would come in time. Appreciation was not
a quality to be expected in children, and what more natural than that
the boy should accept as a matter of course the good things which she
made plain it was her chief pleasure in life to shower upon him? She was
indeed, as good a mother as it was possible for a mother without a
highly developed imagination to be.

A most lovely woman was Frances Allan, justly admired and liked by all
who knew her. She was pretty and gracious and sunny-tempered and
sweet-natured; charitable--both to society and the poor--and faithful to
her religious duties. Withal, a notable house-keeper, given to
hospitality, fond of "company" and gifted in the art of making her
friends feel at home under her roof. If she was not gifted with a lively
imagination she did not know it, and so had not missed it. As Mr.
Allan's wife she had not needed it. And so she lavished upon Edgar
Goodfellow everything that heart could wish. She delighted to provide
him with pets and toys and good things to eat, and to fill his little
pockets with money for him to spend upon himself or upon treating his
friends. Fortunately, the other Edgar--Edgar the Dreamer--was not
dependent upon her for his pleasures, for the beauties of sky and river
and garden and wood which nourished his soul were within his own reach.

If Mrs. Allan had known Edgar the Dreamer, she would have been puzzled
and alarmed. If Mr. Allan had known him he would have been angry. A man
of action was John Allan. A canny Scotchman he, who owed his success as
a tobacco merchant to energy and strict attention to business. If there
were dreams in the bowl of the pipe, there was no room for them in the
counting-house of a thrifty dealer in the weed. Meditation had no part
in his life--was left out of his composition. He believed in _doing_.
Day-dreaming was in his opinion but another name for idling, and idling
was sin.

The son of their adoption vaguely realized the lack of kinship--the
impossibility of contact between his nature and theirs, and as time went
on drew more and more within himself. The life of Edgar the Dreamer
became more and more secret. So often however, did the warning against
his idle habit fall upon his ears that the plastic conscience of
childhood made note of it--confusing the will of a blind human guardian
with that of God. The Eden of his dreams, guarded by the flaming sword
of his foster-father's wrath, began to assume the aspect (because by
parental command denied him) of an evil place--though none the less
sweet to his soul--and it was with a consciousness of guilt that he
would steal in and wander there.

Thus the habit that nurtured God-given genius, branded as sin, and
forbidden, might have been broken up, altogether or in part, had not the
special providence that looks after the development of this rare exotic
transplanted it to a more fertile soil--a more congenial clime.



CHAPTER III.


Upon a mellow September afternoon three years after the newspapers had
announced the death, in Richmond, Virginia, of Elizabeth Arnold, the
popular English actress, generally known in the United States as Mrs.
Poe, the ancient town of Stoke-Newington, in the suburbs of London,
dozing in the shadows of its immemorial elms, was aroused to a mild
degree of activity by the appearance upon its green-arched streets of
three strangers--evidently Americans. It was not so much their
nationality as a certain distinguished air that drew attention upon the
dignified and proper gentleman in broadcloth and immaculate linen, the
pretty, gracious-seeming and fashionably dressed lady and especially the
little boy of six or seven summers with the large, wistful eyes and pale
complexion, and chestnut ringlets framing a prominent, white brow and
tumbling over a broad, snowy tucker. He wore pongee knickerbockers and
red silk stockings and on his curls jauntily rested a peaked velvet cap
from which a heavy gold tassel fell over upon his shoulder.

The denizens of old Stoke-Newington gazed upon this prosperous trio with
frank curiosity; the reader has already recognized John Allan and his
wife, Frances, and little Edgar Poe--their adopted child.

The sun was still hot, and the refreshing chill in the dusky street,
under its arch of interlacing boughs, was grateful to the tired little
traveller. As he moved along, clinging to Mrs. Allan's hand, his big
eyes gazing as far as they might up the long, cool aisle the trees made,
the hazy green distance invited his mystery-loving fancy. The odors of a
thousand flowering shrubberies were on the air and he felt that it was
good to be in this dreaming old town--as old, it seemed to him, as the
world; and there was born in him at that moment, though he could not
have defined it, a sense of the picturesquesness, the charm, the
fragrance, of old things--old streets, old houses, old trees, old turf
and shrubberies, even--with their haunting suggestions of bygone days
and scenes.

They passed the ancient Gothic church, standing solemn and serene among
its mossy tombs. In the misty blue atmosphere above the elms the fretted
steeple seemed to the boy to lie imbedded and asleep, but even as he
gazed upon it the churchbell, sounding the hour, broke the stillness
with a deep, hollow roar which thrilled him with mingled awe and
delight.

Ah, here indeed, was a place made for dreaming!

In the midst of the town lay the Manor House School where the scholarly
Dr. Bransby, who preached in the Gothic church on Sundays, upon
week-days instructed boys in various branches of polite learning--and
also frequently flogged them. This school was the destination of the
three strangers from America, for here the foundations of young Edgar's
education were to be laid during the several years residence of his
foster-parents in London, in which city the boy himself would pass his
holidays and sometimes be permitted to spend week-ends.

The ample grounds of the school were enclosed from the rest of the town
by a high and thick brick wall, dingy with years, which seemed to frown
like a prison wall upon the grassy and pleasantly shaded freedom
without. At one corner of this ponderous wall was set a more ponderous
gate, riveted and studded with iron bolts, and surmounted with jagged
iron spikes. As the boy passed through it he trembled with delicious awe
which was deepened by the ominous creak of the mighty hinges. He fancied
himself entering upon a domain of mystery and adventure where all manner
of grim and unearthly monsters might cross his pathway to be wrestled
with and destroyed. The path to the house lay through a small parterre
planted with box and other shrubs, and beyond stretched the playgrounds.

As for the house itself, that appeared to the eyes of the boy as a
veritable palace of enchantment. It was a large, grey, rambling
structure of the Elizabethan age. Within, it was like a labyrinth. Edgar
wondered if there were any end to its windings and incomprehensible
divisions and sub-divisions--to its narrow, dusky passages and its steps
down and up--up and down; to its odd and unexpected nooks and corners.
Scarce two rooms seemed to him to be upon the same level and between
continually going down or up three or four steps in a journey through
the mansion upon which Dr. Bransby guided him and his foster-parents,
the dazed little boy found it almost impossible to determine upon which
of the two main floors he happened to be. It was afterward to become a
source of secret satisfaction to him that he never finally decided upon
which floor was the dim sleeping apartment to which he was introduced
soon after supper, and which he shared with eighteen or twenty other
boys.

The business of formally entering the pupil about whom the Allans and
Dr. Bransby had already corresponded, in the school, was soon
dispatched, and once more the iron gate swung open upon its weirdly
complaining hinges, then went to again with a bang and a clang, and the
little boy from far Virginia, with the wistful grey eyes and the sunny
curls was alone in a throng of curious school-fellows, and in the
dimness, the strangeness, the vastness of a hoary, mysterious mansion
full of echoes, and of quaint crannies and closets where shadows lurked
by day as well as by candle-light. Alone, yet not unhappy--for Edgar the
Dreamer was holding full sway. With the departure of his foster-father,
all check was removed from his fancy which could, and did, run riot in
this creepy and fascinating old place, and at night he had to comfort
him the miniature of his mother from which he had never been parted for
an hour, and which he still carried to bed with him with unfailing
regularity.

He had always known that his mother was English-born, and somehow, in
his mind, there seemed to be some mystic connection between this ancient
town and manor house and the green graveyard in Richmond, with its
mouldy tombstones and encompassing wall.

       *       *       *       *       *

Not until the next morning was the new pupil ushered into the
school-room--the largest room in the world it seemed to the small,
lonely stranger. It was long, narrow and low-pitched. Its ceiling was
of oak, black with age, and the daylight struggled fitfully in through
pointed, Gothic windows. Built into a remote and terror-inspiring corner
was a box-like enclosure, eight or ten feet high, of heavy oak, like the
ceiling, with a massy door of the same sombre wood. This, the newcomer
soon learned was the "sanctum" of the head-master--the Rev. Dr.
Bransby--whose sour visage, snuffy habiliments and upraised ferule
seemed so terrible to young Edgar that on the following Sunday when he
went to service in the Gothic church, it was with a spirit of deep
wonder and perplexity that he regarded from the school gallery the
reverend man with countenance so demurely benign, with robes so glossy
and so clerically flowing, with wig so minutely powdered, so rigid and
so vast, who, with solemn step and slow, ascended the high pulpit.

Interspersed about the school-room, crossing and recrossing in endless
irregularity, were benches and desks, black, ancient and time-worn,
piled desperately with much bethumbed books, and so beseamed with
initial letters, names at full length, grotesque figures and other
multiplied efforts of the knife, as to have lost what little of original
form might have been their portion in days long departed. A huge bucket
with water stood at one extremity of the room and a clock, whose
dimensions appeared to the boy to be stupendous, at the other.

But it was not only Edgar the Dreamer who came to Manor House School,
who passed out of the great iron gate and through the elm avenues to the
Gothic church on Sundays, and who regularly, on two afternoons in the
week, made a decorous escape from the confinement of the frowning walls,
and in company with the whole school, in orderly procession, and duly
escorted by an usher, tramped past the church and into the pleasant
green fields that lay beyond the quaint houses of the village. Edgar
Goodfellow was there too--Edgar the gay, the frolicsome, the lover of
sports and hoaxes and trials of strength.

Upon the evening of the young American's arrival, his schoolmates kept
their distance, regarding him with shy curiosity, but by the recess hour
next day this timidity had worn off, and they crowded about him with the
pointed questions and out-spoken criticisms which constitute the
breaking in of a new scholar. The boy received their sallies with such
politeness and good humor and with such an air of modest dignity, that
the wags soon ceased their gibes for very shame and the ring-leaders
began to show in their manner and speech, an air of approval in place of
the suspicion with which they had at first regarded him.

When the questions, "What's your name?"--"How old are you?"--"Where do
you live?" "Were you sick at sea?"--"What made you come to this school?"
"How high can you jump?"--"Can you box?" "Can you fight?"--and the like,
had been promptly and amiably answered, there was a lull. The silence
was broken by young Edgar himself. Drawing himself up to the full height
of his graceful little figure and thumping his chest with his closed
fist, he said, "Any boy who wants to may hit me here, as hard as he
can."

The boys looked at each other inquiringly for a moment--they were
uncertain, whether this was a specimen of American humor or to be taken
literally. Presently the largest and strongest among them stepped
forward. He was a stalwart fellow for his years, but his excessively
blond coloring, together with the effeminate style in which his mother
insisted upon dressing him, caused the boys to give him the name of
"Beauty," which was soon shortened into "Beaut," and had finally become
"the Beau."

"Will you let _me_ hit you?" he asked.

"Yes," replied Edgar. "Count three and hit. You can't hurt me."

As "the Beau" counted, "One--two--three"--Edgar gently inflated his
lungs, expanding his chest to its fullest extent, and then, at the
moment of receiving the blow, exhaled the air. He did not stagger or
flinch, though his antagonist struck straight from the shoulder, with a
brawny, small fist.

The rest of the boys, in turn, struck him--each time counting
three--with the same result. Finally "the Beau" said,

"_You_ hit _me_."

Edgar counted, "One--two--three"--and struck out with clenched fist, but
"the Beau" not knowing the trick, was promptly bowled over on the
grass--the shock making quick tears start in his forget-me-not blue
eyes.

The boys were, one and all, open and clamorous in their admiration.

"Pshaw," said young Edgar, indifferently. "It's nothing. All the boys in
Virginia can do that."

"Can you play leap-frog?" asked "Freckles"--a wiry looking little
fellow, with carotty locks and a freckled nose, whose leaping had
hitherto been unrivalled.

"I'll show you," was the reply.

Instantly, a dozen backs were bent in readiness for the game, and over
them, one by one, vaulted Edgar, with the lightness of a bird, his brown
curls blowing out behind him, as his baggy yellow thighs and thin red
legs flew through the air.

"Freckles" magnanimously owned himself beaten at his own game.

"Let's race," said "Goggles"--a lean, long-legged, swathy boy, with a
hooked nose and bulging, black eyes.

Like a flash, the whole lot of them were off down the gravel walk, under
the elms. Edgar and "Goggles"--abreast--led for a few moments, then
Edgar gradually gained and came out some twenty feet ahead of "Goggles,"
and double that ahead of the foremost of the others.

It was not only these accomplishments in themselves that made the
American boy at once take the place of hero and leader of his form in
this school of old England, but the quiet and unassuming mien with which
he bore his superiority--not seeming in the least to despise the weakest
or most backward of his competitors, and good-humoredly initiating them
all into the little secrets of his success in performing apparently
difficult feats.

It was the same way with his lessons. Without apparent effort he
distanced all of his class-mates and instead of pluming himself upon it,
was always ready to help them with their Latin or their sums, whose
answers he seemed to find by magic, almost.



CHAPTER IV.


During the winter before Edgar went to Stoke-Newington, he had attended
an "infant school," in Richmond, taught by a somewhat gaunt, but
mild-mannered spinster, with big spectacles over her amiable blue eyes,
a starchy cap and a little bunch of frosty cork-screw curls on each side
of her face. As a child, she had played with Mr. Allan's father on their
native heath, in Ayrshire, and to her, little Edgar was always her "ain
wee laddie." She had spoiled him inordinately and unblushingly. Also, as
she contentedly drew at the pipe filled with the offerings of choice
smoking-tobacco which he frequently turned out of his pockets into her
lap, she had taught him to read in her own broad Scottish accent, and to
cypher.

She had furthermore drilled him in making "pothooks and hangers," with
which he covered his slate in neat rows, daily. But it was at the Manor
House, in Stoke-Newington, that he was initiated into the mysteries of
writing. His hands were as shapely as a girl's, with deft, taper fingers
that seemed made to hold a pen or brush, and he soon developed a neat,
small, but beautifully clear and graceful hand-writing.

This new accomplishment became at once a delight to him, and as time
went on opened a new world to Edgar the Dreamer, who now began, when he
could snatch an opportunity to do so unobserved, to put down upon paper
the visions of his awakening soul. Sometimes these scribblings took the
form of little stories--crudely conceived and incoherently expressed,
but rich in the picturesque thought and language of an exceptionably
imaginative and precocious child. Sometimes they were in verse. For
subjects these infant effusions had generally to do with the lonely
grave in the churchyard in Richmond and the sad joy of the heart that
mourns evermore; with the beauty of flowers--the more beautiful because
doomed to a brief life; with the Gothic steeple, asleep in the still,
blue air, and the bell in whose deep iron throat dwelt a note that was
hollow and ghostly; with the great wall around the Manor House grounds
and with the mighty gate that swung upon hinges in which the voice of a
soul in torment seemed to be imprisoned, and with other things which
filled him with a terror that

      "was not fright,
    But a tremulous delight."

His learning to write bore still another fruit.

When Mrs. Allan had first adopted him and set apart a room in her home
for him, she had placed in a little cabinet therein the packet of
letters his dying mother had given him. She had not opened the packet,
for she felt that the letters were for the actress's child's eye alone.
He, when he looked at it, did so with a feeling of mixed reverence and
fascination which was deepened by his inability to decipher the secrets
bound together by the bit of blue ribbon tied around it. How the sight
of the packet recalled to him that sad, that solemn hour in which it
had been given into his hands! When getting him ready for
boarding-school, Mrs. Allan had packed the letters with his other
belongings, for she was a woman of sentiment, and she felt the child
should not be parted from this gift of his dying mother. But at length,
when a knowledge of writing made it possible for him to read the
letters, he was possessed with a feeling of shrinking from doing so, as
one might shrink from opening a message from the grave.

What grim, what terrible secrets, might not the little bundle of letters
reveal!

It was not until his fifth and last year at Stoke-Newington that Edgar
decided one day to look into the packet. He was confined to his bed by
slight indisposition and so had the dormitory to himself and could risk
opening the letters without fear of interruption. He untied the blue
ribbon and the thin, yellowed papers, with fragments of their broken
seals still sticking to them, fell apart. He picked up the one bearing
the earliest date and began to read. It was from his father to his
mother immediately after their betrothal. His interest was at once
intensely aroused and in the order in which the letters came, he read,
and read, and read, with the absorption with which he might have read
his first novel. They were a revelation to him--a revelation of a world
he had not known existed, though it seemed, it lay roundabout him--these
love-letters of his parents, literally throbbing with the exalted
passion of two young, ardent, poetic spirits. The boy had not dreamed
that anything so beautiful could be as this undying love of which they
wrote and the language in which they made their sweet vows to each
other. His own heart throbbed in answer to what he read. His imagination
was violently wrought upon and exquisite feelings such as he had never
known before awakened in his breast.

Under the spell of the letters the child-poet fell in love--not with any
creature of flesh and blood, for his entire acquaintance and association
was with boys--but with the ideal of his inner vision. From that time,
his poetic outbursts came to be filled with--more than aught else--the
surpassing beauty, the worshipful goodness, the divine love of woman. He
was a naturally reverent boy, but for these more than mortal beings, as
they appeared to his fancy, was reserved the supreme worship of his
romantic soul. Indeed, the adoration of his ideal woman--perfect in
body, in mind and in soul, became, and was to be always, a religion to
him.

To imagine himself rescuing from a dark prison tower, hid in a deep
wood, or from a watery grave in a black and rock-bound lake, at
midnight, some lovely maiden whose every thought and heart-beat would
thenceforth be for him alone--this became the entrancing inward vision
of Edgar the Dreamer--the poet--the lover, at whom Edgar Goodfellow with
whisper as insistent as the voice of Conscience, scoffed and sneered,
seeking to make him ashamed; but all in vain.

Of course it was to follow, as the night the day, that the boy would
find someone in whom to dress his ideal. Upon a Sunday soon after his
falling in love, he saw the very maiden of his dreams in the flesh. It
was in the Gothic church. From the remote pew in the gallery where he
sat with his school-mates, he looked down upon a wonderful vision of
white and gold in one of the principal pews of the main aisle. Clad all
in white and with a shower of golden tresses falling over her shoulders,
she was like a glorious lily or a holy angel. Her eyes, uplifted in the
rapture of worship, he divined, rather than saw, were of the hue of
heaven itself. He loved her at once, with all his soul's might. Her
name? Her home? These were mysteries--sacred mysteries--whose
unfathomableness but added to her charm.

After that, service in the Gothic church was a much more important event
to The Dreamer than before--an event looked forward to with trembling
from Sunday to Sunday. After that too, upon his periodical week-day
walks with the school, he would look up at the quaint old homesteads
they passed, with their hedged gardens, ivied walls and sweet-scented
shrubberies, and try to guess which was the house-wonderful in which she
dwelt. Then suddenly, one sweet May afternoon, he discovered it.

It was, as was fitting, the most antique, the most distinguished mansion
of them all. He saw her through the bars of the stately entrance gate as
she sat beside her mother, on a garden-seat, tying into nosegays the
flowers that filled her lap. Stupified by the shock of the discovery, he
stood rooted to the ground, letting his school-mates go on ahead of him.
She was much nearer him than she had been in the dusky church, and upon
closer view, she seemed even more lovely, more flower-like, more angelic
than ever before. He stared upon her face with a gaze so compelling
that she looked up and smiled at him; then, with sudden impulse,
gathered her flowers in her apron, and running forward, handed him
through the gate, a fragrant, creamy bud that she happened at the moment
to have in her hand.

As in a dream, he stretched his fingers for it. He tried to frame an
expression of thanks, but his lips were dry and though they moved, no
sound came. She had returned at once to her seat beside her mother, and
the voice of the usher (who had just missed him) sharply calling to him
to "Come on!" was in his ears. He hurried forward, trembling in all his
limbs. Twice he stumbled and nearly fell. The bud, he had quickly hidden
within his jacket--it was too holy a thing for the profane eyes of his
school-fellows to look upon.

When strength and reason came back to him he was like a new being.
Happiness gave wings to his feet and he walked on air. A divine song
seemed to be singing in his ears. Mechanically, he went through the
regular routine of school, with no difference that others could see. To
himself, heart and soul--detached and divorced from his body--seemed
soaring in a new and beautiful world in which lessons and teachers had
no place, no part. Whenever it was possible for him to do so unobserved,
he would snatch the rose from his bosom and kiss and caress it. He only
lived to see Sunday come round.

But on the next Sunday and the next she was absent from her accustomed
place. Such a thing had not happened before since he had first seen her.
He was filled with the first real anxiety he had ever known. Here was a
mystery in which there was no charm!

The Wednesday after the second Sunday upon which he had missed her was a
day dropped out of heaven. The mild, early summer air that floated
through the open windows into the gloomy, oak-ceiled schoolroom, was
ambrosial with the breathings of flowers. Young Edgar could not fix his
thoughts upon the page before him. The out-of-door world was calling to
him. He found himself listening to the birds in the trees outside and
gazing through the narrow, pointed windows at the waving branches.

Suddenly his heart stopped. The deep, sweet, hollow, ghostlike voice of
the bell in the steeple, tolling for a funeral, was borne to his ears.
In a moment his fevered imagination associated the tolling with the
absence of his divinity from her pew, and in spite of passionately
assuring himself that it could not be, and recalling how lovely and full
of health she had been when he saw her through the gate, he was
possessed by deep melancholy.

The days and hours until Sunday seemed an age to him--an age of
foreboding and dread--but they at last passed by. In a fever of anxiety,
he walked with the rest of the boys to church, and mounted the steps to
the school gallery.

It was early; few of the worshippers had arrived, but in a little while
there was a stir near the door. A group of figures shrouded in the black
habiliments of woe were moving up the aisle--were entering _her_ pew,
from which alas, _she_ was again absent!

_Then he knew_--knew that she would enter that sacred place
_nevermore_!

After the service there were inquiries as to the cause of a commotion in
the gallery occupied by the Manor House School, and it was said in reply
that the weather being excessively hot for the season, one of the boys
had fainted.



CHAPTER V.


The June following young Edgar's eleventh birthday found him in Richmond
once more. The village-like little capital was all greenery and roses
and sunshine and bird-song and light-hearted laughter, and he felt, with
a glow, that it was good to be back.

In the five years of his absence he had grown quite tall for his age,
with a certain dignity and self-possession of bearing acquired from
becoming accustomed to depend upon himself. All that was left of the
nut-brown curls that used to flow over his shoulders were the clustering
ringlets that covered his head and framed his large brow. His absence
had also wrought in him other and more subtle changes which did not
appear to the friends who remarked upon what a great boy he had grown--a
maturity from having lived in another world--from having had his
thoughts expanded by new scenes and quickened by the suggestions of
historic association and surroundings.

But with his return, England and Stoke-Newington sank into the
shadowy past--their spell weakened, for the time being, by the
thought-absorbing, heart-filling scenes of which he had now become a
part. The years at the Manor House School were as a dream--_this_ was
the real thing--_this_ was Home. _Home_--ah, the charm of that word and
all it implied! His heart swelled, his eyes grew misty as he said it
over and over to himself. The clatter of drays "down town" was like
music in his ears, the dusty streets of the residential section were
fair to his eyes for old time's sake. How he loved the very pavement
under his feet, rough and uneven as it was; how dearly he loved the
trees that he had climbed (and would climb again) which stretched their
friendly boughs over his head!

In a state of happy excitement he rushed about town, visiting his old
haunts to see if they were still there, and "the same."

"Comrade," his brown spaniel--his favorite of all his pets--had grown
old and sober and had quite forgotten him, but his love was soon
reawakened. The boys he had played with, too, had almost forgotten him,
but his return called him to mind again and put them all in a flutter. A
boy who had lived five years on the other side of the ocean and had been
to an English boarding school, was not seen in Richmond every day. Mrs.
Allan gave him a party to which all of the children in their circle were
invited. In anticipation of this, he had purchased in London, out of the
abundance of pocket-money with which his doting foster-mother always saw
to it he was provided, a number of little gifts to be distributed among
the boys at home. These, with the distinction his travels gave him, made
him the man of the hour among Richmond children. And how much he had to
tell! At Stoke-Newington it was always the boys at home that were the
heroes of the stories he spun by the yard for the entertainment of his
school-fellows--the literal among whom had come to believe that there
was no feat a Virginia boy could not perform. Now that he was in
Richmond, the Stoke-Newington boys themselves loomed up as the
wonder-workers, and his playmates listened with admiration and with such
expression as, "Caesar's ghost!"--"Jiminy!"--"Cracky!" and the like, as
he narrated his tales of "Freckles," "Goggles," "the Beau," and the
rest.

One of his first visits after reaching home was to his old black
"Mammy," in the tiny cottage, with its prolific garden-spot, on the
outskirts of the town, in which Mr. Allan had installed her and her
husband, "Uncle Billy," before leaving Virginia.

"Mammy" was expecting him. With one half of her attention upon the white
cotton socks she was knitting for her spouse and the other half on the
gate of her small garden through which her "chile" would come, she sat
in her doorway awaiting him. She was splendidly arrayed in her new
purple calico and a big white apron, just from under the iron. Her
gayest bandanna "hankercher" covered her tightly "wropped" locks from
view and the snowiest of "neckerchers" was crossed over her ample bosom.
Her kind, black countenance was soft with thoughts of love.

"Uncle Billy," too, was spruced for the occasion. Indeed, he was quite
magnificent in a "biled shut," with ruffles, and an old dresscoat of
"Marster's." His top-boots were elaborately blacked, and a somewhat
battered stove-pipe hat crowned his bushy grey wool. Each of the old
folks comfortably smoked a corn-cob pipe.

"Mammy" saw her boy coming first. She could hardly believe it was
he--he was so tall--but she was up and away, down the path, in a flash.
Half-way to the gate that opened on the little back street, she met him
and enveloped him at once in her loving arms.

"Bless de Lord, O my soul!" she repeated over and over again in a sort
of chant, as she held him against her bosom and rocked back and forth on
her broad feet, tears of joy rolling down her face.

"De probable am returned," announced Uncle Billy, solemnly.

"G'long, Billy," she said, contemptuously. "He ain' no _probable_. He
jes' Mammy's own li'l' chile, if he _is_ growed so tall!"

"I'se only 'peatin' what de Good Book say," replied Uncle Billy, with
dignity.

Edgar was crying too, and laughing at the same time.

"Howdy, Uncle Billy," said he, stretching a hand to the old man as soon
as he could extricate himself from Mammy's embrace. "My, my, you do look
scrumptious! How's the rheumatiz?"

"Now jes' heah dat! Rememberin' uv de ole man's rheumatiz arter all dis
time!" exclaimed the delighted Uncle Billy. "'Twus mighty po'ly,
thankee, li'l Marster, but de sight o' you done make it better a'ready.
I 'clar 'fo' Gracious, if de sight of you wouldn' be good for so' eyes!
Socifyin' wid dem wile furren nations ain' hu't you a bit--'deed it
ain't!"

"How did you expect them to hurt me, Uncle Billy?" asked Edgar,
laughing.

"I was 'feard dey mought make a _Injun_, or sum'in' out'n you."

"G'long, Billy," put in his wife, with increased contempt, "Marse Eddie
ain' been socifyin' wid no Injuns--he been socifyin' wid kings an'
queens' settin' on dey thrones, wid crowns on dey haids an' spectres in
dey han's! Come 'long in de house, Honey, an' set awhile wid Mammy."

As they crossed the threshold of the humble abode, Edgar looked around
upon its familiar, homely snugness with satisfaction--at the huge,
four-post bed, covered with a cheerful "log cabin" quilt made of scraps
of calico of every known hue and pattern; at the white-washed walls
adorned with pictures cut from old books and magazines; at the "shelf,"
as Mammy called the mantel-piece, with its lambrequin of scallopped
strips of newspaper, and its china vases filled with hundred-leaf roses
and pinks; at the spotless bare floor and homemade split-bottomed
chairs; at the small, but bright, windows, with their rows of geraniums
and verbenas, brilliantly blooming in boxes, tin-cans and broken-nosed
tea-pots.

Almost all that Mammy could say was,

"Lordy, Lordy, Honey, how you has growed!" Or, "Jes' to think of Mammy's
baby sech a big boy!"

Presently a shadow crossed her face. "Honey," she said, "You gittin' to
be sech a man now, you won't have no mo' use fur po' ole Mammy. Dar
won't be a thing fur her to do fur sech a big man-chile."

"Don't you believe that, for a minute, Mammy," was the quick reply. "I
was just wondering if you had forgotten how to make those good
ash-cakes."

"Now, jes' listen to de chile, makin' game o' his ole Mammy!" she
exclaimed. "Livin' so high wid all dem hifalutin' kings an' queens an'
sech, an' den comin' back here an' makin' ten' he wouldn' 'spise Mammy's
ash-cakes!"

"I'm in dead earnest, Mammy. Indeed, indeed and double deed, I am. Kings
and queens don't have anything on their tables half as good as one of
your ash-cakes, with a glass of cool butter-milk."

"Dat so, Honey?" she queried, with wonder. "Den you sho'ly shall have
some, right away. Mammy churn dis ve'y mornin', and dars a pitcher of
buttermilk coolin' in de spring dis minute. You des' make you'se'f at
home an' I'll step in de kitchen an' cook you a ash-cake in a jiffy.
Billy, you pick me some nice, big cabbage leaves to bake it in whilst
I'm mixin' de dough, an' den go an' git de butter-milk an' a pat o' dat
butter I made dis mornin' out'n de spring."

Edgar and Uncle Billy followed her into the kitchen where she deftly
mixed the corn-meal dough, shaped it in her hands into a thick round
cake, which she wrapped in fresh cabbage leaves and put down in the hot
ashes on the hearth to bake. Meantime the following conversation between
Edgar and the old "Uncle:"

"Uncle Billy do you ever see ghosts now-adays?"

"To be sho', li'l' Marster, to be sho'. Sees 'em mos' any time. Saw one
las' Sunday night."

"What was it like, Uncle Billy?"

"Like, Honey?--Like ole Mose, dat's what t'wus like. Does you 'member
Mose whar useter drive de hotel hack?"

"Yes, he's dead isn't he?"

"Yes, suh, daid as a do' nail. Dat's de cur'us part on it. He's daid an'
was buried las' Sunday ebenin'--buried deep. I know, 'ca'se I wus dar
m'se'f. But dat night when I had gone to bed an' wus gittin' off to meh
fus' nap, I was woke up on a sudden by de noise uv a gre't stompin' an'
trompin' an snortin' in de road. I jump up an' look out de winder, an' I
'clar' 'fo' Gracious if dar warn't Mose, natchel as life, horses an'
hack an' all, tearin' by at a break-neck speed. I'se seed many a ghos'
an' a ha'nt in meh time, uv _humans_, but dat wus de fus' time I uver
heard tell uv a horse or a hack risin' f'um de daid. 'Twus skeery,
sho'!"

Before Edgar had time for comment upon this remarkable apparition, Mammy
set before him the "snack" she had prepared of smoking ash-cake and
fresh butter, on her best china plate--the one with the gilt band--and
placed at his right hand a goblet and a stone pitcher of cool
butter-milk. A luncheon, indeed, fit to be set before royalty, though it
is not likely that any of them ever had such an one offered them--poor
things!

Edgar did full justice to the feast and was warm in his praises of it.
Then, before taking his leave, he placed in Mammy's hands a parcel
containing gifts from the other side of the water for her and Uncle
Billy. There is nothing so dear to the heart of an old-time negro as a
present, and as the aged couple opened the package and drew out its
treasures, their black faces fairly shone with delight. Mammy could not
forbear giving her "chile" a hug of gratitude and freshly springing
love, while Uncle Billy heartily declared,

"De Lord will sho'ly bless you, li'l' Marster, fur de Good Book do
p'intedly say dat He do love one chufful giver."

       *       *       *       *       *

To young Edgar's home-keeping playmates, he seemed to be the luckiest
boy in the world, and indeed, his brief existence had been up to this
time, as fortunate as it appeared to them. Even the beautiful sorrow of
his mother's death had filled his life with poetry and brought him
sympathy and affection in abundant measure.

But bitterness was soon enough to enter his soul. His thoughts from the
moment of his return to Richmond, had frequently turned to the white
church and churchyard on the hill--and to the grave beside the wall.
Thither he was determined to go as soon as he possibly could, but it was
too sacred a pilgrimage to be mentioned to anyone--it must be as secret
as he could make it; and so he must await an opportunity to slip off
when he would be least apt to be missed. He chose a sultry afternoon
when Mr. and Mrs. Allan were taking a long drive into the country. He
waited until sunset--thinking there would be less probability of meeting
anyone in the churchyard after that hour than earlier--and set out,
taking with him a cluster of white roses from the summer-house in the
garden.

It was nearly dusk when he reached the church and climbed the steps that
led to the walled graveyard, elevated above the street-level. Never had
the spot looked so fair to him. The white spire, piercing the blue sky,
seemed almost to touch the slender new moon, with the evening star
glimmering by her side. The air was sweet with the breath of roses and
honeysuckle, and the graves were deeply, intensely green. Long he lay
upon the one by the wall, near the head of which he had placed his white
roses--looking up at the silver spire and the silver star and the moon's
silver bow--so long that he forgot the passage of time, and when he
reached home and went in out of the night to the bright dining-room,
blinking his great grey eyes to accustom them to the lamp-light, supper
was over.

The keen eyes of John Allan looked sternly upon him from under their
fierce brows. The boy saw at once that his foster-father was very angry.

"Where have you been?" he demanded, harshly.

"Nowhere," replied the boy.

"What have you been doing all this time?"

"Nothing," was the answer.

"Nowhere? Nothing? Don't nowhere and nothing me, Sir. Those are the
replies--the lying replies--of a boy who has been in mischief. If you
had not been where you shouldn't have been, and doing as you shouldn't
have done, you would not be ashamed to tell. Now, Sir, tell me at once,
where you have been and what you have been doing?"

The boy grew pale, but made no reply, and in the eyes fixed on Mr.
Allan's face was a provokingly stubborn look. The man's wrath waxed
warmer. His voice rose. In a tone of utter exasperation he cried, "Tell
me at once, I say, or you shall have the severest flogging you ever had
in your life!"

The boy grew paler still, and his eyes more stubborn. A scowl settled
upon his brow and a look of dogged determination about his mouth, but
still he spoke not a word.

Mrs. Allan looked from one to the other of these two beings--husband and
son--who made her heart's world. The evening was warm and she wore a
simple white dress with low neck and short sleeves. Anxiety clouded her
lovely face, yet never had she looked more girlishly sweet--more
appealing; but the silent plea in her beautiful, troubled eyes was lost
on John Allan, much as he loved her.

"Tell him, Eddie dear," she implored. "Don't be afraid. Speak up like a
man!"

Still silence.

She walked over to the table where the boy sat before the untouched
supper that had been saved for him, and dropped upon one knee beside
him. She placed her arm around him and drew him against her gentle
bosom--he suffering her, though not returning the caress.

"Tell _me_, Eddie, darling--tell Mother," she coaxed.

The grey eyes softened, the brow lifted. "There's nothing to tell,
Mother," he gently replied.

Mr. Allan rose from his chair. "I'll give you five minutes in which to
find something to tell," he exclaimed, shaking a trembling finger at the
culprit; then stalked out of the room.

In his absence his wife fell upon the neck of the pale, frowning child,
covering his face and his curly head with kisses, and beseeching him
with honeyed endearments, to be a good boy and obey his father. But the
little figure seemed to have turned to stone in her arms. In less than
the five minutes Mr. Allan was back in the room, trimming a long switch
cut from one of the trees in the garden as he came.

"Are you ready to tell me the truth?" he demanded.

No answer.

Still trimming the switch, he approached the boy. Frances Allan
trembled. Rising from the child's side, she clasped her husband's arm in
both her hands.

"Don't, John! Don't, please, John dear. I can't stand it," she breathed.
He put her aside, firmly.

"Don't be silly, Frances. You are interfering with my duty. Can't you
see that I must teach the boy to make you a better return for your
kindness than lying to hide his mischief?"

"But suppose that he is telling the truth, John, and that he has been
doing nothing worse than wandering about the streets? You know the way
he has always had of roaming about by himself, at times."

"And do you think roaming about the streets at this time of night proper
employment for a boy of eleven? Would you have him grow up into a
vagabond? A boy dependent upon the bounty of strangers can ill afford to
cultivate such idle habits!"

The boy's already large and dark pupils dilated and darkened until his
eyes looked like black, storm-swept pools. His already white face grew
livid. He drew back as if he had been struck and fixed upon his
foster-father a gaze in which every spark of affection was, for the
moment, dead. He had been humiliated by the threat of a flogging, but
the prospect of the hardest stroke his body might receive was as nothing
to him now. His sensitive soul had been smitten a blow the smart of
which he would carry with him to his last day. "Dependent upon the
bounty of strangers,"--_of strangers!_

Up to this time he had been the darling little son of an over-fond
mother, and though his foster-father had been at times, stern and
unsympathetic with him, no hint had ever before dropped from him to
indicate that the child was not as much his own as the sons of other
fathers were their own--that he was not as much entitled to the good
things of life which were heaped upon him without the asking as an own
son would have been. His comforts--his pleasures had been so easily, so
plentifully bestowed that the little dreamer had never before awaked to
a realization of a difference between his relation with his parents and
the relation of other children with theirs. Brought face to face with
this hard, cold fact for the first time, and so suddenly, he was for the
moment stunned by it. He felt that a flood of deep waters in which he
was floundering helplessly was overwhelming him.

A deep silence had followed the last words of Mr. Allan, who continued
to trim the switch, while his wife, sinking into a chair, bowed her
face in her arms, folded upon the table, and began to cry softly. The
gentle sounds of her weeping seemed but further to infuriate her
husband.

"Come with me," he commanded, placing his hand on the shoulder of the
child, who unresistingly suffered himself to be pushed along toward his
foster-father's room. Frances Allan broke into wild sobbing and placed
her fingers against her ears that she might not hear the screams of her
pet. But there were no screams. Silently, and with an air of dignity it
was marvellous so small a figure could command, the beautiful boy
received the blows. When one's soul has been hurt, what matters mere
physical pain? When both the strength and the passion of Mr. Allan had
been somewhat spent, he ceased laying on blows and asked in a calmed
voice,

"Are you ready to tell me the truth now?"

In one moment of time the child lived over again the beautiful hour at
his mother's grave. He saw again the silver spire and the silver
half-moon and the silver star--smelled the blended odors of honeysuckle
and rose, made sweeter, by the gathering dews, and felt the coolness and
freshness of the long green grass that covered the grave. Who knew but
that deep down under the sweet grass she had been conscious he was
there--had felt his heart beat and heard his loving whispers as of old,
and loved him still, and understood, though she would see him nevermore?
Share the secret of that holy hour with anyone--of all people, with this
wrathful, blind, unsympathizing man who had just confessed himself a
stranger to him? Never!

A faint smile, full of peace, settled upon his poet's face, but he
answered never a word.

There was a stir at the door. John Allan looked toward it. His wife
stood there drying her eyes. He turned to the boy again.

"Go with your mother and get your supper," he commanded.

"I don't want it," was the reply.

"Well, go to bed then, and tomorrow afternoon you are to spend in your
own room, where I hope meditation upon your idle ways may bring you to
something like repentance."

The boy paused half-way to the door. "Tomorrow is the day I'm going
swimming with the boys. You promised that I might go."

"Well, I take back the promise, that's all."

"Don't you think you've punished him enough for this time, John?"
timidly asked his wife.

"No boy is ever punished enough until he is conquered," was the reply.
"And Edgar is far from that!"

Mrs. Allan, with her arm about the little culprit's shoulder went with
him to his room. How she wished that he would let her cuddle him in her
lap and sing to him and tell him stories and then hear him his prayers
at her knee and tuck him in bed as in the old days before he went to
boarding-school! Her heart ached for him, though she had no notion of
the bitterness, the rebellion, that were rankling in his. As she kissed
him goodnight she whispered,

"You shall have your swim, in the river, tomorrow, Eddie darling; I'll
see that you do."

"Don't you ask _him_ to let me do anything," he protested, passionately.
"I'm going without asking him. He disowned me for a son, I'll disown him
for a father!"

He loved her but he was glad when the door closed behind her so that he
could think it all out for himself in the dark--the dear dark that he
had always loved so well and that was now as balm to his bruised spirit.
The worst of it was that he could not disown John Allan as a father. He
had to confess to himself with renewed bitterness that he was indeed,
and by no fault of his own--a helpless dependent upon the charity of
this man who had, in taunting him with the fact, wounded him so
grievously. His impulse was to run away--but where could he go? Though
his small purse held at that moment a generous amount of spending money
for a boy "going on twelve," it would be a mere nothing toward taking
him anywhere. It would not afford him shelter and food for a day, and he
knew it--it would not take him to the only place where he knew he had
kindred--Baltimore. And what if he could get as far as Baltimore, would
he care to go there? To assert his independence of the charity of John
Allan only to throw himself upon the charity of relatives who had never
noticed him--whom he hated because they had never forgiven his father
for marrying the angel mother around whose memory his fondest dreams
clung?

No, he could not disown Mr. Allan--not yet; but the good things of life
received from his hands had henceforth lost their flavor and would be
like Dead Sea fruit upon his lips. Hitherto, though he knew, of course,
that he was not the Allans' own child, he had never once been made to
feel that he was any the less entitled to their bounty. They had adopted
him of their own free will to fill the empty arms of a woman with a
mother's heart who had never been a mother, and that woman had lavished
upon him almost more than a mother's love--certainly more than a prudent
mother's indulgence. He had been the most spoiled and petted child of
his circle, and the bounty had been heaped upon him in a manner that
made him feel--child though he was--the joy that the giving brought the
giver, and therefore no burden of obligation upon himself in receiving.
If Mr. Allan had been strict to a point of harshness with him, at times,
Mr. Allan was a born disciplinarian--it seemed natural for him to be
stern and unsympathetic and those who knew him best took his stiffness
and hardness with many grains of allowance, remembering his upright life
and his open-handed charities. He had administered punishment upon the
little lad when he was naughty in the years before he went away to
school, and the little lad had taken his medicine philosophically like
other naughty boys--had cried lustily, then dried his eyes and forgotten
all about it in the pleasure which the goodies and petting he always had
from his pretty, tender-hearted foster-mother at such times gave him.
But _this_ was different. He was a big lad now--very big and old, he
felt, far too big to be flogged; quite big enough to visit his mother's
grave, if he chose, without having to talk about it. And he had not only
been flogged because he would not reveal his sacred, sweet secret, but
had had his dependence upon charity thrown up at him!

Henceforth, he felt, his life would be a lonely one, for he now knew
that he was different from other boys, all of whom (in his acquaintance)
had fathers to whose bounty they had a right--the right of sonship. Yes,
he was a very big boy (he told himself) and he had not cried when he was
flogged, but under the cover of the kindly dark, hot tears of
indignation, hurt pride and pity for his own loneliness--his
singularity--made all his pillow wet.

Comfort came to him from an unexpected source. The door of his room had
been closed, but not latched. It was now pushed open by "Comrade," his
old spaniel, who made straight for his side, first pushing his nose
against his face and then leaping upon the bed and nestling down close
to him, with a sigh of satisfaction. The desolate boy welcomed this
dumb, affectionate companionship. The feel of the warm, soft body, and
the thought of the velvety brown eyes which he could not see in the
dark, but knew were fixed upon him with their intense, loving gaze, were
soothing to his overwrought nerves. Here was something whose love could
be counted upon--something as dependent upon him as he was upon Mr.
Allan; yet what a joy he found in the very dependence of this devoted,
soft-eyed creature! Never would he taunt Comrade with his dependence
upon charity.

"No;" he said, his hands deep in the silky coat, "I would not insult a
dog as he has insulted me! Never mind, Comrade, old fellow, we'll have
our swim in the river tomorrow, and he may flog me again if he likes."

       *       *       *       *       *

But he was not flogged the next day. An important business engagement
occupied Mr. Allan the whole afternoon, and when he came in late, tired
and pre-occupied, he found Edgar fresh and glowing from his exercise in
the river, the curls still damp upon his forehead, quietly eating his
supper with his mother. _She_ knew, but tender creature that she was,
she was prepared to do anything short of fibbing to shield her pet from
another out-burst. But John Allan, still absorbed in business cares,
hardly looked toward the boy, and asked not a question.



CHAPTER VI.


The home of the Allans was never quite the same to Edgar Poe after that
night. A wall had been raised between him and his foster-father that
would never be scaled. He was still indulged in a generous amount of
pocket money which he invariably proceeded to get rid of as fast as he
could--lavishing it upon the enjoyment of his friends as freely as it
had been lavished upon him. He had plenty of pets and toys, went to
dancing school, in which his natural love of dancing made him delight,
and was given stiff but merry little parties, at which old Cy, the black
fiddler played and called the figures, and the little host and his
friends conformed to the strict, ceremonious etiquette observed by the
children as well as the grown people of the day.

For these indulgences Frances Allan was chiefly responsible. The one
weak spot in the armor of austerity in which John Allan clothed himself
was his love for his wife, and it was often against what he felt to be
his better judgment that he acquiesced in her system of child-spoiling.
He felt a solemn responsibility toward the boy, and he did his duty by
him, as he saw it, faithfully. It was not in the least his fault that he
did _not_ see that under the broad white brow and sunny ringlets was a
brain in which, like the sky in a dew-drop, a whole world was reflected,
with ever changing pageantry, and that the abstracted expression in the
boy's eyes that he thought could only mean that he was "hatching
mischief," really indicated that the creative faculty in budding genius
was awake and at work.

For a child Edgar's age to be making trials at writing poetry Mr. Allan
regarded as sheer idleness, to be promptly suppressed. Indeed, when he
discovered that the boy had been guilty of such foolishness, he
emphatically ordered him not to repeat it. To counteract the effects of
his wife's spoiling of her adopted son, he felt it his duty to place all
manner of restrictions upon his liberty, which the freedom-loving boy,
with the connivance of his mother and the negro servants who adored him,
disregarded whenever it was possible. Though bathing in the river was
(except upon rare occasions) prohibited, Edgar became before summer was
over, the most expert swimmer and diver of his years in town, and many
an afternoon when Mr. Allan supposed that he was in his room, to which
he had been ordered for the purpose of disciplining his will and
character, or for punishment, he was far beyond the city's limits
roaming the woods, the fields, or the river-banks--joyously, and without
a prick of conscience (for all his disobedience) feeding his growing
soul upon the beauties of tree, and sky, and cliff, and water-fall.

And so, in spite of the melancholy moods in which he was occasionally
plunged by the bitterness which had found lodgment in his breast, the
summer was upon the whole a happy one to the boy. He was so young and
the world was so beautiful! He could not remember always to be unhappy.
Edgar Goodfellow, as well as Edgar the Dreamer, revelled in the world of
Out-of-Door. To the one all manner of muscular sport and exercise was
as the breath of his nostrils; to the other, whose favorite stories were
ancient myths and fairy-tales, all natural phenomena possessed vivid
personality. He loved to trace pictures in the clouds. In the rustling
of corn or the stirring of leaves in the trees, or in the sound of
running waters he heard voices which spoke to him of delightsome things,
bringing to his full, grey eyes, as he hearkened, a soft, romantic look,
and touching his lips and his cheeks with a radiant spirituality.

The cottage, on Clay Street, to which the Allans had removed soon after
their return from England, was in a quiet part of the town. The window
of Edgar's own, quaint little room in the dormer roof, with its shelving
walls, gave him a fair view of the sky, and brought him sweet airs
wafted across the garden of old-fashioned flowers below. Here, such
hours as he spent from choice or by command were not lonely, for,
sitting by the little window, many a story or poem was thought out; or
buried in some favorite book his thoughts would be borne away as if on
wings to a world where imagination was king.

       *       *       *       *       *

In the fall he was entered at Mr. Clarke's school. The school-room, with
its white-washed walls and the sun pouring in, unrestricted, through the
commonplace, big, bare windows, was very different from the great,
gloomy Gothic room at old Stoke-Newington--so full of mystery and
suggestion--but Edgar found it a pleasant place in which to be upon that
cool fresh morning in late September, when he made its acquaintance. He
felt full of mental activity and ready to go to work with a will upon
his Latin, his French and his mathematics. Since his return from
England, in June, he had become acquainted with most of the boys who
were to be his school-fellows, and he took at once to the school-master,
Professor Clarke, of Trinity College, Dublin--a middle-aged bachelor of
Irish birth, an accomplished gentleman and a very human creature, with a
big heart, a high ideal of what boys might be and abundant tolerance of
what they generally were. If he had a quick temper, he had also a quick
wit, and a quick appreciation of talent and sympathy with timorous
aspirations.

It had been Master Clarke's suggestion that his new pupil, who was known
as Edgar Allan, should put his own name upon the school register. Edgar,
looking questioningly up into Mr. Allan's face, was glad to read
approval there, and with a thrill of pride he wrote upon the book, in
the small, clear hand that had become characteristic of him:

"Edgar Allan Poe."

He was proud of his name and proud of his father, of whom he remembered
nothing, but in whose veins, he knew, had run patriot blood, and who had
had the independence to risk all for love of the beautiful mother of
worshipped memory. It was with straightened shoulders and a high head
that he took the seat assigned him at the clumsy desk, in the bare, ugly
room of the school in which he was to be known for the first time as
_Edgar Poe_. He felt that in coming into his own name he had come into a
proud heritage.

Mr. Clarke's Irish heart warmed toward him. He divined in the
big-browed, big-eyed boy a unique and gifted personality and proceeded
with the uttermost tact to do his best toward the cultivation of his
talents. The result was that Edgar not only acquitted himself
brilliantly in his studies, but progressed well in his verse-making,
which though, since Mr. Allan's prohibition, it had been kept secret in
his home, was freely acknowledged to teacher and school-fellows.

By his class-mates he was deemed a wonder. He was so easily first among
them in everything--in the simple athletics with which they were
familiar, as well as in studies--and his talent for rhyming and drawing
seemed to set him upon a sort of pedestal.

In the first blush of triumph these little successes gave him, young
Edgar's head was in a fair way to be turned. He saw himself (in fancy)
the leader, the popular favorite of the whole school. Indeed, he
flattered himself he had leaped at a single bound to this position at
the moment, almost, of his entrance. But he soon began to see that he
was mistaken. While he was conscious of the unconcealed admiration of
most, and the ill-concealed envy of a few of the boys, of his mental and
physical abilities, he began, as time went on, to suspect--then to be
sure--that for some reason that baffled all his ingenuity to fathom, he
was not accorded the position in the school that was the natural reward
for superiority of endowment and performance. This place was filled
instead by Nat Howard, a boy who, he told himself, he was without the
slightest vanity bound to see was distinctly second to him in every way.

He noticed that whatever Nat proposed was invariably done, so that he
was forced either to follow where he should have led, or be left out of
everything. Often when he joined the boys listening with interest to
Nat's heavy jokes and talk, a silence would fall upon the company, which
in a short while would break up--the boys going off in twos and threes,
leaving him to his own society or that of a small minority composed of
two or three boys for the most part younger than himself, who in spite
of the popular taste for Nat, preferred him and were captivated by his
clever accomplishments.

That there was some reason why he was thus shut out from personal
intimacy by school-mates who acknowledged and admired his powers he felt
sure, and he was determined to ferrit it out. In the meantime his heart,
always peculiarly responsive to affection, answered with warmth to the
devotion of the small coterie who were independent enough to swear
fealty to him. He helped them with their lessons, initiated them into
the mysteries of boxing and other manly exercises, went swimming and
gunning with them, and occasionally delighted them by showing them his
poems and the little sketches with which he sometimes illustrated his
manuscript, in the making.

It must be confessed that there was little in these compositions to set
the world afire. They would only be counted remarkable as the work of a
school-boy in his early teens, and were practice work--nothing more.
They served their purpose, then sank into the oblivion which was their
meet destiny. But to Jack Preston, Dick Ambler, Rob Stanard and Rob
Sully, and one or two others, they were master-pieces.

These boys, as well as Edgar, were giving serious attention to their
linen, the care of their hands, and the precise parting of their hair,
just then; and a close observer might often have detected them in the
act of furtively feeling their upper lips with anxious forefinger in the
vain hope of discovering the appearance--if ever so slight--of a downy
growth thereupon. For they, as well as he, were making sheep's eyes at
those wonderful visions in golden locks and jetty locks, with brown eyes
and blue eyes, with fluttering ribbons and snowy pinafores, known as
"Miss Jane Mackenzie's girls," who were the inspiration of most of their
poet-chum's invocations of the muse. The little hymns in praise of the
charms of these girls were generally adorned with pen or pencil sketches
of the fair charmers themselves.

Poor Miss Jane had a sad time of it. As the accomplished principal of a
choice Young Ladies Boarding and Day School, she enjoyed an enviable
position in the politest society in town. Parents of young ladies under
her care congratulated themselves alike upon her strict rule and her
learning, her refinement of manners and conversation and her
distinguished appearance. She was tall and stately and in her decorous
garb of black silk that could have "stood alone," and an elegant cap of
"real" lace with lavender ribbons softening the precise waves of her
iron-grey hair, she made a most impressive figure--one that would have
inspired with profound respect any male creature living saving that
incorrigible non-respecter of persons and personages, especially of lady
principals--the Boy. For the "forming" of young ladies, Miss Jane had a
positive forte, but the genus boy was an unknown quantity to her, and
worse--he was a positive terror. For one of them to invade the sacred
precincts of her school, or its grounds, seemed to her maiden soul rank
sacrilege; to scale her garden wall after dark for the purpose of
attaching a letter to a string let down from a window to receive it, was
nothing short of criminal. For one of her girls to receive offerings of
candy and original poetry--_love poetry_--from one of these terrible
creatures; such an offence was unspeakably shocking.

Yet discovery of such offences happened often enough to give her
repeated shocks, and to confirm her in her belief in the total
depravity, the hopeless wickedness of all boys--especially of John
Allan's adopted son.

In spite of her vigilance, Edgar Poe found the means to outwit her, and
to transmit his effusions, without difficulty, to her fair charges, who
with tresses primly parted and braided and meek eyes bent in evident
absorption upon their books, were the very pictures of docile obedience,
and bore in their outward looks no hint of the guilty consciences that
should, by rights, have been destroying their peace.

Miss Jane was the sister of Mr. Mackenzie who had adopted little Rosalie
Poe. Rosalie was, at Miss Jane's invitation, a pupil in the school, but
(ungrateful girl that she was) she became, at the suggestion of her
handsome and charming brother Edgar, whom she adored, the willing
messenger of Dan Cupid, and furthered much secret and sentimental
correspondence between the innocent-seeming girls and the young scamps
who admired them.

In these fascinating flights into the realms of flirtation, as in other
things, Edgar's friends acknowledged his superiority--his romantic
personal beauty and his gift for rhyming giving him a decided advantage
over them all; but they acknowledged it without jealousy, for there was
much of hero worship in their attitude toward him, and they were not
only perfectly contented for him to be first in every way but it would
have disappointed them for him not to be. The captivating charm of his
presence, in his gay moods, made it unalloyed happiness for them to be
with him. They were always ready to follow him as far as he led in
daring adventure--ready to fetch and carry for him and glowing with
pride at the least notice from him.

Some boys would have taken advantage of this state of things, but not so
Edgar Goodfellow. He, for his part, was always ready to contribute to
their pleasure, and fairly sunned himself in the unstinting love and
praise of these boys who admired, while but half divining his gifts.
Their games had twice the zest when Eddie played with them--he threw
himself into the sport with such heartfelt zeal that they were inspired
to do their best. Many a ramble in the woods and fields around Richmond
he took with them, telling them the most wonderful stories as he went
along; but sometimes, quite suddenly, during these outings, Edgar
Goodfellow would give place to Edgar the Dreamer and they would
wonderingly realize that his thoughts were off to a world where none of
them could follow--none of them unless it were Rob Sully, who was
himself something of a dreamer, and could draw as well as Edgar.

The transformation would be respected. His companions would look at him
with something akin to awe in their eyes and tell each other in low
tones not to disturb Eddie, he was "making poetry," and confine their
chatter to themselves, holding rather aloof from the young poet, who
wandered on with the abstracted gaze of one walking in sleep--with them,
but not of them.

There were other, less frequent, times when his mood was as much
respected, when added to the awe there was somewhat of distress in their
attitude toward him. At these times he was not only abstracted, but a
deep gloom would seem to have settled upon his spirit. Without apparent
reason, melancholy claimed him, and though he was still gentle and
courteous, they had a nameless sort of fear of him--he was so unlike
other boys and it seemed such a strange thing to be unhappy about
nothing. It was positively uncanny.

At these times they did not even try to be with him. They knew that he
could wrestle with what he called his "blue devils" more successfully
alone. A restlessness generally accompanied the mood, and he would
wander off by himself to the churchyard, the river, or the woods; or
spend whole long, golden afternoons shut up in his room, poring over
some quaint old tale, or writing furiously upon a composition of his
own. When he looked at the boys, he did not seem to see them, but would
gaze beyond them--the pupils of his full, soft, grey eyes darkening and
dilating as if they were held by some weird vision invisible to all eyes
save his own; and indeed the belief was general among his friends that
he was endowed with the power of seeing visions. This impression had
been made even upon his old "Mammy," when he was a mite of a lad. Many a
time, when he turned that abstracted gaze upon her, she had said to him,

"What dat you lookin' at now, Honey? You is bawn to see evil sho'!"

       *       *       *       *       *

And now a glimpse of Edgar Goodfellow--the normal Edgar, whom his chums
saw oftenest and loved best, because they knew him best and understood
him best.

It was a late Autumn Saturday--one of the Saturdays sent from Heaven for
the delight of school-children--bracing, but not cold; and brilliant.
Little Robert Sully looked pensively out of the window thinking what a
fine day it would be for a country tramp, if only he were like other
boys and could take them. But Rob was of frail build and constitution
and could never stand much exertion. In his eyes was the expression of
settled wistfulness that frequent disappointment will bring to the eyes
of a delicate child; in the droop of his mouth there was a touch of
bitterness, for he was thinking that not only did his weak body make it
impossible for him to keep up with the boys, but that it was no doubt, a
relief to the boys to leave him behind--that when he could be with them
he was perhaps a drag on their pleasure. No doubt they would make a
long day of it, this bright, bracing Saturday, for the persimmons and
the fox-grapes were ripe and the chinquapin and chestnut burrs were
opening. Tears of self-pity sprang to his eyes, but they were quickly
dashed away as he heard his name called and saw his beloved Eddie,
flushed and glowing with anticipated pleasure, at the gate.

"Come along, Rob," he was calling. "We are going to the Hermitage woods
for chinquapins, and you must come too. Uncle Billy is going for a load
of pine-tags, and we can ride in his wagon, so it won't tire you."

The other boys were waiting at the corner, all at the highest pitch of
mirth, for they saw that their idol, Eddie, was in one of his happiest
moods, which would mean a morning of unbounded fun to them. And the ride
with old Uncle Billy who, with black and shiny face, beaming upon them
in an excess of kindliness, hair like a full-blown cotton-boll, and
quaint talk, was an unfailing source of delight to them!

The Saturday freedom was in their blood. Off and away they went in the
jolly, rumbling wagon, past houses and gardens, and fields and into the
enchanting, autumn-colored woods, where "Bob Whites" were calling to
each other and nuts were dropping in the rustling leaves or waiting to
be shaken from their open burrs.

As they jolted along, the steady stream of conversation between Edgar
and Uncle Billy was as good as a play to the rest of the boys--Edgar,
with grave, courteous manner, discoursing of "cunjurs" and "ha'nts" with
as real an air of belief as that of the old man himself.



CHAPTER VII.


The allegiance of his little band of boon companions was all the sweeter
to the young poet because he realized more and more fully as the years
of his school-days passed that for some reason unknown to himself he was
systematically, and plainly with intention, denied intimacy with Nat
Howard and his followers--_snubbed_. As has been said, they did not
hesitate to acknowledge his success in all sorts of mental and physical
trials of skill, but in a formal, impersonal way. There was never the
least familiarity in their intercourse with him. This, naturally,
produced in him a reserve in his manner toward them that they
unreasonably attributed to "airs." Their coldness wounded and chilled
the sensitive boy as much as the love of his devoted adherents warmed
him.

It was not until near the end of his third session in the school that
the riddle was, quite suddenly, solved. Edgar Poe was now in his
fifteenth year. One perfect May day, when the song of birds, the odors
of flowers, the whisper of soft breezes and the languor of mellow
sunshine outside of the open school windows were wooing all poetic souls
to come out and live, and let musty, dry books go to the deuce, little
Rob Sully found it impossible to fix his mind upon his Latin. As for
Edgar's mind, it was plain from his expression that it was far afield;
but then Edgar had the power of knowing his lessons intuitively, almost.
Rob only "got" his by faithful plodding. When their respective classes
were called, Edgar recited brilliantly, while Rob seemed like one
befuddled and, making a dismal failure, was bidden to stay in and study
at recess. A look of utter woe settled upon his thin, pallid face, which
lifted as, impelled to look toward Edgar's desk, he caught his friend's
eyes fixed upon him with their charming smile. He knew well what the
eyes were saying:

"Don't worry, Rob, I'll stay in and help you."

And stay in the owner of the eyes did, patiently going over and over the
lesson with the confused boy until the hard parts were made easy.
Finally, when he saw that Rob had mastered it, Edgar walked out into the
yard for the few minutes left of recess. The boys were all drawn up in a
group a little way from the house and were being harangued by his rival,
Nat Howard. His chums, Rob Stanard, Dick Ambler and Jack Preston, were
standing together a few feet apart from the rest. Their faces were very
red and the haranguing seemed to be addressed directly to them. Edgar
stopped where he was, wondering what it was all about, but shy of
joining a crowd over which Nat was presiding.

The speaker's voice rose to a higher key.

"I'll tell you, boys," he was saying, "if you persist in intimacy with
this fellow, you needn't expect to be in with me and my crowd."

"We don't want you and your crowd," was the response. "He's worth all of
you rolled into one."

Edgar's heart stood still. "Was Nat Howard talking about _him_?"

The voice went on: "I grant you the fellow's smart enough and game
enough, but he's not in our class, and I, for one, won't associate with
him intimately."

"His family's one of the oldest and most honorable in the country," said
Robert Stanard. "I've heard my father say so."

"Yes, but his father must have been a black sheep to run away with a
common actress--"

The harangue was brought to an abrupt end. The enraged Edgar had sprung
forward and, with a blow in the face, struck Nat Howard down. Nat's
friends were lifting him up and wiping the blood from his face and
dusting his clothing, while Edgar's own friends gathered around him as
if to restrain him from repeating the attack. He shook them off, gazing
with contempt upon his limp and half-stunned adversary.

"I'll not hit him again until he repeats his offence," he assured the
boys, "but I want him and all other cowardly dogs to know what's waiting
for them when they insult the memory of my father and mother. Yes! my
mother was an actress! God gave her the gifts to make her one and she
had the pluck to use them to earn bread for herself and for her
children. Yes! she was an actress! She had the lovely face and form, the
high intelligence and the poetic soul for the making of a perfect woman
or for the interpreter of genius--for the personification of a Juliet, a
Rosalind or a Cordelia. Yes! she was an actress! And I'm proud of it as
surely as I'm proud she's an angel in Heaven! And I'm proud that my
father--the son of a proud family--had the spirit, for her sweet sake,
to fly in the face of convention, to count family, fortune and all well
lost to become her husband, and to adopt her profession; to learn of
her, in order that he might be always at her side to protect her and to
live in the light of her presence. If I had choice of all the surnames
and of all the lineage in the world, I would still choose the name of
Poe, and to be the son of David and Elizabeth Poe, players!"

The boys were silent. The school bell was ringing and Edgar Poe, still
pale and trembling with passion, turned on his heel and strode, with
head up, in the direction of the door. Rob Stanard and Rob Sully walked
one on each side of him, while Dick Ambler and Jack Preston and several
others among his adherents, followed close. A little way behind the
group came the other boys, their still half-dazed leader in their midst.
Good Mr. Burke (who had succeeded Mr. Clarke as school-master) guessed
as they came in and took their seats that there had been an altercation
of some kind, and that his two brag scholars had been prominent in it;
but he was wise in his generation and allowed the boys to settle their
own differences without asking any questions unless he were appealed to,
when his sympathy and interest were found to be theirs to count upon.

The afternoon session was unsatisfactory, but the master was in an
indulgent mood and apparently did not notice what each boy felt--a
confusion and abstraction. There was a palpable sense of relief when the
closing hour came.

       *       *       *       *       *

At dinner that day Edgar was silent and evidently under a cloud, and
scarcely touched his food. Frances Allan looked toward him anxiously and
her husband suspiciously. When his lack of appetite was remarked upon,
he, truthfully enough, pleaded headache. Mrs. Allan was all sympathy at
once.

"You study too hard, dear," she said. "You may have a holiday tomorrow
if you like, and go and spend the day in the country with Rosalie and
the Mackenzies."

"No, no," replied the boy. "I'll just stay quiet, in my room, this
evening. I'll be all right by tomorrow."

"What have you been eating?" demanded John Allan, gruffly.

"Nothing, since breakfast, Sir," was the reply.

"Headaches are for nervous women. When a healthy boy complains of one,
and declines dinner, it generally means that he has been robbing
somebody's strawberry patch or up a cherry-tree, stuffing half-ripe
fruit," he said in the acid, suspicious tone that the boy knew. It was
beyond John Allan's powers to imagine any but physical causes for a
boy's ailments.

       *       *       *       *       *

Not until the door of his own little bed-room was closed behind him did
Edgar Poe even try to collect his thoughts. Then he sat down at his
window and looked out over the fragrant garden to the quiet sky,
contemplation of which had so often soothed his spirit, and tried to
readjust the inner world he lived in, in accordance with the discovery
he had just made. A first such readjustment his world had experienced
three years before, when Mr. Allan had taunted him with his dependence
upon charity. Before that time the world, as he knew it, had held only
love and beauty--sorrow, as he had seen it, being but a solemn and
poetic form of beauty. The change in such a world made by the discovery
that his being an adopted son set him apart in a class different from
other boys--a class unlovely and loveless--had been great, had stolen
much of the joy from living; but he was very young then, and the joy of
mere living and breathing was strong in his blood, and he had gradually
become accustomed--hardened, if you will--to the idea of his dependence
upon charity.

But here was a change far more terrible, and coming at a time when he
was old enough to feel it far more keenly. He was indeed, in a class by
himself--he was held in contempt because of what his angel mother had
been! His holy of holies had been profaned, the sacred fire that warmed
his inner life had been spat upon. It seemed he had been from the
beginning despised, though he had not dreamed it, for that which he held
most dear--of which he was most proud. The little, aristocratic,
puffed-up world he lived in would doubtless always despise him; but that
was because of its narrowness and ignorance for which he, in turn, would
despise it. With the whimsical, half-belief he had always had that the
dead remain conscious through their long sleep, he wondered if his
beautiful young mother, with the roses on her hair, down under the green
earth, was not aware of the love and loyalty of her boy and if her
spirit soaring the highest heavens, would not aid him in carrying out
the resolution which in the bitterness of his soul, he then and there
made--the resolution to bring this mean little, puffed up world to do
honor to his name--to her name, of which he was prouder in this hour
when others would trample it in the dust than he had ever been before.

Young boy though he was, he was conscious of his God-given endowments.
He felt that the divine fire of poetic feeling in his breast was an
immortal thing. Up to this time, his singing had been as the singing of
a wood-bird--an impulse, a necessity to express the thoughts and
feelings of his heart. He had never looked far enough ahead to consider
whether he should or should not publish his work; but now ambition
awoke--full-grown at its birth--and set him afire. From those parents
whose memory had been insulted he had received (God willing it) the
precious heritage of brilliant intellect. He would put the work of this
intellect--his stories and his poems--into books. He would give them to
the wide world. He would win recognition for the name of Poe.

He drew from within his coat the miniature of his mother--her dying
gift. He gazed upon it long and tenderly, and with it still exposed to
view brought from his desk the little packet of yellowed letters in
their faded blue ribbon. He knew them by heart, but he read them--each
one--over again, as carefully as if it had been the first time. They
were not many and those not long; but ah, they were sweet!--those
tender, quaint love-letters that had passed between his parents in their
brief courtship and married life. His father's so manly so strong--like
the letters of a soldier. His mother's so modest, so tender. They did
not stir his pulses so wildly now as they did upon his first reading of
them, when a little lad at old Stoke-Newington--but they were no less
beautiful to him now than then. The sentences made him think of the
dainty, sweet aroma of pressed roses.

He tied the packet up again and kissed letters and picture, as if to
seal the promise he was making them, then restored them to their
hiding-places. With the bitter knowledge that had come to him, he felt
that years had passed over him--that he would never be young again--this
boy of fourteen!

He raised his deep, pensive eyes once more to the quiet sky and his
spirit cried to Heaven to grant him power to accomplish this task he had
set himself: to lift the loved name of his parents from the dust where
it lay, and to set it high in the temple of fame, wreathed with immortal
myrtle.

His resolution gave to his poetic face and his slender figure an air of
mastery, as though some new, high quality had been born within him.



CHAPTER VIII.


In the days that followed, Edgar's friends found him unusually silent,
yet not morose. Serenity sat on his broad, thoughtful brow and in his
great, soft eyes. Nat Howard and his chums gave him the cold shoulder
and wore, in his presence, the air of offended dignity which the
small-minded are apt to assume when conscious of being in the wrong or
of having committed an injury which the victim has received with credit
and the offender has not forgiven. It is so much easier to grant pardon
for an injury received than for one given!

Edgar's own friends were more emphatic in their devotion to him than
ever--racking their young brains for ways in which to show their loyalty
and frequently looking into his face with the expression of soft
adoration and trust one sees in the eyes of a faithful dog. Edgar was
touched and gratified, and his sweet, spontaneous smile often rewarded
their efforts; but his face would soon become grave again and the boys
were aware that the mind of their gifted friend was busy with thoughts
in which they had no part. This gave them an impression of distance
between them and him. He all of a sudden, seemed to have become remote,
as though a chasm, by what power they knew not, had opened between
them--making their love for him as "the desire of the moth for the
star." They knew that he was more often than ever before working upon
his poetical and other compositions, but these were seldom shown, or
even mentioned, to them.

Each boy in his own way sought to bridge the gulf that separated them
from their idol. Robert Sully missed his Latin lesson on purpose in the
hope that Eddie would stay in and help him. And Eddie did, but wore that
same detached air in which there was no intimacy or comfort. When the
lesson was learned Edgar took a slate from the desk before them, rubbed
off the problem that was upon it, and quickly wrote down a little poem
of several stanzas. He held it out, with a smile, to Rob, telling him
that while teaching him his lesson he had been practicing "dividing his
mind," and that while one part of his brain had been putting English
into Latin the other part had composed the verses on the slate.

The dumfounded Rob read the verses aloud, but before he could express
his amazement Edgar had taken the slate from him and, with one swipe of
the damp spunge, obliterated the rhymes.

"Write them on paper for me, please," plead Robert.

The brilliant smile of the boy-poet flashed upon him. "Oh, they were not
worth keeping," said he, indifferently. "They were merely an exercise."
And picking up his books and hat, he walked out of the door, whistling
in clear, high, plaintive notes one of the melodies of his favorite Tom
Moore.

The boy left behind looked after him with a troubled heart and misty
eyes. This wonderful friend of his was as kind as ever, yet he seemed
changed. It was clear that he had "something on his mind."

"Will you go swimming with me this evening, Eddie?" said Dick Ambler
one day when school was out.

"With all the pleasure in life," was the hearty response.

Dick went home to his dinner with a singing heart. If anything could
bring Edgar down from the clouds to his own level, surely it would be
bathing together. He certainly could not make poetry while diving and
swimming, naked, in the racing and tumbling falls of James River. A
merry battle with those energetic waters kept a fellow's wits as well as
his muscles fully occupied.

But even this attempt was a failure. If Edgar made any poetry while in
the water he did not mention it; but he was absent-minded and unsociable
all the way to the river and back--sky-gazing for curious cloud-forms,
listening for bird-notes and hunting wild-flowers, and talking almost
none at all.

In the water he seemed to wake up, and never dived with more grace, or
daring; but no sooner had they started on the way home than he was off
with his dreams again.

Rob Stanard was more successful in his attempts to interest his friend.
In spite of their intimacy at school and on the playground Edgar had up
to this time never visited the Stanard home. Rob had enlisted his
mother's sympathy in the orphan boy and she had suggested that he should
invite Edgar home with him some day. It now occurred to Rob that this
would be a good time to do so, and knowing his friend's fondness for
dumb animals, he offered his pets as an attraction--asking him to come
and see his pigeons and rabbits. His invitation was accepted with
alacrity.

Edgar had seen Rob's mother, but only at a distance. He knew her
reputation as one of the town beauties, but lovely women were not rare
in Richmond, and, beauty-worshipper though he was, he had never had any
especial curiosity in regard to Mrs. Stanard. He was altogether
unprepared for the vision that broke upon him.

Instead of going through the house, Rob had piloted him by way of a side
gate, directly into the walled garden, sweet and gay with roses, lilies
and other flowers of early June.

Mrs. Stanard, who took almost as much pleasure in her children's pets as
they did, was standing near a clump of arbor-vitae, holding in her hands
a "willow-ware" plate from which the pigeons were feeding. She was at
this time, though the mother of Edgar's twelve-year-old chum, not thirty
years of age, and her pensive beauty was in its fullest flower. Against
the sombre background the arbor-vitae made, her slight figure, clad in
soft, clinging white, seemed airy and sylphlike. Her dark, curling hair,
girlishly bound with a ribbon snood, and her large brown eyes, were in
striking contrast to her complexion, which was pale, with the radiant
and warm palor of a tea-rose or a pearl. Her features were daintily
modelled, and like slender lilies were the hands holding the deep blue
plate from which the pigeons--white, grey and bronze, fed--fluttering
about her with soft cooings.

The picture was so much more like a poet's dream than a reality, that
the boy-poet stepped back, with an exclamation of surprise.

"It is only my mother," explained Rob. "She'll be glad to see you."

The next moment she had perceived the boys, and with quick impulse, set
the plate upon the ground and came forward, and before a word of
introduction could be spoken, had taken the visitor's hand between both
her own fair palms, holding it thus, with gentle, gracious pressure, in
a pretty, cordial way she had, while she greeted him.

The soft eyes that rested on his face filled with kindness and welcome.

"So this is my Rob's friend," she was saying, in a low, musical voice.
"Rob's mother is delighted to see you for his sake and for your own too,
Edgar, for I greatly admired _your_ gifted mother. I saw her once only,
when I was a young girl, but I can never forget her lovely face and
sweet, plaintive voice. It was one of the last times she ever acted, and
she was ill and pale, but she was exquisitely beautiful and made the
most charming Juliet. She interested me more than any actress I have
ever seen."

Edgar Poe longed to fall down and kiss her feet--to worship her. Her
beauty, her gentleness and her gracious words so stirred his soul that
he grew faint. Power of speech almost left him, and, vastly to his
humiliation, he could with difficulty control his voice to utter a few
stumbling words of thanks--he who was usually so ready of speech!

If she noticed his confusion she did not appear to do so. Her heart had
been touched by all she had heard from her son of the lonely boy, and
she had also been interested in accounts of his gifts that had come to
her from various sources. The beauty, the poetry, the pensiveness of his
face moved her deeply--knowing his history and divining the lack of
sympathy one of his bent would probably find in the Allan home, for all
its indulgences.

She sat on a garden-bench and talked to him for a time, in her gentle,
understanding way, and then, not wishing to be a restraint upon the
boys, (after placing her husband's fine library at Edgar's disposal, and
urging him to come often to see Rob) withdrew into the house.

The motherless boy looked after her until she had disappeared, and
stared at the door that had closed upon her until he was recalled from
his reverie by the voice of his friend, suggesting that they now see the
rabbits. Edgar looked at the gentle creatures with unseeing eyes, though
he appeared to be listening to the prattle of his companion concerning
them. Suddenly, in a voice filled with enthusiasm and with a touch of
awe in it, he said:

"Rob, your mother is divinely beautiful--and _good_."

"Bully," was the nonchalant reply. "The best thing about her is the way
she takes up for a fellow when he brings in a bad report or gets into a
scrape. Fathers always think it's their sons' fault, you know."

Edgar flushed. "_Bully_--" he said to himself, with a shudder. The
adjective applied to her seemed blasphemy.

Aloud, he said, "She's an angel! She's the one I've always dreamed
about."

"You dreamed about mother when you had never seen her?" questioned the
astonished Rob. "What did you dream?"

"Nothing, in the way you mean. I meant she is like my idea of a perfect
woman. The kind of woman a man could always be good for, or would gladly
die to serve."

"Well, I'm not smart enough to think out things like that, Eddie, but
Mother certainly is all right. What you say about her sounds nice, and
she'd understand it, too. I just bet that you and mother'll be the best
sort of cronies when you know each other better. She likes all those
queer old books you think so fine, and she knows whole pages of poetry
by heart. When you and she get together it will be like two books
talking out loud to each other. I won't be able to join in much, but it
will be as good as a play to listen."

The young poet bent his steps homeward with but one thought, one hope in
his heart, and that a consuming one: to look again upon the lovely face,
to hear again the voice that had enthralled him, had taken his heart by
storm and filled it with a veritable _grande passion_--the rapturous
devotion of the virgin heart of an ardent and romantic youth. First
love--yet so much more than ordinary love--a pure passion of the soul,
in which there was much of worship and nothing of desire. Surely the
most pure and holy passion the world has ever known, for in it there was
absolutely nothing of self. Like Dante after his first meeting with
Beatrice, this Virginia boy-poet had entered upon a _Vita Nuova_--a new
life--made all of beauty.

What difference did the taunts of schoolmates, the hardness of a
foster-father make now? The wounds they made had been gratefully healed
by the balm of her beauteous words about his mother. Those old wounds
were as nothing--neither they nor anything else had power to harm him
now. In the new life that had opened so suddenly before him he would
bear a charmed existence.

He went to his room before the usual hour that night, for he wanted to
be alone with his dreams--with his newest, most beautiful dream. To his
room, but not to bed. Life was too beautiful to be wasted in sleep. He
lighted his lamp and holding his mother's picture within its circle of
light, gazed long and devotedly upon it. Did she know of the great light
that had shone out of what seemed a sunless sky upon her boy? Had she,
looking out from high Heaven, seen the gracious greeting of the
beautiful being who was Madonna and Psyche in one? Had she heard her own
cause so sweetly championed, her own name so sweetly cleared of
opprobrium?

He threw himself upon his lounge and lay with his hands clasped under
his curly head, still dreaming--dreaming--dreaming--until day-dreams
were merged into real dreams, for he was fast asleep.

In his sleep he saw the lady of his dreams in a situation of peril, from
which he joyfully rescued her. He awoke with a start. His lamp had
burned itself out but a late moon flooded the room with the white light
that he loved. A breeze laden with odors caught from the many
rose-gardens and the heavier-scented magnolias, now in full bloom, it
had come across, stirred the curtain. His nostrils, always sensitive to
the odors of flowers, drank it in rapturously. So honey-sweet it was,
his senses swam.

He arose and looked out upon the incense-breathing blossoms, like
phantoms, under the moon. A clock in a distant part of the house was
striking twelve. How much more beautiful was the world now--at night's
high noon--than at the same hour of the day.

All the house, save himself, was asleep. How easy it would be to escape
into this lovely night--to walk through this ambrosial air to the
house-worshipful in which _she_ doubtless lay, like a closed
lily-flower, clasped in sleep.

A mocking-bird--the Southland's nightingale--in, some tree or bush not
far away, burst into passion-shaken melody that seemed to voice, as no
words could, his own emotion.

Down the stair he slipped, and out of the door, into the well-nigh
intoxicating beauty of the southern summer's night. Indeed, the odors of
the dew-drenched flowers--the moonlight--the bird-music, together with
his remembrance of his lady's greeting, went to his head like wine.

As he strolled along some lines of Shelley's which had long been
favorites of his, sang in his brain:

    "I arise from dreams of thee
      In the first sweet sleep of night,
    When the winds are breathing low
      And the stars are shining bright.
    I arise from dreams of thee,
      And the spirit in my feet
    Has led me--who knows how?--
      To thy chamber-window, sweet!

    "The wandering airs they faint
      On the dark, the silent stream;
    The champak odors fail
      Like sweet thoughts in a dream;
    The nightingale's complaint,
      It dies upon her heart,
    As I must die on thine,
      Oh, beloved, as thou art!

    "Oh, lift me from the grass!
      I die, I faint, I fail!
    Let thy love in kisses rain
      On my lips and eyelids pale.
    My cheek is cold and white, alas!
      My heart beats loud and fast.
    Oh, press it close to thine again,
      Where it will break at last."

The words of the latter half of this serenade were meaningless as
applied to his case. To have quoted them--even mentally--in any literal
sense, would have seemed to him profanation; yet the whole poem in some
way not to be analysed or defined, expressed his mood--and who so brutal
as to seek to reduce to common-sense the emotions of a poet-lover, in
the springtime of life?

At length he was before the closed and shuttered house, standing silent
and asleep. Opposite were the grassy slopes of Capitol Square--with the
pillared, white Capitol, in its midst, looking, in the moonlight, like a
dream of old Greece. _Her_ house! He looked upon its moonlit, ivied
walls with adoration. A light still shone from one upper room. Was it
_her_ chamber? Was she, too, awake and alive to the beauty of this magic
night?

His heart beat tumultuously at the thought. Then--Oh, wonder! His knees
trembled under him--he grew dizzy and was ready, indeed, to cry, "I die,
I faint, I fail!" She crossed the square of light the window made. In
her uplifted hand she carried the lamp from which the light shone, and
for a moment her slight figure, clad all in white as he had seen her in
the garden a few hours before, and softly illuminated, was framed in the
ivy-wreathed casement. But for a moment--then disappeared, but the
trembling boy-lover and poet seemed to see it still, and gazed and gazed
until the light was out and all the house dark.

He stumbled back through the moonlight to his home, he crept up the
creaking stair again, to his little, dormer-windowed room; but sleep was
now, more than ever, impossible.

Though the lamp had gone out, a candle stood upon a stand at the head
of his bed. He lighted it, and by its ray, wrote, under the spell of the
hour, the first utterance in which he, Edgar Poe, ascended from the
plane of a maker of "promising" verse, to the realm of the true poet--a
poem to the lady of his heart's dream destined (though he little guessed
it) to make her name immortal and to send the fame of his youthful
passion down the ages as one of the world's historic love-affairs.

What was her name? he wondered. He had never heard it, but he would call
her Helen--_Helen_, the ancient synonym of womanly beauty, but the
loveliest Helen, he believed, that ever set poet-lover piping her
praise.

And so, "To Helen," were the words he wrote at the top of his page, and
underneath the name these lines:

    "Helen, thy beauty is to me
      Like those Nicean barks of yore,
      That gently o'er a perfumed sea,
      The weary, wayworn wanderer bore
      To his own native shore.

    "On desperate seas long wont to roam,
      Thy hyacinth hair, thy classic face,
    Thy Naiad airs have brought me home
      To the glory that was Greece
    And the grandeur that was Rome.

    "Lo! in yon brilliant window-niche
      How statue-like I see thee stand!
    The agate lamp within thy hand,
      Ah! Psyche, from the regions which
    Are Holy Land!"



CHAPTER IX.


With his meeting with "Helen," a new life, indeed, seemed to have opened
for Edgar the Dreamer. Not only had her own interest and sympathy been
aroused, but her husband, a learned and accomplished judge of the
Supreme Court of Virginia, also received him cordially and became deeply
interested in him, and he found in their home what his own had lacked
for him, a thoroughly congenial atmosphere.

"Helen" Stanard listened kindly to his boyish rhapsodies about his
favorite poets, and encouraged him to bring her his own portefolio of
verses, which he did, all but the ones addressed to herself--these he
kept secret. She read all he brought her carefully, and intelligently
criticised them in a way that was a real help to him.

As has been said, when Mr. Allan had discovered that his adopted son was
a rhymster, he had rebuked him severely for such idle waste of time, and
in a vain attempt to clip the wings of Pegasus, threatened him with
punishment if he should hear of such folly again. Mrs. Allan, on the
contrary, though she was not a bookish woman, had protested against her
husband's command--urging that Edgar be encouraged to cultivate his
talent. The ability to compose verse seemed to her, in a boy of Edgar's
age, little short of miraculous, and, proud of her pet's accomplishment,
she heaped indiscriminate praise upon every line that she saw of his
writing.

The boy, hardly knowing which way to escape, between these two fires
that bade fair to work the ruin of his gift, turned eagerly to his new
friend. "Helen" gently told him that she believed his talent to be a
sacred trust, and that he would be committing sin to bury it--even
though by so doing he should be fulfilling the wishes of his
foster-father to whom he owed so much. He must, however, not forget his
duty to Mr. Allan in regard to this matter, as in other things, but
treat his views with all the consideration possible. Above all things,
he was never to depart from the truth in talking to him, but to tell him
in a straightforward and respectful way that he believed it his duty
when poetical thoughts presented themselves to his mind, to set them
down, and even to encourage and invite such thoughts.

At the same time, she earnestly warned him against being overmuch
impressed by the flattering estimates of his work of his friends,
especially of his mother, who was far too partial to him, personally, to
be a safe judge of his writings.

A happier summer than is often given mortals to know, Edgar the Dreamer
passed at the feet of the lovely young matron who had become a sort of
mother-confessor to him. Happiness which, with a touch of the
superstition that was characteristic of him he often told himself was
too perfect to last. What was it that made him feel sometimes in looking
upon her under the serene sky of that ideal summer that a cloud no
bigger than a man's hand threw its shadow upon her? Was it that faint
hint of sadness in her dark eyes or the ethereal radiance of her pale
complexion that while thrilling him with delight in the exquisite
quality of her beauty, filled him with foreboding?

       *       *       *       *       *

Ere the frosts of autumn had robbed her garden of its glory, blighting
sorrow had fallen upon her tender mother-heart in the death of a darling
baby girl. Beneath this blow the health of sweet "Helen," always frail,
succumbed, and her home became thenceforth as a living tomb, in which
the few who ever saw her again trod softly and spoke in hushed voices.

When the earliest roses were in bloom in her garden two years after
Edgar Poe first saw her there, she lay in her coffin, and for him, the
world seemed to have come to an end.

She was laid to rest in the new cemetery on Shockoe Hill, not far from
the Allan home. The bier was followed by its black procession of
mourners, and no one knew that the heart of a youth who followed too,
but at a distance, was breaking. Though husband and children and brother
and sister were bowed with grief, he told himself that there was among
them no sorrow like unto his sorrow who had not even the right of
kinship to mourn for her. Of what business of his (he fancied, out of
the bitterness of his soul, the world saying) of what business of his
was her death? What business had he to mourn?

Again his feet kept time to the old refrain of never, nevermore, that
hammered in his brain--a refrain that to the unrealizing ear of the
child of three had been sad with a beautiful, rhythmic sadness that was
rather pleasurable than otherwise; that to the youth of sixteen was
still musical and beautiful, though filled with despair.

As at many another time his poetical gift gave him a merciful vent for
his pent up feeling, so now it came to his aid, and upon the night of
the day when she was laid to rest he poured out his sorrow in "The
Paean"--which he was afterwards to revise and rename, "Lenore"--

    "An anthem for the queenliest dead that ever died so young--
    A dirge for her, the doubly dead in that she died so young."

As during his childhood, and afterwards, he had found a mournful
pleasure in visiting the grave of his mother, in the churchyard on the
hill; so now he found a blessed solace, in his terrible loneliness, in
pilgrimages to the shrine (for as such he held the grave of his saint)
in the new cemetery. These pilgrimages he usually made at night--his
grief was too sacred a thing to be flaunted in broad daylight. Many a
night during the spring and summer found him slipping down the stair,
when the house was asleep, and taking his way through the silent city
of Slumber to that even more silent city of Death.

Oh, that those that lay there not much more still than they who lay
asleep in their beds in that other city, might arise like them with the
morrow's sun!

Often, as he walked along, drinking in the perfumed night air that he
loved--the night breeze gratefully lifting the ringlets from his fevered
brow--often he thought of that first summer's night when with the sweet
words of Shelley's serenade: "I arise from dreams of thee," singing
themselves in his heart, he had gone with light feet to worship beneath
her window.

Ah, the world was young then, for sweet hope was alive!

The iron gates of the cemetery were locked, but the wall was not very
high. To scale it but added zest to his adventure. He would be a knight
unfit for his vigil if he were to let himself be so easily balked.

Within the wall the odors of flowers were even heavier, more
oppressively sweet than without, and the silence surpassed the silence
of the outer city even as the stillness of the sleepers here surpassed
the stillness of those yonder.

He listened and listened to the silence. Surely if she should speak,
even from down under the ground he could hear her across this silence
which was as a void--a black and terrible void.

His first pilgrimages were by moonlight, but when the moonless nights
came he continued his vigils. He would have known the way by that time
with his eyes shut.

Sometimes he was afraid--horribly afraid. He seemed, in the shadows, to
descry weird phantom-shapes, moving stealthily; in the silence to hear
ghostly whispers; sometimes he fancied he heard _the silence itself_!
But in the very fear that clutched his throat there was a fascination--a
lure--that made it impossible to turn back.

His sorrow was exquisite; his terror was exquisite; his loneliness was
oh, how exquisite! Yet in courting them all, here in the dead of night,
prone on her grave, he found the only balm he knew--the only sympathy;
for to his fancy the dark and the quiet had always seemed sentient
things and he felt that they gave him a sympathy he did not--could not
ask of people.

       *       *       *       *       *

A breathless night in July found him at the familiar tryst at an earlier
hour than was his wont. He lay upon the grass at her feet with his hands
clasped under his head and his face turned up to the stars. There was
moonlight as well as starlight, and in its silvery radiance his
features, always pale, had the frigid whiteness of marble. The wide-open
eyes that stared upward to the stars, were larger, darker than in
daylight, and more full of brooding; the white brow, with its crown of
dark ringlets was whiter and more expansive.

In a dormer-windowed cottage overlooking a rose garden, on Clay Street,
an erect gentleman in an uncompromising stock and immaculate ruffles,
with narrow blue eyes under a beetling brow, and a somewhat hawk-like
nose, sharply questioned a fair and graceful lady, with an anxious
expression on her flower-face, as to why "that boy" did not come home to
his supper. But they were used by now, to the boy's strange, wayward
whims, and so did not marvel much. Only--they had not seen him since the
feat that had set the town ringing with his name and it seemed to them
that it would have been natural for him to come home in the flush of his
triumph and tell them about it.

Edgar Poe had that day created the sensation of the hour by swimming
from the Richmond wharves to Warwick--a distance of six miles--in the
midsummer sun.

Richmond was a fair and pleasant little city in those days, in spite of
the fact that our boy-poet found in it so much to make him melancholy.
"The merriest place in America," Thackeray called it some years later,
and would probably have said the same of it then had he been there. The
blight of Civil War had not touched the cheerful temper of its people;
the tenement row had not crowded out grass and flowers. It was more a
large village than a town, with gracious homes--not elbowing each other
for foundation room, but standing comfortably apart, amid their green
lawns, and with wide verandahs overhanging their many-flowered gardens.

"After tea," on warm nights, the houses overflowed into these
verandahs, and there was much visiting from one to another--much
light-hearted talk and happy laughter; the popular theme being whatever
happened to be "the news."

It was the day of contentment, for wants were moderate and plentifully
supplied; the day of satisfaction in wholesome domestic joys; the day of
hospitality without grudging; the day when sweetness extracted from
little pleasures did not need spicing, for palates were not jaded; the
day of the ideal simple life.

Upon this night, as on other nights, young girls who were not yet "gone
to the springs" floated along the fashionable promenades, in airy
muslins, with their cavaliers beside them. Groups of gentlemen and
ladies sat on the porches and children played hide-and-seek, chased
fire-flies, or sat on the steps and listened to the talk of their
elders. And everywhere, in all of the groups, the chief topic was the
boy, Edgar Poe, and his wonderful swim.

And the boy who had in an afternoon become, for the time being at least,
the foremost figure in town, knew it, but did not care.

To lie alone on the grass by the grave of his dead divinity and gaze at
the far stars, and brood upon his young sorrows--this gave him more
satisfaction than to be the central figure of any one of the groups
singing his praise; filled him with a romantic despair that to his
high-strung soul had a more delicately sweet flavor than positive
pleasure.

As to the erect gentleman in the high stock and the pretty lady with
the tender, anxious face--they had, for the present, no part in his
thoughts. It was wrong and ungrateful of him that they should not have,
and if he had remembered them he would have known that it was wrong and
ungrateful; but he would not have cared. And as for his food--he had
supped royally, and without compunction, upon the fruit of an inviting
orchard to which he had helped himself, unblushingly, upon his way into
town.

A reckless mood, born of the restlessness that was in his blood, was
upon him.

The truth was, that poignant as was his pleasure in dwelling upon his
poetical sorrow for the adored "Helen"--his "lost Lenore"--it did not
fully satisfy him. His youthful heart was hungry for response to his
out-poured sentiment, for the more robust diet of mutual love. In plain
English, Edgar Poe wanted, and wanted badly, a sweetheart, though he did
not suspect it.

       *       *       *       *       *

When, finally, he scaled the cemetery wall and took his way homeward he
did not go directly to the dormer-windowed cottage where the erect
gentleman and the pretty lady awaited him. Just as he was approaching it
he heard Elmira Royster's guitar in the porch opposite, and he crossed
the street and entered the Royster's gate.

The Roysters and Allans had been neighbors for years and he and Elmira
had been "brought up together." At the sound of approaching footsteps
the guitar grew suddenly silent and a slight, rather colorless girl in a
white dress, with a white flower in her fluffy blonde hair, came from
out the shadow of the microphilla rose that embowered the porch and
stood in the full light of the moon, giving him greeting.

"Oh, I'm so glad to see you, Eddie," she said. "All of the family but me
have gone to a party, and I'm so lonesome! Besides, I, like everybody
else in town, want a chance to congratulate you."

"Congratulate?" he replied, with a shrug, as he took a seat beside her,
under the roses, "Congratulate? In their hearts they all despise me."
Then with a smile,

"You see the blue devils have the upper hand of me tonight, Myra."

"Well, they are fibbing devils if they tell you you are despised. Dick
Ambler was over at your house looking for you a little while ago, and he
stopped by and told me about your swim. He said he and the other boys
that followed you in the boat had never seen anything so exciting in
their lives. They were expecting you to give out any minute and so much
afraid that if you did you would go under before they could get hold of
you. When you won the wager they were so proud and happy that they were
almost beside themselves."

"Oh, I know Dick and the rest are the best and truest friends a fellow
ever had--bless their hearts--but they are the exceptions."

"Nonsense! There's not a boy in town tonight who would not give his
head to be in your shoes, and" (shyly) "the girls are all wild about
you."

The hero smiled indulgently. No woman was ever thrown with Edgar Poe,
from his birth up, but in some fashion or degree, loved him, and to him
all women were angels. He never, as boy or man, entertained a thought or
wrote a line of one of them that was not reverent. He admired, in
varying degree, all types of feminine loveliness, but Myra, though he
liked her, was not the style that he most cared for. He had always
thought her too "washed out." The soul that shone through her rather
prominent, light-blue eyes was too transparent, too easily read. He
found more interesting the richer-hued brunette type, and the complex
nature that goes with it; the flashes of starlight, the softness and the
warmth, of brown eyes; the mysteries that lie in the shadow of dusky
lashes; the variety of rich, warm tones in chestnut and auburn tresses.

But Myra was a revelation to him tonight. He had never dreamed that she
could look so pretty--_so very pretty_--as she did now in her white
dress, with the moonlight filtering through the foliage upon her fair
hair and her face (turned full of liking and undisguised admiration upon
him) and her lovely arms, bared to the elbow. She had an ethereal,
fairy-like appearance that was bewitching, and in his despondent mood,
her frank praise was more than sweet. Still his answer was as bitter as
ever,

"Oh, well, what does it all amount to? They would say the same of any
acrobat in a circus whose joints were a bit more limber than those of
the rest of his tribe. That does not remove their contempt for me,
personally."

"I don't feel contempt for you, Eddie," she gently replied--just
breathing it.

(Myra was really wonderful tonight. He had not known her voice could
have so much color in it; and the white flower in her hair--a
cape-jessamine, its excessively sweet fragrance told him--gave her pale
beauty the touch of romance it had always lacked). The poetic eyes that
looked into hers mellowed, the cynical voice softened:

"Don't you Myra? Well, you'd better cultivate it. Its the fashion, and
it's the only feeling I'm worth."

"Eddie," she said earnestly--tenderly, "I want you to promise me that
you won't talk that way any more--at least not to _me_--it hurts me."

Her hand, on his sleeve, was as fair as a petal from the jessamine
flower in her hair. He took it gently in his.

"Dear little Myra, little playmate--" he said. "You are my friend, I
know, and have been since we were mere babies, in spite of knowing, as
you do, what a naughty, idle, disobedient boy I've been, deserving every
flogging and scolding I've gotten and utterly unworthy all the good
things that have come my way--including your dear friendship."

"You are breaking your promise already," she said. "You _shall not_ run
yourself down to me. I think you are the nicest boy in town!"

There was nothing complex about Myra. Her mind was an open book, and he
suddenly found he liked it so--liked it tremendously. Her unveiled
avowal of preference for him was most soothing to his restless,
dissatisfied mood.

"Thank you, Myra," he said tenderly, kissing the flower-petal hand
before he laid it down. He had a strong impulse to kiss _her_, but
resisted it, with an effort, and abruptly changed the subject.

"Did you know that we are going to move?" he asked. "And that I'm going
to the University next winter?"

"_To move_?" she questioned, aghast. "Where?"

"To the Gallego mansion, at Fifth and Main Streets. Mr. Allan has bought
it. The dear little mother, who, I'd say, if you'd let me, is so much
better to me than I deserve, is full of plans for furnishing it and is
going to fit up a beautiful room in it for me. It will be a delightful
home for us, and quite grand after our modest cottage, but do you know
I'm goose enough to be homesick at the thought of giving up my little
den under the roof? Myself and I have had such jolly times together in
it!"

She had scarcely heard him, except the first words and the stunning
facts they contained. There was a minute's silence, then she spoke in a
changed, quivering voice.

"Then that will be the end of our friendship, I suspect! When you get
out of the neighborhood, and are off most of the time at the University,
we will doubtless see little more of you."

Her clear blue eyes were shining up at him through tears. Her mouth was
tremulous as a distressed child's. The appeal met an instant response
from the tender-hearted poet. _Both_ the flower-like hands were captured
this time, and held fast, in spite of their fluttering. The excessively
sweet fragrance of the blossom in her hair was in his nostrils. Her
quick, short breaths told him of the tempest in her tender young bosom.

"Myra, little Myra, do you care like that?" he cried. "Then let the
friendship go, and be my dear little sweetheart, won't you? I'm dying of
loneliness and the want of somebody to love and to love me--somebody who
understands me--and you do, don't you, Myra, darling?"

She was too happy to answer, but she suffered him to put his arms around
her and kiss her soft pale hair--and her brow--and her tremulous
mouth--the first kisses of love to him as well as to her. And ah, how
sweet!

He laughed happily, lifted out of his gloom by this new, this
deliriously sweet dream.

"Do you know, little sweetheart," he said, in a voice that was bubbling
with joy, "I feel that you have cast those devils out of me forever. It
was you that I wanted all the time, and did not know it. Some of these
days, when I've been through college and settled down, we will be
married, and wherever our home is, we must always have a porch like
this, with a rose on it, and" (kissing her brow) "you must always wear a
jessamine in your hair."

And so the boy-poet and his girl play-mate, very much to their own
surprise, parted affianced lovers, and a long vista of sunlit days
seemed to beckon The Dreamer.



CHAPTER X.


The session at the University did not begin until the middle of
February, so love's young dream was not to be interrupted too soon.
Meantime, its sweetness was only enhanced by thought of the coming
separation. The affair had too, the interest of secrecy, for the
youthful lovers well knew the storm of opposition that would be raised,
in both their homes, if it should be discovered. This need of secrecy
made frequent meetings and exchange of vows impossible, but it gave to
such as occurred the flavor of stolen sweets and kept the young sinners
in a tantalized state which was excruciating and at the same time
delightful, and which still further fed the flames and convinced them of
the realness and intensity of their passion.

When they did meet, their awed, joyous confessions of mutual love
charmed the lonely, romantic boy by their very novelty. In them his
fairest dreams were fulfilled. How sweet it was in these rare, stolen
moments, to crush the pure young creature, who would be his own some
day, against his wildly beating heart--how passing sweet to hear against
his ear her whispered, hesitating vows of deep, everlasting love!

In his pretty new room overlooking the terraced garden of the stately
mansion which had become his home, Edgar Poe plunged headlong into
Byron, and in the mood thus induced, penned many a verse, no worse and
not much better than the rhymes of lovelorn youths the world over and
time out of mind, to be copied into Myra's album.

Between the love-making and preparation for college, time took wings. In
what seemed an incredibly short space summer and fall were gone,
Christmas, with its festivities, was over and the new year--the year
1826--had opened.

It was upon St. Valentine's Day that, with a feeling of solemnity worthy
of the act, the seventeen year old lover and student wrote the name
Edgar Allan Poe, and the date of his birth, upon the matriculation book
of the University of Virginia--open for its second session. Upon the day
before the beauty and the poetry--_the inspiration_--of the place had
burst upon him, and this first impression still held his soul in thrall.

Here, in this fair Virginia vale, ringed about with the heaven-kissing
hills of the Blue Ridge, the scholastic village conjured by Jefferson's
fertile imagination lay before him in the clear, winter sunshine. Its
lawns and its gardens were just now white with an unbroken blanket of
new-fallen snow; the young trees which had been planted in avenues along
the lawns, but which were as yet hardly more than shrubs, glittered with
icicles, and above them rose the classic columns of the colonnaded
dormitories and professors' houses; while at one end of the oblong
square the majestic dome and columns of the Rotunda stood out against
the sky. As the entranced Dreamer gazed and gazed, trying to imagine
what it must be like by moonlight--what it would be in spring--what (a
few years later, when the trees should have grown large enough to arch
the walks) in summer--he told himself that surely in this garden-spot of
the Old Dominion, bricks and mortar had sprung into immortal bloom, and
he found himself quoting a line of his own:

     "The glory that was Greece and the grandeur that was Rome."

Upon his earliest opportunity he sat down and wrote Myra a rhapsody upon
it all. Her presence, he felt, and he wrote her, was all needed to make
the place a paradise.

Under his name upon the matriculation book he had written, with
confidence:

"Schools of Ancient and Modern Languages." In the school of Ancient
Languages were taught (according to the announcement for the year)
"Hebrew, rhetoric, belles-lettres ancient history and geography;" in the
school of Modern Languages, "French, Spanish, Italian, German, and the
English language in its Anglo Saxon form; also modern history and modern
geography." A list, one would think, to daunt the courage of a seventeen
year old student and make him feel that he had the world on his
shoulders.

It was quite the contrary with The Dreamer. He felt instead that he had
suddenly developed wings. Learning came easy to him. He was already a
good French and Latin scholar, and the rest did not frighten him. Not
only was he not in the least burdened by thought of the work he was
cutting out for himself, but he was elated by a sense of freedom such as
he had never known before. Always before, both at home and at school, he
had been under surveillance. But now he was to be a partaker of the
benefits of Mr. Jefferson's theories of the treatment of students as men
and gentlemen--letting their conduct be a matter of _noblesse oblige_.

In the youth of seventeen this sudden withdrawal of oversight and
regulation produced an exhilaration that was indeed pleasurable. Among
the unfrequented hills known as the "Ragged Mountains," not far away,
was a wild and romantic region that invited him to fascinating
exploration--perhaps adventure. Instead of having to beg permission or
to steal off upon the solitary rambles which he loved, to this
enchanting country, he could, and did, go when he chose, openly, and
with no questions asked or rebukes given.

He held up his head with a new confidence at the thought, and took his
dreams of ambition and love, whenever he could allow himself time to do
so, to the enticing new region (as unlike anything around Richmond as if
it were in a different world) adjacent to which, for the time, his lot
lay.

He did not neglect his classes, however. They were regularly attended
and his standing was excellent; so the professors had no cause for
making inquiry into the pursuits of his private hours. The library,
too, in the beautiful Rotunda, was a new, if different, field for his
exploration and one that gave him great delight, for he found there many
volumes of quaint and curious lore whose acquaintance he had never
before made.

       *       *       *       *       *

His imaginary wings were soon enough to be clipped--his exhilaration to
drop from him as suddenly as it had come.

_He did not hear from Myra!_

He watched eagerly for the mails, and as day after day passed without
bringing him a letter, deep dejection claimed him. Finally he wrote to
her again--and then again--and again--frantically appealing to her to
write to him and assure him of her constancy if she would save his life.

Still, no word from her.

The truth was that Myra, at home in Richmond, was awaiting each
mail-time as feverishly as he. The faint suggestion of rose her cheeks
usually wore, had entirely disappeared and deep circles caused by lack
of sleep and lost appetite made her light blue eyes appear more
prominent than ever before. The ethereal look that had been her chief
claim to beauty had become exaggerated into a ghastliness that was not
in the least bewitching. She, like Edgar, had pocketed her pride and
followed her first letter with others more and more expressive of her
tender maiden passion; but her father, who had begun to suspect an
affair between her and the players' son a short time before Edgar left
for the University, had kept diligent watch for the passage of letters,
and had successfully intercepted them.

And so the unhappy pair pined and sighed and gloomed, each reckoning the
other faithless and believing that life was forever robbed of joy.

Edgar Poe had never really loved the girl. He had merely loved the dream
to which her tender words and timid caresses gave an adorable reality;
but now in his disappointment at not hearing from her he felt that her
love and loyalty to him were the only things in the world worth having
and persuaded himself that without her there as no incentive to live or
to strive. His misery was increased by an over-whelming homesickness, to
escape from which, he wandered restlessly about, vainly seeking
excitement and forgetfulness.

In this mood, he eagerly accepted an invitation to spend the evening
from a class-mate whose room in "Rowdy Row" had a reputation for
conviviality. His own room, shared by a quiet and steady Richmond boy
with whom he had a slight acquaintance at home, was in one of the
cloister-like dormitories opening upon the main lawn.

While Edgar Poe had been a somewhat wayward and at times a disobedient
boy, at home, he had never been a _bad_ boy except when judged by John
Allan's standards, and had never been in the least wild. Wines were used
upon the table of his foster-father, as upon the tables of other
gentlemen whose homes he had visited, and he had always been permitted
to drink a small quantity at a time, at dinner, or to sip a little
mint-julep from the goblet passed around before breakfast and supposed
to be conducive to appetite and healthful digestion; but he had never
thought of exceeding this allowance. As to cards, he knew nothing of
them save as an innocent, social pastime in which he found pleasure, as
in all other games and sports--especially such as required exercise of
ingenuity or mental skill.

The evening in "Rowdy Row" was therefore a revelation, as well as a
diversion to him. As he approached the end of this arcaded row in which
his new friend's room was situated his interest received a spur from the
sounds of hilarity that greeted him, and his spirits began to rise. In a
few moments more he found himself in the midst of a group of exceedingly
jolly youths evidently prepared to make a night of it. Several of them
were gathered about a huge bowl in which they were mixing a variety of
punch which they called "peach-honey." Others were seated around a card
table while one of their number entertained the rest with what seemed to
be almost magical tricks. These Edgar joined. His interest was
immediately aroused and he fixed his eyes with intentness upon the
juggler. The tricks were new to him, but he soon amazed the crowd by
showing the solution of them all.

Finally, the punch was declared to be ready; other packs of cards were
produced and the real sport of the evening began. It was Edgar's first
experience in drinking with boys and his conscience, not yet hardened
to it, kept him in check without worrying him enough to destroy his
pleasure. Somewhat of his old exhilaration returned to him at the bare
thought, for he felt himself a man, following his own will and yet not
disobeying any direct command.

In spite of much urging, he only drank one glass of the peach-honey, but
thanks to a jovial ancestor of whom he had never heard, but of some of
whose sins (in accordance with the ancient law) he bore the marks in his
temperament, he was peculiarly susceptible to the influences of strong
drink, and as he drained the glass at a gulp, a new freedom seemed to
enter his soul. The dejection which had oppressed him dropped from him
instantly, and with his great eyes glowing like lamps with new zest in
life, he sat down at a card table to be initiated into the mysteries of
the fascinating game of _loo_, which had lately become the fashion, and
at the same time into his first experience in playing for money.

He had beginner's luck--held good hands and won straight through the
game. His success, with the effects of the punch, developed his wittiest
vein and Edgar Goodfellow assumed complete ascendancy.

His new acquaintances were charmed, and encouraged his mood by loud
applause and congratulated themselves upon having added to their number
such good company.

From that night Edgar Poe's new friends, who constituted what was known
as the "fast set" at the University, became his boon companions. It was
in the card-table, much more than the punch-bowl that the charm for him
lay, for the gambling fever had entered his blood with his first
winnings, but in the combination of the two he found, for the present, a
sure cure for his "blue devils."

Alas, Helen! Where was your sweet spirit that it did not hover, as
guardian angel, about the head of this wayward child of genius in his
hour of sore need, when temptations gathered thick around his pathway
and there was no one to steer him into safer waters; no one to restrain
his feet from their first blind steps toward that Disaster to which
ruinous companionship invited him, with syren voice?

True, his staid room-mate, Miles George, raised his voice in warning
against the dangerous intimacies he was forming but Miles' view seemed
extreme to him. Besides, he found at the University the same caste
feeling that had cut him off from familiar intercourse with the leaders
among his Richmond schoolmates. It was but natural, therefore, that he
should have turned gratefully, to the society where his welcome was
sure.

Finally words passed between him and Miles, ending in a formal meeting,
with seconds on both sides. Their only weapons were their fists, and
they shook hands afterward; but the idea of continuing to share the same
bed-room was out of the question. Of the vacant rooms to be had, Edgar
promptly decided upon Number 13, Rowdy Row, and the second step in a
wrong direction quickly followed the first.

He was hailed by the rest of the "Row" with delight, and he promptly
decided to return their many hospitalities in his new room, which he
proceeded to elaborately prepare for their reception.

The result was an early and noisy house-warming. The guests were filled
with admiration to find the walls of Number 13 decorated in honor of the
occasion with charcoal sketches representing scenes from Byron's works
done by the clever hand of the new occupant himself. They also found
Edgar Goodfellow in the character of host, presiding over his own
card-table and his own bowl--a generous one--of peach-honey, in the
highest feather and his most captivating mood.



CHAPTER XI.


Erelong Number 13 was the liveliest and most popular room in the Row,
but of the orgies held there the faculty rested in blissful
unconsciousness. At class-time young Poe was invariably in his place and
invariably the pale, thoughtful, student-like and faultlessly neat and
gentle-mannered youth whose intelligent attention and admirable
recitations were the joy of his masters. They heard rumors that he was
something of a poet and were not surprised, the suggestions of ideality
in the formation of his brow and the expression of his eyes hinted at
such talent, and so long as he did not let the Muse come between him and
his regular work, he should not be discouraged or restrained.

Indeed, in spite of the sway of Edgar Goodfellow at this time, Edgar the
Dreamer was often present too, and during solitary tramps into the wild
fastenesses of the Ragged Mountains, he not only conceived many fancies
to be worked into poems, but made mentally, the first draft of a story
to win fame.

The love of no real woman came to supplant the seemingly faithless
Elmira, and though he still carried his mother's miniature with him and
gazed often and fondly upon it, the sense of nearness between her spirit
and his and the soul satisfaction he had found in this nearness in the
past, were gone. The gambling fever that had fired his veins and the
nightly potations of peach-honey created an excitement and restlessness
that blurred the images his memory held of the angel mother who had
dominated his childhood and of the madonna-like mistress who had filled
the dreams of his early youth. These holy dreams became for the time
being, a reproach to him, for they aroused his conscience to an
unpleasant activity which required more frequent recourse to peach-honey
to quiet.

       *       *       *       *       *

Love was, nevertheless, as necessary to this poet's soul as meat and
drink were to his body, and in the No Man's Land, "out of space, out of
time," which his fancy created and where it loved to stray, he fashioned
for himself the weirdest, strangest lady ever loved by mortal. The name
he gave her was "Ligeia." She laid upon him no exactions, chastened him
with no rebukes, demanded of him no service save that he should
dream--and dream--and dream; for was not she herself formed from "such
stuff as dreams are made of?"

The music of nature had long possessed a sort of personality for Edgar
Poe, and now the voices, the motions, the numberless colors of the world
about him took definite shape in his fancy of a wonderous fairy-woman
whom he worshipped with an unearthly, poetic passion that was compared
to the passion of the normal man to flesh and blood woman as moonlight
to sunshine--a passion which was luminous without heat.

Dim and elusive as is the very conception of "Ligeia" to the ordinary
mind, she was perfectly real to her creator. In the summer-night breeze
he heard the music of her voice and felt the delicious coolness of her
caress. Tall, swaying trees spoke to him of her height, her majesty and
her grace. He perceived the softness and lightness of her footfalls in
the passage of evening shadows across a lake or meadow, the perfection
of her features in the form and finish of flower petals and the delicate
tints of her beauty in the coloring of flowers; the raven hue and
sweeping length of of her tresses in the drowning shades of midnight and
the entrancing veil of her lashes in deep mysterious woods; and when, in
fancy, he looked beneath that veil into her eyes, as unfathomable as the
ocean itself, he was struck dumb with reverence and wonder, for they
held in keeping all the secrets of the moon and the stars, of dawn and
sunset, of green things growing and flowers in bloom, of the butterfly
in the crysalis and on the wing, of still waters and of running brooks.

To the inner vision of this most unusual youth, "Ligeia"--this myth
called into being by the enchantment of his own fancy--not only became
as real as if she had been flesh and blood; his pagan soul bowed down
before her and she blotted from his mind, for the time, all thought or
consciousness of more robust womanhood. She became, in imagination, the
sharer of his studies, the wife of his bosom, and he sat at her feet and
gladly learned from her the beautiful, strange secrets of this fearfully
and wonderfully made world.

He was sometimes haunted by another, and a far less agreeable vision. In
spite of the absence of restraint under which he lived and the fact
that between his dreams, his books and his dissipations there seemed
little opportunity left for the still, small voice to make itself heard,
there were times when his better self shook off slumber and rose before
him like a ghost that, for all his efforts, would not be laid--a ghost
like him in all regards save for the sternness of its look and of the
voice which accused him in whispers to which all others ears were deaf,
but his own intensely, horribly sensitive.

It was generally at the very height of excitement in play, when he had
just been dealt a hand which he told himself, with exultation, would win
him all the money in the pool, or, perhaps at the moment when he raised
the glass to his lips, anticipating the delicious exhilaration of the
seductive peach-honey, that the unwelcome spectre would, with startling
suddenness, appear before his eyes. His face would blanch, his own voice
become almost as hoarse as the warning whisper that was in his ear, and
with trembling hand he would put down the cards or the cup and refuse to
have anything more to do with the evening's sport.

His companions at first thought these attacks the result of some
physical weakness but finally became accustomed to them and attributed
them to his "queerness."

       *       *       *       *       *

Thus the youthful poet passed his year at college--dividing his time
between his dreams, his classes and his carousals. The session closed in
December. The final examinations occupied the early part of the month
and when the faculty met upon the 14th., it was found that Edgar Poe
had not only stood well in all of his studies, but in two of them--Latin
and French--he had taken the highest honors.

In spite of this, and of the fact that at no time during the session had
he come under the censure of the faculty, a startling revelation was
made. Edgar Poe, model student as he seemed to be, whose only fault--if
it could be called a fault--as the faculty knew him, had been a tendency
toward a romantic dreaminess that had led him upon lonely rambles among
the hills rather eccentric in a boy of seventeen; Edgar Poe, the quiet,
the gentlemanly, the immaculately neat, the scholarly, the poetic, had
been a spendthrift and a reckless gambler. His debts, for a boy of his
age, were astounding. No one was more amazed at the sum of them than
Edgar himself. He had always had the lordly indifference to money, and
the contempt for keeping account of it, that was the natural result of
being used to have what seemed to him to be an unlimited supply to draw
upon, with the earning of which he had nothing to do. As to hoarding it,
he would as soon have thought of hoarding the air he breathed which came
to him with no less effort. He was, unfortunately, as heedless of what
he owed as what he spent--lavishing it upon his companions as long as it
lasted and when his supply of cash was exhausted running up accounts
with little thought of a day of reckoning--though of course he fully
intended to pay.

His mind was, indeed, too much engrossed with the charming creations of
his brain to leave him time for brooding upon such sordid matters as the
keeping of accounts, or the making of two ends meet. The amount of his
indebtedness was now, however, sufficient to give him a shock which
thoroughly aroused him, and he was genuinely distressed; for he had no
wish to ruthlessly pain his foster-father. The haunting better self not
only arose and confronted him, but remained with him, keeping close step
with him and upbraiding him and condemning him in the whisper audible to
his quick imagination and so terrifying.

Still, the thought that Mr. Allan had plenty of money, and that no
severe sacrifice would be needful for the payment of his debts relieved
his penitence of much of its poignancy. That Mr. Allan would settle
these "debts of honor," as he called them, as the fathers and guardians
of boys as reckless as himself had done, he had not the slightest doubt.
But, as will be seen, he reckoned without Mr. Allan.

He wrote Mrs. Allan a dutiful letter, confessing all and expressing his
sorrow, and begging to be permitted to repay Mr. Allan for settling his
affairs at the University with work as a clerk in the counting house.

The letter filled the tender heart of the foster-mother with yearning.
The sum frightened her, though she, like the boy, comforted herself with
the thought that her husband could pay it without embarrassment. Still,
she trembled to think of his wrath. Her chief feeling was one of
sympathy for her erring, penitent boy. How natural it was for one of his
age to be led away by evil associates! All boys--she supposed--must sow
some wild oats, though few, she was confident, showed such a beautifully
penitent spirit, and it would be a small matter in future years when he
should have become the great and good man she knew he was going to be.

How noble it was of him to offer to give up or postpone the completion
of the education so dear to his heart and tie himself to a desk in that
tiresome counting-house in order to pay his debts--he that was born to
shine as a poet. She exulted that he had offered to make such a
sacrifice, but he should never make it, never while _she_ had breath in
her body to protest!

How her heart bled for him in his sorrow over his wrong-doing! How she
longed to fold his dear curly head against her breast and tell him that
he was quite, quite forgiven! She would reward him for the splendid
stand in his classes and at the same time make him forget his troubles
on account of the debts by giving him the loveliest imaginable
Christmas. Uncle Billy must search the woods for the brightest greens,
the prettiest holly; for the house must look its merriest for the
home-coming of its young master, covered with honors! There must be
mistletoe, too she told herself, her mouth dimpling and a suspicion of a
twinkle flashing out from under her dewy lashes. The fatted calf should
be killed, her boy should make merry with his friends.

The dear letter was kissed and cried over until it took much smoothing
on her knee to make it presentable to hand over to her husband for
perusal. Her fingers were still busy stroking out the crumples, though
her tears were dried, and her thoughts were happily engaged with plans
for a Christmas party worthy to celebrate the home-coming of her
darling, when Mr. Allan came in to supper. She was brought back to
recollection of the confession in the letter and her apprehensions as to
how it would be received, with a start, and before timidly handing her
husband the open letter, she began preparing him for its contents and
excusing the writer.

"A letter from Eddie, John, dear. He has stood splendidly in his
classes, but asks your forgiveness for having done wrong in his spare
time. He is so manly and noble in his confession, John, and in his offer
to make reparation!"

John Allan's face clouded and hardened instantly.

"What is this? Confession? Reparation?--Give me the letter!"

But she held it away from him.

"It seems he has gotten into a card-playing set who have led him away
further than he realized. Oh, don't look like that, John! He is so
young, and you know how evil association can influence the best of
boys!"

But the storm gathered fast and faster on John Allan's face.

"Card-playing? Do you mean the boy has been gambling? Give me the
letter."

She could withhold it no longer, but as he sat down to read it she threw
herself upon an ottoman at his feet and clasping his knees hid her face
against them, crying,

"Oh, John, have pity, have pity!"

But even as she sobbed out the words, she felt their futility. She knew
that there was no pity to be expected from the owner of that face of
stone, that eye of steel.

As he read, his rage became too great for the relief of an outburst. A
still, but icy calm settled upon him. For some minutes he spoke no word
and seemed unconscious of the tender creature so appealing in her
loveliness and in the humility of her attitude, beseeching at his knee.
The truth was, that much as he loved her, his contempt for what he
called her "weakness" for the son of her adoption, but added to his
harshness in judging the boy.

Presently he arose, impatiently pushing her away from him as he did so,
saying;

"Pack my bag and order an early breakfast. I'm going to take the morning
stage for the University."

It was a difficult evening for the little foster-mother. In the stately,
octagon-shaped dining-room soft lamplight was cheerily reflected by
gleaming mahogany and bright silver and china, upon which was served the
most toothsome of suppers; but the meal was almost untouched and the
mere pretense of eating was carried through in silence and gloom. In the
drawing-room, afterward, the firelight leaped saucily against shining
andirons and fender, bringing forgetfulness of the frosty night outside,
while the carved wood-work and the great mirrors and soft-hued
paintings, in their gilded frames, on the walls, and the deep carpets on
the floors spoke of comfort. But the beautiful room was a mockery, for
the promised comfort, was not there--only futile luxury. Upon that
bright hearth was warmth for the body, but none for the spirit, for
before it sat the master and mistress--the presiding geniuses of the
house--upon whose oneness the structure of the _home_ must stand, or
without it fall into ruin; there they sat, wrapped in moods so out of
sympathy and tune that speech was as impossible between them as if they
had been of different tongues, and each unknown to the other.

Meantime, Edgar Poe was spending his last hours at the University in the
dust and ashes of self-condemnation and regretful retrospection No
farewell orgie celebrated his leave-taking. Only one of his friends was
invited to his room that night and he no denizen of "Rowdy Row," but the
quiet, irreproachable librarian. To this gentle guest The Dreamer
confided his past sins and his penitence, while he laid upon the glowing
coals the year's accumulation of exercise books, and the like, which had
served their purpose and were finished and done with, and watched the
devouring flames leap from the little funeral pyre they made into the
chimney.

More than anything he had ever done in his life, he told his companion,
he regretted the making of the gambling debts for which Mr. Allan would
have to advance the money to pay. But, as has been said, he reckoned
without Mr. Allan, who settled all other obligations, but utterly
ignored the so-called "debts of honor."

"Debts of honor?" he queried with contempt. "Debts of _dishonor_, I
consider them."

And that was his last word upon the subject.



CHAPTER XII.


The late January night was bitterly cold, and clear as crystal. There
was a metallic glitter about the round moon, shining down from a
cloudless, blue sky--too bright to show a star--upon the black and bare
trees and shrubbery in the terraced garden of the Allan homestead.

Edgar Poe looked from his casement upon the splendor of the beautiful,
but frigid and unsympathetic night. Bitterness was in his heart
contending with a fierce joy. At last it had come--the breach with Mr.
Allan--and he was going away! He knew not where, but he was going, going
into the wide world to seek fame and fortune.

He had much to regret. He loved Richmond--loved it for the joy and pain
he had felt in it; for the dreams he had dreamed in it. He loved it
exceedingly for the two dear graves, one in the churchyard on the hill
and one in the new cemetery, that held his beloved dead.

Yes, he was sorry to leave this _home_-city, if not of his birth, at
least of his childhood and early youth, and his soul was still shaken by
the scene with his foster-parents through which he had just passed. But
in spite of all, his heart--rejoicing in the nearness of the freedom for
which he had so fiercely longed, sang, and stilled his sorrow.

But a few weeks had passed since his return from the University. A few
weeks? They seemed to him years, and each one had left a feeling of
increased age upon his spirit.

The home-coming had not been altogether unhappy--humiliating as it was.
In spite of the black looks of his foster-father, the little mother
(bless her!) had welcomed him with out-stretched arms and eyes beaming
with undimmed love. Never had she been more tenderly sweet and dear. She
had given the most beautiful Christmas party, with all his best friends
invited, and everything just as she knew he would like it. Her husband
had frowningly consented to this, but her tears and entreaties were all
of no avail to win his consent for the boy's return to college. Vainly
had she plead his talents which she believed should be cultivated, and
the injustice (since they had voluntarily assumed the responsibility of
rearing him) of cutting short his education at such an early age. John
Allan was adamant.

And so, after the holidays, he had taken his place in the counting-house
of "Ellis and Allan."

Distasteful as the new work was to the young poet, he was determined to
stick to it, and would probably have done so, but the strict
surveillance he soon realized he was under (as if he could not be
trusted!) and the manner of Mr. Allan who rarely spoke to him except
when it was absolutely necessary, and seemed to regard him as a hopeless
criminal, would have been unbearable to a far less proud and sensitive
nature than Edgar Poe's. Both at the office and at home, Mr. Allan's
narrow, steel-colored eyes seemed to keep constant watch, under their
beetling brows, for faults or blunders; and it seemed to the driven boy
that no matter what he did or said, he should have done or said just the
reverse. He felt constantly that a storm was brewing which must sooner
or later, certainly break, and that night it had burst forth with all
the fury of the tempest which has been a long time gathering.

He hardly knew what had brought it on, or how it had begun. Its violence
was so great as to almost stun him until at length, without being more
than half conscious of the significance of his own words he had asked if
it would not be better for him to go away and earn his own living; and
then came his foster-father's startlingly ready consent, with the
warning that if he did go he must look for no further aid from him.

His heart ached for the pretty, tender little mother. How soft the arms
that had clung about his neck, the lips that had pressed his hot brow!
How piteous her dear tears! They had almost robbed him of his
resolution, but he had succeeded in steeling himself against this
weakness. He had folded her close in his arms and kissed her, and vowed
that, come what might, he could never forget her or cease to love her,
and that he should always think of her as his mother and himself as her
child. Then he had put her gently from him for, for all his vows, she
was inseparably bound up in the old life from which he was breaking
away--his life as John Allan's adopted son--she could have no real place
in his future.

Yet the tie that bound him to her was the strongest in his life and
could not be severed without keen pain. In the world into which he was
going to fight the battle of life (he told himself) memory of her would
be one of his inspirations.

But where was that battle to be fought, and with what weapons? He had
been brought up as a rich man's son, and with the expectation of being a
rich man's heir. He had been trained to no money-making work, physical
or mental; and now he was to fare forth into the great world where there
was not a familiar face, even, to earn his bread! What could he do that
would bring him the price of a loaf?--

Did the question appal him? Not in the least. He had youth, he had
health, he had hope, he had his beloved talent and the secret training
he had given himself toward its cultivation. His "heart-strings were a
lute"--he felt it, and with an optimism rare for him he also felt that
he had but to strike upon that lute and the world must needs stop and
listen.

What he did not have was experience and knowledge of the world. Little
did he dream how small a part of the busy hive would turn aside to hear
his music or how little poetry had to do with the earning of daily
bread.

His trunk was standing open, half packed, though his destination was
still undecided; and among the first things that had gone into it was a
box containing a number of small rolls of neat manuscript. As he thought
of them his heart warmed and his eyes grew soft.

"The world's mine oyster, and with my good pen I'll open it," he
joyously paraphrased. But toward what part of the world should he turn
his face--to what market take his precious wares? That was the
all-important question! How much his fortune might depend upon his
decision!

As he stood at the window, he stared into the brilliancy and the shadows
of the icy, unresponsive night--seeking a sign. But the cold splendor of
the cloudless sky and glittering moon and the inscrutible shadows in the
garden below where the leafless trees and bushes cast monster shapes
upon the frozen ground, alike mocked him.

Presently there was the first hint of softness in the night. It came
like a sigh of tender pity across the stillness and he bent his head to
listen. It was the voice of the faintest of breezes blowing up from the
south and passing his window. He threw wide his arms to empty space as
if to embrace some invisible form.

"Ligeia, Ligeia, my beautiful one," he breathed, invoking his
dream-lady, "Be my counsellor and guide! Let thy sweet voice whisper
whither I must go!"

But the voice was silent and all the night was still again.

He turned from the window and threw himself into his arm-chair, letting
his eyes rove about the room as though he would seek a sign from its
walls. Suddenly he sat erect, his dilated pupils fixed upon a point
above the chimney-piece--upon a small picture. It was a little
water-color sketch done by the hand of his versatile mother, and found
among her belongings after her death. Like her miniature and her
letters, the picture had followed him through his life and had always
adorned the walls of his room. Often and over he had studied it until he
knew by heart every stroke of the brush that entered into its
composition. Yet he stared at it now as if he had never seen it before.
Finally he took it down from its place on the chimney and held it in his
hands, gazing upon it in deep abstraction.

Underneath the picture was written its title: "Boston Harbor--Morning,"
and upon its back,

"For my little boy, Edgar, who must love Boston, the place of his birth,
and where his mother found her best and most sympathetic friends."

The picture gave him the sign! With rising excitement he decided that
it must be accepted. To Boston, of course, he would go. Boston, the
place of his birth and where his angel mother had found her "best, most
sympathetic friends."

He would get away as early the next morning as possible, he told
himself. He would waste no time in goodbyes, for, he remembered with
some bitterness, there were few to say goodbye to. The boys were all off
at college again, now that the holidays were over, and as for Myra, she
had quickly consoled herself and was already a wife! He had addressed
some reproachful verses to her as a bride; then dismissed her from his
thoughts.

He arose and placed the picture carefully in the trunk with the rest of
his treasures and then went to bed to fall into the easy slumber of one
whose mind is well made up.

       *       *       *       *       *

A few days later Edgar Poe had looked with delight and ineffable emotion
upon the real Boston Harbor, with its rocky little islets and its varied
shipping and its busy wharves, and--for him--its suggestions of one in
Heaven.



CHAPTER XIII.


Upon his arrival in Boston, our errant knight, before setting out upon
his quest for the Fame and Fortune to whose service he was sworn, spent
some hours in wandering about the old town, with mind open to the
quickening influences of historic association and eye to the irregular,
picturesque beauty about him.

It was one of those rare days that come sometimes in the month of
February when, though according to the callendar it should be cold,
there is a warmth in the sunshine that seems borrowed from Spring. Tired
out by his tramp, young Edgar at length sat down upon a bench in the
Common, under an elm, great of girth and wide-spreading. The sunshine
fell pleasantly upon him, through the bare branches. Roundabout were
other splendid, but now bare elms and he sat gazing upward into their
sturdy brown branches and dreamily picturing to himself the beauty of
these goodly trees clothed in the green vesture of summer. Suddenly, by
a whimsical sequence of suggestion, the pleasure he felt in the sunshine
of February as it reached him under the tree in Boston Common, vividly
called to mind the refreshing coolness of the shade of the elms, in full
leaf, as he, a little lad of six, had walked the streets of old
Stoke-Newington for the first time.

There was little relation between that first and this present parting
with the Allans, yet in his mind they became inseparably connected. He
recalled his happiness in his first essays at composition, made at the
Manor School, and told himself that, though he did not know it at the
time, that was the first step toward his life work. He was now, here in
Boston, the city of his birth, about to take the second; for the hour
had arrived when his work would be given to the world!

Across his knees he held the box containing his precious manuscripts. He
arose from the bench and turning toward the lower end of the Common,
walked, with brisk, hopeful step down town, in the direction of a
well-known publishing house whose location he had already ascertained.

Edgar Poe had known sorrow, real and imaginary; he was now to have his
first meeting with Disappointment, bitter and grim.

Of all the persons who had ever seen his work, every one had been warm
in its praise--everyone saving John Allan only. Some had been positively
glowing. True, they had not been publishers, yet among them there had
been gentlemen and ladies of taste and culture. But here was a different
matter. Here was a personage with whom he had not reckoned, but who was
the door, as it were, through which his work must pass into the world.
He was unmistakably a personage. His bearing, though modest, spoke of
power. His dress, though unobtrusive, was in the perfect taste which
only the prosperous can achieve and maintain. His features were cast in
the mold of the well-bred. He was past middle age and his naturally fine
countenance was beautiful with the ennobling lines which time leaves
upon the face of the seeker after truth. He was courteous--most
Bostonians and many publishers are. He was sympathetic. He was
undoubtedly intellectual, but the eyes that regarded through big,
gold-rimmed spectacles, the romantic beauty, the prominent brow and the
distinguished air of the sweet-voiced youth before him, wore a not only
thoughtful, but something more--a distinctly shrewd and practical
expression. In them was no awe of the bare mention of "original poetry."

He took the little rolls of manuscript into his strong, and at the same
time smooth and well-shapen hands, and drew them out to their full
length with the manner of one who handled as good every day. He cast his
eyes rapidly down the sheets--_too_ rapidly, it seemed to the poet--with
a not unkind, yet critical air, while the sensitive youth before him
turned red and white, hot and cold, by turns, and learned something of
the horrors of the Inquisition.

It was really but a very short space, but to the boy who seemed
suspended between a life and a death sentence, it was an age.

Finally, he experienced something like a drowning sensation while he
heard a voice that barely penetrated the flood of deep waters that was
rolling over his head, saying words that were intended to be kind about
the work showing promise, in spite of an absence of marketable value.

"Marketable value?" Heavens! Was he back in John Allan's counting house?
What could the man mean? It was as literature, not as merchandize that
he wanted his poetry to be judged!

In his dismay, he stammered something of the sort, only to be told that
when his poetry was made into a book it would become merchandize and it
mattered not how good, as poetry--it might be, the publisher could do
nothing with it unless as merchandize it would probably be valuable too.

Then--he had been politely bowed out, with his package still under his
arm!

During the few minutes he had spent in the publisher's office the sky
had become overcast and a biting east wind had blown up from the river;
but the change in the outside world was as nothing to that within him.
He had not known how large a part of himself was his dream of becoming a
poet. It now seemed to him that it was all of him--had from the
beginning of his life been all of him. Since those old days at
Stoke-Newington, he had been building--building--building--this castle
in the air; now, at one fell blow, the whole fabric was laid in ruin!

Weakness seized his limbs and deep dejection his spirits. His life might
as well come to an end for there was nothing left for him to live for.
How indeed, was he to live when the only work he knew how to do had "no
marketable value?" The money with which Mrs. Allan supplied him, before
he left home--"to give him a start"--would soon be exhausted. What if he
should not be able to make more?

Though he was in the city of his birth, he found himself an absolute
stranger. If any of those who had been sympathetic friends to his mother
were left, he had no idea who or where they were.

He went back to the lodgings he had engaged to a night of bitter,
sleepless tossing.

But with the new day, youth and hope asserted themselves. He decided
that he would not accept as final the verdict of any one publisher,
though that one stood at the head of the list. With others, however, it
was just the same; and another night of even greater wretchedness
followed.

Upon his third day in Boston (he felt that he had been there a year!)
he wandered aimlessly about, spirit broken, ambition gone. Finally, in
Washington Street, he discovered, upon a small door, a modest sign
bearing the legend:

"Calvin F.S. Thomas. Printer."

With freshly springing hope, he entered the little shop and was received
by a pale, soft-eyed, sunken-chested and somewhat threadbare youth of
about his own age, who in reply to his inquiry, announced himself as
"Mr. Thomas."

Between these two boys, as they stood looking frankly into each other's
eyes, that mysterious thing which we call sympathy, which like the wind
"bloweth where it listeth and no man knoweth whence it cometh or whither
it goeth," sprang instantly into being. The one found himself without
his usual diffidence declaring himself a poet in search of a publisher,
and the other was at once alert with interest.

Calvin Thomas had but just--timorously, for he was poor as well as
young--set up his little shop, hoping to build up a trade as a printer.
To be a publisher had not entered into his wildest imaginings--much less
a publisher for a poet! But he was, like his visitor, a dreamer, and
like him ambitious. Why should he not be a publisher as well as a
printer? The poet had not his manuscripts with him, but offered to
recite some extracts, which he did, with glowing voice and
gesture--explaining figures of speech and allusions as he went along.

Edgar Poe sat easily upon a high stool in the little shop. His dress was
handsome and, as always, exquisite in its neatness and taste. His whole
appearance and bearing were marked by an "air" which deeply impressed
the young printer who had promptly fallen under the spell of his
personal charm. He had laid his hat upon the desk, baring the glossy
brown ringlets that clustered about his large, pale brow. His clear-cut
features were mobile and eager; his dark grey eyes full of life. His
voice had a wonderful musical quality, becoming passionate when, as at
present, his feeling was deeply aroused.

His poetry, recited thus, gained much of distinction. Its crudities
would have been lost, to a great extent, even upon a critic. But Thomas
was no critic. He was simply a dreamy, half-educated youth with a mind
open to the beautiful and the romantic. The flights of the poet's fancy
did not seem to him obscure or too fantastic. They admitted him to a
magic world in which he sat spell-bound until silence brought him back
to his tiny bare shop which seemed suddenly to have been glorified.

"It is wonderful--_wonderful_!" he breathed.

He began to picture himself as not only sharing the wealth, but the fame
which the publication of these gems was bound to bring. But he had to
explain that he was poor, and that he could not bring out the poems
without financial aid. The money which had been given Edgar to set out
in the world with, was already dwindling, but he managed to subscribe a
sum which Thomas declared would be sufficient, with the little he
himself could add, for the printing of a modest edition, in a very
modest garb.



CHAPTER XIV.


In the Allan mansion, in Richmond, there was a stillness that was
oppressive. No young foot-falls sounded upon the stair; no boyish
laughter rang out in rooms or hall. There were handsome and formal
dinners occasionally, when some elderly, distinguished stranger was
entertained, but there were no more merry dancing parties, with old Cy
playing the fiddle and calling the figures.

Frances Allan, fair and graceful still, though looking somewhat out of
health and "broken," as her friends remarked to one another, trod softly
about the stately rooms with no song on her lip, no gladness in her
step. Her husband was grown suddenly prematurely old and his speech was
less frequent and harsher than before. He was more immersed in business
than ever and was prospering mightily, but the fact seemed to bring him
no satisfaction. Even the old servants had lost much of their mirth.
Their black faces were grown solemn and their tread heavy. They looked
with awe upon their mistress when, as frequently happened, they saw her
quietly enter "Marse Eddie's" room and close the door behind her.

In that room and there alone, the fair, gentle, woful creature gave free
reign to the grief of her stricken mother-heart. The room was kept just
as her boy had left it, for she constantly hoped against hope that he
would return. Hers was the aching, pent-up grief of a mother whose child
is dead, yet she is denied the solace of mourning.

Here was the bed which had pillowed his dear, sunny ringlets. Here were
his favorite chair--his desk--his books. In a little trunk against the
wall were his toys with some of the pretty clothes made with her own
fingers, in which it had been her pride to dress him when he was a wee
laddie. How she loved to finger and fondle them!

Fifteen years she had been his mother--now this was all she had!
Somewhere in the same world with her he was living, was walking about,
talking, eating, sleeping; yet he was dead to her! Oh, if she could only
know that he was happy, that he was well, that he lacked nothing in the
way of creature comfort; if she could know where he was, picture him at
work or in his leisure hours, it would not be so hard to bear.

But she knew nothing--nothing--save that he had gone to Boston.

One letter she had had from him there--such a dear one!--she knew it by
heart. In it he had called her "Mother" and assured her of his constant
love and thought of her. He had arrived safely, he said, and would soon
be busy making his living. Boston was a fine city and full of interest
to him. When his ship came in he was going to have her come on and pay
him a visit there. He would write again when he had anything worth
telling.

Days had passed--weeks--and no word had come. Had he failed to obtain
employment? Had he gone further--to New York, perhaps, or Philadelphia?
She did not know. Oh, if she could but _know_!

Was he ill? Fear clutched her heart and made her faint. The suspense was
terrible, and she had no one to go to for sympathy--no one. She dared
not mention her anxiety to her husband; it made him furious. He could
not stand the sound of Eddie's name, even--her darling, beautiful Eddie!
Her arms felt so empty they ached.

Winter was passing. The garden that Eddie loved so dearly was coming to
life. The crocuses for which he always watched with so much interest
were come and gone. The jonquils were in bloom and the first sweet
hyacinths, blue as turquoises, she had gathered and put in his room. It
cheered her to see them there. Somehow, they made the room look more
"ready" than usual--as if he might come home that day.

He did not come, but something else did. A letter with the Boston
post-mark she had so longed to see, and a small, flat package addressed
to her in his dear hand. She broke the seal of the letter first--she was
so hungry for the sight of the familiar, "Mother dear," and to know how
he fared.

It was a short letter, but, ah, the blessed relief of knowing he was
well and happy! And _prospering_--prospering famously--for he told her
he was sending her the first copy off the press of his book of poems! It
was a _very little_ book, he said, but it was a beginning. He felt
within him that he would have much bigger and better things to show her
erelong. For the present, he was hard at work making ready for a revised
and enlarged edition of his book, if one should be called for.

There was a jubilant note in the letter that delighted her and
communicated itself to her own spirits. She eagerly tore the wrappings
from the package, and pressed the contents against her lips and her
heart. It was but a slender volume, cheaply printed and bound, but it
was her boy's first published work and a wonderful thing in her eyes.
She already saw him rich and famous--saw him come home to her crowned
with honor and success--_vindicated_.

She turned the pages of the book. He had written upon the fly-leaf some
precious words of presentation to her. She kissed them rapturously and
passed on to the title-page:

"Tamerlane and Other Poems. By a Bostonian. Boston: Calvin F.S. Thomas,
Printer."

She was still gloating over her treasure when the brass knocker on the
front door was sounded, and a minute later Myra Royster--now Mrs.
Shelton--was announced. Taking the book with her, she tripped
downstairs, singing as she went, and burst in upon Myra as she sat in
state in the drawing-room, in all her bridal finery.

Myra noticed as she kissed her, her glowing cheeks and shining eyes.

"How well you are looking today, Mrs. Allan," she exclaimed.

"It is happiness, dear. I've just had such a delightful letter from
Eddie, and this darling little book. It is his poems, Myra!"

Myra was all interest. "To think of knowing a real live author!" she
exclaimed. "I was sure Eddie would be famous some day, but had no idea
it would come so soon."

"Don't you wish you had waited for him?" teased Mrs. Allan, laughing
happily.

They chatted over the wonderful news until nearly dinner-time, and after
they had parted Mrs. Allan sat at the window watching for her husband to
come home that she might impart it to him at the earliest moment
possible. But when at last he appeared she put off the great moment
until after dinner, and then when he was comfortably smoking a fragrant
cigar she approached him timidly and placed the letter and the book in
his lap without a word.

"What's all this?" he questioned sharply.

She made no reply, but hovered about his chair, too excited to trust
herself to speak.

He picked up the letter and read it with a deepening frown, then opened
the book and ran his eyes hurriedly down one or two of its pages. At
length he spoke:

"So this is the way he's wasting his time and, I dare say, his money
too. Will the boy ever amount to anything, I wonder?"

The happiness in Frances Allan's face gave place to quick distress.

"Oh, John," she cried, "Don't you think it amounts to anything for a boy
of eighteen to have written and published a book of poetry?"

"Poetry? This stuff is bosh--utter bosh!"

For the first time in her life, there was defiance in her gentle face.
Her clinging air was discarded. She raised her head and with flashing
eyes and rising color, faced him.

"You think that, because you cannot understand or appreciate it," she
retorted, with spirit. "Neither do I understand it, but I can see that
it is wonderful poetry. If he can do this at eighteen I have no doubt he
will make himself and us famous before many years are past!"

Her husband's only reply was an astonished and piercing stare which she
met without flinching, then turned and swept from the room, leaving him
with a feeling of surprise to see that she was so tall.

Her self assertion was but momentary. As she ascended the stair and
entered Eddie's room, all the elasticity was gone from her step, all the
brightness from her cheeks and eyes and, still clasping her boy's letter
and book to her heart, she threw herself upon his bed and burst into a
passion of tears.

       *       *       *       *       *

Meantime, the elms on Boston Common were clothed with tender April green
and under foot sweet, soft grass was springing. In this inspiring
cathedral walked Edgar Poe, his pale face and deep eyes, passionate with
the worship of beauty that filled his soul, lifted to the greening
arches above him, his sensitive ears entranced with the bird-music that
fluted through the cool aisles. His mind was teeming with new poems in
the making and with visions of what he should do if his book should
sell.

But it did not sell. The leading magazines acknowledged its receipt in
their review columns, but with the merest mention, which was exceedingly
disconcerting. It was discussed (but with disappointment) for a week by
his friends at home and at the University, to whom he sent copies. Then
was forgotten.

And now its author was, for the first time within his recollection,
beginning to feel the pinch of poverty. His money was almost gone and he
saw no immediate hope of getting more. He moved to the cheapest boarding
house he could find but he did not mind that so much as the prospect
that faced him of soon beginning to present a shabby appearance in
public. His shoes were already showing wear, and he found that to keep
his linen as immaculate as he had always been accustomed to have it cost
money and he actually had to economize in the quantity of clothing he
had laundered. This to his proud and fastidious nature was humiliating
in the extreme.

He and Calvin Thomas held frequent colloquies as to ways and means of
giving his book wider circulation. He visited the offices of the several
newspapers of the town in the hope of getting work in the line of
journalism--reporting, reviewing, story-writing, anything in the way of
the only business or profession for which he felt that he had any
aptitude or preparation; but without success.

At length the sign of "Calvin F.S. Thomas, Printer" had suddenly
disappeared from the little shop in Washington Street, and a dismal "To
Let," was in its place.

At about the same time Mrs. Blanks lost the handsome, quiet young
gentleman, who had evidently seen better days, from her unpretentious
lodging house, and the walks under the elms in Boston Common were no
longer trodden by The Dreamer from Virginia.



CHAPTER XV.


Where was Edgar Poe?--

Twice since he shook the dust of Richmond joyfully from his feet, fair
Springtide had visited the terraced garden of the Allan home. Twice the
green had come forth, first like a misty veil, then like a mantle
enveloping its trees and its shrubs, its arbors and trellises; twice the
procession of flowers, led by the crocuses in their petticoats of purple
and yellow, had tripped from underground; twice the homing birds had
built in the myrtles and among the snowy pear and cherry blossoms and
filled all the place with music. Twice, too, in this garden, the pageant
of spring and summer and sunset-hued autumn had passed, the birds had
flown away again and winter snows had covered all with their whiteness
and their silence.

And still the garden's true-lover, the poet, The Dreamer, was a
wanderer, where?--

Oh, beautiful "Ligeia," was it not your voice that now and again
whispered in the tree-tops and among the flowers? Could you not--did you
not, bring news of the wanderer?

If she did, there was no human being to whom her language was
intelligible, and the trees and the flowers keep their secrets well.

Within the homestead there was little change save a deepening of the
quietness that had fallen upon it. In the master of the house there was
no visible difference. There are some men who seen from year to year
seem as unchanging as the sphinx. It is only after a long period that
any difference in them can be detected and then they suddenly appear
broken and aged. The fair lady of the manor was as fair as ever, but
with the pale, tremulous fairness of a late star in the grey dawn of a
new day in which it will have no part. Her bloom, her roundness, her
gaiety--all these were gone. She spent more time than ever in the room
which, waiting for its roving tenant, became more and more like a death
chamber. The silence there was not now broken by her sobs even, for it
was with dry-eyed grief that she watched and waited for her boy, these
days--watched and waited and prayed. Ah, how she prayed for him, body
and soul! Prayed that wherever he might be, he might be kept from harm
and strengthened to resist temptation.

Was it her agonized petitions that kept him to the straight and narrow
path of duty during those two years amid uncongenial surroundings and
hard conditions?

Who knows?

Yet the chair and the desk and the books and the vases of fresh flowers
on the mantel, and the fire-wood resting on the shining andirons ready
for a match, and the reading lamp with trimmed wick and bright chimney
on the table, and the canopied white bed still waited, in vain, his
coming.

Many months had passed since the name of Eddie had been spoken between
husband and wife, but though she held her peace, like Mary of old, like
Mary too, she pondered many things in her heart. He, loving her well,
but having no aptitude for divining woman's ways, indulged in secret
satisfaction, for he took her silence to mean that she was coming to her
senses, and regarding the boy as he did. That she no longer importuned
him to enquire into Edgar's whereabouts with the intention of inviting
him home was a source of especial relief to him.

Then, upon a day two years after she had triumphantly placed Eddie's
book and letter in his hands, it was his turn to bring her a letter.

"You see the bad penny has turned up again," he remarked, dryly.

She looked questioningly at the folded sheet. Its post-mark was Fortress
Monroe and the hand-writing was not familiar to her.

"What is it?" she asked.

"A letter from Dr. Archer. He's surgeon at the fort, you know. Read it.
It is about Edgar."

With shaking hands and a blanched face she spread open the sheet. A
nameless dread possessed her. A letter about Eddie--not from him--and
from a surgeon! For a moment darkness seemed to descend upon her and she
could not make out the characters before her. She pressed her hand upon
her heart. In sudden alarm, her husband rushed to a celaret nearby and
brought out a decanter of wine. Pouring a glass he pressed it to her
lips.

"Eddie," she gasped, as soon as she could speak. "Is he well?"

In spite of John Allan's anxiety, he was irritated, and showed it.

"Pshaw, Frances!" he exclaimed. "I hoped you had forgotten the boy. Yes,
he's well, and, I'm glad to say, in a place where he is made to behave."

She calmed herself with an effort and began to read the letter. The
story it told had a smack of romance.

Dr. Archer had (he wrote) been called to the hospital in the fort to
see a private soldier by the name of Edgar A. Perry, who was down with
fever. The patient spoke but little but the Doctor was struck with his
marked refinement of look and manner, and there was something familiar
to him about the prominent brow and full grey eyes, though the name was
strange to him. His attention was aroused and he could not rid himself
of the impression that he had seen the young man before. He mentioned
the fact to some of the officers and found at once that his patient was
a subject of deep interest to them. They felt sure (they told him) that
he had a story. His polished manners and bright and cultivated
conversation seemed to them incongruous with the duties of a private
soldier, and they laughingly said that they suspected they were
entertaining an angel unawares. Yet his duties were performed with the
utmost faithfulness and efficiency. He had never been heard to speak of
himself or his past in a way which would throw any light upon his
history, and his reserve was of the kind which was bound to be
respected. Dr. Archer had grown (he wrote) more and more interested in
his patient as he became better acquainted with him, and being convinced
that the young man had for some reason, gotten out of his proper sphere,
he determined to try and help him back to it.

By the time the young soldier was convalescent the Doctor had won his
confidence and obtained from him the confession that the name of Perry
was an assumed one, and that he was none other than Mr. Allan's adopted
son, Edgar Poe, whom Dr. Archer had not seen since he was a small boy.

The discovery of his identity had greatly increased the good Doctor's
interest and he and the officers of the fort were of the opinion that as
young Poe had made a model soldier (having been promoted to the rank of
sergeant-major, for good conduct) the best thing that could be done for
him was to secure his discharge and get him an appointment to West
Point. This, Mr. Allan could bring about, he thought, through men of
influence whose friendship the Doctor knew he enjoyed. Edgar had
enlisted for five years. He had confessed that at the time he had been
almost upon the point of starvation and had turned to the army when
every effort to find other means of livelihood had failed.

The Doctor and other officers thought that it would be a great sacrifice
to leave a young gentleman of Edgar's abilities to three more years of
such uncongenial life.

He was quite recovered and in accordance with a promise made the Doctor,
was writing to Mr. Allan at that moment.

"Did Eddie's letter come too?" Mrs. Allan asked, as she finished the one
in her hand.

Without a word, her husband handed it over to her. In it Edgar expressed
much contrition for the trouble which his larger experience in life told
him he had cost his foster-father, and asked his forgiveness. He also
asked that Mr. Allan would follow the suggestion of Dr. Archer, and
apply for a discharge from the army for him, and an appointment to West
Point.

He had not written his "Mother" in the past because he had unfortunately
nothing to tell which he believed could give her any pleasure, but he
sent her his undying love.

Frances Allan looked through wet lashes into her husband's face, but her
eyes were shining through the tears.

"Oh, John," she said breathlessly, "You will have him to come and make
us a little visit before he goes to West Point, won't you?"

"I'll have nothing to do with him!" was the emphatic reply. "He seems to
be getting along very well where he is. Let him stick it out!"

Feeling how vain her pleadings would be, yet not willing to give up
hope, she wept, she prayed, she hung upon John Allan's neck. She brought
every argument that starved motherhood could conceive to bear upon him.

To think that Eddie was in Virginia--just down at Old Point! The cup of
joy was too near her lips to let it pass without a mighty effort. But
finally she gave up and shrank within herself, drooping like the palest
of lilies.

Then came a day when a stillness such as it had never known before hung
over the Allan home. The garden was at its fairest. The halls and the
drawing-rooms, with their rich furnishings and works of art were as
beautiful as ever; but there was not even a bereaved mother, with an
expression on her face like that of Mary at the foot of the cross, to
tread the lonely floors. The luxurious rooms were quite, quite
empty--all save one--an upper chamber, where upon a stately carved and
canopied bed lay all that was mortal of Frances Allan, like a lily
indeed, when pitiless storm has laid it low!

The learned doctors who had attended her had given long Latin names to
her malady. In their books there was mention of no such ailment as
heartbreak, and so happily, the desolate man left to preside in lonely
state, over the goodly roof-tree which her presence had filled and made
sweet and satisfying, was spared a suspicion even, of the real cause of
her untimely end.

His one consuming desire for the present was that all things should be
done just as she would wish, and so--all minor bitternesses drowned in
the one overwhelming bitterness of his loss--he scribbled a few hurried
lines to Edgar Poe acquainting him with the sad news and telling him to
apply for a leave and come "home" at once.

But the mails and travel were slow in those days, and when the young
soldier reached Richmond the last, sad rites were over, and for the
third time in his brief career the grave had closed over a beautiful
woman who had loved him and upon whose personality had been based in
part, that ideal of woman as goddess or angel before which his spirit
throughout his life, with all its vicissitudes, bowed down. As the
lumbering old stage crawled along the road toward Richmond, he lived
over again the years spent in the sunshine of her presence. Her death
was a profound shock to him. How strange that one so fair, so merry, so
bubbling with _life_ should cease to be! Would it always be his fate, he
wondered, to love where untimely death was lying in wait?

Upon the night when he reached "home" and every night till, his furlough
over, he returned to his post of duty at Fortress Monroe, he lay in his
old room with his old household gods--his books in their shelves, his
pictures on the walls, his desk and deep arm-chair, and other objects
made dear by daily use in their accustomed places, and "the lamplight
gloating o'er," around him. He was touched at the sweet, familiar look
of it all and at the thoughtfulness of himself of which he saw signs
everywhere. Could it be that he had been two years an exile from these
homelike comforts or had it been only one of his dreams? In spite of the
void her absence made, it was good to be back--good after his wanderings
to come into his own again.

In the hush and loneliness of those few days under the same roof, the
grief-stricken man and youth, their pride broken by their common sorrow,
came nearer together than they ever had been before. It seemed that the
gentle spirit of her whom each had loved hovered about them, binding
them to each other by invisible, but sacred, cords. John Allan spoke to
the players' son in tones that were almost fatherly and with quick
response, the tender-hearted youth became again the Edgar of the days
before reminders of his dependence upon charity had opened his eyes to
the difference between a real and an adopted father.

Under this reconciling influence, the youth poured out expressions of
penitence for the past and made resolutions for the future and Mr. Allan
promised to apply for the desired appointment to West Point, but added
that thereafter, he should consider himself relieved of all
responsibility concerning Edgar.

This blunt and ungracious assurance strained the bond between the
adopted father and son; the promised letter of application to the
Secretary of War, ruthlessly shattered it. That his indulgencies during
his year at the University of Virginia, so freely and earnestly
repented, should have been exposed in the letter seemed to the boy
unnecessary and cruel, but the man who had been fifteen years his
father, the husband of her over whom the grave had but just closed and
who had always loved him--Edgar--as an own and only son, had seen fit to
add to the declaration,

"He left me in consequence of some gambling debts at the University," a
disclaimer of even a sentimental interest in him!

"Frankly, Sir," the letter said, "I do declare that Edgar Poe is no
relation to me whatever; that I have many in whom I have taken an active
interest in order to promote theirs, with no other feeling than that
every man is my care, if he be in distress."

Edgar Poe duly presented the letter, but the bitterness which during his
brief visit home had been put to sleep, raised its head and robbed him
of all pleasure in his anticipated change and of much of the incentive
to put forth his best effort in it. He felt that the result of this
ungracious letter must be to blot the new leaf which he had so ardently
desired to turn with shadows of his past which no effort of his own
could entirely obliterate.

For the soreness of finding himself disowned as Mr. Allan's son--this
time publicly, in a manner--he found somewhat of balm in the letter of
cordial praise addressed to the Honorable Secretary of War in his
behalf, by the father of his old friend, Jack Preston. Mr. Preston
described him as a young gentleman of genius who had already gained
reputation for talents and attainments at the University of Virginia,
and added,

"I would not write this recommendation if I did not believe he would
remunerate the Government at some future day by his services and
talents, for whatever may be done for him."

Happily for the, at times, morbidly, sensitive youth, he had soon
forgotten the sting caused by the letter in a return to the dreams which
he regarded as not only the chief joy but the chief business of his
life; for though he was preparing himself for the profession of a
soldier, he had never for a moment, forsworn the Muse of Poetry. For a
whole year before being transferred to Fortress Monroe he had been
stationed at Fort Moultrie, in Charleston harbor. There his wonderful
dream-lady, "Ligeia," had seemed especially near to him, and often, when
the day's work was done and he recognized her voice in the music of the
waves or felt her kiss in the soft, southern air, blown across spicey
islets, he would up and away with her across the world, on the moon's
silver track; or on nights when no moon came up out of the sea, would
wander with her through the star-sown sky.

There was one fair star that invited his fancy with peculiar insistence.
It seemed to beckon to him with the flashes of its beams. He questioned
"Ligeia" of it and she told him that it was none other than Al Aaraaf,
the great star discovered by Tycho Brahe, which after suddenly appearing
and shining for a few nights with a brilliancy surpassing that of
Jupiter, disappeared never to be seen again; never except by him--The
Dreamer--to whom it was given not only to gaze upon it from the far
earth, but, with her as his guide, to visit it and to explore its fairy
landscape where the spirits of lost sculptures enjoyed immortality.

The result of this flight of fancy to a magical world was the poem, "Al
Aaraaf."

He spent the interim between his honorable discharge from the army and
his entrance at West Point in a happy visit to Baltimore, where he made
the acquaintance of his father's kindred and succeeded in publishing the
new poem, with a revised edition of the old ones.

For the first time, his work appeared under his own signature:

"Al Aaraaf, Tamerlane and Minor Poems. By Edgar A. Poe."

The new poem was unintelligible to the critics--but what of that? he
asked himself. One of his optimistic moods was upon him. He despised the
critics for their lack of perception and as he held the slim volume in
his hands and gazed upon that, to him, wondrous title-page, his
countenance shone as though it had caught the reflection of the magic
star itself. What mattered all the wounds, all the woes of his past
life? He had entered into a land where dreams came true!

For the first time, too, his work received recognition as poetry, in the
literary world. It was but a nod, yet it was a beginning; and it pleased
him to think that this first nod of greeting as a poet came to him from
Boston, where his mother had found "her best, most sympathetic friends."
Before publishing his new book he had sent some extracts from it to Mr.
John Neal, Editor of the _Yankee and Boston Literary Gazette_, who
promptly gave them a place in his paper, with some kind words commending
them to lovers of "genuine poetry."

"He is entirely a stranger to me," wrote the Boston editor, of the
twenty-year-old poet, "but with all his faults, if the remainder of Al
Aaraaf and Tamerlane are as good as the body of the extracts here given,
he will deserve to stand high--very high--in the estimation of the
shining brotherhood."

In a burst of gratitude the happy poet wrote to Mr. Neal his thanks for
these "very first words of encouragement," he had received.

"I am young," he confided to this earliest friend in the charmed world
of letters, "I am young--not yet twenty--_am_ a poet if deep worship of
all beauty can make me one--and wish to be so in the common meaning of
the word."



CHAPTER XVI.


Upon a dark and drizzling November night of the year 1830, four cadets
of West Point Academy sat around a cosy open fire in Room 28, South
Barracks, spinning yarns for each other's amusement.

One of them--the one with the always handsome and scholarly, at times
soft and romantic, but tonight, dare-devil face, was easily recognizable
as Edgar the Goodfellow, frequently appearing in the quite opposite
character of Edgar the Dreamer, and commonly known as Edgar Poe. His
fellow cadets had dubbed him, "the Bard." Two of this young man's
companions were his room-mates in Number 28, "Old P," and "Gibs," and
the third was a visitor from North Barracks.

Taps had sounded sometime since, and the Barracks were supposed to be
wrapt in slumber, but for these young men the evening had just begun.
Several hours had elapsed since supper and it is a well-known fact that
there is never a time or a season when a college boy is not ready to
eat. Someone suggested that politeness demanded they should entertain
their guest with a fowl and a bottle of brandy from Benny Haven's shop,
and proposed that they should draw straws to determine which of the
three hosts should fetch the necessary supplies. They had no money, but
the accommodating "Bard" agreed to sacrifice his blanket in the cause of
hospitality; and armed with that and several pounds of tallow candles,
"Gibs," upon whom the lot had fallen, set forth to run the blockade to
Benny's. This was a risky business, for the vigilance of Lieutenant
Joseph Locke, one of the instructors in tactics who was also a sort of
supervisor of the morals and conduct of cadets, was hard to elude. As
one of the Bard's own effusions ran,

    "John Locke was a very great name;
      Joe Locke was a greater, in short,
    The former was well known to Fame,
      The latter well known to Report."

The best that Benny would give, in addition to the bottle, for the
blanket and candles, was an old gander, whose stentorian and tell-tale
voice he obligingly hushed by chopping off its head. Under cover of the
darkness and the storm, "Gibs" succeeded in safely returning to the
Barracks but not until his hands and his shirt were reeking with the
gander's gore. "The Bard," who was anxiously awaiting the result of the
foraging expedition ventured outside to meet him. When he beheld the
prize, he exclaimed, in a whisper,

"Good for you! But you look like a murderer caught red-handed."

His own words, almost before they left his lips, suggested to him an
idea for a mammoth hoax--the best they had tried yet, he told himself.
He hastily, and in whispers, unfolded it to "Gibs," whom he found all
sympathy, then returned alone, to his friends in Number 28, reporting
that he had seen nothing of their messenger, and expressing fear that he
had met with an accident.

All began to watch the door with anxiety. After some minutes it burst
open and "Gibs," who had carefully laid the gander down outside,
staggered into the room, appearing to be very drunk and brandishing a
knife, which he had rubbed against the fowl's bleeding neck. "Old P."
and the visitor from North Barracks, too frightened for words, sat as
though rooted to their chairs, while "the Bard" sprang to his feet and
in a horror-stricken voice, exclaimed,

"Heavens, Gibs! What has happened?"

"Joe Locke--Joe Locke--" gasped "Gibs."

"Well, what of Joe Locke? Speak man!"

"He won't report me any more. I've killed him!"

"Pshaw!" exclaimed "the Bard," in disgust. "This is another of your
practical jokes, and you know it."

"I thought you would say that, so I cut off his head and brought it
along. Here it is!"

With that he quickly opened the door and picked up the gander and,
whirling it around his head, dashed it violently at the one candle which
was thus knocked over and extinguished, leaving the room in darkness but
for a few smouldering embers on the hearth, and with the gruesome
addition to the company of what two of those present believed to be the
severed head of Lieutenant Locke.

The visitor with one bound was out of the room through the window, and
made good his escape to his own quarters in North Barracks, where he
spread the astounding news that "Gibs" had murdered Joe Locke; it was
certainly so, for his head was then in Number 28, South Barracks.

"Old P." nearly frozen with fright, did not move from his place, and it
was with some difficulty that "the Bard" and "Gibs" brought him back to
a normal condition and induced him to assist in preparing the fowl which
had played the part of Joe Locke's head, in the little comedy, for the
belated feast--which was merrily partaken of, but without the guest of
honor.

       *       *       *       *       *

Edgar Poe had entered West Point in July, but hardly had its doors
closed behind him when his optimism gave place to wretchedness and he
began to feel that his appointment was a mistake. He had taken a fine
stand in his classes, but he recognized at once a state of things most
unpleasant for him for which he had not been prepared. As in his
schooldays in Richmond and at the University, a number of the boys had
withheld their intimacy from him on account of caste feeling, so now at
West Point he found history repeating itself, but with a difference. In
Richmond and at the University it had been as the child of the stage and
as a dependent upon charity, that the line was drawn against him. With
the aristocratic cadets, it was because of his promotion from the ranks.
Yet the very experience which brought their contempt upon him gave him a
sense of superiority that made their manner toward him the harder to
bear, and drilling with green boys after having been two years a
soldier, he found most irksome.

While the snubbing to which he was subjected was general enough to make
his situation extremely unpleasant, however, it was by no means
unanimous. "Gibs" and "Old P." his convivial room-mates in Number 28,
took him to their hearts at once, and he really liked them when he was
in the mood for companions of their type, but they wore cruelly upon his
nerves when the divine fire within him was burning. So indeed would any
room-mates, for at home always, and most of the time at the University,
one of his chief comforts had been his own room where he could shut out
all the world and be alone with his dreams.

There was, at West Point, nothing like a repetition of his course at the
University. The trouble which his attack of gambling fever had gotten
him into had proved a severe but wholesome lesson, and he had let cards
alone at once and forever. In his ignorance of his own family history,
he did not know that for one of his blood, the only safety lay in total
abstinence from the cup that cheers, but the intense and instantaneous
excitement he found a single glass of wine produced in his brain--an
excitement amounting almost to madness--was in itself a warning to him,
and kept him strictly within the bounds of moderation.

There were times, however, when with a chicken and a bottle of brandy,
purchased secretly from old Benny, and smuggled, at great hazard, into
the room, Edgar Goodfellow could, with zest join his rolicking
room-mates in making merry, and in spite of his strict adherence to the
single glass, generally out-do them at their own games.

But there was no place in that room for Edgar the Dreamer; and between
the spirit-dulling routine and discipline of classes and drills with
youths for the most part younger than himself and inferior in mentality
and cultivation, but who bore themselves as his superiors, and the
impossibility of an hour of solitude, the lovely "Ligeia" became unreal
and remote. He could no longer catch the sounds of her voice, or feel
her presence near. His muse, too, had become shy and difficult and when
she deigned to visit him at all, it was generally in the quite new
character of jester in cap and bells, under whose influence he dashed
off humorous and satirical squibs at the expense of the professors and
students, of which the lines on Lieutenant Locke are a specimen. These
he recited for the benefit of the little parties that gathered in Number
28, by whom they were regarded as master-pieces of wit and were
circulated through the school.

But he took no real pleasure in this perversion of his poetical gift,
and feeling his soul cramped and cabined by the uncongeniality of his
surroundings, he soon became convinced that West Point was not the place
for him, and that he should leave it as soon as possible. He wrote Mr.
Allan of his dissatisfaction--begging his assistance in securing a
discharge. At no time would this request have been granted but it came
at the most inopportune moment imaginable.

Some time before, certain ladies in Richmond who professed "to know the
signs," had given out the interesting news that Mr. Allan was "taking
notice." True it was that though such a thing had seemed impossible, his
stocks were higher and more precisely folded than ever, his broadcloth
was of a finer texture, his knee-buckles shone with a brighter lustre,
but the most marked change in him was a certain springiness of gait
altogether new to his silk-stockinged calves, and almost youthful, and a
pleased expression of the hitherto stern eyes and mouth which made his
usually solemn vizage look as if it might break out into smiles at any
moment.

The signs, the ladies said, dated from the arrival of at "Powhatan," the
country seat of the Mayo family, just below Richmond, of a fair
guest--Miss Louisa Patterson, of Philadelphia. This lady was no longer
young, according to the severe standards of that time of early marriages
and correspondingly early "old-maidenhood," but so much the better, as
she was therefore of suitable age for the elderly though spruce and
prosperous widower. She was, withal, a decidedly personable woman with
the elegant manners and conversation of the inner circles of the
exclusive, stately society in which she had been nurtured--just the
woman, the fair prophetesses said, to rule over John Allan (for
everybody knew that a man who ruled his first wife was invariably ruled
by his second) and to preside with distinction and taste over his
drawing-room and his board. She was as suitable, in fact for the wife of
ripe age as the flower-like Frances had been for the wife of youth. So
Richmond gave its unqualified approval.

Nothing could have been more out of harmony with the sound of the
"mellow wedding bells" pealing for this happy pair, than a reminder of
the first wife of the bridegroom in the shape of a letter from Edgar
Poe.

When Poe had entered West Point his foster-father had drawn a long
breath of relief. He believed that the idle youth with whom his dead
wife had been so strangely infatuated was off his hands for good and
all. When the letter came to jar upon his new dream of love he was
irritated, and in his brief mention of the matter to his bride it was
very apparent, and left upon her mind the impression that Frances Allan
must have been a weak and silly creature indeed, to have fancied an
idle, ungrateful boy who spent his time drinking, gambling and
scribbling ridiculous poetry. _And the son of an actress!_ It would have
been impossible for such a low character and herself to have remained
under the same roof for a day, she was sure, and she told her husband
so--imparting to her tone somewhat of the pity she felt to think of his
having been yoked for years to such a morally frail specimen of
womanhood as she conceived the first Mrs. Allan to have been.

So Mr. Allan's letter of refusal to help Edgar escape the life that was
growing more and more irksome to him was as decided as it was brief. But
Edgar was unshaken in his resolve to get away as soon as possible. In
the meantime, finding no outlet for his restless creative faculty that
would not remain inactive though there was no opportunity for its
satisfaction, he gave himself over by turns, to deepest dejection and
wildest hilarity.

Finally, as no other relief was at hand, he decided to force his
discharge by deliberate and systematic neglect of the rules. The plan
succeeded so well that before the session was out he was expelled from
the Academy for disobedience of orders and failure to attend roll-calls,
classes and guard-duty.



CHAPTER XVII.


Happily, the restraints of the Academy and his environment there,
instead of crushing out young Edgar's impulse to dream and to put his
dreams into writing (as a longer period of the same restraints and
conditions might have done) had but quickened and strengthened these
very impulses, and he had now but one wish, one aspiration in regard to
his newly acquired freedom, and that was to dedicate it to the art of
literature which had become more and more his passion and his mistress,
and which since he had given up all idea of the army, he was resolved to
make his sole profession.

His first step toward this end was to arrange, before leaving New York,
for a new edition of his already published work, adding some hitherto
unpublished poems which even in the unsympathetic atmosphere of Number
28 South Barracks had been undergoing a refining process in the seething
crucible of his brain.

The money for this venture dropped into his lap, as it were, for when
the new friends in whom he had confided passed the word around that "the
Bard" was going to get out a book of poetry, the cadets (in anticipation
of a collection of ditties cleverly hitting off the peculiarities and
characteristics of the professors) to a man, subscribed in advance--at
seventy-five cents per copy. In appreciation of their recognition of his
genius, and little guessing what manner of book they expected it to be,
"the Bard" gratefully dedicated the new volume "To the United States
Corps of Cadets."

Happy it was for him that he was not present to hear those he had thus
honored set up their throats in unanimous expressions of disgust
when--the dedication leaf turned--they were confronted by a reprint of
"Tamerlane" and "Al Aaraaf," with the shorter poems, "To Helen," "A
Pæan," "Israfel," "Fairy-Land," and other "rubbish," as they promptly
pronounced the entire contents of the book.

"Listen, fellows!" said one of the disgusted lot, with the open volume
in his hand.

    "'In Heaven a spirit doth dwell
      Whose heartstrings are a lute.
    None sing so wildly well
    As the angel, Israfel,
    And the giddy stars (so legends tell)
    Ceasing their hymns, attend the spell
      Of his voice, all mute.'"

As he finished this opening stanza of what posterity has ranked as one
of the most exquisite lyrics in the English tongue, but which was
received by the audience of cadets with guffaws of derision, the reader
closed the book with a snap, and dashed it across the room and into the
open fire.

"Did you ever hear crazier rubbish?" he asked, with contempt. "Highway
robbery, I call it, to send us such stuff for our good, hard cash!"

"The joke's on us this time, and no doubt about it," said the also
chagrinned, but more philosophically inclined "Gibs." "The Bard means
well, though, and no doubt he thinks the stuff is poetry."

"Old P." solemnly tapped his forehead with his forefinger.

"Something wrong here," he remarked, ominously, "I suspected it all
along."

The business of getting his book published dispatched, the poet's
thoughts turned lovingly toward Richmond which he still called "home,"
and carpet-bag in hand and a package of copies of his book which he
intended as presents to his old chums under his arm, he set out upon the
journey thither.

The streets of New York had been cold and bleak but he told himself as
he journeyed, that April days at home were quite different. The grass
would be already green upon the hillsides, many of the trees in leaf,
and the dear spring flowers in bloom. He pictured the ample comforts of
the Allan homestead, and of his own room in it, with its familiar
furnishings. Of course he had no idea of looking to Mr. Allan for
support--his pen must give him that now--but during the visit which he
was going to make "at home" it would be pleasant to sleep once more in
that room with all of its associations, though many of these were with
the blunders of a blinded youth.

As he thought of Mr. Allan and his last meeting with him, his heart
softened. He would try and keep their intercourse upon the friendly
basis upon which his last sad visit home had placed it; would as far as
possible, put himself in his foster-father's place and see things as he
saw them.

How desolate the widowed man had seemed in the big, empty house during
those chill, sorrow-stricken, February days! No wonder he had sought
escape from his desolation in another marriage--his loneliness without
the lovely little mother must have been unbearable. What was the new
wife like, he wondered? Was she like the lady of the manor he
remembered? Could there be another such gentle, tender, flower-like
woman on earth?

In his unworldly, unpractical dreamer's soul it did not occur to him for
one moment that her existence might make him any less Mr. Allan's
adopted son, or even that, with all the rooms in the big house at her
disposal, she might have taken a fancy to rearrange the one which, from
the time the house became Mr. Allan's property, had been "Eddie's room,"
and which had so long stood ready for his occupancy--dedicated as it was
to his own belongings.

       *       *       *       *       *

At last he was on the sacred soil!

How fair and comfortable the old homestead looked in its setting of
greening lawn and flowering garden, with the pleasant sunshine of the
April afternoon over all! How cheerful--how ample--how homelike!

He ran up the steps of the commodious front porch and was on the point
of opening the door when some impulse he could not define made him pause
and, instead of turning the knob, announce himself with a rap upon the
shining brass knocker.

One of the old family servants whom he had known and loved from his
infancy, and with whom he had always been a pet, opened the door, and
with beaming face and eager voice greeted him with the enthusiastic
hospitality of his kind--lifting up his voice and his hands in praise to
God that he was once more in this world permitted to look upon the face
of "Marse Eddie."

The whilom young master of the house was equally, if less picturesquely,
warm in his expressions of pleasure at seeing the old man again, and
gave him his carpet-bag with instructions to take it to his room and to
tell Mrs. Allan that he was there.

The venerable darkey's face fell. The "new Mistis" had "changed the
house around some," he explained, apologetically, and "Marse's Eddie's"
things had been moved to one of the servants' rooms, but "Marse Eddie's"
old room was a guest chamber, and he "reckoned" that would be the place
to take the bag.

The visitor's whole manner changed at once--_froze_. The flush of
pleasure died out of his face and left it pale, cold and stern. A fierce
and unreasonable rage possessed him. _She had dismantled the room that
his little mother had arranged for him and sent his things to a
servant's room!_ Was this insult intentional, he wondered?

To his mind, his "little Mother" was so entirely the presiding genius of
the place--he could not realize the right of anyone, not even a "new
mistis," to come in and "change the house around."

Cut to the quick, he directed the old butler to leave the bag where it
was and to let Mrs. Allan know that he was in the drawing-room.

No announcement could have given that lady greater surprise. She
regarded Edgar's leaving West Point after her husband's letter, as
direct disobedience, and his presenting himself at her door as the
height of impertinence. Something of this was in the frigid dignity with
which she received him--standing, and drawn up to the full height of her
imposing figure.

She had never been within speaking distance of anyone drunk to the point
of intoxication, but, somehow, she had received an impression that this
was pretty generally the case with the young man now before her, and
when he began somewhat incoherently (in his foolish rage) to ask her
confirmation of the old servant's statement that his room had been
dismantled, she was convinced that it was his condition at the moment.
Turning, with the grand air for which she was noted, to the hoary butler
who stood in the doorway between drawing-room and hall, respectfully
awaiting orders as to "Marse Eddie's" bag, she said,

"Put this drunken man out of the house!"

The aged slave stood aghast. Between the stately new mistress whom it
was his duty to serve, and the beloved young master whose home-coming
had warmed his old heart, what should he do?

He stood in silence, his lined black face filled with sadness, his chin
in his hand, his eyes bent in sorrow and shame upon the floor. What
should he do?--

Fortunately, the new mistress did not see his indecision as she swept
from the room, and "Marse Eddie" quickly relieved him of the
embarrassing dilemma by picking up the carpet-bag and passing out of the
door, closing it behind him.

It was all a mistake--a miserable mistake; but one of those mistakes in
understanding between blind, prejudiced human beings by which hearts are
broken, souls lost.

At the foot of the steps Edgar Poe paused and looked back at the
massive closed door. _Never_--_nevermore_, it seem to say to
him.--_Never_--_nevermore_!

While he had been inside the house one of those sudden changes in the
face of nature of which his superstitious soul always made note, had
taken place. A shower from a passing cloud had filled the depressions in
the uneven pavement, where before only sunshine lay, with little pools
of water, and had left the trees "weeping," as he fancifully described
them to himself.

He walked along the wet streets for a few steps, by the side of the wall
that enclosed house and grounds. Then he paused again and looked over
into the dripping garden while he held consultation with himself as to
what he should do next. As he looked the breath of drenched violets
greeted his nostrels. He noticed that the lilacs were coming into
blossom. The fruit trees already stood like brides veiled in their fresh
bloom. The tulip and hyacinth and daffodil beds were gay with color. How
their newly washed faces shone in the sunshine, just then bursting
through the clouds!

Near him, just inside the wall, was a bed of lily-of-the-valley. He was
seized with an almost irresistible desire to go down upon his knees by
it and search among the glistening green leaves to see if the lilies
were in bloom.

But the garden-gate, like the house door, was closed upon him and seemed
to repeat the fateful word--Nevermore.

Whither should he turn his steps? To Mr. Allan's office?--Never!

His intention had been to submit himself to Mr. Allan as far as his
self-respect would let him. To consult him in regard to the literary
career he felt himself committed to now that (as he recalled with
satisfaction) the bridges between him and any other profession were
burnt behind him. His own plan, upon which he was resolved to ask Mr.
Allan's opinion, would be to seek a position in the line of journalism
which would give him a living while he was waiting for his more
ambitious work to find buyers.

But since the interview with Mrs. Allan he realized the folly of this
dream.

Then, whither should he go?--To the chums of his boyhood?--Rob Stanard,
Dick Ambler, Rob Sully, Jack Preston, where were they?--Good, dear
friends they had been, but it seemed so long since they had played
together! What should they find to say to each other now? They were busy
with their various avocations and interests--what room in their hearts
and homes could there be for a wanderer like himself?

At the age of one and twenty, at the springtime of his life, as of the
year--he felt himself to be as friendless, as much a stranger in the
city which he called home, as Rip Van Winkle after his long sleep had
felt in his. The only spots toward which he could turn with any
confidence for sympathy were those two quiet cities within this city
where lay his loved and lovely dead--"The doubly dead in that they died
so young."

"How different my life would be if they had lived!" he murmured to the
flowers.

Yet how fair was this world in which he had no place--even to a mere
looker-on. How fair was this mansion, in its setting of April green and
bloom, which had once owned him as its young--its future master. Above
it Hope stretched her shining wings, but the hope was not for him. For
him the closed door and the closed gate said only, "no more--nevermore."

But whither should he go?--whither?

As he turned from the garden and walked slowly, aimlessly, down the
street, his great grey eyes fixed ponderingly upon the breaking clouds,
a rainbow--bright symbol of promise--spanned the heavens. His eyes
widened, his lips parted at the wonder and the beauty and the suddenness
of it.

Whither should he go? Behold an answer meet for a poet!

Whither?--Whither?--The dark eyes in the pale cameo face turned
skyward--the eyes of him who had declared himself to be a deep
worshipper of all beauty grew more dreamy. Whither, indeed, but to the
end of the rainbow!

By what "path obscure and lonely," the quest would lead him he knew not,
but he would follow it to the bitter end, for there, perchance, he would
find if not the traditional pot of gold, at least a wreath of laurel.

As he wandered down the street, his eyes still upon the bow, his dream
was suddenly interrupted by the hearty voice of one of his boyhood's
friends, and his sister Rosalie's adopted brother, Jack Mackenzie.

"Hello, Edgar!" he cried. "Did you drop from the clouds? Evidently, for
I see your head is still in them."

He returned the greeting with joy. How good it was to feel the
hand-clasp of friendship and welcome! He had always liked Jack--for the
moment he loved him.

"And where are you bound--you and your bag?" asked Jack. "Not to Mr.
Allan's, for you are going in the wrong direction."

"No," replied The Dreamer, with a whimsical smile. "I was going there,
but I found the door shut, so I changed my mind, and had just decided to
make the end of the rainbow my destination."

Jack's spontaneous laugh rang out. "The same old Edgar!" he said. "Well
I won't interfere with your journey except to defer it a bit. You are
going home with me, to 'Duncan Lodge,' now--at least to supper and spend
the night; and to stay as much longer as pleases you. Rose and the rest
will be delighted to see you."



CHAPTER XVIII.


Where was Edgar Poe? Again the question was being asked. In many
quarters and with varying degrees of interest it was repeated. But it
still remained unanswered.

In Richmond it was asked by the chums of his youth as they sat under
their comfortable vines and fig-trees, or stopped each other on a corner
for a few moments' social chat, or--catching some one of the rumors that
were afloat concerning the gifted companion of their golden days--looked
up from their desks in office or counting-house to ask each other the
question. Their faces were keen with interest for their admiration and
affection for The Dreamer had been sincere; yet it was not strong enough
after the lapse of years to make any one of them lay down work and go
forth to seek a solution of the mystery. Such an errand not one of them
felt to be his business. A quixotic errand it would indeed have been
considered and one which, if half the rumors were true, might have
necessitated a journey to the ends of the earth, to prove but a fool's
errand after all.

The oft-repeated question was one with which John Allan little concerned
himself. A robust son and heir had come in his late middle age to fill
all his thoughts with new interest and plans for the present and the
future. The patter of little feet of his own child on the stairs and
halls of his home, drowned the ghostly memories of other and less
welcome footfalls that had once echoed there.

He too, had heard rumors of the adventures and the misadventures of
Edgar Poe, but he did not consider it his business, as it was certainly
not his pleasure, to investigate them.

In Baltimore too, the question was asked by the kinsfolk whose
acquaintance Edgar had made during his visit there. But they had never
held themselves in the least responsible for this eccentric son of their
brother David, the actor--the black sheep of the family. Surely it was
none of _their_ business to follow him upon any chase his foolish fancy
might lead him.

But still, when the rumors that were rife reached their ears, it was
with no small degree of curiosity that they asked each other the
question: Where was Edgar Poe?--What had become of him?--Had he, as some
believed, met death upon the high seas or in a foreign land?--Was he the
real hero of stories of adventure which floated across the ocean from
Russia--from France--from Greece?

He had certainly contemplated going abroad--the Superintendent of West
Point Academy had had a letter from him sometime after he left there,
declaring his intention of seeking an appointment in the Polish army.
Had he gone, or was he, as some would have it, going in and out among
them, there in Baltimore, but unknown and unrecognized--his identity
hidden under assumed name and ingenious disguise?

Who could tell?

The wonder of it was not in the existence of the unanswered question--of
the mystery--but that the question could remain unanswered--the mystery
remain unsolved--and no attempt be made to lift the veil. That a young
man, a gentleman, of prominent connections, of handsome features and
distinguished bearing and address, of rare mental gifts and cultivation,
and of magnetic personality, could disappear from the face of the
earth--could, almost before the very eyes of his fellows, step from the
glare of the world in which he moved into the abyss of absolute
obscurity or impenetrable mystery, and create no stir--that no one
should deem it his or her business to seek or to find an answer to the
question, a reading of the riddle.

Not until two years after Edgar Poe had turned his back upon the closed
door of the Allan mansion, in Richmond, and stepped, as it seemed from
the edge of a world in which he was not wanted into the unknown, did
such an one arise. And that one was, as an especially good friend of
Edgar Poe's was most likely to be--a woman.

Between this woman:--Mrs. Maria Poe Clemm--a widow of middle age, and
The Dreamer, there existed the close blood-tie of aunt and nephew, for
she was the own sister of his father, David Poe.

More than that--there existed, though they had never seen each other, a
soul kinship rare between persons of the same blood, and which (for all
they had never seen each other) she, with the woman's unerring instinct
that sometimes seems akin to inspiration, divined. She too was something
of a dreamer, with an ear for the voices of Nature and a mind open to
the influences of its beauty, but with a goodly ballast of strong common
sense.

She was but a young girl when her handsome and idolized brother David
scandalized the family by marrying an actress and himself taking to the
stage. But she had seen the bewitching "Miss Arnold" at the theatre in
Baltimore--had, with fascinated eyes, followed her twinkling feet
through the mazy dance, had listened with charmed ears to her exquisite
voice, had sat spell-bound under her acting. To her childish mind, the
stage had become a fairy-land and Miss Arnold its presiding genius. That
brother David should love and marry her seemed like something out of a
fairy book. _She_ did not blame brother David; she secretly entirely
approved of him.

In her later years the death of the husband of her own youth who had
been romantically, passionately loved, had left her penniless but not
disillusioned; with her own living to get and a little daughter with a
face like a Luca Della Robbia chorister, and a voice that went with the
face, but who had the requirements of other flesh and blood children, to
be provided for. This child was the sunshine of the lonely widow's life,
yet she only in part filled the great mother's heart of her. Nature had
made her to be the mother of a son as well as a daughter, then
mockingly, it would seem, denied her.

But in her dreams she worshipped the son she had never borne, and deep
in her heart was stored, like unshed tears, the love she would have
lavished upon him had her whole mission in life been fulfilled.

She had heard little of her brother David's son Edgar, but that little
had always interested her. She was living away from Baltimore during his
visit there just before he entered West Point, and so she did not meet
him; but upon the death of her husband, soon afterward, she had returned
to the home of her girlhood, and established herself in modest, but
respectable quarters, to earn a livelihood for the little Virginia and
herself by the use of her skillful needle.

It was soon afterward that with a concern which no one but herself had
felt, she learned of the mystery surrounding the whereabouts of her
nephew.

She yearned over the wanderer and longed to mother him, as, somehow, she
knew he needed to be mothered. She kept near her a copy of his last
little book of poems which she had read again and again. In the earlier
ones she saw a loose handful of jewels in the rough, yet she recognized
the sparkle which distinguishes the genuine from the false. In the later
ones she perceived gems "of purest ray serene," polished and strung and
ready to be passed on from generation to generation--priceless
heir-looms.

She was a tall woman, and deep-bosomed, with large but clear-cut and
strong features, and handsome, deepset gray eyes which habitually wore
the expression of one who has loved much and sorrowed much. She had been
called stately before her proud spirit had bowed itself in submission to
the chastenings of grief--since when she had borne the seal of meekness.
But there was a distinction about her that neither grief nor poverty
could destroy. She was so unmistakably the gentle-woman. In the simple,
but dainty white cap, with its floating strings, which modestly covered
her dark waving hair, the plain black dress and prim collar fastened
with its mourning pin, she made a reposeful picture of the old-fashioned
conception of "a widow indeed."

Her hands were not her least striking feature. They were large, but
perfectly modelled, and they were deft, capable, full of character and
feeling. In their touch there was a wonderfully soothing quality. In
winter they always possessed just the pleasantest degree of warmth; in
summer just the most grateful degree of coolness. No one ever received a
greeting from them without being impressed with the friendliness, the
sympathy of their clasp.

As she bent her fine, deeply-lined face over them, and the work they
held, while the little Virginia sat nursing a doll at her feet, she
often stitched into the garments that they fashioned yearnings,
thoughts, questionings of the youth--her brother's child--whose picture,
as she had conceived him from descriptions she had heard, she carried in
her heart. She knew too well the weakness that was his inheritance and
she knew too, what perils were in waiting to ensnare the feet of untried
youth--poor, homeless and without the restraining influences of friends
and kindred--whatever their inheritance might be.

Sometimes she felt that the yearning was almost more than she could
bear, and that she must arise and go forth and seek this straying sheep
of the fold of Poe. But alas, she was but a woman, without money and
without a clue upon which to begin to work save such as wild, improbable
and contradictory rumors afforded. That was, after all, what she most
needed--a clue. If she could only find a clue, poor as she was, she
would follow it to the ends of the earth!

Upon a summer's day two years after Edgar's disappearance, and when she
had almost given up hope, the clue came. It was placed in her hand by
her cousin, and Edgar's, Neilson Poe, who had no faith in its value but
passed it on to her as it had come to him--"for what it was worth," as
he expressed it.

It was a strange story that Mrs. Clemm's cousin Neilson told her, and
which had been told him, he said, by an acquaintance of his from
Richmond who had known Edgar Poe in his boyhood.

It seems that this Richmond man had during a visit to Baltimore gone to
a brickyard to arrange for the shipment home of bricks for a new house
he was building. As he sat in the office talking to the manager of the
yard, a line of men bearing freshly molded bricks to the kiln passed the
open window. There was something about the appearance of one of the
laborers that struck the Richmond man as familiar and he turned quickly
to the manager and asked the name of the man, pointing him out. The name
given him was a strange one to him and he dismissed the matter from his
thoughts and returned to his business talk.

Upon his way to his hotel, however, the appearance of the brick-carrier,
and the impression that somewhere, he had seen him before, returned to
his mind and it came upon him in a flash, first that the likeness was to
Edgar Poe, and then the conviction that the man was none other than Poe
himself, though emaciated and aged to a degree that, with his shabby
dress and unshaven chin, made him scarcely recognizable. Though he had
been but a casual acquaintance of Edgar's, he was deeply touched at
seeing him so evidently in distress, and returned to the brickyard early
the next morning for the purpose of speaking to him and of helping him
back into the sphere in which he belonged and from which he had so long
disappeared. But the man he sought was not there and no one knew where
his lodgings were. He was a recent employe of the yard, they said, and
so gloomy and unsociable that he had made no friends. He was capable of
a great amount of work, which he performed faithfully, but kept to
himself and had little to say to anybody.

Upon the day before he had looked ill and had stopped work before the
day was over. He was evidently suffering from exhaustion, but had
declared that he needed nothing, and after sitting down to rest upon a
pile of bricks for a while, had gone off to his home--wherever that
might be--as usual, alone.

       *       *       *       *       *

This story Neilson Poe set down as highly sensational. He did not
believe, he said with a laugh, that his cousin, when found, would be
doing anything half so energetic or useful as carrying bricks--he would
have more hope of him if he could believe it. The laborer's real, or
fancied, likeness to Edgar was but a case of chance resemblance, that
was all.

But that was not enough for Maria Clemm. She folded her sewing and laid
it away with an air of finality which plainly said that she had found
other and more pressing work to do. The sewing must wait a more
convenient season.

Then she went out into the streets sweltering in the summer heat, and
turned her face toward that obscure quarter of the town where human
beings who could not afford to rest or to dine might at least secure a
corner in which to "lodge" and the right, if not the appetite, to "eat,"
for an infinitesimal sum; for it was in this quarter that strange as it
might, seem, her instinct told her her search must be made--in this
quarter that Edgar Poe, the rich merchant's pampered foster-child, Edgar
Poe, the poet, the scholar, the exquisite in dress, in taste and in
manners, would be found.

When she did find him the mystery that had surrounded him was stripped
of the last shred of its romance. In a room compared to which the little
chamber back of the shop of Mrs. Fipps, the milliner, in which his
mother had drawn her last breath, and in which Frances Allan had found
and fallen in love with him, was luxurious, he lay upon a bed of straw
thrown into a dark corner, tossing with fever and in his delirium,
literally "babbling of green fields."

The kind-hearted, but ignorant and uncleanly slattern who sought with
"lodgings to let" to keep the souls of herself and family in their
bodies, gave him as much attention as the demands of a numerous brood of
little slatterns and a drunken husband would permit, and sighed with
real sorrow as she admitted that the "poor gentleman" was in a very bad
way. It was her opinion he had seen better days she confided to the
three other lodgers who were just then renting the three straw beds in
the three other corners of the same dark, squalid and evil-smelling
room. He was "so soft-spoken and elegant-like, if he _was_ poor as a
church mouse. Pity he had no folks nor nobody to keer nothin' about
'im."

It was not at once that Mrs. Clemm found him. She had sought him
diligently in what would to-day be known as the slum districts of the
city, descending the scale of respectability lower and lower until she
thought she had reached the bottom, but without success.

Then, upon the fourth or fifth day of her search, late in the afternoon,
when the little Virginia was watching anxiously from the sitting-room
window for "Muddie's" return, a wagon stopped before her door and out of
it and into the house was borne a stretcher upon which lay an apparently
dying man--ghastly, unshaven, and muttering broken unintelligible
sentences.

Keeping pace with the wagon as it crept along the street, might have
been seen the stately, sad-eyed Widow Clemm. When the wagon stopped, she
stopped, and directed the careful lifting of the stretcher from it. Then
she turned and opened the door of her small house and led the way to her
neat bed-chamber where, upon her own immaculate bed, the sick man was
gently laid--henceforth, as long as need be, a cot in the sitting-room
would be good enough for her.

The little Virginia, her soft eyes filled with wonder, had followed her
mother upon tip-toe.

"Who is it, Muddie?" she questioned in an awed whisper.

The anxiety in the widow's face gave place to a look of exaltation which
fairly transfigured her. Her deep eyes shone with the hoarded love for
the son so long denied her. She gathered her little daughter to her
breast and kissed her tenderly.

"It is your brother, darling," she gently said. "God has given me a
son!"

Well she knew that he was not yet entirely her own--that she would have
to wrestle fiercely with Death for his possession. But she had made up
her mind that she would win the battle.

"Death _shall_ not have him," she passionately told herself.

But the next moment, overwhelmed with a realization of human
helplessness, she was upon her knees at his bedside, crying:

"Oh, God, do not let him die! I have but just found him! Spare him to me
now, if but a little while!"



CHAPTER XIX.


For many days the sick man lay with eyes closed in uneasy sleep or open,
but unseeing, and with body writhing and tongue loosed but incoherent,
showing that these half-waking hours, as well as the sleeping ones, were
"horror haunted."

Finally the most terrible of dreams visited him. The circumstances of
his life had caused him from his infancy to dwell much upon the subject
of death. He had oftentimes taken a gruesome pleasure in trying to
imagine all the sensations of the grim passage into the "Valley of the
Shadow"--even to the closing of the coffin-lid and the descent into the
grave. Now, in his fever-dream, the dreadful details and sensations
imagined in health came to him, but with tenfold vividness. At the point
when in the blackness and suffocation of conscious burial horror had
reached its extremest limit and the sufferer was upon the verge of real
death from sheer terror, relief came. He seemed to feel himself freed
from the closeness, the maddening fight for breath, of the coffin, and
gently, surely, borne upward out of the abyss ... upward ... upward ...
into air--light--life!

For a long while he lay quite still, too exhausted to move hand or
foot--to raise his eyelids even; but content--more--happy, perfectly
happy, in the glorious consciousness of being able just to lie still and
breathe the sweet air of day.

Presently, as he began to feel rested, the great grey eyes opened. For
the first time since the conqueror, Fever, had overthrown him and bound
him to the uneasy bed of straw, they were clear as the sky after a
storm--swept clean of every cob-web cloud; but their lucid depths were
filled with surprise, for they opened upon a cool, light, homelike
chamber. The walls around him were white, but were relieved here and
there by restful prints in narrow black frames. The four-post bed upon
which he lay was canopied and the large, bright windows were curtained
with snowiest dimity, but the draperies of both were drawn and he could
look out at the trees and the sky now roseate with the hues of evening.
In a set of shelves that nearly reached the ceiling stood row on row of
friendly looking books. Upon a high mahogany chest of drawers, with its
polished brass trimmings and little swinging looking-glass, stood a
white and gold porcelain vase filled with asters--purple, white and
pink--while before it, in a deep arm-chair, a little girl of ten or
eleven years, with a face like a Luca della Robbia chorister, or like
one of the children of sunny Italy that served for old Luca's model, was
curled up, stroking a large white cat which lay purring in her lap.

Upon the child the wondering eyes of the sick man lingered longest and
to her they returned when their survey of the rest of the room was done.
Suddenly, impelled by the steadiness of his gaze, she lifted her own
dark, soft eyes and let them rest for a moment upon his. She
started--then was up and across the floor in a flash, carrying the cat
upon her shoulder.

"Muddie, Muddie," she cried from the door, "The new Buddie is awake!"

Then, still carrying her pet, she walked, to his bedside and gazed
earnestly and unabashed into the "new Buddie's" face. Her eyes had the
velvety softness of pansy petals and as they looked into the eyes of the
sick man recalled to his clearing mind the expression of mixed love and
questioning in the eyes of his spaniel, "Comrade," the faithful friend
of his boyhood.

At length he spoke.

"Who is 'Muddie'?"

"She's my mother, and you are my new brother that has come to live with
us always."

A radiant smile illumined the pale and haggard face. "Thank Heaven for
that!" he said. "And who brought me up out of the grave?"

The child was spared the necessity of puzzling over this startling
question. _Surely it was no other than she_, he thought--she who at this
moment appeared at the open door--the tall figure of a woman or angel
who in the next moment was kneeling beside him with a heaven of
protecting love in her face. _She it was, no other!_ Through all of his
dreams he had been dimly conscious of her--saving him from death and
despair. Now for the first time, in the light of life, and in his new
consciousness he saw her plainly.

       *       *       *       *       *

Edgar Poe's convalescence was slow but it was steady, and even in his
weakness he felt a peace and happiness such as he had rarely tasted.
This frugal but restful home in which he found himself, with the
ministrations of "Muddie" and "Sissy," as he playfully called his aunt
and the little cousin who had adopted him as her "Buddie," were to him,
after his struggle with hunger, fever and death, like a safe harbor to a
storm-tossed sailor.

The little Virginia claimed him as her own from the beginning. As long
as he was weak enough to need to be waited upon her small feet and hands
never wearied in his service but as he grew better, it was he who served
her. There never were such stories as he could tell, such games as he
could play, and he took her cat to his heart with gratifying promptness.
When they walked out together the world seemed turned into a fairyland
as with her hand held fast in his he told her wonderful secrets about
the clouds, the trees, the flowers, the birds and even about the stones
under her feet. It was fascinating to her too, to lie and listen to him
read and talk with "Muddie." She was not wise enough to understand much
that they said, but at night, when she had been tucked into bed, he
would sit under the lamp and read aloud from one of the books in the
shelves, or from the long strips of paper upon which he wrote and wrote;
and though she did not understand the words, she delighted to listen,
for his voice made the sweetest lullaby music.

With the return of health and strength, energy and the impulse for
life's battle began to return to Edgar Poe, and with them a new
incentive. He began to awaken to the fact that "Muddie" and "Sissy" were
poor and that his presence in their home was making them poorer--that
the struggle to support this modest establishment was a severe one, and
that he must arise and add what he could to the earnings of the deft
needle. The three little editions of his poems had brought him no
money--he had begun to despair of their ever bringing him any. He had
sometime since turned his attention to prose but the manuscripts of such
stories as he had offered the publishers had come back to him with
unflattering promptness. He began now, however, with fresh heart to
write and to arrange a number of those that seemed to him to be his
best, for a book, to which he proposed to give the title, "Tales of the
Folio Club."

But the new tide of hope was soon at a low ebb. The editors and
publishers would have none of his work.

When the repeated return to him of the stories, poems and essays he sent
out had begun to make him lose faith in their merit and to question his
own right to live since the world had no use for the only commodity he
was capable of producing, "Muddie" came in one evening with an unusually
bright, eager look in her eyes and a copy of _The Saturday Visitor_ (a
weekly paper published in Baltimore) in her hand.

"Here's your chance, Eddie," she said.

In big capitals upon the first page of the paper was an announcement to
the effect that the _Visitor_ would give two prizes--one of one hundred
dollars for the best short story, and one of fifty dollars for the best
poem submitted to it anonymously. Three well-known gentlemen of the city
would act as judges, and the names of the successful contestants would
be published upon the twelfth of October.

With trembling hands the discouraged young applicant for place as an
author made a neat parcel of six of his "Tales of the Folio Club" and a
recently written poem, "The Coliseum," and left them, that very night,
at the door of the office of _The Saturday Visitor_.

How eagerly he and "Muddie" and "Sissy" awaited the fateful twelfth! The
hours and the days dragged by on leaden wings. But the twelfth came at
last. It found Edgar Poe at the office of the _Visitor_ an hour before
time for the paper to be issued, but at length he held the scarcely dry
sheet in his hand and there, with his name at the end, was the story
that had taken the prize--"The MS. Found in a Bottle."

More!--In the following wonderful--most wonderful words, it seemed to
him--the judges declared their decision:

     "Among the prose articles were many of various and
     distinguished merit, but the singular force and beauty of those
     sent by the author of 'Tales of the Folio Club' leave us no
     room for hesitation in that department. We have awarded the
     premium to a tale entitled, 'The MS. Found in a Bottle.' It
     would hardly be doing justice to the writer of this collection
     to say that the tale we have chosen is the best of the six
     offered by him. We cannot refrain from saying that the author
     owes it to his own reputation as well as to the gratification
     of the community to publish the entire volume. These tales are
     eminently distinguished by a wild, vigorous and poetical
     imagination, a rich style, a fertile invention and varied,
     curious learning.

    (Signed)
    "JOHN P. KENNEDY,
    J.H.B. LATROBE,
    JAMES H. MILLER,
    _Committee._"

Here was the fulfilment of hope long deferred! Here was a brimming cup
of joy which the widowed aunt and little cousin who had taken him in and
made him a son and brother could share with him! It seemed almost too
good to be true, yet there it was in plain black and white with the
signatures of the three gentlemen whose opinion everyone would respect,
at the end. What wealth that hundred dollars--the first earnings of his
pen--seemed. What comforts for the modest home it would buy! This was no
mere nod of recognition from the literary world, but a cordial
hand-clasp, drawing him safely within that magic, but hitherto frowning
portal.

He felt as if he were walking on air as he hurried home to tell "Muddie"
and "Sissy" of his and their good fortune. And how proud "Muddie" was of
her boy! How lovingly little "Sissy" hung on his neck and gave him
kisses of congratulation--though but little realizing the significance
of his success. And how he, in turn, beamed upon them! The grey eyes had
lost all of their melancholy and seemed suddenly to have become wells of
sunshine. In imagination he pictured these loved ones raised forever
from want, for he told himself that he would not only sell for a goodly
price all the rest of the "Tales of the Folio Club," but under the happy
influence of his success he would write many more and far better stories
still, to be promptly exchanged for gold.

Bright and early Monday morning he made ready (with "Muddie's" aid) for
a round of visits to the members of the committee, to thank them for
their kind words. His clothes, hat, boots and gloves were all somewhat
worse for wear and his old coat hung loosely upon his shoulders--wasted
as they still were by the effects of his long illness; but he whistled
while he brushed and "Muddie" darned and carefully inked the worn seams,
and finally it was with a feeling that he was quite presentable that he
kissed his hands to his two good angels and ran gaily down the steps.
Hope gave him a debonair mien that belied his shabby-genteel apparel.

A quarter of an hour later Mr. John Kennedy, prominent lawyer and the
author of that pleasant book "Swallow Barn," then newly published and
the talk of the town, answered a knock upon his office door with a
quick, "Come in!"

At the same time he raised his eyes and confronted those of the young
author whom he had been instrumental in raising from the "verge of
despair."

The face of the older man was one of combined strength and amiability.
Evidences of talent were there, but combined with common sense. There
was benevolence in the expansive brow and kindliness and humor as well
as character, about the lines of the nose and the wide, full-lipped
mouth, and the eyes diffused a light which was not only bright but
genial, and which robbed them of keenness as they rested upon the
pathetic and at the same time distinguished figure before him. What the
kindly eyes took in a glance was that the pale and haggard young
stranger with the big brow and eyes and the clear-cut features, the
military carriage and the shabby, but neat, frock coat buttoned to the
throat where it met the fashionable black stock, and with the modest and
exquisite manners, was a gentleman and a scholar--but poor, probably
even hungry. They kindled with added interest when the visitor
introduced himself as Edgar Poe--the author of "Tales of the Folio
Club."

The strong, pleasant face and the cordial hand that grasped his own,
then placed a chair for him, invited the young author's confidence--a
confidence that always responded promptly to kindness--and he had soon
poured into the attentive ear of John Kennedy not only profuse thanks
for the encouraging words in the _Visitor_ but his whole history. Deeply
touched by the young man's refined and intellectual beauty--partially
obscured as it was by the unmistakable marks of illness and want--by
his frank, confiding manners, by the evidences in thought and expression
of gifts of a high order, and by the moving story he told, Mr. Kennedy's
heart went out to him and he sent him on his way to pay his respects to
the other members of the committee, rejoicing in offers of friendship
and hospitality and promises of aid in securing publishers for his
writings.

Edgar Poe had been loved of women, he had been adored by small boys, he
had received many material benefits from his foster father, he had been
kindly treated by his teachers, but he was now for the first time taken
by the hand spiritually as well as physically, by a _man_, a man of
mental and moral force and of position in the world; a man, moreover,
who with rare divination appreciated, out of his own strength, the
weaknesses and the needs as well as the gifts and graces of his new
acquaintance, and who took his dreams and ambitions seriously. The sane,
wholesome companionship which The Dreamer found in him and at his
hospitable fireside acted like a tonic upon his spirits and improvement
in his health both of mind and body were rapid.

Though warning him against being over much elated at his success, and an
expectation of growing suddenly either rich or famous, Mr. Kennedy was
as good as his word in regard to helping him find a market for his work.
A proud moment it was when the young author received a note from his
patron inviting him to dine with Mr. Wilmer, the editor of _The Saturday
Visitor_ which had given him the prize, and some other gentlemen of the
profession of journalism. But his pleasure was followed by quick
mortification. _What should he wear?_ Still holding the open note in
his hand, he looked down ruefully at his clothes--his only ones. For all
their brushing and darning they were unmistakably shabby--utterly unfit
to grace a dinner-party. Nearly all of the hundred dollars which had
seemed such a fortune had already been spent to pay bills incurred
during his illness and to buy provisions for the bare little home which
had sheltered him in his need and which had become so dear to his heart.
No, he could not go to the dinner, but what excuse could he make that
would seem to Mr. Kennedy sufficient to warrant him in not only
declining his hospitality but putting from him the chance of meeting the
editor of the _Visitor_ under such auspices?

At length he decided that in this case absolute frankness was his only
course.

"My dear Mr. Kennedy," he wrote,

"Your invitation to dinner has wounded me to the quick. I cannot come
for reasons of the most humiliating nature--my personal appearance. You
may imagine my mortification in making this disclosure to you, but it is
necessary."

As he was about, in bitterness of soul, to add his signature a sudden
thought caused him to pause, pen poised in air. A thought?--A temptation
would perhaps be a better word. It bade him consider carefully before
throwing away his chance. Who knew, who could tell, it questioned, how
much might depend upon this meeting? His fortune might be made by it!
Almost certainly it would lead to the sale of some more of his stories
to the _Visitor_. Mr. Kennedy believed that it would have this
result--for this purpose he had arranged it. After taking so much pains
for his benefit he would undoubtedly be disappointed--seriously
disappointed--if his plan should fail. Mr. Kennedy had been so kind, so
generous--doubtless he would gladly advance him a sum sufficient to make
himself presentable for the dinner--to be paid by the first check
received as a result of the meeting. A very modest sum would do. He
might manage it, he thought, with twenty dollars.

Finally, he drew his unfinished note before him again and added to what
he had written,

"If you will be my friend so far as to loan me twenty dollars, I will be
with you tomorrow--otherwise it will be impossible, and I must submit to
my fate. Sincerely yours,

    "E.A. POE."



CHAPTER XX.


The dinner went off charmingly. In addition to several journalists, Mr.
Latrobe and Mr. Miller who, with Mr. Kennedy, had formed the committee
that awarded the prize to Edgar Poe, were there and the meeting between
the young guest of honor and his patrons engendered a spirit of
_bon-homie_ that was palpable to all. Under its spell The Dreamer's
spirits rose. Yet he was quiet, listening with deep attention to the
conversation of his elders, but having little to say, until the repast
was half over, when he responded to the evident desire of his host to
draw him out. The conversation had turned upon a favorite theme of
his--the power of words. He threw himself into it with zest, and with
brilliant play of expression animating his splendid eyes and pale
features, and the graceful, unrestrained gestures of one thoroughly at
ease and entirely unconscious of self, he held the table spell-bound
with a flow of sparkling talk in which his own exquisite choice of words
delighted his hearers no less than the originality and beauty of his
thought.

In the young editor of _The Saturday Visitor_ he promptly found a second
friend among men of letters. Mr. Wilmer, already prejudiced in his favor
by the success of the "MS. Found in a Bottle," and its cordial reception
by the public, and by Mr. Kennedy's warm words of recommendation,
yielded at once to the witchery of the poetic eyes, the courtly manners
and the charmed tongue, and not only befriended him by inviting and
accepting his writings for publication, but gave him, as time went on,
what proved to be a stimulant to good work as well as one of his
greatest pleasures--the intimate companionship of a man of congenial
tastes and near his own age.

       *       *       *       *       *

The winter that followed was one of the happiest of The Dreamer's
life--a lull in a tempest, a dream of peace within a dream of storm and
stress.

He was soon able to return the twenty dollars to Mr. Kennedy. The
newspapers kept him busy and while the returns were--so far--small, he
was hopeful. He felt that he had made a beginning, and that the future
promised well. His work was praised and he became something of a
lion--the doors of many a proud Baltimore home opening graciously to his
touch.

He cared little for general society, however. His greatest pleasure he
found in his evenings with the Kennedys (for Mrs. Kennedy had taken him
in as promptly as her husband) or in a canter far into the country on
the saddle horse which Mr. Kennedy, noting his pallor and thinking that
out-door exercise would be of benefit to him, kindly placed at his
disposal, or in walks in the fields and lanes beyond the city with his
new chum Wilmer. Many a fine afternoon saw these two cronies, often
accompanied by the sprite, Virginia, with her airy movements and vivid
beauty, rambling in the suburbs, and beyond, with heads close in
intimate communion of thought and fancy.

What he enjoyed most of all was the time spent at his desk, in the
shelter of the new-found haven of rest, with the happy "Muddie" and
"Sissy" nearby.

This little family circle was unique. There was an unmistakably oak-like
element in the nature of the widow which was apparent to some degree
even in her outward appearance, in the stateliness and dignity of her
figure and carriage--an element of sturdiness and self-reliance which
made it her pleasure to be clung to, looked up to, leaned upon. The
character of her new-found son was, on the contrary, vine-like. He was
constantly reaching out tendrils of craving for love, for appreciation,
for understanding. More--for advice, for guidance. Such tendrils seeking
a foot-hold, make a strong appeal to every womanly woman. She sees in
them a call to her nobility of soul, to the mother that is a part of her
spiritual nature--a call that gives her pleasant good-angel sensations,
that soften her heart and flatter her self-esteem. To the Widow Clemm,
with her self-reliance and her highly developed maternal instinct, the
appeal was irresistible and between her and The Dreamer the ivy and oak
relation was promptly established, while in the little Virginia he found
a heartsease blossom to be loved and sheltered by both--the loveliest of
heartsease blossoms whose beauty, whose purity and innocence and the
stored sweets of whose nature were all for him.

The three lived, indeed, for each other only, in a dream-valley apart
from and invisible to, the rest of the world, for their dreams of which
it was constructed made it theirs and theirs alone. Their dreams piled
beautiful mountains around the valley through which peace flowed as a
gentle river, while love and contentment and innocent pleasures were as
flowers besprinkling the grass and speaking to their hearts of the love
and the glory of God, and the fancies with which they beguiled the time
were as tall, fantastic trees, moved by soft zephyrs. And because of the
bright flowers ever springing in the green turf that carpeted the
valley, they named it the _Valley of the Many-Colored Grass_. And to the
three the dream-valley, with its peace and its beauty and its sweet
seclusion, was the real world, while all the wilderness outside of it,
where other men dwelt was the unreal.

       *       *       *       *       *

One happy effect of these peaceful days upon The Dreamer was that there
was in them no temptation to excess--no restless craving for excitement.
The Bohemian--the Edgar Goodfellow--side of him found, it is true, an
outlet, but a harmless one. He found it in the genial atmosphere of the
Widow Meagher's modest eating-house where he and his new crony, Wilmer,
passed many a jolly hour. The widow, an elderly, portly dame, with a
kind Irish heart and keen Irish wit, had the power of diffusing a
wonderful cheerfulness around her. Her shop was clean, if plain, her
oysters were savory, if cheap. Like all women, she petted Edgar Poe, and
hearing from Wilmer that he was a poet, she at once gave him the name by
which the West Point boys had called him, and to all of the frequenters
of her shop he was known as "the Bard."

Her shop had not only an oyster counter, but a bar and a room for cards
and smoking but these had little attraction for Poe at this period of
his career--much to the widow's dissatisfaction, for she wished "the
Bard" to be merry, and did not like to see him neglect what she honestly
and unblushingly believed to be the really good things of life. But
though to her pressing invitations, "Bard take a hand," "Bard take a
nip," he was generally deaf, he was more accomodating when, after
getting off an unusually clever bit of pleasantry (putting her
customers into an uproar of laughter) she would turn to him with, "Bard
put it in poethry." And put it "in poethry" he did--to the increased
hilarity of the crowd.

       *       *       *       *       *

The month of February brought an interruption to the smooth and pleasant
course of The Dreamer's life. A long time had passed since he had heard
anything of his friends down in Virginia, and it was therefore with
quick interest that he broke the seal of a letter bearing the Richmond
post-mark and addressed to him in the unforgotten hand of his early
admirer, Rob Sully. Dear old Rob, the sight of the familiar hand-writing
alone warmed The Dreamer's heart and brought the soft, melting
expression to his eyes!

The object of the letter was to tell him that Mr. Allan was extremely
ill--dying, some thought, though the end might not be immediate. Rob was
taking it upon himself to write because he felt that Eddie ought to
know. Mr. Allan had lately been heard to speak kindly of Eddie, he had
been told, and it had occurred to him that Eddie might like to come on
and have a word of forgiveness from him before he died.

As "Eddie" read, the pleasure the first sight of the letter had given
him turned to sudden, sharp pain. Mr. Allan and--_death_! He had never
thought of associating the two. Under the influence of the shock his
heart became all tenderness and regret.

He hurriedly packed his carpet-bag, kissed Mrs. Clemm and Virginia
goodbye, and set out post-haste for Richmond and the homestead on Main
and Fifth Streets.

He did not stop to lift the brass knocker this time. The forlorn
details of his last visit, his lack of right to cross that threshold
uninvited--what mattered such considerations now? They were, indeed,
forgotten. Everything was forgotten--everything save that the man who
had stood in the position of father to him was dying--dying without a
word of pardon to him, the most wayward (he felt at that moment of
severe contrition)--_the most wayward_ of prodigal sons. Everything was
forgotten save that he was having a race with death--a race for a
father's blessing!

He flung wide the massive front door and hastened through the spacious
hall, up the stair and into the room where the ill man sat in an
arm-chair. On the threshold he paused for a moment. Mr. Allan saw and
recognized him, and at once the misunderstanding of the actions of his
adopted son for which he seemed to have a gift, asserted itself,
construing the visit as an unpardonable liberty. The only motive Mr.
Allan could imagine which could have prompted Edgar Poe to force
himself, as it seemed to him, into his presence at this time was a
mercenary one, and burning with indignation, his eyes gleaming with
something like their old fire, he half raised himself from the chair.

"How dare you?" he screamed in the grating tones of angry old age. Then,
grasping the cane at his side in trembling fingers and raising it with
threatening gesture, he ordered his visitor to leave the room at once.

Edgar Poe stood aghast for a moment, then fled down the stair and out of
the door and turning his back for the last time upon the house whose
young master he had been, with the word "Nevermore" ringing like a knell
in his ears, made his way again to the abode of love and peace in
Baltimore, which held his whole heart and which had become his home.

A few weeks later Mr. Allan died, leaving the whole of his fortune to
his second wife and her children.

       *       *       *       *       *

It now became more important than ever for Edgar Poe to earn a living.
In spite of the fact that Mr. Allan was known to have lost all regard
for him, his friends had always believed that he would be remembered in
the will. They believed that John Allan's rigid, sometimes even
strained, idea of justice would cause him to provide for the boy for
whom he had voluntarily, albeit against his own judgment, made himself
responsible. The fact that the boy had turned out to be, in Mr. Allan's
opinion, "trifling," that he refused to engage in any "useful" work and
that at five and twenty years of age he had not established himself in
any "paying business" would, those who knew Mr. Allan best believed, be
with him but another reason for ensuring against want his first wife's
spoiled darling who was evidently incapable of taking care of himself
and therefore (so they believed he would argue) so much the more his
care.

Possibly The Dreamer may have taken this view himself. However that may
be, the opening of the will silenced all conjecture, and as has been
said, made the need of his making his work produce money more pressing
than ever. His friend Wilmer did his best for him--publishing his
stories in _The Saturday Visitor_ from time to time and paying him as
well as he was able. But Wilmer and his paper were poor themselves. _The
Visitor_ was only a small weekly, with a modest subscription list. It
had little to pay, however good the "copy" and that little and Mother
Clemm's earnings put together barely kept the wolf from the door.

When the frequent and welcome summons to the bountiful board of the
Kennedys came the young poet blushed for shame in the pleasure he could
not help feeling in anticipation of the chance to satisfy his chastened
appetite, and he often found himself fearing that the hunger with which
he ate the good things which these kind friends placed upon his plate
would betray the necessary frugality of the dear "Muddie's"
house-keeping, which was one of the sacred secrets of the sweet home.
Sometimes his pride would make him go so far as to decline delicious
morsels in the hope of correcting such an impression, if it should
exist.

He racked his brain to find a means of making his work bring him more
money. Upon Mr. Kennedy's advice, he sent his "Tales of the Folio Club"
to the Philadelphia publishing house of "Carey and Lea." After several
weeks of anxious waiting he received a letter accepting the collection
for publication but frankly admitting that his receiving any profit from
the sale of the book was an exceedingly doubtful matter. They suggested,
however, that they be permitted to sell some of the tales to publishers
of the then popular "annuals," reserving the right to reprint them in
the book. To this the author gladly consented and received with a joy
that was pathetic the sum of fifteen dollars from "The Souvenir," which
had purchased one of the tales at a dollar a printed page.

He and Wilmer put their heads together in dreams of literary work by
which a man could live. One of these dreams took form in the prospectus
of a purely literary journal of the highest class which was to be in
its criticisms and editorial opinions "fearless, independent and sternly
just."

But the scheme required capital and never got beyond the glowing
prospectus.

In spite of the small sums that came to him as veritable God-sends from
the sale of his stories and from odd jobs on the _Visitor_ and other
journals, Edgar Poe was poor--miserably poor. And just as he had begun
to flatter himself that he did not mind, that he would bear it with the
nonchalance of the true philosopher he believed he had become, it
assumed the shape of horror unspeakable to him. Not for himself, if
there were only himself to think of, he felt assured, he could laugh
poverty--want even--to scorn; but that his little Virginia should feel
the pinch was damnable!

Two years had made marked changes in Virginia. She was losing the
formless plumpness of childhood and growing rapidly into a slight and
graceful maiden--a "rare and radiant maiden," with the tender light of
womanhood beginning to dawn in her velvet eyes and to sweeten the curves
of her lips. A maiden lovelier by far than the child had been but with
the same divine purity and innocence that had always been hers--that
were his, for her beauty, her purity and innocence and the stored sweets
of her nature were still for him alone and for him alone too, was her
sweet companionship--her comradeship--of which he never wearied.

Under his guidance her mind had unfolded like a flower. She was
beginning to speak fluently in French and in Italian. How he loved the
musical southern accents on her tongue! And she was developing an
exquisite singing voice. Her voice was her crowning grace--her voice
was his delight of delights! As he gazed into the shadows that lay under
her long black lashes and listened to her voice, with its hint of hidden
springs of passion, his pulses stirred at the thought that this lovely
flower of dawning womanhood was his little Virginia, and his own heart
ached to think that any desire of hers should ever be denied.

In his desperation he thought of teaching and applied for a position in
a school, but without success.

But relief was at hand.

While the Dreamer and his friend the editor of _The Saturday Visitor_
had been building literary air-castles in Baltimore, a journal destined
to take something approaching such a stand as their ideal was actually
founded, in Richmond, under the title of _The Southern Literary
Messenger_. Its owner and publisher, Mr. Thomas W. White, was no
dreamer, but a practical printer and an enterprising man of business.
Early in this year--the year 1835--Mr. White wrote to Mr. Kennedy,
requesting a contribution from his pen for the new magazine, and, as was
to be expected, Mr. Kennedy, with his wonted thoughtfulness of his
literary protegé, wrote back commending to Mr. White's notice the work
of "a remarkable young man by the name of Edgar Poe."

At Mr. Kennedy's suggestion Edgar bundled off some of the "Tales of the
Folio Club" for Mr. White's inspection, with the result that in the
March number of the _Messenger_ the weird story "Berenice," appeared. It
and its author became at once the talk of the hour, and when the history
of "The Adventures of Hans Phaal" came out in the June number it found
the reading public ready and waiting to fall upon and devour it.

Other stories and articles followed in quick succession and the pungent
critiques and reviews of the new pen were looked for and read with as
great interest as the tales.

In a glow over the prosperity which the popularity of the new writer was
bringing his magazine, Mr. White wrote to him offering him the position
of assistant editor, with a salary of five hundred and twenty dollars a
year, to begin with. Of course the offer was to be accepted! The salary,
small as it was, seemed to The Dreamer in comparison to the diminutive
and irregular sums he had been accustomed to receive, almost like
wealth. But its acceptance would mean, for the present, anyhow,
separation--a break in the small home circle where had been, with all of
its deprivations, so much of joy--a dissolving of the magical Valley of
the Many-Colored Grass. Not for a moment, he vowed to Mother Clemm and
Virginia, was this separation to be looked upon as permanent. Just so
soon as he should be able to provide a home for them in Richmond he
would have them with him again, and there they would reconstruct their
dream-valley. But for the present--.

The present, in spite of the new prosperity, was unbearable!

In vain the Mother with the patience born of her superior years and
experience, assured them that time had wings, and that the days of
absence would be quickly past. To the youthful poet and the little maid
who lived with no other thought than to love and be loved by him a
month--a week--a day apart, seemed an eternity.

In the midst of their woe at the prospect a miracle happened--a miracle
and a discovery.

It fell upon a serene summer's afternoon when the two children--they
were both that at heart--wandered along a sweet, shady lane leading from
the outskirts of town into the country. It was to be their last walk
together for who knew, who could tell how long? The poet's great grey
eyes wore their deepest melancholy and the little maid's soft brown ones
too, were full of trouble, for had not their love turned to pain? They
spoke little, for the love and the pain were alike too deep for words,
but the heart of each was filled with broodings and musings upon the
love it bore the other and upon the agony of parting.

How could he leave her? the poet asked himself. His cherished comrade
whose beauty, whose purity and innocence, the stored sweets of whose
nature were for him alone? Into his life of loneliness, of lovelessness,
of despair--a life from which everyone who had really cared for him had
been snatched by untimely death and shut away from him forever in an
early grave--a life where there had been not only sorrow, but
bitterness--where there had been pain and want and homelessness and
desolate wanderings and longings for the unattainable--where there had
been misunderstanding and distrust and temptation and defeat--into such
a life this wee bit of maidenhood--this true heartsease--had crept and
blossomed, filling heart and life with beauty and hope and love--with
blessed healing.

How could he leave her? To others she seemed wrapped in timid reserve.
He only had the key to the fair realm of her unfolding mind. How could
he bear to leave her for even a little while? How barren his life would
be without her! How shorn of all beauty and grace!

And what would her life be without him, to whom had been offered up all
her beauty and the stored sweets of her nature? Who would guard her from
other eyes, that as her beauty and charm came to their full bloom might
look covetously upon her?

For the first time (and the bare suggestion seemed profanation) it
occured to him that a day might come when, as this slip of maidenhood
walked forth in her surpassing beauty and her precious innocence and
purity the eyes of a man might make note of her loveliness, her
altogether desirableness--might rest upon her with hopes of
possession--and he not there to kill him upon the spot. What if in his
absence another's hand should be stretched to pluck his heartsease
blossom--that left unguarded, unprotected by him, another should snatch
it, in its beauty, its purity and innocence, to his bosom?

The thought was hell!

Faint and trembling, he gazed down upon her as they strolled along,
compelling her soft eyes to meet his anguished ones. His face was white
and strained with his misery. She was pale and trembling, too, and there
was dew on the sweeping lashes, and as she lifted them and looked into
his face she trembled more. He looked upon her, tenderly marvelling to
see in her at once the loveliest of children and of women--a woman with
her first grief!

There was heart-break in his voice, for himself and for her, as he
murmured (brokenly) words of love and of comfort in her ear, and in her
voice as she, brokenly, answered him.

The sun was setting--a pageant in which they both were wont to take
exquisite delight--but they could not look at the glowing heavens for
the heaven of love and of beautiful sorrow that each found in the eyes
of the other.

Suddenly, they knew!

The knowledge burst upon them like an illumining flood. How or whence it
came they could not tell, nor did they question--but they knew that the
love they bore each other was no brother and sister love, but that what
time they had been calling each other "Buddie," and "Sissy," there had
been growing--growing in their hearts the red, red rose of romance--the
love betwixt man and maid of which poets tell--knew that in that sweet,
that sad, that wondrous eventide the rose had burst into glorious
flower.

They trembled in the presence of this sweetest miracle. The beauty and
solemnity of it well nigh deprived them of the power of speech. A divine
silence fell upon them and they slowly, softly took their way homeward
through the gathering dusk, hand in hand--but with few words--to tell
the Mother.

To the widow their disclosure came as a shock. At first she thought the
silly pair must be joking--then that they were mad. Finally she realized
their earnestness and their happiness and saw that the situation was
serious and must be dealt with with the utmost tact. Still, she could
hardly believe what she saw and heard. Was it possible that the demure
girl talking to her so seriously of love and marriage was her little
Virginia--her baby? And that these two should have thought of such a
thing! Cousins!--Brother and sister, almost!--And with such disparity in
ages--thirteen and six-and-twenty!

She had lived long enough, however, to know that love is governed by no
rules or regulations and besides, she had kept through all the changes
and chances of her checkered life, a belief in true love as fresh as a
girl's. This was too sacred a thing to be carelessly handled--only, it
was not what she would have chosen.... Yet--was it not?

A new thought came to her--a revelation--inspiration--what you will, and
sunk her in deep revery.

Why was this not what she would have chosen? Why not a union between her
children--her all? Her own days were fast running out. She could not
live and make a home for them always--then, what would become of them?
She would die happy, when her time came, if she could see them in their
own home, bound by the most sacred, the most indissoluble of ties--bound
together until death should part them!

She fell asleep with a heart full of thankfulness to God for his
mercies.

A quite different view of the matter was taken by other members of the
Poe connection in Baltimore--particularly the men, who positively
refused to regard the love affair as anything more than sentimental
nonsense--"moonshine"--they called it, which would be as fleeting as it
was foolish. Their cousin, Judge Neilson Poe, who had made a pet of
Virginia, was especially active in his opposition and brought every
argument he could think of to bear upon the young lovers and upon Mrs.
Clemm in his endeavor to induce them to break the engagement; but he
only succeeded in sending Virginia flying with frightened face to
"Buddie's" arms, vowing (as, much to Cousin Neilson's disgust, she hung
upon his neck) that she would never give him up, while "Buddie," holding
her close, assured her, in the story-book language that they both loved,
that "all the king's horses and all the king's men" would not be strong
enough to take her from him.



CHAPTER XXI.


Midsummer found Edgar Poe in Richmond and regularly at work upon his new
duties in the office of _The Southern Literary Messenger_. He felt that
if he had not actually reached the end of the rainbow, it was at least
in sight and it rested upon the place of all others most gratifying to
him--the dear city of his boyhood whose esteem he so ardently desired.
Most soothing to his pride, he found it, after his several ignominious
retreats, to return in triumph, a successful author, called to a place
of acknowledged distinction, for all its meagre income.

The playmates of his youth--now substantial citizens of the little
capital--called promptly upon him at his boarding-house. They were glad
to have him back and they showed it; glad of his success and glad and
proud to find their early faith in his powers justified, their early
astuteness proven.

All Richmond, indeed, received him with open arms and if there were some
few persons who could not forget his wild-oats at the University and his
seeming ingratitude to Mr. Allan, who they declared had been the kindest
and most indulgent of fathers to him, and who did not invite him to
their homes or accept invitations to parties given in his honor, they
were the losers--he had friends and to spare.

Yet he was not happy. The ivy had been torn from the oak and there was
no sweet heartsease blossom to make glad his road--to made
daily--hourly--offerings to him and him alone of the beauty, physical
and spiritual, that his soul worshipped--of beauty and of unquestioning
love and sympathy and approbation. In other words, The Dreamer was sick,
miserably sick, with the disease of longing; longing for the modest home
and the invigorating presence of the Mother; longing that was exquisite
pain for the sight, the sound, the touch, the daily companionship of the
child who without losing one whit of the purity, the innocence, the
charm of childhood, had so suddenly, so sweetly become a woman--a woman
embodying all of his dreams--a woman who lived with no other thought
than to love and be loved by him.

Life, no matter what else it might give, life without the soft glance of
her eye, the sweet sound of her voice, the pure touch of her hand within
his hand, her lips upon his lips, was become an empty, aching void.

After two years of the sheltered fireside in Baltimore whose seclusion
had made the dream of the Valley of the Many-Colored Grass possible, the
boarding-house with its hideous clatter, its gossip and its
commonplaceness was the merest make-shift of a home. It was stifling.
How was a dreamer to breathe in a boarding-house? He was even homesick
for the purr and the comfortable airs of the old white cat!

Whenever he could he turned his back upon the boarding-house and tried
to forget it, but the clatter and the gossip seemed to follow him, their
din lingering in his ears as he paced the streets in a fever of disgust
and longing. For the first time since Edgar Poe had opened his eyes upon
the tasteful homelikeness of the widow Clemm's chamber and the tender,
dark eyes of Virginia searching his face with soft wonder, the old
restlessness and dissatisfaction with life and the whole scheme of
things were upon him--the blue devils which he believed had been
exorcised forever had him in their clutches. Whither should he fly from
their harrassments? By what road should he escape?

At the answer--the only answer vouchsafed him--he stood aghast.

"No, no!" he cried within him, "Not that--not that!" Seeking to deafen
his ears to a voice that at once charmed and terrified him, for it was
the voice of a demon which possessed the allurements of an angel--a
demon he reckoned he had long ago fast bound in chains from which it
would never have the strength to arise. It was the voice that dwelt in
the cup--the single cup--so innocent seeming, so really innocent for
many, yet so ruinous for him; for, with all its promises of cheer and
comfort it led--and he knew it--to disaster.

Bitterly he fought to drown the sounds of the voice, but the more he
deafened his ears the more insistent, the clearer, the more alluring its
tones became.

And it followed him everywhere. At every board where he was a guest the
brimming cup stood beside his plate, at every turn of the street he was
buttonholed by some friend old or new, with the invitation to join him
in the "cup of kindness." At every evening party he found himself
surrounded by bevies of charming young Hebes, who, as innocent as angels
of any intention of doing him a wrong, implored him to propose them a
toast.

How could he refuse them? Especially when acquiescence meant escape from
this horrible, horrible soul-sickness, this weight that was bearing his
spirits down--crushing them.

Therein lay the tempter's power. Not in appetite--he was no swine to
swill for love of the draught. When he did yield he drained the cup
scarce tasting its contents. But ah, the freedom from the sickness that
tortured him, the weight that oppressed him! And ah, the exhilaration,
physical and mental, the delightful exhilaration which put melancholy to
flight, loosed his tongue and started the machinery of his brain--which
robbed the past of regret and made the present and the future rosy!

It was in the promise of this exhilaration that the seductiveness of the
dreaded tones lay.

Even his kindly old physician, diagnosing the pallor of his cheeks and
melancholy in his eyes as "a touch of malaria," added a note of
insistence to the voice, as he prescribed that panacea of the day, "a
mint julep before breakfast."

Yet he still sternly and stoutly turned a deaf ear to the voice of the
charmer, while dejection drew him deeper and deeper into its depths
until one day he found he could not write. His pen seemed suddenly to
have lost its power. He sat at his desk in the office of the _Messenger_
with paper before him, with pens and ink at hand, but his brain refused
to produce an idea, and for such vague half-thoughts as came to him, he
could find no words to give expression.

He was seized upon by terror.

Had his gift of the gods deserted him? Better death than life without
his gift! Without it the very ground under his feet seemed uncertain and
unsafe!

Then he fell. Driven to the wall, as it seemed to him, he took the only
road he saw that led, or seemed to lead, to deliverance. He yielded his
will to the voice of the tempter, he tasted the freedom, the
exhilaration, the wild joy that his imagination had pictured--drank deep
of it!

And then he paid the price he had known all along he would have to pay,
though in the hour of his severest temptation the knowledge had not had
power to make him strong. Neither, in that hour, had he been able to
foresee how hard the price would be. That shadowy, yet very real other
self, his avenging conscience, in whose approval he had so long happily
rested, arose in its wrath and rebuked him as he had never been rebuked
before. It scourged him. It held up before him his bright prospects, his
lately acquired and enviable social position, assuring him as it held
them up, of their insecurity. It pointed with warning finger to the end
of the rainbow and the road leading to it seemed to have suddenly grown
ten times longer and rougher than before.

Finally it held up the images of his two good angels, "Muddie," with her
heart of oak, and her tender, sorrow-stricken face, and Virginia, whose
soft eyes were a heaven of trustful love--whose beauty, whose purity and
innocence, the stored sweets of whose nature were for him alone, and to
whom he was as faultless, as supreme as the sun in heaven.

It was too much. The dejection into which his "blue devils" had cast him
was as nothing to the remorse that overwhelmed him now. On his knees
before Heaven he confessed that his last estate was worse than his
first, and cried aloud for forgiveness for the past and strength for the
future.

In this mood he sat down to write to Mr. Kennedy (who had been absent
upon a summer vacation when he left Baltimore) a letter of
acknowledgment for his benefactions--for whatever The Dreamer was, it is
very certain that he was _not_ ungrateful.

The date he placed at the top of his page was "September 11, 1835."

"I received a letter yesterday," he wrote, "which tells me you are back
in town. I hasten therefore, to write you and express by letter what I
have always found it impossible to express orally--my deep sense of
gratitude for your frequent and effectual assistance and kindness.

"Through your influence Mr. White has been induced to employ me in
assisting him with the editorial duties of his Magazine--at a salary of
$520 per annum."

He had not intended to mention his troubles to Mr. Kennedy, but with
each word he wrote the impulse to unburden himself which he always felt
when talking to this kind, sympathetic man, grew stronger and he found
his pen almost automatically taking an unexpected turn. It was out of
the abundance of his anguished heart that he added:

"The situation is agreeable to me for many reasons--but alas! it appears
that nothing can now give me pleasure--or the slightest gratification.
Excuse me, my Dear Sir, if in this letter you find much incoherency. My
feelings at this moment are pitiable indeed. You will believe me when I
say that I am still miserable in spite of the great improvement in my
circumstances; for a man who is writing for effect does not write thus.
My heart is open before you--if it be worth reading, read it. I am
wretched and know not why. Console me--for you can. Convince me that it
is worth one's while to live. Persuade me to do what is right. You will
not fail to see that I am suffering from a depression of spirits which
will ruin me if it be long continued. Write me then, and quickly. Urge
me to do what is right. Your words will have more weight with me than
the words of others--for you were my friend when no one else was."

Some men of more goodness than wisdom might have read this letter with
impatience--perhaps disgust, and tossed it into the waste basket, not
deeming it worth an answer, or pigeon-holed it to be answered in a more
convenient season--which would probably never have arrived. It is easy
to imagine the contempt with which John Allan would have perused it. Not
so John Kennedy. Busy lawyer and successful man of letters and of the
world though he was, he had gone out of his way to stretch a hand to the
gifted starveling he had discovered struggling for a foothold on the
bottommost rung of the ladder of literary fame, and had not only helped
him up the ladder but had drawn him, in his weakness and his strength,
into the circle of his friendship, and now he had no idea of letting him
go. Mr. Kennedy was a great lawyer with a great tenderness for human
nature, born of a great knowledge of it. He did not expect young
men--even talented ones--to be faultless or to be fountains of sound
sense, or even always to be strong of will. When he received Edgar Poe's
wail he had just returned to his office after a long vacation and found
himself over head and ears in work; but he responded at once. If it had
seemed to him a foolish letter he did not say so. If it had shocked or
disappointed him, he did not say so. He wrote in the kindly tolerant and
understanding tone he always took with his protegé a letter wholesome
and bracing as a breath from the salt sea.

"My dear Poe," he began, in his simple familiar way, "I am sorry to see
you in such plight as your letter shows you in. It is strange that just
at the time when everybody is praising you and when Fortune has begun to
smile upon your hitherto wretched circumstances you should be invaded by
these villainous blue devils. It belongs however, to your age and temper
to be thus buffeted--but be assured it only wants a little resolution to
master the adversary forever. Rise early, live generously, and make
cheerful acquaintances and I have no doubt you will send these
misgivings of the heart all to the Devil. You will doubtless do well
henceforth in literature and add to your comforts as well as your
reputation which it gives me great pleasure to tell you is everywhere
rising in popular esteem."

This and more he wrote, in kind, encouraging vein, and closed his letter
with a friendly invitation:

"Write to me frequently, and believe me very truly

    "Yours,

    "JOHN P. KENNEDY."

The same post that brought Mr. Kennedy's letter brought The Dreamer
other mail from Baltimore--brought him letters from both Virginia and
Mother Clemm.

They had an especial reason for writing, each said. They had news for
him--news which was most disturbing to them and they feared it would be
to him.

Disturbing indeed, was the news the letters brought. It drove him into a
rage and aroused him into action which made him forget all of his late
troubles.

Their Cousin Neilson and his wife, they wrote him, had not ceased to
bring every argument they could think of to bear upon Virginia to induce
her to break her engagement and had finally proposed that they should
take her into their home, treat her as an own daughter or young sister,
providing for her all things needful and desirable for a young girl of
her station, until her eighteenth birthday, after which if she and Edgar
had not changed their minds, they could be married.

He dashed off and posted answers to the letters at once, making violent
protest against a scheme that seemed to him positively iniquitous and
pleading with "Muddie" to keep Virginia for him. But writing was not
enough. He determined to answer in person.

A day or two later Virginia and her mother were in the act of discussing
his letters, which had just come, when the sitting-room door quietly
opened, and there stood the man who was all the world to them!

Virginia, with a scream of delight, was in his arms in a flash and began
telling him, breathlessly, what a fright she had been in for fear
"Cousin Neilson" would take her away and she would never see him again.

With a rising tide of tenderness for her and rage against their cousin,
he kissed the trouble from her eyes.

"Don't be afraid, sweetheart," he murmured, "He shall never take you
from me. I have come back to marry you!"

"To marry her?" exclaimed Mrs. Clemm. "At once, do you mean?"

"At once! Today or tomorrow--for I must be getting back to Richmond as
soon as possible. Don't you see, Muddie, that this is just a plot of
Neilson's to separate us? He never cared for me--he loves Virginia and
is determined I shall not have her. But we'll outwit him! We'll be
married at once. We'll have to keep it secret at first--until I am able
to provide a home for my little wife and our dear mother in Richmond,
but I will go away with peace of mind and leave her in peace of mind,
for once she is mine only death can come between us. We will keep it
secret dear," he added, with his lips on the dusky hair of the little
maid who was still held fast in his arms. "We will keep it secret, but
if Neilson Poe becomes troublesome you will only have to show him your
marriage certificate."

Virginia joyfully agreed to this plan, while the widow, finding
opposition useless, finally consented too--and the impetuous lover was
off post-haste for a license.

It was a unique little wedding which took place next day in Christ
Church, when a beautiful, dreamy looking youth, with intellectual brow
and classic profile and a beautiful, dreamy-looking maid, half his age,
plighted their troth. The only attendant was Mother Clemm in her
habitual plain black dress and widow's cap, with floating cap-strings,
sheer and snowy white. No music, no flowers, no witnesses even, save the
widowed mother and the aged sexton who was bound over to strict secrecy.

But in the dim, still, empty church the beautiful words of the old, old
rite seemed to this strange pair of lovers to take on new solemnity as
they fell from the lips of the white robed priest and sank deep into
their young hearts, filling and thrilling them with fresh hope and faith
and love and high resolve.



CHAPTER XXII.


In the following spring Edgar Poe and Virginia Clemm were, strange as it
may seem, principals in another wedding. The months intervening between
the two ceremonies had been teeming with interest to them both--filled
with work and with happiness just short of that perfect
satisfaction--that completeness--that unattainable which it is part of
being a mortal with an immortal mind and soul to be continually striving
after, and missing, and will be until the half-light of this world is
merged into the light ineffable of the one to come.

The Dreamer had returned from his brief visit to Baltimore a new man.
The blue devils were gone. The heart and mind which they had made their
dwelling-place were swept clean of every vestige of them and were filled
to overflowing with a sweet and rare presence--the presence of her who
lived with no other thought than to love and be loved by him; for he
felt that her spirit was with him at every moment of the day, though her
fair body was other whither. The consciousness of the secret he carried
in his heart flooded his nature with sunshine. Because of it he carried
his head more proudly--wore a new dignity which his friends attributed
entirely to the success of his work upon the magazine. He was filled
with peace and good will to all the world. He was happy and wanted
everybody else to be happy--it was apparent in himself and in his work.
In his dreamy moods his fancy spread a broader, a stronger wing, and
soared with new daring to heights unexplored before. When Edgar
Goodfellow was in the ascendency he threw himself with unwonted zest
into the pleasures that were "like poppies spread" in the way of the
successful author and editor--the literary lion of the town.

He had always been an enthusiastic and graceful dancer and now nothing
else seemed to give him so natural a vent for the happiness that was
beating in his veins. His feet seemed like his pen, to be inspired. He
felt that he could dance till Doomsday and all the prettiest, most
bewitching girls let him see how pleased they were to have him for a
partner. In the brief, glowing rests between the dances he rewarded them
with charming talk, and verses in praise of their loveliness which
seemed to fall without the slightest effort from his tongue into their
pretty, delighted ears or from his pencil into their albums.

There was at least one fair damsel--a slight, willowy creature with
violet eyes and flaxen ringlets, who treasured the graceful lines he
dedicated to her with a feeling warmer than friendship. She was pretty
Eliza White, the daughter of his employer, the owner of the _Southern
Literary Messenger_. She was herself a lover of poetry and romance, and
a dreamer of dreams, all of which had erelong merged into one sweet
dream so secret, so sacred that she scarce dared own it to her own inner
self, and its central figure was her father's handsome assistant editor,
who rested in blissful ignorance of the havoc he was making in her
maiden heart, engrossed as he was in his own secret--his own romance.

New energy, new zest, new life seemed to have entered his blood. He had
endless capacity for work as well as for pleasure and could write all
day and dance half the night and then lie awake star-gazing the other
half and rise ready and eager for the day's work in the morning. Such a
tonic--such a stimulant did his love for his faraway bride and his
consciousness of her love for him prove.

He was happy--very, very happy, but he desired to be happier still. The
simple, beautiful words of the old, old rite uttered in the dim, empty
church had woven an invisible bond between him and the maiden whom he
loved to call in his heart his wife though the time when he could claim
her before the world was not yet.

The miracle that this bond wrought in him was a revelation to him. Was
the priest a wizard? Did the words of the ancient rite possess any
intrinsic power of enchantment undreamed of by the uninitiated?

He had not believed it possible for mortal to love more wholly--more
madly than he had loved the little Virginia before that sacred ceremony,
but after it he knew there were heights of love of which he had not
hitherto had a glimpse. Just the right to say to his heart "She is my
own--my wife--" made her tenfold more precious than she had ever been
before, but it also made the separation tenfold harder to bear--made it
beyond his power to bear!

The Valley of the Many-Colored Grass had been dissolved--the spell that
had brought it into being broken, by the separation, and he longed with
a longing that was as hunger and thirst to reconstruct this magical
world in which he and his Virginia dwelt apart with her who was mother
to them both, in Richmond. And so, poor as he was, he arranged to bring
Virginia and Mother Clemm to Richmond and establish them in a boarding
house where he could see them often and wait with better grace the still
happier day of making his marriage public.

The day came more speedily than they had let themselves hope. The
popularity of the _Messenger_ and the fame of its assistant editor had
grown with leaps and bounds. The new year brought the welcome gift of
promotion to full editorship, with an increase of salary. With the
opening spring began plans for the divulging of the great secret--for
public acknowledgment of the marriage. But how was it to be done?--That
was the question! Edgar Poe knew too well the disapproval with which the
world regarded secret marriages--with which he himself regarded them,
ordinarily. His sense of refinement of fitness, of the sacredness of the
marriage tie, revolted from the very idea.

In what fashion then, could he and his little bride proclaim their
secret that would not do violence to their own taste or set a buzz of
gossip going? That the horrid lips of gossip should so much as breathe
the name of his Virginia--that Mrs. Grundy should dare shrug her
decorous shoulders, if ever so slightly, at mention of that sacred
name--. The bare suggestion was intolerable!

At last a solution offered itself to his mind. Not for an instant did he
regret the sacred ceremony in Christ Church, Baltimore. Not for worlds
would he have cut short for one moment of time the duration of the
beautiful spiritual marriage when he had been able to say to himself:
"She whose presence fills my heart and my life--whose spirit I can feel
near me at my work, in my hours of recreation and in my dreams, is my
wife." But of this exquisite, this inexpressibly dear union the world
was in utter ignorance. It was known only to the Mother, the priest and
the aged sexton. To these witnesses always, as to themselves, their
marriage would date from the moment when the blessing was invoked above
their bowed heads in Christ Church, but to the world--why not let it
date from the day in which they would claim each other before the world,
in Richmond?

The thing was most simple! A second ceremony in the presence of a few
friends--a brief announcement in next day's paper--and their life would
be begun with the dignity, the prestige, of public marriage.

       *       *       *       *       *

The sixteenth of May was the day chosen for the event which was more
like a wedding in Arcady than in latter-day society. As at the secret
ceremony, the customary preparations for a wedding were conspicuously
absent; yet was not the whole town gala with sunshine and verdure and
May-bloom and bird-song?

Edgar Poe looked every inch a bridegroom as, with his girl-wife upon his
arm, he stepped forth from Mrs. Yarrington's boarding-house, opposite
the green slopes of Capitol Square. A bridegroom indeed!--plainly, but
perfectly apparelled--handsome, proud, fearless--his great eyes luminous
with solemn joy.

The simplest of white frocks became Virginia's innocence and beauty more
than costly bridal array and the nosegay of white violets above her
chaste bosom was her only ornament.

With this sweet pair came the happy mother and a little train of close
friends. It was late afternoon. The sunshine was mellow and the air was
filled with the delicious insense which in mid-May the majestic
paulonia tree drops from its purple bells and which is the very breath
of the warm-natured South.

No line of carriages stood at the door. No awning shut the picture they
made from admiring eyes, but happily the little party chatted together
as they strolled under over-arching greenery to the corner of Main and
Seventh Streets, where in the prim parlor of the Presbyterian minister,
the words were pronounced which told the world that Edgar Poe and
Virginia Clemm were one.

Upon the return of the party to Mrs. Yarrington's, a cake was cut, the
health and happiness of the bride and groom were drunk in wine of
"Muddie's" own make, and the modest festival was over.

       *       *       *       *       *

How happy the young lovers and dreamers were in their home-making! Their
housekeeping and furnishings were the simplest, but love made everything
beautiful and sufficient. They had a garden in which they planted all
their favorite flowers and to which came the birds--the birds with whom
they had discovered a sudden kinship, for they too, were nesting--and
filled it with music. And they sang and chatted as happily as the birds
themselves as the pretty business progressed.

How delightful it was to receive their friends, together, in their own
home and at their own board--Eddie's old friends, especially. Rob
Stanard, now a prosperous lawyer, and Rob Sully whose reputation as an
artist was growing, were the first to call and present their compliments
to the bride and groom; and how cordial they were! How affectionate to
Eddie--how warm in their expressions of friendship for the girl-wife!

Virginia found it the greatest fun imaginable to go to market with
"Muddie," with a basket hanging from her pretty arm. The market men and
women began to daily watch for the sweet face and tripping step of the
exquisite child whom it seemed so comical to address as "_Mrs._ Poe,"
and who rewarded their open admiration with the loveliest smile, the
prettiest words of greeting and interest, the merriest rippling laugh
that rang through the market place and waked echoes in many a heart that
had believed itself a stranger to joy.

And the Valley of the Many-Colored Grass was reconstructed in even more
than its old beauty. The flowers of love and contentment and innocent
pleasure that besprinkled its green carpet had never been so many or so
gay, the dream-mountains that shut it in from the rest of the world were
as fair as sunset clouds, and the peace that flowed through it as a
river broke into singing as it flowed.

       *       *       *       *       *

Meantime Edgar Poe worked--and worked--and worked.

Every number of the _Messenger_ contained page after page of the
brilliantly conceived and artistically worded product of his brain and
pen. His heart--his imagination satisfied and at rest in the love and
comradeship of a woman who fulfilled his ideal of beauty, of character,
and of charm, whose mind he himself had taught and trained to appreciate
and to love the things that meant most to him, whose sympathy responded
to his every mood, whose voice soothed his tired nerves with the music
that was one of the necessities of his temperament, a woman, withal, who
lived with no other thought than to love and be loved by him--his
harassing devils cast out by this true heartsease, Edgar Poe's industry
and his power of mental production were almost past belief.

As he worked a dream that had long been half-formed in his brain took
definite shape and became the moving influence of the intellectual side
of his life. His literary conscience had always been strict--even
exacting--with him, making him push the quest for the right word in
which to express his idea--just the right word, no other--to its
farthest limit. Urged by this conscience, he could rarely ever feel that
his work was finished, but kept revising, polishing and republishing it
in improved form, even after it had been once given to the world. He had
in his youth contemplated serving his country as a soldier. He now began
to dream of serving her as a captain of literature, as it were--as a
defender of purity of style; for this dream which became the most
serious purpose of his life was of raising the standard of American
letters to the ideal perfection after which he strove in his own
writings.

For his campaign a trusty weapon was at hand in the editorial department
of the _Southern Literary Messenger_, which he turned into a sword of
fearless, merciless criticism.

Literary criticism (so called) in America had been hitherto mere
puffery--puffery for the most part of weak, prolix, commonplace
scribblings of little would-be authors and poets. A reformation in
criticism, therefore, Edgar Poe conceived to be the only remedy for the
prevalent mediocrity in writing that was vitiating the taste of the day,
the only hope of placing American literature upon a footing of equality
with that of England--in a word, for bringing about anything approaching
the perfection of which he dreamed.

The new kind of criticism to which he introduced his readers created a
sensation by reason of its very novelty. His brilliant, but withering
critiques were more eagerly looked for than the most thrilling of his
stories, and though the little, namby-pamby authors whom the gleaming
sword mowed down by tens were his and the _Messenger's_ enemies for
life, the interested readers that were gathered in by hundreds were loud
in their praise of the progressiveness of the magazine and the genius of
the man who was making it.

In the North as well as the South the name of Edgar Poe was now on many
lips and serious attention began to be paid to the opinion of the
_Southern Literary Messenger_.



CHAPTER XXIII.


Between his literary work, his home and his social life in Richmond, it
would seem that every need of The Dreamer's being was now satisfied and
the days of his life were moving in perfect harmony. But "the little
rift within the lute" all too soon made its appearance. It was caused by
the alarm of Mr. White, the owner and founder of the _Messenger_.

"Little Tom White" was a most admirable man--within his limitations. If
he was not especially interesting, his daughter Eliza of the violet eyes
was, and he was reliable--which was better. He had a kind little heart
and a clear little business head and his advice upon all matters (within
his experience) was safe. Though he saw from the handsome increase in
the number of the _Messenger's_ subscribers that his young editor was a
valuable aid, he did not realize how valuable. Indeed, Edgar Poe and his
style of writing were entirely outside of Mr. White's experience. They
were so altogether unlike anything he had known before that in spite of
the praise of the thousands of readers which they had brought to the
magazine the dissatisfaction of the tens of little namby-pamby authors
alarmed him. Edgar Poe found him one morning in a state of positive
trepidation. He sat at his desk in the _Messenger_ office with the
morning's mail--an unusually large pile of it--before him. In it there
were a number of new subscriptions, several letters from the little
authors protesting against the manner in which their works were handled
in the review columns of the magazine and one or two from well-known
and highly respected country gentlemen expressing their disapproval of
the _strangeness_ in Edgar Poe's tales and poems.

Mr. White appreciated the genius of his editor--within his
limitations--but he was afraid of it and these letters made him more
afraid of it. He saw that he must speak to Edgar--add his protest to the
protests of the little authors and the country gentlemen and see if he
could not persuade him to tone down the sharpness of his criticisms and
the strangeness of his stories.

It was with a feeling of relief that he saw the trim, black-clad figure
of the young editor and author at the door, for he would like to settle
the business before him at once. His manner was grave--solemn--as he
approached the subject upon which his employe must be spoken to.

"Edgar," he said, when good-mornings had been exchanged, "I want you to
read these letters. They are in the same line as some others we have
been receiving lately--but more so--decidedly more so."

"Ah?" said The Dreamer, as he seated himself at the desk and began to
unfold and glance over the letters.

"Little Tom" watched his face with a feeling of wonder at the look of
mixed scorn and amusement that appeared in the expressive eyes and mouth
as he read. Finally the anxious little man laid his hand upon the arm of
his unruly assistant, with an air of kindly patronage.

"You have talent, Edgar," he said, with a touch of condescension, "Good
talent--especially for criticism--and will some day make your mark in
that line if you will stick to it and let these weird stories alone. We
must have fewer of the stories in future and more critiques, but milder
ones. It is the critiques that the readers want; but in both stories and
critiques you must put a restraint on that pen of yours, Edgar. In the
stories less of the weird--the strange--in the critiques, less of the
satirical. Let moderation be your watchword, my boy. Cultivate
moderation in your writing, and with your endowment you will make a name
for yourself as well as the magazine."

Edgar Poe was all attention--respectful attention that was most
encouraging--while Mr. White was speaking, and when he had finished sat
with a contemplative look in his eyes, as if weighing the words he had
just heard. Presently he looked up and with the expression of face and
voice of one who in all seriousness seeks information, asked,

"Is moderation really the word you are after, Mr. White, or is it
mediocrity?"

The announcement at the very moment when the question was put, of a
visitor--a welcome one, for he brought a new subscription--precluded a
reply, and in the busy day that followed the broken thread of
conversation was never taken up again. But the unanswered question left
Mr. White with a confused sense which stayed with him during the whole
day and at intervals all through it he was asking himself what Edgar Poe
meant. Truly his talented employe was a puzzling fellow! Could it be
possible that the question asked with that serious face, that quiet
respectful air, was intended for a joke? That the impudent fellow could
have been quizzing him? No wonder his stories gave people
shivers--there was at times something about the fellow himself which was
positively uncanny!

That he and "little Tom" would always see opposite sides of the picture
became more and more apparent to The Dreamer as time went on and along
with this difficulty another and a more serious one arose.

Though the amount of work--of successful work, for it brought the
_Messenger_ a steadily increasing stream of new subscribers--which he
was now putting forth, should have surrounded the beloved wife and
mother with luxuries and placed him beyond the reach of financial
embarrassment, the returns he received from the entire fruitage of his
brilliant talent--his untiring pen--at this the prime-time of his
life--in the fullness of mental and physical vigour, was so small that
he was constantly harrassed by debt and frequently reduced to the
humiliating necessity of borrowing from his friends to make two ends
meet.

The plain truth was gradually borne in upon him--the prizes of fame and
wealth that for the sake of his sweet bride he coveted more earnestly
than ever before, were not to be found, by him, in Richmond, or as an
employe of Mr. White. But the hues of the bow of promise with which hope
spanned the sky of his inward vision were still bright, and he believed
that at its end the coveted prizes would surely still be found--provided
he did not lose heart and give up the quest. Indications of the growth
of his reputation at the North had been many. In the North the
facilities for publishing were so much more abundant than in the South.
The publishing houses and the periodicals of New York, of Boston, and of
Philadelphia would create a demand for literary work--and from these
large cities his message to the world would go out with greater
authority than from a small town like Richmond.

It was not until the year 1838 that he finally resolved to make the
break and sent in his resignation to the _Messenger_. In the three years
since his first appearance in its columns the number of names upon its
subscription list had increased from seven hundred to five thousand.

Though Edgar Poe's connection with the magazine as editor was at an end,
Mr. White took pains to announce that he was to continue to be a regular
contributor and the appearance of his serial story, "Arthur Gordon Pym,"
then running, was to be uninterrupted.

       *       *       *       *       *

It was a far cry from the gardens and porches and open houses of
Richmond to the streets of New York--from the easy going country town
where society held but one circle, to a city, with its locked doors and
its wheels within wheels. Indeed, the single circle in Richmond, bound
together as it was by the elastic, but secure, tie of Virginia
cousinship and neighborliness then regarded as almost the same thing as
relationship, was practically one big family. Whoever was not your
cousin or your neighbor was the next best thing--either your neighbor's
cousin or your cousin's neighbor--so there you were.

Though Edgar and Virginia Poe and the Widow Clemm had no blood kin in
Richmond they were, during those two years' residence there, taken into
the very heart of this pleasant, kindly circle, and it was with keen
homesickness that they realized that "in a whole cityful friends they
had none."

But if this trio of dreamers felt strangely out of place in the streets
of New York, they looked more so. As they sauntered along, in their
leisurely southern fashion, their picturesque appearance arrested the
gaze of many a hurrying passer-by. In contrast to the up-to-date, alert,
keen-eyed crowd upon the busy streets, the air of distinction which
marked them everywhere was more pronounced than ever. They gave the
impression of a certain exquisite fineness of quality, combined with
quaintness, that one is sensible of in looking upon rare china.

In and out--in and out--among the crowds of these streets where being a
stranger he felt himself peculiarly alone, Edgar the Dreamer walked many
days in his quest for work. Here, there and everywhere, his pale face
and solemn eyes with less and less of hope in them were seen. He had
been right in believing that his reputation was growing and had reached
New York--yet no one wanted his work. The supply of literature exceeded
the demand, he was told everywhere. It is true that he succeeded in
placing an occasional article, for which he would be paid the merest
pittance. Man should not expect to live by writing alone, he found to be
the general opinion--he should have a business or profession and do his
scribbling in the left-over hours.

Still, his appearance at the door of a newspaper, magazine or book
publisher's office, accompanied by the announcement of his name, brought
him respect and a polite hearing--if that could afford any satisfaction
to a man whose darling wife was growing wan from insufficient food.

One devoted friend he and his family made in Mr. Gowans, a Scotchman and
a book-collector of means and cultivation, whose fancy for them went so
far as to induce him to become a member of the unique little family in
the dingy wooden shanty which they had succeeded in renting for a song.
To this old gentleman, who had the reputation of being something of a
crank, The Dreamer's conversation and Virginia's beauty and exquisite
singing were never-failing wells of delight, while the generous sum that
he paid for the privilege of sharing their home was an equal benefit to
them and went a long way toward supplying the simple table. The little
checks which "little Tom" White sent for the monthly instalments of
"Arthur Gordon Pym," upon which his ex-editor industriously worked, were
also most welcome. But with all they could scrape together the income
was insufficient to keep three souls within three bodies, and three
bodies decently covered.

Before the year in New York was out the rainbow was pale in the sky--its
colors were faded and its end was invisible--obscured by lowering
clouds. At the moment when it seemed faintest it came out clear
again--this time setting toward Philadelphia, whose name the hope that
rarely left him for long at a time whispered in The Dreamer's ear.

Why not Philadelphia? Philadelphia--then the acknowledged seat of the
empire of Letters. Philadelphia--the city of Penn, the "City of
Brotherly Love." There was for one of The Dreamer's superstitious turn
of mind and his love of words and belief in their power, an
attraction--a significance in the very names. He said them over and over
again to himself--rolled them on his tongue, fascinated with their sound
and with their suggestiveness.

He bade Virginia and "Muddie" keep up brave hearts, for they would turn
their backs upon this cold, inhospitable New York and set up their
household gods in the "City of Brotherly Love." The city of Penn, he
added, was the place for one of his calling--laughing as he spoke, at
the feeble pun--but there was new hope and life in the laugh. In Penn's
city, even if disappointments should come they would be able to bear
them, for how should human beings suffer in the "City of Brotherly
Love?"



CHAPTER XXIV.


The year was waning--the year 1838--when Edgar Poe removed his family
from New York. About the hour of noon, upon a pleasant day of the spring
following, he might have been seen to turn from the paved streets of the
"City of Brotherly Love," and to enter, and walk briskly along, a grassy
thoroughfare of Spring Garden--a village-like suburb.

He was going home to Virginia and the Mother--to a new home in this
village which they had been first tempted to explore by its delightful
name and which they had found seeing was to love, for in its appearance
the name was justified. The quiet streets were lined with trees just
coming into leaf, in which birds were building, happy and unafraid, and
spring flowers were blooming in little plots before many of the
unpretentious homes.

The place also possessed a more practical attraction in the
reasonableness of its house-rents. Delightfully low was the price asked
for a small, Dutch-roofed cottage that was just to their minds. It was
small, yet quite large enough to hold the three and their modest
possessions, and about it hung a quaint charm that might have been
wanting in a more ambitious abode. Though in excellent preservation it
had a pleasantly time-worn air and there was moss, in velvety green
patches, on its sloping roof. It was set somewhat back from the street,
with a bit of garden spot in front of it, in whose rich soil violets and
single hyacinths--blue and white--were blooming, and its square porch
supported a climbing rose, heavy with buds, that only needed training
to make it a bower of beauty.

After having tried several more or less unsatisfactory homes during
their brief residence in Philadelphia, they felt that they had at last
found one that filled their requirements, and had promptly moved in.
There were no servants--maids would have been in the way they happily
told each other--but Virginia and her mother had positive genius for
neatness and order. At their touch things seemed to fly by magic into
the places where they would look best and at the same time be most
convenient, and it was astonishing how quickly the arrangement of their
small belongings converted the cottage into a home.

It was with light heart and step that the master of the house took his
way homeward to the mid-day meal. The periodicals of the "City of
Brotherly Love" were keeping him busy, and there was at that moment
money in his pocket--not much, but still it was money--that day received
for his latest story.

As he drew near a corner just around which his new roof-tree stood, he
stopped suddenly--in the attitude of one who listens. Peal after peal of
rippling laughter was filling the air with music. In his vivid eyes, as
he listened, shone the soft light of love and a smile of infinite
tenderness played about his lips. Well he knew from what lovely, girlish
throat came the merry sounds--sweet and clear as a chime of silver
bells. A quickened step brought him instantly in view of her and the
cause of her mirth.

She stood in the rose-hooded doorway leaning upon a broom. Her cheeks
were pink with the exertion she had been making and her sleeves were
rolled up, leaving her dimpled, white arms bare to the elbow. Her soft
eyes were radiant and she was laughing for sheer delight in the picture
the stately "Muddie" made white-washing the palings that enclosed the
wee garden-spot from the street. When she saw her husband at the gate
she dropped her broom and ran into his arms like a child.

"Oh, Buddie, Buddie," she cried, "are not our palings beautiful? Muddie
did them for a surprise for you!"

"Buddie" was enthusiastic in admiration of the white palings and praised
the gentle white-washer to the skies. Then the three happy workers went
inside to their simple repast, which the sauce of content turned into a
banquet.

The door had been left open to the sunshine and the result was an
unexpected guest--a handsome tortoise-shell kitten which strayed in to
ask a share of their meal. She paused, timidly, upon the threshold for a
moment, then fixing her amber eyes upon The Dreamer, made straight for
him and arching her back and waving her tail like a plume, in the air
she rubbed her glossy sides against his ankle in a manner that was truly
irresistible. All three gave her a warm welcome. Edgar regarded her
appearance as a good omen; Virginia was delighted to have a pet, and
"Catalina," as they named her, became from the moment a regular and
favorite member of the family.

       *       *       *       *       *

The cottage contained but five rooms--three downstairs (including the
kitchen) and upstairs two, with low-pitched, shelving walls and narrow
little slits of windows on a level with the floor. But as has been said,
it was large enough--large enough to shelter love and happiness and
genius--large enough to hold the dream of the Valley of the Many-Colored
Grass, with its fair river and its enchanted trees and flowers, in which
the three dreamers lived apart and for each other only.

It was large enough for the freest expansion the world had yet seen of
the vivid-hued imagination of Edgar Poe.

Night and day his brain was busy--"fancy unto fancy linking"--and the
periodicals teemed with his work.

In _The American Museum_, of Baltimore appeared his fantastic
prose-poem, "Ligeia," with his theory of the power of the human will for
a text--his favorite of all of his "tales"--_his_ favorite, in the
weakness of whose own will lay the real tragedy of his life! In _The
Gift_, of Philadelphia, appeared, a little later the dramatic
"conscience-story," "William Wilson," with its clear-cut pictures of
school-life at old Stoke-Newington. _The Baltimore Book_ gave the
thrilling fable, "Silence," to the world. The weirdly beautiful "Haunted
Palace" and "The Fall of the House of Usher" followed in quick
succession--in _The American Museum_.

"The Fall of the House of Usher," brought The Dreamer a pat-on-the back
from "little Tom" White, who in writing of the tale in _The Southern
Literary Messenger_, informed the world: "We always predicted that Mr.
Poe would reach a high grade in American literature; only we wish Mr.
Poe would stick to the department of criticism; there he is an able
professor."

Wrote James Russell Lowell, of the same story,

     "Had its author written nothing else it would have been enough
     to stamp him as a man of genius."

The cottage in Spring Garden was large enough too, for the sweet uses
of hospitality. By the time the roses on the porch were open, friends
and admirers began to find their way to it, and all who came through the
white-washed gate and sat down in the green-hooded porch or passed
through it into the bright and tasteful rooms felt the poetic charm
which this son of genius and his exquisite bit of a wife and the stately
mother with the "Mater Dolorosa" expression, threw over their simple
surroundings.

Among those who found their way thither was "Billy" Burton, an
Englishman, and an actor, who though a graduate of Cambridge was "better
known as a commedian than as a literary man." He had written several
books, however, and was the publisher of _The Gentleman's Magazine_, of
Philadelphia. Here too, came intimately, Mr. Alexander, one of the
founders of _The Saturday Evening Post_, to which The Dreamer was a
frequent contributor, and Mr. Clarke, first editor of _The Post_ and
others of what Edgar Poe's friend, Wilmer, would have dubbed the "press
gang" of Philadelphia.

To be intimate with The Dreamer meant to adore the little wife with the
face of a Luca della Robbia chorister and the voice which should have
belonged to one--with the merry, irresistible ways of a perfectly happy
child,--and to revere the mother.

The cottage was also found to be large enough (as the fame of its master
grew) to be the destination of letters from the literary stars of the
day. Longfellow and Lowell and Washington Irving, on this side of the
water, and Dickens, in England, were among Edgar Poe's numerous
correspondents while a dweller in the rose-embowered cottage in Spring
Garden.

In addition to the stories, poems, essays and critiques which the
indefatigable Dreamer was putting out, he found time to publish a
collection of his "Tales of the Grotesque and Arabesque," in book form.
He was also (unfortunately for him) induced to prepare a work on
sea-shells for the use of schools--"The Conchologist's First Book," it
was called. This was unmistakably a mere "pot-boiler" and confessedly a
compilation, but it set the little authors whose namby-pamby works the
self-appointed Defender of the Purity of Style in American Letters had
consigned to an early grave, like a nest of hornets buzzing about his
ears.

"Plagarism!" was the burden of their hum.

Even while the discordant chorus was being chanted, however, his
wonderfully original tales continued to make their appearance at
intervals--chiefly in _The Gentleman's Magazine_, whose editor, at
"Billy" Burton's invitation, he had become.

       *       *       *       *       *

In the midst of all this activity one of his old and most cherished
dreams took more definite shape than ever before--the dream of becoming
himself the founder of a magazine in which he could write as his genius
and his fancy should dictate without having to be constantly making
compromises with editors and proprietors--a periodical which would
fulfil his ideal of magazine literature, which he predicted would be the
leading literature of the future. With his prophetic eye he foresaw the
high pressure under which the American of coming years would live, and
he never lost an opportunity to express the opinion that the reader of
the future would give preference to the essay, or story, or poem which
could be read at a sitting--which would waste no time in preamble or
conclusion, but in which every word would be chosen by the literary
artist with the nicety with which the painter selects the exact tint he
needs, and in which every word would tell. And such works he conceived
it would be especially the province of the magazine to present.

He went so far as to prepare a prospectus and advertise for subscribers
to _The Penn Monthly_, as he proposed naming this child of his hopes,
and his proposition to enter the field of magazine publishing not only
as an editor, but as a proprietor, bade fair to be the rock upon which
he and his friend "Billy" Burton would split. They came to an
understanding finally, however, for when Mr. Burton, a little later,
decided to abandon _The Gentleman's Magazine_ and devote himself
exclusively to the theatre, he said to Mr. George R. Graham, the owner
of _The Gasket_, to whom he sold out,

"By the way, Graham, there's one thing I want to ask, and that is that
you will take care of my young editor."

Edgar Poe was at the moment lost in the happy dream of his own _Penn
Monthly_ which he conceived would not only take care of him and his
family, but would give his genius free rein. He was resolved to put the
best of himself into it, and the best of outside contributions he could
succeed in procuring. Its criticisms should be "sternly just, guided
only by the purest rules of Art, analyzing and urging these rules as it
applied them; holding itself aloof from all personal bias, acknowledging
no fear save that of outraging the right." It would "endeavor to
support the general interests of the republic of letters--regarding the
world at large as the true audience of the author," he determined, and
he declared in his prospectus.

Dear to his heart as was this dream of dreams of his intellectual life,
he was soon to realize that its fulfilment was not to be. At least--not
yet, for he comforted his own heart and Virginia's and "Muddie's" with
the assurance that it was but a case of hope deferred again.

As he was bracing himself for this fresh disappointment, Mr. Graham, the
purchaser of _The Gentlemen's Magazine_ which he proposed to combine
with _The Casket_ in the creation of _Graham's Magazine_, sat in his
office with a paper before him which the initiated would have at once
recognized as an Edgar Poe manuscript. It was a long, narrow strip,
formed by pasting pages together endwise, and had been submitted in a
tight roll which Mr. Graham unrolled as he read. The title at the top of
the strip, in The Dreamer's neat, legible handwriting was, "The Man of
the Crowd."

There was nothing gruesome about Mr. Graham. His candid brow, his
kindling blue eye, his fresh-colored cheeks, the genial curve of his lip
and his strong but amiable chin, spoke of a sunshiny nature, with
neither taste nor turn for the weird. But, as he read, the strange
"conscience-story" moved him--held him in a grip of intense
interest--wove a spell around him. He was on the lookout for original
material--undoubtedly he had it in this manuscript. He recalled "Billy"
Burton's last words to him: "Take care of my young editor."

A smile lighted his pleasant face. He had his own mental
endowments--generous ones--and without the least conceit he knew it;
but he had no ambition to patronize genius.

"The writer of this story is quite able to take care of himself," he
informed his inner consciousness, "And if I can only form a connection
with him it will doubtless be a case of the young editor's taking care
of me."

Upon the next afternoon Mr. Graham set out on a pilgrimage to Spring
Garden. Though it was November the air was mild and the sunshine was
mellow. Was the sky always so blue in Spring Garden, he wondered? He
found the rose-embowered cottage without difficulty, for he had obtained
minute directions. The roses were all gone but the foliage was still
green and the little white-paled garden was bright with the sunset-hued
flowers of autumn. Flowers and cottage stood bathed in the light of the
golden afternoon--the picture of serenity. What marked this quaint,
small homestead?--set back from the quiet village street--tucked away
behind its garden-spot from the din of the world? What made it different
from others of its neighborhood and character? Was it just a notion of
his (Mr. Graham wondered) that made him feel that here was poetry pure
and simple?--_visible_ poetry?

With sensations of keen interest he lifted the knocker. Edgar Poe
himself opened the door and his captivating smile, cordial hand-clasp
and words of warm, as well as courtly, greeting raised the visitor
instantly from the ranks of the caller to the place of a friend. Mr.
Graham had met Edgar Poe before and had felt his charm, but he now told
himself that to know him one must see him under his own roof, and in the
character of host.

As the door was opened a flood of music floated out. A divinely sweet
mezzo-soprano voice was singing to the accompaniment of a harp. As the
master of the house flung wide the sitting-room door and announced the
visitor, the sounds ceased, but the musician sat with her hands resting
upon the gilded strings for a moment, her eyes turned in inquiry toward
the door, then rose and with the simplicity of a child came forward to
place her hand in that of Mr. Graham. Mother Clemm who sat near the
window with a piece of sewing in her lap also arose, and with gentle
dignity came forward to be introduced and to do her part in making the
guest welcome.

As he took the seat proffered him and entered upon the exchange of
commonplace phrases with which a visit of a comparative stranger is apt
to begin, Mr. Graham's blue eyes gathered in the details of the
reposeful picture of which he had become a part. The open fire, the
sunshine lying on the bare but spotless floor, the vases filled with
flowers, the few simple pieces of furniture so fitly disposed that they
produced a sense of unusual completeness and satisfaction--the row of
books, the harp, the cat dosing upon the hearth,--and finally, the
people. The master of the house--distinguished, handsome, dominant,
genial, his young wife, the embodiment of soft, poetic beauty, and the
mother with her saint-like face and gentle, composed manner--her
expressive hands busy with her needle work. Was it possible that such a
home--such a household--was always there, keeping the even tenor of its
way among the unpicturesque conventions of the modern world?

After the first formalities had been exchanged he had delicately
intimated that he had come on business, but he soon began to see that
whatever his business might be it was to be dispatched right there, in
the bosom of the family. This was irregular and unusual, yet, somehow,
it did not seem unnatural, and he found that the presence of the women
of the poet's household was not the least restraint upon the freedom of
their discussion.

After some words of commendation of the story, "The Man of the Crowd,"
which he accepted for the next number of his magazine, he came to the
real business of the afternoon.

"Mr. Poe," said he, "I believe you know that with the new year _The
Gentleman's Magazine_ and _The Casket_ will be combined to form
_Graham's Magazine_ which it is my intention to make the best monthly,
in contributed articles and editorial opinion, in this country. Mr. Poe
I want an editor capable of making it this. _I want you._ What do you
say to undertaking it?"

As he sat with his eyes fixed upon The Dreamer's eyes waiting for an
answer he could not see the quick clasping of the widow's hands the
uplifting of her expressive face which plainly said "Thank God," or the
sudden illumination in the soft eyes of Virginia. But the transformation
in the beautiful face of the man before him held him spell-bound. Edgar
Poe's great eyes were glowing with sudden pleasure the curves of his
mouth grew sweet, his whole countenance softened.

"This is very good of you, Mr. Graham," he said, his low, musical voice,
warm with feeling. "Your offer places me upon firm ground once more. To
be frank with you, the failure, through lack of capital, of my attempt
to establish a magazine of my own (since the severing of my connection
with Burton, which gave me my only regular income) has left me hanging
by the eyelids, as it were, and I have been wondering how long I could
hold on with only the small, irregular sums coming in from the sale of
my stories to depend upon. Your offer at this time means more to me than
I can express."

His girl-wife stole to his side and with pretty grace, unembarrassed by
the presence of Mr. Graham, leaned over his chair and pressed her lips
upon his brow.

"But you know, Buddie," she murmured in a voice that was like a dove's,
"I always told you something would come along!"

       *       *       *       *       *

Darkness fell and lamps were lighted, and still Mr. Graham sat on and on
as though too fascinated by the charm of the little circle to move. To
his own surprise he found himself accepting the invitation to remain to
supper. The simple table was beautiful with the dainty touch of Mother
Clemm and Virginia, and the very frugality of the meal seemed a virtue.

After supper his host, not the least of whose accomplishments was the
rare one of reading aloud acceptably, was persuaded to read some of his
own poems--Mr. Graham asking for certain special pieces. Among these
were the lines "To Helen," which were recited with a fervor approaching
solemnity.

"Tell him about Helen, Eddie," murmured Virginia, who sat by his side.

"Yes, do tell me!" urged Mr. Graham, quickly. And with his eyes brooding
and dreamy, the poet went over, in touching and beautiful words, the
story of what he always felt and declared to be "the first pure passion
of his soul."

In the silence that followed he arose and took from the wall a small
picture--a pencil-sketch of a lovely head.

"This is a drawing of her made by myself," he said. "It was done from
memory, but is a good likeness. I needed no sitting to make her
likeness."

When he had shown Mr. Graham the picture, he hung it back in its place
and a gentle hush fell upon the little group. Speech seemed out of place
after the moving recital and the four sat gazing into the embers, each
sunk in his or her own dreams.

The poet was the first to speak.

"Some music Sissy," he said turning to Virginia. "I want Mr. Graham to
hear you."

She arose at once and seating herself at the harp, struck some soft,
bell-like chords while she waited for "Buddie" to decide what she should
sing.

"Let it be something sweet and low," he said, "and simple. Something of
Tom Moore's, for instance. You know my theory, anything but the simplest
music to be appreciated--to reach the soul--must be heard alone."

The harp accompaniment rippled forth, and in a moment more melted into
the rich, sweet passionate tones of her voice as she told in musical
numbers a heart-breaking story of love and parting.

Ballad after ballad followed while the little audience sat entranced.
Finally when the singer returned to her seat by the side of her husband,
the conversation turned upon music. Mr. Graham commented upon his host's
theory that all music but the simplest should, for its best effect, be
listened to in solitude.

"Yes," said The Dreamer, "It is (like the happiness felt in the
contemplation of natural scenery) much enhanced by seclusion. The man
who would behold aright the glory of God as expressed in dark valleys,
gray rocks, waters that silently smile and forests that sigh in uneasy
slumbers, and the proud, watchful mountains that look down upon all--the
man that would not only look upon these with his natural eye but feed
his soul upon them as a sacrament, must do so in solitude. And so too, I
hold, should one listen to the deep harmonies of music of the highest
class."

At length the hour came when Mr. Graham felt that he must tear himself
away--bring this strange visit to an end. Before going he felt moved by
an impulse to express something of the effect it had had upon him.

"Mr. Poe," he said, "I wish to thank you for one of the most delightful
evenings of my life and for having taken me into the heart of your home.
I can find no words in which to express my appreciation. Tonight, at
your fireside, it seems to me that I have had for the first time in my
life a clear understanding of the word happiness."

Edgar Poe smiled, dreamily.

"Why should we not be happy here?" he answered. "Concerning happiness,
my dear Mr. Graham, I have a little creed of my own. If I could only
persuade others to adopt it there would be more happy people--far more
contented ones--in the world."

"And the articles of your creed?" queried Mr. Graham.

"Are only four. First, free exercise in the open air, and plenty of it.
This brings health--which is a kind of happiness in itself--that
attainable by any other means is scarcely worth the name. Second, love
of woman. I need not tell you that my life fulfils that condition." (As
he spoke, his eyes, with an expression of ineffable tenderness, wandered
for a moment--and it seemed involuntarily--in the direction of his
wife). "The third condition is contempt for ambition. Would that I could
tell you that I have attained to that! When I do, there will be little
in this world to be desired by me. The fourth and last is an object of
unceasing pursuit. This is the most important of all, for I believe that
the extent of one's happiness is in proportion to the spirituality of
this object. In this I am especially fortunate, for no more elevating
pursuit exists, I think, than that of systematically endeavoring to
bring to its highest perfection the art of literature."

"I notice you do not mention money in your creed," remarked his guest.

"No, neither do I mention air. Both the one and the other are essential
to life, and to the keeping together of body and soul. It goes without
saying that the necessities of life are necessary to happiness. But
money--meaning wealth--while it makes indulgence in pleasures possible,
has nothing to do with happiness. Indeed the very pleasure it ensures
often obscure highest happiness--the happiness of exaltation of the
soul, of exercise of the intellect. What has money to do with happiness?
It is a happiness to wonder--it is a happiness to dream. Your over-fed,
jewel-decked, pleasure-drunk rich man or woman is too deeply embedded in
flesh and sense to do either. No"--he mused, his eyes on the glowing
coals in the grate, "No--I have no desire for wealth--for more than
enough money to keep my wife and mother comfortable. They, like myself,
have learned the lesson of being poor and happy. But I _must_ keep them
above want--I _will_ keep them above want!" As he repeated the words the
meditative mood dropped from him. He straightened himself in his chair
with sudden energy, his voice trembled and sunk almost to a whisper, in
place of the dreamy look his eyes flamed with passion.

"Mr. Graham," he exclaimed, "to see those you love better than your own
soul in want, and, in spite of working like mad, to be powerless to
raise them out of it, is hell!"

A second time the exquisite child-wife slipped quickly, noiselessly, to
his side and with the same easy grace leaned over and touched his brow
with her lips, but this time instead of moving away, remained hanging
over the back of his chair, her fair hand gently toying with the
ringlets on his brow. He was calm in an instant.

"I mean, of course, such a condition would be intolerable provided it
should ever exist," he added.

       *       *       *       *       *

As the visitor stepped from the cottage door into the chill of the
bright November night, and made his way down the little path of
flagstones--irregularly shaped and clumsily laid down, so that mossy
turf which was still green, appeared between them--he felt that he was
stepping back into a flat, stale and unprofitable world from one of the
enchanted regions, "out of space, out of time," of Poe's own creation.

He had indeed, had a revelation of harmonious home-life such as he had
not guessed existed in a work-a-day world--of the music, the poetry of
living. He had had a glimpse into the Valley of the Many-Colored Grass.



CHAPTER XXV.


The next morning found Mr. Graham still under the spell of the evening
with the Poes. He caught himself impatiently watching the clock, for the
man under whose charm he had come was to call at a certain hour, to
confer with him in regard to the magazine. He could hear him coming
(stepping briskly and whistling a "Moore's Melody") before the rap upon
the door announced him. He came in with the bright, alert air of a man
ready for action for which he has appetite. His rarely heard laugh rang
out, fresh and spontaneous, several times during the interview. His
manners were at all times those of a prince, but Mr. Graham had never
seen him so genial, so gay. The mantle of dreamer and poet had suddenly
dropped from him, but the new mood had a charm all its own.

When business had been dispatched and they sat on to finish their
cigars, Mr. Graham reiterated his expressions of pleasure in his visit
of the evening before.

"You gave me food for thought, Mr. Poe," said he. "I've been pondering
on that creed of yours for finding and keeping the secret of true
happiness. It is about the most wholesome and sane doctrine I've met
with for some time. I've determined to adopt it, and to, at least
endeavor, to practice it."

His companion smiled.

"Good!" said he. "I only hope you'll have better success in living up to
it than I have."

Mr. Graham's eyebrows went up. "I thought that was just what you did,"
was his answer.

"So it is, at times; but when the blues or the imp of the perverse get
hold of me all my philosophy goes to the devil, and I realize what an
arch humbug I am."

"The imp of the perverse?" questioned Mr. Graham.

"That is my name for the principle that lies hidden in weak human
nature--the principle of antagonism to happiness, which, with unholy
impishness, tempts man to his own destruction. Don't you think it an apt
name?"

"I don't believe I follow you."

"Then let me explain. Did you never, when standing upon some high point,
become conscious of an influence irresistibly urging you to cast
yourself down? As you listened--fascinated and horrified--to the voice,
did you not feel an almost overwhelming curiosity to see what the
sensations accompanying such a fall would be--to know the extremest
terror of it? Your tempter was the _Imp of the Perverse_.

"Did you never feel a sense of glee to find that something you had said
or done had shocked someone whose good opinion you should have desired?
Did you never feel a desire to depart from a course you knew to be to
your interest and follow one that would bring certain harm--possible
disaster--upon you? Did you never feel like breaking loose from all the
restraints which you knew to be for your good--throwing off every
shackle of propriety, and right, and decency?--Mr. Graham, did you never
feel like throwing yourself to the devil for no reason at all other than
the desire to be perverse? Could any desire be more impish?--I will
illustrate by my own case, I am in one respect not like other men. An
exceptionally high-strung nervous temperament makes alcoholic
stimulants poison to me. It works like madness in my brain and in my
blood. The glass of wine that you can take with pleasure and perhaps
with benefit drives me wild--makes me commit all manner of reckless
deeds that in my sane moments fill me with sorrow!--and sometimes
produces physical illness followed by depression of spirits, horrible in
the extreme. More--an inherited desire for stimulation and the
exhilaration produced by wine, makes it well nigh impossible for me,
once I have yielded my will so far as to take the single glass, to
resist the second, which is more than apt to be followed by a third, and
so on. I am fully aware therefore, of the danger that lies for me in a
thing harmless to many men, and that my only safety and happiness and
the happiness of those far dearer to me than myself, lies in the
strictest, most rigid abstinence. Knowing all this, one would suppose
that I would fly from this temptation as it were the plague. I do
generally. At present, several years have passed since I yielded an
inch. But there have been times--and there may be times again--when the
Imp of the Perverse will command me to drink and, fully aware of the
risk, I _will_ drink, and will go down into hell for a longer or shorter
period afterward."

During this lecture upon one of his favorite hobbies, the low voice of
The Dreamer was vibrant with earnestness. He spoke out of bitter
experience and as he who bore the reputation of a reserved man, laid his
soul bare, his vivid eyes held the eyes of his companion by the very
intensity--the deep sincerity of their gaze.

Mr. Graham's last conversation with his new editor had dazed him; this
one dazed him still more. What manner of man was this? (he asked
himself) with whom he had formed a league? He could not say--beyond the
fact that he was undoubtedly original--and interesting. Admirable
qualities for an editor--both!

The readers of the new monthly thoroughly agreed with him. The history
of Edgar Poe's career as editor of _The Southern Literary Messenger_
promptly began to repeat itself with _Graham's Magazine_. The
announcement that he had been engaged as editor immediately drew the
attention of the reading world toward _Graham's_, and it soon became
apparent that in the new position he was going to out-do himself. The
rapidity with which his brilliant and caustic critiques and essays, and
weird stories, followed upon the heels of one another was enough to take
one's breath away. He alternately raised the hair of his readers with
master-pieces of unearthly imaginings and diverted them with playful
studies in autography and exhibitions of skill in reading secret
writing.

About the time of his beginning his duties at _Graham's_ he must needs
have had a visit from some fairy godmother, the touch of whose enchanted
wand left him with a new gift. This was a wonderfully developed power of
analysis which he found pleasure in exercising in every possible way. To
quote his own words, "As the strong man exults in his physical ability,
delighting in such exercises as bring his muscles into action, so
glories the analyst in that moral activity which disentangles. He
derives pleasure from even the most trivial occupations bringing his
talent into play."

He tried the newly discovered talent upon everything. In his papers on
"Autography" he practised it in the reading of character from
hand-writing, and in his deciphering of secret writing he carried it so
far and awakened the interest and curiosity of the public to such extent
that it bade fair to be the ruin of him; for it seemed his
correspondents would have him drop literature and devote himself and the
columns of _Graham's Magazine_ for the rest of his life, to the solving
of these puzzles. Finally, having proved that it was impossible for any
of them to compose a cypher he could not read in less time than its
author had spent in inventing it, he took advantage of his only
safeguard, and positively declined to have anything more to do with
them.

But he found a much more interesting way of exercising his power of
analysis. In the April number of _Graham's_ he tried it upon a
story--"The Murders in the Rue Morgue"--which set all the world buzzing,
and drew the interested attention of France upon him. In the next
number, while the "Murders" were still the talk of the hour, he made an
excursion into the world of _pseudo_-science the result of which was his
thrilling "Descent into the Maelstrom;" but later in the same month he
returned to his experiments in analysis--publishing in _The Saturday
Evening Post_ an _advance_ review of Charles Dickens' story "Barnaby
Rudge," which was just beginning to come out in serial form. In the
review he predicted, correctly, the whole development and conclusion of
the story. It brought him a letter from Dickens, expressing
astonishment, owning that the plot was correct, and enquiring if Edgar
Poe had "dealings with the devil."

Soon followed the "Colloquy of Monos and Una," in which in the exquisite
prose poetry of which The Dreamer was a consummate master, his
imagination sought to pierce the veil between this world and the
next--to lay bare the secrets of the soul's passage into the "Valley of
the Shadow."

Whatever else Edgar Poe wrote, he continued to pour out through the
editorial columns of _Graham's Magazine_ a steady stream of criticism of
current books. While entertaining or amusing the public as far as power
to do so in him lay, he did not for a moment permit anything to come
between him and the duties of his post as Defender of Purity of Style in
American Letters. He was unsparing in the use of his pruning hook upon
the work of his contemporaries and the height of art to which by his
fearless, candid and, at times, cruel criticism, he sought to bring
others, he exacted of himself. In spite of the amount of work he
produced, each sentence that dropped from his pen in this time of his
maturity--his ripeness--was the perfection of clear and polished
English.

But the evidences of this conscientiousness in his own work did not make
the little authors one whit less sore under his lash. Privately they
writhed and they squirmed--publicly they denounced. All save one--an
ex-preacher, Dr. Rufus Griswold--himself a critic of ability, who would
like to have been, like The Dreamer, a poet as well as a critic.

When Edgar Poe praised the prose writings of Dr. Griswold, but said he
was "no poet," Dr. Griswold like the other little authors writhed and
squirmed secretly--very secretly--but openly he smiled and in smooth,
easy words professed friendship for Mr. Poe--and bided his time.

As for Poe himself, he had by close and devoted study of the rules which
govern poetic and prose composition--rules which he evolved for himself
by analysis of the work of the masters--so added to his own natural
gifts of imagination and power of expression, so perfected his taste,
that crude writing was disgusting to his literary palate. He had made
Literature his intellectual mistress, and from the day he had declared
his allegiance to her he had served her faithfully--passionately--and he
could brook no flagging service in others.

Both his growing power of analysis and his highly developed artistic
feeling were brought into full play in this review work. Under his
guidance the writings of his contemporaries, whether they were the
little authors or the giants such as, in England, Tennyson (who was a
prime favorite with him), Macauley, Dickens, Elizabeth Barrett, or in
America, Longfellow, Lowell, Hawthorne, Irving, Emerson, stood forth
illumined--the weak spots laid bare, the strong points gleaming bright.

He unfalteringly declared his admiration of Hawthorne (then almost
unknown) in which the future so fully justified him. The tales of
Hawthorne, he declared, belonged to "the highest region of Art--an Art
subservient to genius of a very lofty order."

Even the work of the little authors was indebted to him for many a good
word, but the little authors hated him and returned the brilliant
sallies his pungent pen directed toward their writings with vollies of
mud aimed at his private character.

No matter what his subject, however, Edgar Poe always wrote with
power--with intensity. He seemed by turns to dip his pen into fire, into
gall, into vitriol--at times into his own heart's blood.

Of the last named type was the story "Eleonora," which appeared, not in
_Graham's_, but in _The Gift_ for the new year, and wherein was set
forth in phrases like strung jewels the story of the "Valley of the
Many-Colored Grass." The whole fabric of this loveliest of his
conceptions is like a web wrought in some fairy loom of bright strands
of silk of every hue, and studded with fairest gems. In it is no hint of
the gruesome, or the sombre--even though the Angel of Death is there. It
is all pure beauty--a perfect flower from the fruitful tree of his
genius at the height of its power.

All of Edgar Poe's work gains much by being read aloud, for the eye
alone cannot fully grasp the music that is in his prose as well as his
verse. "Eleonora" was read aloud in every city and hamlet of the United
States, and at firesides far from the beaten paths--the traveled
roads--that led to the cities; for it was written when every word from
the pen of Edgar Poe was looked for, waited for, with eager impatience,
and when _Graham's Magazine_ had been made in one little year, by his
writing, and the writing of others whom he had induced to contribute to
its pages, to lead the thought of the day in America.

And the success of The Dreamer made him a lion in the "City of Brotherly
Love" as it had made him a lion in Richmond. The doors of the most
exclusive--the most cultivated--homes of that fastidious city stood open
to welcome him. The loveliest women, whether the grey ladies of the
"Society of Friends" or the brightly plumaged birds of the gayer world,
smiled their sweetest upon him. As he walked along the streets
passers-by would whisper to one another,

"There goes Mr. Poe. Did you notice his eyes? They say he has the most
expressive eyes in Philadelphia."

       *       *       *       *       *

Throughout this year of almost dazzling triumph the little cottage with
its rose-hooded porch, in Spring Garden, had been a veritable snug
harbor to The Dreamer. In winter when the deep, spotless snow lay round
about it, in spring when the violets and hyacinths came back to the
garden-spot and the singing birds to the trees that overhung it, in
summer when the climbing green rose was heavy with bloom and in autumn
when the wind whistled around it, but there was a bright blaze upon the
hearth inside, his heart turned joyously many times a day, and his feet
at eventide, when his work at the office in the city was over, toward
this sacred haven.

And Edgar the Dreamer was happy. He should have been rich and would have
been but for the meagre returns from literary work in his time. Men were
then supposed to write for fame, and very little money was deemed
sufficient reward for the best work. The poverty of authors was
proverbial and to starve cheerfully was supposed to be part of being
one.

Still, with his post as editor of _Graham's_ and the frequency with
which his signature was seen in other magazines, he was making a living.
The howl of the wolf or his sickening scratching at the door were no
more heard, and in the Valley of the Many-Colored Grass the three
dreamers laughed together, and in the streets of the "City of Brotherly
Love" Edgar Goodfellow whistled a gay air, or arm in arm with some boon
companion of the "Press gang" threaded his way in and out among of the
human stream, with a smile on his lips and the light of gladness in
living in his eyes.

And why should he not be happy? he asked himself. He had the snuggest
little home in the world and, in it, the loveliest little wife in the
world and the dearest mother in the world. He was upon the top of the
wave of prosperity. His fame was growing--had already reached France,
where "The Murders" were still being talked about. Why should he not be
happy? His devils had ceased to plague him this long while. The
blues--he was becoming a stranger to them. The Imp--he had not had a
single glimpse of him during the year. He was temperate--ah, therein lay
man's safety and happiness! By strict abstinence his capacity for
enjoyment was exalted--purified. He would let the cup forever
alone--upon that he was resolved!

This was not always easy. Sometimes it had been exceedingly hard and
there had been a fierce battle between himself and the call that was in
his blood--the thirst, not for the stuff itself, but for its effects,
for the excitement, the exhilaration; but he had won every time and he
felt stronger for the battle and for the victory--the victory of will.
"Man doth not yield himself to the angels or to death utterly" (he
quoted) "save only through the weakness of his feeble will." Upon
continued resistence--continued victory--he was resolved, and in the
resolution he was happy.

Best of all, Virginia was happy, and "Muddie"--dear, patient "Muddie!"
The two women chatted like magpies over their sewing or house-work, or
as they watered the flowers. They, like himself, had made friends.
Neighbors dropped in to chat with them or to borrow a pattern, or to
hear Virginia sing. And they had had a long visit from the violet-eyed
Eliza White. What a pleasure it had been to have the sweet, fair
creature with them! (He little guessed how tremulously happy the little
Eliza had been to bask for a time in his presence--just to be near the
great man--and meanwhile guard all the more diligently the secret that
filled her white soul and kept her, for all her beauty and charm, and
her many suitors, a spinster).

Eliza had brought them a great budget of Richmond news. It had been like
a breath of spring to hear it. She talked and they listened and they all
laughed together from pure joy. How Virginia's laugh had rippled out
upon the air--it filled all the cottage with music!

It was mid-January, and he sat gazing into the rose-colored heart of the
open coal fire going over it all--the whole brilliant, full year.

"Sissy," he said suddenly, "Do you remember the birthday parties I used
to tell you about--that I had given me when I was a boy living with the
Allans?"

"Yes, indeed! and the cake with candles on it and all your best friends
to wish you many happy returns."

"Well, you know the nineteenth will be my birthday, and I want to have a
party and a cake with candles and all our best friends here to wish you
and me many happy returns of the happiest birthday we have spent
together. I only wish old Cy were here to play for us to dance! I'd give
something pretty to have him and his fiddle here, just to see what these
sober-sided Penn folk would think of them. My, wouldn't they make a
sensation in the 'City of Brotherly Love!'" He began whistling as
clearly and correctly as a piccolo the air of a recently published
waltz. After a few bars he sprang to his feet and--still
whistling--quickly shoved the table and chairs to the wall, clearing the
middle of the floor. The tune stopped long enough for him to say,

"Come, Sweetheart, you must dance this with me. My feet refuse to be
still tonight!"--then was taken up again.

The beautiful girl was in his arms in an instant and while "Muddie," in
her seat by the window, lifted her deep eyes from the work in her
ever-busy hands and let them rest with a smile of indulgent bliss upon
her "children," they glided round and round the room to the time of the
fascinating new dance.

At length they stopped, breathless and rosy, and the poet, with
elaborate ceremony, handed his fair partner to a chair and began fanning
her with "Muddie's" turkey-tail fan. He was in a glow of warmth and
pleasure. His wonderful eyes shone like lamps. His pale cheeks were
tinged with faint pink. While fanning Virginia with one hand he gently
mopped the pleasant moisture from his brow with the other. Virginia's
eyes shot sunshine. Her laughter bubbled up like a well-spring of pure
joy.

"What would people say if they could see the great Mr. Poe--the grand,
gloomy and peculiar Mr. Poe--the author of 'Tales of the Grotesque and
Arabesque,' who's supposed to be continually 'dropping from his Condor
wings invisible woe?'" said she, as soon as she could speak. The idea
was so vastly amusing to her that she laughed until the shining eyes
were filled with dew.

"If they could know half the pleasure I got out of that they wouldn't
say anything," he replied. "They would be dumb with envy. I suppose it's
my mother in me, but I just _must_ dance sometimes. And this waltz! In
spite of all the prudes say against it, it is the divinest thing in the
way of motion that ever was invented. It's exercise fit for the gods!"

He drew her to him and kissed her eyes and her cheeks and her lips.

"It was heavenly--heavenly, Sis," said he, "And I don't suppose even the
prudes could object to a man's waltzing with his own wife. I wonder will
we ever dance to old Cy's fiddle again?"



CHAPTER XXVI.


It was a very modest party, but a merry one. The ground was covered with
the unsullied whiteness of new-fallen snow and the coming of most of the
guests was heralded by the tintinnabulation of the little silver bells
so charming to the ear of the host.

The Grahams were among the first to be welcomed out of the frosty night
into the glow of lamp and candle and firelight, by the cordial hand and
voice of Edgar Goodfellow. Mr. Graham was in tune to most heartily take
part in the commemoration of the birthday of the man who was making
_Graham's Magazine_ the success of the publishing world in America. His
kindling blue eyes had never been kinder, his smile never more bland.
Mr. Alexander, founder of _The Saturday Evening Post_ which so gladly
published and paid for everything that Edgar Poe would spare it from
_Graham's_ was the next, and close following him, Mr. Cottrell Clarke,
first editor of the _Post_, and his charming wife. Captain and Mrs.
Mayne Reid, who were among the most admiring and affectionate friends of
the Poe trio were also there, and other congenial spirits.

They came in twos and threes, their laughter as light and clear as the
tinkle of their sleigh-bells.

And Rufus Griswold was there. The Dreamer with his deep reverence for
intellectual ability had a sincere admiration for Dr. Griswold--though
he did say he was "no poet." He desired the approval--the friendship--of
this brainy man and was proud and happy to have him of his party.

Coming in after the rest of the company had assembled, the brainy man's
big frame, topped by his big head, with his prominent brow and piercing
eyes, his straight, thick nose, his large full-lipped close-set mouth,
his square jaw with the fringe of beard sharply outlining it, produced a
decided effect. He seemed to fill up a surprisingly large portion of the
room. Instinctively, the gentleman who had occupied the largest and
heaviest chair vacated it and invited him to be seated in it--which he
did, instinctively. He was a young man--under thirty--but looked much
older. His face was a strange one. It could not have been called ugly.
By some, indeed, it was considered handsome. It was strong, but it was
strange. There was an indefinable something unpleasant, something to
awaken distrust--fear--about it. Across the dome of the brow ran,
horizontally, a series of wavy furrows that produced, in place of the
benevolent air the lofty brow might have given, a sinister expression.
The eyes beneath the wrinkled brow were piercing and spoke of the fire
of active mentality, but they were always downcast and turned slightly
askance, so that few people caught the full force of their gleam, and
there was sternness and coldness, as well as will, in the prominent chin
and jaw.

He came late, but he was a little more cordial in his expressions of
pleasure in coming than any of those before him. His bows to Virginia
and Mrs. Clemm were more profound--his estimation of Virginia's beauty
he made at once apparent in the intense, admiring gaze he bestowed upon
her. His words of congratulation and good will for his host were more
extravagant than those of any of the others and were uttered in a voice
as smooth--as fluent--as oil; while he rubbed his large, fleshy hands
together in a manner betokening cordiality. When his host spoke, he
turned his ear toward him (though his eyes glanced aside and downward)
with an air of marked attention, and agreed emphatically with his views
or laughed uproariously at his pleasantries.

Yet at Rufus Griswold's heart jealousy was gnawing. Heaven had endowed
him with mind to recognize genius, yet had denied him its possession. He
that would have worn the laurel himself, was born to be but the
trumpeter of others' victories. He, like Edgar Poe, had an open eye and
ear for beauty--for harmony. He could feel the divine fire of
inspiration in the creations of master minds--yet he could not himself
create. He was a brilliant critic, but (as has been said) his ambition
was to be, like Poe, also a poet. His quick intuition had divined the
genius of Poe at their first meeting. He knew in a flash, that the neat,
slender, polished gentleman, with the cameo face, the large brow and the
luminous eyes, and with the deep-toned, vibrant voice, was one of the
few he had ever met of whom he could say with assurance, "There goes a
genius--" and of those few the topmost. Poe's writing, especially his
poetry, enthralled him. To have been able to come before the world as
the author of such work he would have sold his soul.

And this man who had caught him in a net woven of mingled fascination,
and envy, and hate, had, oh, bitter!--while generously applauding him as
a critic and reviewer--as a compiler and preserver of other men's
work--had added, "But--but--he is no poet."

He had received the stab without an apparent flinch. He had even laughed
and declared that Mr. Poe was right. That he himself knew he was no
poet--he did not aspire to be a real one, but only dropped into verse
now and then by way of pastime. The lie had slipped easily from his
tongue, but his eyes drooped ever so little more than usual as it did
so, their shifty gleam glanced ever so little more sidewise.

And though he came late to the birthday feast, his words of friendship
were emphatic and the laugh that told of his pleasure in being there was
loud and frequent. And he smiled and rubbed his hands together--and
bided his time.

And Edgar Poe was pleased--immensely pleased--on his gala night, with
the complimentary manner and the complimentary words of this welcome
guest--of this big, brainy man whose good opinion he so much desired.

Alas, hapless Dreamer! Did the gleam of those eyes cast alway slightly
downward, slightly askance--give you no discomfort? Did the fang-like
teeth when the thick lips opened to pour forth birthday wishes or
streams of uproarious laughter, and the square lines of the jaw, suggest
to your ready imagination no hint of cruelty? If you could but have
known that what time he laughed and talked with your guests and feasted
at your board, with its tasty viands and its cake with lighted candles,
and bent his furtive glance upon the beauty of your guileless
Virginia--if you could but have known that in his black heart the canker
jealousy was gnawing and that, behind the smile he wore as a mask, the
brainy man was biding his time!

It was a goodly little company--a coming together of bright wits and
(for the most part) of kind hearts, and the talk was crisp, and fresh,
and charming.

Supper was served early.

"My wife and her mother have thought that you Penn folk might like to
sit down to a Virginia supper," said the host, as he led Mrs. Graham to
the table, and stood for a moment while Virginia designated the seats to
be taken. Then still standing, said,

"Every man a priest to his own household, is our Virginia rule, but as
we have with us tonight one who before he took up Letters wore the
cloth, I'm going to abdicate in his favor. Dr. Griswold will you ask a
blessing?"

All heads were bowed while the time-honored little ceremonial was
performed, then seats were taken and the repast begun.

Virginia presided over the "tea-things," while Mrs. Clemm occupied the
seat nearest the door opening on the kitchen, that she might slip as
unobtrusively as possible out and back again when necessary; but most of
the serving was done by the guests themselves, each of whom helped the
dish nearest his or her plate, and passed the plates from hand to hand.
All of the supper, save the dessert and fresh supplies of hot waffles
was on the table. There were oysters and turkey salad and Virginia ham.
And there were hot rolls and "batter-bread" (made of Virginia meal with
plenty of butter, eggs and milk, and a spoonful of boiled rice stirred
in) and there was a "Sally Lunn"--light, brown, and also hot, and plenty
of waffles. In the little spaces between the more important dishes there
were pickles and preserves--stuffed mangoes and preserved quinces and
currant jelly. And in the centre of the table was the beautiful birthday
cake frosted by Virginia's dainty fingers and brilliant with its
thirty-three lighted candles.

There was just enough room left for the three slender cut-glass
decanters that were relics of Mother Clemm's better days.

"The decanter before you, Mr. Graham, contains the Madeira; the Canary
is before you, Captain Reid, and I have here a beverage with which I am
very much in love at present--_apple wine_--" Edgar Poe said, tapping
the stopper of a decanter of cider near his plate.

All understood. He had served the cider that he might join with them in
their pledges of friendship and good will without breaking through the
rule of abstemiousness in which he was finding so much benefit.

The toasts were clever as well as complimentary, and the table-talk
light and sparkling. Finally both Mrs. Clemm and Virginia arose to clear
the table for the dessert.

"You see, my friends, we keep no maid or butler," said the host, "but
I'm sure you will all agree with me in feeling that we would not
exchange our two Hebes for any, and they take serving you as a
privilege."

The cake was cut and served with calves-foot jelly--quivering and ruby
red--and velvety _blanc mange_.

After supper Virginia's harp was brought out of its corner and she sang
to them. With adorable sweetness and simplicity she gave each one's
favorite song as it was asked for--filling all the cottage with her pure
sweet tones accompanied by the bell-like, rippling notes of the harp.
The company sat entranced--all eyes upon the lovely girl from whose
throat poured the streams of melody.

She seemed but a child; for all she had been married six years she had
but just passed out of her "teens" and might easily have been taken for
a girl of fifteen. Her hair, it is true, was "tucked up," but the
innocence in the upturned, velvet eyes, the soft, childish outlines of
the face, the dimpled hands and arms against the harp's glided strings,
the simple little frock of white dimity, all combined to give her a
"babyfied" look which was most appealing, and which her title of "Mrs.
Poe" seemed rather to accentuate than otherwise.

Rufus Griswold's furtive eye rested balefully upon her. And this
exquisite being too, belonged to that man--as if the gods had not
already given him enough!

From a far corner of the room her husband gazed upon her, and bathed his
senses in contemplation of her beauty while his soul soared with her
song. Mother Clemm noiselessly passing near him to snuff a candle on the
table upon which his elbow, propping his head, rested, paused for a
moment and laid a caressing hand upon his hair. He impulsively drew her
down to a seat beside him.

"Oh, Muddie, Muddie, look at her--look at her!" he whispered. "There is
no one anywhere so beautiful as my little wife! And no voice like hers
outside of Heaven!... Ah--"

What was the matter? Was his Virginia ill? Even as he spoke her voice
broke upon the middle of a note--then stopped. One hand clutched the
harp, the other flew to her throat from which came only an inarticulate
sound like a struggle for utterance. Terror was in the innocent eyes
and the deathly white, baby face.

For a tense moment the little company of birthday guests sat rooted to
their places with horror, then rushed in a mass toward the singer, but
her husband was there first--his face like marble. His arms were around
her but with a repetition of that inarticulate, gurgling sound she fell
limp against his breast in a swoon. From the sweet lips where so lately
only melody had been a tiny stream of blood oozed and trickled down and
stained her pretty white dress.

"Back!--All of you!" commanded the low, clear voice of Edgar Poe, as
with the dear burden still in his arms he sank gently to the floor and
propping her head in his lap, disposed her limbs in comfortable, and her
dress in orderly manner. "Back--don't crowd! A doctor!"

One of the guests from nearby, who knew the neighborhood, had already
slipped from the door and gone to fetch the nearest doctor. The others
sat and listened for his step in breathless stillness.

Edgar Poe bent his marble face above the prostrate form of his wife,
calling to her in endearing whispers while, with his handkerchief he
wiped from her lips the oozing, crimson stream. His teeth chattered.
Once before he had seen such a stream. It was long ago--long ago, but he
remembered it well. He was back--a little boy, a mere baby--in the
small, dark room behind Mrs. Fipps' millinery shop, in Richmond, and a
stream like this came from the lips of his mother who lay so still, so
white, upon the bed. And his mother had been dying. He had seen her
thus--he would see her nevermore!... Would the doctor never come?--

       *       *       *       *       *

Many days the Angel of Death spread his wings over the cottage in the
Valley of the Many-Colored Grass. Their shadow cast a great stillness
upon the cottage. Outside was a white, silent world. Snow had
fallen--snow on snow--until it lay deep, deep upon the garden-spot and
deep in the streets outside. There was no wind and the ice-sheathed
trees that were as sentinels round about the cottage stood still. They
seemed to listen and to wait.

Inside, in the bed-chamber upstairs, under the shelving walls of the low
Dutch roof, The Dreamer's heartsease blossom lay broken and wan upon the
white bed. It was a very white little blossom and the dark eyes seemed
darker, larger than ever before as they looked out from the pale face.
But they had never seemed so soft and a smile like an angel's played now
and again about her lips.

Beside her, with his lips pressed upon the tiny white hand which he held
in both his own was the bowed figure of a man--of a poet and a lover who
like the ice-sheathed trees seemed to listen and to wait--of a man whose
countenance from being pale was become ghastly, whose eyes from being
luminous were wild with a "divine despair."

At the foot of the bed sat a silver-haired woman with saintlike face
uplifted in resignation and aspiration. For once the busy hands were
idle and were clasped in her lap. She too, listened and waited, as she
had listened and waited for days. Oh Love! Oh Life! Are these the happy
trio who lived for each other only in the Valley of the Many-Colored
Grass?

The silence was only broken when the lips of the invalid moved to murmur
some loving words or to babble of the flowers in the Valley. She was in
no pain but she was very tired. She was not unhappy, for the two whom
she loved and who loved her were with her and though she was tired she
soon would rest--in Heaven. When she spoke of going the man's heart
stood still with terror. He held the hand closer and pressed his lips
more fiercely upon it.

He would not let her go, he vowed. There was no power in Heaven or hell
to whom he would yield her.

But she sweetly plead that he would not try to detain her--that he would
learn to bear the idea of her leaving him which now gave her no
unhappiness but for one thought--the thought that after a season he
might, in the love of some other maiden, forget the sweet life he had
lived with her in the Valley, and that because of his forgetting, it
would not be given to him to join her at last, in the land where she
would be waiting for him--the land of Rest.

At her words, he flung himself upon his knees beside her bed and offered
up a vow to herself and to Heaven that he would never bind himself in
marriage to any other daughter of earth, or in any way prove himself
forgetful of her memory and her love, and to make the vow the stronger,
he invoked a curse upon his head if he should ever prove false to his
promise.

And as she listened her soft eyes grew brighter and she, in turn, made a
vow to him that even after her departure she would watch over him in
spirit and if it were permitted her, would return to him visibly in the
watches of the night, but if that were beyond her power, would at least
give him frequent indications of her presence--sighing upon him in the
evening winds or filling the air which he breathed with perfume from the
censers of the angels.

And she sighed as if a deadly burden had been lifted from her breast,
and trembled and wept and vowed that her bed of death had been made easy
by his vow.

       *       *       *       *       *

But it was not to be the bed of death. Little by little the shadow
lifted from over the cottage--the shadow of the wings of the Angel of
Death--and sunshine fell where the shadow had been, and a soft zephyr
made music, that was like the music of the voice of "Ligeia," in the
trees which dropped their sheath of ice. And the snow disappeared from
the streets and from the garden-spot which was all green underneath, and
by the time the crocuses were up health and happiness reigned once more
in the cottage.

But it was a happiness with a difference. A happiness which for all it
was so sweet, was tinctured with the bitter of remorse.

During the illness of his beloved wife, Edgar Poe had lived over and
over again through the horror of her death and burial with all of the
details with which the circumstances of his life had so early made him
familiar--and had tasted the desolation for him which must follow. While
his soul had been overwhelmed with this supreme sorrow his mind had been
unusually clear and alert. He had been alive to the slightest change in
her condition. Anticipating her every whim, he had nursed her with the
tenderness the untiring devotion, of a mother with her babe. Through
all his grief he was quiet, self-possessed, efficient.

But with the first glimmer of hope, his head reeled. His reason which
had stood the shock of despair, or seemed to stand it, gave way before
the return of happiness. A wild delirium possessed him. Joy drove him
mad, and already drunk with joy--mad with it--he flung prudence,
philosophy, resolutions to the wind and drank wine--and drank--and
drank. When--where--how much--he did not know; but at last merciful
illness overtook him and stopped him in his wild career.

With his convalescence his right mind returned to him; but he felt as he
did when he awoke to consciousness in Mother Clemm's bed-chamber in
Baltimore--that he had been down into the grave and back again.
Only--then there was no remorse--no fiercely accusing conscience to make
him wish from his soul that he might have remained in the abyss.

       *       *       *       *       *

In dressing-gown and slippers he sat--weak and tremulous--in an
arm-chair drawn close to the open fire in the cottage sitting-room.
About him hovered his two angels, anticipating his every need, pausing
at his side now and again to bestow a delicate caress. Virginia was more
beautiful since her illness. Her face and figure had lost their
plumpness and with it their childish curves--but a something exalted and
ethereal had taken their place. Her eyes were softer, more wistful than
ever. Through her fair, transparent skin glowed the faintest, most
exquisite bloom. Her harp was mute. Her singing voice was gone. But the
deep, low tones of her speaking voice, full of restrained feeling, could
only be compared by her husband to the melodious voice of the
dream-woman, "Ligeia." They recalled to him the impression that the
voice of the priest as he read the funeral rite over his dead mother had
made upon his infant mind--the impression of _spoken_ music. His
Virginia could no longer sing, but every word that fell from her lips
was music.

As she and her tall, nun-like mother quietly stepped about the rooms
ministering to his comfort, lifting the work of preparing the simple
meals, mending the fire, and keeping the rooms bright into a sacred rite
by the grace, the care, the dignity with which it was performed, no
word, no look escaped either save of tenderness, patience, and boundless
love. All the reproaches came from within his own breast--from that
inner self that boldly tearing the veil from his deeds filled him with
loathing of himself.

The years, his troubles, and his illness, had wrought a great change in
him--outwardly. The dark ringlets that framed his face were still
untouched with rime, and the dark grey eyes were as vivid, as
ever-varying in expression as before, but the large brow wore a furrow
and over it and the clear-cut features and the emaciated cheeks was a
settled pallor. The face was still very beautiful, but in repose it was
melancholy and about the mouth there was a touch of bitterness. The
illumining smile still flashed out at times, and filled all his
countenance with sweetness and light--but it was rarer than formerly.

He had many reasons for being happy--for being thankful. The genius with
which he was conscious he was endowed in larger measure than others of
his generation was being recognized. He had fame--growing fame--and
money enough for his needs. He had what was as necessary to his soul as
meat was to his body--the love of a woman who understood him in all his
moods and who was beautiful enough in mind and in body and pure enough
in spirit for him to worship as well as to love--to satisfy his soul as
well as his senses. And this woman, at the very moment when he thought
himself about to lose her forever, had been given back to him--given
back clothed upon with a finer a more exquisite beauty than she had
possessed before.

He had indeed found the end of the rainbow, but what did it amount to?
He was dissatisfied--not with what life was giving him, but with what he
was doing with his life. At the moment when his cup was fairly
overflowing with happiness and he should have been strongest, he had
suffered himself to be led away by the Imp of the Perverse, and had
spoiled all. Nothing he had ever been made to taste he told himself, was
so unbearably bitter as this dissatisfaction--this disgust with self.

       *       *       *       *       *

Yet when again the tiny crimson stream stained the sweet lips of his
Virginia, and again the Angel of Death spread a dread wing for a season
over the Valley of the Many-Colored Grass, all his knowledge of the
bitterness--the loathing--of remorse was not sufficient to make him
strong for the struggle with grief and despair.

Again the reason of Edgar Poe gave way before the strain, and again he
fell.



CHAPTER XXVII.


A day when the porch was rose-embowered once more and the garden-spot a
riot of color and the birds singing in the trees round about, found Mr.
Graham seated at Edgar Poe's desk in the office of _Graham's Magazine_.
The door behind him opened, and he raised his head from his writing and
quickly glanced over his shoulder. The look of inquiry in his blue eyes
instantly kindled into one of welcome.

"Come in! Come in! Dr. Griswold," he exclaimed. "I am more than glad to
see you! We are overwhelmed with work just now and perhaps we'll induce
you to lend a hand."

The visitor came forward with outstretched hand, stooping and bowing his
huge bulk as he came in a manner that to a less artless mind than Mr.
Graham's might have suggested a touch of the obsequious. His furtive but
watchful eye had already marked the fact that it was at Mr. Poe's
desk--not his own--that Mr. Graham sat--which was as he had anticipated.

"Mr. Poe laid up again?" he queried.

"Yes; he seems to be having quite an obstinate attack this time."

The visitor sadly shook his head. "Ah?--poor fellow, poor fellow!"

"Do you think his condition serious?" asked Mr. Graham, with anxiety.

Dr. Griswold cast a glance of the furtive eye over his shoulder and
around the room; then stooped nearer Mr. Graham.

"Didn't you know?" he questioned, in a lowered tone.

"Only that the failure of his wife's health has been a sad blow to him
and that after each of her attacks he has had a break-down. Is there
anything more?"

Dr. Griswold stooped nearer still and brought his voice to a yet lower
key.

"Whiskey"--he whispered.

Mr. Graham drew back and the candid brows went up.

"Ah--ah" he exclaimed. Then fell silent and serious.

"Did you never suspect it?" asked his companion.

"Never. I used to hear rumors when he was with Billy Burton, but I never
saw any indications that they were true, and didn't believe them. How
could I? Think of the work the man turns out--its quantity, its quality!
He is at once the most brilliant and the most industrious man it has
been my good fortune to meet--and withal the most perfect
gentleman--exquisite in his manners and habits, and the soul of honor.
Did you ever know a man addicted to drink to be so immaculately neat as
he always is? Or so refined in manners and speech? Or so exact in his
dealings? There is no one to whom I would more readily advance money, or
with greater assurance that it will be faithfully repaid in his best,
most painstaking work--to the last penny!"

Dr. Griswold's face took on a look of deep concern.

"The more's the pity--the more's the pity!" said he. "A good man gone
wrong!" Then with a hesitating, somewhat diffident air.

"You say that you need help which I might, perhaps, give?"

Mr. Graham was the energetic business man once more. Dr. Griswold's
visit was most opportune, he said, for while he had on hand a good deal
of "copy" for the next number of the magazine--furnished by Mr. Poe
before his illness--there were one or two important reviews that must be
written and Dr. Griswold would be the very man to write them, if he
would.

As Rufus Griswold seated himself at Edgar Poe's desk a look that was
almost diabolic came into his face. The temporary substitution was but a
step, he told himself, to permanent succession. As editor of the
magazine which under Poe's management had come to dominate thought in
America, he could speak to an audience such as he had not had before.
_He_ could make or mar literary reputations and he could bring the
public to recognize him as a poet!

It so chanced that upon that very day the editor of _Graham's Magazine_
found himself sufficiently recovered from his illness to go out for the
first time. As he fared forth, gaunt and tremulous, the midsummer beauty
of out-of-doors effected him curiously. It seemed strange to him that
the rose on the porch should be so gay, that the sunshine should lie so
golden upon the houses and in the streets of Spring Garden--that birds
should be singing and the whole world going happily on when his heart
held such black despair. As he went on, however, the fresh sweet air
gave him a sense of physical well-being that buoyed his spirits in spite
of the bitterness of his thoughts.

He was going to work again, and he was glad of it--but he made no
resolutions for the future. In the past when he had fallen and had
braced himself up again, he had sworn to himself that he would be strong
thereafter--that he would never, never yield to the temptation to touch
wine again. But he had not been strong. And now he looked the deplorable
truth straight in the face. He hoped with all his soul that he would not
fall again. He would give everything he possessed to ensure himself from
yielding to the temptation to taste the wild exhilaration--the
freedom--the forgetfulness--to say to the cup "Nevermore"--to ensure
himself from having to pay the price of his yielding in the agony of
remorse that was a descent into hell.

But he would deceive himself with no lying pledges. He hoped--he longed
to be strong; but he could not swear that he would be--he did not know
whether he would be or not. The temptation was not upon him now--he
loathed the very thought of it now; but the temptation would most
certainly return sooner or later. He hoped from the bottom of his soul
that he would resist it, but he feared--nay, in his secret heart he
believed--that he would yield. And because he believed it he loathed
himself.

As he drew near the office he thought of Mr. Graham,--how kind he
was--how trustful. He wondered if Mr. Graham knew the cause of his
illnesses and if not how long it would before he would know it; and if
the attacks were repeated how long he would be able to hold the place
that had shown him the end of the rainbow? How bitter it would be to
some day find, added to all the other disastrous results of his weakness
of will--to find another in the editorial chair of _Graham's_.

Just at this point in his soliliquy he reached his destination. He
mounted the steps leading to the office of _Graham's Magazine_ and
opened the door--quietly.

For a moment the two men in the office--each deep in his own work--were
unaware of his presence, and he stood staring upon their backs as they
sat at their desks. Mr. Graham was in his accustomed seat and in
his--The Dreamer's--the giant frame of the man whose big brain he
admired--though he was "no poet,"--the frame of Rufus Griswold!

Horror clutched his heart. Mr. Graham evidently knew, and knowing had
supplied his place without deeming him worth the trouble of notifying,
even. Had supplied it, moreover, with the one man who he himself
believed would fill it with credit. The readers would be satisfied. He
would not be missed. He turned and stumbled blindly down the stairs. Mr.
Graham heard him, and hurrying to the door, recognized and followed
him--trying to explain and to persuade him to return. But he was too
much excited to listen. His reason prompted him to listen, but the Imp
of the Perverse laughed reason to scorn. Seeing disaster ahead he rushed
headlong to embrace it.

He understood--he understood, he reiterated. There was nothing to
explain. Mr. Graham had secured Dr. Griswold's services. Mr. Graham had
done well. No, not for any inducement would he consider returning.

He was gone! He was in the street--a wanderer! A beggar, he told
himself!

       *       *       *       *       *

He wandered aimlessly about for an hour, then foot-sore--exhausted in
mind and body--he turned his face wearily in the direction of Spring
Garden, with its rose-embowered cottage sheltering exquisite
beauty--unalterable love--unfailing forgiveness--_heartsease_. He must
go home and tell "Muddie" and "Sissy" that he was a ruined man! Oh, if
they would only give him his desert for once! If they would only punish
him as he felt he should be punished. But they would not! They could
not--for they were angels. They were more--they were loving women filled
with that to which his mind and his soul bowed down and worshipped as
reverently as they worshipped God in Heaven--woman's love, with its
tenderness, its purity, and its unwavering steadfastness. They would
suffer--that horrible fear, the fear of the Wolf at the door which they
had not known in their beloved Spring Garden and since he had been with
_Graham's_ would again rob them of peace. They would bear it with meek
endurance, but they would not be able to hide it from him. He would see
it in the wistful eyes of Virginia and in the patient eyes of "Muddie."
But they would utter no reproach. They would soothe him with winning
endearments and bid him be of good cheer and would make a gallant fight
to show him that they were perfectly happy.

       *       *       *       *       *

During the year and a half of Edgar Poe's connection with _Graham's
Magazine_ he had raised the number of subscribers from five thousand to
thirty-seven thousand. His salary, like that he had received from _The
Messenger_, had been a mere pittance for such service as he gave, but
also, like what he received from _The Messenger_ it had been a regular
income--a dependence. With the addition of the little checks paid him
for brilliant work in other periodicals, it had amply served, as has
been said, to keep the Wolf from the door. In order to make as much
without a regular salary it would be necessary for him to sell a great
many articles and that they should be promptly paid for. And so he
wrote, and wrote, and wrote, while "Muddie" took the little rolls of
manuscript around and around seeking a market for them. Her stately
figure and saintlike face became familiar at the doors of all the
editors and publishers in Philadelphia.

It was a weary business but her strength and courage seemed never to
flag. Sometimes she succeeded in selling a story or a poem promptly and
receiving prompt pay. Then there was joy in the rose-embowered cottage.
Sometimes after placing an article payment was put off time and time
again until hope deferred made sick the hearts of all three dwellers in
the cottage.

Oftentimes they were miserably poor--sometimes they were upon the verge
of despair--yet through all there was an undercurrent of happiness that
nothing could destroy--they had each other and even at the worst they
still dreamed the dream of the Valley of the Many-Colored Grass, even
though the heartsease blossom drooped and drooped.

Virginia's attacks continued to come at intervals, and each time the
shadow hung more persistently and with deeper gloom over the cottage. It
would be lifted at length, but not until the husband and mother had
suffered again all the agonies of parting--not until what they believed
to be the last goodbyes had been said and the imagination, running ahead
of the actual, had gone through each separate detail of death and
burial.

The Dreamer's thoughts dwelt constantly upon these scenes and details
until finally the "dirges of his hope one melancholy burden bore--of
Never--Nevermore."

Under the influence of the state of mind that was thus induced, a new
poem began to take shape in his brain--a poem of the death of a young
and beautiful woman and the despair and grief of the lover left to mourn
her in loneliness. As it wrote itself in his mind the word that had
thrilled and charmed and frightened him at the bedside of his mother and
to whose time his feet had so often marched, as to a measure--the
mournful, mellifluous word, Nevermore--became its refrain.

The composition of his new poem became an obsession with him. His brain
busied itself with its perfection automatically. Not only as he sat at
his desk, pen in hand; frequently it happened that at these times the
divine fire refused to kindle--though he blew and blew. But at other
times, without effort on his part, the spark was struck, the flames
flashed forth and ran through his thoughts like wild-fire. When he was
helping Virginia to water the flowers in the garden; when he walked the
streets with dreaming eyes raised skyward, studying the clouds; when he
sat with Virginia and the Mother under the evening lamp or with feet on
the fender gazed into the heart of the red embers, or when he lay in his
bed in the quiet and dark--wherever he was, whatever he did, the phrases
and the rhythm of the new poem were filtering through his
sub-consciousness, being polished and made perfect.

Indeed the poem in the making cast a spell upon him and he passed his
days and his nights as though in a trance. Virginia and Mother Clemm
knew that he was in the throes of creation, and they respected his
brown-study mood--stepping softly and talking little; but often by a
silent pressure of his hand or a light kiss upon his brow, saying that
they understood. They were happy, for they knew the state of mind that
enveloped him to be one of profound happiness to him--though the
brooding look that was often in his grey eyes told them that the visions
he was seeing had to do with sorrow. They waited patiently, feeling
certain that in due course would be laid before them a work in prose or
verse, presenting in jewel-like word and phrase, scenes in some strange,
fascinating country which it would charm them to explore.

At last it was done! He told them while they sat at the evening meal.

"I have something to read to you two critics after supper," he said. "A
poem upon which I have been working. I don't know whether it is of any
account or not."

The two gentle critics were all interest. Virginia was breathless with
enthusiasm and could hardly wait to finish her supper.

"I knew you were doing something great," she exclaimed. "I _know_ it is
great! Nothing you have ever done has wrapped you up so completely.
You've been in a beautiful trance for weeks and Muddie and I have been
almost afraid to breathe for fear of waking you up too soon."

As soon as supper was over he brought out one of the familiar narrow
rolls of manuscript and smilingly drew it out for them to see its
length--giving Virginia one end to hold while he held the other.

She read aloud, in pondering tone, the two words that appeared at the
top: "The Raven."--

Then, as she let go the end she held, the manuscript coiled up as if it
had been a spring, and the poet rolled it closely in his hands and with
his eyes upon the fire, began, not to read, but slowly to recite. His
voice filled the room with deep, sonorous melody, saving which there
was no sound.

When the last words,

"And my soul from out that shadow that lies floating on the floor,

    Shall be lifted--nevermore!"

had been said, there was a moment of tense silence. Then Virginia cast
herself into his arms in a passion of tears.

"Oh, Eddie," she sobbed, "it is beautiful--beautiful! But so sad! I feel
as I were the 'lost Lenore' and you the poor lover; but when I leave you
you must not break your heart like that. You and Muddie will have each
other and soon you will come after me and we will all be happy together
again--in Heaven!"

No word passed the lips of the mother. Her silvered head was bowed in
grief and prayer. She too saw in "Lenore" her darling child, and she
felt in anticipation the loneliness and sorrow of her own heart. She
spoke no word, but from her saintly eyes two large bright tears rolled
down her patient cheeks upon the folded hands in her lap.

And thus "The Raven" was heard for the first time.

Soon afterward it was recited again. Edgar Poe carried it himself to Mr.
Graham and offered it for the magazine. Mr. Graham promised to examine
it and give him an answer next day. That night he read it over several
times, but for the life of him he could not make up his mind about it.
Its weirdness, its music, its despair, affected him greatly. But Mr.
Graham was a business man and he doubted whether, from a business point
of view, the poem was of value. Would people like it? Would it _take_?
He would consult Griswold about it--Griswold was a man of safe judgment
regarding such matters.

Dr. Griswold was indeed, a man of literary judgment and of taste. The
beauty of the poem startled him. It would bring to the genius of Edgar
Poe (he said to himself)--the poetic genius--acknowledgment such as it
had never had before. It was _too good_ a poem to be published. He had
bided his time and the hour of his revenge was come. He would have given
his right hand to have been able to publish such a poem over his own
signature--but the world must not know that Poe could write such an one!

The candid eyes of Mr. Graham as he awaited his opinion were upon his
face. His own eyes wore their most furtive look--cast down and sidelong.
His tone was depressed and full of pity as he said,

"Poor Poe! It is too bad that when he must be in need he cannot, or does
not, write something saleable. Of course you could not set such stuff as
this before the readers of _Graham's_!"

For once Mr. Graham was disposed to question his opinion.

"I don't know about that," he said. "The poem has a certain power, it
seems to me. It might repel--it might fascinate. I should like to buy it
just to give the poor fellow a little lift. The lovely eyes of that
fragile wife of his haunt me."

It was finally decided to let Mr. Poe read the poem to the office force,
and take the vote upon it.

They were all drawn up in a semi-circle, even the small office boy, who
sat with solemn eyes and mouth open and who felt the importance of
being called upon to sit in judgment upon a "piece of poetry." Edgar Poe
stood opposite them and for the second time recited his new poem--then
withdrew while the vote was taken.

Dr. Griswold was the first to cast his vote and at once emphatically
pronounced his "No!"

The rest agreed with him that the poem was "too queer," but as a solace
for the poet's disappointment some one passed around a hat and the next
day a hamper of delicacies was sent to Mrs. Poe, with the "compliments
of the staff at _Grahams_."

Albeit "The Raven" was rejected by Graham's Magazine and others, enough
of Edgar Poe's work was bought and published to keep his name and fame
before the public--just enough (poorly paid as it was) to keep the souls
of himself and his wife and his "more than mother," within their bodies.

And though Mr. Graham would none of "The Raven," he paid its author
fifty-two dollars for a new story--"The Gold Bug." This sum seemed a
small fortune to The Dreamer at the time, but he was to do better than
that with his story. _The Dollar Magazine_ of New York offered a prize
of one hundred dollars for the best short story submitted to it. Poe had
nothing by him but some critical essays, but remembering his early
success in Baltimore with "The MS. Found in a Bottle," he was anxious to
try. So he hastened with the critiques to _Graham's_ and offered them in
place of the story.

Mr. Graham agreed to the exchange and "The Gold Bug" was promptly
dispatched to New York, where it was awarded the prize.

When it was published in _The Dollar Magazine_ it made a great noise in
the world and a red-letter day in the life of Edgar Poe.

       *       *       *       *       *

The hundred dollars brought indeed, a season of comfort and cheer in the
midst of the hardest times the cottage in Spring Garden had known. But
the last penny was finally spent.

Winter came on--the winter of 1843. It was a severe winter to the
cottage. The bow of promise that had spanned it seemed to have withdrawn
to such a vast height above it that its outlines were indistinct--its
colors well nigh faded out.

The reading public still trumpeted the praise of Edgar the Dreamer--his
friends still believed in him--from many quarters their letters and the
letters of the great ones of the day fluttered to the cottage. And not
only letters came, but the _literati_ of the day in person--glad to sit
at Edgar Poe's feet, their hearts glowing with the eloquence of his
speech and aching as they recognized in the lovely eyes of the girl-wife
"the light that beckons to the tomb."

But there were other visitors that winter, and less welcome ones. Though
the master of the cottage wrote and wrote, filling the New York and
Philadelphia papers and magazines with a stream of translations,
sketches, stories and critiques, for which he was sometimes paid and
sometimes not, the aggregate sum he received was pitifully small and the
Wolf scratched at the door and the gaunt features of Cold and Want
became familiar to the dwellers in the Valley of the Many-Colored Grass.

In desperation the driven poet turned this way and that in a wild effort
to provide the necessities of life for himself and those who were
dearer to him than self--occasionally appearing upon the lecture
platform, and finally attempting, but without success, to secure
government office in Washington.

And oftener and oftener, and for longer each time the Shadow rested upon
the cottage--making the Valley dark and drear and dimming the colors of
the grass and the flowers--the dread shadow of the wing of the Angel of
Death.

Even at such times The Dreamer made a manful struggle to coin his brains
into gold--to bring to the cottage the comforts, the conveniences, the
delicacies that the precious invalid should have had. An exceedingly
appealing little invalid, she lay upon her bed in the upper chamber
whose shelving ceiling almost touched her head; and sometimes "Muddie"
and "Eddie" fanned her and sometimes they chafed her hands and her feet
and placed her pet, "Catalina," grown now to a large, comfortable cat,
in her arms, that the warmth of the soft body and thick fur might
comfort her shuddering frame. And oftentimes as she lay there "Eddie"
sat at a table nearby and wrote upon the long strips of paper which he
rolled into the neat little rolls which he or "Muddie" took around to
the editors.

And sometimes the editors were glad to have them, and to pay little
checks for them, and sometimes not.

The truth was, that though the fame of Edgar Poe was well established,
there was an undercurrent of opposition to him, that kept the price of
his work down. The little authors--venomous with spite and jealousy--the
little authors, chief among whom was Rufus Griswold of the furtive eye
and deprecating voice, were sending forth little whispers defaming his
character, exaggerating his weakness and damning his work with faint
praise, or emphatic abuse.

A day came when Edgar Poe realized that he must move on--that the "City
of Brotherly Love" had had enough of him--that to remain must mean
starvation. What removal would mean he did not know. That might mean
starvation too, but, as least, he did not know it.

It was hard to leave the rose-embowered cottage. It was April and about
Spring Garden and the cottage the old old miracle of the renewal of life
was begun. The birds were nesting and the earliest flowers were in
bloom. It was bitter to leave it--but, there was no money for the rent.
His fame had been greatest in New York, of late. The New York papers had
been the most hospitable to his work. It was bitter to leave Spring
Garden, but perhaps somewhere about New York they would find another
rose-embowered cottage. Virginia was unusually well for the present and
the prospect of a change carried with it a possibility of prosperity.
Who could tell what good fortune they might fall upon in New York?

Edgar Goodfellow had suddenly made his appearance for the first time in
many moons. _A change_ was the thing they all needed, he told himself.
In change there was hope!

He placed Mother Clemm and "Catalina" temporarily with some friends of
the "City of Brotherly Love" who had invited them, and accompanied by
his Virginia who was looking less wan than for long past, fared forth,
in the highest spirits, to seek, for the second time a home in New York.



CHAPTER XXVIII.


New York once more! They went by rail to Amboy and the remaining forty
miles by steamboat.

Certain cities, like certain persons, are witches; they have power to
cast a spell. New York is one of them.

Edgar and Virginia Poe had known hard times in New York--the bitterness
of hard times in a city large enough for each man to mind his own
business and leave his neighbors to mind theirs. Yet as the boat slowed
down and neared the wharf, and--past the shipping--they descried the
houses and spires of town looming, ghostlike, through the enveloping
mist of the soft, grey April day, it was with a thrill that these two
standing hand in hand--like children--upon the deck, clasped each
other's fingers with closer pressure and whispered,

"New York once more!"

It was their first little journey in the world just together, just they
two, and much as they loved the dear mother--their kind earthly
Providence, as they laughingly called her--there was something very
sweet about it. It was almost like a wedding journey. The star of hope
which never deserted them for long, no matter what their disappointments
and griefs might be, shone bright above their horizon--their beautiful
faces reflected its light. By it the lines of care and bitterness seemed
suddenly to have been smoothed out of Edgar's face, and under its
influence Virginia's merry laugh rippled out upon the moist air, causing
the eyes of her fellow-travellers to turn admiringly her way many
times.

Her husband hovered tenderly near her, drawing her shawl with solicitous
hand closer about her shoulders and standing upon the windward side of
her to protect her from the damp and keen breeze. He noted with delight
the fresh color of her cheeks--the life and color in her eyes.

"Do you know, Sweetheart," he said, "You have not coughed once since we
left Philadelphia! The change is doing you good already."

Both were blythe as birds. As the boat tied up at the wharf a gentle
shower set in, but it did not effect their spirits. He left her on board
with some ladies whose acquaintance she had made during the journey,
while he fared forth in the rain in quest of a boarding-house. As he
stepped ashore he met a man selling second-hand umbrellas. He bought
quite a substantial one for sixty-two cents and went on his way
rejoicing in the lucky meeting and the good bargain.

In Greenwich Street he found what he sought--a genteel-looking house
with "Boarders wanted," upon a card in the window. Another good bargain
was made, and hailing a passing "hack" he hastened back to the boat for
Virginia and her trunk and soon they were rattling over the
cobblestones.

"Why this is quite a mansion," exclaimed the little wife, as she peered
out at the house before which the carriage stopped--for while the
gentility of the establishment was of the proverbial "shabby" variety,
the brown-stone porch and pillars gave it an air of unmistakable
dignity.

Not long after their arrival the supper-bell rang, and they found
themselves responding with alacrity. When they took the seats assigned
them and their hungry eyes took in the feast spread before them, they
squeezed each other's hands under the table--these romantic young lovers
and dreamers. They had been happy in spite of frugality. Many a time
while hunger gnawed they had kissed each other and vowed they wanted
nothing (high Heaven pardoning the gallant lie!) Yet now, the
traveller's appetite making their palates keen--the travellers weariness
in their limbs--they were seized upon by an unblushing joy at finding
themselves seated at an ample board with a kindly landlady at the head
pouring tea--strong and hot--whose aroma was as the breath of roses in
their nostrels, while her portly and beaming spouse, at the foot, with
blustering hospitality pressed the bounty of the table upon them. A
bounteous table indeed, this decidedly cheap and somewhat shabby
boarding-house spread, and to their eager appetites everything seemed
delicious.

There were wheat bread and rye bread, butter and cheese, cold country
ham and cold spring veal--generous slices of both, piled up like little
mountains--and tea-cakes in like abundance.

They feasted daintily--exquisitely, as they did everything, but they
feasted heartily for the first time in months.

After supper they went to their room--a spacious and comfortably, though
plainly, furnished one, with a bright fire burning in a jolly little
stove. Their spirits knew no bounds.

"What would Catalina say to this solid comfort, Sis?" queried Eddie. "I
think she would faint for joy."

For answer Virginia smiled upon him through a mist of tears.

"Why Virginia--my Heart--" he cried in amazement. "What is it?"

"Only that it is too beautiful!" she managed to say. "And to think that
Muddie and Catalina are not here to share it with us!"

"Just as soon as I can scrape together enough money to pay for Muddie's
board and travelling expenses we will have them with us," he assured
her.

She dried her eyes and perched upon his knee while he went through his
pockets and bringing out all the money he had, counted it into her palm.

"Four dollars and a half," he said. "Not much, but we are fortunate to
have that. And with such fine living as we get here so cheap it will go
quite a long way. Let me see--the price of board and lodging is only
three and a half a week for both of us. Seven dollars would pay our way
for a fortnight--and in a fortnight's time there's no telling what may
turn up! Some editor might buy 'The Raven,' or money due me for work
already sold might come in. If I could only contrive to raise this sum
to seven dollars we could rest easy for at least a fortnight."

"I'll tell you how," said Virginia. "You have acquaintances here--hunt
up some of them and borrow three dollars. Then you would have enough to
pay two weeks board ahead and fifty cents over for pocket money."

"Wise little head!" exclaimed he, tapping her brow, "The very idea!"

And forthwith all care as to ways and means was thrown from both their
minds, and they gave themselves up to an evening of enjoyment of the
comforts of their brown-stone mansion.

While Virginia was resting her husband went out for a little shopping to
be done with part of the fifty cents they had allowed themselves for
spending money. First he exchanged a few cents for a tin pan to be
filled with water and placed on top of the stove, for the comfort of
Virginia who had been oppressed by the dry heat. Then a few cents more
went for two buttons his coat lacked, a skein of thread to sew them on
with, and a skein of silk with which Virginia would mend a rent in his
trousers made by too close contact with a nail on deck of the steamboat.

Next day was a bright, beautiful, spring Sunday. The sky and budding
trees had the newly-washed aspect often seen after a season of rain. The
sound of church-bells was on the air; the streets were filled with
people in their best clothes, and the new boarders in Greenwich Street,
fortified with a breakfast of ham and eggs and coffee, jubilantly joined
that stream of humanity which flowed toward the point above which
Trinity Church spire pierced the clear sky.

       *       *       *       *       *

On Monday, Edgar Poe was taken with what he called a "writing fit." For
several days (during which Edgar Goodfellow remained in the ascendency)
the fit remained on him, and he wrote incessantly--only pausing long
enough, now and then, to read the result to Virginia.

"This will earn us the money to bring Muddie and Catalina to New York,"
he said with confidence.

At last the manuscript was finished and no sooner was the ink dry upon
the paper than he took it to _The Sun_, which promptly bought and paid
for it, and upon the next Sunday, April 13, printed it not as a story,
but as news.

"Astounding News by Express, _via_ Norfolk!" (The headlines said). "The
Atlantic crossed in Three Days." Signal Triumph of Mr. Monck Mason's
Flying Machines!!!

"Arrival at Sullivan's Island, near Charleston, S.C., of Mr. Mason, Mr.
Robert Holland, Mr. Henson, Mr. Harrison Ainsworth, and four others, in
the Steering Balloon, 'Victoria,' after a passage of seventy-five hours
from Land to Land! Full Particulars of the Voyage!"

Strange as it may seem, the "astounding news" was received by the people
of New York for fact. There was a rush for copies of the _Sun_ which
announced with truth that it was the only paper in possession of the
"news," and not until denial came from Charleston, several days later,
was it suspected that the "news" was all a hoax and that Edgar
Goodfellow was simply having a little fun at the expense of the public.

The story did, indeed, earn money with which to bring "Muddie" and
"Catalina" to New York. It did more--it brought the editors to Greenwich
Street looking for manuscript. They begged for stories as clever and as
sensational as "The Balloon Hoax," but in vain. Edgar Goodfellow had
vanished and in his place was Edgar the Dreamer who only had to tell of,

    "A wild, weird clime that lieth sublime
    Out of Space--out of Time,

           *       *       *       *       *

    Where the traveller meets aghast
    Sheeted Memories of the Past,--

    Shrouded forms that start and sigh
    As they pass the wanderer by,--
    White-robed forms of friends long given
    In agony to the Earth and Heaven."

It was in vain that the editors besought him to try something else in
the vein of "The Balloon Hoax," assuring him that that was what his
readers were expecting of him, after his recent "hit"--that was what
they would be willing to pay him for--pay him well. Was it the Imp of
the Perverse that caused him to positively decline, and to persist that
"Dreamland" was all he had to offer just then?

It was Mr. Graham who finally accepted this quaint and beautiful poem,
and who published it--in the June number of _Graham's Magazine_.

       *       *       *       *       *

In October following the return of the Poes to New York--October of the
year 1844--Mr. Nathaniel P. Willis who was then editor of _The Evening
Mirror_, and had been editor of _The Dollar Magazine_, when it awarded
the prize of a hundred dollars to "The Gold Bug," was seated at his desk
in the "Mirror" office, when in response to his "Come in," a stranger
appeared in his doorway--a woman--a lady in the best sense of a word
almost become obsolete. A _gentlewoman_ describes her best of all. She
was a gentlewoman, then, past middle age, yet beautiful with the high
type of beauty that only ripe years, beautifully lived, can bring--the
beauty that compensates for the fading of the rose on cheek and lip, the
dimming of the light in the eyes, for the frost on the brow--the beauty
of patience, of tenderness, of faith unquenchable by fire or flood of
adversity. A history was written on the face--a history in which there
was plainly much of tragedy. Yet not one bitter line was there.

It was a face, withal, which could only have belonged to a mother, and
might well have belonged to the mother, Niobe.

In figure she was tall and stately, with a gentle dignity. Her dress was
simple to plainness, and might have been called shabby had it been less
beautifully neat. It was of unrelieved black, and she wore a
conventional widow's bonnet, with floating white strings.

The reader needs no introduction to this stranger to Mr. Willis, who in
a gentle, well-bred voice, with a certain mournful cadence in it,
announced herself as "Mrs. Clemm--the mother-in-law of Mr. Poe."

No connection with a famous author was needed to inspire Mr. Willis with
respect for his visitor. She seemed to him to be an "angel upon earth,"
and it was with an air approaching reverence that he handed her to the
most comfortable chair the office afforded.

Her errand was quickly made known. Edgar Poe was ill and not able to
come out himself. His wife was an invalid, and so it devolved upon her
to seek employment for him. In spite of his fame, she said, and of his
industry, his manuscripts brought him so little money that he was in
need of the necessities of life. Regular work with a regular income,
however small, she felt to be his only hope of being able to rise above
want.

Mr. Willis was distressed and promptly offered all he could. It was not
much, but it was better than nothing--it was the place of assistant
editor of his paper.

For months following, the figure of Edgar Poe was a familiar one in the
office of the _Evening Mirror_. Neither in his character of Edgar the
Dreamer nor that of Edgar Goodfellow was he especially known there, but
simply as a modest, industrious sub-editor, doing the work of a
mechanical paragraphist as quietly, as unobtrusively, as a machine. With
rarely a smile and rarely a word, he stood from morning till night at
his desk in a corner of the editorial room--pale, still and beautiful as
a statue, punctual and efficient and the embodiment of courtesy always.

And quietly and unobtrusively his personality made itself felt. Mr.
Willis came to love him for his innate charm and for his faithfulness to
duty.

       *       *       *       *       *

But the desk of a sub-editor could not long hold a genius like Edgar
Poe. He bore its drudgery without complaint, but when an opening that
seemed to invite his ambition, as well as to promise better pay came, he
hailed it with enthusiasm. In March of the next year he formed a
partnership with two New York journalists, as editors and managers of
_The Broadway Journal_. A few months later saw him sole proprietor as
well as editor, and for a short, bright period his old dream of a
magazine of his own, in which he could write as he pleased, came true.
Its realization seemed to inspire him with new energy. How many heads,
how many right hands had the man--his readers asked each other--that he
could turn out such a mass of work of such high order? His own and many
other of the magazines of the day were filled with reviews and
criticisms that made him the terror of other writers, and with stories
and poems that made him the marvel of readers everywhere.

His works were translated into the tongues of France, Germany and Spain,
and his fame grew in all of those countries.

Yet the most that he could afford in the way of a home was up two
flights of stairs--two rooms in the third story of a dingy old house in
East Broadway. Mother Clemm and Virginia kept them bright and spotless
and "Catalina" dosing on the hearth gave a final touch of comfort, and
they were far above the noise and dust of the streets, with windows
opening upon a goodly view of the sky. They had a front and a back room,
so that the beauties of the dawn and the noontide--of sunset and
moonrise--were all theirs.

And the Wolf came not near the door, and the three whose natures were
like to the natures of the oak, the vine and the heartsease, and who
lived for each other only, dreamed again the dream of the wonderful
valley--the Valley of the Many-Colored Grass.



CHAPTER XXIX.


Up, up the stairs, two steps at a time, sprang The Dreamer, one white
January day, and burst in upon Mother Clemm who was preparing dinner,
and Virginia who was mending his coat. He was in a great glee. He caught
"Muddie" in his arms where she stood with her hands deep in a tray of
dough, and kissed her, then stooped over Virginia and kissed _her_, and
dropped into her lap a crisp ten dollar bank note. She gave a little
scream of delight.

"Where did you get it?" she cried?

"From Willis. I've sold him 'The Raven.' He's vastly taken with it and
not only paid me the ten, in advance, but will give the poem an
editorial puff in the _Mirror_ of the nineteenth. He showed me a rough
draft. He will say that it is 'the most effective example of fugitive
poetry ever published in this country,' and predict that it will 'stick
in the memory of everybody who reads it!'"

"And it will! It will!" cried Virginia. "Especially that 'Nevermore.'
I've done everything in time to it since the first night you read it to
us."

"I've done everything in time to it since I was three years old,"
murmured her husband. He drew the miniature from the inside pocket of
his coat where he had carried it, close against his heart, throughout
his life, and gazed long upon it. In his grey eyes was the tender,
brooding expression which the picture always called forth. "Ever since I
heard that word for the first time from the lips of my old nurse when
she took me in to see my mother robed for the grave, my feet and my
thoughts have kept time to it; and generally when my steps and my face
have been set toward hope and happiness it has risen before me like a
wall, blocking my way."

Virginia arose from her chair letting her work and the bank note fall
unheeded from her lap, and went to him. Gently taking the miniature from
his hands she restored it to its place in his pocket and then with a
hand on each of his shoulders lifted her eyes to his.

"Buddie," she said, calling him by the old pet name of their earliest
days, "You frighten me sometimes. The miniature is beautiful but it
makes you so sad. And when you talk that way about 'The Raven,' I feel
as if I could hear your tears dropping on my coffin-lid!" Then, with a
sudden change of mood, her laugh rang out, and she pressed her lips upon
his.

"I'll have you know," she said, "I'm not dead yet, and you will not have
to journey to any 'distant Aidenn' to 'clasp' me."

"No, thank God!" he breathed, crushing her to him.

       *       *       *       *       *

It was upon January 29, 1845, that "The Raven" appeared, with Willis's
introductory puff. In spite of Dr. Griswold and the staff of _Graham's
Magazine_, it created an instant furor. It was published and republished
upon both sides of the Atlantic. To quote a contemporary writer,
everybody was "raven-mad" about it, except a few "waspish foes" who
would do its author "more good than harm."

It brought to the two bright rooms up the two flights of stairs visitors
by the score, eager to congratulate the poet, to make the acquaintance
of his interesting wife and mother and to assure all three of their
welcome to homes approached by brown-stone steps.

And it brought letters by the score--some from the other side of the
Atlantic. Among these was one from Miss Elizabeth Barrett, soon to
become the wife of Mr. Robert Browning.

"Your 'Raven' has produced a sensation here in England," she wrote.
"Some of my friends are taken by the fear of it, and some by its music.
I hear of persons haunted by the 'Nevermore,' and one of my friends who
has the misfortune of possessing a bust of Pallas never can bear to look
at it in the twilight. Mr. Browning is much struck by the rhythm of the
poem.

"Then there is that tale of yours, 'The Case of M. Valdemar,' throwing
us all into a 'most admired disorder,' and dreadful doubts as to whether
'it can be true,' as children say of ghost stories. The certain thing in
the tale in question is the power of the writer and the faculty he has
of making horrible improbabilities seem near and familiar."

Of all the letters from far and near, this was the one that gave The
Dreamer most pleasure, and as for Virginia and the Mother, they read it
until they knew it by heart.

When, some months later, his new book, "The Raven and Other Poems," came
out, its dedication was, "To the noblest of her sex--Miss Elizabeth
Barrett, of England."

       *       *       *       *       *

And there was joy in the two rooms up two flights of stairs where Edgar
Poe sat at his desk reeling off his narrow little strips of manuscript
by the yard. His work filled _The Broadway Journal_ and overflowed into
many other periodicals.

While he created stories and poems, he gave more attention than ever to
the duties of his cherished post as Defender of Purity of Style for
American Letters, and the fame to which he had risen giving him new
authority, he made or marred the reputation of many a literary aspirant.

Exposition of plagiarism became a hobby with him, and his attacks upon
Longfellow upon this ground, brought on a controversy between him and
the gentle poet which reached such a heat that it was dubbed "The
Longfellow War." All attempts of friends and fellow journalists to make
him more moderate in his criticisms were in vain; they seemed indeed,
but to excite the Imp of the Perverse, under whose influence he became
more merciless than ever. An admirer of this virtue carried to such an
extreme that it became a serious fault, as it was assuredly a grievous
mistake, humorously characterized him in a parody upon "The Raven,"
containing the following stanza:

    "Neither rank nor station heeding, with his foes around him bleeding,
    Sternly, singly and alone, his course he kept upon that floor;
    While the countless foes attacking, neither strength nor valor lacking,
    On his goodly armor hacking, wrought no change his visage o'er,
    As with high and honest aim he still his falchion proudly bore,
    Resisting error evermore."

Many of the "waspish foes" thus made turned their stings upon his
private character, against which there was already a secret poison
working--the poison that fell from the tongue, and the pen of Rufus
Griswold. He had the ear of numbers of Edgar Poe's friends in the
literary world, and what time The Dreamer dreamed his dreams in utter
ignorance of the unfriendliness toward him of the big man whose big
brain he admired, the big man watched for his chance to insert the
poison. It was invariably hidden in a coating of sugar. Poe was a
wonderful genius, he would declare, his imagination--his style--they
were marvellous! Marvelous! His _head_ was all right, but--. The "but"
always came in a lowered tone, full of commiseration, "_but_--his
_heart_!--Allowance should, of course, be made for his innate lack of
principle--he should not be held _too_ responsible. His habits--well
known to everyone of course!"

No--they were not even suspected, many of his listeners replied. Might
not Dr. Griswold be mistaken? they asked. Was it possible that an
habitual drunkard could turn out such a mass of brilliant and artistic
work? And consider the exquisite neatness of his manuscript!

Peradventure the listener persisted in believing his informant
mistaken--peradventure he at once accepted the damaging statements; but
in every case the poison had been administered, and was at work.

       *       *       *       *       *

There was just one class among the writers of the day sacred from the
attacks of Edgar Poe's pen. Before almost everything else The Dreamer
was chivalrous. The "starry sisterhood of poetesses" and authoresses,
therefore, escaped his criticisms. One of his contemporaries said of
him that he sometimes mistook his vial of prussic acid for his ink-pot.
In writing of authors of the gentle sex, his ink-pot became a pot of
honey.

Several of these literary ladies living in New York had their salons,
where they received, upon regular days, their brothers and sisters of
the pen, and at which The Dreamer became a familiar figure.

"I meet Mr. Poe very often at the receptions," gossiped one of the fair
poetesses in a letter to a friend in the country. "He is the observed of
all observers. His stories are thought wonderful and to hear him repeat
'The Raven' is an event in one's life. People seem to think there is
something uncanny about him, and the strangest stories are told and what
is more, _believed_, about his mesmeric experiences--at the mention of
which he always smiles. His smile is captivating! Everybody wants to
know him, but only a few people seem to get well acquainted with him."

Chief among the salons of New York was that of Miss Anne Charlotte
Lynch--who was afterward Mrs. Botta. An entré to her home was the
most-to-be-desired social achievement New York could offer, for it meant
not only to know the very charming lady herself, but to meet her
friends; and she had drawn around her a circle made up of the persons
and personages--men and women--best worth knowing. She became one of The
Dreamer's most intimate friends, and always made him and his wife
welcome at her "evenings." It was not long after "The Raven" had set the
town marching to the word "nevermore," that he made his first visit
there--a visit which long stood out clear in the memories of all
present.

In the cavernous chimney a huge grate full of glowing coals threw a
ruddy warmth into Miss Lynch's spacious drawing-room. Waxen tapers in
silver and in crystal candelabra, and in sconces, filled the apartment
with a blaze of soft light, lit up the sparkling eyes and bright,
intellectual faces of the assembled company, and showed to advantage the
jewels and laces of the ladies and the broadcloth of the gentlemen.

Miss Lynch stood at one end of the room between the richly curtained
windows and immediately in front of a narrow, gold-framed mirror which
reached from the frescoed ceiling to the floor and reflected her
gracious figure to advantage. She was listening with interested
attention to Mr. Gillespie, the noted mathematician, whose talk was
worth hearing in spite of the fact that he stammered badly. His subject
tonight happened to be the versatility of "Mr. P-P-Poe."

"He might have been an eminent m-m-mathematician if he had not elected
to be an eminent p-p-poet," he was saying.

To her right Mr. Willis's daughter, Imogen, was flirting with a tall,
lanky young man with sentimental eyes, a drooping moustache and thick,
straight, longish hair, whose lately published ballad, "Oh, Don't You
Remember Sweet Alice, Ben Bolt?" was all the rage.

To her left the Minerva-like Miss Margaret Fuller whose critical papers
in the _New York Tribune_ were being widely read and discussed, was
amiably quarreling with Mr. Horace Greely, and upon a sofa not far away
Mr. William Gilmore Simms, the novelist and poet, was gently disagreeing
with Mrs. Elizabeth Oakes Smith in her contention for Woman's Rights.

At the opposite end of the room a lovely woman in a Chippendale chair
was the central figure of a group of ladies and gentlemen each of whom
hung upon her least word with an interest amounting to affection. She
was a woman who looked like a girl, for thirty years had been kind to
her. Glossy brown hair parted in the middle and brushed smoothly down in
loops that nearly covered her ears framed an oval face, with delicate,
clear-cut features, pale complexion and eyes as brown and melting as a
gazelle's.

She was none other than Mrs. Frances Osgood, the author, or authoress,
as she would have styled herself, of "The Poetry of Flowers"--so much
admired by her contemporaries--whose husband, Mr. S.S. Osgood, the well
known artist, had won her heart while painting her portrait.

Conspicuous in the group of literary lights surrounding her was Dr.
Griswold in whose furtive glance, had she been less free from guile, she
might have read an admiration fiercer than that of friendship or even of
platonic love, and to whose fires she had unwittingly added fuel by
expressing admiration for his poems--Mr. Poe's opinion to the contrary.

Mr. Locke, author of "The Moon Hoax," was of the group; and the Reverend
Ralph Hoyt, who was a poet as well as a preacher; and Mr. Hart, the
sculptor; and James Russell Lowell, who happened to be in town for a few
days; and Mr. Willis and his new wife; and Mrs. Embury whose volume of
verse, "Love's Token Flowers," was just out and being warmly praised;
and George P. Morris, Willis's partner in the _Mirror_, whose "Woodman,
Spare that Tree!" and "We were Boys Together," had (touching a human
chord) made him popular.

The beloved physician, Dr. Francis, seemed to be everywhere at once, as
he moved about from group to group with a kindly word for
everybody--the candle-light falling softly upon his flowing silver locks
and his beaming, ruddy countenance.

Suddenly, there was a slight stir in the room--a cessation of talk--a
turning toward one point.

"There is Mr. P-P-Poe now," said Mr. Gillespie to Miss Lynch, and
followed her as, with out-stretched hand and cordial smile, she hastened
toward the door where stood the trim, erect, black-clad figure of Edgar
Poe, with his prominent brow and his big dreamy eyes, and his wife, pale
as a snow-drop after her many illnesses, and as lovely as one, and still
looking like a child, upon his arm.

Instant pleasure and welcome were written upon every face present save
one, and even that quickly assumed a smile as its owner came forward
bowing and stooping in an excess of courtesy.

The pair became immediately the centre of attraction. Everybody wanted
to have a word with them. It made Virginia thoroughly happy to see
"Eddie" appreciated, and she chatted blythely and freshly with all--her
spontaneous laugh bearing testimony to her enjoyment--while The Dreamer
yielded himself with his wonted modesty and grace to the hour--answering
questions as to whether he _really did_ believe in ghosts and whether
the experiments in mesmerism in his story, "The Case of M. Valdemar" had
_any_ foundation in fact, with his captivating but enigmatic smile, and
a little Frenchified shrug of the shoulders.

It would have seemed at first that he had diverted attention from the
fair author of "The Poetry of Flowers" to himself, but erelong--no one
knew just how it came to pass--Edgar Poe was sitting upon an ottoman
drawn close to the Chippendale chair, and the two lions were deep in
earnest and intimate conversation upon which no one else dared intrude.
The furtive eye of Rufus Griswold marked well the evident attraction
between these two beautiful and gifted beings--_poets_--and something
like murder awoke in his heart.

The tete-a-tete was interrupted by Miss Lynch, who declared that she
voiced the wish of all present in requesting that Mr. Poe would recite
"The Raven."

All the candles save enough to make (with the fire's glow) a dim
twilight, were put out, and the poet took his stand at one end of the
long room.

A hush fell upon the company and in a quiet, clear, musical voice, he
began the familiar words.

There was scarcely a gesture--just the motionless figure, the pale,
classic face, which was dim in the half-light, and the deep, rich voice.

Miss Lynch was the first to break the silence following the final
"Nevermore." Moving toward him with her easy, distinguished step, she
thanked him in a few low-spoken words. Mrs. Osgood, rising gracefully
from her chair, followed her example, with Dr. Griswold at her heels,
and in a few moments more the whole room was in an awed and subdued hum.

The girl-wife came in for her share of the lionizing. Her appearance was
in marked contrast to that of the richly apparelled women about her. The
simplest dress was the only kind within her reach--for which she may
have consoled herself with the thought that it was the kind that most
adorned her. She wore tonight a little frock made by her own fingers, of
some crimson woolen stuff, without a vestige of ornament save a bit of
lace, yellow with age, at the throat. Her hair was parted above the
placid brow, looped over her ears and twisted in a loose knot at the
back of her head, in the prevailing fashion for a young matron; which
with her youthful face, gave her a most quaint and charming appearance.

Her husband's coat had seen long service, but it was neatly brushed and
darned, and the ability to wear threadbare clothing with distinction was
not the least of Edgar Poe's talents. Beside his worn, but cared-for
apparel, costly dress often seemed tawdry.

       *       *       *       *       *

Out from the warmth and the light and the perfume and the luxury and the
praise of the beautiful drawing-room with its distinguished
assemblage,--out into the streets of New York--into the bleakness and
the darkness of the winter's night--stepped Edgar Poe and his wife.
Virginia was wrapped against the cold in a Paisley shawl that had been
one of Mother Clemm's bridal presents, while Edgar wore the military
cape he had at West Point and which, except in times of unusual
prosperity, had served him as a great-coat ever since.

Through the dimly-lit streets, slippery with ice, and wind-swept, they
made their way to the two rooms up two flights of stairs, where the
Widow Clemm mended the fire with a few coals at a time and sewed by a
single candle, as she waited for them--the lion of the most
distinguished circle in America and his beautiful wife!

Back from a world of dreams created by a company of dreamers to the
reality of an empty larder and a low fuel pile and a dun from the
landlord from whom they rented the two rooms.

"The Raven" had brought its author laurels in abundance, but only ten
dollars in money. Editors were clamoring for his work and he was
supplying it as fast as one brain and one right hand could; and some of
them were sending their little checks promptly in return and some were
promising little checks some day; but _The Broadway Journal_ had failed
for lack of capital. It was the old story. He had no regular income and
the irregularly appearing little checks only provided a
from-hand-to-mouth sort of living for the three.

Yet they had their dreams. Landlords might turn them out of house and
home but they were powerless to deprive them of their dreams.

Mother Clemm's one candle was burning low--its light and that of the
dying fire barely relieved the room from darkness and did not prevent
the rays of the newly arisen full moon from coming through the lattice
and pouring a heap of silver upon the bare floor.

"Look Muddie! Look Sissy!" cried the poet. "If we lived in a blaze of
light, like your rich folk, we should have to go out of doors to see the
moon. Who says there are not compensations in this life?"



CHAPTER XXX.


But it was not always possible to take a hopeful view. Continued poverty
which oftentimes reached the degree of positive want, anxiety for
Virginia's health and inability to provide for her the remedies and
comforts he felt might preserve her life, were enough to arouse Edgar
Poe's blue devils, and they did.

Why detail the harassments of the rest of that winter, during which The
Dreamer led a strange double life--a life in the public eye of
distinction, prosperity, popularity, but in private, a hunted life--a
life of constant dread of the wrath of a too long indulgent landlord or
grocer--a flitting from one cheap lodgement to another.

One gleam of genuine sunshine brightened the dreary days. The
acquaintance with Frances Osgood begun at Miss Lynch's salon soon
ripened into close friendship. She found her way up the two flights of
stairs and Edgar and Virginia and the Mother received her with as ready
courtesy and welcome as though the two rooms that looked on the sky had
been a palace. Her intimacy became so complete--her understanding of,
and sympathy with, the three who lived for each other only so perfect
that it was almost as if she had been admitted to the Valley of the
Many-Colored Grass.

Upon her The Dreamer bestowed in abundant measure that poetic love which
the normal heart is no more capable of feeling than the normal mind is
capable of producing his poetry. A love which was like his landscapes,
not of this world or of the earth earthy--a love of the mind, the
imagination, the poetic faculty. A love whose desire was not to possess,
but to kneel to. In his rhapsodies over the phantasmal women his genius
created or the real ones whose charm he felt, it was never of flesh and
blood beauty--of blooming cheek or rounded form--that he sang, but of
the expression of the eye, the tones of the voice, the graces and gifts
of the spirit and the intellect.

In return for this love he asked only sympathy--sympathy such as he drew
from the sky and the forest and the rock-bound lake and the winds of
heaven--mood sympathy.

It was a love quite beyond the imagination of Rufus Griswold to conceive
of, even. His furtive eye was on the watch, his jealous heart was filled
with foul surmises and he added a new poison to the old, with which he
was working, drop by drop, upon the good name of Edgar Poe.

Meantime the poet, harassed by troubles of divers kinds but innocent of
the new poison as he had been of the old, welcomed the intimacy of this
congenial woman friend as balm to his tried spirit; and delved away at
his work.

Upon his desk one morning, were piled a number of the small rolls of
narrow manuscript with which the reader is familiar. These were a series
of critical sketches entitled "The Literati of New York," by which he
hoped to keep the pot boiling some days. Virginia was listening for a
step on the stair, for she had written Mrs. Osgood a note that morning,
begging her to come to them, and she knew that she would respond. The
door opened and the slight, graceful figure and delicate face with the
gentle eyes, she looked for, appeared.

"What are all these?" asked the visitor, when she had embraced Virginia
warmly and when the poet had, after bowing over her hand, which he
lightly touched with his lips, led her to a chair.

Her eyes were fixed upon the pile of manuscripts.

"One of them is yourself, Madam," replied the poet.

"Myself?" she questioned, in amazement.

He bowed, gravely. "Yourself--as one of the Literati of New York. In
each one of these one of you is rolled up and discussed. I will show you
by the difference in their length the varying degrees of estimation in
which I hold you literary folk. Come Virginia, and help me!"

The fair visitor smiled as they drew out to the full length roll after
roll of the manuscript--letting them fly together again as if they had
been spiral springs. The largest they saved for the last. The poet
lifted it from its place and gave an end to his wife and like two merry,
laughing children they ran to opposite corners, stretching the
manuscript diagonally across the entire space between.

"And whose 'linked sweetness long drawn out' is that?" asked the
visitor.

"Hear her!" cried Edgar Goodfellow who was in the ascendent for the
first time in many a long day. "Hear her! Just as if her vain little
heart didn't tell her it's herself!"

But the moment of playfulness was a rarity, and all the more enjoyed for
that.

The papers came out in due course, serially, and created a new sensation
and brought their little reward, but they also plunged their author into
a succession of unsavory quarrels. As each one appeared, it was looked
for with eagerness and read with intense interest by the public, but
frequently with as intense anger by the subject.

Perhaps the most caustic of all the critiques was the one upon the work
of Mr. Thomas Dunn English, whom Poe contemptuously dubbed, "Thomas Done
Brown."

Mr. English bitterly retorted with an attack upon his critic's private
character. A fierce controversy followed in which English became so
abusive that Poe sued and recovered two hundred and twenty-five dollars
damages--which goes to prove that even an ill wind can blow good.

Long after the papers had been published the scene of playful idleness,
with all its holiday charm, when Edgar Poe drew out the strips of
manuscript in which were rolled up "The Literati of New York" remained
in Mrs. Osgood's memory, and in his own. To him it was indeed a gleam of
brightness amid a throng of "earnest woes," a season of calm in a
"tumultous sea."

But, as been said, why dwell upon the details of that bleak, despairing
winter? Spring brought a change which makes a more pleasant picture.

       *       *       *       *       *

Ever since they had left Philadelphia the Poes had clung, in memory, to
the rose-embowered cottage in Spring Garden. There, they told each
other, they had a home to their minds. It was the dear "Muddie," their
ever faithful earthly Providence to whom they were already so deeply
indebted, who discovered in the suburb of Fordham, a tiny cottage which
had much of the charm of which they dreamed--even to the infinitesimal
price for which it could be rented.

It was only a story and a half high, but there was a commodious and
cheerful room down stairs, with four windows, and from the narrow
hallway a quaint little winding stair led to an attic which though its
roof was low and sloping contained a room large enough to serve the
double purpose of bed-chamber and study.

There was a pleasant porch across the front of the cottage which would
make an ideal summer sitting-room and study, when the half-starved
rose-bush upon it should have been nursed and trained to screen it from
the sun.

The cottage stood upon a green hill, half-buried in cherry trees--just
then in full bloom and filled with bird-song. Nearby was a grove of
pines and a short walk away was the Harlem River, with its picturesque,
high, stone bridge. It was an abode fit to be in Paradise, Edgar told
Virginia and the Mother, and within a few days they and their few small
possessions--including Catalina--were as well established there as if
they had never known any other home.

The moving in recalled the earliest days of their life at Spring Garden.
Again "Muddie" was busy, not with soap and water only, but with the
whitewash brush. Again their hearts were blythe with the pleasing sense
of change--of the opening up of a new vista of there was no knowing what
happiness--just as children welcome any change for the change itself,
always expecting to find pleasant surprises upon a new and untried road.

But there was a difference in themselves since the moving into the
Spring Garden Cottage, which had been so gradual that they were scarcely
conscious of it. The years since then lay heavily upon them. They showed
plainly in the deepened lines in Mother Clemm's face, in the deepened
anxiety in her Mater Dolorosa eyes, in the frost upon the locks that
peeped from under her immaculate widow's cap. They showed in the
fragile figure of Virginia--once so full of sweet curves;--in the
ethereal look that had come into the once rounded cheeks and full
pouting lips, in the transparency of her skin and in the sweet eyes that
when not filled with the merry laughter that had through thick and thin
filled her dwelling place with sunshine and music, had a faraway
expression in them, as if they were looking into another world.

They showed most of all in The Dreamer himself. To him these years had
been years of fierce battle; battle, not for wealth, but for bread;
battle not so much for selfish ambition as for his country, and in a
high sense--for he had fought valiantly to win a place for America in
the world of letters; battle with himself--with the devils that sought
mastery over his spirit--the devil of excitement and exhilaration that
lay in the bottom of the cup, the devil of blessed forgetfulness,
accompanied by magical dreams that dwelt in the heart of the poppy, the
devil of melancholy and gloom to whom he felt a certain charm in
yielding himself, the devil of restlessness and dissatisfaction with
whatsoever lay within his grasp--a dog-and-shadow sort of desire to drop
the prize in hand in a chase after that of his vision,--the impish devil
of the perverse.

At times he had been victorious, at other times there had been defeat.
But always the warfare had been fierce and the scars remained to tell
the story. They remained in the emaciation and the deep lines of his
still beautiful face; remained in the drooping curves of the mouth;
remained above all in the ineffable sadness of the large, deep, luminous
eyes.

Yet that sweet spring day when the three were moving into Fordham
cottage, the years that had wrought upon them thus were as they had not
been.

Their little possessions had dwindled pitifully. Virginia's golden harp
that had been the glory of the sitting-room was gone to pay a debt. One
by one others of their household gods had provided bread. But the spurt
of prosperity the damages recovered in the "Thomas Done Brown" suit
brought, made possible a new checked matting for the sitting-room floor
and so bright and clean did it look that they felt it almost furnished
the room of itself. It would mean much to them in saving the dear Mother
the most laborious feature of her labor. It was a more difficult matter
than formerly for her to get down upon her knees to scrub the floor and
it had become impossible for the frail Virginia to help her in such
work; yet as long as the floor was bare she had kept it as spotless and
nearly as white as new fallen snow. When the matting had been laid,
Eddie took her beautiful worn hands in his and kissed first one and then
the other.

"No more scrubbing of the sitting-room floor, dear hands," he playfully
said.

In addition to the matting there were in the way of furnishings only a
few chairs, some book-shelves, a picture or two, vases for flowers, some
sea-shells, and, of course, Edgar's desk. Above the desk hung the
pencil-sketch of "Helen" from which somehow, he was always able to draw
inspiration. Sometimes the wings of his imagination would droop, his pen
would halt. In desperation he would look up at the picture.--Could it be
(he would ask himself) that her spirit had come to dwell in this
representation of her which he had made from memory? Her eyes seemed to
look at him through the eyes in the picture--the past came back to him
as it sometimes did when the mingled scent of magnolias and roses on
the summer night air placed him back beneath her window.

From this portrait of the lovely dead upon the wall, from the miniature
of the lovely dead that he carried always next his heart, and from the
lovely being who walked, in life, by his side, but toward whose bosom
death had this long time pointed a warning finger, came all his
inspiration in the new, as in each of the old homes.

Upstairs, close under the sloping roof, was the bare bed-room, barer
than the one below--for there was no checked matting upon the floor, and
there were only such pieces of furniture as were an absolute necessity;
but against a small window in the end of the room leaned a great
cherry-tree. The windows were open and the faint fragrance of the
blossoms floated in with the song and gossip of the nesting birds. Edgar
and Virginia laughed together like happy children and told each other
that they would "play" that their room under the roof was a nest in the
tree--which was so much more poetical than living in an attic.

And roundabout the cottage on the green hill, with its screen of
blossoming cherry trees and (hardby) its dusky grove of Heaven-kissing
pines, and its views of the river and walk leading to the stone-arched
bridge, the three who lived for each other only had erelong
reconstructed the wonderful dream-valley--the Valley of the Many-Colored
Grass.

And the cottage at Fordham became a Mecca to the "literati of New York,"
even as the cottage at Spring Garden had been a Mecca to the literati of
Philadelphia. Among those who made pilgrimages thither were many of the
"starry sisterhood of poetesses"--chief of whom was the fair Frances
Osgood. Yet in his retirement The Dreamer enjoyed for the first time
since he had left Spring Garden long intervals of relief from company,
and in the pine-wood and on the bridge overlooking the river, he found
what his soul had long hungered for--silence and solitude. Under their
influence he conceived the idea of a new work--a more ambitious work
than anything he had hitherto attempted--a work in the form of a prose
poem upon no less subject than "The Universe," whose deep secrets it was
designed to reveal, with the title "Eureka!"

       *       *       *       *       *

Ah, Dreamer, could we but call the curtain here!--Could we but leave you
in your cottage on the hill-top, overlooking the river, with the trees
full of blossom and music about it, and the wood inviting your fancy,
where as you pace back and forth with your hands clasped behind you your
great deep eyes are filled with the mellow light that illumines them
when they are turned inward exploring the treasures of your brain--leave
you deep in the high joy of meditation upon God's Universe!

But "the play is the tragedy, 'Man,'" and it is only for the dread
"Conqueror" to give the word, "Curtain down--lights out!"



CHAPTER XXXI.


All too soon the Wolf scratched at the door of the cottage on Fordham
Hill. All too soon the shadow that had so often enveloped the
rose-embowered cottage in Spring Garden--the shadow from the wing of the
Angel of Death--fell upon the cottage among the cherry trees.

The Dreamer sat before his desk under the picture of "Helen," for hours
and hours, or when Virginia was too ill to be up, at a little table
beside her bed in the chamber which was like a nest in a tree. In fair
weather and foul the stately figure and sorrowful eyes of Mother Clemm
were to be seen upon the streets of New York as she went about offering
the narrow rolls of manuscript for sale as fast as they were finished,
or trying to collect the little, over-due checks from those already sold
and published. Yet, with all they could do, had it not been for the
generous gifts of friends the three must needs have succumbed to cold
and hunger. And all the time the poison that fell from Rufus Griswold's
tongue was at work. Even the visits of the angels of mercy who
ministered to him and his invalid wife in this their darkest hour were
made, by the working of this poison, to appear as things of evil. How
was one of the furtive eye and the black heart of a Rufus Griswold to
understand love of woman of which reverence was a chief ingredient?

These ministering angels--Mrs. Osgood, Mrs. Gove, Mrs. Marie Louise
Shew, and others whose love for the racked and broken Dreamer and for
herself Virginia so perfectly understood--Virginia the guileless, with
her sense for spiritual things and her warm, responsive heart--brought
to the cottage not only encouragement and sympathy, but medicines and
delicacies which were offered in such manner that even one of Edgar
Poe's sensitive pride could accept them without shame.

Summer passed, and autumn, and winter drew on--filling the dwellers in
Fordham cottage with fear of they knew not what miseries. There had been
ups and downs; there had been happiness and woe; there had been times of
strength and times of weakness--of weakness when The Dreamer, unable to
hold out in the desperate battle of life as he knew it; hungry, cold and
heartbroken at the sight of his wife with that faraway look in her eyes,
had fallen--had sought and found forgetfulness only to know a horrible
awakening that was despair and that was oftentimes accompanied by
illness. Now, there was added to every thing else the knowledge that
she--his wife--his heartsease flower, and the Mother, in spite of all
his striving for them, were objects of charity.

When some of his friends, in the kindness of their hearts, published in
one of the papers an appeal to the admirers of Edgar Poe's work for aid
for him and his family in their distress, he came out in a proud denial
of their need for aid. The need was great enough, God knows!--but the
pitiful exposure was more painful than the pangs of cold and hunger.

       *       *       *       *       *

At last the day drew near of whose approach all who had visited the
cottage knew but of which they had schooled themselves not to think.

January 1847 was waning. For many days the ground had not been seen. The
branches of the cherry trees gleamed--not with flowers, but with
icicles--as they leaned against the windows of the bed-chamber under
the roof. Sometimes as the winter blast stirred them, they knocked
against the panes with a sound the knuckles of a skeleton might have
made. There was not the slightest suggestion of the soft-voiced "Ligeia"
in that harsh, horrible sound.

Upon the bed the girl-wife lay well nigh as still and as white as the
snow outside. Now and again she coughed--a weak, ghostly sort of cough.
Over her wasted body, in addition to the thin bed-clothing, lay her
husband's old military cape. Against her breast nestled Catalina,
purring contentedly while she kept the heart of her mistress warm a
little longer. Near the foot of her bed the Mother sat--a more perfect
picture than ever of the Mater Dolorosa--chafing the tiny cold feet; at
the head her husband bent over her and chafed her hands. About the room,
but not near enough to intrude upon the sacred grief of the stricken
mother and husband, sat several of the good women whose friendship had
been the mainstay of the three. Through the window, gaining brilliance
from the ice-laden branches outside, fell the rays of the setting sun,
glorifying the room and the bed. Scarce a word was spoken, but upon the
request of the dying girl for music one of the visitors began to sing in
low, tremulous tones, the beautiful old hymn, "Jerusalem the Golden." To
the man, bowed beneath his woe as it had been a physical weight, the
words came as a knell, and a blacker despair than ever settled upon his
wild eyes and haggard face. To his dying wife they were a promise--the
smile upon her lip and the look of wonder in her eyes showed that she
was already beholding the glories of which the old hymn told.

And so wandered her spirit out of the cold and the want and the gloom
that had darkened and chilled the Valley of the Many-Colored Grass, into
the regions of "bliss beyond compare."

But her husband, left behind, was as the man in his own story,
"Silence," who sat upon a rock--the gray and ghastly rock of
"Desolation." "With his brow lofty with thought and his eyes wild with
care and the fables of sorrow and weariness and disgust with mankind
written in furrows upon his cheek," he sat upon the lonely grey rock and
leaned his head upon his hand and looked out upon the desolation. She
was no more--no more!--the maiden who lived with no other thought than
to love and be loved by him;--his wife--in all the storm and stress of
his troubled life his true heartsease!

Out of the desolation he perceived a thing that was formless, that was
invisible--but that was appalling--_silence_. Silence that made him
shrink and quake--he that had loved, had longed for silence! Silence
would crush him now. And solitude!--how often he had craved it! He had
solitude a plenty now.

Like a hunted animal, he looked about for a refuge from the Silence and
the Solitude that gave him chase, but he knew that however fast he might
flee they would be hard on his heels.

How white she was--and how still! Nevermore to hear the sounds of her
low sweet voice, nevermore to hear her merry laughter, nevermore her
light foot-step that--like her voice and her laugh--was music to his
ears! Nevermore!--for she was wrapped in the Silence--the last great
silence of all.

Nevermore would she sit beside him as he worked, or plant flowers about
the door, or lay her hand in his and explore with him the wonderful
dream-valley; nevermore lay her sweet lips upon his or raise the
snow-white lids from her eyes and shine on him from under their long,
jetty fringes. Henceforth a Solitude as vast as the Silence would be his
portion.

Their sweet friend Marie Louise Shew robed her for the tomb and over the
snow they bore her to rest in a vault in the village churchyard.

Then, for many weeks Edgar Poe lay in the bed-chamber under the roof,
desperately ill--for the most part unconscious. The mother bereaved of
her child had no time to give herself over to mourning, for as she had
wrestled with death for the possession of a son when he was first given
into her keeping, even more fiercely did she wrestle now that he must be
son and daughter too. The kind friends who had made Virginia's last days
comfortable aided her in the battle, and finally the victory was
won,--pale, shaken, wraith-like, the personification of woe made
beautiful--The Dreamer came forth into the air of heaven once more, and
as spring opened was to be seen, as of old, walking among the pines or
beside the river.

And ever and anon his clear-cut, chastened features and his great,
solemn eyes were turned skyward--especially at night when the heavens
were sown with stars; for from some one of those bright worlds,
peradventure, would she whose absence made the Solitude and the Silence
be looking down upon him. And as he gazed and dreamed, high thoughts
took form in his brain--thoughts of the "Material and Spiritual
Universe; its Essence, its Origin, its Creation, its Present Condition
and its Destiny,"--thoughts to be made into a book dedicated to "Those
who feel rather than to those who think--to the dreamers and those who
put faith in dreams as in the only realities"--thoughts for his
projected work, "Eureka!" Out of the Silence and the Solitude came the
development and completion of this strange prose poem.

Like an uneasy spirit he wandered, night and day, up and down the river
bank, in the wood or in the churchyard that held the tomb of his
Virginia.

Meanwhile the Mother still kept the cottage bright. She asked no
questions when he went forth, night or day, or when he came in, night or
day; but her heart bled for him and sometimes when he would throw
himself into a deep chair and sit by the hour, seemingly staring at
nothing, but really (she knew by the harassed and brooding look in the
great, deep eyes) "dreaming dreams no mortal ever dared to dream
before," she would steal gently to his side and with her long, slim,
expressive fingers stroke the large brow until natural sleep brought
respite from painful memories. Her ministrations were grateful to him,
yet he was barely conscious of her presence. Not even for her, and far
less for any other human being, did he feel kinship at this time. His
vision, when not turned within, looked far beyond human companionship to
the wonders of the universe--the stars and the mountains and the forests
and the rivers; but his only real companion was his own stricken heart.
Many times he said to his heart in the prophetic words of his fantastic
creation, "Morella,"

"Thy days henceforth shall be days of sorrow--that sorrow which is the
most lasting of impressions as the cypress is the most enduring of
trees. For the hours of thy happiness are over, and joy is not gathered
twice in a lifetime as the roses of Paestum twice in a year."

Yet as the back is fitted to the burden and the wind tempered to the
shorn lamb, so again, as in his early griefs, the sorrow of The Dreamer
was not all pain, there was an element of beauty--of poetry--in it that
made it possible to be endured. Out of the depths of the Solitude and
the Silence he said to his soul,

"It is a happiness to wonder--it is a happiness to dream." And more than
ever before in his life his whole existence had become a dream--the
realities being mere shadows.

To dream, to wonder, to work; to work, to wonder, to dream--thus were
the hours, the hours of sorrow, spent. The hours of which the poet lost
all count, for between his dreams and his work so intensely full were
the hours of vivid mental living that each day was as a lifetime in
itself.

And as he wandered under the pines or along the river, wrapped in his
dreams and wondering thoughts of heaven and earth, or leaned from the
window of the chamber under the low sloping roof--the chamber that had
been the chamber of death--and looked beyond the embowering cherry trees
upon the sky; or at dead of night sat under his lamp pondering over his
books--always, everywhere, he listened--listened for the voice and the
foot-falls of Virginia as he had listened in his earlier days for the
voice and the footfalls of the mythical "Ligeia." For had she not
promised that she would watch over him in spirit and, if possible, give
him frequent indications of her presence--sighing upon him in the
evening winds or filling the air which he breathed with perfume from the
censers of the angels?

And her promises were faithfully kept, for often as he listened he heard
the sounds of the swinging of the censers of the angels, and streams of
a holy perfume floated about him, and when his heart beat heavily the
winds that bathed his brow came to him laden with soft sighs, and
indistinct murmurs filled the night air.

       *       *       *       *       *

And so the green spring and the flowery summer passed, and autumn drew
on.

Then came a day of days--a soft October day when merely to exist was to
be happy and to hope. And new life, like some sweet, rejuvenating
cordial seemed to enter and course through the veins of The Dreamer and
for the first time since the Silence and the Solitude had enveloped the
cottage he laughed as he flung wide the windows of the chamber that had
been the chamber of death, to let in the day. And as he looked forth he
said, again quoting the words of his "Morella,"

"The winds lie still in heaven. There is a dim moisture over all the
earth and a warm glow upon the waters, and upon the forest a rainbow--a
bow of promise--from the firmament has surely fallen. It is not a day
for sorrow but for joy, for it is a day out of Aidenn itself, and I feel
that ere it has passed I shall hold sweeter, more real communion with
her that is in Aidenn than ever before."

He went forth and wandered through the radiance of that perfect day
hours on hours, and as he paced the solemn aisles of the pine wood, or
strolled along the river walk which was veiled in a golden haze and
carpeted thick with the yellow and crimson and brown leaves of October,
he heard, clearly, the sound of the swinging of the censers of the
angels, as his senses were bathed in the holy perfume, and the zephyrs
that blew about his brow were laden with audible sweet murmurs.

As evening fell a pleasant languor possessed his limbs--a wholesome
weariness from his long wanderings--and he lay down upon a bank littered
with fallen leaves and slept. And as he slept in the fading light, the
spirit of Virginia approached him more nearly--more tangibly--than ever
before; and finally, when the red sun had sunk into the river, and when
the afterglow in the sky and the rainbow that lay upon the forest were
alike blotted out by the shadows of night, and the moon--a lustrous blur
through the haze--wandered uncertainly up the sky, she drew nearer and
nearer, and pressed a fluttering kiss--such a kiss as a butterfly might
bestow upon a flower--upon his lips; then, sighing, drew away.

The sleeper awoke with a start--a start of heavenly bliss followed by
instant pain--for as he peered into the night he saw that he was
alone--with the Silence and the Solitude. The winds lay still in heaven
and bore him no whisper or sigh. The perfume from the censers of the
angels still filled the air, but he was conscious of a great void--a
pain unbearable. The kiss had awakened a thousand thronging memories;
the kiss had robbed of their charm the elusive perfume, and the ghostly
whisper of fluttering garments, and the shadowy foot-falls, and the
faint, faraway sighs. Henceforth these would cease to satisfy. The kiss
had made him know the want of his heart for love and companionship, such
as the living Virginia had given him.

He listened and listened, but the winds lay still in heaven, and he was
alone with the Silence--the dread Silence--and the heart-hunger, and the
despair.

Then he arose from his bed of withered and sere leaves and as one
distraught, wandered through the shadows of the misty, weird night. In
the wood and by the waters he wandered, while the night wore on and the
moon held its way--still a lustrous blur in the heavens.

On, on he wandered, seeking peace for his soul and finding none, till
the moon was out and the stars fainted in the twilight of the
approaching day, when lo, above the end of the path through the wood,
the morning star--"Astarte's bediamonded crescent"--arose upon his
vision!

And as he gazed with wonder and delight upon the beautiful star, hope
was born anew in his heart, for he said,

"It is the Star of Love!"

He that had always looked for signs in the skies, had he not found one?
What could it mean, this rising of the Star of Love upon the hour of his
bitterest need but a sign of hope, of peace?

Vainly did his soul upbraid him and warn him not to trust the beacon--to
fly from its alluring light and cast aside its spell. All deaf to the
warning, he eagerly followed the star which promised renewal of hope and
love and relief from the Solitude and the Silence--the desolation that
the kiss had made so real and intolerable.

But alas, as he wandered on and on, his eyes upon the star, his feet
following blindly, without marking the path into which they had turned,
his progress was suddenly checked. Through the misty twilight of the
approaching dawn there loomed an obstacle to his steps. It was with
horror unspeakable that he recognized the vault in which lay, in her
last sleep, his loved Virginia....

    "Then his heart it grew ashen and sober
    As the leaves that were crispéd and sere,--
    As the leaves that were withering and sere!"

The Star of Love was fading in the eastern sky and through the ghostly
dawn he turned and fled aghast to the cottage among the cherry trees.

       *       *       *       *       *

Mother Clemm who had lain waiting and watching for him all night arose
from her uneasy couch when she heard the latch of the gate lifted, and
opened the door. He came in and walked past her like a wraith. His eyes
were wild, his face was bloodless and haggard, his hair damp and
disordered. The Mother's eyes were filled with dumb pain. He suffered
her to take his hand in hers and to gaze into his eyes with pity and
even raised the hand that held his own to his lips, as though to
reassure her; but he spake no word--made no attempt at explanation--and
she asked no questions.

For a moment he remained beside her, then straight to his desk he walked
and began arranging writing materials before him, while she disappeared
into the kitchen and started a blaze under a pot of coffee that stood
upon the little stove.

He wrote rapidly--furiously--without pausing for thought or for the
fastidious choice of words that was apt to make him halt frequently in
the act of composition, and the words that he wrote were the wild
words--wild, but beautiful and moving as an echo from Israfel's own
lute--of the poem, "Ulalume:"

    "The skies they were ashen and sober;
      The leaves they were crispéd and sere,--
      The leaves they were withering and sere,--
    It was night in the lonesome October
      Of my most immemorial year."

       *       *       *       *       *

After that eventful night a change came over him that sat upon the Rock
of Desolation. The Solitude and the Silence still enfolded him, but the
Star of Love had arisen in his firmament, ushering in a new day and new
hope to his soul. And he no longer trembled as he sat upon the rock, but
with new energy he worked and with exceeding patience he waited. And as
he worked interest in life returned to him, and ambition returned.

One day he copied "Ulalume" upon a long, narrow slip of paper and rolled
it into one of the tight little rolls that all the editors knew and
Mother Clemm made a pilgrimage to the city especially on account of it.
First she tried it at _The Union Magazine_, which promptly rejected it.
It was too "queer" the editor said. But _The American Review_ agreed to
take it and to print it without signature--for this poem must be
published anonymously, if at all, the poet insisted. It soon afterward
appeared and Mr. Willis copied it into the next number of _The Home
Journal_ with complimentary editorial comment.

The result was a new sensation--the reader everywhere declared himself
to be brought under a magic spell by the words of this remarkable
poem--though he frankly owned that he did not in the least understand
them; which was as Edgar Poe intended.

       *       *       *       *       *

Even the old dream of founding a magazine returned and possessed him as
it had so often possessed him before. It was in the interest of the
magazine, which he still proposed to name _The Stylus_, that he
determined to give his new work, "Eureka!" as a lecture, in various
places. He did give it once--in New York--coming out of his seclusion
for the first time, upon a frosty February night. The rhapsody,
delivered in his low but musical and dramatic tones, thrilled his
audience, but it was a small audience, and when soon afterward, the work
was published by the _Putnams_ it was a small number of copies that was
sold.

And again Edgar Poe was desperately poor. Yet he had seen the Star of
Love--"Astarte's bediamonded crescent"--usher in a new morning; and he
waited and worked in hope.



CHAPTER XXXII.


Autumn with its enchanted October night, and winter filled with work and
spent in deep seclusion at Fordham, and spring with its revival of plans
for _The Stylus_, and the appearance of "Eureka!" as a book, and its
author's return to the world as a lecturer, slipped by.

About midsummer The Dreamer lay a night in the old town of Providence.
It was a warm night and the window of his room was open--letting in a
flood of light from the full moon. He leaned from the window which
looked upon a plot of flowers whose many odors rising, enveloped him in
incense sweet as the incense from the censers of the angels when the
spirit of his Virginia was near. But it was not of Virginia that the
fragrance told him tonight. Something about the blended odors, combined
with the sensuous warmth of the night and the light of the moon,
transported him suddenly, magically, back through the years to his
boyhood and to the little room in the Allan cottage on Clay Street,
hanging, like this room, over a space of flowers--the night following
the day when he had first seen Rob Stanard's mother.

Back, back into the long dead past he wandered! The broken and jaded
Edgar Poe was dreaming again the dream of the fresh, enthusiastic boy,
Edgar Poe.

How every incident of that day and night stood out in his memory! He
could feel again the wonder that he felt when he saw the beautiful
"Helen" standing against the arbor-vitæ in the garden; could see her
graceful approach to meet and greet him--the lonely orphan boy--could
hear her gracious words in praise of his mother while she held his hand
in both her own. As he lived it all over again, with the silver
moonlight enfolding him and the breath of the flowers filling his
nostrils, a clock somewhere in the house struck the night's noon hour.
He started--even so it had been that other night in the long past. He
half believed that if he should go forth into this night as he had gone
into that he should see once more the lady of his dream, with the lamp
in her hand, framed in the ivy-wreathed window, and seeing, worship as
he had worshipped then.

Scarce knowing what he did, he arose and hurrying down the stair was in
the street. The streets were strange to him but there was a pleasant
sense of adventure in wandering through them--he knew not whither--and
the sweet airs of the flowers were everywhere.

Suddenly he stopped. While all the town slept there was one beside
himself, who kept vigil. Clad all in white, she half reclined upon a
violet bank in an old garden where the moon fell on the upturned faces
of a thousand roses and on her own, "upturned,--alas, in sorrow!"

Faint with the beauty and the poetry of the scene he leaned upon the
gate of the

              "enchanted garden
    Where no wind dared to stir unless on tiptoe."

He dared not speak or give any sign of his presence, but he gazed and
gazed until to his entranced eyes it seemed that

    "The pearly lustre of the moon went out:
    The mossy banks and the meandering paths--
    The happy flowers and the repining trees--
    Were seen no more."

All was lost to his vision--

    "Save only the divine light in those eyes--
    Save but the soul in those uplifted eyes."

       *       *       *       *       *

He continued to gaze until the moon disappeared behind a bank of cloud
and he watched the white-robed figure glide away like "a ghost amid the
entombing trees." Yet still (it seemed to him) the eyes remained. They
lighted his lonely footsteps home that night and he told himself that
they would light him henceforth, through the years.

Nearly a year had passed since that October night when the Star of Love
ushering in a new morning had prophesied to him of new hope--nearly a
year through which he had waited patiently, but not in vain. The time
had evidently come for the prophecy to be fulfilled and Fate had led him
to this town and the spot in this town where she that was to be (he was
convinced) the hope, the guide, the savior, of his "lonesome latter
years" awaited him.

Who was she?--

So spirit-like, so ethereal, she seemed, as robed in white and veiled in
silvery moon-beams she sat among the slumbering roses, and as she was
gathered into the shadows of the entombing trees, that she might almost
have been the "Lady Ligeia." Yet he knew that she was not. The "Lady
Ligeia" had been but the creation of his own brain. Very fair she had
been to his dreaming vision, very sweet her companionship had been to
his imagination--sufficient for all the needs of his being in his
youthful days when sorrow was but a beautiful sentiment, when "terror
was not fright, but a tremulous delight" but how was such an one as she
to bind up the broken heart of a man? It was the _human_ element in the
eyes of her that sat among the roses that enchained him.
Ethereal--spirit-like--as she was, the eyes upturned in sorrow were the
eyes of no spirit, but of a woman; from them looked a human soul with
the capacity and the experience to offer sympathy meet for human
needs--the needs even, of a broken-hearted man.

How dark the woe!--how sublime the hope!--how intense the pride!--how
daring the ambition!--how deep, how fathomless the capacity for
love!--that looked (as from a window) from those eyes upturned in
sorrow, in the moonlight while all the town slept!

Who was she?--this lady of sorrows. And by what sweet name was she known
to the citizens of this old town?--Surely Fate that had brought her to
the bank of violets beneath the moon--Fate that had led him to her
garden gate, would in Fate's own time reveal!

       *       *       *       *       *

As Helen Whitman flitted as noiselessly as the ghost she seemed to be up
the dark stairway to her chamber, and without closing the casement that
admitted the moonlight and the garden's odors, lay down upon her
canopied bed, she trembled. What was it that she had been aware of in
the garden?--that presence--that consciousness of communion between her
spirit and his upon whom all her thoughts had dwelt of late? Herself a
poet, from her earliest knowledge of the work of Edgar Poe she had
seemed to feel a kinship between her mind and his such as she had known
in regard to no other. She had followed his career step by step, and out
of the many sorrows of her own life had been born deep sympathy for him.
Since his last, greatest blow, she had more than ever mourned with him
in spirit, for she too was widowed--she too had sat upon the Rock of
Desolation and knew the Silence and the Solitude.

She and The Dreamer had at least one mental trait in common--a tendency
toward spiritualism--a more than half belief in the communion of the
spirits of the dead with those of the living and of those of the living
with each other.

What had led her into the moonlit garden when all the world slept?

She knew not. She only knew that she had felt an impelling influence--a
call to her spirit--to come out among the slumbering roses. She had not
questioned nor sought to define it. She had heard it, and she had
obeyed. And then the presence!--

She had never seen Edgar Poe, yet she felt that he had been there in the
spirit, if not in the flesh--she had felt his eyes upon her eyes and she
had half expected him to step from the shadows around her and to say,

"I, upon whom your thoughts have dwelt--I, who am the comrade and the
complement of your inner life--I, whose spirit called to you ere you
came into the garden--I am here."

       *       *       *       *       *

It was almost immediately upon The Dreamer's return to Fordham, and when
he was still under the spell of the night at Providence, that the
identity of the lady of the garden was revealed to him, in a manner
seemingly accidental, but which he felt to be but another manifestation
of the divinity that shapes our ends. Some casual words concerning the
appearance and character of Mrs. Whitman, spoken by a casual visitor,
lifted the curtain.

So the lady of the garden was Helen Whitman! whose poetry had impressed
him favorably and whose acquaintance he had desired. Helen
Whitman--_Helen_! As he repeated the name his heart stood still,--even
in her name he heard the voice of Fate. _Helen_--the name of the good
angel of his boyhood! Were his dreams of "Morella" and of "Ligeia" to
come true? Was he to know in reality the miracle he had imagined and
written of in these two phantasies?--the reincarnation of personal
identity? Was he in this second Helen, in this second garden, to find
again the worshipped Helen of his boyhood?

He turned to the lines he had written so long ago, in Richmond, when he
had gone forth into the midsummer moonlight, even as he had gone forth
in Providence, and had worshipped under a window, even as he had
worshipped at a garden gate. He read the first two stanzas through.

As he read he gave himself up to an overwhelming sense of fatality.
Could anything be more fitting--more descriptive? The end of the days of
miracles was not yet--this _was_ his "Helen of a thousand dreams!"

His impulse was to seek an introduction at once, but this seemed too
tamely conventional. Besides--he was in the hands of Fate--he dared not
stir. Fate, having so clearly manifested itself, would find a way.

His correspondence was always heavy. Letters, clippings from papers and
so forth, came to him by every post from friends and from enemies, with
and without signatures. Yet from all the mass, he knew at once that the
"Valentine," unsigned as it was, was from her.

By way of acknowledgment, he turned down a page of a copy of "The Raven
and Other Poems" at the lines, "To Helen," and mailed it to her. He
waited in anxious suspense for a reply, but the lady was coy. Days
passed and still no answer. The desire for communication with her became
irresistible and taking pen and paper he wrote at the top of the page,
even as long ago he had written, the words, "To Helen," and underneath
wrote a new poem especially for this new Helen in which he described the
vision of her in the garden (but placing it in the far past) and his
feelings as he gazed upon her:

    "I saw thee once--once only--years ago;
    I must not say _how_ many--but not many.

           *       *       *       *       *

    Clad all in white, upon a violet bank
    I saw thee half reclining; while the moon
    Fell on the upturned faces of the roses,
    And on thine own, upturned,--alas in sorrow!
    Was it not Fate, that, on this July midnight--
    Was it not Fate (whose name is also Sorrow)
    That bade me pause before that garden-gate
    To breathe the incense of those slumbering roses?
    No footstep stirred: the hated world all slept,
    Save only thee and me. (Oh, Heaven!--oh, God!
    How my heart beats in coupling those two words!)
    Save only thee and me!" ...

The paper trembled in the hands--tiny and spirit-like--of Helen Whitman.
Her soul answered emphatically,

"It _is_ Fate!"

So he had been there in the flesh--near her--in the shadows of that
mystic night! The presence was no creation of an overwrought
imagination. It was Fate.

Tremulously she penned her answer to his appeal, but was it Fate again,
which caused the letter to miscarry? It reached him finally, in
Richmond--_Richmond_, of all places!--whither he had gone to deliver to
audiences of his old friends, his lecture upon "The Poetic Principle,"
in the interest of the establishment of his magazine, _The Stylus_. What
could have been more fitting than that the gracious words of "Helen of a
thousand dreams" should come to him in Richmond?

       *       *       *       *       *

Not many days later and he was under her own roof in Providence.

He waited in the dimness of her curtained drawing-room, ear strained for
the first sound of her footstep. Noiselessly as a sunbeam or a shadow
she entered the room, her gauzy white draperies floating about her
slight figure as she came, while his great eyes drank in with reverent
joy each detail of her ethereal loveliness--her face, the same he had
seen in the garden, pale as a pearl and as softly radiant, and framed in
clustering dark ringlets which escaped in profusion from the confinement
of a lacy widow's cap--the tremulous mouth--the eyes, mysterious and
unearthly, from which the soul looked out.

For one moment she paused in the doorway, her hand pressed upon her
wildly beating heart--then, with hesitating step advanced to meet him.
Her words of greeting were few, and so low and faltering as to be quite
unintelligible, but the tones of her voice fell on his ear like
strangely familiar music.

The man spoke no word. As her eyes rested for one brief moment upon his,
then fell before the intensity of his gaze, he was conscious of
spiritual influences beyond the reach of reason. In a tremulous ecstacy
he bent and pressed his lips upon the hand that lay within his own and
it was with difficulty that he restrained himself from falling upon his
knees before her in actual worship.

Three evenings of "all heavenly delight" he spent in her
companionship--sometimes in the seclusion and dusk of her quiet
drawing-room, sometimes walking among the roses in her garden, or among
the mossy tombs in the town cemetery--their sympathetic natures finding
expression in such conversation as poets delight in. Under the
intoxicating spell of her presence all other dreams passed, for the
time, into nothingness and he passionately cried,

"Helen, I love now--_now_--for the first and only time!"

Yet he was poor, and the weaknesses which had caused him to fall in the
past might cause him to fall in the future. How could he plead for a
return of his love?

His very self-abasement made his plea more strong. Still, she did not
yield too suddenly. True, she too, was under the spell, but she resisted
it. As he found his voice, and his eloquence filled the room a
restlessness possessed her. Now she sat quite still by his side, now
rose and wandered about the apartment--now stood with her hand resting
upon the back of his chair while his nearness thrilled her.

There were objections, she told him--she was older than he.

"Has the soul age, Helen?" he answered her. "Can immortality regard
time? Can that which began never and shall never end consider a few
wretched years of its incarnate life? Do you not perceive that it is my
diviner nature--my spiritual being, that burns and pants to commingle
with your own?"

She urged her frail health as an objection.

For that he would love--worship her--the more, he said. He plead for her
pity upon his loneliness--his sorrows--and swore that he would comfort
and soothe her in hers, through life, and when death should come,
joyfully go down with her into the night of the grave.

Finally he appealed to her ambition.

"Was I right, Helen, in my first impression of you?--in the impression
that you are ambitious? If so, and if you will have faith in me, I can
and will satisfy your wildest desires. Would it not be glorious to
establish in America, the sole unquestionable aristocracy--that of the
intellect--to secure its supremacy--to lead and control it?"

Still the _yes_ that so often seemed trembling upon her lips was not
spoken. She received his almost daily letters and his frequent visits,
listened to his rapturous love-making--trembling, blushing, letting him
see that she was under the spell, that she loved him. Indeed she could
not have helped his seeing it had she wished; but when he spoke of
marriage she hesitated--tantalizing him to the point of madness, almost.

What was it that held her back?--She too, believed that it was the hand
of Fate that had brought them together--that they were pre-ordained to
cheer each other's latter years, to establish that intellectual
aristocracy of which he dreamed. Yet she shrank from taking the step.
When his great solemn eyes were upon her, his beautiful face pale and
haggard with excess of feeling, turned toward her, his eloquent words of
love in her ears, she sat as one entranced--bewitched; yet she would not
give the word he longed for--the word of willingness to embark with him
upon the sea of life. _Fear_ checked her. Such an uncharted sea it
seemed to her--she dared not say him yea!

The truth was the poison was working--the Griswold poison. The wildest
rumors came to her ears of the worse than follies of her lover. She knew
that they were at least, overdrawn--possibly altogether false--yet they
frightened her.

"Do you know Helen Whitman?" wrote one of The Dreamer's enemies to Dr.
Griswold. "Of course you have heard it rumored that she is to marry Poe.
Well, she has seemed to me a good girl and--you know what Poe is. Has
Mrs. Whitman no friend in your knowledge that can faithfully explain Poe
to her?"

But Rufus Griswold had already "explained Poe" to those whom he knew
would take pains to pass the explanation on to "Helen"--had dropped the
poison where he reckoned it would work with the greatest speed and
effect. The explanation, with the usual indirectness of a Griswold, was
sugared with a compliment.

"Poe has great intellectual power," he said with emphasis, "_great_
intellectual power, but," he added, with a sidelong glance of the
furtive eye and a confidential drop in the voice, "but--he has no
principle--no moral sense."

The poison reached the destination for which it was intended--the ears
of Helen Whitman--in due course, and it terrified her as had none of
the rumors she had heard before. Still her lover floundered in the
dark--baffled--wondering--not able to make her out. Why did she
tantalize him--torture him, thus?--keeping him dangling between Heaven
and hell?--he asked himself, and he asked her, over and over again. He
became more and more convinced that there was a reason,--what was it?

Finally she gave it to him in its baldness and its brutality, just as it
had come to her--wrote it to him in a letter. It brought him a rude
awakening from his dream of bliss. That such a charge should be brought
against him at all was bitter enough, but that it could be repeated to
him by "Helen" seemed unbelievable.

"You do not love me," he sadly wrote in reply, "or you would not have
written these terrible words." Then he swore a great oath: "By the God
who reigns in Heaven, I swear to you that my soul is incapable of
dishonor--that with the exception of occasional follies and excesses
which I bitterly lament, but to which I have been driven by intolerable
sorrow, I can call to mind no act of my life which would bring a blush
to my cheek--or to yours."

He followed the letter with a visit--again throwing himself at her feet
and thrilling her with his eloquence and with the magic of his
personality.

She gave him a half promise and said she would write to him in Lowell,
where he had engaged to deliver a lecture.

In this town was a roof-tree which was a haven of rest to The Dreamer.
Beneath it dwelt his friend and confidant, "Annie" Richmond--his soul's
sweet "sister," as he loved to call her. And there he waited with a
chastened joy, for he felt assured that the long wished for _yes_ was
about to be said, yet dared not give himself over prematurely, to the
ecstacy that would soon be his. In the pleasant, friendly family circle
of the Richmonds, he sat during those chill November evenings, seeing
pictures in the glowing fire, as he held sweet "Annie's" sympathetic
hand in his, while the only sound that broke the silence was the ticking
of the grandfather's clock in a shadowy corner.

Thus quietly, patiently, he waited.

       *       *       *       *       *

But in Providence the Griswold poison was at work. All the friends and
relatives of "Helen" were possessed of full vials of it--which they
industriously poured into her ears. Against it the recollection of the
night in the garden and her belief that Fate had ordained her union with
the poet, had no avail. The letter that she sent her lover was more
non-committal--colder--than any he had received from her before, yet
there was still enough of indecision in it to keep him tantalized. In a
state of mind well nigh distraction, he bade "Annie" and her cheerful
fireside farewell and set his face toward Providence; but he went in a
dream--the demon Despair, possessing him.

Unstrung, unmanned, almost bereft of reason, his old dissatisfaction
with himself and the world overtook him--a longing to be out of it all,
for forgetfulness, for peace, yea, even the peace of the grave,--why
not?

A passionate longing--a homesickness--for the sure, the steadfast, the
unvariable love of his beautiful Virginia consumed him. Oh, if he could
but lie down and sleep and forget until one sweet day he should wake in
the land where she awaited him, and where they would construct anew, and
for eternity, the Valley of the Many-Colored Grass!

He listened.... For the first time since the Star of Love had ushered in
a new day in his life, he heard the swinging of the censers of the
angels--he inhaled the incense--he heard the voice of Virginia in the
sighing wind. She seemed to call to him.

"I am coming, Heartsease!" he whispered as he quaffed the potion that he
reckoned would bear him to her.

       *       *       *       *       *

But it was not to be. When he awaked, weak and ill, but sane, he found
himself with friends. Calmness and strength returned and with them,
horror at the deed he had so nearly committed, and deep contrition.

With all haste he again presented himself at the door of "Helen,"
beseeching her to marry him at once and save him, as he believed she
only could, from himself. And the consequences of her indecision making
her more alarmed for him than she had formerly been for herself, she
agreed to an engagement, though not to immediate marriage.

He returned to Fordham and to faithful Mother Clemm a wreck of his
former self, but engaged to be married!

Yet he was not happy--a new horror possessed him. As in the night when
the Star of Love first rose upon his vigil it had stopped over the door
of "a legended tomb," so now again was his pathway closed. Turn which
way he would, the tomb of Virginia seemed to frown upon him. He
remembered his promise to her that upon no other daughter of earth
would he look with the eyes of love. Vainly did he seek to justify
himself to his own heart for breaking the promise. No one could ever
supplant her, or fill the void in his life her death had made, he told
himself--this new love was something different, and in no way disturbed
her memory.

But the tomb still stood in his way.

"I am calm and tranquil," he wrote "Helen," "and but for a strange
shadow of coming evil which haunts me I should be happy. That I am not
supremely happy, even when I feel your dear love at my heart, terrifies
me."

Later he wrote,

"You say that all depends on my own firmness. If this be so all is safe.
Henceforward I am strong. But all does not depend, dear Helen, upon my
firmness--all depends upon the sincerity of your love."

       *       *       *       *       *

A month later the skies of Providence shone brightly upon him. He
returned there, was received by Mrs. Whitman as her affianced lover,
delivered his brilliant lecture upon "The Poetic Principle" to a great
throng of enthusiastic hearers, and won a promise from his lady to marry
him at once and return with him to Fordham. He scribbled a line to
Mother Clemm notifying her to be ready to receive him and his bride and
went so far as to engage the services of a clergyman, and to sign a
marriage contract, in which Mrs. Whitman's property was made over to her
mother.

But--just at this point a note was slipped into the hand of "Helen,"
informing her that her lover had been seen drinking wine in the hotel.
When he called at her house soon afterward she received him surrounded
by her family and though there were no signs of the wine, said "no" to
him, emphatically--for the first time.

He plead, but she remained firm--receiving his passionate words of
remonstrance with sorrowful silence, while her mother, impatient at his
persistence, showed him the door. He prayed that she would at least
speak one word to him in farewell.

"What can I say?" she questioned.

"Say that you love me, Helen."

"I love you!"

With these words in his ears he was gone. As he passed out of the gate
and out of her life he saw, or fancied he saw, through the veiled
window, a white figure beckoning to him, but his steps were sternly set
toward the opposite direction--his whole being crying within him,
"Nevermore--nevermore!" She had stretched out her spiritlike hands, but
to draw them back again, in the fashion that fascinated and at the same
time maddened him, once too often. The wave of romantic feeling which
had borne him along since his vision of her in the garden suddenly
subsided, leaving him disillusioned--cold. The reaction was so violent
that instead of the magnetic attraction she had had for him he felt
himself positively repelled by the thought of her unearthly beauty--her
mysterious eyes.

He went straight to the depot and took the train just leaving, which
would bear him back to the cottage among the cherry trees.

Mother Clemm, expecting him to bring home a bride, had spent the day
putting an extra touch of brightness upon the simple but already
spotless, home. A cheerful fire was in the grate; branches of holly,
cedar and such other such bits of beauty as the woods afforded were
everywhere about the house, and the Mother herself, in the snowiest of
caps with the sheerest of floating strings and a gallant look of welcome
upon her sorrowful face, stood at the window and watched for the coming
of the son that Heaven had given her, and the woman who was to take the
place of the daughter that Heaven had taken away from her. Her oak-like
nature had quailed at the thought--but it had withstood many a blast, it
could weather one more, and after all, if "Eddie" were happy--.

       *       *       *       *       *

In the far distance a figure emerged out of the gathering dusk--a man.
Could it be Eddie?--Alone?

Yes! It surely was he! The carriage of the head--the military cloak--the
walk--were unmistakable.

But he was alone!--She grew weak in the knees.--The shock of joy more
nearly unnerved her than had the pain. She had braced herself to bear
the pain.

She recovered her composure and hastened to the door just in time to be
folded into the arms of the figure in the cloak.

"Helen?"--she queried.

"Is dead--to me," he answered, with his arms still about her. "We will
have nothing more to say of her except this: Muddie, I have been in a
dream from which, thank God, I am now awake. In the darkness of my
loneliness--of my misery, of which you alone have the slightest
conception, I saw a light which I fancied would lead me to the love for
which my soul is starving--to the sympathy which is sweeter even than
love to the broken heart of a man. I followed it. I was deceived. It was
no real light, but a mere will o' the wisp bred in the dank tarn of
despair."

He released her to hang up the cloak in the little entrance hall, then
taking her hand, which he raised to his lips, drew her into the sitting
room.

"Ah, but it is good to be at home again!" he exclaimed.

His whole manner changed; a mighty weight seemed to roll from his
shoulders as he stretched his legs before the fire. His old merry
laugh--the laugh of Edgar Goodfellow--rang out as he told "Muddie" of
the success of his lecture, in Providence,--of the great audience and
the applause.

"Muddie," he cried, "my dream of _The Stylus_ will come true yet! A few
more such audiences and the money will be in sight! And let me add, I am
done with literary women--henceforth literature herself shall be my sole
mistress. I am more than ever convinced that the profession of letters
is the only one fit for a man of brain. There is little money in it, of
course, but I'd rather be a poor-devil author earning a bare living than
a king. Beyond a living, what does a man of brain want with money
anyhow?--Muddie, did it ever strike you that all that is really valuable
to a man of talent--especially to a poet--is absolutely
unpurchasable?--Love, fame, the dominion of intellect, the consciousness
of power, the thrilling sense of beauty, the free air of Heaven,
exercise of body and mind with the physical and moral health that these
bring;--these, and such as these are really all a poet cares about. Then
why should he mind what the world calls poverty?"

"Why indeed?" echoed happy "Muddie." It was so delightful to have her
son back at home, and in this hopeful, contented frame, she would have
agreed with him in almost any statement he chose to make.

He gave her loving messages from "Annie" and told her in the bright,
humorous way which was characteristic of Edgar Goodfellow, of many
pleasant little incidents of his journey. One of the nights to look back
upon and to gloat over in memory was this night by the fireside at
Fordham cottage with the Mother--a night of calm and content under the
home-roof after tempestuous wandering.

A quiet, sweet Christmas they spent together--he reading, writing or
talking over plans for new work, while she sat by with her sewing and
Catalina dozed on the hearth. Part of every day (wrapped in the old
cape) he walked in the pine wood or beside the ice-bound river, and for
the first time since the feverish dream of new love had come to him he
was able to visit the tomb of Virginia and to dwell with happiness, and
with a clear conscience, upon her memory. During these days of serenity
a ballad suggested by thoughts of her and his life with her in the
lovely Valley of the Many-Colored Grass took form in his mind. It was no
dirge-like song of the "dank tarn of Auber," but a song of a fair
"kingdom by the sea" and in contrast to the sombre "Ulalume" he gave to
the maiden in the new poem the pleasant sounding name of "Annabel Lee."
Out of these days too, came "the Bells" and the exquisite sonnet to his
"more than Mother."

One flash of the false light that had lured him reached The Dreamer at
Fordham. He held a letter addressed to him in the familiar handwriting
of Helen Whitman long in his hand without opening it. This flame was
burned out, he told himself--why rake its cold ashes? Yet he felt that
nothing that she could say would have power to disturb his new peace.
Still the Mother, though she kept her own counsel, trembled for herself
and for him as she was aware (without looking up from her sewing) that
he had broken the seal. Some minutes of tense stillness passed--then,

"Shall I read you her letter?" he asked.

"As you will."

"Then I will!--It is in verse and the place from which she dates it is,

"Our Island of Dreams," which she explains in a sub-heading is

                           "By the foam
             Of perilous seas, in faery lands forlorn"

--a line which she has borrowed from Keats. This is what she writes:

    "Tell him I lingered alone on the shore,
    Where we parted, in sorrow, to meet nevermore;
    The night-wind blew cold on my desolate heart
    But colder those wild words of doom, 'Ye must part!'

    "O'er the dark, heaving waters, I sent forth a cry;
    Save the wail of those waters there came no reply.
    I longed, like a bird, o'er the billows to flee,
    From our lone island home and the moan of the sea:

    "Away,--far away--from the wild ocean shore,
    Where the waves ever murmur, 'No more, nevermore,'
    Where I wake, in the wild noon of midnight, to hear
    The lone song of the surges, so mournful and drear.

    "Where the clouds that now veil from us heaven's fair light,
    Their soft, silver lining turn forth on the night;
    When time shall the vapors of falsehood dispel
    He shall know if I loved him; but never how well."

Silence followed the reading of the poem-letter. Finally the mother
asked,

"Will you go back?"

He placed the letter upon the top of a pile in the same handwriting,
tied them together with a bit of ribbon and laid them in a small drawer
of his desk. Then, rising, he leaned over the back of "Muddie's" chair
and lightly touching her seamed forehead with his lips replied,

    "Quoth the raven, nevermore!"

Then took up a garland of evergreen which he had been making when the
Mother came in with the mail, and set out in the direction of the
churchyard with its "legended tomb."



CHAPTER XXXIII.


Back in Richmond!--The Richmond he loved best--Richmond full of sunshine
and flowers and the sweet southern social life out of doors, in gardens
and porches; Richmond in summertime!

In spite of the changes his observant eye marked as he rattled over the
cobblestones toward the "Swan Tavern," on Broad and Ninth Streets, he
almost felt that he was back in boyhood. It was just such a day, just
this time of year, that--as a lad of eleven--he had seen Richmond first
after his five years absence in England.

How good it was to be back upon the sacred soil! How sweet the air was,
and how beautiful were the roses! When before, had he seen a magnolia
tree in bloom?--with its dense shade, its dark green shining foliage,
and its snow-white blossoms. Was there anything in the world so sweet as
its odor, combined with that of the roses and the other flowers that
filled the gardens? It was worth coming all the way from New York just
to see and to smell them.

He caught glimpses of one or two familiar figures as he drove along. How
impatient he was to see his old friends--everybody--white and colored,
old and young, masculine and feminine. He could hardly wait to get to
the tavern, remove the dust of travel and sally forth upon the round of
visits he intended to make. His spirits went up--and up, and finally it
was Edgar Goodfellow in the flesh who stepped jauntily from the door of
"Swan Tavern," arrayed for hot-weather calling. In spite of the summer
temperature, he looked the personification of coolness and comfort. The
taste of prosperity his lectures had brought him was evident in his
modest but spruce apparel. He had discarded the habitual black cloth for
a coat and trousers of white linen (exquisitely laundered by Mother
Clemm's capable and loving hands) which he wore with a black velvet vest
for which he had also to thank the Mother and her skilled needle. A
broad-brimmed Panama hat shaded his pale features and the grey eyes,
which glowed with happiness. As with proudly carried head and quick,
easy gait, he bore westward up Broad Street, no single person passed him
that did not turn to look with admiration upon the handsome,
distinguished stranger, and to mentally ask "Who is he?"

It so happened that Jack Mackenzie was the first acquaintance he met.

"Edgar," he said, as their hands joined in affectionate grasp, "Do you
remember once, years ago, I met you in the street and you said you were
going to look for the end of the rainbow? Well, you look as if you had
found it!"

"I have," was the reply. "An hour ago. It was here in Richmond all the
time and I didn't know it, and like a poor fool, have been wandering the
world over in a vain search for it. The trouble is, I was looking for
the wrong thing. I was looking for fame and fortune, thought of which
blinded my eyes to something far better--scenes and friendships of _lang
syne_. Jack--" he continued, as--arm in arm--the two friends made their
way up the street. "Jack, life is a great schoolmaster, but why does it
take so long to drub any sense into these blockheads of ours?"

"Damned if I know," replied his companion, who was more truthful always
than either poetic or philosophic, "but if you mean that you've decided
to come back to Richmond to live, I'm mighty glad to hear it."

"That's what I mean. I came only for a visit and to lecture, but made up
my mind on the way from the depot to come for good as soon as I can
arrange to do so. I think it was a magnolia tree in bloom--the first I
had seen in many a year--that decided me."

"Well, all of your old friends will be glad to have you back; there's
one in particular that I might mention. Do you remember Elmira Royster?
She's a comely widow now, with a comfortable fortune, and she's always
had a lingering fondness for you. I advise you to hunt her up."

The Dreamer's face clouded.

"Women are angels, Jack," he said. "They are the salt that will save
this world, if it is to be saved, and for poor sinners like me there
would be simply no hope in either this world or the next but for them;
but they will have no more part in my life, save as friends. A true
friend of mine, however, I believe Myra is. I saw her during my brief
visit here last fall.--Ah, Rob! my boy! Howdy!"

The two friends had turned into Sixth Street and as they drew near the
corner of Sixth and Grace, almost ran into Rob Stanard--now a prominent
lawyer and one of the leading gentlemen of the town.

"Eddie Poe, as I'm alive!" he exclaimed, with a hearty hand-clasp. "My,
my, what a pleasure! I'm on my way home to dinner, boys. Come in, both
of you and take pot-luck with us. My wife will be delighted to see you!"

The invitation was accepted as naturally as it was given, and the three
mounted together the steps of the beautiful house and were received in
the charmingly homelike drawing-room opening from the wide hall, by
Rob's wife, a Kentucky belle who had stepped gracefully into her place
as mistress of one of the notable homes in Virginia's capital. As she
gave her jewelled hand to Edgar Poe her handsome black eyes sparkled
with pleasure. She was not only sincerely glad to receive the friend of
her husband's boyhood, but keen appreciation of intellectual gifts made
her feel that to know him was a distinction. Some of the servants who
had known "Marse Eddie" in the old days were still of the
household--having come to Robert Stanard as part of his father's
estate--and they were to their intense gratification, pleasantly greeted
by the visitor.

That evening--and many subsequent evenings--The Dreamer spent at "Duncan
Lodge" with the Mackenzies and their friends. A series of sunlit days
followed--days of lingering in Rob Sully's studio or in the familiar
office of _The Southern Literary Messenger_ where the editor, Mr. John
R. Thompson--himself a poet--gave him a warm welcome always, and gladly
accepted and published in _The Messenger_ anything the famous former
editor would let him have; days of wandering in the woods or by the
tumbling river he had loved as a lad; days of searching out old haunts
and making new ones.

And everywhere he found welcome. Delightful little parties were given in
his honor, when in return for the courtesies paid him he charmed the
company by reciting "The Raven" as he alone could recite it. His
lectures upon "The Poetic Principle" and "The Philosophy of
Composition," and his readings in the assembly rooms of the Exchange
Hotel, drew the elite of the city, who sat spellbound while he, erect
and still and pale as a statue, filled their ears with the music of his
voice, and their souls with wonder at the brilliancy of his thought and
words. Subscriptions to _The Stylus_ poured in. At last, this dream of
his life seemed an assured fact.

One door--one only in all the town did not swing wide to receive him.
The closed portal of the mansion of which he had been the proud young
master, still said to him "Nevermore"--and he always had a creepy
sensation when he passed it, which even the sight of the flower-garden
he had loved, in fullest bloom, did not overcome.

The golden days ran into golden weeks and the weeks into months, and
still Edgar Poe was making holiday in Richmond--the first holiday he had
had since, as a youth of seventeen he had quarrelled with John Allan and
gone forth to the battle of life. In the long, long battle since then
there had been more of joy than they knew who looking on had seen the
toil and the defeat and the despair, but from whose eyes the exaltation
he had felt in the act of creation or in the contemplation of the works
of nature, and the happiness he found in his frugal home, were hidden.
But, as has been said, there had been no holiday, until now when he had
come back to Richmond an older and a sadder and a more experienced Edgar
Poe--an Edgar Poe upon whom the Silence and the Solitude had fallen and
had left shaken--broken.

Yet that personal identity upon the mystery of which he liked to
ponder--the unquenchable, immortal _ego_ was there; and it was, for all
the outward and inward changes, the same Edgar Poe, with his two
natures--Dreamer and Goodfellow--alternately dominating him, who had
come back to find the real end of the rainbow in revisiting old scenes,
renewing old friendships, awakening old memories--and had paused to make
holiday.

Even in these golden days there were occasional falls, for the cup of
kindness was everywhere and in his blood was the same old strain which
made madness for him in the single glass--the single drop, almost; and
in spite of all the great schoolmaster, Life, had taught him, there was
in his will the same old element of weakness. Had it been otherwise he
had not been Edgar Poe. At times, too, the blue devils raised their
heads. Had it been otherwise he had not been Edgar Poe.

But on the whole the holiday was a bright dream of Paradise regained at
a time when more than ever before his feet had seemed to march only to
the cadence of the old, sad word, Nevermore.

Two sacred pilgrimages he made early in this holiday--to the two shrines
of his romantic boyhood--to Shockoe Cemetery, where he not only visited
"Helen's" tomb, but laid a wreath upon the grave of Frances Allan--his
little foster mother, and to the churchyard on the hill. The white
steeple still slept serenely in the blue atmosphere above the church
and, as of yore, the bell called in deep, sweet tones to prayer. But how
the churchyard had filled since he saw it last! Graves, graves
everywhere. It was appalling! He stepped between the graves, old and
new, stooping to read the inscriptions upon the slabs. So many that he
remembered as merry boys and girls and hale men and women still in their
prime--could they really be dead?--gone forever from the scenes which
had known them and of which they seemed an integral part? Oh, mystery of
mysteries, how was it possible?--Yet here were their names plainly
written upon the marbles! The church builded by men's hands, the trees
planted by men's hands, the monuments fashioned by men's hands remained,
but the living, breathing men, where were they? Could it be that God's
highest creation was a more perishable thing than the lifeless work of
its own hand? His spirit cried out within him against such a thought.
No, it could not be! Gone from earth, or holden from mortal vision they
assuredly were--departed--but dead? No!

Finally he came to the grave beside the wall. No marble tomb told the
passer-by that there lay the body of Elizabeth Poe. Yet, what
matter?--Was her sleep the less peaceful? Was her tired spirit the less
free?--If in its flight it should visit this spot where it had laid the
burden of the body down, surely it would find, for all there was no
carven stone to mark it, a most sweet spot. The greenest of grass, and
clover with blossoms white and red, waved over it--the summer breeze
rippling through them with pleasant sound,--and the tall trees hung a
green canopy between it and the midday sun.

As he laid his offering of roses among the clover blooms and turned to
go away the bell in the steeple began to toll. How the past came
back!--He stood with uncovered and bowed head and counted the strokes.
Suddenly, there was a sound of horses tramping in the street below the
wall. Then through the gate and down the walk it came--the solemn
procession.

He waited until the last of the mourners had passed into the church,
then followed, and as the bell stopped tolling and the organ began to
play the familiar, moving chant, he passed in and took a seat near the
door. Whose funeral service he was attending he knew not--but he was
back in childhood, and it was beautiful to him to hear once more, in
this very church, the words of spoken music and the old familiar hymns
he had heard that day when his infant heart had been filled with a
beautiful sorrow that was not pain.

More than one pair of eyes turned to see the owner of the fine tenor
voice that joined in the singing of the hymns, and resting for a moment
upon the dark, uplifted eyes of Edgar Poe, caught a glimpse of something
not of this earth.

As he left the church and churchyard, he noted many changes in its
immediate neighborhood but the only one upon which his eye lingered was
a smug brick house of commodious proportions and genteel aspect. A
pleasant green yard afforded space for a few trees and flowers. A
dignified and prosperous, but not in the least romantic house it was. A
house with no rambling wings giving opportunities for winding
passageways and odd nooks and corners; no unexpected closets where
skeletons might be in hiding, or dusky stairways to creak in the dead of
night, or upon which, even by day, one was almost certain he caught a
glimpse of a shadowy figure flying before him as he groped his way up or
down them. A house with no mysteries--just the house in which one might
have expected to find Elmira Royster who, as the Widow Shelton, the
prudent housewife and good manager of a prosperous estate, was simply
the frank, clear-eyed girl he had known, grown older.

He would call upon Elmira sometime, but not now little son, so that she
could only use the income, was duly signed and sealed. The wedding ring
was bought.

With visions of a new start in life, of which there were many happy
years in store for him (why not?--He was only forty!) The Dreamer set
out on his way back to Fordham to settle up his affairs and bring Mother
Clemm to Richmond to witness his marriage and to take up her abode with
him and his bride, in the brick house on the hill. He had been upon a
holiday, but he carried with him a goodly sum of money realized from his
lectures, and a long list of subscribers to _The Stylus_. Surely,
Fortune had never shown him a more smiling face!

       *       *       *       *       *

Baltimore!--

Why did his way lie through Baltimore? Baltimore, with its memories of
Virginia--Baltimore where he had come up out of the grave to the heaven
of her love, and where had been first constructed the most beautiful of
all his dreams--the dream of the Valley of the Many-Colored Grass, in
which he and she and the Mother had lived for each other only!

In Baltimore again he found his way stopped by the vision of "a legended
tomb." It was paralyzing! He could go no further upon his journey, but
lingered in Baltimore, wandering the streets like one bereft.

The words--the prophetic words--of his own poem "To One in Paradise,"
haunted him:

    "A voice from out the future cries,
      'On! on!' But o'er the Past
    (Dim gulf!) my spirit hovering lies
      Mute, motionless, aghast!"

And again, the words of his "Bridal Ballad"--more prophetic still:

    "Would to God I could awaken!
      For I dream I know not how;
    And my soul is sorely shaken
    Lest an evil step be taken,--
    Lest the dead who is forsaken
      May not be happy now."

And that merciless other self, his accusing Conscience, arose, and with
whisper louder and more terrible than ever before, upbraided
him--reminding him of the vow he had made his wife upon her bed of
death.

Alas, the vow!--that solemn, sacred vow! How could he have so utterly
forgotten it? How plainly he could see her lying upon the snowy
pillow--her face not much less white--her trustful eyes on his eyes as
he knelt by her side and swore that he would never bind himself in
marriage to another--invoking from Heaven a terrible curse upon his soul
if he should ever prove traitorous to his oath.

Alas, where had been his will that he had so soon forgotten his vow? How
he despised himself for his weakness--he that had boasted in the words
of old Joseph Glanvil, until he had almost made them his own words:

"'Man doth not yield himself to the angels nor unto death utterly, save
only through the weakness of his will.'"

       *       *       *       *       *

Hours on hours he wandered the streets of the city whose every paving
stone seemed to speak to him of his Virginia--the city where he had
walked with her--where he had first spoken of love to her and heard her
sweet confession--where, in the holy church, the beautiful words of the
old, old rite had made them one.

All day he wandered, and all night--driven, cruelly driven--by the
upbraiding whisper in his ear, while before him still he saw her white
face with the soft eyes looking out--it seemed to him in reproach.

Finally the longing which had come upon him in Providence--the longing
for the peace of the grave and reunion, in death, with Virginia, was
strong upon him again--pressed him hard--mastered him.

It was sometime in the early morning that he swallowed the draught--the
draught that would free his spirit, that would enable him to lay down
the burden of his body and to fly from the steps that dogged _his_
steps--from the voice that whispered upbraidings. He would lay his body
down by the side of her body in the "legended tomb" while his spirit
would fly to join her spirit in that far Aidenn where they would be
happy together forever.

As he fell asleep he murmured (again quoting himself):

    "And neither the angels in heaven above,
      Nor the demons down under the sea,
    Can ever dissever my soul from the soul
      Of the beautiful Annabel Lee."

When he opened his wondering eyes upon the white walls of the hospital
he was feeble and weak in his limbs as an infant, but his brain was
unclouded. Gentle hands ministered to him and a woman's voice read him
spirit-soothing words from the Gospel of St. John. But the draught had
done its work. He lingered some days and then, on Sunday morning, the
seventh day of October of the year 1849, his spirit took its flight. His
last words were a prayer:

    "Lord, have mercy on my poor soul!"

Many were the friends who rose up to comfort the stricken mother and who
hastened to bring rosemary to the poet's grave. But there was one whom
he had believed to be his friend--a big man whose big brain he had
admired--in whose furtive eye was an unholy glee, about whose thick lips
played a smile which slightly revealed his fang-like teeth. To him was
entrusted the part of literary executor--it had been The Dreamer's own
request. In his power it would lie to give to the world his own account
of this man who had said he was no poet and had distanced him in the
race for a woman's favor.

The day was at hand when Rufus Griswold would have his full revenge upon
the fair fame of Edgar the Dreamer.

       *       *       *       *       *

    "Out--out are the lights--out all!
      And, over each quivering form,
    The curtain, a funeral pall,
      Comes down with the rush of a storm;
    And the angels, all pallid and wan,
      Uprising, unveiling, affirm
    That the play is the tragedy, 'Man,'
      And its hero the Conqueror Worm."


       *       *       *       *       *


Transcriber's note: Minor typographical errors have been corrected.





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Corporation's ISYS search for use by individuals, and we request that you
use these files for personal, non-commercial purposes.

+ Refrain from automated querying Do not send automated queries of any sort
to Doctrine Publishing's system: If you are conducting research on machine
translation, optical character recognition or other areas where access to a
large amount of text is helpful, please contact us. We encourage the use of
public domain materials for these purposes and may be able to help.

+ Keep it legal -  Whatever your use, remember that you are responsible for
ensuring that what you are doing is legal. Do not assume that just because
we believe a book is in the public domain for users in the United States,
that the work is also in the public domain for users in other countries.
Whether a book is still in copyright varies from country to country, and we
can't offer guidance on whether any specific use of any specific book is
allowed. Please do not assume that a book's appearance in Doctrine Publishing
ISYS search  means it can be used in any manner anywhere in the world.
Copyright infringement liability can be quite severe.

About ISYS® Search Software
Established in 1988, ISYS Search Software is a global supplier of enterprise
search solutions for business and government.  The company's award-winning
software suite offers a broad range of search, navigation and discovery
solutions for desktop search, intranet search, SharePoint search and embedded
search applications.  ISYS has been deployed by thousands of organizations
operating in a variety of industries, including government, legal, law
enforcement, financial services, healthcare and recruitment.



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