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Title: Belford's Magazine, Volume II, No. 8, January, 1889
Author: Various
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.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Belford's Magazine, Volume II, No. 8, January, 1889" ***

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BELFORD'S MAGAZINE.


  Vol. II.    No. 8.
  January, 1889.



WICKED LEGISLATION.


The patience with which mankind submits to the demands of tyrants
has been the wonder of each succeeding age, and heroes are made of
those who break one yoke only to bow with servility to a greater. The
Roman soldier, returning from wars in which his valor had won wealth
and empire for his rulers, was easily content to become first a
tenant, and then a serf, upon the very lands he had tilled as owner
before his voluntary exile as his country's defender, kissing the hand
that oppressed, so long as it dispensed, as charity, a portion of his
tithes and rentals in sports and food. And now, after ages of
wonder and criticism, the soldiers of our nineteenth-century
civilization outvie their Roman prototypes in submitting to exactions
and injustice of which Nero was incapable either of imagining or
executing, bowing subserviently to the more ingenious tyrant of an
advanced civilization, if but his hand drop farthings of pensions in
return for talents of extortion. It may not be that the soldiers
and citizens of America shall become so thoroughly debauched and
degraded, nor that the consequences of their revolt shall be a
burning capitol and a terrified monopolist; but if these evils are
to be averted, it will be only because fearless hands tear the
mask from our modern Neros, and tireless arms hold up to popular
view the naked picture of national disgrace.

Twenty-eight years ago the first step had been taken towards the final
overthrow of the objective form of human slavery. There were, even in
those days, cranks who were dreaming of new harmonies in the songs of
liberty; and when tyranny opposed force to the righteous demands of
constitutional government, ploughshares rusted in the neglected
fields, workshops looked to alien lands for toilers, while patriots
answered the bugle-call, and a nation was freed from an eating cancer.
But what was the return for such sacrifices? Surely, if ever were
soldiers entitled to fair and full reward, it was those who responded
to the repeated call of Lincoln for aid in suppressing the most
gigantic rebellion of history--not in the form of driblets of charity,
doled with cunning arts to secure their submission to extortions, not
offered as a bribe to unblushing perjury and denied to honest
suffering, but simple and exact justice, involving a full performance
of national obligation in return for the stipulated discharge of the
duty of citizenship. The simple statement of facts of history will
serve to expose the methods of those who pose as _par excellence_ the
soldiers' friends and the defenders of national faith.

The soldiers who enlisted in the war of the rebellion were promised by
the government, in addition to varying bounties, a stipulated sum of
money per month. It requires no argument to prove that the faith of
the government was as much pledged to the citizen who risked his life,
as to him who merely risked a portion of his wealth in a secured loan
to the government. But the record shows that the pay of the former was
reduced by nearly sixty per cent, while the returns of the latter were
doubled, trebled, and quadrupled; that in many cases government
obligations were closed by the erection of a cheap cast-iron tablet
over a dead hero, while the descendants of bondholders were guarded in
an undisturbed enjoyment of the fruits of their ancestors' greed. For,
after the armies were in the field, the same legislative enactment
that reduced the value of the soldier's pay increased that of the
creditor's bond, by providing that the money of the soldier should be
rapidly depreciated in value, while the interest upon bonds should be
payable in coin; and then, after the war was over, another and more
valuable bond was prepared, that should relieve the favored creditor
of all fear of losing his hold upon the treasury by the payment of his
debt. That the purpose of the lawmakers was deliberate, was exposed in
a speech by Senator Sherman, who was Chairman of the Finance Committee
of the Senate while the soldiers in the trenches were being robbed in
the interest of the creditors at home. In reviewing the financial
policy of his party during the war, Mr. Sherman said, in a speech in
the Senate, July 14th, 1868 [Footnote: Congressional Record, page
4044]:

  "It was, then, our policy during the war, to depreciate the value
  of United States notes, so that they would come into the Treasury
  more freely for our bonds. Why, sir, we did a very natural thing
  for us to do, we increased the amount to $300,000,000, then to
  $450,000,000, and we took away the important privilege of
  converting them into bonds on the ground that, while this
  privilege remained, the people would not subscribe for the bonds,
  and the notes would not be converted; that the right a man might
  exercise at any time, he would not exercise at all."

No page of our national history contains a more damning record of
injustice than this. Mr. Sherman recognizes and admits that the notes,
as issued and paid to the soldiers and producers of the country, were
fundable at the holder's option in a government interest-bearing bond.
He confesses to the foreknowledge that in nullifying this right the
value of the notes would be decreased and to that extent the soldiers'
pay be diminished. No organ of public opinion raised the cry of
breaking the plighted faith of the nation. The soldier had no organ
then; but years after the wrong had been perpetrated, there appeared
in Spaulding's "History of the Currency" the naïve statement, "It
never seemed quite right to take away this important privilege while
the notes were outstanding with this endorsement upon them." By a law,
passed against the protests of the wisest and most patriotic members
of the popular branch of Congress, it had been provided that these
government notes, so soon to be further depreciated in value, should
be a full legal tender to the nation's defenders, but only rags in the
hands of the fortunate holder of interest-bearing obligations of the
government, upon which they were based, and into which they were
fundable at the option of the holder. In one of his reports while
Secretary of the Treasury, Hon. Hugh McCulloch showed that fully
thirty per cent of the cost of supplies furnished the government was
due to the depreciation of the currency, the initial step in such
depreciation being the placing of the words "Except duties on imports
and interest on the public debt" in the law and upon the back of the
notes. But, having provided that one class of the government creditors
should be secured against the evil effects of a depreciated currency,
those friends of the soldiers and defenders of the nation's honor
proceeded to a systematic course of depreciation of the currency,
while the soldiers were too busy fighting, and the citizens too
earnest in their support of the government, to criticize its acts.
During the war the sentiment was carefully inculcated, that opposition
to the Republican party or its acts was disloyalty to the government,
copperheadism, treason; and protests against any of its legislation
were answered with an epithet. It so happened that very little
contemporary criticism was indulged in, from a wholesome fear of
social or business ostracism, or the frowning portals of Fort
Lafayette.

But from the very commencement of the war there had been felt at
Washington a strong controlling influence emanating from the money
centres. The issue of the demand notes of the government during
the first year had furnished a portion of the revenues required,
and had served to recall the teachings of the earlier statesmen
and the demonstrations of history--that paper money bottomed on
taxes would prove a great blessing to the people, and a just
exercise of governmental functions. This was only too evident to
those controlling financial operations at the great money centres. The
nation was alive to the necessities of the government; the people
answered the calls for troops with such promptness as to block the
channels of transportation, often drilling in camp, without arms,
awaiting production from the constantly running armories. Those
camps represented the people. From them all eyes were bound to the
source of supply of the munitions of war; in them all hearts burned
for the time for action, even though that meant danger and death.
There were other camps from which gray-eyed greed looked with far
different motives. The issue of their own promissory notes, based
upon a possibility of substituting confidence for coin, had proven
in the past of vast profit to the note-issuers of the great money
centres. The exercise of that power by the government would
inevitably destroy one great source of their profits, and transfer it
to the people. Sixty millions of the people's own notes, circulating
among them as money, withstanding the effect of the suspension of
specie payments by both the banks and the national Treasury, was a
forceful object-lesson to all classes. To the people, it brought a
strong ray of hope to brighten the darkness of the war cloud. To some
among the metropolitan bankers who in after years prated so loudly of
their patriotism and financial sagacity, it brought to view only
the danger of curtailed profits. The government Treasury was empty;
troops in the field were unpaid and uncomplaining; merchants
furnishing supplies, seriously embarrassed for the lack of money in
the channels of trade. The sixty millions of demand notes were
absorbed by the nation's commerce like a summer storm on parched
soil. Under such circumstances, at the urgent request of the
Secretary of the Treasury, the Ways and Means Committee of the House
of Representatives framed a bill authorizing the issue of one
hundred and fifty millions of bonds, and the same amount of Treasury
notes, the latter to be a full legal tender, and fundable in an
interest-bearing bond at the option of the holder. The contest between
the popular branch of the government and the Senate, upon this
measure, forms one of the most interesting and instructive lessons
of the financial legislation of the nation. In the Senate, a
bitter and determined opposition to the legal-tender clause was
developed. The associated banks of New York had adopted a resolution
that the Treasury notes of the government should only be received
by the different banks from their customers as "a special deposit to
be paid in kind;" and it was one of the lessons of the war, that
notices containing the announcement above quoted remained posted in
the New York banks until a high premium on those very notes, over
the dishonored greenbacks, caused a shrewd depositor to demand of
the bank his deposits in kind. The demand was settled by a delivery
of greenbacks, which were a full legal tender for the purpose, and
the notices suddenly disappeared. The compromise effected between
the two Houses resulted in the issue of the emasculated greenback,
and it also led the way to the establishment of the National Banking
system, and the issue of the promissory notes of the banks to be
used as money.

Much of the force of all criticism of the system so devised has been
weakened by the fact that the attack has been aimed at the banks
themselves, and not against one special feature of the system. In
explanation, though not in excuse for this, should be stated the fact
that every issue of the annual finance report of the government
contained the special pleadings of the comptrollers of the currency,
concealing some facts, misstating others, and creating thereby the
impression that they were endeavoring to win the favor of the banking
institutions. Added to this were the efforts of those controlling the
national bank in the great money centres to secure a permanency of the
note-issuing feature of their system, after a very general public
sentiment against it had been aroused, and even after its evil effects
had been felt by smaller banks located among, and supported more
directly by, the producing classes. But now, when the discussion is
removed from the arena of politics, when the volume of the bank-note
system is rapidly disappearing, and when many of the best and
strongest banks are seeking to be relieved from the burden of
note-issuance, it is opportune to discuss calmly and without prejudice
the wisdom of the original acts and their effects upon the country.

It has been claimed that by the organization of the national banks
the government was enabled to dispose of its bonds and aided in
carrying on the war. Do the facts warrant the claim? All national bank
notes have been redeemable solely in Treasury notes. They do not
possess the legal-tender qualification equal to the Treasury note, and
cannot therefore be considered any better than the currency in which
they are alone redeemable, and in comparison with which they have less
uses. These are truths that were just as palpable twenty-five years
ago as to-day. It follows that the issue of the bank notes did not
furnish any better form of currency than that which came directly from
the government to the people. Every dollar of such notes issued
contributed just as much towards an inflation of the currency as the
issue of an equal amount of Treasury notes. With these facts in mind,
a review of the organization of the banks and their issue of notes
will reveal the effect of such acts.

In 1864 the notes of the government had been depreciated to such an
extent that coin was quoted at a premium ranging from 80 per cent to
150 per cent. The record of a single bank organized and issuing notes
under such circumstances is illustrative of the whole system.

Take a bank with one hundred thousand dollars to invest in government
bonds as a basis for its issuance of currency. The bonds were bought
with the depreciated Treasury notes. Deposited with the Comptroller of
the Currency at Washington, the bank received ninety thousand dollars
of notes to issue as money. It also received six thousand dollars in
coin as one year's advance interest upon its deposited bonds, under
the law of March 17, 1884. This coin, not being available for use as
money, was sold or converted into Treasury notes at a ratio of from
two to two and a half for one. The bank, therefore, had received, as a
working cash capital, a sum in excess of the money invested in its
bonds. The transaction stands as follows:

  Invested in bonds                            $100,000
  Received notes to issue              $90,000
  Received coin equal to, say           12,000--102,000
                                                 ------
  Bank gains by transaction                      $2,000

From this it will appear that the bank has the use, as currency, of
more than the amount of its bonds, while the government is to pay, in
addition, six per cent per annum on the full amount of bonds so long
as the relations thus created continue. Surely no argument is needed
to prove that, if the government had issued the $90,000 in the form
of Treasury notes, and had paid out the interest money for its current
obligations, there would have been no greater inflation of the
currency, a more uniform currency would have been maintained, and a
saving effected of the entire amount of interest paid on bonds held
for security of national bank notes, which at this date would amount
to a sum nearly representing the total bonded debt of the country.

But there remains a still more serious charge to be made against this
system. Defended as a war measure by which the banks were to aid the
government in conquering the rebellion, the fact remains that at the
date of Lee's surrender only about $100,000,000 of bonds had been
accepted by the banks, even though they received a bonus for the act.
But, after the war had closed, and the government was with one hand
contracting the volume of its own circulating notes by funding them
into interest-bearing bonds, the banks were allowed to inflate the
currency by the further issue of over $200,000,000 of their notes.
Time may produce a sophist cunning enough to devise an adequate
defence or apology for such legislation. His work will only be saved
from public indignation and rebuke when a continued series of outrages
shall have dulled the national intelligence and destroyed the national
honor.

But there came a time when the policy of the government was radically
changed. The soldiers had conquered a peace,--or thought they
had,--and, as they marched in review before their commander-in-chief,
had been paid off in crisp notes of the government--legal tender to
the soldier, but not to the bondholder; the time for government to pay
the soldiers had ceased; the national banks had been allowed to show
their patriotism and their willingness to aid the government overthrow
a rebellion already conquered, by the issuance of their notes to add
to an inflated and depreciated currency; the soldiers had returned to
the arts of peace, and had taken their places as producers of the
nation's wealth and taxpayers to the national Treasury. Then Mr.
Sherman, with his brother patriots and statesmen, discovered that the
country (meaning, of course, the bondholders) was suffering under the
evils of a depreciated currency. Their tender consciences had never
suffered a twinge while the soldiers were receiving from the
government a currency depreciated in value as the result of its own
acts. But when the soldier became the taxpayer, and from his toil was
to be obliged to pay the bondholder, then the patriotic hearts of Mr.
Sherman and his co-conspirators in the dominant political party
trembled at the thought of a soldier being allowed to discharge his
obligations in the same kind of money he had received for his
services. As a recipient of the government dole, paper money,
purposely depreciated, was quite sufficient. From the citizen by the
product of whose toil a bonded interest-bearing debt was to be paid,
"honest money" was to be demanded. It required no argument to convince
the government creditor that this was a step in his interest, and
public clamor was hushed with the catchwords of "honest money" and
"national honor," while driblets of pensions were allowed to trickle
from rivers of revenue. The Nero of Rome had been excelled by his
Christian successor, and the dumb submission of ancient slaves became
manly independence in contrast with modern stupidity.

By the passage of the so-called "Credit-strengthening Act," in March,
1869, it was provided that all bonds of the government, except in
cases where the law authorizing the issue of any such obligation has
expressly provided that the same may be paid in lawful money, or other
currency than gold and silver, should be payable in coin. This act was
denounced by both Morton and Stevens, as a fraud upon the people, in
that it made a new contract for the benefit of the bondholder. The
injustice of the act could have been determined upon the plainest
principles of equity: if the bonds were payable in coin, there was no
need for its passage; if they were not so payable, there could be no
excuse for it. If there existed a doubt sufficiently strong to require
such an act, it was clearly an injustice to ignore the rights of the
many in the interests of the few. But the men who had not scrupled to
send rag-money to the soldiers in the trenches, and coin to the
plotters in the rear, had no consciences to be troubled. They had
dared to pay to the soldiers the money of the nation, and then rob
them of two-thirds of it under color of law, and now needed only to
search for methods, not for excuses. Political exigencies must be
guarded against. The public must be hoodwinked, the soldier element
placated with pension doles.

The first essential was to stifle public discussion. Some fool-friends
of the money power had introduced and pressed the bill early in 1868.
There were still a few Representatives in Congress who had not bowed
the knee to Baal, and they raised a vigorous protest against the
iniquitous proposal. Discussion then might be fatal to both the scheme
and the party, and Simon Cameron supplemented an already inodorous
career by warning the Senate that this bill would seriously injure
the Republican party, and that it should be laid aside until the
excitement of a political campaign had subsided, and it could be
discussed with the calmness with which we should view all great
financial questions.

Here was the art of the demagogue, blinding the eyes of the people with
sophistry and false pretences in order to secure by indirection that
which could not be obtained by fair discussion. A Presidential election
was approaching. An honest Chief Executive had rebelled against the
attempt to nullify the results of the war by converting the Southern
States into conquered territories, in order that party supremacy should
be secured, even at the expense of national unity and harmony. Any
discussion of a proposition to burden the victorious soldier with
greater debt, in the interest of a class of stay-at-homes, would have
caused vigorous protests from the men whose aid was necessary for party
success. Thaddeus Stevens had announced that if he thought "that the
Republican party would vote to pay, in coin, bonds that were payable
in greenbacks, thus making a new contract for the benefit of the
bondholders, he would vote for Frank Blair, even if a worse man than
Horatio Seymour was at the head of the ticket." Oliver P. Morton, the
war-Governor of Indiana, had been equally vigorous in his language;
and practical politicians foresaw that even Pennsylvania and Indiana
might be lost to the Republican party with these men arrayed against
it. Therefore the cunning proposal to postpone this discussion "until
after the excitement of a Presidential election was over, and we could
discuss this with the calmness with which we should view all great
financial questions." The hint was taken, the contest of 1868 was fought
under a seeming acquiescence in the views of Stevens and Morton; the
dear people were hoodwinked with catch-phrases coined to deceive, and a
new lease of power was secured by false pretence. But when the
excitement of the election had passed, and there was no longer any
danger of "injuring the Republican party," all discussion was stifled;
and the first act signed by the newly elected President was that which
had been laid aside for that season of "calmness with which we
should view all great financial questions."

The next step in the conspiracy was a logical sequence to all that had
preceded. Having secured coin payment of interest and principal of all
bonds, it was now in order to still further increase the value of the
one and to perpetuate the payment of the other. To this end, silver
was demonetized by a trick in the revision of the Statutes, reducing
the volume of coin one-half, and decreasing the probability of rapid
bond payments. Then the volume of the paper currency was contracted by
a systematic course of substituting interest-bearing bonds for
non-interest-bearing currency, and the first chapter of financial
blunders and crimes of the Wall Street servants ended in a panic,
revealing, in its first wild terror, the disgraceful connection of
high public officials with the worst elements of stock-jobbery.

It is possible that a direct proposition in 1865, to double the amount
of the public debt as a free gift to the creditor-class, might have
caused such a clamor as would have forever driven from power its
authors, and have silenced the claims of modern Republicans that they
were the sole friends of the soldier, and defenders of national honor.
But the financial legislation of the Republican party has done more
and worse than this. Its every act has been in the interest of a
favored class, and a direct and flagrant robbery of the producing
masses. It has won the support of corporate monopoly by blind
submission to its demands, and, with brazen audacity, sought and
obtained the co-operation of the survivors of the army by doling out
pensions and promises. And yet, with a record that would have
crimsoned the cheek of a Nero or Caligula, its leaders are posing as
critics of honest statesmen, and the only friends and defenders of the
soldier and laborer. The leaders of its earlier and better days have
been ostracised and silenced in party councils, while audacious
demagogues have used its places of trust as a means of casting anchors
to windward for personal profit. Its party conventions are controlled
by notorious lobbyists and railroad attorneys, and the agricultural
population appealed to for support. Truly the world is governed more
by prejudice than by reason, and American politics of the present day
offer but slight rewards to manliness or patriotism.

Clinton Furbish.



THE HONOR OF AN ELECTION.

(President Cleveland's Defeat, 1888.)


                Whose is the honor? Once again
                 The million-drifted shower is spent
         Of votes that into power have whirled two men:--
           One man, defeated; one, made President.

                Whose is the honor? His who wins
                 The people's wreath of favor, cast
         At venture?--Lo, his thraldom just begins!--
           Or is it his who, losing, yet stands fast?

               The first takes power, in mockery grave
                 Of freedom--made, by writ unsigned,
         The people's servant, whom a few enslave.
           The other is master of an honest mind.

               From venomed spite that stung and ceased,
                 From slander's petty craft set free,
         This man--the bonds of formal power released--
           Moves higher, dowered with large integrity.

               Though stabs of cynic hypocrites
                 And festering malice of false friends
         Have won their noisome way, unmoved he fits
           His patriot purpose still to lofty ends.

               Whose is the honor? Freemen--yours,
                 Who found him faithful to the right,
         Clean-handed, true, yet turned him from your doors
           And bartered daybreak for corruption's night?

               Weak-shouldered nation, that endures
                 So painfully an upright sway,
         Four little years, then yields to lies and lures,
           And slips back into greed's familiar way!

               For now the light bank-note outweighs
                 The ballot of the unbought mind;
         And all the air is filled with falsehood's praise--
           Shams, for sham victory artfully designed.

               Is theirs the honor, then, who roared
                 Against our leader's wise-laid plan,
         Yet now have seized his plan, his flag, his sword,
           And stolen all of him--except the man?

               No! His the honor, for he keeps
                 His manhood firm, intact, unsoiled
         By base deceit.--Not dead, the nation sleeps:
           Pray Heaven it waken ere it be despoiled!

George Parsons Lathrop.

November, 1888.



ANDY'S GIFT.

HOW HE GOT IN AND HOW HE WAS GOTTEN OUT.

_An Episode of Any Day._


I.

"Well, Age _is_ beautiful!"

"Then _she_ is a joy forever!"

"Wonderful staying power for a filly of her age, anyhow!"

From a typical, if not very remarkable, group of alleged men of the
world, surrounding the quaint and capacious punch-bowl at a brilliant
society event, came this small-shot of repartee. None of the speakers
had been very long out of their teens; all of them were familiar
ingredients of that cream-nougat compound, called society.

Mr. de Silva Street was of the harmless blonde and immaculate
linen type. He was invited everywhere for his present boots, and
well-received for his expectant bonds; his sole and responsible
ancestor having "fought in his corner" with success, in more than one
of the market battles for the belt.

Mr. Wetherly Gage had glory enough with very young belles and
tenacious marriageable possibilities, in being society editor of _Our
Planet_; while Mr. Trotter Upton had owned more horses and been more
of a boon to sharp traders than any man of his years in the
metropolis. A brief young man, with ruddy, if adolescent, moustache
apparently essaying the ascent of a nose turned up in sympathetic hue,
his red hair was cut in aggressive erectile fashion, which emphasized
the _soubriquet_ of "Indian Summer," given him by the present
unconscious subject of the critical trilogy.

"But remember, Trotter, she is my pet partner," simpered Mr. Street at
the shapely back disappearing down the hallway; and he caressed where
his blond moustache was to be.

"And might have been of your--mother's," added Mr. Gage, with the
lonesome titter that illustrated all of his acidulous jokelets.

"Remember she is a lady, and a guest of your host besides," chimed in
a tall, dark man, as he joined the group. The voice was perfectly
quiet; but there seemed discomforting magnetism in the glance he
rested on one after the other, as he filled a glass and raised it to
handsome, but firm-set lips.

The three typical beaux of an abnormal civilization shifted position
uneasily. Trotter Upton pulled down his cuffs, and laboriously admired
the horse-shoe and snaffle ornamenting their buttons, as he answered:

"Sorry we shocked you, Van. Forgot it was your lecture season! But
I'll taut the curb on the boys, so socket your whip, old fel!"

"If your tact kept pace with your slang, Upton, what a success you'd
be!" Van Morris answered, carelessly. "'Tis a real pity you let the
stable monopolize so much of the time that would make you an ornament
to society." Then he set down his unfinished glass, sauntered into the
hall, and approached the subject of discussion.

Miss Rose Wood was scarcely a beauty; nor was she the youngest belle
of that ball by perhaps fifteen seasons of German cotillion. But she
had tact to her manicured finger-tips, delicate acid on her tongue's
tip, and that dangerous erudition, a brief biography of every girl in
the set, was handily stored in her capacious memory. She had,
moreover, a staunch following of gilt-plated youths who, being really
afraid of her, made her a belle as a sort of social Peter's pence.

Miss Wood had just finished a rapid "glide," when she came under fire
of the punch-room light-fighters; but, though Mr. Upton had once
judged her "a trifle touched in the wind," her complexion and her
tasteful drapery had come equally smooth out of that trying ordeal.
Even that critic finished with a nod towards her as their mentor moved
away:

"She _does_ keep her pace well! Hasn't turned a hair." And he was
right in the fact so peculiarly stated; for it was less the warmth of
the dancing-room than of her partner's urgence, that brought Miss Rose
Wood into the hall, for what Mr. Upton called "a breather."

The visible members of the Wood family were two, Miss Rose and her
father, Colonel Westchester Wood. "The Colonel" was an equally
familiar figure at the clubs and on the quarter-stretch; nor was he
chary of acceptance of the cards to dinners, balls, and opera-boxes,
which his daughter's facile management brought to the twain in
showers. He had a certain military air, and a nebulous military
history; boasted of his Virginia-Kentucky origin, and more than hinted
at his Blue Grass stock-farm. Late at night, he would mistily mention
"My regiment at Shiloh, sah!" But, as he was reputed even more expert
with the pistol than most knew him to be with cards, geography and
chronology were never insisted on in detail. But the Colonel was
undisputed possessor of a thirst, marvellous in its depth and
continuity; and he had also a cast-iron head that turned the flanks of
the most direct assaults of alcohol, and scattered them to flaunt the
red flag on his pendulous nose, or to skirmish over his scrupulously
shaven cheeks.

Of the invisible members of "the Colonel's" household, fleecy rumors
only pervaded society at intervals. The social Stanleys and
Livingstons who had essayed the sources of the Wood family stream in
its dark continent of brown-faced brick, on a quiet avenue, sent back
vague stories of a lovely and patient invalid, and a more lovely and
equally patient young girl, mother and sister to Miss Rose. There was
a misty legend sometimes floating around the clubs, that "the
Colonel," after the method of Cleopatra, had dissolved his wife's
fortune in a posset, and swallowed it years before. But again the
reputation of a dead shot cramped curiosity.

And a similar mist sometimes pervaded five o'clock teas and reunions
_chez la modiste_, to the effect that the younger sister was but as a
Midianite to the elder, while the mother was dying of neglect. But as
neither subject of this gossip was in society, the mist never
condensed into direction.

Society found Miss Rose Wood a peculiarly useful and pleasant person;
and it took her--as "the Colonel" took many of his pleasures--on
trust.


II.

The ball was a crowded one; but was, perhaps, the most brilliant and
select of that season, combining a Christmas-eve festivity with the
_début_ party of the acknowledged beauty and prize-heiress of the
entire set.

Blanche Allmand had been finally finishing abroad for some years,
after having won her blue-ribboned diploma from Mde. de Cancanière, on
Murray Hill. Rumors of her perfections of face and form and character
had come across the seas, in those thousand-and-one letters, for which
a fostering government makes postal unions. And ever mingled with
these rumors, came praises of those thousand-and-one accomplishments,
which society is equally apt to admire as to envy, even while it does
not appreciate.

But what most inspired with noble ambition the gilded youth of that
particular _coterie_, was the universally accepted fact that old Jack
Allmand was master of the warmest fortune that any papa thereabouts
might add to the blessing he bestowed upon his son-in-law.

And, like Jeptha of old, he "had one fair daughter and no more." A
widower--not only "warm," but very safe--he had weathered all the
shoals and quicksands of "the street," and had brought his golden
argosy safe into the port of investment. Then he had retired from
business, which theretofore had engrossed his whole heart and soul,
and lavished both upon the fair young girl, to bring whom from final
finishing at the _Sacre Coeur_, he had just made himself so hideously
sea-sick.

It was very late in the season when the delayed return of the pair was
announced, with numerous adjectives, in the society columns; but Mr.
Allmand's impatience to expose his golden fleece to the expectant
Jasons would brook no delay. Blanche was allowed scarcely time to
unpack her many trunks; to exhibit her goodly share of the _chefs
d'oeuvres_ of Pengat and Worth to the admiring elect; and to receive
gushing embraces, only measured by their envy, when the _début_ ball
was announced for Christmas-eve.

His best Christmas gift had come to the doting father; and what more
fitting season to show his joy and pride in it, and to have their
little world share both?

When Blanche, backed by Miss Rose Wood, had hinted that it was rather
an unusual occasion, he had promptly settled that by declaring that
she was a peculiarly unusual sort of girl. So the invitations went
forth; the Allmand mansion was first turned inside out, and then
illuminated, and flower-hidden for the _début_ ball.

That it would be _the_ affair of the season none doubted. Already,
many a paternal pocket had twinged responsive to extra appeals from
marketable daughters; and as to beaux, they had responded _nem. con._,
when bidden to the event promising so much in present feast, and which
might possibly so tend to prevent future famine. For already the clubs
had discounted the chances of one favorite or another for winning the
marital prize of the year.

Foremost among those who had hastened to welcome Blanche back to her
new home was Miss Rose Wood. She had the mysterious knack of "coming
out" gracefully with every fresh set; of perfectly adapting herself to
its fads, and especially to its beaux. Set might come and set might
go, but she came out forever; and some nameless tact implied to every
_débutante_, what Micawber forced upon Copperfield with the brutality
of words, that she was the "friend of her youth."

So, already, Miss Wood was prime favorite and prime minister at the
home-court of the confiding Blanche, who, spite of brave heart and
strong will of her own, fluttered not unnaturally in the unwonted buzz
and glare of her new life. But most particularly had Rose Wood warned
her against the flirts and "unsafe men" of their set; including, of
course, Vanderbilt Morris and her present partner of the ball in the
ranks of both.

That partner, Andrew Browne, was avowedly the best _parti_ of the
entire set. Handsome, fun-loving, and well-cultivated, he was that
_rara avis_ among society beaux, a thorough gentlemen by instinct; but
he was lazily given to self-indulgence, and had the prime weakness of
being utterly incapable of saying "no," to man or woman. The intimate
friend and room-mate of Van Morris for many years, Browne had never
lost a sort of reverence for the superior force and decision of the
other's character; and, though but a few years his junior, in all
serious social matters he literally sat at his feet.

And Morris had always grown restive when Miss Rose Wood made one of
her "dead sets" at Andy's face and fortune; for a far-away experience
of his own, in that quarter, had taught him how small an objection to
that maiden would be a fortune with the man whom she blessed with her
affection.

"And _that_ brand of the wine of the heart," he had once cautioned
Andy, "does not improve with age."

Doubtful of that young gentleman's confident response, that
"_he_ was not to be caught with chaff," Van still kept watch and
ward. So, leaving the elegant book-room of the elegant avenue
mansion--converted, for the nonce, into an elegant bar-room for Mr.
Trotter Upton and his friends--Morris sauntered through knots of
pretty women and of pretty vacuous-looking men, resting on seats
half-hidden in potted plants, and approached the pair interesting
him most.

Neither glowed with delight at his advent, although Andy seemed only
to be rattling off common-places, in peculiarly voluble style. Morris
asked for the next waltz; Miss Wood glanced shyly up at her companion,
dropped her eyes demurely, and believed she would rest until the
_cotillon_. Then, after a few more small necessaries of social life
about the beauty of the girls, the heat of the rooms, and the elegance
of the flowers, she permitted Andy to drift easily towards the door
that opened on the dim-lit coolness of the conservatory.

As they turned away, Rose Wood sent one sharp glance of her gray eyes
glinting into Morris's; then hers fell, and even he could find only
bare common-place in her words:

"So many little dangers, you know, Mr. Morris--at a ball. One cannot
be _too_ prudent."

He did not answer; but the look that followed her graceful figure had
very little of flattery in it.

"Curse that _Chambertin_!" he muttered in his moustache. "I warned him
against the second pint at dinner. Andy _couldn't_ be fool enough,
though," he added, with a shrug, and moved slowly towards the
dancing-room.

The critical group, still around the big punch-bowl, looked after him
curiously.

"_He's_ not soft on the old girl, is he?" queried Mr. de Silva
Street.

"Never!" chuckled Mr. Wetherly Gage. "Morris is too well up in Bible
lore to marry his grandmother!"

"And he don't have to," put in Mr. Trotter Upton, with a sage wink.
"I'd back Van against the field to win the Allmand purse, hands down,
if he'd only enter. But he _won't_; so you're safe, Silvey, if you've
got the go in you. But Lord! Van's too smart to carry weight for age!
Why, you may land me over the tail-board, if the woman that hitches
_him_ double won't have to throw him down and sit on him, Rarey
fashion!"

And the speaker, remarking _sotto voce_, that here was luck to the
winner, drained his glass with a smack, set it down, and lounged
into the smoking-room. There he lazily lit one of Mr. Allmand's
full-flavored Havanas, and thoughtfully stored his breast pocket
with several more.


III.

Meanwhile, the horsey pundit's offered odds seemed not so wisely
laid.

In the great room a crowded waltz was in progress; and Morris saw
Blanche Allmand standing on the opposite edge of the whirling circle.
Her head and her dainty slipper were keeping time to the softly
accented music; while a comical expression--half anger, half
mischief--emphasized the nothing she was saying to her companion.

Van caught her eye and, adept that he was in the social signal-service,
took in the situation at a glance. He slightly raised his eyebrows and
barely moved his lips; she assented with the smallest of nods and a
happy flush; and, a moment later, he had edged around the masses of
bumping humanity and offered his arm.

"My waltz, I believe," he said, with the ease of the heir-apparent of
Ananias. "I was unlucky enough, in losing the first turn, not to
grudge Major Bouncey the rest."

"You deserve to lose the whole for coming late," the girl answered,
drawing her arm from her partner's with that pretty reluctance which
makes society's stage-business seem born in woman. "It was just too
good of Major Bouncey to take your place and save my being a
wall-flower." And, not pausing for that gallant soldier's labored
disclaimer, the graceful pair glided away to the graceful time of 'La
Gitana' waltz.

"Horrid bore, that Bouncey," Blanche panted in the first pause. "Don't
stop near him! He does all his dancing on my insteps; and I dare not
stop for fear of his still more dreadful spooning."

"You would not have _me_ blame him? A better balanced brain might well
lose its poise, with _such_ temptation!" And the man looked down on
her with very eloquent eyes.

There was a pause. Then Van Morris bent his head, and the eyes still
more strongly emphasized the words:

"Blanche, do you know how dangerously lovely you are?"

The girl's frank eyes dropped beneath the strong light in his; but
there was not a shade of consciousness in the soft laugh that prefaced
her reply:

"Ah! I've a cheval-glass and this is my first ball. So I suppose I
know how 'dangerous' I am! Then, too, that awful Bouncey called me a
lily of the valley!"

"It is the purest flower made by God's hand," were Morris's simple
words; but the vibrant tone came from deeper than the lips, now close
pressed together.

"But I _know_ I'm not," Blanche retorted, merrily, "for _they_ drink
only dew, and I am quite wild for Regent's punch!"

They were at the refreshment room, now nearly deserted. Once more the
man's eyes grew darker and deeper, as they met the girl's frank blue
ones.

"And yet, not purer," he said, unheeding the interruption, "than the
heart you, little girl, will soon give to some----"

He stopped abruptly; but the eyes added more than the words left
unsaid.

Again Blanche dropped her eyes quickly; but her color never
heightened, nor did the soft laces nestling over the graceful bust
move at all quicker than the waltz might warrant. Van's face still
bent over her with earnest expression, as she sipped the glass of
punch he handed her; but neither spoke until they had crossed the
corridor and passed another door into the conservatory.


IV.

The soft, warm air, heavy with the breath of the "Grand Duke" and of
orange blossoms; the tremulous half-light from colored lamps hung amid
the leaves; the dead stillness of the place, broken only by the plash
of the fountain falling back into its moss-covered basin, all
contrasted deliciously with the hot, dusty atmosphere and giddy
buzzing under the flaring gas-jets left behind.

They strolled slowly down the gravelled walk, between rows of huge
tubs, moist and flower-laden with the products of almost every clime.
Here gleamed the glossy leaves of the Southern _grandiflora_; the rare
wax plant crept along the wall beyond, its pink, starry blooms
gleaming delicately among the thick, artificial-seeming leaves; while,
as though in honor of the happily-timed birthnight of the fair young
mistress of all, a gorgeous century plant had opened its bud in a
glory of form and color, magnificent as rare.

"Blanche, do you remember how long I have known you?" Morris asked,
suddenly breaking the silence. "Ever since you were like _this_; a
close, callow bud, giving but vague promise of the glorious flowering
of your womanhood! I watched the opening of every petal of your mind
and tried to peer through them into the heart of the flower. But they
sent you away; and now your return dazzles me with the brilliance and
beauty of the full bloom. This was the past--_this_ is the present!"

And reaching up, the man suddenly snapped off the glowing blossom from
the cactus and held it before the girl, close to the pale camellia bud
he had plucked before.

She raised her beautiful face, crowned with its halo-like glory of
hair, full to him; and the expression it took was graver and more
womanly than before. But still no agitation reflected in the candid
eyes that looked steadily into his, and the voice, more softly
pitched, had no tremor in it, as she answered:

"_Please_ think of me, then, as the child you used to know; never as
the _débutante_ who must be fed, _à la_ Bouncey, on the sweets of
sentiment."

"Take sentiment--I mean the higher sentiment, that lifts us sometimes
above our baser worldly nature--out of life, and it is not worth the
living," Morris said earnestly. "That man could not understand it any
more than he could understand you!"

"Perhaps you are right," she answered, quietly. "_We_ are too old
friends to talk society at each other; and you are _so_ different from
him."

Perhaps Morris was luckier for not replying.

It may be that the Destiny, which, we are told, shapes our ends, did
not leave his so rough-hewn as it might have.

He himself could scarcely have told what thoughts were framing
themselves in his mind; what words had almost formed themselves on his
tongue. There are moments in life, when we live at the rate of hours;
and Van Morris was certainly going the pace, mentally, for those ten
seconds of silence, before the echo of the girl's voice ceased
vibrating on his ear. He was vaguely conscious, some ten seconds later
still, that rarely had a calm, well-posed man of the world found
himself quite so dizzy, from combined effects of a quick waltz, a
flower-laden atmosphere, and a rounded arm pressing only restfully
upon his own.

Suddenly that pressure grew sharp and decided. They stopped abruptly
at a sharp turn of the walk.

On a somewhat too small rustic seat, under the fruit-laden boughs of
an orange tree, and comfortably screened thereby from the gleam of the
tinted lantern, sat Miss Rose Wood and Mr. Andrew Browne.

Their two heads were rather close together; their two hands were
suspiciously distant, as though by sudden movement; and the lady's fan
had fallen at her feet, most _à propos_ to the crunch of the gravel,
under approaching feet.

But only Blanche--less preoccupied with her thoughts than her
companion--had caught the words, "Dismiss carriage--escort home,"
before Miss Wood's fan had happened to drop at her feet.

What there might be in those words to drop the color out of rosy
cheeks, or to clench white little teeth hard together, it might well
puzzle one to guess. But the face that had not changed under the
strong music of Van Morris's voice, now grew deadly white an instant;
then flooded again with surging rush of color.

But very quickly, though with perfect self-possession, Miss Wood had
risen and advanced one step, to arrange Blanche's lace, with the
words:

"Your _berthé_ is loose, darling!"

Then, as she inserted the harmless, unnecessary pin, she whispered in
the shell-like ear:

"_Don't_ scold me, loved one! Indeed, I was _not_ flirting. I only
came out here to keep him from the--_champagne punch!_"

Blanche made no reply to this whispered confidence; nor did she seem
especially grateful for the grace done to her toilette. She never so
much as glanced at Andy Browne. He, also, had risen, after picking up
the dropped fan, with not effortless grace; and now stood smiling,
with rather meaningless, if measureless, good nature upon the
invaders.

And Van Morris was all pose and _savoir faire_ once more. He might
have been examining Blanche on her progress in algebra, for all the
consciousness in his manner as he complimented Miss Wood on her
peculiarly deft management of that dangerous weapon, the pin. But
there was no little annoyance in the whispered aside to his friend:

"Don't drink any more to-night, Andy. _Don't!_"

"All right, Van; I promise," responded the other, with the most
beaming of smiles. "Tell you the truth, don't think I need it. Heat of
the room, you know--"

"And the second pint of _Chambertin_ at dinner," finished Morris, as
Miss Wood--the toilette and _her_ confidence both completed--slipped
her perfectly gloved hand into Andy's arm again.

Precisely, then, three sharp notes of the cornet cut through the
stillness under the flowers. It was followed by the indescribable
sound, made only by the rush of many female trains towards one spot.
Like the chronicled war-horse, Andy shook his mane at the first note;
Miss Wood nodded beamingly over her shoulder at the second; and the
pair were hastening off by the time the third died away.

Blanche showed no disposition to take the vacated seat.

"The German is forming," she said, "and I am engaged to that colt-like
Mr. Upton."

Only at the door of the conservatory she paused.

"Does Mr. Browne ever drink too much wine?" she asked abruptly.

Van never hesitated one second. He lied loyally. "Why, _never_, of
course," he deprecated, in the most natural tone. "With rare
exceptions. But what deucedly sharp eyes she has," he added, mentally,
as Mr. Upton informed them that "the bell had tapped," and took
Blanche off.

Almost at the same moment, a waiter rushed by with a wine-cooler and
glasses; and he heard the pompous butler direct:

"Set it by Mr. Browne's chair. He leads in _ler curtillyun!_"

Morris half started to countermand the order. Then he reconsidered and
leaned against the doorway.

"He can't mean to drink it, after his promise to me," he thought.
"Anyway, he might get something worse. Besides, I am not his guardian;
and," he added very slowly, a strange smile hovering about his lips,
"I can scarcely keep my own head to-night."

Somehow he, best dancer in town as he was, had no partner to-night.
The sight before him had no novelty; and Mr. Trotter Upton's vivacious
prancing somewhat irritated him, in spite of the amusement at himself
he felt at the sensation.

"Didn't think I was so far gone as to be jealous of Trotter," he
muttered.

Then he slipped into the hat-room and was quickly capped and cloaked
for that precious boon to the bored, the exit _sans adieu_.


V.

It was a raw, searching Christmas morning into which Van Morris
stepped, as he softly closed the door of the Allmand mansion and
turned up his fur collar against "a nipping and an eager air."

Even in that fashionable section the streets already showed somewhat
of the bustle of the busy to-morrow. Belated caterers' carts spun by;
early butchers' and milk-wagons rumbled along, making their best speed
towards distant patrons. Here and there, gleams from gas-lit windows
slanted athwart the frosty darkness, punctuated by ever-recurrent
flaring of street lamps. Not infrequent groups of muffled men--some
jovial with reminiscent scenes of pleasure left behind, and some
hilarious from what they brought along with them--passed him, as he
strode rapidly along the echoing flags, too intent on his own thoughts
to notice any of them.

Suddenly, from beneath one of the gloom punctuators opposite, a
woman's voice cut the air sharply:

"_Please_ let me pass!"

Morris, alert in a second, had crossed the street and joined the group
of four intuitively, before he knew it himself. Three young men, whose
evening dress told that they were of society, and whose unsteady hold
of their own legs, that they had had just a little too much of it,
barred the way of a young girl. Tall, slight, and with a mass of
blonde hair escaping from the rough shawl she drew closer about her
head as she shrank back, there was something showing through her
womanly terror that spoke convincingly the gentlewoman. The trio
chuckled inanely, making elaborate bows; and the girl shivered as she
shrank further into the shadow, and repeated piteously:

"Do, _please_, let me pass! _won't_ you?"

"Certainly they will," Van answered, stepping up on the pavement and
taking her in at a glance. "Am I not right, gentlemen?" he added
urbanely to the unsteady trio.

"Not by a damned sight!"

"Who the devil are you?" were the prompt and simultaneous rejoinders.

"That doesn't matter," Van answered quietly; "but you are obstructing
the public streets and frightening this evident stranger."

"We don't know any stranger at two o'clock in the morning," was the
illogical rejoinder of the third youth, who clung to the lamp-post.

"What about it, anyway?" said the stoutest of the three, advancing
towards Morris. "Do _you_ know her?"

"_You_ evidently do not," Van replied; then he turned to the girl
with the deference he would scarce have used to the leader of his
set. "If you will take my arm, I will see you safely to the nearest
policeman."

The girl hesitated and shrunk back a second; then, with that
instinctive trust which--fortunately, perhaps--is peculiarly feminine,
slipped her red, ungloved little hand into his arm.

The leader of the trio staggered a step nearer. "You're a nice
masher," he said thickly; "but if it's a row you're looking for, you
can find one pretty quick!"

Morris glanced at the man with genuine pity.

"You look as though you might be a gentlemen when you are sober," he
said. "_I_ am not looking for a row; and if you boys make one, you'll
only be more ashamed of yourselves on Christmas day than you should be
already. And now I wish to pass."

"I'll give you a pass," the other answered; and, with a lurch, he
fronted Morris and put up his hands in most approved fighting form. At
the same moment, the girl--with the inopportune logic of all girls in
such cases--clung heavily to Morris's arm and cried piteously:

"Oh, no! You mustn't! Not for me!" and, as she did so the man lunged
a vicious blow with his right hand, full at Morris's face.

But, though like J. Fitz-James, "taught abroad his arms to wield," Van
Morris had likewise used his legs to wrestle in England, and had
moreover seen _la savatte_ in France. With a quick turn of his head,
the blow passed heavily, but harmlessly, by his cheek. At the same
instant his foot shot swiftly out, close to the ground, and with a
sharp sweep from right to left, cut his opponent's heels from under
him, as a sickle cuts weeds, sprawling him backwards upon the
pavement.

Drawing the girl swiftly through the breach thus made, Morris placed
her behind him and turned to face the men again. They made no rush, as
he had expected; so he spoke quickly:

"You'd better pick up your friend and be off. You don't look like boys
who would care to sleep in the station," he said, "and here comes the
patrol wagon."

They needed no second warning, nor stood upon the order of their
going. The downed man was on his feet; and it was devil take the
hind-most to the first corner. For the rumbling of heavy wheels and
the clang of heavy hoofs upon the Belgian blocks were drawing nearer.

To Van's relief, for he hated a scene, it proved to be only a
"night-liner" cab, though with rattle enough for a field battery; but
to his tipsy antagonists it had more terror than a park of Parrot
guns.

"Can I do anything more for you?" he asked the girl; then suddenly:
"You're not the sort to be out alone at this hour of the night. Are
you in trouble?"

"Oh, indeed I am!" she answered, with a sob; again illogical, and
breaking down when the danger was over. "What _must_ you think of me?
But mother was suddenly _so_ ill, and father and sister were at a
ball, and the servants slipped away, too. I dared not wait, so I ran
out alone to fetch Doctor Mordant. _Please_ believe me, for--"

"Hello, Cab!" broke in Van. "Certainly I believe you," he answered the
girl, as the cab pulled up with that eager jerk of the driver's
elbows, eloquent of fare scented afar off. "I'll go with you for
Doctor Mordant, and then see you home."

"Why, is that _you_, Mr. Morris?" cried Cabby, with a salute of his
whip _à la militaire;_ but he muttered to himself, "Well, I _never_!"
as he jumped from the box and held the door wide.

"That's enough, Murphy," Van said shortly. "Now, jump in, Miss, and
I'll--" But the girl shrank back, and drew the shawl closer round her
face. "No, I won't either. Pardon my thoughtlessness; for it isn't
exactly the hour to be driving alone with a fellow, I know. But you
can trust Murphy perfectly. Dennis, drive this lady to Dr. Mordant's
and then home again, just as fast as your team can carry her!" And he
half lifted the girl into the carriage.

"That I will, Mr. Van," Murphy replied cheerily, as he clambered to
his seat.

The girl stretched out two cold, red little hands, and clasped his
fur-gloved one frankly.

"Oh! thank you a thousand times," she said. "I _knew_ you were a
gentleman at the first word to those cowards; but I never dreamed you
were Mr. Van Morris. I've heard sister speak of you _so_ often!"

"_Your_ sister?" Van stared at the cheaply-clad night wanderer, as
though _he_ had had too much Regent's punch.

"Yes, sister Rose--Rose Wood," she said, with the confidence of
acquaintance. "I'm her sister, you know--Blanche."

"Blanche? Your name is Blanche? I cannot tell you how happy I am to
have chanced along just now, Miss Wood;" and Van bared his head in the
cutting night wind to the blanket-shawled girl in the night-liner, as
he would not have done at high noon to a duchess in her chariot. "But
I'm wasting your time from your mother; so good-morning; and may your
Christmas be happier than its eve."

"Good-by! And oh, _how_ I thank you!" the girl said, again extending
her hand over the cab door. "I'll tell Rose, and _she_ shall thank
you, better than I can!"

"Good-night! But don't trouble _her_," Van said, releasing the girl's
hand. "One minute, Murphy," he added aside to the driver; "here's your
Christmas-gift!"

A bright gold piece glinted in the dirty fur glove, in which Dennis
Murphy looked to find a shilling under the next gas-lamp.

"Blanche! and the same golden hair, too!" Van muttered to himself, as
the cab rocked and ricketted down the street. "Well, I suppose that is
what the poet means by 'the magic of a name'!" and he suddenly
recalled that he was still standing bareheaded in the blast. "And Rose
Wood's sister looks like that! Well, verily one half the world does
_not_ know how the other half lives!"

Then he turned and strode rapidly homeward; pulling hard, as he
thought many strange thoughts, on the dead cigar between his lips.

Once in his own parlor, Van Morris walked straight to the mirror over
the mantel, and looked long and steadily at himself. Then he tossed
Mr. Allmand's half-smoked cigar contemptuously into the grate, lit one
he selected carefully from the carved stand near, and threw himself
into a smoking-chair before the ruddy glow of coals.

"I must be getting old," he soliloquized. "I didn't use to get bored
so easily by these things. Either balls are not what they were, or _I_
am not. Now, 'there's no place like home!' Not much of a box to call
home, either!" And he glanced round the really elegant apartment in
half-disgust. "There's _something_ lacking! Andy's the best fellow in
the world, but he's so wanting in order. Poor old boy! Wonder if he
_will_ drink anything more? I surely must blow him up to-morrow
morning. How deucedly sharp _she_ is!" and he smiled to himself. "She
saw through Rose Wood's game at a glance. Wonder if she saw through
_me_?"

He looked steadily into the glowing coals, as though castles were
building there. Once or twice his lips moved soundlessly; and suddenly
he reached over to the escritoire near by, and taking an oval case
from it, opened it, and gazed long and earnestly at the picture in it.
The face was the average one of a young girl, with stiff plaits of
hair stiffly tossed over the shoulder, in futile chase after grace;
but the wide blue eyes were a glory of purity and trust, and they were
the eyes of Blanche Allmand.

Then he rose abruptly, walked to the sideboard, and filled a glass
with water. Then he placed carefully in it the cactus flower and
camelia bud, which had never left his hand since he plucked them in
the conservatory. As he did so, Morris' face grew serious, and looked
down wistfully into the fire.

When he raised his eyes they were full of hopeful light, and they
rested long and steadily upon the flowers.

"Yes! It _is_ better!" he exclaimed aloud, as though continuing a
train of thought. "Some of _that_ family bloom only once in a
century. I cannot look for miracles, and many a hand may reach for
_my_ flower. Yes, to-morrow shall settle it! The Italian was even
more philosopher than poet when he said, '_Amare e no essere amato
e tiempo perduto_'!"


VI.

When Mr. Andrew Browne tumbled into the cosy parlor of that bachelor's
box at 4 A.M. on Christmas morning, he was by all odds the happiest
man of his acquaintance, even if he knew himself, which was more than
doubtful.

He slammed the door, slung his fur-lined overcoat across the sofa,
turned up the gas until it whistled merrily, and poked the fire until
it roared again. Then he hunted the boot-jack, and drew off one boot;
changed his mind, and flung himself into the smoking-chair, and
stretched booted and unbooted foot to the blaze. Thus posed, he
trolled out, "_Il segreto per esser felice_," in a rich baritone; only
interrupting his _tempo_ to spit out superfluous ends, bitten from his
cigar, in the effort to phrase neatly and smoke at the same time.

"Why the deuce don't you get to bed?" growled Van Morris from the next
room. He was aroused from dreams of Blanche Allmand, music, diamond
solitaires, and orange-blossoms, mixed into one sweet confusion. "Stop
your row, can't you? and go to bed!"

"You go to bed yo'sef!" responded the illogical Andy, rising, not too
steadily, on his one boot, and throwing wide the folding-door. "Who
wants to go to bed? _I_ sha'n't."

"You're an idiot!" muttered Mr. Morris; and he turned his face to the
wall.

"Guess am an idiot," responded Andy, blandly. "But I ain't tight,--only
happy! I'm the happiest idiot--_Il segreto per ess_--Say, Van! I'm so
_devilish_ happy, ol' boy!"

Morris turned over with a groan, and pulled the covering over his
head. The strong, small word he uttered as he did so is not to be
found in the church service. But Andy was not to be snubbed in that
style. He stepped forward; attempted to sit on the bed's edge;
miscalculated his momentum, and succeeded in landing plump on the
centre of his friend's person.

"Confound you!" gasped the latter, breathless. "You're as drunk as--as
a fool!"

"No, I ain't," chuckled Andy, imperturbably happy. Then he laughed
till the bed shook; composing himself suddenly into gravity, with a
fierce snort--"No, I ain't: you're sober!"

"And when _she_ asked, I said you never drank," reproached the irate
and still gasping Morris. "I _lied_ for you!"

"Tha's nothing. I'll lie for you; lie for you to-morrow--see'f I
don't! Say, Van, ol' boy, I ain't tight; only happy--_so_ happy! Van!
_Van!_" and he shook the pretended sleeper heavily. "I'm goin' to
reform! I'm goin' to be married!"

"_What? Rose Wood?_"

Van Morris sat bolt upright in bed now. The tone of voice in which he
invoked Miss Wood might have brought response from that wise virgin,
disrobing for triumphant rest full ten blocks away.

But he found it vain to argue with Andy's mixed Burgundy and champagne
punch. Contradiction but made him insist more strongly that he _was_
engaged to the old campaigner, whom Morris had so manoeuvred to
outflank. Finally, in a miscellaneous outfit of evening pants,
night-gown, and smoking-cap, he succeeded in getting the jubilant
groom _in futuro_ into bed, where he still hummed at the much-sought
secret of happiness, until he collapsed with a sudden snore, and slept
like the Swiss.

Then Morris walked the floor rapidly, wrapped in thought and a cloud
of fragrant cigar-smoke. Then he threw himself once more into the
smoking-chair, and gazed long and earnestly into the coals, a heavy
frown resting on his face. Suddenly it cleared off; the sunshine of a
broad smile took its place; and Van tossed the end of his cigar
exultingly into the fire. Then he rose and stretched himself like a
veritable son of Anak, when

           "Stalwart they court the rapture of the fight."

"I have it, by George!" he cried. "I'll get the poor fellow out of
this box, if the old girl did induce him to pop, and accepted him out
of hand! Andy! I say, Andy, wake up!" and he ran into his chum's room,
dragged him out of bed, and had him at the fire, before he was well
awake.

Mr. Andrew Browne was no longer in a mood even approaching the
jubilant. He had utterly forgotten the secret _per esser felice_,
during his two hours' nap. He confessed to a consuming desire for
Congress-water, and made use of improper words upon finding only empty
bottles, aggravating in reminiscence of it, in the carved ebony
sideboard.

Finally he sat down, with his head in his hands, and told his story
dismally enough.

Miss Rose Wood's carriage had been dismissed, as per programme. Andy
had led the German with her, and a bottle of champagne at his side. He
had walked home with her; had told her--in what wild words he knew
not--that he loved her; and had been, as Van had surmised, "accepted
out of hand."

"And, Van, I'm bound, as a man of honor, to marry her!" finished the
now thoroughly dejected _fiancé_. "Yes, I know what you'd say; it _is_
a pretty rum thing to do; but then she mustn't suffer for my cursed
folly!"

"Suffer? Rose Wood _suffer_ for missing fire one time more?"

Surprise struggled with contempt in the exclamation Morris shot out by
impulse.

"But, if she loves me well enough to engage--" Andy began, rather
faintly; but his mentor cut him short.

"Love the d--_deuce!_" he retorted. "Why, she's a beggar and a
husband-trap!"

"But her family? What will _they_ think?" pleaded Andy, but with very
little soul in the plea.

"Poor little Blanche!" muttered Morris, half to himself. "Bah! the
girl _has_ no heart!"

"Blanche?" echoed Van, in a dazed sort of way. "Why, you don't suppose
Blanche will know it! I never thought of _her!_" and he rose feebly,
and stood shivering in his ghostly attire.

"Why, of course, Rose Wood couldn't keep such great news. Why, man,
you're the capital prize in the matrimonial lottery; but hang me if
Miss Wood shan't draw another blank this time!"

There was a compound of deadly nausea and effortful dignity in the
elbows Mr. Andrew Browne leaned upon the mantel, which hinted volumes
for what his face might have said, had it been visible through the
fingers latticed over it.

"I am a gentleman," he half gasped. "It _may_ be a trap; but I'll keep
my word, and--_marry_ her, unless--unless, Van, you get me out of
it!"

"Go to bed, you spoon!" laughed his friend. "I have the whole plan cut
and dried. I'll teach you your lesson as soon as you sleep yourself
sober."

Morris stood many minutes by the bedside of his quickly-sleeping
friend; but, when he turned into the parlor again, his face was pale
and stern.

"The way of the world, always," he said aloud. "One inanely eager,
another stupidly backward. 'Fools rush in where angels fear to tread!'
Poor boy! he'd give as much to-morrow to unsay his words as I would to
have spoken those I nearly said last night!"

The chill gray dawn outside was wrestling at the windows for entrance
with the sickly glaring gas-light within. Morris drew aside the heavy
curtains and pressed his forehead against the frost-laced pane. Long
he looked out into the gray haze with eyes that saw nothing beyond his
own thoughts. Then he turned to the fire again. The gray ash was
hiding the glow of the spent coals. Then he took up the glass once
more and looked earnestly at the contrasted flowers it held. He
replaced it almost tenderly, and walked slowly to his own room.

"Yes, I know _myself_," he said; "I think I know _her_. I'll hesitate
no longer; some fool may 'rush in.' To-morrow shall settle it. The
tough old Scotchman was right:

                 'He either fears his fate too much,
                    Or his deserts are small,
                 That dares not put it to the touch
                    To gain or lose it all!'"


VII.

That same afternoon, at two o'clock, Mr. Vanderbilt Morris's stylish
dog-cart, drawn by his high-spirited bays, drew up at Miss Rose Wood's
domicile. Holding the reins sat Mr. Andrew Browne, beaming as though
_Chambertin_ had never been pressed from the grape; seemingly as fresh
as though headache had never slipped with the rest out of Pandora's
box.

But it may have been only seemingly; for, faultlessly attired from
scarf-pin to glove tips, Andy was still a trifle more uneasy than the
dancing of his restless team might warrant in so noted a whip as he. A
queer expression swept over his handsome face from time to time; and,
as he came to a halt, he glanced furtively over his shoulder, as
though fearing something in pursuit.

"Ask Miss Rose if she will drive with me," he said hurriedly to the
servant. "Say I can't get down to come in; the horses are too fresh."

Then the off-horse danced a polka in space, responsive to deft
tickling with the whip.

Miss Wood did not stand upon ceremony, nor upon the order of her
going, but went at once to get her wraps.

"Better late than never," she said to herself, as she dived into a
drawer and upset her mouchoir case in search for a particular
handkerchief. "I really couldn't comprehend his absence and silence
all day--but, poor boy! he's _so_ young!" And then Miss Rose, as she
tied a becoming cardinal bow under her chin, hummed two bars of "The
Wedding March" through the pins in her mouth.

Two minutes later saw her seated on the high box beside her future
lord _in posse_; the bays plunging like mad and Andy swinging to the
reins as if for life. For, before she could speak one word--and for no
reason to her apparent--he had let the limber lash drop stingingly
across their backs.

Very keen was the winter wind that swept by her tingling ears; and
Miss Wood raised her seal-skin muff and hid her modest blushes from
it. For that gentle virgin had ever a familiar demon at her elbow. His
name was Experience; and now he whispered to her: "A red nose never
reflects sentiment!"

"And _he_ is so particular how one looks," Miss Rose whispered back to
the familiar; and her tip-tilted feature sought deeper protection in
the furs.

At length, when well off the paved streets, the mad rush of the brutes
cooled down to a swinging trot--ten miles an hour; Browne's tense arms
relaxed a trifle; and he drew a long, deep breath--whether of relief,
or anxiety, no listener could have guessed. But he kept his eyes still
rooted to that off-horse's right ear as though destiny herself sat
upon its tip.

Then, for the first time, he spoke; and he spoke with unpunctuated
rapidity, in a hard, mechanical tone, as though he were a bad model of
Edison's latest triumph, and some tyro hand was grinding at the
cylinder.

"Miss Rose," he began, "we are old friends--never so old; but I can
never sufficiently regret--last night!"

He felt, rather than saw, the muff come sharply down and the face turn
full to him; regardless now of the biting wind.

"No! don't interrupt me," he went on, straight at the off-horse's
right ear. "I _know_ your goodness of heart; _know_ how it pained you;
but you could have done nothing else but--_refuse me!_"

Miss Rose Wood's mouth opened quickly; but a providential gutter
jolted her nearly from the seat; and the wind drove her first word
back into her throat like a sob.

The inexorable machine beside her ground on relentless.

"Yes, I understand what you would say: that you refused me _firmly_
and _finally_ because I--_deserved it!_" Had Andy Browne's soul really
been the tin-foil of the phonograph, it could not have shown more
utter disregard of moral responsibility. "You knew I was under the
influence of wine; that I would never have dared to address you had I
been myself! I repeat, I deserve my--_decisive rejection!_ It was
proper and just in you to say '_No!_'"

Woman's will conquered for one brief second. Spite of wind and spite
of him, Miss Wood began:

"'_No?_' I--"

"Yes, '_no!_'" broke in the relentless machinery. It ground on
implacable, though great beads stood on Andy's brow from sheer terror
lest he run down before the end. "_No!_ as firmly, as emphatically as
you said it to me last night. Indeed, I honor you the more for flatly
refusing the man who, in forgetting his self-respect, forgot his
respect--_for you!_ But, Miss Rose, while I pledge you my honor never,
_never_ to speak to you again _of love_, I may still be--_your
friend!_"

The bays were bowling down the street again by this time; when another
_kismet_, in small and ugly canine form, flew at their heads with yelp
and snarl. Rearing with one impulse, the spirited pair lunged forward
and flew past the now twinkling lamps in a wild gallop. Andy pulled
them down at last; their swinging trot replacing the dangerous rush.
The Wood mansion was almost in sight; but the Ancient Mariner was a
tyro to Andy Browne in the way he fixed that off-horse's right ear
with stony stare.

He might have looked round in perfect safety. The lithe figure by him
sat gracefully erect. The face a trifle pale; the lips set tight
against each other, with the blood pressed out of them, were not
unnatural in that cutting wind. The eyes, fixed straight ahead, as his
own, gleamed gray and cold; only a half-closing of the lids, once or
twice, hiding an ugly light reflecting through them from the busy
brain behind. But Andy never turned once until he brought up the bays
stock still and leaped down to offer his hand to the lady at her own
door.

She took it, naturally; springing to the ground as lightly as any
_débutante_ of the season. Not one trace of annoyance, even, showed on
that best educated face.

"Andy, we _are_ old friends," she said, offering her hand frankly.

He took it mechanically, with a dazed soft of feeling that he must be
even a bigger fool than he felt himself.

"Real friends," Miss Wood went on, pleasantly, "and I'll prove it to
you now. _You_ have acted like a man of honor to me; _I_ will betray
one little confidence, and make two people happy!"

The man still stood dumb; and his eye furtively wandered to the pawing
off-horse, as if to take _his_ confidence as to what it meant. The
woman's next words came slowly, and she smiled; a strange smile the
lips alone made, but in which the glinting gray eyes took no share.

"For Van Morris is your best friend, after all. He will remember that
I told him, last night, 'One cannot be too careful'!"

She rose on tiptoe, whispered three words, and was gone before he
could frame one in reply.

Once more those ill-used bays got the whip fiercely; and they turned
the corner so short that Mr. Trotter Upton looked over his shoulder
with a grin, and remarked to the blaze-faced companion in his sulky
shafts:

"Nine hundred dollars' worth of horse risked with nine dollars' worth
of man! Van Morris better drive his own stock. G'long!"


VIII.

It was two o'clock when Mr. Andrew Browne had ridden forth to
recapture his plighted troth.

The shades of Christmas evening had now wrapped the city completely,
and the gilt clock upon his parlor mantel now pointed to six. Still he
had not returned; and still Van Morris's eagerness to test the issue
of his own tactics was too keen to let him leave their rooms. He had
even resisted the temptations of a gossip at the club, and was smoking
his fifth cigar--a thought-amused smile wreathing his lips--when the
chime of six startled him suddenly to his feet.

"How time flies!" he exclaimed. "And we are to dine at the Allmand's
at seven."

He tossed away his cigar, turned into his own apartment, and made an
unusually careful toilet. Then he looked into Browne's still vacant
room once more.

"Where _can_ he be?" he muttered. "By George! he must have bungled
fearfully if he did not pull through. He certainly had his lesson by
heart! But _she_ must not be kept waiting," and his face softened
greatly, and the deep, strong light came back into his eyes. "How
ceaselessly that old verse comes back to me! And now 'to put it to the
test' myself."

He turned to his escritoire, and took a small Russia case from the
drawer; then to the mantel, and carefully shook the dampness from the
two flowers he had placed there that morning. Putting case and flowers
carefully in his vest pocket, Van paused at the door, gave a long,
sweeping glance--with a sort of farewell in it--to the rooms; then
shut himself outside, still repeating _sotto voce_,

                 "He either fears his fate too much,
                   Or his deserts are small."

Metropolitan Christmas was abroad in the streets. Young and old,
grandsire and maiden, beggar and parvenu jostled one another on the
pavements. Rough men, laden with loosely-wrapped, brown-papered
packages, strode happily homeward; wan women skurried along leading
eager children from unwonted shopping for dainties; carriages rolled
by, with the gas-light glimpsing on occupants in evening dress, driven
Christmas dinnerward.

Van Morris recked little of all this, as he strode rapidly over the
very spot where his coolness had saved an ugly misadventure twelve
hours before. His brain was going faster than his body; one goal only
had he in view; one refrain ever sounded in his memory: "To gain, or
lose, it all!"

A quick turn of the corner, and he stood at the door he had quietly
escaped from during the ball. The servant replied to his inquiry that
Miss Blanche was in the library; and thither he turned, with the
freedom of long intimacy.

Only the warm glow of fire-light filled the room; there was a rustle,
as of a retreating silk dress. There was also a man's figure, backed
by the fire, with that not infrequent expression all over it that
tells he would really be at his ease if he only knew how.

"Why, Andy! And in your driving suit!"

"Van, dearest old boy," cried the other, irrelevantly, "congratulate
me! I'm the luckiest dog alive!"

"With all my heart," Van answered, shaking the proffered hand
heartily. "I was sure it would come out all right."

"You were?" Andy fairly beamed. "She said so!"

"What? _she_ said so? Did Rose Wood expect you to break off, then?"

"No, no! Not _that_. She said she knew you'd be glad of the match."

"Glad of--the match!" Van stared at his friend, with growing suspicion
in his mind.

"Yes, you dear old Van! I'm engaged, and just the happiest of--"

"_Engaged?_" and Van seized Andy by the shoulders with both hands.

"Yes, all fixed! And Rose Wood is just the dearest, best girl after
all! I'd never have known happiness but for her!"

Van Morris turned the speaker full to the firelight, and stared hard
in his face.

"I wouldn't have believed it, Andy," he said, contemptuously. "You
have come _here_ drunk again!"

"No, indeed! I have pledged my word to _her_ never to touch a drop!"
protested Andy, with imperturbable good nature. "And, Van, _she has
accepted me_."

"_She?_"

"Yes. Rose said, 'Morris has his heart set on the match;' I went
straight on that hint, and Blanche Allmand will be Mrs. Andrew Browne
next Easter."

Morris answered no word.

With a deep, hard breath, he turned abruptly, strode to the alcove
window, and peered through the curtains into the black night beyond. A
great surge of regret swept over him that shook the strong man with
pain pitiful to see. He pressed his forehead against the cold glass;
and the contrast, so strong, to the hope with which he had looked out
thus at the gray dawn, sickened him with its weight. There was a boom
in his ears, as of the distant surf; and his brain mechanically groped
after a lost refrain, finding only the fragment: "To lose it all!
_lose it all!_"

But heart-sickness, like sea-sickness, is never mortal, and it has the
inestimable call over the latter of being far less tenacious. And Van
Morris was mentally as healthy as he was physically sound. He made a
strong effort of a strong will; and turned to face his friend and
his--fate. In his hand he held a wilted camellia bud and a crushed
cactus flower.

Moving quickly to the fire, he tossed them on the glowing coals;
watching as they curled, shrivelled, and disappeared in the heat's
maw. Then he moved quietly to the window and looked into the night
once more.

Wholly wrapped up in his new-found joy, Andy Browne saw nothing odd in
his friend's manner or actions. He moved softly about the room, and
once more hummed, "_Il segreto per esser felice_;" very low and very
tenderly this time.

Suddenly the rustle of silk again sounded on Morris's ear.

He turned quickly, and looked long, but steadily, into the beautiful
face. It was very quiet and gentle; glorified by the deeper content in
the eyes and the modest flush upon the cheek. His face, too, was very
quiet; but it was pale and grave. His manner was gentle; but he
retained the little hand Blanche held out to him, in fingers that were
steadier than her own.

"I reminded you last night," he said, very gravely, "how long we had
been friends, Blanche. It is meet, then, that I should be the first to
wish you that perfect happiness which only a pure girl's heart may
know."

Then, without a pause, he turned to Andy, and placed the little Russia
case in his hand. As it opened, the eye of a dazzling solitaire
flashed from its satin pillow.

"Andy, old friend," he added, "Rose Wood told you only the truth. I
_had_ set my heart on Blanche's happiness; and only this morning I got
that for her engagement ring. Put it on her finger with the feeling
that Van Morris loves you both--better than a nature like Rose Wood's
can ever comprehend."

T. C. De Leon.



FROM THE WINDOWS OF A GREAT LIBRARY.

        "The dead alive and busy."--Henry Vaughan.



        Without, wind-lifted, lo! a little rose
        (From the great Summer's heart its life-blood flows),
        For some fond spirit to reach and kiss and bless,
          Climbs to the casement, brings the joyous wraith
        Of the sun's quick world, without, of joyousness
          Into this still world of enchanted breath.
        And, far away, behold the dust arise,
        From streets white-hot, into the sunny skies!
        The city murmurs: in the sunshine beats,
        Through all its giant veins of throbbing streets,
        The heart of Business, on whose sweltering brow
        The dew shall sleep to-night (forgotten now).
        There rush the many, toiling as but one;
        There swarm the living myriads in the sun;
        There all the mighty troubled day is loud
        (Business, the god whose voice is of the crowd).
        And, far above the sea-horizon blue,
        Like sea-birds, sails are hovering into view.
        There move the living; here the dead that move:
          Within the book-world rests the noiseless lever
          That moves the noisy, throngèd world forever.
        Below the living move, the dead above.

John James Piatt.



"GOING, GOING, GONE."


I.

"Take it to Rumble. He will give you twice as much on it as any other
pawnbroker."

The speaker was a seedy actor, and the person he addressed was also a
follower of the histrionic muses. The latter held before him an ulster
which he surveyed with a rueful countenance.

It was not the thought of having to go to the pawnbroker's that made
him rueful, for he would have parted with a watch, if he had possessed
one, with indifference; but the wind that whistled without and the
snow that beat against the window-pane made him shiver at the thought
of surrendering his ulster. However, he had to do it. Both he and his
friend were without money, and it was New Year's eve, which they did
not mean to let pass without a little jollification. Therefore they
had drawn lots to determine which should hypothecate his overcoat in
order to raise funds. The victim was preparing to go to the
sacrifice.

"Yes," continued his friend, "take it to Rumble. He is the Prince of
Pawnbrokers. Last week I took a set of gold shirt studs to him. He
asked me at what I valued them. I named a slightly larger sum than I
paid for them, and the old man gave me fully what they cost me."

"Let us go at once to Rumble's," said the other, seizing his hat, and
the two sallied forth into the night and the storm.

Down the street they went before the wind-driven snow. Fortunately
they did not have far to go.

When they opened the door of Rumble's shop, the old pawnbroker looked
up in surprise. The tempest seemed to have blown his visitors in. The
windows rattled; the lights flared; fantastic garments, made in the
style of by-gone centuries, swayed to and fro where they hung, as
though the shapes that might have worn them haunted the place; a set
of armor, that stood in one corner, clanked as though the spirit of
some dead paladin had entered it and was striving to stalk forth and
do battle with the demons of the storm; while the gust that had
occasioned all this commotion in the little shop went careering
through the rooms at the rear, causing papers to fly, doors to slam,
and a sweet voice to exclaim:

"Why, father, what is the matter?"

"Nothing, my dear, it is only the wind," answered the old man, as he
advanced to receive his visitors.

The one with whom he was acquainted nodded familiarly to the
pawnbroker, while he of the rueful countenance pulled off his ulster
and threw it on the counter, saying:

"How much will you give me on that?"

Rumble, who was a large man, rather fleshy and slow of movement,
started toward the back of the shop with a lazy roll, like a ship
under half sail. He made a tack around the end of the counter and hove
to behind it, opposite the men who had just come in. He pulled his
spectacles down from the top of his bald head, where they had been
resting, drew the coat toward him, looked at it for an instant, then
raised his eyes till they met those of his customer.

"How much do you think it is worth?" he said, uttering the words
slowly and casting a commiserating glance at the thinly-clad form of
the man before him.

"I paid twenty dollars for it," said the young man. "It is worth ten
dollars, isn't it?"

"Oh, yes!" returned the pawnbroker. "Shall I loan you ten dollars on
it?"

"If you please," answered his customer, whose face brightened when he
heard the pawnbroker's words. He had thought he might get five dollars
on the ulster. The prospect of getting ten made him feel like a man of
affluence.

The pawnbroker opened a book and began to fill the blanks in one of
the many printed slips it contained. One of the blanks he filled with
his customer's name, James Teague. That was his real name, not the one
by which he was known to the stage and to fame. That was far more
aristocratical.

As Rumble handed Teague the ticket and the ten dollars, he took a
stealthy survey of his slender and poorly-clad form, then glanced
toward the window on which great flakes of snow were constantly
beating, driven against it by the wind that howled fiendishly as it
went through the street, playing havoc with shutters and making the
swinging sign-boards creak uncannily.

"Mr. Dixon," said the pawnbroker, turning to Teague's companion, "will
not you and your friend wait awhile until the storm slackens? It is
pleasanter here by the fire than it is outside."

His visitors agreed with him and accepted his invitation. They seated
themselves beside the stove which stood in the center of the room,
and from which, through little plates of isinglass, shone cheerful
light from a bed of fiery coals. Both leaned back in their chairs;
both turned the palms of their hands toward the stove, to receive the
grateful heat; and when the old pawnbroker joined them, smiling
genially as he sank into his great arm-chair, which seemed to have
been made expressly for his capacious form, the same thought came to
both of his guests. To this thought Dixon gave expression.

"Mr. Rumble," he asked, "how happened it that you became a pawnbroker?"

"Well, I might say that it was by chance," replied Rumble. "I was not
bred to the business."

"I thought not," answered Dixon, as he and his friend exchanged
knowing glances.

"I was a weaver by trade," continued Rumble, "and until two years ago
worked at that calling in England, where I was born. But I made little
money at it, and when an aunt, at her death, left me five hundred
pounds, I decided to come to this country and go into a new
business."

"But what put it into your head to choose that of a pawnbroker?" asked
Dixon.

"Because everybody told me that larger profits were made in it than in
any other. You see I am getting on in years, and I have a daughter for
whom I must provide. When I die I want to leave her enough to make her
comfortable."

The street door was opened and for a moment the room was made
decidedly uncomfortable by a cold blast accompanied by driving snow.
Again the windows rattled, the armor clanked, and the hanging suits
swung and shook their armless sleeves in the air.

A tall, slight young man, clad in well-worn black clothes, stood by
the door. Although his beardless pale face was the face of youth, it
was not free from the marks of care, and in his large lustrous dark
eyes there was a yearning look that spoke, as plainly as words, of
desires unfulfilled.

Dixon and Teague exchanged glances which as much as said, "here's
another customer for the pawnbroker."

"Is Miss Rumble in?" said the newcomer in a hesitating manner, as he
turned toward the old pawnbroker.

"You wouldn't have her out on such a night, would you, Mr. Maxwell?"
said Rumble, laughing. "She is in the sitting-room," he added,
pointing to the rear; "go right in."

But Maxwell did not go right in. He knocked lightly at the door, which
in a moment was opened by a young woman, whose girlish face and
willowy figure presented a vision of loveliness to those in the outer
room.

As Maxwell disappeared in the sitting-room, Dixon and his friend again
exchanged glances which showed that they had changed their opinion in
regard to the newcomer's relations with the pawnbroker.

"Well," asked Teague, "have the profits in this business met your
expectations?"

"I have not been in it long enough to tell, for I have not had an
auction," replied Rumble. "In one respect, however, I have been
disappointed. Very few articles on which I have loaned money have been
redeemed. I don't understand it."

"Perhaps you are too liberal with your customers," said Dixon.

"You would not have me be mean with them, would you?" answered Rumble.
"Why, you know they must be in very straitened circumstances to come
to me. If I took advantage of people's poverty, I would expect that
after their death all the old women who have pawned their shawls with
me would send their ghosts back to haunt me."

"Well, I never thought of that," murmured Dixon. "If their ghosts do
come back what very lively times some pawnbrokers must have!"

"But if your customers do not redeem their goods, how do you expect to
get your money back?" asked Teague.

"From auctions," replied the pawnbroker.

"Oh!" was Teague's response.

"You should have a good auctioneer," said Dixon.

"The goods will bring a fair return," replied Rumble quietly.

Although it was apparent that the pawnbroker had begun to mistrust his
methods of doing business, it was also evident that he had great faith
in auctions. He had attended auctions in his time and had bid on
articles, only to see them go beyond the length of his modest purse.
Now, he said to himself, the auctioneer would be on his side. The
bidding would go up and up and up, and every bid would bring just so
much more money into his pocket. Altogether he was well satisfied.

The faces of his guests showed that they at once admired and pitied
the old man. They admired his generosity and his faith in human
nature, and wished that other pawnbrokers with whom they had dealt had
been like him; they pitied him, for they knew that he would have a
rude awakening from his dream when the hammer of the auctioneer
knocked down his goods and his hopes of getting back the money he had
loaned on them.

"It is time we were going," said Dixon, at last, as his eyes fell on a
tall hall clock that stood in a corner, quietly marking the flight of
time.

"Well, then let us go," answered Teague, as he cast a dismal look at
the windows, against which the snow was still driven in volleys by the
wind that howled as loudly as ever.

It was the pawnbroker's turn to pity his visitors.

"I am afraid you will take cold going from this warm room out into the
storm," he said to Teague. "Let me lend you an overcoat. You see I
have more here than I have any use for," he added jocosely.

"Oh, I could not think of letting you lend me one!" exclaimed Teague,
blushing probably for the first time in his life.

Dixon laughed quietly as he enjoyed his friend's confusion, while the
pawnbroker looked among his stock for a coat that would fit Teague.
Presently he advanced with one which he held out with both hands, as
he said:

"Let me help you put it on."

Teague protested.

"Why, you can bring it back to-morrow when you come this way," added
Rumble.

"But how do you know I will bring it back?" said Teague. "I am a
stranger to you."

"Oh, your friend is good surety for you," replied the pawnbroker. "He
is one of my few customers who have redeemed their pledges."

A thundering blast struck the house. The wind beat at the windows as
though it meant to smash them.

The sound of the tempest persuaded Teague to accept the pawnbroker's
offer. Without another word he caught the edge of either sleeve with
his fingers and put his arms out behind, while Rumble put the overcoat
on him. His arms, however, never found the ends of its capacious
sleeves. It was almost large enough for a man of twice Teague's size.
Dixon had a fit of laughter at his friend's expense, and even the
pawnbroker could not forbear a smile.

"It is rather large for you, isn't it?" said Rumble. "Let us try
another." And then he added: "Why, your own fits you best, of
course."

Then seizing Teague's ulster, which still lay on his counter, he threw
it over its owner's shoulders, and bade the two men a hearty
good-night as they went forth into the storm.

When he had succeeded in closing the door in the face of the tempest,
he turned the key in the lock, and then, with a shiver, returned to
the fire. As he stood before the stove he smiled and seemed to be
chuckling over the thought that he had made Teague wear his own coat.
His face wore a happy look. He had a clear conscience. He knew that he
was a philanthropist in a small way, and had helped many a poor soul
when the light of hope was burning dimly. But he took no credit to
himself for this. The opportunity of doing a little good had come in
his way, and he had not let it pass; that was all. Besides, as he
often said, he expected to make money in his business. He simply
conducted it on more liberal principles than most pawnbrokers. When he
went into it he was told that a large proportion of pawnbrokers'
customers never redeemed their pledges, and that by advancing on goods
pawned only a small percentage of their value, a great deal of money
was made in the sale of unredeemed articles. He thought, therefore,
that it was only just to loan on whatever was brought to him nearly as
much money as he deemed it would bring at auction. To do anything less
would, in his opinion, have been to cheat his customers. Besides, if
he loaned more money on goods, in proportion to their value, than
other pawnbrokers, his return in interest was also greater when the
goods were redeemed. This was the peculiar principle on which he did
business, and it is needless to say that he did a very large business,
much to the disgust of all other pawnbrokers having shops in his
neighborhood.

It was not strange, therefore, that, as he stood before the fire on
that New Year's eve, the face of old John Rumble wore a contented
smile. The knowledge of having done good brings content, if it brings
nothing else; and the pawnbroker knew that he had done well by his
customers, and he thought, also, that his customers had done well by
him, as he surveyed his full shelves.

While he stood there musing, the door of the sitting-room was opened
and his daughter appeared.

"Come, father," said the girl. "If you don't hurry you will not have
the punch ready by midnight."

The old man's face assumed an anxious expression, and he started with
a roll for the sitting-room.

Not to have the punch ready to drink in the New Year at the stroke of
midnight, would indeed be a calamity. He had never failed to welcome
the New Year with a brimming cup. His father had done so before him,
his daughter had done so with him, and he hoped his grandchildren
would do so after him.

"Bring the punch-bowl, Fanny," he said, as he went to a cupboard and
took out a big black bottle.

His daughter brought him an old-fashioned blue china bowl and hot
water, and while he made the punch, Maxwell told him of his plans for
the coming year, about which he had been talking with Fanny.

Arthur Maxwell, who was a civil-engineer, had been followed by
ill-fortune for some time. Indeed, he made Rumble's acquaintance in a
purely business way; but he called it good fortune that had led him to
the pawnbroker's door, for otherwise he would not have known Fanny.
And now fortune seemed really to smile on him. He had secured a
position with a railroad company, and was going to Colorado as an
assistant of its chief engineer, who had charge of the construction of
a railway there.

And then, hesitating, he told the old man that Fanny had promised to
be his wife as soon as he could provide a home for her.

The pleasure which Rumble had expressed, as Maxwell told of his good
fortune, was a little dashed by this last bit of information. Of
course he had expected that his daughter would leave him sometime, and
he had not been blind to the fact that Maxwell had gained a place in
her affections; nevertheless, he was not quite prepared for this news,
and it left a shadow on his kindly face.

"But, father," said Fanny, advancing quickly, and placing her arm
about his neck and her head on his shoulder, "Arthur and I hope that
we shall all be together. He may return to New York; but if we have a
home in the West you might live with us there."

It was a loving, tender look which Rumble gave his daughter as she
uttered these words.

At that moment the clock began to strike, horns were heard in the
street, bells were rung, and in a lull in the storm the musical notes
of a chime fell on their ears.

Rumble filled the cups, and then, raising his, he said:

"Here's to the New Year, and here's to your success, Arthur, and to
Fanny's happiness."

And while the clock was still striking, the three drank in the New
Year.


II.

That year, however, was not a fortunate one for Rumble. His little
fund had dwindled. He had, as he thought, barely enough to conduct his
business to the time when he could legally have an auction. But how
was he to do this and pay his rent? That problem troubled him. It was
finally solved by the consent of his landlord, in consideration of a
high rate of interest, to wait for his rent until Rumble had his
auction. When this arrangement was made, the pawnbroker, who had been
gloomy for some time, again wore a cheerful look. His daughter had
advised him to pay his rent and curtail his business for the time
being; but that, he said, would never do; and when he had tided over
the crisis in his affairs, he went on distributing his money among the
people who brought him their old clothes and their all but worthless
jewellery.

From time to time pawnbrokers called on him and tried to persuade him
that his method of doing business was a mistake; that it was not only
hurting their business, but was ruining himself. Rumble was not
convinced. If his way of doing business took from the profits of other
pawnbrokers, they were only meeting with justice, he said; they had
made money enough out of the poor; he meant to treat his customers
better. He admitted that he might not get his money back from some of
his investments, but then the auction would make it all right; what he
lost in one way he would get back in another. He looked to the auction
as to a sort of Day of Judgment, when there would be a grand evening
of accounts.

At last the great day came--the day of the auction. Rumble was full of
the importance of the event, and had donned his best clothes in honor
of the occasion. He had advertised the auction in several newspapers,
and he expected a large attendance. He was somewhat disappointed when,
a little while before the time set for the sale, it began to rain; but
he hoped for the best.

When the auctioneer rapped on his desk and announced that he was about
to open the sale, there were not more than a dozen people in the room.
Among them Rumble recognized several pawnbrokers, and the others
looked as though they might belong to the same guild. He wondered why
they were there. Had they come to bid--to bid at his auction, on goods
on which he had loaned more money than they would have loaned? He did
not understand it.

When the sale began Rumble took a seat near the auctioneer and
watched the proceedings. He soon understood why the pawnbrokers were
there. The prices obtained were absurdly small. There was very little
competition, and the sale had not gone far before it dawned on
Rumble's mind that the pawnbrokers had a tacit understanding that they
would not bid against one another, but would divide the stock among
them.

The poor old man's heart sank, and great beads of perspiration
appeared on his brow, as lot after lot went for almost nothing. All
his worldly possessions were melting away before his eyes, and he had
not the power to put out his hand and save them. Was he dreaming? No,
for he could hear the auctioneer's voice, loud and clear, crying:

"Going--going--gone!"

He turned his head and saw his daughter standing in the sitting-room,
near the open doorway, with her eyes fixed upon him. Her face was
white, white as the 'kerchief about her neck. She understood it all.
Yes, it was all too real.

"Going--going--gone!"

Again those terrible words rang like a knell in his ears, and every
time he heard them he knew that he was a poorer man; he knew that more
of his little stock had gone at a sacrifice.

At last he scarcely heeded the words of the auctioneer, but sat
staring before him like one spell-bound. The buzz of conversation
about him seemed like a sound coming from afar, like the roll of waves
on the seashore; and through it all, at intervals, like the faint note
of a bell warning seamen of danger, came those words telling of his
own wreck:

"Going--going--gone!"

When the auction was over Fanny went to her father's side. He was
apparently dazed. She helped him to rise. He leaned heavily upon her
as she led him into the sitting-room, where he sank back into a chair,
and did not utter a word for a long time. At last, when he found
voice, he said:

"Going--going--gone! It's all gone, Fanny, all gone! We are ruined!"

The sale on which Rumble had built so many hopes, realized but little
more than enough to pay the rent he owed. He did not have money enough
to continue his business, and a few days after the auction his
pawnshop was closed.

In the meantime, to add to their distress, Fanny had received a letter
from Arthur Maxwell, informing her that the railroad company with
which he had found employment had failed, owing him several hundred
dollars--all his savings. He wrote that there was a prospect that a
labor-saving invention of his would be put in use in one of the mines.
This was the only gleam of hope in the letter. Fanny answered it,
giving Arthur an account of the misfortune which had befallen her
father. Although she gave him the number of the new lodging into which
they moved when her father's shop was closed, she received no reply.
She had hoped soon to have some cheering word from him, but none came.
She could not understand his silence. This, in addition to her other
troubles, seemed more than she could bear.

Since the auction Rumble had not been a well man. His nerves at that
time had received a shock from which he had not recovered.

Between nursing her father, and earning what little she could by
sewing, Fanny had a hard time. The pittance she got for her work did
not go far toward meeting their expenses. Rumble had given up his shop
in the early autumn, and the little money he had saved from the wreck
had disappeared when winter set in. At last it became necessary to
pawn some of their household goods. Fanny would not let her father go
the pawnbroker's, but went herself. When she returned, and showed him
the little money she had obtained on the articles she had pledged, he
said:

"Why, I would have given twice as much."

"Yes, father," answered Fanny, "but all pawnbrokers are not like
you."

"No, no," muttered the old man. "If they were they would be poor like
me."

Although Rumble was not able to work, he was always talking of what he
would do when he felt a little stronger. He worried continually
because he was dependent upon his daughter, and every time she went to
the pawnbroker's he had a fit of melancholy.

At last, just before Christmas, he became seriously ill. The doctor,
whom Fanny called in, said he had brain fever, and gave her little
hope of his recovery. His mind wandered, and seemed to go back to the
auction, of which he spoke almost constantly. Many times he repeated
the words of the auctioneer, that had made such a deep impression on
him: "Going--going--gone!"

It was a gloomy Christmas for Fanny, and when New Year's eve came she
was still watching by the bedside of her father, whose fever had
reached its crisis.

Her thoughts went back to another New Year's eve, when Arthur Maxwell
had told her of his plans for the future. And it had been so long
since she had heard from him!

She had to get some medicine which the doctor had ordered, and while
her father slept, asking an acquaintance who lodged on the same floor
to watch over him, she went out, taking with her a gold locket which
she meant to pawn.

Although she knew that a pawnbroker had opened a shop where her father
had kept his, she had never gone to it. But something seemed to lead
her there that evening. When she reached the place her heart almost
failed her; but, summoning courage, she entered the shop, and
presented the locket to the pawnbroker. While he was examining it two
men entered. The pawnbroker's clerk waited on them. She seemed to feel
their eyes on her.

When she gave the pawnbroker her name, he said:

"Rumble? Frances Rumble? Why, a young man was here to-day inquiring
for Mr. Rumble, and some time ago the carrier brought two letters here
for you. I could not tell him where you lived, and he took them
away."

Fanny's heart beat wildly. She was sure that the letters were from
Arthur, and that it was he who had inquired for her father.

"Is this Miss Rumble?" said one of the men who had followed her into
the shop.

She turned and recognized Dixon. The person with him was Teague. Dixon
had just pawned a watch, and had remarked that he wished Rumble still
kept the shop.

When Fanny told them of her father's illness and of his misfortune,
Dixon and Teague insisted on going home with her, meaning to lend
assistance in some way.

When they reached Fanny's humble lodging, and followed her into her
father's room, they found Maxwell at Rumble's bedside.

A cry of joy escaped Fanny as her lover folded her in his arms. She
soon learned from him that he had never received the letter in which
she wrote him about her father's trouble and their removal from the
old shop. It had missed him while he was moving about in the West. And
then he told her of the success of his invention.

Rumble, whose mind was lucid for the moment, said:

"You will be happy at last, Fanny. Arthur has come for you."

"And you, too, will be happy with us, father," replied Fanny, taking
his hands in hers.

The old man smiled faintly, and rolled his head to and fro on his
pillow, as if he thought differently.

The clock began to strike; it was midnight, and the New Year was at
hand. The sound of bells came to their ears, and a distant chime was
heard.

Rumble's mind once more began to wander; again he talked about the
auction; again he muttered the words that had troubled him so much:

"Going--going--gone!"

They were his last words. The old man's life went out with the old
year.

Albert Roland Haven.



THE ROOT OF THE SPOILS SYSTEM.


What is known as the spoils system of politics, in a measure common to
all times and all forms of government, seems to have reached its
highest development in our Republic. This fact justifies the suspicion
that something in our form of administration is favorable to such
development; and whether we regard the spoils system as praiseworthy
or reprehensible, it will be instructive to inquire why it has
prevailed in this country as among no other free people.

Most persons who deplore the spoils system urge as one of its greatest
evils that it substitutes for the discussion of principles a mere
scramble for office; that it teaches men to value the material prizes
incident to government above political truth. Such reasoners have
strangely mistaken cause for effect. The rarity of ideas in our
political discussions is not an effect, but the immediate cause of the
spoils system; and behind both, as the direct cause of the latter and
the remote cause of the former, lies the difficulty of expressing the
popular will in legislative enactment. In other words, we have
substituted the pursuit of place for the discussion of principles,
because the relations of the people to the law-making body are not
sufficiently close.

No reader of this periodical needs to be reminded that when our
present constitution was written the mass of freemen had not, as now,
come to believe that a constitutional government should include a
legislature promptly obedient to the popular will; a ministry
dependent upon the support of a majority in the popular branch of the
law-making body; and an executive powerless to interfere in
legislation. It was natural, then, that our forefathers, imperfectly
acquainted with this modern device of free peoples, should have
believed that they had secured the prompt and certain efficacy of the
popular will in government by placing no restriction as to national
elections upon the wide suffrage already prevailing in most of the
States, and providing that the chief magistrate and both branches of
the national legislature should be elective and chosen for short
terms. They could not foresee that in course of time a constitutional
monarch would come to have less power than the executive head of the
Republic; that an hereditary House of Lords less often than an
elective Senate would dare to cross the will of the popular
legislative body; that the popular branch of the legislature in a
constitutional monarchy would, in effect, change at will the
administrative head of the government, while in the new Republic
premiers would retain power despite the adverse verdict of the people
as expressed in legislative majorities; and, finally, that the
enfranchised portion of a people dwelling under a constitutional
monarchy would determine at the ballot-box every great question
arising in their politics, and drive from power all men who should
dissent from the popular decision, while the whole people of the
Republic might be balked not only of their will in matters upon which
they had distinctly made up their minds, but even of bringing
questions thus potentially decided to the practical test of the
ballot-box, and of introducing other important issues into the realm
of popular discussion.

The difficulty of procuring from the people of the United States an
unequivocal decision upon any political question, and of expressing
that decision in legislative enactment, is familiar to every student
of our history. The questions that occupy Congress now are in large
part the same that were debated there forty years ago, save that the
issue of slavery and the extreme States' rights theory have
disappeared. But even in these cases the exceptions prove the rule;
for it is grimly significant of our legislative immobility that the
two great questions of a century should finally have been settled by
the sword. If the people declared for anything at the general election
of 1884, they may be supposed to have declared for a revision of the
tariff, since the platform of principles adopted by each great party
at its National Convention affirmed the necessity of such revision;
yet Congress not only failed to legislate for that object, but
actually at one time refused to discuss a measure designed to meet the
issue in question, and at another stopped in the midst of such
legislation to test the popular will upon the very same matter.
Furthermore, while it will be assumed by most persons that whatever
the significance of the election four years ago, the contest just
ended sets the seal of disapproval upon the recent effort of the House
of Representatives to revise the tariff; yet we hear already that the
LI. Congress can hardly escape some such legislation as has just been
attempted. The truth is, that the election of 1884, as all our
elections, was in the main a struggle for spoils. The question at
issue was not tariff revision or any other great economic idea, but
which party should administer during the next four years the great
patronage of the Federal Government. In the contest of November last
the people for the first time in twenty years had a living issue
presented, but so unused were they to the discussion of economic
principles that it may be questioned whether the verdict just
delivered with so much apparent emphasis was really the expression of
a well-ascertained public opinion. It is worthy of note, too, that
believers in the spoils system of politics are already taunting the
vanquished with the folly of presenting a political idea to the
American people, and prophesying a more rigid exclusion of principles
from politics in all time to come.

Such difficulties have beset us throughout all our history. Let men
wince as they would under galling injustice and false economics, they
could not work their will upon the body whose duty it is to express in
legislation the political desires of the people. A mocking fate seemed
to balk the accomplishment of our most earnest purposes, and men whose
interests were adverse to the public good constantly took it upon
themselves to declare that the people had not spoken upon whatever
vital question was uppermost, or that their words had meant something
other than they seemed to mean. The result of all this was what we
see. A self-governing people must have some sort of political
activity, and since it was early discovered that the discussion of
principles was little better than a vain occupation, the pursuit of
place soon became almost the sole object of political organization. If
it was almost impossible to carry a question from the stage of popular
discussion to that of legislative enactment, it was a very simple
matter to elect presidents and congressmen who should see to a proper
distribution of places. Since men could not accomplish the rational
object of political endeavor, they strove for what was easily
attainable. If they could not make the laws they could at least fill
the offices. Then came the easy descent to Avernus. Politics having
become a mere struggle for place, public affairs were left more and
more in the hands of men who found such work congenial, and the mass
of the people, to whom the hope of office is but a shadowy illusion,
became less and less interested in a struggle that held for most
voters neither the promise of gain nor the incentive of high purpose.
The spoils system having thus been established, the causes that bred
it were in their turn intensified by its reaction, and the evil round
was complete. To make matters worse, the struggle for wealth,
stimulated by the marvellous richness of a part of the country,
claimed the attention of thousands to the exclusion of politics, and
those who would naturally have led in affairs of State adopted the
evil philosophy that it is cheaper to be robbed by professional
politicians than to neglect private business for the sake of public
duty.

Having sought thus to trace the steps by which our form of administration
has begotten the spoils system, let us endeavor to prove the conclusion
by another process of reasoning. Were our government a parliamentary
system, such as exists among the free peoples of the Old World, we
should have a legislature promptly responsive to movements of the popular
will, a ministry sitting in one or the other house of Congress, and
dependent for continuance in power upon the support of a majority in the
Lower House, and an executive disarmed in whole or in part of the power
to negative legislative enactments. The result would be to concentrate
interest not as now upon the election of a president whose chief
function is to distribute places, and whose part in legislation is
almost purely negative, but upon the choice of the legislative body whose
majority should determine the political complexion of the president's
advisers and the general policy of the administration. At each general
election for members of the Lower House the issue would be some
well-defined question then under hot discussion, and in most instances
Congress would have been dissolved for the express purpose of taking the
sense of the people upon the matter at issue. Public interest in
political discussion would return, because great principles, such as
have an important bearing upon the lives of all men, would be under
debate, and the mass of voters would have such an incentive to activity
as the shadowy hope of place could never furnish. The knowledge that
the popular will would find prompt expression through the law-making
power would render it impossible for the people to be turned from their
purpose by the jugglery of place-hunters.

With a whole people interested in political discussion no conceivable
abuse of patronage could balk them of their will, and the spoils
system would disappear because the factitious importance of
office-holders and office-seekers, favored by the defects of our
present form of administration, could no longer obscure the vastly
greater question of the public weal. This change in the popular
attitude toward politics would be sufficient of itself to seal the
doom of the spoils system; but if other influences were needed they
would be found in the new relations of the ministry to the legislature
and the people, since a cabinet bound to take the initiative in great
lines of policy and required to give an account of itself to a hostile
minority in Congress would have little time and less stomach for the
nice apportionment of political rewards to partizan deserts. Finally,
should we adopt the principle of a ministry dependent upon the support
of a majority in the Lower House, the possibility of two changes of
administration within a single year would make the spoils system, as
we now have it, unendurable and unworkable. Indeed, it may be
questioned whether a rigid application of the spoils system by the
administration coming into office in March 1889 would not place the
evils of that system in a peculiarly glaring light, when it is
remembered that a very large number of those who would be asked to
make places for party workers unversed in the routine of public office
have exercised their official functions for barely four years, and but
recently acquired the skill so necessary to the efficient transaction
of business.

The attentive reader will have noted that it has been argued, first
that the spoils system is the natural and inevitable outcome of the
rigidity that seems unseparable from our form of administration; and
second, that such a system, in its grossest development, is almost
impossible under a parliamentary government. The latter line of
argument has been taken less for its own sake than for the purpose of
strengthening the conclusions reached by the former; and the writer
would not be understood as insisting that to eliminate the spoils
system we must adopt exactly such a parliamentary form as now exists
among the free peoples of Europe. Any system that should make it easy
to ascertain the popular will, and should insure the prompt and
certain expression of that will in legislation, would accomplish the
object of substituting principles for spoils in our politics. To
suggest a plausible plan for grafting upon our system this far more
democratic scheme of administration would be a stupendous work,
calling for the highest exercise of trained political sagacity; but it
is not difficult to indicate some of the things that need not be done.
It is not necessary that the president should be reduced to any such
mere figure-head as is the monarch in the half-dozen parliamentary
governments of Europe. Perhaps the principle of a ministry sitting in
the houses of Congress might be omitted; and it is not clear that the
president's veto would have to be altogether sacrificed. It is not
positive, indeed, that a formal amendment of the constitution would be
necessary to obtain the essentials of the reform under consideration.
We have amended the spirit of the constitution in one highly important
feature without changing the letter of that instrument. Perhaps the
nearest way to the object in view lies through a more intimate
relation between the cabinet and the committees of the Lower House.

Finally, the consideration presents itself that if the conclusions
reached here are correct, those persons who have sought by statutory
restriction and appeals to public conscience to abolish the spoils
system have not employed the wholesome policy of attacking the evil at
its source. They seem to be mowing rather than uprooting the weeds.
Doubtless our political garden has been tidied, but the roots of the
evil growth and the aptitudes of the soil remain. The reform system,
as applied to the great body of minor clerical offices, will probably
prevail from now on; but we can scarcely hope that the broad spirit of
civil service reform can reign in this land until the people shall
have made themselves immediate masters of the legislative power.

Edward V. Vallandigham.



UNCLE SCIPIO.


Once more the wizard of the Christmas-time lifts his wand in our
homes, brightening young eyes that look forward, dimming old ones that
look backward. Thou hast prisms of hope for the young; prisms of tears
for the old, but shining always in our souls with a light all thine
own. We hail thee, lovely spirit of this matchless festival!

Would that words could paint to you a picture which I carry in my
heart! I see it through a light brilliant, yet tender, that Christmas
morning long ago in the old Georgia home. Those were dark days of war
which I remember, and the shadow of death had already fallen on our
house: but there was one day in the year when we did not feel its
chill. What shadows can withstand the light of the Christmas fire in
the heart of a child?

We had grown to be pretty thorough Bohemians, my little brother and
I, in those war days, and were ready to take any stray bit of sport,
asking no questions whatever for conscience' sake. But the outlook was
rather bad for us, one dreary December. The holidays were very near,
and we saw no preparations for rendering the big dining-room royal
with holly and cedar, as usual, for King Cole's reception. We had
already ceased to press our grievances in the "big house," for we
felt, through a child's instinct, that we were standing in the
presence of griefs greater than our own.

We began to fear that Santa Claus had been killed in the war, or
that maybe he would not care to come to us now since the fire had
grown so small in the huge fire-place, where it used to roar and flash
around the back-log, until the polished floor was flooded in light,
and the candelabra's lights shone cold and pale as stars through a
conflagration. Even the crimson rugs and hangings, that used to
brighten up the dark old floor and furniture, had disappeared, one
by one, to be transformed into haversacks and warm garments for our
poor boys at the front, whose hearts were stouter and courage more
lasting than their regimentals. And so, we thought, poor little
infants! that perhaps our deity would desert the altars on which the
fires burned so low, and would go, with all his wonderful store, to
the happy children away in the North. There, we were told, the cities
blazed with light and merriment for weeks before his coming; there the
snow sometimes fell whole days at a time, until it lay like a white
carpet along the streets, where children could walk without fear,
and which never echoed to the tramp of foes; for there the heavy
booming cannon never sounded to drown the chiming bells, and
blanch the children's laughing lips with terror. Why, we argued,
should he not go there instead of driving his reindeer across
bloody fields and deserted highways, to bring gifts to two poor
little children? Truly we would have been comfortless in that sad
time but for one old standby, who had never yet failed us. Dear old
Uncle Scipio--his ebony face shines in the light of memory as it
used to shine in the light of the kitchen fire. To him we turned in
our trouble. We did not know all his worth then, but we knew him for
the sympathizer in all our childish griefs. Oh, those preposterous
old stories he used to tell us! but they could raise the sheeted dead
then in every corner of the old kitchen, as we sat in awed silence
on his knee, and watched the supper fire die out.

And not to us only, was Uncle Scipio the stay and comfort in those
dark days, but to our mother also. He had been the guardian,
playmate, and tyrant of two eager boys, my brothers, through infancy,
and through the sunny college days, when, with the school boy's
profanation of the classics, they had stumbled on the story of his
great prototype, and laughingly called him "Scipio Africanus." Through
tear-dimmed spectacles he watched them march away, two boy soldiers,
with no premonition of misfortune on their faces, and minds full of
great Shakespearian thoughts of "all the pomp and circumstance of
glorious war." And last of all, he stood by my father's stirrup when
he mounted to ride on his last journey, and took his final orders
concerning us.

About this time, I remember, there was quite a disturbance among the
negroes; some were for following in the wake of the first Union troops
that should pass, as the only sure means of gaining their promised
freedom. These, we knew, had been trying to persuade Uncle Scipio to
join them. To us this was a thing too preposterous to think of; but I
think that mother and grandmother really had some doubts on the
subject. So one day the latter asked him what he should do if the
opportunity should be offered him to go. I was balancing on the
rockers of her chair at the time, and I shall never forget the look he
gave her in reply.

"I can't go, ole missus," he said, shaking his gray head, as he rose
from emptying an armful of lightwood knots into the wood box, and
dusted the splinters from his sleeve. "I can't go, nohow, and leave
young missus and de chillun in dese yere times. Mars Ben he done die,
and lef' me to take care o' dese yere darlins o' hisen, and no kind o'
proclamation, dis side de Jordan o' def, gwine to free ole Scipio from
dat charge."

"But don't you want to be free if the rest are?"

"Yes, ole missus, but ef de Lord mean to bring freedom to dis ole
nigger, he kin fin' him here. Ef He mean to fetch our people dry shod
tru dis Red Sea o' blood, outen de house o' bondage, den when I hears
de soun' o' dem timbrels, and de dancin', an' de shoutin', I praise
Him too; but I don't tink He gwine to be angry kase one ole man love
his home so much 'til he got to stay behind and weep wid dem in de
house where de eldest born am slain."

And faithfully he kept his promise to the slain. But see! I began to
tell you the story of that memorable Christmas-time, and am letting
the shadows of the intervening years crowd between me and the
Yule-log. Avaunt! ye ghosts of bitter days of want, of hatred and
contention; the spirit of peace and good-will exorcise ye from the
hearth of Christmas memories!

I was going to tell you how Uncle Scipio undertook to save us from
despair in that terrible time.

We, the much abused community of infants, had submitted with
tolerable fortitude to taking our rye substitute for coffee,
sweetened with sorghum, and similar hardships; but now, as the
holidays approached, and we saw no signs of festivity, we began to
feel great apprehensions.

We resolved to confide our fears to Scipio.

"Do you think," I asked him one evening, as we sat in our usual
evening attitudes before the fire, "that old 'Santy' will forget us
this year because it is so cold and dark, and because everybody is so
sad, and?--"

Here my griefs overcame utterance: I could say no more.

"Now, Lawd o' messy!" cried the dear old creature, taking a closer
look at my tearful face. "What dat yer sayin', chile? Ole Santy Claus
forgit yer, honey? What make yer tink he gwine to forgit yer? Well,
well! You's a funny little chile, sho'--yer makes me laugh 'til I
cries; sho' yer do."

I noticed that he did take off his "specs" and wipe them with his
yellow bandana, but I didn't see anything to laugh at. He gazed sadly
enough, I thought, into the embers for awhile, and smoothed my hair in
a thoughtful way. Then an inspiration seized him; he saw his way
through the dilemma. He straightened himself in his chair, and
readjusted his glittering ornaments across his nose. He assumed the
air which all the country 'round knew as the precursor of something
oracular, for he was "not 'zactly a preacher, no sah! but sort of a
'zorter 'mongst de breren."

"Now, my dear little chillun," he began, "I dunno who tuk an' turned
in an' put dat funny notion in yer heads 'bout ole Santa Claus
forgitten yer, but pay 'tickler extension to what I'se gwine to say to
yer. You mustn't go to kalklatin' on none o' dem high-falutin' tings
what he used to fotch here fo' de wah sot in, fur de times is mighty
hard, and de ole feller'll have to run de blockade to git yere
t'all--sho' he will. But ef you sez you'll be powerful good til' dat
time, an' don't go to pesterin' yer ma 'bout it, I'll promise yer dat
he aint gwine to forgit yer altogedder."

This was surely consolation; but it required all our faith in Uncle
Scipio to keep our courage alive until the great day. It drew near and
nearer, and still we saw no unusual stir in the house, and our hearts
began to sink a little. At last it wanted but one day, and I shall
never forget that Christmas eve.

Uncle Scipio was very much preoccupied, and could not be disturbed by
any means, that day; so we betook ourselves to the society of our
elders. But there matters were worse. There was little of privation
and bad news that we had not become pretty familiar with by this time,
and war, I remember, seemed to me the normal condition of things. But
it soon became clear to me that something a little worse than usual
was apprehended that day.

There were whispered conversations going on above our heads, but we
caught enough of it to know that a piece of terrible news had arrived.
A party of refugees had passed through our town in the early morning.
They were a company of fragile women and children, with a few faithful
negroes, fleeing from their homes as from a pestilence. They told us
that a large company of Yankees had made their appearance a few miles
above us, and if they followed the most direct route to the railroad,
would, in all probability, reach us that night or the following day.
Our little town being on the line of the railroad, rarely escaped the
military visitations. Besides, it was at this time the depository of a
great deal of cotton, which it was feared might be the occasion of its
being burned.

I have heard mother say that this day before Christmas there were just
three able-bodied men in the town--the hospital doctor, the miller,
and the conscript officer; not a very formidable defence against a
hostile invasion. But I suppose those two lonely women, my mother and
grandmother, must have looked for help in this extremity, towards the
everlasting hills where the twelve legions of angels lay encamped, for
they bore their anxiety like Spartans.

The day dragged through, however, and the last sun rays showed us no
blue coats on the western road towards which aching eyes had turned
through the heavy hours. Things began to look a little more hopeful.
We began to feel that reaction from anxiety which is almost sure to
come when the candles are lighted.

We sat close together in the sitting-room, and took our very frugal
supper there in quite a hysterical sort of cheerfulness.

The day had passed without disaster, and we had been told that in case
the "Yankees" should make their appearance during the night, and our
garrison of three be obliged to evacuate the town, the village
church-bell would be rung to apprize the citizens of the situation.

No, we felt sure the enemy _could_ not come on Christmas eve. We even
ventured to hang up our stockings in the accustomed place.

We knelt, my brother and I, by dear old grandmother's knee, and said
our prayers to Him who, she told us, knew what it was to spend His
first Christmas days here under the shadow of the sword, and would not
that one of His little ones should perish. Then tossed by hope and
fear, we slept.

It was a notable fact, but one which escaped comment in the general
anxiety of that night, that Uncle Scipio had not appeared as usual,
after his out-of-door tasks were finished. It had gone pretty hard
with us all not to be able to confide everything to this faithful old
friend; but the strictest injunctions had been laid upon us to keep
the whole matter a secret from the negroes, for many reasons. So he
knew nothing, and went about his tasks all day, singing his most
dirge-like tunes, which meant some pleasant preoccupation of mind. We
had learned that. We knew soon after what it was that occupied his
heart and head that day.

I do not know how long we had slept in our trundle bed, but I know I
had travelled in my dreams over many leagues of fairy land, walking
under endless avenues of lighted Christmas trees, when suddenly, I
thought, from some unseen source, the deep tones of a bell struck
discord on the radiant air. It seemed so out of place in that
enchanted region; and at the sound all the lights on the trees
flickered and went out, and we were lost in the dark. Louder and
nearer the bell still sounded; and then we awoke and our hearts stood
still with terror.

We knew it was the village church-bell, proclaiming its story to the
sleeping town. The enemy were upon us, and our Christmas fires would
be the light of blazing homes. Oh, such awakening after such dreams!
So eloquent was every face, of horrible certainty, that scarcely a
word was spoken. It was only about midnight, but I was dressed by
trembling hands--mother had not been undressed at all. And then we
waited--for what? We could not have told precisely. But after a little
the bell ceased to ring, and then we listened for the tramp of horses
and the quick Northern voices speaking words of command to the men. We
had heard it before, and knew the sound well. Once before I had
awakened from sleep and seen the distorted shadows of horsemen chase
one another across the strip of moonlight just over my bed, and looked
from my window to see the moonlight glittering on the sabres and gun
barrels of an armed host surrounding our house. That is not a sight to
be forgotten, let me tell you, children who are born and reared in the
lap of peace and plenty.

For quite a while--it seemed ages to me--we sat in silence looking at
one another. But though the lights twinkled in all the neighboring
windows, telling of other anxious watchers, no unusual sound disturbed
the air.

What could it mean? Surprise began to succeed to alarm. It occurred to
some one to call up Uncle Scipio, and get him to investigate. But it
was wonder on top of wonder--he was not to be found; neither had his
bed been disturbed during the night. Had he deserted us and gone over
to the enemy, then? No, we could not really doubt him, even yet; but
his absence was too significant; there must be some plot hatching
somewhere in the dark.

There was nothing for us to do but wait. But we had not to wait much
longer; for presently in walked the absentee, clothed in his most
majestic air, but a little non-plussed to see us all up and dressed.

"Oh, Scipio! where have you been?" we exclaimed indignantly. "How
could you leave us at such a time and the town full of soldiers? Which
way are they coming? What shall we do?"

"Well, I clar," he answered, in a bewildered sort of way, "dis yere
proceedin' clean tops my cotton! Is you all clar outen yer minds, or
what's de matter wid yer? I aint seed nary a Yankee dis night, and I
jes bin way up to de Mef'dis chache, ringing de Christmas chimes fur
to cheer you up a little. Did'n ole Scip tell you, honeys, dat dis was
gwine to be de boss Christmas? And he done kep his word. I met ole
Santy out yonder, sittin' on de pump and he sez he's comin' here
soon's iver he kin; so you better git to bed 'mejitly, ef not sooner;
ef you don't he'll be here and ketch you 'Christmas gif' fust, sho' he
will."

And so this was the end of it all. The dear old soul had taken it into
his funny old head to give us a surprise and ring the Christmas chimes
as in the old times.

Well, we tried to soften the blow, when we told him what a blunder he
had made; but we knew it would be a long time ere he would recover
from his chagrin. He had long been a terror to the idle young darkies
about town, and they were only too glad to get something to use
against him. Of course there was general indignation among the
citizens when they learned that they had suffered a false alarm; but
when they considered the beautiful motive that prompted the action,
the tide of reproach was turned aside, and it all ended in a general
laugh at Uncle Scipio's expense.

It still wanted several hours till day, when our fears were relieved
by his appearance, and we went to bed again.

With the first streak of light, however, we were up with bare feet and
frowzy heads to find Uncle Scipio's promise had not failed us. The
Christmas saint had been upon our hearthstone and left his footprints
there. The stockings were as fantastically distended as ever in the
palmiest times.

I suppose the children of the present day would not covet the
wonderful objects that we hauled forth from heel and toe. Yet I have
spent many Christmas holidays amid the gayeties of the metropolis
since then, and its richest gifts wax poor when I remember that
morning. What did it matter to us that both toys and confections bore
the stamp of home manufacture--little wooden dolls, like Chinese
deities, carved out of wood by Uncle Scipio's jack knife--strange
people baked in sweet bread with coffee grains for eyes? What did it
matter that the war cloud hovered around us; that to-morrow might
renew the scenes of yesterday? We were happy in our treasures. We
know, now, what the charm was that made them precious, for we know
that

             "The painted vellum hallows not the prayer,
             Nor ivory and gold the crucifix."

Ah! that will ever be the day of days to me. And with it are enshrined
in fadeless green, the names of many whose eyes have long been closed
upon the wars and joys of this earth. Not the least dear among these
will ever be old Scipio, who loved us better than his own freedom; who
stood by us in the day of trial, and was faithful till death to the
charge of a master who could never return to take account of his
stewardship.

He was grandiloquent, insisted on spectacles, though he generally read
the hymns upside down; wore a collar on Sundays that would put our
modern dudes to naught; but he was a prophet, for all that, and saw
farther than most men into the future.

We trust he has honor now in his own country; while in our hearts his
memory will yearly ring the chimes of Christmas bells.

Celine McCay.



THE RESULT.

(November 6th, 1888.)


                   We have no longer Uncle Sam,
                     Nor yet our Yankee-doodle;
                   The first is but an Uncle Sham,
                     The last is Yankee-boodle.

James McCarroll.



SILK CULTURE.


"There are so many persons thirsting for information," I says to Mrs.
Wrigglesniff, "let's tell them all about it." It was always my way to
stir in something useful with what was agreeable; and here was an
opportunity, while pursuing an avocation that was at once pleasant and
lucrative, to bring forward at the same time, an illustration of those
great economic and philosophic principles, that lie at the foundation
of all government and are the ground-work of the social fabric. The
tariff, although an intricate subject, I felt was one that could be
elucidated by simple exemplification in practical life; and so I
opened up to her one day, by remarking upon the great importance of
fostering our "infant industries." That most efficient mother was
nursing the baby at the time. The baby was four weeks old, weighed
sixteen pounds, and could partake of more nourishment at nature's
fountain, than any two ordinary pair of twins.

"Infant industry! here's one now," observed Mrs. W., gazing with
maternal fondness upon the lusty native American in her lap, who was
tugging away with a zeal quite amazing.

You should first understand, however, that Mrs. W. is a superior woman
"as has got intellect into her," as her uncle John Fetherly Brown was
wont to say. Her father's second cousin was a half-brother to Noah
Webster, and she has, therefore, inherited some of the qualities of
that distinguished philosopher. I proposed the subject to her one day,
in a genial sort of a way, and she said, "W.," says she, "You're a
fool! Silk indeed!" She always calls me "W.," as the whole of it makes
it too long, and being a practical woman, she is aware that life is
short. I could not help admiring the promptness with which Mrs. W.
arrived at her conclusions; and as she is a most excellent judge of
human nature, I changed the subject, not wishing to exasperate her.

The way it came about was this. I had read all about it in the papers
and books and things, and was thinking over it one day and all of a
sudden I spoke up, and says I:

"Mrs. W., let's have worms."

She looked at me just that way for a minute, I thought there was going
to be a funeral. So I said, says I, "We can get the eggs from
Washington for nothing; then we can have the stands in the attic, and
there's the osage-orange hedge, that does nothing in the world but
keep the boys from stealing apples, and we have no apples to steal;
the children can feed them, so that the total cost will be nothing. We
can sell the cocoons at $1.50 a pound; and suppose we raise five
hundred pounds only the first season; there's $750, which is
absolutely clear profit, the whole of it. We can then buy a carriage,
and we will give a ball, and 'ye shall walk in silk attire.'"

Mrs. W. turned up her nose. In using that expression, I do not mean
that she actually inverted that feature of her countenance, but the
expression of her face indicated the idea which usually finds
utterance in the word 'Rats.' At this point I took occasion to explain
to Mrs. W. the relations of this most beautiful and fascinating
industry to the principles of political economy. My amiable lady had
frequently said it was all "bosh;" that to try to raise silk in this
country was mere gammon. I explained to her that her position, as a
philosophical proposition, would be true, were it not for the
fostering care of a paternal government, which had inaugurated the
American system of protection. That this great principle of protection
was the source of our national wealth, that the tariff on silk was
sixty per cent, and----

"Tariff!" inquired Mrs. W., "what is tariff?"

"Tariff, my dear," said I, "I am surprised. I had supposed that such
an intellect as yours would have familiarized itself with the great
economic questions of the day." But I did not wish to be too severe
with her, as I remembered that the sphere of woman did not bring her
into contact with these rugged issues that are the theme of
philosophers and statesmen; so I explained briefly, but still kindly:

"My dear, a tariff is a tax paid by the importer."

To this she made the very singular reply: "But how is taxing a people
going to make them rich, and be the source of national wealth? I know
when tax day comes around, you are always groaning and saying that it
keeps your nose flat on the grindstone, to raise money enough to pay
your taxes." I told her she still failed to see the point, as she was
referring to mere state taxes, while I, upon a higher plane, was
viewing the comprehensive bearings of national institutions.

"W.," she said, "you don't know any more about it than Horace Greeley
did." Such a reference to the great apostle of American protection, I
confess, shocked me; but I suppressed my feelings in consideration of
her sex.

I have said that Mrs. W. is a woman of intellect; but she has no
enthusiasm. With me it is different. I am all enthusiasm and no--I was
about to say no intellect; but I mean no such intellect as has Mrs.
W.

So she says: "That's the way you're always doing, W.; going into
something you don't know anything about, throwing away your money; and
that's about all you're fit for."

"But, my love!" I exclaimed, "there's no chance to lose money in silk
worms. You get them for nothing, feed them for nothing; and how is it
possible to lose money on them, with the tariff at sixty per cent ad
valorem?"

"W.," she interrupted, "when you talk Latin to me, please explain
yourself."

Some people have thought that there was an asperity in Mrs. W.'s
nature, that occasionally found expression in words, but it is not so.
She is of most amiable disposition, and I never knew her to--if I may
coin a word--to asperse. I, therefore, said that in the tariff laws,
duties were levied upon the value of articles, as stated in the
importer's invoice.

"But," said she, "won't the importers value too low?"

"Oh, my dear," I said, "that would be dishonest, and importers are
never dishonest; indeed it is upon the virtue and integrity of the
people that the welfare of our institutions depends." As I was about
to expand upon this theme, my wife checked me with the remark that we
would take the American eagle and the rest of it, at another time, but
just now we would hear about the silk worms. I told her I had made all
necessary arrangements, and would that day write to the "Department"
at Washington, and secure the necessary supply of eggs to commence a
flourishing business. I did so and in due time I received from the
capital of the nation, a nice little wooden box, and inside of that
another little tin box, and inside of that were the eggs. They were
about as big as pin's heads and it looked as though there were
millions, but I don't suppose there were that many.

I exhibited them with pride to the partner of my bosom, exclaiming,
"Such is the fostering care of a paternal government, it raises these
eggs at vast expense, and bestows them liberally upon those who ask."
I then explained to Mrs. W. how it was that our glorious republic
nursed those infant industries that were so delicate they could not
stand alone; supporting them with great assiduity, inasmuch as they
could not support themselves. I showed her how employment was thus
furnished to thousands of persons, who would otherwise be idle, or
engaged in some other occupation that was able to take care of itself;
of course, therefore, making wages lower. I contrasted the condition
of the American laborer, with that of the European serf, trodden under
the iron heel of despotism, at ten cents a day, and satisfied her that
the laboring man in the United States was the best paid, and therefore
the happiest and most contented being on earth, owing to the fact of a
protective tariff, ever since 1789.

"W.," exclaimed that angelic creature, "why is it, then, that the
workingmen are always striking and marching around town with brass
bands? First shoemakers, then carpenters and railroad men, and
stone-masons, and iron-molders, and hod-carriers--all wanting higher
wages. Where does the happiness and content come in? I heard you say,
yourself, the other day, that the disorganized system of labor was
such in this country, that it was degenerating into socialism and
anarchy and was ruining every branch of business."

I hated to do it, but I crushed her with the reply: "Ah! my dear, that
is begging the question."

But that sweet creature, unruffled as a summer sea, preserved an
equanimity that astounded me, as she said: "Why is it, W., that
whenever a woman corners a man in argument, he simply ends the
discussion by telling her she is 'begging the question?'" Seeing that
she did not exactly catch the drift of my logic, I adroitly turned the
subject to silk-worms again, and how we should proceed in our
enterprise.

"Now," said I to Mrs. W., "I will procure the necessary lumber, at
usual market rates, and make a stand on which to lay the frames."

She observed: "You know, W., you never made anything in your life and
can't do it. Go up to the carpenter and he will do what you want for
fifty cents, and you can't buy the lumber for that."

"Mrs. W.," I replied, "I scorn your words. I propose that this
undertaking shall be absolutely inexpensive, except, perhaps, the
outlay for the raw material."

"Very well," she observed, "try it." My! what a head that woman has. I
took a book that had a picture of the stand I wanted, and took the
dimensions carefully down; went to the lumber yard, selected the
pieces, and they cost only $1.25; went home, measured, planned, and
figured, and found that I had ordered the upright cut the length of
the cross pieces, and _vice-versa_, so that the whole was useless. My
disposition, however, is to take cheerful views of things, and I
explained to Mrs. W. that I could still use the stuff for pickets on
the front fence, some of which were missing. Mrs. W. quietly observed:
"How are you going to use four-foot pickets on a six-foot fence?"

When I purchased the second lot I was very careful to proceed
deliberately. I am a good deal of a carpenter, if things would only
come out square when finished: but they never will. When I saw a
board, somehow the saw runs off to one side, and when I try to nail it
to the other board, the two won't fit; and by the time I get around to
the fourth side, one end of the concern is up in the air, and I have
to sit on it to keep it down. I have often gazed with admiration on a
real carpenter, to see him run his saw along, straight as a string and
true as a die, and then put the pieces all together and have them fit,
nice as a cotton hat. This is true genius.

Sensible of the danger and liability to mistake in putting the pieces
together, I told Mrs. W., who was superintending the operation, that
we would not use nails, but screws, so that in case of error--and all
human judgment is fallible--we could take the screws out and take the
pieces apart, which could not be done with nails. Mrs. W. conceded the
suggestion to be a valuable one. So we went to work, she kindly
lending her assistance. I measured all the pieces, got them the exact
length, and for the greater certainty, stood them up on the floor to
see if they would all fit. They certainly seemed to do so, as far as
mortal vision could determine. As all this required a great deal of
deliberation, a great deal of measuring, a great deal of sawing, some
chiselling, etc., the hour of sunset was approaching when I had put in
the last screw, and triumphantly called Mrs. W. from her afternoon nap
to witness the success of my mechanical endeavors. I stood the blamed
thing up on its four legs, and three of 'em were on the floor, and the
fourth wasn't. It was impossible for me to discover the defect in my
workmanship. I could make any three of the legs stand on the floor,
but the fourth could not be prevailed upon for any consideration. The
cross-pieces, which should have been horizontal, and which, to that
end, had been measured with mathematical precision, slanted up on one
side and slanted down on the other. I was in despair, until Mrs. W.
brought her intellect to bear upon my difficulties; when it appeared
that three of the uprights were four feet six inches high, and the
fourth was four feet seven inches. How it happened no one could
explain.

"Now, W.," says Mrs. W., "send for the carpenter." I did so. He
came--a rough, totally uncultured man. He could barely write his name
and his clothes were principally suspenders. But that uneducated man
just took these pieces of wood, and knocked them here, and knocked
them there, and, by aid of some disreputable shingle nails, in twenty
minutes had as neat looking a stand made as ever you saw come out of a
cabinet maker's shop. I was abashed and paid him twenty-five cents.
Mrs. W. said nothing, but smiled.

We had some frames, about two feet square, covered with brown paper.
These we placed on the stand and spread out the eggs. I was a little
uneasy about what kind of a hen to get to hatch them, as I could find
nothing in the books on the subject; but Mrs. W. called me my usual
pet name, and said that the first warm day was all the hen needed.
Wonderful woman that! Just as she predicted! In a few days the brown
paper was covered with little dark specks in a state of agitation.
Mrs. W. spoke of them contemptuously as "nasty black worms."

They grew at a prodigious rate. I explained to the children that all
they had to do was to go down to the osage-orange hedge, cut off the
twigs and branches, and feed them to the worms; that in a few weeks
the product would be ready for market, and if the Mills bill didn't
interfere with protection to American industry, the profits would be
large, and should be equally divided between themselves and their
mother. The children were highly elated and were soon discussing what
should be the color of the carriage horses. One wanted black, the
other blue; and the excitement ran so high that parental intervention
became necessary and some spanking ensued. The next morning our early
dreams were disturbed by fearful outcries from the direction of the
front fence. The smallest of the children had tumbled head first into
the osage-orange hedge, and could not get out. Anyone who knows the
infernal, brutal intensity with which the thorns of the osage-orange
sting, can understand the predicament of that child. We extracted her
in a fearfully lacerated condition. She was punctured all over. Having
read in a book entitled "Three Thousand Valuable Receipts, for
Twenty-five Cents," that ammonia was good for stings, I applied
ammonia liberally to that bleeding child, until she became absolutely
frantic. Her screams attracted Mrs. W. to the scene, and she
exclaimed:

"Have you no more sense than to put ammonia on raw flesh like that?" I
pointed to the "Three Thousand Valuable Receipts, for Twenty-five
Cents," which she immediately picked up and threw out of the window.
The child ultimately recovered, but from that day abhorred silk
culture in all its branches. Still the industry went on. The children
were so stung by the thorns that the work devolved on me, and it was a
task most fearful. There is a poison in the thorn of the osage-orange
that not only makes the pain exquisite, but swells one up as though he
had been stung all over by bees, or had chronic dropsy. My hands and
arms were puffed up, and my face looked as though I had been in a
prize-fight. As I observed to Mrs. W., however, these were minor
difficulties, and we could put up with them in consideration of the
large profits which would ensue. One day one of the servants--they are
always going around and turning things up side down--left one of the
frames on the floor, and all the worms, to the number of several
hundred, scattered themselves profusely about the house, and without
any reference to the comfort or convenience of the family. If you
opened the flour barrel, there was a silk worm. They pervaded the
sugar and crawled into the cream. You found them in bed and the mash
was awful. How many were trodden into the parlor carpet can never be
known. This, too, was but an episode; and as the worms grew in size
and began to spin their cocoons, the process was quite interesting,
and even Mrs. W. overcame her repugnance to the crawling little
wretches.

I was startled one day, as I was feeding my silk-worms, who were
consuming the osage-orange leaves at the rate of a bushel a day,
making two bushels of litter, to hear Mrs. W. abruptly ask:

"W., what is a consumer?" The unexpectedness of the interrogation
found me at fault for a moment; but reflecting a little while and
looking at the silk-worms, I concluded the best way to put it was: "A
consumer, my dear, is--well, a consumer in this country is one who
consumes." Thinking that no exception could be taken to such a
definition, I was triumphant.

"W.," said that pertinacious person, "you don't hang together well, if
any. You said the other day that this tariff thing was for the benefit
of the producer, etc."

"My dear," I replied, "I seize the occasion. 'My foot is on my native
heath, and my name is McGregor.' When our industries were in their
infancy, it was found impossible to compete with foreign productions.
Labor was so cheap abroad that they could undersell us in our own
markets. We had laid the foundation of a broad, comprehensive
manufacturing interest; we had taken men from agricultural and other
pursuits, where they earned a livelihood, and put them in new and
strange employments, about which they knew nothing, where they
expected to earn more than a livelihood. But this could not be done on
account of prices. So government imposed high duties, and the producer
sold his articles for a higher price. In this way he was benefited and
enabled to make money. The tariff added just so much to the price of
the article sold, and the producer was happy."

"But who paid this extra price?" queried Mrs. W.

"Well," I replied, "it is a principle of political economy, I believe,
that all taxes are paid ultimately by the consumer, so that in a case
of this kind--"

"The consumer is the American people," interrupted Mrs. W.

"My dear," I cried, "once more I am compelled to observe, you are
begging the question."

"Mendicant again," was her arch reply, and a cry from the nursery
ended the discussion.

In about six weeks we had the cocoons. Of course, during that time the
house was littered with dirt, dried leaves, and all sorts of unclean
things; and if you ran about the premises in the dark, barefooted, you
were sure to step on an osage-orange twig; and I am satisfied, from
the amount of squalling done, that if the season had lasted six months
most of the children would have been exterminated.

I corresponded with some concern in one of the eastern cities, stating
that I had a large amount of fine cocoons, and wanting to know what
they would pay. I observed to Mrs. W. that I was confident of
receiving a reply to the effect that I should ship the cocoons, draw
at sight for five hundred dollars, leaving the balance to be paid as
per account sales.

The reply was, to send on half-a-pound as a sample, and they would see
if they could take them. When we came to weigh out half-a-pound, both
Mrs. W. and I were appalled. It took about two bushels--nearly, if not
quite, half of the entire crop. However, they were sent, and Mrs. W.
snickered as she did up the package.

In the course of several weeks I received a specimen, say about a
skein, of the most beautiful silk I had ever beheld, with an
order to forward the balance of the cocoons per Adams Express, which
I did at the expense of one dollar. Waited several months for
acknowledgement of receipt, wrote various letters, the postage on
which was two cents each. As considerable time elapsed while we were
"waiting for the returns," and as I was determined that Mrs. W.
should understand this great subject of the tariff, as I knew she
could if she gave her mind to it, I proceeded to eviscerate the
whole matter. Said I, "When a tariff is laid upon a manufactured
article, it enables the manufacturer in this country to pay his
workmen higher wages."

"And does he always do it?" said Mrs. W.

"Always," I replied. "Statistics show that when the tariff on iron was
increased twenty per cent the manufacturers of iron immediately raised
the wages of all their employés twenty per cent."

"I see," said that clear-headed woman, "what excellent persons these
iron men are. They do not hire their men for as little as they can,
but pay them more than they want."

"Exactly so," I replied; "the general rule I admit to be that a man
pays as little as he can for labor; but under the protective system,
the tariff increases the price of the manufactured article, so that
the manufacturer is enabled to sell his goods for that higher price,
and the workman thus gets the benefit of it."

This argument seemed to have great weight with her, as it gave her new
light on things, for she said it was contrary to experience; but I
explained to her that unless some flaw could be found in the
syllogism, the conclusion was irresistible, all experience to the
contrary notwithstanding. I then showed her how entirely disinterested
the manufacturers were; that all their efforts were solely for the
benefit of the workmen; that, personally, the tariff made no
difference to them; that they never besought Congress to lay high
tariffs; that no one ever knew of the iron men, or the sugar men, or
the copper men, besieging the legislators at Washington to impose
duties upon articles they made; that it was the workmen who always did
it.

I do not know exactly how long it was that we waited to receive our
fortune from those cocoons, but one day a postal card came to hand
from the parties to whom I had sent my wealth, stating that they had
received so many cocoons they could not tell which mine were. Inasmuch
as mine were the only ones that had ever been shipped from the town
wherein I reside, it occurred to me that this remark might be
considered in the nature of a joke. Then there followed another
voluminous correspondence. I appealed to Adams Express Company, who
said they would send out a "tracer"; I did not like to betray my
ignorance by showing that I did not know what a tracer was, but,
frankly, I should not have known one had I met it on the street. But
with the infinite knowledge of affairs that Mrs. W. has, that
remarkable woman signified to me that a tracer was something that goes
up and down and to and fro upon the face of the earth, like a roaring
lion, seeking something, and not generally finding it. It is an
immense consolation, however, to railroad men and others; for it
appears that after a "tracer" has been "sent out," nothing more can,
by any possibility, be done by anybody. Whether or not the tracer had
anything to do with the final result I never knew. But about six
months after I had transmitted my cocoons to that large silk
manufacturing house that paid such large wages to American workmen for
the purpose of fostering American industry, I received a note sending
a balance-sheet, and enclosing a check for eighty-eight cents.

When I received this portentous paper, I observed to Mrs. W.: "My
dear, how much do you suppose we got for our cocoons?" "About
seventy-five cents," was the reply. The mind that woman has for detail
is simply wonderful.

The check I have had framed, and hung up in the parlor, but when I
balanced the books, I still found the profit large, thus:

    Dr.                _W. in Acc't with Silk Worms._              Cr.
  =======================================================================
  1887.   |                   |       | 1888.|                   |
          |                   |       |      |                   |
  Jan. 1, | Cash p'd lumber   |  $2 00| Feb. | By acc't sales    |  $0 88
   "   "  |  "    "  carpenter|     25|  "   | " amt. experience |
          |                   |       |      |    gained         | 500 00
  Sept. 1,|  "    "  express  |     50|      |                   |
  Nov.    |  "    "     "     |   1 00|      |                   |
  1888.   |                   |       |      |                   |
  Feb.    |  "    "  postage  |     20|      |                   |
          |      Profit       | 496 93|      |                   |
          |                   |-------|      |                   |-------
          |                   |$500 88|      |                   |$500 88

D. Thew Wright.



IS MARRIAGE A FAILURE?

                  How like the ague is this boon
                    Of matrimonial strife!
                  The fever ends in one short moon,
                    The chill runs on through life.



EDITORIAL DEPARTMENT.


THE COMMUNISM OF CAPITAL.

The President in his late and last message to Congress calls
attention, in his incisive and felicitous style, to a condition of our
people that must strike all intelligent minds with alarm. The
corner-stone in the foundation of communism is that agency of the
government which makes of the sovereign power that legal process which
controls all private affairs for the good of the people. In popular
phrase, it upholds the paternal form which enters every man's house
and regulates by law all his transactions. This is the foundation,
while the holding of property in common is rather a consequence than a
cause. If there are no rights pertaining to the citizen but those
derived from government, to give practical effect to the scheme all
property owned by the government must be held in its care in common by
its dependents.

Heretofore this theory has been advocated by the poor and oppressed,
and stoutly resisted by the rich. We are treated to a reversal of
position in the parties, and the rich are practically pressing the
scheme upon the poor.

Jefferson, the father of modern democracy, taught that the government,
a mere form of expression, in the way of rule, by the people, who held
the sovereignty was only a trust of power, instituted for the sole
purpose of keeping the peace between the citizens. To use a popular
phrase, it was nothing but the intervention of the constable.

Our central government, not being built altogether upon this broad yet
simple proposition, opened in its mixed nature the door to communism
found in the paternal form. Indeed, it would have been entirely
divested of the Jeffersonian theory had it not been for the necessity
under which the framers found themselves of conciliating the States,
that then jealously fought every proposition looking to a deprivation
of their sovereign rights. All that we so happily gained then came
from a regard to the several States and not to any thought of popular
rights.

This fact gave us a Constitution under which, we have managed to
live, comparatively prosperous, for a century. Had it been otherwise,
our Constitution would have gone to pieces in the first twenty-five
years of its existence. A constitution is a legal recognition of
certain general rules of conduct that are ever the same under all
circumstances. Legislation is the adaptation of those rules to
individual cases; and as these vary and change with continuously
new conditions, a fixed application in a constitution is impossible.
For this restriction, as far as it goes, we have to thank the States
and not the sagacity of the fathers.

The Constitution was scarcely enacted before the communism of a
paternal form began to manifest itself. The Federal party was of this
sort. It sneered at and fought the sovereignty of the people, and
found its governing element in a class that was supposed to hold
in itself the intelligence and virtue of the people. It has
departed and been done to death, not by the people, who failed to
comprehend or feel the situation, but by the same cause that
created the Constitution,--and that was the jealous opposition of
the States to a centralization of power at Washington.

After the death of the Federal party the Whig organization was formed,
on the same line and for the same purpose as those of its Federal
predecessor. Henry Clay, its author, an eloquent but ignorant man,
formulated his American system, that was a small affair in the
beginning, but had deadly seeds of evil in its composition. Mr. Clay
saw the necessity for manufactures in the United States; and as
capital necessary to their existence in private hands could not be
obtained, he proposed that the government should intervene through a
misuse of the taxing power and supply the want. It was a modest want
at first. "Let us aid these infant industries," he said, "until they
are strong enough to stand alone, and then the government may withdraw
and leave competition to regulate prices." It was a plausible but
insidious proposition.

This was fought bitterly by the South, not altogether from a high
ground of principle, although the argument was made that the
government at Washington had no such power under the Constitution, but
the main motive was self-interest. The South was an agricultural
region, and found in cotton, rice, sugar, and tobacco staples that had
their better, indeed their only, market in Europe, and saw no sense in
trammelling it with laws to benefit Eastern capital. The American
system was having a rough time and bidding fair to die out, when the
sectional issue between the North and South culminated in war, and
driving not only the South but the democracy from the government, left
the paternal party in power.

This organization was made up mainly of Whigs. The abrupt dissolution
of that party threw in the newly formed Republican organization the
majority that from the first until now has governed its movements. How
patriotic a party founded on property is, we learn from its first act
after securing control of Congress. In the terrible war that followed
secession, the greatest of dangers that threatened success was in
European interference. Common sense, to say nothing of patriotism,
dictated that Congress should at least abstain from measures likely to
offend the governments abroad, if it did not do all in its power to
conciliate. Greed recognized no such duty. Almost the first measure of
any importance introduced and passed to a law was the Morrill tariff,
that slapped the greatest war powers of Europe in the face. Under
pretence of raising a war revenue, they made a deadly attack on
resource from that source, for they well knew that as they increased
the duties they lessened the income.

The panic and distress that followed this measure in all the markets
of the world can well account for the deadly hostility to our
government felt abroad. Small wonder that while arms were furnished
the South in the greatest abundance, cruisers were fitted out in
English ports to prey upon our helpless commerce. The greater danger
of official recognition was only averted by the stubborn stand taken
by Great Britain; and as it was, we now know that had the South been
able to continue the war ninety days longer that intervention would
have come. A French army, sent there for that purpose, would have
invaded our lands from Mexico, while the fleets of allied France and
England would have dissipated our so-called blockade, lifted the
Confederacy's financial credit to par, and we would have been called
on to make terms of peace at Philadelphia.

All this gathered evil was shattered at Nashville by the gallant
Thomas and his noble Army of the Cumberland, when he not only defeated
the fifty thousand veterans under Hood, but annihilated an army.

This was the birth of the communism of wealth that is to govern our
country for the next four years. Of course it is absurd to charge
nearly a half of our people with corrupt motives and unpatriotic
conduct. We have no such intent. We are only striving to show that the
success of the Republican policy is fatal to the Republic. This party,
as we have said, is in no sense a political organization. It is a
great combination of private interests that seek to use the government
to further their own selfish ends. Governments through all the ages
have been the deadly enemies of the people they governed. Ours,
controlled by the Republican party, makes no exception to the rule.
The gigantic trusts, or combinations, are eating the substance out of
honest toil, and back of them stands the awful shadow of a powerful
organization making those trusts possible, and doing to the people
precisely the cruel wrong it was created to prevent. Palaces multiply
as hovels increase; and while millionaires are common, the million
sink back to that hopeless poverty of destitution that has the name of
freedom, as a mockery to their serfdom.


THE INFAMY OF IT.

For years past it has become more and more patent to the people of the
United States that the ballot has come to be a commercial affair, and
instead of serving its original purpose of a process through which to
express the popular will, represents only the money expended in its
use. For a long time it was abused through stuffing, false counts,
repeating, and switching tickets. In the late Presidential election we
seemed to have passed from that stage to open and shameless bribery.

This is simply appalling to those who love their country and believe
in our great Republic. The old system of roguery that attacked the
integrity of the ballot was that of a few low villains, who could be
met by an improved box and other stringent, legalized guards that
would make the vile practices difficult, and punishment easily
secured. But this open purchase of votes indicates a poison in the
spring head itself, and a consent found in the apathy of the public.

What good would be the Australian system, that seeks to shield the
secret ballot, where the official agents themselves would of course
be corrupt and purchasable? Under this system the voter entering a
stall by himself finds an official to give him such ticket as he may
demand. What will be the good of this when that agent can be
purchased? We really simply give the corruption into the hands of the
corruptionists through the very enactment called in to protect us.

Our unhappy condition is recognized. There is not a man, woman, or
child in our country possessed of any brain but knows that Benjamin
Harrison was elected President by open, wholesale bribery. Mr. Foster
advertised this in his well-known circulars wherein he called for
funds, and quoted Senator Plumb as saying that the manufacturers ought
to be squeezed. And why should they be squeezed?--because, he said,
they are the sole beneficiaries of the one measure at issue in the
canvass. This was followed by Senator Ingalls' famous advice to the
delegate at the Chicago convention, which said, "Nominate some such
fellow as Phelps, who can tap Wall Street." This was followed by the
Dudley circular directing the purchase of "floaters in blocks of five
or more," and assuring those dishonest agents that the funds would not
be wanting to close the purchase.

Under this exhibit of evidence the fact cannot be denied; but to make
it conclusive, the New York _World_ has gathered from all parts of the
country clear, unmistakable proof of wide-spread, clearly planned, and
openly executed purchase of voters.

The chair of the Chief Executive has followed the seats of Senators to
the market, and that highest gift of the citizen has been sold to the
highest bidder. The great political fabric of the fathers, built from
woful expenditure of patriotic effort and blood, is honeycombed with
rot, and remains, a mere sham, to shame us before the world.

Of course we are not so silly as to attach blame only to one party.
The difference between the two lies in the fact that the one had more
money than the other, and a stronger motive for its use. The
Republicans being a "combine" of property interests, depending upon
the government to make those interests profitable, were impelled to
exertion far beyond the Democrats, who were struggling for the power
only that a possession of the government brings. But we are forced to
remember that the votes purchased came from the Democratic party. Said
a prominent Democrat of Indiana to the writer of this: "We had enough
money to purchase the State had we known the nature of the market, and
possessed agents upon whom we could rely. The agents of our opponents
were preachers, deacons, elders, class-leaders, and teachers in
Sunday-schools, and could be relied on to use their swag as directed.
Our fellows put our money in their pockets, and left the voting to
care for itself. And then, again, while we were on the lookout for
repeaters, pipe-layers, and ballot-box stuffers, they were in open
market purchasing votes. We learned the nature of the business when
too late to meet it, had we even had the means to make our knowledge
available."

No doubt this gentleman told the truth. The sums subscribed, that
counted in the millions, came from men not only of means, but of high
social positions, who, not being altogether idiots, well knew the
purpose for which their ample means were assessed. That able and
honorable gentleman, Judge Gresham, whose well-known courage and
integrity rendered him unavailable as a candidate for the Presidency
at Chicago, points openly to these respectable corruptionists as the
real wrong doers. It is more than probable that such may escape the
penitentiary, and it is poor comfort to know that when such die
lamented, their souls, in the great hereafter, will have to be
searched for with a microscope.

The pretence offered for such assessments is too thin to cover the
corrupt design. Says a prominent editor of the political criminals:

"The legitimate expenses of a national political canvass have come to
be enormous. There is a great educational work to be done; a vast
literature to be created and circulated; an army of speakers to be
brought into the field; various organizations to be made and
mobilized; machinery to be perfected for getting out the full vote;
safeguards to be provided against fraud: all the immense enginery for
persuading and marshalling at every fighting point the last score
among six million voters."

The comments upon this made by the New York _Evening Post_ are so to
the point, and conclusive, that we quote them in full. The _Post_
says:

"Well, now, this being so, why did Wanamaker and Quay, when they had
finished their noble work, burn their books and accounts? Missionary,
tract, and Bible societies for mutual improvement and for aid to home
study, lyceums and lecturing associations, not to speak of charitable
and philanthropic associations, do not, after six months of unusual
activity, commit all their papers, vouchers, and books of accounts to
the flames. No such thing is ever thought of in Wanamaker's Bethel
Sunday-school. Why, then, was it done by the Advisory Committee?
Religious and educational organizations, such as the Advisory
Committee seems to have been, on the contrary, when they have raised a
large sum of money and spent it in worthy ways are usually eager to
preserve and spread the record of it, that others coming after them
may be encouraged to do likewise. In fact, the more one reflects on
the Wanamaker-Quay holocaust, the more mysterious it seems."

This election of a chief magistrate, that shook the great republic
from centre to circumference, was but a continuation of the corrupt
system that began some years since, and is known to the public as that
of "addition, division, and silence."

This condition of the polls is no menace to our government. That
period is gone. It is a loss of all. The ballot is the foundation
corner-stone of the entire political fabric. Its passage to the hands
of corrupt dealers is simply ruin. We may not realize this, but we do
realize the contempt into which it has fallen. When the new President
swings along Pennsylvania Avenue to the Capitol to be inaugurated,
upon the side of his carriage should be printed what history with its
cold, unbiased fingers will put to record:

                 "BO'T FOR TWO MILLIONS OF DOLLARS."


THE PULPIT CULT.

In the days of our Saviour the rich man of Jerusalem would, on a
Sabbath morning, bathe and anoint his body, and putting on fine linen
and wearing-apparel, move in a dignified fashion to the synagogue,
feeling that he was serving God by making God respectable in the eyes
of men.

The proneness of poor human nature to lose in the mere form that for
which the form was created to serve is the same throughout the world,
and through all the ages, evolution to the contrary notwithstanding.
As our physical being is, and has been, and will ever be about the
same, our spiritual suffers little change. When Adam and Eve, leaving
the garden of Eden, encountered the typhoid fever, that dread disease
had the same symptoms, made the same progress to death or recovery,
that puzzles the physicians to-day. That horrible but curious growth
we call cancer was the same six thousand years ago that it is in this
nineteenth century. The sicknesses of the soul are the same in all
climes and in the presence of all creeds.

Said a witty ordained infidel who preached the salvation of unbelief
many years at London, on visiting a business men's prayer meeting:
"Our merchants may not be Jews in their dealings, but they are
certainly Hebrews in their prayers."

The form has survived the substance. We have retained the customs
and phraseology, while losing the meaning. As the rich men of
Jerusalem who on the Sabbath thronged the Temple and were solemnly
earnest in their prayers, returned to their cheating the day after,
so we give unto God one-seventh part of our time and devote the rest
to the practices of Satan. We are full of wrath and disgust at the
Sunday-school cashier who appropriates the money of other people and,
unable longer to conceal his thefts, flees to Canada. This is
unjust. The poor man was not less pious than his president or his
directors who neglected their duties and in many cases shared in
the luxury. His crime was not in what he did, but in being caught at
it before he could carry out his intent to replace the funds from his
successful speculations. He saw in the leaders of his little
congregation in the Lord, millionaires who had made all they
possessed through fraud, and why should he, with the best intentions,
not accumulate a modest competence through the same means? He
heard nothing to the contrary from the pulpit. The eloquent divine
told, in winning words, of the righteousness of right and the
sinfulness of sin, but the illustrations were all, or nearly all,
two thousand years old, and the words were the words of Isaiah and
the prophets. To denounce the sins of to-day in "the vulgar tongue"
would be to offend the millionaires of the congregation and lessen
the salary of the worthy divine.

The late Chief Justice Chase once startled the writer of this by
saying: "The wicked men are not in the penitentiary, they are in the
churches. The criminals we convict are not wicked, they are simply
weak--weak in character and weak in intellect. The men from whom
society suffers are the cold, selfish, calculating creatures who not
only keep clear of the courts but seek the churches, and deceive
others as they deceive themselves and hope to deceive the Almighty."

Sin is never so dangerous as when it gets to be respectable. The
sanction of law, whether it gets to be such through custom or legal
enactment, so nearly resembles the order of God that we accept it as
such, and if it furthers our selfish greed we take it gladly.

The moral code, like that of municipal law, is made up of a few simple
rules, easily understood, and the trouble comes in on the practice of
the one and the application of the other. That church is divine which
subordinates the rule to the practice, and has works as well as faith
to testify to its commission. That is the true religion which leaves
the sanctuary with the believer, and is with him at all hours, eats at
his table, sleeps in his bed, and accompanies him to his labor. It
never leaves him alone.

How we have separated the two, the precept from practice, this pulpit
cult bears evidence. The high-toned infidel and lofty agnostic sneer
at the humble Catholic who, in deepest contrition, confesses his sins
to his spiritual adviser and goes forth relieved, probably to fall
again. How much better it is to attend divine worship one day in
seven, put on a grave countenance, and listen to eloquent discourses,
more eloquent prayers, and heavenly music, and then go out with no
thought of religion until the next Sunday returns for a like
performance!

Two thirds of what comes under the head of moral conduct in one is
pure selfishness. A man may be honest in his dealing, honorable in his
conduct, a good citizen, a loving husband, and an affectionate father,
and yet be without kindness, charity, faith, hope--in a word, all that
brought Christ upon earth in His mission of peace.

One summer and autumn we lived at a mountain resort on the line of a
great railroad. We saw, day after day, long lines of cattle-cars
crowded with their living freight in a three-hundred-mile pull of
intensest agony. The poor beasts were jammed against each other,
unable to lie down,--to get under the hoofs of the others was
death,--fighting, hungry, in the last stages of thirst, panting with
tongues protruded, and their beautiful eyes staring with that
expression of wild despair which the scent of blood brings to them,
they rolled on to their far-off slaughter-houses with moans that were
heart-breaking.

It was our fortune that same autumn to meet one of the cattle-merchants
at church. He was there with his family. A stout, middle-aged man of
eminent respectability, he was a church-member, and looked up to as a
model citizen. We saw him listening to the eloquent sermon, and
wondered if there were not a low, deep undertone of agony running
through the discourse. When the prayers were offered up he knelt
humbly, and covered his face with his hands. Did they shut out the
wild, despairing eyes of those suffering beasts?

Yet how amazed would that estimable citizen have been had his minister
said to him: "You are railroading your soul to hell. Every moan of
those tortured animals goes up to God for record. You are freighting
disease to great cities, and the fevers and death are yet to be
answered for by you--wretched sinner!"

There is not a fashionable church in any city of our land that has not
within gunshot of its door great masses of starving, sinful,
poverty-stricken humanity. Crowded into tenement-houses, from the damp
cellars to the hot garrets, they make one wonder, not that they die,
but that they live. No eloquent discourse on the righteousness of
right and the sinfulness of sin; no well-balanced sentences of
prayers, sent up on perfumed air to our heavenly Father; no deep-toned
thunder set to music in hymns, ever reach their ears, or could, if
they did, carry consolation to the sorrowful, or curing to the sick.
And yet, from marble pulpits to velvet-cushioned pews, the work goes
on.

We beg pardon: it does not go on. The well-meaning divines complain of
non-attendance. They are startled by the fact that not one-tenth of
our population of sixty millions are really attending church-members.
What can be done to popularize the pulpit? There is but one way, and
that is to make the people desire to attend. Time was when the great
truths of Christianity were new to the human race. The multitudes were
eager to hear of the revelation, and the Church sent out its
missionaries to preach and teach mankind. So far as a knowledge of
these truths is concerned, the civilized people have been taught.
There is not a criminal in jail to-day but knows more theology than
St. Paul. The people are weary of this everlasting thrash of
theological chaff. The civilized world is fairly saturated with
preaching, which has come to be stale, flat, and in every sense
unprofitable.

Instead of asking the people to come to the church, let the church go
to the people. This is the secret of the sneers attending the Catholic
faith. There is, with it, very little preaching, but a great deal of
practice. Its orphan asylums, its homes for the aged poor, its
hospitals, to say nothing of its great body of devoted priests and
holy sisters of charity, tell why it is that its temples are thronged,
and its conversions almost miraculous.

It is a grave error to suppose that true religion is to be advanced
through the intellect. It makes its appeal to the heart. If it is not
a refuge to the woful wayfarers of earth, it is nothing. If the
sorrowful may not find comfort; they who are in pain, patience and
hope; if the poor may not get sympathy and aid, and the dying
consolation, it is of doubtful good.

As for the preaching, all that we can say is, that when one produces
evidence and proceeds to argue, he admits a doubt that neither
evidence nor argument is of avail. God's truths call for no evidence.
If they are not self-evident, no process of poor human reason can
make them visible. An argument in behalf of such is a confession and a
defeat. The man who undertakes to prove that the sun shines is insane
and a bore.

The pulpit work of worthy divines who think aloud upon their legs has
lost its attraction in losing its novelty. They imitate the late Henry
Ward Beecher. And these immediate divines are filling their churches
as merely platform-lecturers indulging in certain mental gymnastics
that glitter and glisten like a winter's sun on fields of ice. It is
all brilliant and amusing to a few, but it is not religion.


A BEAUTIFUL LIFE.

"Died at New York, 28th of November, 1888, Mrs. Eleanor Boyle
Sherman."

The above simple announcement of a sad event was read through more
tears than usually fall to the lot of one whose unassuming, quiet life
was passed in the privacy of a purely domestic existence. This not
because she was the wife of a noted officer, nor the daughter of one
of Ohio's most famous statesmen, but for the excellence of her
character and the Christian spirit of her retired career, that made
her life one long, continuous deed of goodness. If ever an angel
walked on earth administering to the sorrows and sickness of those
about her, that angel was Mrs. Sherman. Inheriting much of her great
father's fine intellect, she added a heart full to overflowing with
the sweetest sympathy for affliction in others. Self-sacrifice was to
her a second nature. She not only carried in patient humility the
cares imposed upon her by our Saviour, but cheerfully took up the
woful burdens of those whose failing spirits left them fainting on
their way. Her exalted social position was no bar to the poor,
downtrodden, and oppressed. Her hand like her heart was ever open.

The heroism of private life is little noted among us. Acting out great
deeds of self-sacrifice in the silent, unseen walks of domestic
existence, it lacks the sustaining plaudits of a thoughtless public,
and has no incentive to effort other than that found in the conscious
presence of an approving God, and no hope of recompense beyond the
promised approval of the hereafter when our heavenly Father shall say,
"Well done, thou good and faithful servant."

No man, however exalted his position may be, or distinguished his
services, is ever followed to his tomb by more real mourners than one
carriage can convey. The crape-canopied hearse, the nodding plumes of
woe, the wailing music of the hired bands, the long procession of
slow-moving coaches, the tramp of hundreds, tell only of human vanity:
we make our show of sorrow. One vehicle only holds hearts breaking in
an agony of grief--hearts that know nothing in their woe of the dear
one's greatness; know only that he has gone from their household that
his presence had made so happy. In his death the dear walls of that
home were shattered, the fire upon the hearth is dead, and the hard
world darkened down to desolation's nakedness. Could all who were
favored in knowing this beautiful character, and blessed by her very
presence, been called to form the funeral cortege, real heart-felt
grief would have lived along the entire procession, and sobs, not
strains of mournful music, would have broken on the ear. And in this
procession would have been found not only the rich and well-born, clad
in costly silks and furs, who had received from this gracious lady the
divine influences of the Christian spirit, but the thinly clad poor,
the dependent orphans, and helpless age. It is such a procession that
does not disperse and disappear at the cemetery, but follows in prayer
the mourned-for spirit to its home in heaven.

It is not for us to invade the sacred privacy of this lovely life. We
owe an apology to her blessed memory for even this mention of her
name. We know how she shrank from such while among us, and it is only
as a duty to the living that we venture on this tribute to her
excellence.

What we feel, and what must be felt by all, a pagan poet imbued
unknowingly with the truest Christian impulses has sung in immortal
verse:

                                    "But thou art fled,
          Like some frail exhalation which the dawn
          Robes in its golden beams;--ah, thou hast fled!
          The brave, the gentle, and the beautiful,
          The child of grace and genius! Heartless things
          Are done and said i' the world, and many worms
          And beasts and men live on, and mighty earth,
          From sea and mountain, city and wilderness,
          In vesper low or joyous orison,
          Lifts still its solemn voice:--but thou art fled--
          Thou canst no longer know or love the shapes
          Of this phantasmal scene, who have to thee
          Been purest ministers, who are, alas!
          Now thou art not!

                 *       *       *       *       *

                                    "Art and eloquence,
          And all the shows of the world, are frail and vain
          To weep a loss that turns their lights to shade.
          It is a woe 'too deep for tears' when all
          Is reft at once, when some surpassing Spirit,
          Whose light adorned the world around it, leaves
          Those who remain behind, not sobs nor groans,
          The passionate tumult of a clinging hope,
          But pale despair and cold tranquillity--
          Nature's vast frame, the web of human things,
          Birth and the grave, that are not as they were."

As a low, sweet echo to the music of those words, we add a tribute to
the memory of this noble woman from the gifted pen of Helen Grace
Smith:

          Ah! Death hath passed us by--hath passed us near;
          The swift, keen arrow cutting the light air,
                  And falling where she stood
                  In perfect motherhood,
          With silver crown of years upon her hair.

          The many years--the glorious full years,
          All shining with her charity and truth--
                  How tenderly we trace
                  Their silent work of grace,
          Fulfilling the sweet promise of her youth!

          A life complete, yet lived not all in sun,
          But following sometimes through shadowed ways,
                  Where sorrow and distress
                  Cried loud that she might bless
          With her pure light the darkness of their days.

          Resplendent mission, beautiful as his
          Who fought for her in fighting for his land--
                  Who heard the loud acclaim
                  That gave his honored name
          To live wherever deeds of heroes stand.

          And she, the wife, the mother--ah! her tears
          Fell for the wounded sufferers and the dead--
                  Fell for the poor bereaved,
                  The helpless ones who grieved
          Where ruin and despair lay thickly spread.

          Now peace--God's peace--is brooding o'er the land,
          And peacefully she sleeps, her life-work done.
                  We would not break that sleep,
                  That rest so calm, so deep,
          That sweet reward by faithful service won.

          Only we kneel, as often she hath knelt,
          Where Heaven's love lights up the quiet aisle,
                  And, praying as she prayed,
                  Our sorrow is allayed--
          Our grieving changed to gladness in God's smile.



THE PASSING SHOW.

The political season is over, and popular fancy lightly turns to
thoughts of the drama. New York's gay winter festivities are opening,
and the theatres are nightly crowded with appreciative audiences. It
would be strange indeed if, with upwards of twenty-five comfortable
resorts for popular amusement in the metropolis, and a weekly change
of attractions drawn from the best American and European sources, the
most fastidious taste should fail to be pleased.

Probably the most successful of this year's dramatic ventures is "The
Yeomen of the Guard" at the Casino. The managers of that theatre have
been wise to replace their variety-shows with this excellent comic
opera. It steadily holds its own in spite of the critics, and after a
three-months' run continues as popular as ever. Mr. Aronson says it
may remain at the Casino until the end of April. Gilbert and
Sullivan's productions are always new, always attractive. Each has a
character of its own, yet no one could fail to detect the humor of
Gilbert and the merry melodies of Sullivan in them all. If one may
venture to compare their beauties, we should say that "Pinafore"
excelled in vivacity--that peculiar sprightliness which the French
call _verve_; "The Pirates" in humor; "Patience" and "Iolanthe" in
satire--the one of a social craze, the other of political flunkeyism;
and "The Yeomen of the Guard" in quaintness. The patter songs of the
first are lacking in the last, hence its airs are not so dinned into
one's ears by the whistling youth of every street-corner, but the
music is of a distinctly higher order. It is unfortunate that there is
no change of scenery between the two acts. The dingy background of the
Tower is not relieved by brilliance of costume, and the eye of the
ordinary theatre-goer, accustomed to look for altered scenic effects,
is disappointed at the repetition, only relieved by moonlight in the
second act.

Some of the incidents of the play resemble "Don Cæsar de Bazan," and
are similarly worked out. Colonel Fairfax, imprisoned as a sorcerer,
marries a young ballad-singer, who receives a hundred crowns, with the
assurance that within an hour she will be a widow through her
husband's execution. He escapes, and is disguised as one of the Yeomen
of the Guard, with whom, in spite of her vows, the young girl falls in
love. A pardon for Fairfax arrives, his identity is established, the
singer learns that the man she loves is already her husband, and all
ends happily. In this transmutation of character, from the imprisoned
sorcerer to one of the prison-keepers, we recognize the topsyturvydom
of Gilbert, which is the distinguishing mark of his genius, from the
Bab Ballads all through his later productions. In catchwords the
present opera is lacking, and in the puns which never failed to draw
out the "ohs" of the audience. But there is the same genial
undercurrent of innocent humor which for years has amused the whole
English-speaking public, and for which Mr. Gilbert deserves the
lasting gratitude of a world too much given to life-sadness and mental
worry. If "a merry heart doeth good like a medicine," it is safe to
say that the prescriptions of this most ingenious dramatic author have
effected more widespread good than those of the most celebrated
followers of Æsculapius.

It is especially to its music that the operetta owes its success. In
this production Sullivan has excelled his former efforts. The first
chorus is very fine, and in orchestration Sir Arthur shows himself to
be without a rival. Its pure melodies form a valuable addition to
English music, and mark the growth of a new school of which he is the
leader. The influence of Wagner is clearly seen in some of its
majestic marches, but the English composer escapes the metaphysical
and unintelligible harmonies of the German school. Sir Arthur has
evidently aimed at producing a more classical composition than any of
his previous works, and he has done this perhaps at some slight
sacrifice of immediate popularity. The jingle of "Pinafore" and "The
Pirates" is replaced by a more sober style, which is likely to produce
a lasting impression on English music.

Mary Anderson captured the town, as usual, on her return from England
early in November. Palmer's theatre was so crowded that it was
difficult to get a seat even four weeks in advance, and the audiences
were so enthusiastic that their enthusiasm constituted quite an
interruption to the play. She chose "The Winter's Tale" as her opening
piece, taking the parts both of Hermione the queen and of her daughter
Perdita. Miss Anderson is the first actress who has ever dared to so
interpret the play. She tried it at the London Lyceum, to the horror
of the critics, but it proved a great success. The resemblance between
Hermione and her daughter, which Shakespeare insists on so strongly,
gave Miss Anderson the idea of trying both parts. This plan had the
additional advantage, that the leading lady is not suppressed by being
cut out of the act in which Hermione does not appear. Her studies
abroad have undoubtedly improved "Our Mary." The coldness and
statuesqueness with which she has been reproached could not now be
discovered by the most adverse critic. She is more womanly, softer,
less angular, and more graceful. The programme at Palmer's should have
been varied so as to give the public opportunity to see her in the old
_rôles_ that used to charm all beholders. One must not forget the
exquisite scenery with which this piece has been set. It was used at
the Lyceum, and, although it has been considerably cut down to fit the
smaller stage of Palmer's theatre, it is one of the best settings ever
seen in this country.

Edwin Booth and Lawrence Barrett have been doing fairly with their
Shakespearean revivals at the Fifth Avenue. There is no truth in the
report that any difference has occurred between them. They will appear
together at the Broadway Theatre next season, with better support, it
is to be hoped, than they have recently had. Miss Mina Gale, who plays
the leading female parts, however, is a promising young actress.

Agnes Booth has scored a great triumph as Mrs. Seabrook in "Captain
Swift" at the Madison Square. For painstaking attention to detail,
nicety of intonation, and powerful expression, Agnes Booth is in the
front rank of leading ladies. We have seen her in many society dramas,
and in each she has shown a charming appreciation of all the
requirements. At the Madison Square, with its cosey stage, the visitor
forgets that he is one of the audience, and feels almost like an
intruder upon a scene in a private drawing-room. The situations in
"Captain Swift" are striking. The hero, an illegitimate son of Mrs.
Seabrook, goes away in his youth to Australia, cracks a bank, and
returns after many years, unconsciously to become a rival to the
legitimate son for the affections of his cousin. The mother discovers
his identity, and discloses it to him in order to prevent the
ill-starred marriage. The mingled expression of shame, suffering, and
maternal love in Agnes Booth's face during this scene is one not soon
to be forgotten. The audience remains spellbound for a moment, then a
burst of enthusiastic applause crowns her effort. In the original
play, as written by Mr. Haddon Chambers, the hero, being followed by
an Australian detective, commits suicide. As altered for the American
stage--by Mr. Boucicault, it is said,--Captain Swift, to relieve the
Seabrook family from embarrassment, gives himself up to the officers
of justice. In either case the _morale_ of the play--the portrayal of
an absconding bank-burglar and horse-thief as polished, brave,
generous, gentle--is to be regretted, as every apotheosis of vice
should be. Mr. Barrymore, as Captain Swift, exhibits some capital
acting, and Annie Russell makes a very graceful Mabel Seabrook.

Mrs. Burnett's dramatization of her well-known story, "Little Lord
Fauntleroy," is attracting large crowds at the Broadway Theatre. It is
peculiar in that it depends entirely for its success on the acting of
a child, or rather children, Elsie Leslie and Tommy Russell
alternating in the title _rôle_. This arrangement has been adopted
because the part is so long that it would be too fatiguing for a young
child to play it night after night. Both the children show a
delightful unconsciousness in the recitation of their lines, but
Tommy's natural boyishness fits the character rather better than
Elsie's assumed character, although her gracefulness charms the
audience. The motive of the play, as in the story, is the love of a
boy for his mother; and this makes it a great attraction for the
ladies.

A pretty play is "Sweet Lavender" at the Lyceum. Its plot is simple. A
young lawyer falls in love with his housekeeper's gentle little
daughter, but family pride prevents their union until, by the
opportune failure of a bank, his fortunes are reduced to a level with
hers. Its clever details and quiet humor make it well worth seeing.
Pinero, the author, is a playwright skilled in the mechanical
arrangement of his situations, and everything runs smoothly. Miss
Louise Dillon as Lavender, fits the part exactly.

Thompson and Ryer's play of "The Two Sisters" at Niblo's made many
friends, in spite of its somewhat threadbare theme. There was the
typical dissolute young man who seduces one of the sisters, and the
benevolent hotel-keeper who befriends and marries the other. The
villain murders his father, is arrested, and dies, while the betrayed
girl is given a home by her sister's husband. Some good singing is
scattered throughout the play.

A similar drama, full of love and murder, was "The Fugitive," by Tom
Craven, which had a very brief run at the Windsor.

Vivacious Nelly Farren and the London Gaiety Company, which recently
held the boards of the Standard Theatre in "Monte Christo, jr.," gave
New Yorkers an enlivening taste of English burlesque. The play is
nothing, the dancing everything.

The German opera season is well under way. The Metropolitan Opera
House opened with "The Huguenots," which was followed by "William
Tell" and "Fidelio." Herr Anton Seidl, with his unrivalled orchestra,
makes these productions of the great German and Italian composers a
yearly treat to lovers of music, which is looked forward to with
eagerness and parted from with regret.

"The Old Homestead" holds its own at the Academy of Music; the "Brass
Monkey" at the Bijou has had a longer run than it deserves; Clara
Morris has been appearing in Brooklyn; Louis James and Marie
Wainwright are beginning their New York engagement. "She" was
pronounced a great success in Boston, over $1600 being taken in at one
performance. Mr. Boucicault is conducting his Madison Square
theatre-school of acting with patience and confidence, although the
results thus far are not very promising. Of the eighty pupils, the men
are awkward and the women lack talent. However, as Mr. Boucicault
said, if but three or even one out of the eighty should come to
dramatic eminence, it would be well worth all the trouble.

Our German fellow-citizens are to be congratulated on the opening of
Mr. Amberg's new theatre in Fifteenth Street. The location is central,
the house is well built, the company good, and the repertory includes
drama, comedy, farce, and comic opera.

There have not been many dramatic events abroad this season. The new
Shaftesbury Theatre in London is possessed of such a wonderful
fire-proof curtain that a few weeks ago the audience had to be
dismissed because they could not raise it. "Captain Swift" proved a
great success, financially, at the Haymarket, and "Nadjy" is
attracting crowds at the Avenue Theatre. At Terry's, "Dream Faces," a
one-act play, and "The Policeman," a three-act farce, had good houses.
Grace Hawthorne has just had to pay a hundred pounds to the owners of
some lions. She was seeking to produce an English version of
"Theodora," and engaged a den of lions twelve months in advance of the
time she wanted them. She demurred to paying for the animals that she
had not used, but the case went against her. On the Continent there is
not much doing. P. A. Morin, the dean of Holland's dramatists and
actors, recently celebrated the fiftieth anniversary of his first
appearance, his golden jubilee, at Amsterdam. It is announced that
Patti will sing in "Romeo and Juliet," at the Grand Opera House,
Paris, giving three performances for one thousand dollars each.

More attention than usual is being paid just now to the development of
musical taste on both sides of the water. Mr. Walter Damrosch has been
lecturing in New York on Symphony. The Liederkranz and the Symphony
Society have been giving enjoyable concerts; and Herr Moriz Rosenthal,
the pianist, has met with a success that has only been rivalled in
late years by Joseffy.



REVIEWS.


When the late George Butler, quite regardless of fact, and for the fun
of the thing, telegraphed from Long Branch to Dion Boucicault at New
York, that Billy Florence and Jack Raymond had been saved from a
watery grave by a huge Newfoundland, Boucicault responded, "God is
good to the Irish." This sentence, so often quoted, passed, without
its point, among the masses. What Dion caught on the nib of his pen
and wired to the world was the fact that these two famous comedians,
with their English names, were Irish by birth, instincts, and
blunders. The people that present to the earth the only race that has
wit for its national trait never had two more striking illustrations
of the fact than in these stage delineators of genius. Raymond is in
his grave, and the inevitable dust of forgetfulness is gathering upon
his tomb. But Florence, so kindly known throughout the land as Billy
Florence, is yet alive, and very much alive. The evidence of this fact
is before us in a book entitled _Florence Fables_ (Belford, Clarke &
Co.). Those so-called fables are not fables, but fiction without
morals, but full of interest, which is much better, and come to the
reader in the shape of love-stories, odd adventures, and strange
incidents at home and in foreign lands.

The book is sure of a wide sale, for the multitudes that have seen
Florence in his merry performances, and learned to love as well as
enjoy this finished comedian behind the footlights, will be curious to
learn how he appears as an author. But they "who come to scoff" will
hold on to enjoy. The name is enough to attract; the book itself is
sufficiently charming to entrance the reader.

In the last issue of BELFORD'S we gave a specimen of the humor: to
find the pathos and the true love the reader must consult the volume.


_Divided Lives_, a novel, by Edgar Fawcett (Belford, Clarke &
Co.).--There is no more charming writer of English fiction than Edgar
Fawcett, and the volume before us is one of his best. He builds upon
the English method, animated by the French motive, and deepens the
shallow affection of the first to the unfathomable depths of human
passion to be found in the last. His dramatic ability holds one to the
interest of his book whether it has plot or not. Of course he has his
faults. His characters are known to us mostly by name, labelled, as it
were, and he will at any time sacrifice one or a dozen to work up a
dramatic effect. Then he has affectations, not precisely of style, but
of phraseology, that irritate; and he cannot resist putting smart
speeches into the mouths of everybody. Here is an example:

"Indeed, no," Angela replied, "there never was a more devoted friend
than Alva is. To leave her charming home, and all her gay town life,
for weeks, just that she may be near me! It is something to vibrate
through one's entire lifetime."

This is said by a little girl to her lover, and the lover responds:

"It teaches me a lesson. What is easier than to misjudge our
fellow-creatures, and how wantonly we're forever doing it! We are all
like a lot of mountebanks behind an illuminated sheet. The uncouth
shadows we cast there are the world's misrepresentation of us."

As these young people were desperately in love with each other, but
then just engaged, this sort of talk, however clever, is as much out
of place and jarring on one as would be the murder scene from
Macbeth.

Edgar Fawcett is given to a delineation of social life in New York.
This is a wide and varied field, and the author makes it intensely
interesting. We have called attention, however, to the fact that he is
not altogether correct. The English motive, of turning the interest
upon social caste, is not true when applied to our mixed condition. We
have no aristocratic class, as recognized in England; and the
assumption of such in real life is too ludicrous and unreal for the
purpose of the novelist. Mere wealth without culture, and culture
without wealth, contend in a mixed condition with each other, without
supplying the interest to be found in earnest endeavor to overcome
unjust distinctions and power. When Mr. Fawcett does deal with a class
he is not always just. In his _Miriam Balestier_, published in the
November number of BELFORD'S, by far the most artistically beautiful
work from the pen of our author, he by implication attacks an entire
profession that has held through generations not only the admiration
but love of the public. There is absolutely nothing in the vocation of
an actor that either degrades or demoralizes. On the contrary, there
is much to elevate and refine--the work sustained by art found in
painting and music, the thought and feelings of the poets; and while
this is meant to amuse, the stage has been the most potent factor in
not only furthering civilization and culture in the masses, but
awaking in the hearts of the many the loftiest patriotism known to
humanity. It has awakened a deeper feeling for the home, a firmer
trust in the law of right, and a stronger faith in virtue than aught
else of human origin. That taints, stains, and abuses have attached is
no fault of the drama. One could as well attack the bar or the pulpit
because a few unworthy members have disgraced themselves, as to hold
the stage responsible for the recognized evils that have fastened
themselves to a part. That we have senseless burlesques and lascivious
exhibits of nakedness at a majority of our theatres is the fault of
the patrons, not the stage. The manager, like any other dealer in
commercial wares, caters to the taste of his customers, and the stage
is no more responsible for their productions than the street is for
the wretched street-walker.

So long as citizens take their wives and children to witness the
shameless productions, so long will the managers produce them, and
when remonstrated with, shrug their shoulders, and ask, "Well,
what would you?" The pulpit denounces the drama, but leaves untouched
their congregations in their patronage of its abuse. The great city
of New York, for example, lately entertained a convocation of
Protestant clergymen, met to consider the sad fact that they were
preaching to empty churches, and to devise means through which to
awaken the religious conscience of the multitude. They went to
their meetings along streets where every other house was a saloon,
where the beastly American practice of "treating" makes each a door
to ruin; and they passed corners where the walls were aflame with
pictured advertisements of naked legs, bare bosoms, and faces fairly
enamelled with sin. One reads their debates with amazement. Their
clerical minds were troubled with what? The doings of "papists," as
Catholics were designated.

Our pen has carried us from our author. Of course Mr. Fawcett will
say--and say with truth--that his strictures were aimed at the abuse
and not the legitimate use of the drama. But his fault was that he
does not make this clear, and by intimation he leaves himself open to
the charge.

Aside from this, his work is a work of genius; and his story of the
little girl who struggled with such vain endeavor against her
environment will live among the noblest productions of fiction given
us.


_The Professor's Sister_, by Julian Hawthorne (Belford, Clarke &
Co.).--This is the most successful work of a successful novelist, and
holds the reader entranced from the first page till nearly the last.
We say reader, but not all readers. Mr. Hawthorne is as peculiar in
his work as his eminent father was, with a more select audience. He is
at home in the wild, weird production of humanity, touched and marked
by a spiritualism that is far above and beyond the average readers of
romance. If it calls for as much culture, in its way, to enjoy a work
of art as its creation called for in the artist, Mr. Hawthorne's
fictions demand the same tastes and thought the author indulges in.
The little girl who craves love-stories, or the traveller upon the
cars who picks up a book to lose in its pages the wearisome sense of
travel, will scarcely select the _Professor's Sister_, and if he or
she does, will wonder what in the name of Heaven it is all about.

There is another class, however, that will read with avidity and
interest every page of this book, and this class grows wider in our
midst every day. One meets at every turn a man or woman who will tell,
in a matter-of-fact way generally, that is positively comical, of some
experience he or she has had with spooks. This, not the old-fashioned
experience with ghosts. All that has long since been relegated to the
half-forgotten limbo of superstitious things. One hears of communions
with the dead, told off as one would tell of any ordinary occurrence
common to our daily life. This is the natural reaction of the human
mind against the scientific materialism of the day, that seeks to
poison and destroy all religious faith. Religion is as necessary to
health of mind as pure air is to that of body, and when deprived of
either, we struggle for loop-holes of light and breath with
instinctive desperation. Shut out the light of heaven from the soul,
be it in library or laboratory, and one sickens and resists.

Mr. Hawthorne wisely lays the scene of his story in Germany. The
rarefied condition of the German mind is recognized the world over,
and through the everlasting smoke of philosophers' and students' pipes
one is prepared for all sorts of fantastic shapes moving through the
mist. The author opens with a talk on occult subjects that sounds like
voices heard in a fog-bank. With the reader thus prepared, he plunges
him into a drama where substantial men and women mingle with spirits,
and the strange story does overcome us like a summer's cloud, without
our special wonder.

We have said the story holds one spellbound till near the end. The
_dénoûment_ is not good. "Calling spirits from the vasty deep" is much
easier than disposing of them after they come. To give a satisfactory
explanation of the mystery, and to exorcise the spirit back to rest,
make no easy task, and Mr. Hawthorne is not to blame for finding it
difficult.

We cannot drop the book without calling attention to the author's
happy use of English, in depicting character. Here is a specimen:

"Madame Hertrugge was white, red, and black. Her skin was white, her
cheeks and lips red, her hair, eyes, and eyebrows black. Her mouth was
beautifully formed, and firm, with a firm chin. Her eyes were rather
full, imperious, and ardent. She was overflowing with vitality. The
hand which she extended to one in greeting was soft but strong, with
long fingers. She was dressed in black, as became her recent
widowhood; but she had not the air of mourning much. She was sensuous,
voluptuous, but there was strength behind the voluptuousness. You
received from her a powerful impression of sex. Every line of her,
every movement, every look, was woman. And she made you feel that she
valued you just so far as you were man. You might be as nearly Caliban
as a man can be, but if you were a man she would consider you. You
might court her successfully with a horsewhip, but if she felt the
master in you, and were convinced that you were captivated by her, she
would accept you. It was ludicrous to think of the senile old merchant
having married such a creature. In fact, marriage, viewed in
connection with this woman, seemed an absurdity. There was nothing
holy about her, nothing reserved, nothing sacred. I don't mean that
she was not ladylike, as the phrase is. She knew the society
catechism, and practised it to a nicety, but like a clever actress,
rather than by instinct or sympathy. It was obvious that she didn't
value respectability and propriety the snap of her white fingers, save
as a means to an end; and if she were in the company of one whom she
trusted intimately, she would laugh those popular virtues to scorn
with her warm, insolent breath. As it was, all the forms and
ceremonies in the world could not disguise her. Her very dress
suggested rather than concealed what was beneath it. She was a naked
goddess--a pagan goddess--and there was no help for it. She made you
realize how powerless our nice institutions are in the presence of a
genuine, rank human temperament.

"And be it here observed that I am here writing of her as a
temperament, and nothing more. I knew nothing of her former life and
experience. I had no reason to think that her conduct has ever been
less than unexceptionable. But the facts about her were insignificant
compared with her latent possibilities. Circumstances might hitherto
have been adverse to her development; but opportunity--rosy, golden,
audacious opportunity--was all she needed. She certainly bore no signs
of satiety; she had nothing of the _blasé_ air. She was thirsty for
life, and she would appreciate every draught of it. She was impatient
to begin. And, contemplating her abounding, triumphant, delicious
well-being, it seemed as if she might maintain the high-tide of
enjoyment until she was a hundred. It really inclined one to paganism
to look at her."


_What Dreams May Come_, by Frank Lin (Belford, Clarke & Co.).--This is
a cleverly constructed story of English life by an American pen, and
the average reader is kept in doubt as to the sex of the author. There
is a clear, incisive style of the masculine sort on one page that
indicates the man; there is a treatment of female wearing apparel on
another that gives proof of the feminine. With us there is one feature
that solves the doubt. The pages abound in convictions. Now the female
mind, as a general thing, is not given to doubt. When a woman believes
anything she believes it, and her faith is as firm as the solid rock.
She stands "on hardpan," to use a phrase common to the Pacific slope.
Although the book is built on dreams, the theory of heredity it is
written to promulgate is no dream in the mind of this fair author. We
have called attention to the fact that the use of the novel to
illustrate some doctrine, philosophical or religious, is really an
abuse. One takes up such form of fiction to be amused, and one feels
put upon and abused to find it an essay more or less learned on life
and things. If a little information can be injected in the story
unbeknownst, like the parson's liquor told of by President Lincoln,
well and good; but it is rarely done successfully. If philosophy is
indulged in, one quickly detects the bald head and wrinkled brow; if
it is religion, the cloven hoof or wicked tail of Satan betrays the
author.

When it was once proposed by a staff officer to drive an obnoxious
guest from headquarters by a liberal use of burnt brimstone, General
Sherman said, "That is high strategy in its way, but it is not war."
"When one goes a turkey-hunting one does not care to be killed by
bears," said an old hunter; and when a seeker after amusement, to be
found in a love-story, opens what purports to be a novel, it is
shocking to find it a learned treatise on some abstruse subject.

The book before us is another illustration of this defect. It opens
with an exquisite picture of Constantinople a hundred years since. In
this prologue some wicked conduct is rather hinted at than told. After
this the story opens and moves on pleasantly enough, until the fact is
developed that the hero and heroine are reproductions of the sinful
grandfather and grandmother long since lost to the census-taker of the
British empire. What was evil in the ancestors is an innocent love in
the descendants; and the fair author exhibits considerable power by
preserving the sanity of her characters, to say nothing of that of the
reader, in the complications and situations that follow.

The book is of interest to us, not so much for what it accomplishes,
as the promise of better things. It exhibits all the qualities
necessary to a successful writer of fiction. There is a keen
appreciation of character, a love of nature, and a clear, incisive
style that make a combination which if properly directed insures
success.



THE PASSING OF THE YEAR.


         Like some triumphal Orient pageantry
           Beheld afar in slow and stately march,
         Glittering with gold and crimson blazonry,
           Till lost at length through many a dusky arch--
         I saw the day's last clustering spears of light
           Enter the cloudy portals of the night.

         The wind, whose brazen clarions had blown
           Imperious fanfarons before the sun
         All the brief winter afternoon, died down,
           And in the hush of twilight, one by one,
         Like maidens leaning from high balconies,
           The early stars looked forth with lustrous eyes.

         Then came the moon like a deserted queen,
           In blanchèd weed and pensive loneliness;
         Not as she rises in midsummer green,
           Hailed by a festal world in gala dress,
         With thin sweet incense swung from buds and leaves,
           And strident minstrelsy of August eves;

         But treading in cold calm the frozen plain,
           With bare white feet and argent torch aloft,
         Unheralded through all her drear domain,
           Save where the cricket sang in sheltered croft,
         And, faintly heard in fitful monotone,
           A solitary owl made shuddering moan.

Charles Lotin Hildreth.



THE LION'S SHARE.

By Mrs. Clark Waring.


CHAPTER I.

SUKEY IN THE MEADOW.

"Where's that cow?"

The speaker was old Farmer Creecy. He was coming up the back steps,
and his words were addressed to his wife, who was manipulating an
archaic churn on the back porch.

"What cow?" sharply retorted Mrs. Creecy, startled out of all
knowledge of four-footed beasts by the unexpectedness of the
question.

"_What cow!_ Look here, now, Alvirey, have you got any sense at all?
How many cows have we got? Can't you count that far? Don't you know
how many?"

Alvirey did. Looking like a sheep being led to the slaughter, and
feeling worse than two sheep under such circumstances, she hung her
head low, and answered, meekly:

"One cow."

"Then I ask you, again, where is that cow?"

"And why do you ask me that, Jacob Creecy? You know as well as I do
where she is. She's down in the meadow."

"And where's Mell?"

"Down there, too. They ain't nobody else to keep Sukey out the corn."

"Ain't, hey? Ha! ha! ha! That's all you know about it! Where does you
keep your senses, anyhow, Alvirey? Out o' doors? Because, I ain't
never had the good luck to find any of 'em at home, yet, as often as
I've called! This very minute there's somebody else down in the meadow
long side o' Mell."

"Why, who, Jacob? Who can it be?"

"You wouldn't guess in a month o' Sundays, Alvirey. Not you! Guessing
to the point ain't in your line. It's that chap what's staying over at
the Guv'ner's, who looks like he had the title-deeds of the American
continent stuffed loose in his vest-pocket."

"You don't say so! Lor'! Jacob, what does he want down there with
Mell?"

"What does he want? If you had a single grain of sense, Alvirey, you'd
know without any telling. He wants to make a fool of her! That's what
a man generally has in view when he runs after a woman. But, I am a
thinking, that chap won't make no fool out of Mell, for Mell's got a
long head, like her old daddy, and a tongue of learning to back it!
Just you keep on a saying nothing. You never missed getting things
into a mess yet, as I knows on, 'cept when you let 'em alone. I'll
shut down on him right away, and then I'll be _blarsted_ if Mell can't
take care of herself! Don't be nowise uneasy, Alvirey. Mell takes
after her old dad."

Alvirey did not return immediately to her churning. She craned her
neck and got on her tiptoes, and gazed curiously after her husband as
his stout figure rolled heavily to the edge of the breezy woodland,
and thence beyond to the newly cleared grounds, and onward still to
that narrow path among the pines, whose turf-margined and daisy-dotted
track was a covert way to the meadow. Presently, through its mazy
windings and the medium of a hazy summer atmosphere, Mr. Creecy came
in sight of a youthful Jersey, sedately cropping some tender blades of
grass on the enticing borderland of a promising cornfield, and a young
girl not far away seated on an old stump in a shady nook under a clump
of trees. Her costume consisted principally of an airy muslin frock,
nebulous in figure, and falling about her in simple folds, and a white
sun-bonnet, which was a bonnet and something more--to be explicit, an
artistic elaboration of tucks and puffs and piled-on embroideries,
beneath which peeped forth a face as prodigal of blooming sweets as a
basket heaped with spring flowers.

At her feet lounged in careless fashion a young man. He was lithe and
straight, and had that striking cast of countenance which catches the
observant eye on first sight. This look of distinction, which in him
was as marked in form as in feature, has been called, not inaptly,
thoroughbredness. A self-made man never has it. All that a man may do
will not put it upon himself, but his son possesses it as an
heritage.

Looking upon such persons, we know intuitively that they have always
had the best of everything, beginning from their cradle, the best of
_its_ kind.

Not always strong, these thoroughbred faces are generally attractive.
The one before us possesses both strength and beauty. We may consider
it foremost among his first-rate advantages.

Seeing this huge monster of humanity bearing down upon them,
slow-wabbling, like a proboscidian mammal, fast-puffing, like a steam
locomotive, the young man lifted himself to a sitting posture, and
without any suspicion as to the true state of the case, remarked to
his companion:

"Here comes a doughty old customer, upon my word! 'What tempest, I
trow, threw this whale with so many tons of oil'----"

The young lady cleared her throat--she cleared it point-blankly.

"Excuse me, but, perhaps you do not know, that is--is--my father."

Stammering forth these words, she at the same time turned very red in
the face.

This was slightly awkward, or would have been to another. As for this
young man, he did not mind a little thing like that.

"I did not know it," he told the girl, unruffled; "I crave your
pardon. The fact is, it is an habitual failing of mine to make sport
of fat people. The lubberly clumsiness of a huge corporation of human
flesh is to me so irresistibly comic! My mother tells me a dreadful
day of retribution is coming--a day, wherein I shall be fifty and fat,
and a fit subject for the ridicule of others."

"I cannot discern the foreshadows of such a day," replied the girl,
glancing with unconscious approbation at the admirable outlines of
a figure whose proportions were well-nigh faultless. She fingered
nervously at her bonnet-strings, smiled a panic-stricken little smile,
broke out into a cold sweat of fearful expectation, and through all
the horrors of the situation, tried her best to emulate the young
man's inimitable air of cultured composure. He got up at this
juncture from the ground, not hastily, not awkwardly, but in his own
time and at his own pleasure, and standing there, entirely at his
ease, looked every inch the living exemplar of that expressive
little phrase--"don't-care."

Some persons object to being interrupted, he did not.

The girl stood up, too, but stood with such a difference! More and
more disconcerted she became with every passing second, so ashamed was
she of her unsightly old father, in his blue cotton farm clothes,
dirty and baggy, and his red cotton handkerchief--no redder than his
face--so ashamed, and with such a sense of guilt in her shame! Truth
to tell, the contrast between the two men thus confronted, was almost
startling; the bloated ungainliness of the one, the sinewy shapeliness
of the other; the misshapen grotesqueness of the one, and the
sculpturesque comeliness of the other. It was a contrast painful to
any intelligent observer, and for the poor girl before us, about to
introduce a lover of such mold to a father of such aspect, it was like
being put to the rack.

"Mr. Devonhough, father."

"Mr. _Who?_" gasped a big voice, struggling out from smothered depths
of grossness.

"Mr. Devonhough," repeated the daughter, looking all manner of ways,
"a friend of the Rutlands."

"How does ye, Mr. Deviloh?" inquired the old farmer, in his
exceedingly countrified, agonizingly familiar manner; extending a big,
rough, red, and very filthy hand to be shaken by this exquisite sprig
of refined gentility. Mr. Devonhough, needless to mention, touched it
as gingerly as if it had been a glaringly wide awake and aggressively
disposed Cobra de Capello. He endured the ceremony in silence,
however; about as much as could be reasonably expected from one so
superbly self-controlled.

"What will father do next?" wondered the perturbed young lady, in
burning suspense. What he did was to stare unmercifully into the young
man's face, as if every separate feature was a distinct and
incomprehensible phenomenon, and, afterward, inspect him with due
carefulness, and at his very deliberate leisure, from the hat on his
head to the shoes on his feet.

Mr. Devonhough did not flinch. Some persons object to being stared at;
he did not. It is very foolish to mind such things. And besides, he
had eyes as well as this old Brobdingnagian, and knew how to use them
to quite as good a purpose. While the bellicose Creecy took in slowly
the outward manifestations of this bland young stranger, the young
stranger himself, in about two seconds and a half, had cross-examined
every constituent element in the old man's body, and thoroughly
analyzed even the marrow in his bones.

We have intimated that the old man's figure was bad; his face was a
dreadful climax to a bad figure, so marred it was by worry, so
battered by time, so travel-stained on life's rough journey, so
battle-scarred in life's hard strife. Behind this forbidding frontage,
the old man kept in store a good, sound heart; but what availed that
to his present inquisitor? A good, sound heart in an ugly body, is the
last thing a young man looks for in this world, or cares to find.

From the inspection of so much ugliness, Mr. Devonhough glanced
towards the daughter; it was merely a glance, for with a delicate
sense of feeling, he quickly looked away in an opposite direction.
Flushed she was with shame, ill at ease, ready to cry out with a
bitter cry, accusingly towards heaven, unspeakably humiliated; but,
withal, a winsome lass, so fresh and fair, so pretty. Such a father!
Such a girl! In heaven's name how do such things come about?

Satisfied with his investigations, Mr. Creecy now remarked, quite
cheerfully:

"I s'pose, sir, you air a drover?"

"A drover? No, sir; as far as I am able to judge, I am not. More, I
cannot say, as I do not know what you mean."

"Den I reckin, sir, you air er furiner inter the bargin."

"No, sir; not a foreigner either, though I was educated abroad--partly."

"Dat's it," ejaculated the old man, triumphantly. "Eddicashun is the
thing what plays the Ole Harry wid the onderstan'in'. Dar is my little
Mell, dar, when she war er chit of er gal, an' knowed nuthin' 'bout
the things writ down in books, she war er mighty smart gal. She had a
onderstan'in' of plain English, mity near es good es mine, an' she
could keep house, an' make butter, an' look arter farm bizniss in
gin'ral, not ter say nuthin' 'bout sowin' her own cloes; an' now,
bless God! arter gittin' er fine eddicashun, she don't know the
diffrance 'tween er hoss an' er mule, or er bull an' er heifer; an'
she'd no mo' let yer ketch 'er wid er broom in her han', or er common
word on her lips dan steal er chickin! Es fur es my experance goes,
nuthin' spiles er gal like high schoolin'. I purt myself ter a heap er
trouble, young man, ter edicate my only darter, but I'd purt myself
ter er long site mo', ter onedicate 'er, ef I know'd how!"

This speech amused Mr. Devonhough to such an extent that he
reluctantly displayed a set of very white teeth, and Mell's rather
strained gayety found an agreeable echo in his pleasant-sounding
laughter. Even the old farmer's features relaxed. He was "consid'ble
hefted up" at the undisguised effect of his own facetiousness.

"The reason I axed ef yer wuz er cattle dealer," he proceeded, "is
dis. You 'pears ter be in the habit er comin' hur every mornin' ter
see our fine Jersey. She's er regular beauty, ain't she?"

"She is--worth coming to see; but since you press the point, I feel
called upon to disavow coming here for any such purpose."

Here Mr. Devonhough turned his contemplative glance from the direction
of Suke's charms, and fixed it mischievously upon Mell who, having
already, since the beginning of this interview, looked into the four
quarters of the globe, now dropped her eyes in search of the mysteries
beneath it.

"To be honest wid ye," admitted old Creecy, "I didn't 'low ye wuz
arter Suke, ezzactly, but I sorter reckin'd ef yer'd come ter see
Mell, it's the front do' yer'd er knockt at, es I ust ter do when I
went er courtin' my gal--Mell's mammy--an' had it out comferterble in
the parler. We has er very nice home up dar on the hill, with er whole
lot er fine furnisher in the front room, which Mell never rested 'till
I went in debt ter buy. Now its mos' paid fur, an' I kinder 'low Mell
'ud be glad ter see yer mos' enny time."

"Thank you," responded Mr. Devonhough, with frigidity.

"He mought go now, Mell, ef yer'd ax him."

"Not to-day, thank you," turning to Mell, with more graciousness of
manner. "In fact, I have not yet breakfasted;" and he abruptly bowed
adieu, and made his escape.

He was quite out of sight before father or daughter addressed a word
to each other. At length the old farmer demanded roughly of the girl
"What in the tarnation she wuz er blubberin' erbout?"

"What, indeed!" sobbed Mell, in a frenzy of passion, and with eyes of
storm. "I have good cause to cry. What else can I do? I can't say
_Damn!_"

"Can't yer? Why not? 'Tain't the cuss what's so bad; it's the feelin'.
Ef the devil's in yer, turn him out, I say. I ain't no advercate er
bad language, but ef er man feels like cussin' all the time, he mought
as well cuss! Dat's my opinion. An' ef it will help yer to cool down
er bit, my darter, I'll express them sentiments, which ain't too bad
for a young lady ter feel, but only to utter. So here goes--but
remember, Lord! 'tain't me, it's Mell--damn! damn! damn! Sich er
koncited, stiff-starched, buckram-backed, puppified popinjay, as this
Mr. Devil--"

"Hush your mouth," screamed the daughter, beside herself with rage; "I
don't want _him_ damned!"

"You don't! Then who?"

Mell, wrought up to the highest pitch of exasperation, made no reply
beyond looking daggers and gnashing her teeth.

"Not your old dad, Mell?"

"No, father; I don't want you damned either. But what did you come
down here for? What did you call him a cattle dealer for? What did you
talk about such horrid, nasty, disgusting things, for? Oh! I am
mortified almost to death."

"I sorter reckon'd yer'd hate it worser'n pisen," chuckled the old
farmer; "but er good dose of pisen is jess what some folks needs bad.
Come, come, Mell, hold your horses! It's your eddicashun what's er
botherin' of yer!"

"I wish to God I had no education!" exclaimed Mell, passionately.
"It's turned out to be the worst thing I ever did do, to get an
education! It has made me unhappy ever since I came home and found
things so different from what they ought to be. How poor and mean a
home it is! How lowly its surroundings, how rude its ways and how I am
degraded and fettered and hampered and looked down upon for things
beyond my control!"

"I knows--I knows"--answered her old father, with that suspicious
thrill-in-the-voice of a subjugated parent. "It's yo' ignerront ole
daddy an' yo' hard-workin' ole mammy what's er hamperin' ye! We ain't
got no loving little Mell, no longer, to say, Popsy and Mamsy, so
cute, but only er fine young miss, who minces out 'father' and
'mother' so gran', an' can't hardly abide us, the mammy what bare her,
and the daddy what give her bein'. I knows. Ef it warnt fer us, ye'd
be the ekill of the finess' lady in the lan', wouldn't ye, Mell? Wall,
ye kin be, my darter, in spite o' us, ef you play yo' kerds rite.
You'se got es big er forshun es Miss Rutlan'--bigger, I believe.
Hern's in her pockit, yourn's in yo' phiz. But, arter all, a gal's
purty face don't 'mount ter mor'n one row er pins, ef she ain't got no
brains to hope it erlong. Play yo' purty face, Mell; play her heavy,
but back her strong wid gumshun! Then you'll git ter be er gran' lady
o' fashion, in spite o' yer ugly ole dad an' common ole mammy. Now, I
wants ye ter tell me somethin' 'bout dat young jackanapes. What's his
bizniss? What is he?"

"A perfect gentleman!"

"Sartingly--sartingly. I seed dat, as soon es I sot my eyes on 'im,
but what sorter man? My ole dad ust ter say, 'one fust-rate man could
knock inter blue blazes er whole cart load er gentlemin'. I'll tell
yer fer er fack, er gentlemin ain't nothin' nohow, but er man wid his
dirty spots whitewasht. But what air the import er this one's
intentions respectin' of ye?"

Whatever her ideas on this point, the girl was too modest to express
them.

"Wall, maybe you kin tell me the dispersition of your own min'
regardin' him?"

"Yes, I can do that," she replied with alacrity. "Make up your mind to
it. I'm going marry him just as soon as he asks me. And the sooner the
better!"

"Exactly! But when is he gwine ter?"

"How do I know, father?"

"I kin tell ye, Mell. _Never!_"

"You don't know one thing about it--not a thing!"

"Sartingly not! It's the young uns these days what knows everything,
an' the ole ones what dont know nuthin'. But yo' ole dad knows what
he's talkin' 'bout. The likes o' him will never marry any gal who puts
herself on footin' wid er cow. Does yer reckin Miss Rutlan' would
excep' his visits in er cornfiel', and let him make so free?"

"It only happened so, father."

"Hump! It's happen'd so er good many times, es I happen ter know.
Happenin' things don't come roun' so reg'ler, Mell. See hur, my gal,
'tain't no use argufyin' wid me on the subjec'. I ain't got nary
objecshun ergin yo' marryin' the young man; provided--now listen,
Mell!--_provided you kin git him_. He's es purty es er grayhoun', an'
I reckin has es much intellergence, but insted ef lettin' him make a
fool er you, es he's now tryin' ter do, turn the tables, Mell. The
biggest fool on top o' this airth is the woman who wants ter git
married; the next biggest fool is the man in er hurry ter git er wife!
One mo' word, Mell, an' I'll go my way, an' you kin go yourn. Ain't
gwine ter mortify you no mo'. Remember, what I say: thar's only one
thing you dassent do wid er fine gentlemin--_trus' him!_ Don't trus'
him, Mell; don't trus' him! My chile, the good Lord ain't denied ye
brains, use 'em! Here ends the chapter on Devilho--"

Turning off abruptly, Mr. Creecy puffed sturdily up the hill, leaving
his daughter deep in the sulks, but with much solid food for
reflection.

Her eyes followed him sullenly. He was but one remove from--a darkey.
Never had he appeared so irredeemably ugly, awkward and illiterate;
never acted so altogether and exasperatingly vulgar, horrid and
abominable, and yet she pondered deeply on his words. Their effect
upon her surprised even herself. Can an unschooled man be wise? Ah,
Mell! wisdom is not curbed by rhetoric, nor ruled by grammar. The
_respicere finem_ of the unlettered appears oftentimes to be _jure
divino_.

After a while Mell wiped away the very last tear of agonized pride,
which hung like a dewdrop on her long curling lashes. The gall and
wormwood of her present feelings were somewhat abated. She knew what
she was going to do.

"I'll get out of this!" exclaimed Mell, speaking to herself in
particular, and into space at large. "Get out of it, the very first
chance."

Get out of what, Mell? This humdrum life of little cares and big
trials? this uncongenial association with an overworked and sickly old
mother (once as pretty as yourself, Mell) and an ill-favored,
ill-mannered and illiterate old father?

Is that what Mell intends to get out of?

Yes, and she means to do it in the easiest possible way, according
to her own conception of the matter. Other girls may find it
necessary to work their way, by a long and tedious process, out of
disagreeable surroundings, but she will do it with one brilliant
master-stroke--_coûte qu'il coûte_.

Put a placard on pretty Mell; proclaim her in the market place; hawk
the news upon the street corners; inscribe it on the pages of the
great Book up yonder!

To unite her destinies with some being--not divinely, blessing and
being blessed--not vitally, loving and being loved; not necessarily a
being affectionately responsive and, therefore, fitted to become the
sharer of her joy and the assuager of her grief, but simply some being
of masculine endowment serving in the capacity of a latch-key, through
whose instrumentality she can gain admission into the higher worldly
courts, for whose untasted delights her whole nature panted, is
henceforth, until accomplished, the end and aim of Mellville Creecy's
existence.

Ho, there! all ye buyers, come this way!

Here's a woman for sale!


CHAPTER II.

A MOTE IN THE EYE.

In Pompeii, eighteen hundred years ago, people--a good many people,
were dreadfully afraid of dogs; so much so that many of the
householders in that famous old city put _Cave Canem_ on their
front-door-sills, as a friendly piece of advice to all comers-in and
goers-out. Just how their feelings were affected towards the domestic
cow, we are left to conjecture; but now, after eighteen hundred years,
and in less famous localities, people--a good many people--are still
afraid of dogs, and without a nice sense of discernment in their
fears, include cows, putting the two together as beasts that want
"discourse of reason."

Now, this is unrighteous judgment; for even a cow should be looked at
fairly, even if she does show the cloven hoof. There are cows and
cows, as well as men and men. Suke, the young Jersey, would not toss
her horns at a butterfly, much less hurt a baby. She was sagacity
itself, and granting she did not know the buttered side of bread,
which is likely, she did know, to a moral certainty, where she got her
grass and how.

Early the next morn, Suke began to low, and hoping to be heard by
virtue of insistence, kept it up until nightfall, by which time she
had bellowed herself hoarse. Suke could make nothing out of it, and no
doubt dropped to sleep, theorizing on the perversity of remote
contingencies, and wondering why it was that she had spent all the
long hours of that breezy summer day in the lot, and the companion of
her outings in the house.

The late afternoon found Mell in dainty attire, seated on the front
porch, gazing wistfully in the direction of the Bigge House. He had
not found her in the meadow in the morning, perhaps, he would seek for
her in the little house on the hill, in the evening. It could not be
that he had avoided paying her any attention that could be noticed by
others; she had sometimes thought so, but then it could not be. She
dismissed the idea; it was too uncomplimentary to herself, and too
defamatory towards him.

But the slow hours dragged on; he came not. Mell sat alone. At ten
o'clock she crept sadly into bed--into bed, but not into the profound
slumber of youth and a mind at ease. Far into the night, her unquiet
thoughts were yet heaving to and fro; advancing as restless billows of
the sea, retreating as vaporous cloud-mists in the sky. Her snow-white
bed--a feathered nest--erst so well suited to light-hearted repose,
had changed its flexible lines of comfort into rigid lines of care.

Dropping to sleep at last, Mell dreamed she had made the world all
over, from pole to pole, after a new model and on a modern plan, and
having fitted it up expressly for her own needs, found it ever so much
pleasanter, and a great improvement on the old.

It was upon the same old world, however, she opened her eyes the next
morning, and into one of its most worrying days, holding, indeed, more
than its share of disappointment and worry.

But when the third day was drawing to its weary close, and her
longing heart longed still unsatisfied, existence had become a burden
almost insupportable to poor Mell. For the third time she donned her
prettiest dress. He _must_ come to-day. Out again upon the little
porch, with a book in her hand, and trying to read, Mell was oppressed
with a sense of extreme isolation, a wasting famine of the heart, a
parching thirst of the eye. In her despairing loneliness, incapable of
any other occupation, she scanned eagerly every passer by; brooded
deeply on many passing thoughts. This lonely waiting, in a small waste
corner of the great wide universe, for a girl of Mell's ambitious turn
of mind, was, in truth, hard. It was lowest pauperism to her panting
spirit--panting to achieve not little things but great. Humble strife
in a little world, amid work-a-day environment, and among everyday
people, had no charms for Mell. Such living was, in a word,
unbearable.

And over there across that beauteous valley, in the enchanted halls of
the unattainable, life was a delightful series of interesting events,
redolent of delicate sentiments and sweet-smelling savors, spiced with
novelty, brimful of pleasure, amusing, absorbing, far-reaching,
all-embracing; in brief, a ceaseless symposium, purged of every ugly,
common or narrow element, as roseate and as captivating to the fancy,
as hand-painted satin framed in mosaic.

A boy walked up the garden path. The young lady seated on the porch,
saw him coming, and a feeling of exultation shot through all the blood
in her veins. The boy held a note in his hand, and Mell jumped into
the contents of that note, intellectually, in less than the millionth
part of a second. He could not stand it any longer; he was writing to
know if he might call, and when. She had a great mind to let him come
this very evening, though he did not deserve it; but then, do men ever
deserve just what they get, good and bad, at women's hands?

"A note, ma'am," said the boy. Mell took it in silence, opened it
tremulously, and read:

"Suke is unhappy. Me too. Don't disappoint us to-morrow, and send me a
bit of a line, sweet lassie, to say that you will not. J. P. D."

"The scribblings of a school-boy," muttered Mell, inconceivably
dashed.

"No answer," she told the boy. When the messenger was beyond reach of
recall, she was sorry she had not replied to the note, or sent word,
yes; for, perhaps, it would be better to see him once more, have a
plain talk, and come to some understanding. The more she dwelt upon
the matter, the more certain she became that this was her best course;
so upon the morrow, the half-past five o'clock breakfast was hardly
well over, when, with alternate hope and fear measuring swords within
her, she fled to the lot for Suke. With one arm thrown affectionately
around the Jersey's neck, the two proceeded most amicably to the
meadow. There she waited an hour nearly, before Jerome came; but he
did come, eventually, wearing the loveliest of shooting-jackets, with
an English primrose in his buttonhole, radiantly handsome, deliciously
cool, and as much at his leisure as if it did not make much difference
to him whether he ever reached his destination or not.

Thus Jerome--but what of Mell? Every medullary thread, every
centripetal and centrifugal filament in her entire body was excited
over his coming. She was flushed, and so hot and flurried, and had
been waiting for him, it seemed to her, twelve months at least, and it
enraged her now to see him sauntering so slowly toward her, just as if
they had parted five minutes ago. Poor Mell, after her experiences of
the past three days, was in that condition of body when a trifle
presses upon one's nervous forces with all the weight of a mountain.
Irritated, she returned his good morning coldly.

"Dear me, Mr. Devonhough! Is it really you? Why did you come? I did
not send you word I would be here."

"No, you did not. Nevertheless, I knew you would."

"Nevertheless, you knew nothing of the sort! How can you say that? I
had a strong notion not to come."

Jerome made a gesture of incredulity.

"Oh, a notion! I dare say. Girls live on notions, bonbons, sugar-plums,
taffy, and what not; a pound of sweetened flattery to every half
ounce of wholesome truth. But laying all notions aside, you will always
come, Mellville, when I send for you."

"How dare you," began Mell, nettled to the quick and purposed to give
him an emphatic piece of her mind, and then ignominiously breaking
down, constrained, dismayed, crimsoning to the tips of her ears,
paling to the curves of her lips, and wishing she had died before she
left the farm-house that morning.

"And now I have offended you," said Jerome drawing nearer, "and I did
not mean to do that, pretty one! I cannot help teasing you, sometimes,
because when you are teased your face has that innocent, grieved
expression of a thwarted child, which I do so dearly love to see. And
I must, perforce, do something in self-defence, you have been so cruel
to me." His tones were low, now, and as oily as a lubricating
life-buoy. "I have waited for you one hour each day; I have gone away
after every waiting, desolate and unhappy. Don't you know, when two
people think of each other as we do, when two people love each other
as we do, that separation is the worst form of misery? Then why have
you been so cruel, Mell?"

Peeping under the fluted archway of the white sun-bonnet for an
answer, his face came in dangerous nearness to its wearer; their
quickened breath united in a symphony of sweet sighs, their quickened
pulses throbbed in a unison of reciprocal emotion.

One moment more, and--Mell stood off at some little distance, looking
back roguishly at the figure kneeling alone beside the old stump, with
outstretched arms tenderly embracing naught, and stealthy lips
defrauded of their prey.

Mr. Devonhough did mind a losing game such as this. To be made to feel
foolish and to look foolish, was more than he could tolerate under any
conjuncture of circumstances. He extricated himself as speedily and as
gracefully as possible.

"Miss Creecy!"

"Mr. Devonhough!"

"You will probably treat me with ordinary civility, at the time of our
next meeting."

"And you will probably do the same toward me."

"We shall see, as to that."

He bowed blandly, and turned upon his heel. He was going away? Well,
he wouldn't go far. Mell was so confident on this point, that she
seated herself comfortably on the old stump again, and gave herself no
uneasiness. She could not credit the evidences of her own senses when
the moving figure became first a mere speck upon the horizon, and then
a something gone, lost, swallowed up into the unseen.

"It passes belief," said Mell; "surely he will come back, even yet!"

She waited one hour longer; she waited two--he evidently did not
intend to come back.

She went home with a troubled heart.

The next morning, feeling somewhat more cheerful at what she
considered the certain prospect of seeing him again, and to a somewhat
better purpose, she called for Suke, in feverishly high spirits, and
the two set off together on a spirited race down the hill.

One hour--two hours--three hours--and not a sign of her truant lover.

Mell burst into an agony of tears.

"I am no match for him," she sobbed. "He is heartless and cynical, and
imperious and selfish. He does not care in the very least bit for me
and I"--springing to her feet, and dashing away her tears--"I do not
know, at this moment, Jerome Devonhough, whether I most love or hate
you!"

This feeling of sullen resentment sustained her through that long,
long day. In the cool of the evening her mother sent her on an errand
to the little country store, about a mile distant. Coming back she
encountered a gay cavalcade of ladies and gentlemen on horseback,
conspicuous among them, Jerome. She had no reason to suppose he
recognized, or even saw, the quiet figure plodding along on foot, and
catching the dust from their horses' hoofs.

"This is my life," said Mell, looking after them with yellow eyes,
"while others ride, I walk!"

The noise of their clattering feet and merry voices had scarcely died
away, when there came another sound; faint at first and uncertain, it
came nearer and nearer. A solitary horseman dashed up to her side and
dismounted.

"Jerome! Is it you?" exclaimed Mell, with a glad start, forgetting all
the anger she had been nursing against him since yesterday, in the joy
of seeing him again. "How could you tear yourself away from that
lively crowd?"

"One, if she is the right one, is crowd enough for me," declared
Jerome, with a laugh; and throwing his bridle reins negligently across
his arm, he walked along beside her. "When I saw you, Mellville, I
dropped my whip out of pure delight, and as it is a dainty trifle
belonging to Clara--Miss Rutland, that is--adorned with a silver
stag's head and tender associations, I had, of course, to come back
for it. At all events, I could not have closed my eyes this night,
without seeing you, making my humble confessions, and imploring your
forgiveness for my conduct of yesterday. I behaved abominably. I
confess it. I am truly sorry. And, at the risk of falling in your
esteem, I am going to tell you something--my temper is a thing
vile--villainous, but it does not often get the better of me as it did
yesterday. Forgive me, dearest?"

"I am not your dearest," Mell informed him, with head erect.

"Not? Why, how's that? 'Nay, by Saint Jamy,' but you are! I have one
heart, but one, it is all yours; you have one, but one, it is all
mine. We are to each other, dearest, _Ita lex scripta_."

"The matter is one in which I, myself, shall have a say-so."

"You have had a say-so! You have said: 'Jerome, I love you!'"

"How can you speak so falsely? It is not true--I did not say so."

"Not in words," conceded her tormentor, "but you do, all the same,
don't you, petite?"

"I am not your petite, either," protested Mell, driven almost to
desperation.

"No? Then you are sure to be my darling. That's it, Mell! You are
certainly a darling, and mine."

"I am not!" shrieked Mell, choking with anger. This mockery of a sore
subject was really unbearable.

"Not my darling, either?" inquired Jerome, grave as a Mussulman. "Then
what the dickens are you?"

"A woman not to be trifled with," said Mell, hotly; "who finds it much
easier to magnify injuries than to forgive them."

"Like the rest of us," interposed Jerome; "but that is not Christian,
you know."

"You are enough to turn the saintliest Christian into a cast-away,"
proceeded Mell, severely. "Can't you be serious for a little
while? I am not a child to be mocked at and cajoled and cozened and
hood-winked, _faire pattes de velours_, treated to flim-flam and
sweet-meats, knowing all the while that you are ashamed of my mere
acquaintance."

"You can't think such a thing!"

"I do think it! I have cause to think it! See here, suppose you were
in love with Miss Rutland--"

"I can't suppose that! I couldn't be if my life depended on it; not
after seeing you. Why do you wish me to suppose that?"

He shot a keen glance at her.

"That I may ask you this question--If you were, would you make love to
her after the same methods you employ toward me?"

"No; I don't believe I would. I am quite sure I would not. The woman
is herself responsible for the way in which love is made to her. I
can't be with you any time without wanting to call you some pet name,
and I never feel that way with Clara."

"It is my fault, then, that you are so disrespectful?"

"Am I disrespectful?"

"You are. Listen to me for a moment, Mr. Devonhough. If you really
care for my society, as you say you do, why do you not seek it as you
do the society of other young ladies--at home? My father is a poor
man, but he is honest; and honesty should count for something, even in
good society. He is also illiterate, but no one can say aught against
his character; and character ought to be more desirable than much
learning. Then, again, although the blood in my veins may lack in
blueness, it is pure, which is a matter of some importance.
Altogether, I don't see why you should look down upon me."

"I do not look down upon you!" Jerome was earnest enough now. "I
know that I ought to have called at the house, but--ahem! my time is
not exactly at my own disposal. In a word, I have not had an
opportunity."

Jerome, saying this, looked far away in pensive thoughtfulness. Mell,
listening, looked hard into his face.

"Opportunity!" ejaculated Mell. "You manage somehow to call upon me
pretty often elsewhere!"

"Not at a visitable hour."

"Were I a man and wanted to see a girl, I'd _make_ my opportunity!"

She laughed, derisively--there is something very undiverting in such a
laugh.

"Would you, Mell? No, you would not. You would do like the rest of
mankind; submit as best you could to the inflexible logic of events
and do the best you could under the circumstances."

"Is a cornfield the best you can do under the circumstances?"

"It is Mell--the very best. Now, my sweet Mell, I am going to be
serious--really serious--dreadfully in earnest. I acknowledge that you
have some cause to find fault with me. There are things 'disjoint and
out of frame' in my wooing, which I cannot explain to you at this
time. Bear with them, bear with me for a little--there's a dear
girl--and when I come back--"

"You are going away! Where, Jerome? When?"

"Only a run over to Cragmore, for a week or ten days. I have friends
there, who are writing for me. Another guest is coming to the Bigge
House, and I rather think we shall be in each other's way, Mell."

She leant upon his words as if they planned

                 "Eternities of separate sweetness."

"Mell, will your regard for me bear a heavy test? I cannot now speak
such words to you as my feelings prompt me to speak, but will you not
trust me blindly until certain difficulties which surround me are
overcome? Is your affection great enough for that?"

"I do not know," faltered Mell; "I would trust you to the world's end,
and to the very crack of doom, if you would only tell me."

"And then it would not be trust," Jerome gently reminded her, with his
mysterious smile. Catching his glance of penetrating tenderness, a
vivid breathing reality from a misty background of fogs and doubt,
under the spell of its enchantment, Mell thought she could. Her face
softened.

"It will be hard, Jerome, but I will try."

"Then, believe me, all will yet be well with us. Whatever untoward
event may occur, whatever else you may have cause to doubt, never
question the sincerity of my attachment. I call upon God, who readeth
the heart of man, to witness that you, only, are dear to me--you,
only, precious in my sight. Believe that; be patient, and trust me."

The deep silence which followed these words was broken only by their
slow moving feet, crushing the crisp leaves beneath them, and the wild
palpitations of the girl's heart. Crystal stars made haste to lend
their liquid glimmering to the scene, and blinked knowingly at each
other from azure heights on high. The sweet south wind, in melting
mood, murmured tunefully above their heads, swelling in delicious
diapason of melodious suggestions, and mingling with mysterious
elements in stirring pulse and thrilling nerves.

The rasp of a discordant tone, thrust vehemently into this sweet
blending of concordant harmonies, disturbed upon a sudden Mell's
unwonted peace of soul. She heard her father's voice. He was saying:
"Don't truss him, Mell; don't truss him."

"How can I be patient," she asked, with a touch of her old petulance,
"unless I know why it is you treat me so? Jerome, tell me your
difficulties."

"And by so doing increase them? No. My hands are full enough as it is,
and to have you incessantly fretting and fuming about little crooked
things which all the fretting in creation won't straighten out, would
be more than I could stand. Melville, you must really consent to be
guided blindly by my judgment in this matter. I have studied the
subject carefully, and it is only for a little while, sweet. We are
young, we can afford to take things easy."

"Men of pluck," exclaimed Mell, with spirit, "don't take things easy!
They grip hold of things and turn them into moulds of purpose."

"Do they, little wiseacre? Then, manifestly, I am not a man of pluck.
I am made of weak stuff, a feeble straw, perhaps, in your estimation,
tossed about by every little puff of air! Ha! ha! ha! How little you
know about me, Mell!"

"That is true," responded Mell, promptly, adding, with that lively
turn of expression which gave such zest to her conversation, "very
little, and that little nothing to your credit!"

Jerome was amused. He laughed and stopped, and forthwith laughed
again.

"Ah, Melville, you charm me afresh at every meeting. Where do you get
all your _sauce piquant_? Beside you for life, that old meddling
busy-body, _ennui_, will never get a single chance at a fellow. Your
name ought to be Infinite Variety."

"And yours," retorted Mell, with the quickness he enjoyed, "Palpably
Obscure! But here we are at my own gate. Fasten your horse and come
in."

Her voice was absolutely pleading.

"I would with ever so much pleasure, but--that whip is yet to be
found, and the riders will be coming back. I must at once rejoin them.
Good night, Mell."

"Good-night," responded Mell, from the other side of the gate, and in
angered tones, "Jerome, have I not spoken plainly enough to you? Must
I repeat that I am not your toy--not your plaything--but a resolute
woman, determined to maintain my own respect and to accept nothing
less than yours? You shall not so much as make free with the tip end
of this little finger of mine, until--"

"Well," said Jerome, "let me know the worst. When will that terrible
interdict be removed?"

"When you can enforce the right by virtue of possession."

"Heaven speed that moment!" exclaimed he, sighing audibly and mounting
his horse. "When shall we meet again, Melville?"

"That rests with you."

"Let me see, then. Not to-morrow, for at daylight we are off to Gale
Bluff for the day. Not on Wednesday, for there's a confounded picnic
afoot for that day. I wish the man who invented picnics had been
endowed with immortal life on earth and made to go to every blessed
one of 'em! But on Thursday, Mell, I shall be in the meadow at the
usual hour."

"But I won't!"

"Yes, you will, Mell."

"Positively, _I will not!_"

"Nonsense. What is your objection? Where is the harm? The young ladies
at the Bigge House entertain me out of doors."

"Do they?"

Mell was astonished, and began to waver.

"I thought it wasn't considered the thing."

"On the contrary, it is _the_ one thing warranted by the best usage.
Out-of-doors is now in the fashion. Doctors preach it, preachers
expound it, legislators enact it, and the whole people make it a
decree _plebiscite_. Clara sits with me for hours under the trees--"

"Oh, does she!" interrupted poor Mell, with a pang. Seeing her way to
a question she had long been wanting to ask, she subjoined quickly:
"And what do you think of Clara Rutland, Jerome? Do you call her an
interesting girl?"

"I never have called her that," replied Jerome, "never that I know
of, but--she'll do. One thing, she can talk a fellow stone blind at
one sitting. But that's nothing. Starlings and ravens can talk, too."

At the end of this speech, Mell was doubly anxious to know Jerome's
real opinion of Clara Rutland. It seemed to her that the question was
more open at both ends than it ever had been before.

Jerome patted his horse's head, told him to "Be quiet, sir!" and
resumed the threads of discourse.

"What was I saying? Oh, yes! We live out of doors at the Bigge House.
There wouldn't be any use for a house there at all, if it wasn't for
bad weather. Those girls try their best to be agreeable, but none of
them are _provoquante_ and charming, like you, Mell. While they sleep
away the sweetest hours of these golden summer mornings, what harm is
there in you and I enjoying pleasant converse together in the green
fields, inhaling the pure air of heaven? I promise you to be on my
best behavior. I promise you to uphold the integrity of the tip end of
that little finger inviolate; and so you will be on hand without fail,
Mell, and so will I, and so will something else."

"What else, Jerome?"

He bent low from his saddle-bow to whisper into her ear:

"That supreme happiness which is present everywhere when you and I are
together. Be sure to come, darling. And now, once more, good-night!"

He galloped off, leaving Mell standing in the gateway, and on the
uncomfortable side of a very knotty point. Did Jerome really love her?
She believed he did--ardently. Did he love her well enough to surmount
those difficulties of which he had spoken? Did he love her well enough
to marry her?

"Aye, there's the rub!" cried Mell. Her mind fairly swarmed with ugly
suspicions, some of them as infinitesimal, and at the same time as
dangerous as those microscopic bacteria which enter the physical
laboratory, disorganizing, and, if not quickly eliminated, destroying
the very stronghold of life itself. And as biological analysis was not
yet, at that time, practiced as a method of research into the germs of
things, Mell must needs fall back entirely upon inferential
deductions.

Those difficulties, what could they be that she might not know them?
If this tantalizing, and yet, withal, most fascinating, of created
beings, truly loved her--loved her in love's highest sense, and with
no thought of deception, would he at every turn put her off with
honeyed words and paltry evasions? Would he have said, "You must
really consent to be guided blindly by my judgment in this matter," if
he valued her as she valued him?

Of one thing she was sure; she would be guided blindly by no human
being, man or woman, in anything.

"_No, I won't!_" she audibly informed the dew-damp lilies and
the secretive rose, stamping her foot to impress it upon their
understanding. Catch any wide-awake, thoroughly independent,
altogether self-sufficient and splendidly educated American girl
going it blind at any man's behest! She would make short work of
his courtship, and him too--first.

Still pacing distractedly up and down the garden path, Mell heard a
window open, saw a head protrude, and heard a voice, which said:

"Send 'im ter his namesake, Mell. Let 'im git thar before he gits the
better o' you!"

"So he shall, father."

"Then go ter bed."

"I am going now--going to bed," she continued, communing with
herself--"to bed, but not to the meadow Thursday morning. I'll cut my
throat from ear to ear, just before I start to the meadow again at the
bidding of Jerome Devonhough!"

Bravo for Mell! Strong in this determination, she is now comparatively
safe, except for the one menacing fear, that this sentimental feeling
she has for Jerome may interfere with the more serious business of
life. Love was all well enough in its way, but what this country
maiden panted for, was a new life on a higher plane, with or without
love. It was the thing her education demanded. It was the thing she
intended to accomplish.

After all, she went to bed in very good spirits. She was tolerably
sure of bringing Jerome to her own terms, and if not--well, not to
make a sad subject likewise tedious, Mell, in spite of all her love
for Jerome, was as much for sale as ever.


CHAPTER III.

A TOTAL ECLIPSE.

Nothing ever turns out just as we expect.

The next day promised to be long to Mell, but before the old tall
clock in the corner tolled out the hour of ten, something happened
which gave to its every moment a pair of golden wings. Miss Josey
Martlett, one of those ancient angels who personate youth, who
endeavor to assimilate facial statistics and unfledged manners, who
are interested in everything under the sun except their own business,
came driving up to old man Creecy's farm. Under this lady's auspices
it had been, and through her material assistance, that the sprightly
little country girl had been mercifully snatched out of regions of
ignorance and darkness, and maintained for a number of years at a
famous boarding-school, where, among other things, she had been taught
to worship the beautiful in all its forms, to cultivate the refined in
all its processes, and to execrate the common and the ugly in all its
manifestations. A defective curriculum--for what is more common than
human frailty; what uglier than, oftentimes, duty?

Let us hasten to concede that old man Creecy has some show of reason
on his side. Not all education educates. The best may furnish us with
feet and hands, eyes and wings, trained members, fit implements,
shields, anchorage, strongholds, and stepping-stones; but also
hiding-places, weak spots, loopholes, clogs, and stumbling-blocks.

"I would stay, but I can't," protested Miss Josey, as Mell insisted
upon her taking off her hat and sitting down in the most comfortable
rocker in the house, while she herself sat beside her and toyed with
the visitor's hand, and fanned away the heat; and then ran for a glass
of fresh buttermilk, and brought in some red peaches and blue grapes
on an outlandish little Jap waiter in all colors, "just too 'cute for
anything." Miss Josey was Mell's only connecting link with the country
"quality," and hence appreciated in due proportion to her importance.

"I declare, Mell, you spoil me to death," simpered Miss Josey, "and
nothing else in life is half so nice as being spoiled to death. But I
must eat and run--must, really--I'm just so busy I hardly know which
way to turn. I want you to go to a picnic with me to-morrow."

"A picnic!"

Mell's heart got into her throat at one single bound, and stuck there.
Jerome had said something about a picnic.

"What picnic, Miss Josey?"

"The Grange picnic. I'm one of the lady managers, as perhaps you know,
and I want you to help me with the tables. Mrs. Rutland cannot go, and
there are so few to be depended on."

"You can depend on me," said Mell; "I will go with you gladly--gladly
spend and be spent for you, who have been always so kind to me."

Hadn't she, though? But this was the crowning act of all Miss Josey's
kindness. At this picnic she would see Jerome, and, who knows, perhaps
find out his difficulties!

"You are a sweet girl, Mell," returned Miss Josey, gratified. "So
grateful, in a world chock full of the basest ingratitude. I told Miss
Rutland, 'Mell Creecy is the girl to take your place. She knows what
to do, and she'll do it!'"

After this, Mell could scarcely follow the drift of her visitor's
conversation. She was in a ferment of impatience for Miss Josey to be
gone, that she might put the finishing touches to a new white dress in
readiness for to-morrow's festivities. But Miss Josey, who couldn't
possibly stay two short minutes when she arrived, did not get off
under two mortal hours, or more. This is one of those little
peculiarities of the sex, which the last one of them disavows.

Gone at last, Mell went dancing over the house and singing over her
work at such a lively rate, that her father put his head in at the
chamber-door wanting to know "what she was er makin' sich er fuss
erbout?"

"The Grange picnic, father, tra-la-la! I'm going with Miss Josey,
folderolloll!"

"Oho! Devilho gwine ter be thar, I s'pose?"

"Yes, indeed! Hail, all hail! La-la-tra-la!"

"Make him toe the mark, darter!"

Mell's song abruptly ceased.

To make an individual of Mr. Jerome Devonhough's subtle intellect and
masterful will toe the mark was going to be no easy matter. He was far
from being an exact science whose formula could be reduced to the
touchstone of certainty. Softer were his ways, and more complex his
web, the fabric of his purpose more difficult to trace, than the
intricate meshes of this cob-webbery lace she was basting in the neck
of her dress. Nevertheless, every stitch of her needle fastened down
her gathering intentions to the figure of her mind. Jerome must have
done with these evasions; he must tell her the truth, and the whole
truth; he must henceforth act right up to the notch, or else she would
put an end to everything between them, and in the future have nothing
whatever to do with him. Several measures such as these, rightly
enforced, would, she believed, bring the most slippery Lothario in
existence down on his knees at a woman's feet, _If_ the man really
loved the woman. _If_ Jerome really loved Mell.

"If, _Si, Wenn, Se!_" vociferated Mell, stamping her fiery little
foot. "Why was it ever put into articulate speech?"

She knew it, this highly educated girl, in so many languages, and
could not blot it out in a single one of them! Is not mere human
knowledge a kind of blunt tool?

But she was ready, bright and early, the next morning, so promptly
ready that Miss Josey commended her in unstinted terms.

"Had it been Clara," said Miss Josey, as Mell sprang lightly into the
little basket phaeton, "she'd have kept me waiting, probably, a whole
hour without a scruple of compunction! Come, we will go to the Bigge
House first for some things I must carry."

To the Bigge House? The gates of Paradise were about to open for
Mell. Rejoice with her, all ye who read. How will you feel when
the doors of your big house are about to unclose themselves before
your long-aspiring and wistful gaze, disclosing within the risen
Star of Conquest, the bright realization of many golden visions and
many rose-colored dreams?

This Bigge House, of so much local fame and importance, was, in fact,
a spacious mansion of no small pretention, and having been originally
built for a man named Bigge, in spite of all that the present owners
could do in the way of writing and calling it Rutland Manse, it
remained, year after year, the Bigge House. Pleasantly situated,
well-constructed, and well-kept, the house itself was surrounded by
extensive and beautiful grounds, a grove, a grass plot, a flower
garden embellished with trellises, terraces, fountains, rare
shrubbery, and an artificial pond to row pretty little boats on, and
secondly, to propagate fish. The family were of an old stock, but a
newly rich--a class who like much to enjoy their money, and better
still, to show it.

On this cloudless summer morn, perfect as weather goes, so perfect
that one might look upon it as a Providential complicity in the
booming of the Grange picnic, a gracious provision of nature to suit
one special occasion, the approaches to the Bigge House presented a
stirring scene. Carriages, buggies, and wagons, vehicles of every
description, and vehicles nondescript, lined the roadways in every
direction. Servants were rushing hither and thither, fresh arrivals
coming every few moments to swell the throng, voices calling to each
other in joyous recognition, fair hands waving _au revoirs_, as they
dashed by, without stopping, on their way to the scene of the day's
festivities. A pleasurable sense of expectation brightened every face,
a buoyant sense of exhilaration quickened every heart, and high above
the heads of all, a brilliant sun, regnant on a field of blue, lighted
up the long sloping hills and broad green valleys. Mell looked about
her wonderingly. Who were all these people, and how many of them would
she know before the day was done?

Miss Josey had left her holding the reins while she ran in for a cargo
of bundles. It was not at all necessary, except in Miss Josey's
imagination. Her well-groomed little nag was alive, it is true, but
some live things creep, and Aristophanes--called Top,--was one of
them. He never thought of starting anywhere as long as he could stand
still. In this respect, he differed from his mistress, who never
stayed anywhere, as long as she could find enough news to keep going.

"Hold him tight, Mell," had been Miss Josey's injunction when she left
Mell alone with Top.

At another time this arrangement would have greatly disappointed Mell.
Her whole being had clamored to get inside the Bigge House, and,
behold! here she sat along with Top outside the sacred precincts. But,
somehow, her heart beat so high with rainbow-tinted fancies, she was
altogether unconscious of anything amiss in the situation. If not
within the very courts of the wonderful palace, the very penetralia of
the Penates, she was very near the goal; nearer than she had ever been
before. She could almost look in--she could almost see the shining
garments and gloriously bright faces of the beings she envied, the
beings who lived that life so far above her own. She had come thus
far; she waited at the gate, and some day the great doors would be
flung wide open for her; she would cross the threshold. But not alone.
One would bear her company who was ever an honored guest there, and
in many another home of wealth and fashion and influence.

These thoughts transferred their suppressed rapture into the
expression of her face--into cheeks dazzling for joy--into eyes
swimming in lustre--into a mouth wreathed into curves of exquisite
transport. She was beautiful.

A number of young gallants came crowding about the gate. They stood in
the plentitude of checked tweeds and light flannel, with the latest
sheen on a boot, and the latest paragon of a hat--mighty swells,
conscious of their own superiority, eying this deuced pretty girl, and
wondering who she was.

"You ought to know, Rube," said one.

"But, I don't!" said Rube. "I will know before I'm much older though,
you can depend upon me for that! She's with Miss Josey."

Mell did not notice them beyond a casual glance. They had about them,
incontestably, an enormous lot of style, but compared to Jerome, they
were flat,--awfully flat. She caught a glimpse of him now, this
swellest swell of the period, coming down the marble steps of the
mansion.

Some one is with him--a lady. Yes, just as she thought, Clara Rutland.
Here they come. She, so--so--almost ugly, and he, so--so--so
Jerome-like. That's the only way to express it. Jerome is more than
simply handsome, more than merely graceful, more than a man among
men--he's a non-such, in a nut-shell!

But here he is, almost in speaking distance, and every step
bringing him nearer. Isn't he going to be surprised? Isn't he going
to be delighted? Isn't he going to shake her hand and smile that
impenetrable smile, and--?

How is this? Jerome has come and gone. He did not look at her--he did
not once raise his eyes in passing.

Just ahead of this poky little vehicle, where Mell awaited the return
of Miss Josey, stood a lordly equipage, all silver plate and shine,
with a well-dressed groom standing in front of the champing, restive,
mettlesome animal, as eager to be off and gone somewhere as the most
restless of human hearts in a human bosom.

Into this nobby turnout Jerome assisted Miss Rutland, and then
springing in himself, grasped the reins from the groom's hands. For
one awful moment (to Mell) the horse stood straight upon his hind
legs, and then, obeying Jerome's voice, who said in the quietest of
tones, 'Go on, Rhesus,' gave one wild plunge and dashed ahead, leaving
Mell with a stifled feeling, as if she was buried alive under twenty
feet of volcanic ashes.

But what did it mean--his passing her without a sign of recognition?
Jerome might be of a truant disposition, of unstable fancy, and
superior in his own strength to most ordinary rules, but he couldn't
help knowing her face to face. There was a bare possibility that he
had not really seen her; his sight, come to think of it, was none of
the best, or, at least, he habitually wore an interesting little
_pince-nez_ dangling from his button-hole, and sometimes, though not
often, stuck it across the bridge of his well-shaped nose with telling
effect.

With such arguments, and much wanting to be convinced, Mell recovered
her equipoise to some extent, managing to hear about half Miss Josey
was saying, and to answer only once or twice very wildly at random.
Arrived at their destination, she assisted her patroness in
receiving and arranging the baskets; this important contingent of
the day's proceedings being satisfactorily disposed of, they
followed the example of the crowd at large and strolled about in
search of some amusement. A more delightful location for a day's
outing it would be hard to find, the world over. On three sides of
the principal grove, stretched an immense plateau, smooth as a
flower-garden, and level as a plumb line, and on the fourth side a
sudden, bold declivity, just as if a giant hand had pulled the
clustering hills apart and left them wide asunder, laying bare the
heart of a magnificent ravine. In this wild gorge were stupendous
cliffs and brinks, shady shelves o'erhanging secluded and romantic
nooks, enormous rocks holding plentiful treasures in moss and
lichen, singularly constructed mounds, probably the remaining
deposit of a prehistoric race, wild flowers in variety, wild scenery
in perfection, and a beautiful stream of running water, wherein
disported finny tribes in abundance. Nothing in the highest art of
gardenesque could produce such results as this. A mere ramble amid
such scenes of diverse picturesqueness--nature's wear and tear in
moods of passion--amounts to a study of geological architecture under
favoring conditions.

Mell loved nature, but not as she loved Jerome. Her brains were
crammed with wild speculations in regard to him, which accounts for
the fact that she had no mind on that eventful day to invest in all
those wonderful manifestations of nature's power and nature's
mystery.

During their circuitous meanderings, two young men joined Miss Josey
and were duly presented to her _protégé_. They were fine young
fellows, and very pleasant, too, but Mell continued so preoccupied in
the vain racking of her brain, trying to imagine what had become of
Jerome and Clara Rutland, that she did not catch their names, and
replied to their efforts at conversation with monosyllabic remarks.
One of them, a merry-tempered, straightforward, stalwart young chap,
armed with rod and bait, asked her, with a flattering degree of
warmth, if she wouldn't go with them a-fishing; but reflecting if she
did so, she would in all likelihood be out of the way of seeing Jerome
for hours to come, Mell declined without circumlocution, glad to get
rid of him on the pretext of having promised to assist Miss Josey in
her onerous duties, as commissary of subsistence. Discouraged, the
young fisherman bowed and left.

"Such a pretty girl," he remarked to his companion. "It's a pity she
doesn't know what to say!"

Think of Mell Creecy not knowing what to say! The girl who was always
saying things nobody else had ever thought of saying. Such is the
pretty pass to which an unhappy love may bring the brightest girl!
And, after all, she saw absolutely nothing of Jerome until all those
wagon upon wagon loads of baskets had been ransacked, and their
tempting contents emptied out upon the festive board, giving forth
grateful suggestions of the coming mid-day meal.

While squeezing lemons, flushed and more than ever anxious, deft of
hand, but uneasy in mind, the buggy containing Jerome and Miss Rutland
dashed into the grove.

"We've been all the way to Pudney," called out the young lady, holding
up to view some tied-up boxes, "and here are the prizes."

"All right," responded Miss Josey, "but do let us have the ice. The
prizes are of no consequence to a famishing people, but the dinner is,
and we are about ready."

"She's powerfully interested in the prizes," commented a girl at
Mell's elbow, "but she has a good right to be."

"Why?" inquired Mell.

"Because she is going to be crowned queen of love and beauty."

"How do you know?"

"I've put things together, and that's the way they sum up to me. That
young man with her can beat all of our boys, and he's going to crown
her."

"Is he?" ejaculated Mell.

Let him dare to do it! Before Jerome Devonhough should place a
victor's crown on Clara Rutland's head, she would--well, what would
she do? "_Anything!_" muttered Mell, between her teeth.

Poor Mell! She had been to such an expensive school and learned so
many things, and not one of them was of the slightest use to her in
this sore strait. Could there not be established a new school for
girls, differing materially from the old; founded upon a more
adaptable basis, taught after a hitherto unknown method, and including
prominently in its curriculum of studies, that branch of knowledge
whose acquisition enables a woman to bear long, to suffer in silence,
and in weakness to be strong? These are the practical issues in a
woman's daily life, and although in such a school she might not get
her money's worth in German gutturals and French verbs, she would, at
least, have indulged in a less reckless expenditure of time in
obtaining useless knowledge.

But let us not blame the schools over much, and without a just
discrimination. Not all the fault lies at their door. Something there
is amiss among the girls themselves. It may be, that they love and
hate, and talk too much, even in one language.

In a girl of Mell's temperament, love would not have been love,
lacking jealousy, and its twin-feeling, revenge. More's the pity,
Mell!

That picnic dinner was splendid. Everybody enjoyed it but Mell, and it
was not the young fisherman's fault that she did not. Although he was
in attendance upon another young lady, who seemed to know what to say,
and said it incessantly, he kept an eye on Mell, and proffered her
every tempting dish he could lay his hands upon. To no purpose; for
Mell could not eat. She tried, and the very first mouthful paralyzed
her ability to swallow. It was altogether as much as she could do to
keep from sobbing aloud in the faces of all these omnivorous, happy
people. What made it all the worse, at breakfast time she had been
happier than they--too happy, in fact, to eat, and now, here at
dinner, she was too miserable.

And there sat the author of all her misery, not twelve feet distant,
perfectly oblivious to her proximity, nay, her very existence. Not by
any chance did he ever look toward her, or show any consciousness of
her presence. So devoted and so marked were his attentions to that
uninteresting and anything but attractive Clara Rutland, that Mell
heard it commented upon on all sides. These two, so sufficient unto
themselves, were among the first to leave the festal board and wander
off in sylvan haunts. Anon, all appetites were satisfied, and amid the
buzzing of tongues and boisterous flashes of merriment, the multitude
again dispersed. Unobserved and in a very unenviable frame of mind,
the unhappy Mell stole away to herself. The paramount desire of her
wounded spirit was to get beyond the ken of human eye. In a hidden
recess screened by an overhanging rock, she sat down, the prey of such
discordant and chaotic thoughts as wear away, in time, the bulwarks of
reason. It was yesterday, no, the day before, no, longer, that he had
called upon God to witness that she alone was dear to him, she only
precious in his sight, and now, how stands the case? Ah, dear God, you
heard him say it! Oh, All-seeing Eye, you have looked upon him this
day, and will not a lightning blast from an indignant Heaven palsy the
false tongue, whose words have no more meaning than loose rubble!

Into the heaviness of these thoughts, growing heavier with access of
bitterness as the moments sped, there came the ringing tones of a
voice--a voice well known to Mell.

Shaking off her lethargy and looking out from her hiding place, she
beheld the object of all these harrowing reflections, grasping Miss
Rutland's two hands in his own, as they together, and laughingly,
descended a precipitous declivity. Once down, they proceeded with
access of laughter, to push their way through a tangle of brushwood.
To get out of this into the beaten path, they must necessarily advance
in the direction of her place of concealment, and, devoured with
jealousy, inflamed with distrust, tortured with the cruel madness of
love, Mell determined to satisfy herself on the spot, as to whether
Jerome's avoidance was premeditated or unintentional. Just as the
couple emerged from their nether difficulties, and stood on clear
ground and firm footing, Mell suddenly stepped forth upon the same
path, confronting them face to face. Miss Rutland did not speak. Mell
knew she would not, although they had attended the same boarding
school for years, lived in the same house, and graduated in the same
class, where Miss Rutland, unlike herself, achieved no distinction of
self-merit; being content to be accounted distinguished through the
sepulchre of a dead father.

Mell did not expect recognition from her in such a place at such a
time; for the neighboring rocks were alive with the best families in
the county, and Clara was one of those feeble brained persons, who
have minds suited to all purposes, save use and knowledge of that kind
which may be put on and off as a movable garment. Such creatures,
tossed about helplessly on the billows of circumstance, keep one
finger on the public pulse, and know you, or know you not, according
to its beat. For all this, Mell cared nothing in that supreme moment.
One swift glance at Clara, and after that every faculty of her mind
and body was centered on Jerome. He was evidently surprised at being
nearly run over by this blustering and blowsy young lady, but beyond
that--nothing. He looked her full in the face, the unknowing look of a
total stranger. The result of this look was to Mell calamitous. A
waving blankness came before her sight, her knees trembled, her
strength seemed poured out like water, and staggering to a tree, she
caught hold of it for support.

"Cut--cut, dead!"

This, after all that had passed between them, was simply brutal. But
the despised and slighted country girl was only momentarily stunned,
not crushed. Out of the throes of her wounded pride and injured
affection, there burst forth the devouring flames of a fiery and
passionate nature, incapable of any luke-warmness in emotion. Her eyes
dilated, her fingers twitched, her face set like a flint, her lip
curled in scorn, and she shook her clenched fist at Jerome's
retreating figure.

"Contemptible coward! Miserable trickster! What have I ever done, that
you should refuse to speak to me in the presence of Clara Rutland?"

Her bosom heaved; she sobbed aloud, and shook her fist again.

"I'll make you sorry for this! I'll get even with you, yet!" Words,
whose fierce earnestness embodied a prophesy, and were followed by a
prayer:

"Oh, God, only give me the power to make him feel it, and I ask no
more! I care not what then befalls me!"

This paroxysm of passion swept over her as a besom of destruction,
leaving her quenched as tow, white, unnerved, quite pitiful and hushed.
She sank to the ground and into a state of semi-unconsciousness.

Some one coming near, some one lifting her into a sitting posture,
some one pouring cold water upon her head, and holding something to
her nose aroused her.

"That's right," said the young fisherman, "open your eyes--open them
wide! It's nobody but me. I wouldn't tell another soul, for I know you
wouldn't want the mischief of a fuss made over it. But how did you
come to pitch over?"

"I did not come to pitch over," said Mell, bewildered, "did I?"

"Of course you did! I had been looking for you for ever so long, and
standing on top there, I happened to look down, and saw you lying
here. And you never will know how scared I was, for, at first, I
thought you were dead. Gad, didn't I make tracks, though, after I got
started! But, drink a little more of this, and now, don't you feel set
up again?"

"Considerably so," said Mell, trying, too, to look set up. He was so
kind, and she, poor, bruised thing, so grateful. This little word,
kind, so often upon the lip--upon yours and mine, and the lips of our
friends, as we encounter them socially on our pilgrimage day by day,
is only at certain epochs in our own lives fully understood, and
deservedly cherished deep down in the heart. And yet, so few of us can
be great, and so many of us could be kind if we would, and oftener
than we are.

"I know just why you toppled," proceeded Mell's kind rescuer.

"But I didn't topple!" again protested Mell.

"Did you fall down on purpose?"

"No. I did not fall at all, as far as I know."

"Exactly! those are the worst kind--the falls you can't tell anything
about."

So they are. Her's had not been far in space--she remembered it all
now, with an acute pang--but, oh, so far in spirit!

"You could walk now a little, couldn't you?"

"I think I could," said Mell.

She got upon her feet with his assistance.

"You are shaky, yet."

"A little shaky," Mell admitted.

"Then take my arm."

She took it, as a wise being takes the inevitable all through life,
submissively, and without saying much about it.

They walked slowly, and the young follower of dear old Ike watched his
companion's every step, with a solicitude bordering on the fatherly.

"What do you suppose I am going to do with you, now?"

She could not imagine.

"Give you something to eat--not that only, make you eat it! I gave you
enough at dinner time, if you had only eaten it, but you left all my
goody-goodies untasted."

"And you unthanked," added Mell, with a ghost of her old smile, and a
_soupçon_ of her old sprightliness.

"No matter about that! Only, I was worried that you could not eat, and
I know the reason why."

Did he? Did he know it? The girl at his side dreaded to hear his next
words.

"Miss Josey had been working you to death all the morning. I saw you
how you stayed around and looked after everything, while Miss Josey
sat on one side with her hands folded. She's good at that! She never
does anything herself but reap all the glory of other people's
successes. The very worst of these picnics is, that a few do all of
the work, and the many all the enjoying. Now, you--_you_ haven't had
much of a time, have you?"

She had not, but no girl in her right mind is going to confess, out
and out, that she hasn't had a good time, even in the Inferno.

"Rather slow, perhaps," answered Mell, putting it as mildly on a
strained case, as the case would bear, "but there's nobody to blame
for it, but myself. If I wasn't such a fool in some respects, I might
have had a--a perfectly gorgeous time. _You_ would have given me all
the good time a girl need to look for."

"But you wouldn't let me!"

"Well, you see," explained Mell, warming with her subject, "I had
promised Miss Josey--"

"Never promise her anything again!"

"I don't think I will! But, as I was saying, I promised her to come
and take Miss Rutland's place--to come for that very purpose, and when
I make a promise, however hard, I'm going to keep it."

"Bravo for you! Not every girl does that."

"Every high-principled girl does." Her tones were severely
uncompromising.

"_Ought to_, you mean," rejoined her companion, with an incredulous
laugh.

"No--_does!_"

Light words, lightly spoken, lightly gone! Alas! How these bubbles of
talk, subtle as air, come back home after a time, to twit us with
scorn, to taunt us with falsity, to impute wrong unto us, to arraign,
to accuse, to denounce, to condemn out of our own lips.

"Here we are," said Mell's companion, still laughing at the idea of a
young woman thinking it necessary to hold tight to her word. "Here we
are. Now sit right down here and rest your head comfortably against
this tree. I'll be back in a twinkling."

So he was, with a plate in his hand filled with edibles, and a bottle
of sparkling wine.

"Eat," commanded this eminently practical young man; "eat and drink.
That's all you need now to fetch you round completely."

This settled the question, and settled it most judiciously and
satisfactorily. The solid food proved a balm of comfort to that
desolate goneness within her, which Mell had wrongly ascribed as due
entirely to the volcanic derangement of her heart; and the strong wine
sped through her veins a draught of health, a cordial to the mind, a
rosy elixir of life.

Mell began to take some interest in her companion and her present
surroundings. She recognized in them a certain claim to her
consideration, and a certain charm. This young stranger was a
gentleman in looks and bearing; he had some manliness in his nature,
nevertheless, (Mell felt down on gentlemen) and a heart as brimming
full of charity as St. Vincent de Paul, himself. He was not ashamed
among all his fine friends, to speak to a simple country girl, who,
destitute of fortune, had nothing to commend her but innate modesty
and God-given beauty. So far from being ashamed, he was ministering to
her wants as no one had ever ministered to them before--as kindly and
courteously as if she were in every respect his equal in social
standing. Jerome would not speak to her, and this gentleman, in her
weakness, held the cup to her lips, and put the food into her mouth
with his own hands.

"I'll pray for him this very night," thought Mell, and moistened the
thought with a grateful tear.

But, long before the edibles were consumed, every vestige of a tear
had disappeared from Mell's eyes, and she was talking back to this
pattern of a gentleman, as few girls of her age knew so well how to
do. The blood rushed back to her pallid cheeks, witchery to her
tongue, magic to her glance.

"Don't be offended," she remarked to him, with enchanting candor,
after they had become the best of friends; "but I did not hear your
name this morning, and I have not the slightest idea who you are."

"Have you the slightest desire to know?"

"Indeed I have! You can't imagine--the very greatest desire!"

"Then let me refresh your memory somewhat. Do you recall a pug-nosed,
freckle-faced, bull-headed youngster, who used to pommel Jim Green
into blue jelly, every time he wanted to lift you over the swollen
creek or carry your school-bag, or--"

"I do; I remember him well. But you--you are not Rube Rutland?"

"Then I wish you'd tell me who I am! I've been thinking I was Rube
Rutland for a good many years now--for I am older than I look."

"And to think I did not know you!" exclaimed Mell.

"And to think I did not know _you!_" exclaimed Rube. "That's what gets
me! I was asking everybody and in all directions who that stunning
girl was, with--"

"Well," inquired Mell, laughing, "with _what?_ I'd like to know what
is stunning about me."

"With the sweetest face I ever looked into."

This reply caused Mell's eyes, intently fixed upon the speaker, to
drop with rare grace to meet the maiden's blush upon her cheek. A
perfectly natural action, it was for that reason and others, a very
effective one.

"When I found out who you were," pursued Rube, studying the face he
had praised, seeing it glorified by his praises, "I fairly froze to
Miss Josey, wanting so much to renew our acquaintance, and when you
had no word of welcome for an old friend, and gave me the cold
shoulder with such a vengeance, I was cut all to pieces over it. Fact!
I couldn't enjoy fishing, and I feel bad yet!"

"You might have known I did not recognize you," said Mell, lifting her
eyes. "I cannot tell you how glad I am, Mr. Rutland."

"_Mr. Rutland!_ It used to Rube."

"And shall be Rube again, if you so desire! Rube, I am just delighted
that you've come back home!"


CHAPTER IV.

EVEN.

So far, she had dallied innocently enough with her old playfellow;
neither seeking to please nor deceive, spreading no nets of
enchantment, nicely baited, to entrap the fancy of this agreeable
young man (rich too), who was as frank in nature and as transparent in
purpose, as physically muscular and daring.

At three o'clock, Miss Josey came to sound the horn for the races, and
the crowd came surging back. Old and young, big and little, the cream
of the county and its yeomanry, a congregation of the mass, a
segregation of the cliques, mounting high into the hundreds. The order
of the Grange was then at the zenith of its fame and power.

The crowd, as we have said, came surging back. The best of the fun was
yet to come. Mell roused herself and looked about her. Here were other
girls with sweet faces, and many of them, as she was aware, possessed
of those heavier charms of worldly substance which oftentimes outweigh
the sweetest of faces. None of them must lure him from her. He should
stick to her, now, come what would. The careless beauty, the ingenuous
and undesigning woman, is immediately transformed into a greedy
monopolist, a wily fox, a cunning serpent, a contriving, intriguing,
manoeuvring strategist, bent upon mischief, who will play a deep game
and stoop to the tricks of the trade, and shift, and dodge, and
shuffle, and aim to bring down, by fair means or foul, the noble
quarry.

Eye, lip, tongue, mind, heart, soul, the graces of youth, the
allurements of beauty, the treasures of a cultivated mind, and all
those sweet mysteries of sense which float in the atmosphere between a
young man and the maiden of his fancy, were put in motion to bear upon
Rube's case.

He did not move; no wonder; gorged on sweets, Rube had neither power
nor inclination to be gone.

After a little, a group of young men stationed themselves at a given
point, not far from where this couple sat. They had been into an
adjacent farm-house and changed their clothes, and now appeared in
knee pants, red stockings, and white jackets, a striking and
interesting accessory to an already animated and glowing landscape. In
this group of picturesque figures Jerome was conspicuous. Jerome
looked well in anything, and generally well to everybody.

Not so, to-day.

To one pair of eyes, not distant, he now loomed up blacker in broad
daylight than the blackest Mephistopheles in a howling Walpurgis
night.

He saw Rube beside her, and she noted his start of surprise.

"Have a care!" cogitated Mell. "There may be surprises in store for
you--greater than this and not so easily brooked."

She turned her back upon him and gave her whole attention again to
Rube. The first duty of a woman is to respect herself, the second duty
of a woman is to enforce the respect of others. Some of these days
Jerome Devonhough would be only too glad if she would deign to permit
him to speak to her.

"Aren't you going to take part?" she asked her companion.

"No; I'm not in trim, and it's no use trying to beat Devonhough."

"_You_ could beat him," said she. She spoke with confidence and
seductively.

"You are awfully complimentary, I declare! Do you wish me to run,
Melville?"

"I do. Yes, Rube, I wish it particularly. Why should this stranger
carry off the palm over our own boys?"

"For the best of reasons. He deserves to carry it off. Devonhough can
out-run, out-leap, out-ride, out-do anything in the county."

"Except _you_," again insinuated Mell.

"Say! what makes you believe so strong in me?"

"Nothing makes me, but--I cannot help it!"

At this point, dear reader, if you are a man, and happily neither
blind, nor deaf, nor over eighty years of age, take Rube's seat for a
moment, at Mell's feet. Let her tell you in the sweetest tones, that
she cannot help believing in you strong--let her bend upon you a
glance sweeter than the tones, stronger than the words, and then say,
honestly, don't you feel, as Rube did at this juncture, mighty queer?

Under the spell, her victim stirred--he lifted himself slowly toward
her, inquiring in a low voice, but with intense energy:

"Melville, are you fooling me?"

"Fooling you!" she ejaculated, in soft reproach. "Would I fool you,
Rube? Is that your opinion of _me_? You think, then--but tell me,
Rube, why do you think so?--that those early days are less dear to me
than to you--their memory less sweet?"

"I have thought so," murmured he in great agitation, "because I have
not dared to think otherwise--_until now_."

And into his great soul there entered, then and there, the ineffable
beatitude of the true believer.

Oh, wicked, wicked Mell! One little hour ago, and you had forgotten
his very existence! Is the Recording Angel, who stands above your head
up there, off duty, that you should dare to do it? Or, will it help
your case in the day of reckoning, that deception foul as this, has
been raised by clever women into the dignity of a fine art, and goes
on among them all the while, as inexpugnable as an Act of Congress?

"Melville, I will run this race--run it to please you."

"I knew you would! And believe me, Rube, nothing could please me
more."

"Suppose I should win," said Rube, "what then?"

"You will be the hero of the day, and--" Mell halted very prettily,
but finally brought it out in sweet confusion, "and maybe _I_ would
wear a crown."

"By my troth, you shall! But what of me? I take no stock in crowns
like that. If I should win, Mell, may I name my own reward?"

"You may."

"It will be a big one."

"The man who runs and wins generally gets a big one."

"But understand my meaning, Mell, understand it perfectly. I do not
want the shadow of a doubt to rest upon this matter. Who shall decide
when lovers disagree?"

He had been toying with a twig broken from a flowering bay; it was
stripped of foliage, save a few green leaves at the end, and with this
he lightly touched the dimpled hand reposing upon her lap.

"_That_ is what I would ask. Will you give it to me, Mell, if I win
the race?"

Mell trembled violently, but she said "yes."

That was natural enough. When a woman says yes, it is time to tremble.
Even Rube knew that.

"You mean it? It is a solemn promise! One of those promises you always
keep!"

Again Mell trembled violently--worse than before, and again said
"yes."

That barely audible yes, had scarcely died upon her white lips when
Rube sprang to his feet, and casting off his fawn colored flannel
jacket and light waist-coat, tossed them in a careless heap upon the
ground at her feet. Divested of those outer garments, the symmetrical
curves of his young manhood, and the irregular curves of his honest
face showed up to great advantage in white linen and a necktie--the
latter a very _chic_ article of its kind, consisting of blazoned
monstrosities of art, in bright vermillion on a background of
white--blood on snow.

"You must excuse my shirt-sleeves," said Rube, during the process of
disrobing. "I have no costume, so must do the best I can under the
circumstances."

He next made off with his suspenders, and began tugging at his shirt
in an alarming fashion.

"What are you going to do?" interrogated Mell, with a horrified
expression. "You are not going to--"

"No," said Rube, laughing, and coloring too. "I'm not going to take it
off. I'm only going to--" tugging all the while--"make myself into a
sailor boy, or flowing Turk, or a loose Brave, or a something or
other, to keep pace with those brocaded Templars, Hospitallers, and
Knights of the Golden Fleece over there. Come, now, can't you fix a
fellow up?"

"Fix a fellow up?" echoed Mell, helplessly. She never had 'fixed a
fellow up,' and she knew less about it than the sacred writings of
Zoroaster.

"Yes," said Rube. "Give me those ribbons you've got on--fix me up, put
your colors on me, don't you see?"

Mell did see at last, and greatly relieved, proceeded to do his
bidding. The sash from her own supple waist was deftly transferred to
his, and a knot of ribbons at her throat, after many trials, was
finally disposed of to their mutual liking.

"Now, don't I look as well as any of 'em?" inquired the improvised
knight, quite carried away with the fixing-up process.

"As well, and better," she assured him.

"Well, then," he held out his hand to her, "let us seal the compact.
If I win, Melville----"

"Yes," said Mell, hurriedly.

"But if I fail."

"You _cannot_ fail, not if you love me!" She spoke impatiently, and
with flashing eyes. "A one-legged man could not, if he loved me! Love
finds a way, and love which cannot find a way is not love."

"Enough," said Rube, below his breath. "You will know whether I love
you or not."

Their hands were still clasped together in bond, until, perceiving
they had become a subject of curiosity to those about them, Rube at
length allowed Mell to withdraw hers, whereupon he turned off with a
light laugh; that proficuous little laugh, which amid life's
thick-coming anxieties, great and small, serves so many turns, and
turns so many ways, and covers up within us so much that is no
laughing matter.

Rube laughed and mingled with the crowd.

"Come out of that!" shouted an urchin. It was the signal for a regular
broadside of raillery and chaff from the pestiferous small boy, a
many-tongued volume out of print, and circulating in open space at the
rate of a thousand editions to the minute.

Nothing abashed, amid groans and jeers, and gibes, and hoots, Rube
took his place with the others, the only make-shift knight among
them.

"For pity's sake, look at Rube," exclaimed Miss Rutland, "actually in
his shirt sleeves? Rube, don't! You are not in costume, and you spoil
the artistic effect."

"Look sharp," came Rube's laughing reply, "or I'll spoil the artistic
result, also."

"Don't get excited over the prospect," commented Jerome, nodding his
head reassuringly at Miss Rutland, "there's not the remotest cause for
alarm."

Miss Rutland sat on a tub turned bottom side up, which had served its
purposes in lemonade. Jerome took his ease on a wagon-body, also
turned bottom side up, which had served its purposes as a table. Such
are the phases of a picnic--and one picnic has more phases than all of
Jupiter's moons.

"The tortoise," pursued Jerome, now turning his attention more
particularly to Rube, "is a remarkable animal, but like thee, oh
friend of my soul, 'thou drone, thou snail, thou slug,' not much on a
run. How much is it I can beat thee, Rube, every time and without
trying--three lengths?"

"Just you keep quiet," retorted Rube. "The man so sure, let him look
to himself; the man who blows, let him beware! In all our trials at
speed there never was before anything to win, and I'm a fellow who
can't run to beat where there's nothing to win."

"A tremendous issue is involved on the present occasion," announced
Jerome in withering scorn. "A lot of paper flowers strung on a piece
of wire to stick on a girl's head, and when it's all over and done, I
don't know who feels most idiotic or repentant, the girl who wears 'em
or the fellow who won 'em. I've been there! I know. I hope a more
enduring crown than this perishable travesty will fall to my lot!"

"So do I!" prayed Rube aloud, and with devoutness.

"Oh, Rutland, Rutland!" exclaimed his friend, going off into an
uncontrollable fit of laughter. "There isn't anything in this
wide world half so deliciously transparent as your intentions,
unless--unless," subjoined Jerome, as soon as he could again
command his voice, "unless it be Miss Josey's juvenility."

"Hush laughing," said Rube, drawing near and speaking low. "See here,
Devonhough, you don't care the snap of your finger about this affair;
you've said as much; so hold back, dear old fellow, won't you? Give me
a chance!"

"Ha! ha! ha!" roared Jerome, again going off. "'_Dear old fellow._'
That's rich! Very dear old fellow, never so dear before!"

"Oh, go along with you," responded Rube crossly. "Go to the devil
until you can stop laughing!"

He was about to turn off in high dudgeon, when Jerome with an effort
pulled himself together and soberly considered the subject. "Hold on,
then! I'd like to oblige you Rutland, of course I would, but there's
Clara! She expects me to--"

"Hang Clara!" said Rube, with the natural unfraternalness of a
brother.

"That's what I propose to do," answered Jerome. "Hang her with a
wreath!"

"Don't!" again pleaded Rube. "Not this time. If you just won't,
I'll--"

"Rub-a-dub-dub!" beat the drum.

"Into place!" shouted a stentorian voice.

"Ready?"

"One--two--Boom!"

They were off in fine style, Jerome quickly showing the lead, and Rube
gaining gradually upon him towards the middle of the course. To one
spectator it was more interesting than the sword-dance, more exciting
than a steeple-chase. But the eager spectators at the starting place
could see very little beyond a certain point, owing to the crowd of
boys and men which lined the sides of the track and closed up as the
runners passed. They could hear vociferous yelling and screaming,
sometimes the outcry, "Devonhough ahead!" and then, again, "Hurrah for
Rutland!" and, at the last, a tremendous whooping and cheering and
clapping of hands, in which no name was at first distinguishable.
Then, amid the unbounded enthusiasm of the multitude, the victor was
lifted above the heads of the crowd and brought back in triumph.

Mell had scarcely moved from the spot where Rube left her. She had
had some time for reflection, and had profited by it, to such an
extent, that she now felt quite miserable. That was the way with Mell,
and continues to be the way with Mell's kind. They make a practice of
hitching together the cart of Unthought and the sure-footed beast
Think-twice; the cart in front, the horse in the rear; and if, under
such circumstances the poor brute, nine times out of ten, lands his
living freight into very hot water, too hot for their tender feelings,
who is to blame for it?

Some very strange thoughts coursed through the girl's mind. Now,
suppose it was Rube seated up there on the heads of an idolizing
populace, and it became incumbent upon her to fulfill that promise so
rashly and foolishly given, could she do it? No! No! She would rather
live a thousand years and scratch an old maid's head every hour in all
those years, than marry Rube Rutland!

It made her sick to think about it; every nerve in her body recoiled;
every good instinct within her lifted up a dissentient voice.

"Can't you see who it is?" She inquired hoarsely of her nearest
neighbor, a much be-banged girl, who peered above the crowd from the
top of a dry-goods box, with the cute expression of a fluffy-faced
puppy, "Can't you see?"

"Not distinctly yet, but I think it is that young stranger, Rube
Rutland's friend; I'm pretty sure it is."

"Thank God!" muttered Mell. She was ambitious, but she was not yet the
hardened thing that ambition makes.

"My goodness!" suddenly exclaimed the girl on the box. "It isn't that
strange young man! It is Rube Rutland! I can see him distinctly now.
Oh, how glad I am! It is Rube Rutland, boys." "Rutland forever!"
shouted back the boys.

In all that big crowd there was but one heart not glad. Rube was in
the house of his friends, the other a stranger. County pride, State
pride, local prejudice, all sided with Rube. Jerome was an alien. He
had come there to beat "our boys," and one of our boys had beaten him.
Huzza! Huzza! Shout the victory!

They did shout it with a noise whose loudness was enough to bring down
the roof of heaven. Never had there been such a victory at a Grange
picnic before.

Deafened by the noise Mell slunk back into the wood. All color forsook
her face once more. She had played for high stakes, this ambitious
girl; she had won her game, and in the winning cursed her own folly
and realized with a pang of unspeakable bitterness, that a victory for
which one pays too dear a price is the worst kind of defeat.

Released from the well-meant persecutions of his many admirers, Rube
asked for his coat and things, and a fan, and was next subjected to a
statement from the master of ceremonies.

"With this wreath," explained that individual, "you may crown the lady
of your choice, crown her queen of Love and Beauty, and it will be her
prerogative to award the other prizes won on this occasion. Who is the
fortunate lady?"

Every woman in hearing distance held her breath, every man opened wide
his ears.

"Miss Mellville Creecy."

"Whom did he say?" queried Miss Josey, tremendously excited and not
quite certain she had heard aright. Miss Josey was nibbling at a
peach; she nibbled no more. Though blessed with an excellent appetite,
Miss Josey in her hungriest moment was more eager to hear something
new than eat something nice.

"Did you say Mell, Rube?"

"I did," said Rube.

It struck the crowd speechless. What? Rube Rutland, the son of an
ex-Governor, an ex-Judge, an ex-Senator, dead now, but dead with all
his titles on him; Rube Rutland, the greatest catch in the State,
going to crown Mellville Creecy, daughter of that old ignoramus who
made "fritters" of the King's English, and dug potatoes, and hoed
corn, and ploughed in the fields with his own hands? The thing was
preposterous! It was a thing, too, to be resented by his friends and
equals.

Miss Rutland drew her brother aside.

"Rube, you cannot mean it! You surely have some sense! A little, if
not much! You can't crown that obscure girl with the cream of the
county, your own personal friends, all around you."

"Can't I?" said Rube. "I can and _will!_ The cream of the county may
go to--anywhere." Rube closed up blandly: "I will not limit them in
their choice of locations. That would be not only ungenerous but
ungentlemanly."

"Rube," persisted Miss Rutland, "do listen to reason. What will mother
say? What will everybody say?"

"Say what they darned please!"

Rube was first of all a freeborn American--secondly, an aristocrat.

"What's the use of being somebody if you've got to knuckle down to
what people say?"

"But you are not obliged to crown anybody," insinuated Clara. "Rather
than crown this low-born girl, make some one your proxy. Jerome
would--"

"Oh, I have no doubt, with pleasure! You are a deep one, Clara, but
you'll wear no crown this day. Might as well give it up."

So she perceived, and turned off in a rage, first informing him that
he always had been, and always would be an unconscionable ass.

"You have fully decided, then?" questioned the master of ceremonies.
"I have," Rube told him, beginning to get put out. Pretty Mell might
well have been a scare-crow, such consternation had she created
amongst them all. "I decided some time ago. Will it be necessary for
me to mount a tree-top and blow a clarion blast before I can make you
all understand that I am going to crown Mellville Creecy, and nobody
else?"

"Certainly not, certainly not," hastily replied the master of
ceremonies. He too was disappointed; he had a sister. Was there ever a
man in power who didn't have a sister?--who didn't have a good many,
all wanting crowns?

"Will you make a speech?"

"Nary speech," declared Rube, laughing. "I'm not so swift in my tongue
as my legs! See here, Cap'n, there's no occasion for an unnecessary
amount of tomfoolery about this thing. Some gentleman bring Miss
Creecy forward. I'll put this gewgaw on her in a jiffy, and that'll be
the end of it!"

Rube smiled softly to himself. That was very far from being the end of
it.

"Mell! Mell!" screamed Miss Josie, running up to her _protegé_, the
bearer of astonishing news, "you don't know what's going to happen!
You'd never guess it! Rube is going to crown you, my pretty darling!
You are to be queen of Love and Beauty."

"But, I'd rather not," said Mell, drawing back.

"Rather not?" screamed Miss Josey. "Did anybody ever before hear of a
woman who would rather not be a queen--a queen in the hearts of men?"

"I don't see how you can help it," continued Miss Josey. Mell did not,
either, alas! "But I don't wonder you feel a little frightened about
it. It is such a wonderful thing for Rube to do: but Rube has two eyes
in his head, Rube has, and knows the prettiest girl in the county when
he sees her! This thing is going to be the making of you, Mell (rather
say the undoing, Miss Josey) so don't be so frightened, but hold your
head high, and bear your honors bravely, and remember all eyes are
upon you. The rest of the girls are fairly dying with envy, don't
forget that!"

This last remark brought Mell to her senses. Not one of them but would
gladly stand where she stood--gladly put themselves in her shoes if
they could. Rube was not a mate, as mating goes, to be met with every
day in the year. The sugared point of this timely suggestion served
Miss Josey's purpose effectually. It stilled the wild throbbing in the
girl's heart, brought the blood back to her face, and turned the
purple of such wondrous hue in her eyes, to the softest black; with
intensity of gratification, Jerome himself was forgotten for the
nonce.

Miss Josey, still in a flutter of delight, now proceeded to put on her
sash, to replace the knot of ribbons at her throat, to pass her hands
assuagingly across Mell's wilderness of frolicsome hair, and to put an
extra touch or two to her simple toilette generally; whispering words
of stimulation and encouragement all the while.

Thoroughly put to rights, Miss Josey placed the girl's hand into that
of a very grand personage--the president of the Grange, in fact--who
led her gallantly to the spot selected for the coronation ceremonies.
There stood the hero of the day. He advanced a step or two as she drew
near, he bowed low, and then in a distinct voice with a somewhat
heightened color, but in his usual simple, straightforward manner,
said: "Miss Creecy, I beg you will do me the honor to accept this
trophy of my victory."

Miss Creecy silently bowed her head; he placed the wreath upon it, and
lo! what has become of our rustic maiden? She is a Queen!

Nevertheless, she immediately fell back again into Miss Josey's hands,
who hastened to push the crown this way and then that,--forward a
little, and then backward a little--just one barley-corn this side and
just one the other; until the magical spot of perfect-becomingness
having been reached, she wisely let it be. As soon as the crowd caught
sight of this bright splendor of yellow hair, surmounted by a wreath
of flowers, the shouting and yelling re-commenced; and when it was
passed with electric swiftness from mouth to mouth, that the head of
the Rutland family, the owner of an honored name and a big estate, had
chosen for his queen, not the daughter of a rich planter or a great
statesman, but a child of the yeomanry, a ripple of intense excitement
flashed through the multitude, and enthusiasm knew no bounds.

"Rutland for the people, and the people for Rutland!" was the joyous
outpouring of the common heart. A sentiment which only subsided
occasionally, to be renewed with increased vigor and manifold cheers.

"I see your game," said the secretary of the Grange to Rube, with a
sly wink. "You are going to run for the Legislature?"

"Your penetration surprises me," returned Rube with a laugh. "What a
pity the voting couldn't be done now; I'd be willing to risk a couple
of thousand on my own election, if it could!"

"It's awfully becoming to her, isn't it?" inquired Jerome, speaking to
Clara, and referring to the crown which sat upon the queen's head.

"I don't think so," returned Clara, "not in the least becoming. It
doesn't suit the color of her hair."

"Sure enough! I had forgotten that. We bought it to suit yours, didn't
we? It is too bad! but never mind; we'll come in for the second prize,
certain."

"Not I!" exclaimed Clara, with a toss of her head. "It is first or
none with me. There is something mean, little, contemptible, about a
second prize, just like all second-rate things! Having failed in
securing the first, were I in your place, I would not try for the
second."

And she left him, much angered.

"Whew!" softly whistled Jerome. "It strikes me that what pleases one
woman, doesn't please another. Why is that? It also strikes me that
it's no use trying to please any of 'em. A man can't; not unless he
converts himself into a sort of synchronous multiplex machine, and
tries seventy-five different ways all at once."

The stream of people now poured in one direction,--towards royalty.
Queens differ; but there is a something about every one of them which
fetches the crowd. While this one stood hemmed in on all sides, an
object of curiosity to all classes and conditions, all eager for a
sight of her, some eager to be made known to her, others wanting to
catch a look, a word, a smile, Mell heard some one at her elbow say,
softly:

"Mellville."

Turning, she confronted Jerome. In a flash, her whole appearance
changed. The moment before she had been a gracious sovereign,
accepting with queenly grace the homage of her loyal subjects. Now,
she was an outraged monarch jealous of her rank, standing on her
dignity.

"How dare you, sir!" asked Mell, eyeing him haughtily and drawing
herself up to her fullest height. "How dare you to speak to me! How
dare you touch me! I have not the honor of your acquaintance, sir!"

Jerome was undeniably astonished; but this was not the time, not the
place to indulge in a feeling of astonishment, or to make an
exhibition of himself or her.

"Your Majesty," said Jerome, with his characteristic coolness, "will
graciously pardon me. The crowd is great, it pressed heavily upon all
sides and I have not been able to resist it."

He fell back at once, and Mell bowed, just as if nothing had happened,
to the gentleman, whom the master of ceremonies was in the act of
introducing to her.

In the crush, Jerome encountered Rube. He had been called off on some
matter under discussion among those running the shebang--Rube's way of
putting it--and was now endeavoring to push his way back to Mell.

"How-do, old fellow?" said Jerome, by way of congratulation.

"Tip-top!" said Rube, by way of thanks, and seizing his friend's hand
he wrung it as if his intention was to wring it clean off. "You're a
trump!"

"Don't mention it!" begged Jerome. He began to laugh again. For some
reason the whole thing was excessively amusing to Jerome.

"But I _will_ mention it," persisted Rube. "I'll thank you for it to
my dying day. It was so self-sacrificing on your part, considering
everything."

"Oh, was it?" exclaimed his companion, choking down his risibles.
"Well--ah--I don't exactly feel it that way. A mere trifle."

"Not to me," declared Rube.

"Perhaps not to me, either," conceded Jerome, looking on the subject
more seriously. "For Clara--"

"You can patch up Clara," Rube suggested, soothingly.

"Do you think so? It's a rankling _casus belli_ at present, I can tell
you! But how about your rustic beauty, eh, Rube? Is she pleased? Does
she like it?"

"Pleased? Like it? You bet she does! She's delighted!"

"No one has introduced me yet," Jerome next remarked, quite
incidentally. "And I am sure if her Gracious Majesty smiles upon any
of her loyal subjects it ought to be me."

"That's so! So come right along now." They reached her side.

"Mell, here's the very best fellow in the world," said Rube, out of
the fullness of his heart, forgetting the prescribed forms of
etiquette in the absorption of warm feeling.

Mell had noted their approach. She was not taken unawares. She bent
her head slightly to the newcomer, she looked him over for a whole
minute, it seemed, before she opened her lips and said:

"How do you do, Mr. Very-Best-Fellow-in-the-World?"

Those near enough to hear roared with laughter, for the young queen's
manner made the whole thing so absurdly funny; and perhaps there is
nothing a crowd so much enjoys as the taking down of a person whom
they regard in the light of one much needing to be taken down.

"His name is Devonhough," Rube hastened to explain, not relishing the
laugh against his friend at this particular time by his particular
fault. "Mr. Devonhough, Miss Creecy. He is my very best friend, Mell.
Shake hands with him."

Mell did so; but without the faintest glimmering of a smile, and with
such glacial dignity as fairly charged the atmosphere with iciness.
Not content with this, she met all his subsequent efforts to cultivate
her acquaintance with the briefest and chilliest repulses.

Rube was much concerned. He saw dimly that his best friend had not,
somehow, made a favorable impression upon his future wife; but he
could not tell the why or wherefore. While he wondered within him what
he could do to put things on a pleasanter footing between them,
someone else demanded his attention.

"See here," said Jerome, as soon as Rube's back was turned. "I hope
you now consider me sufficiently punished. I hope you feel even. I
hope you won't treat me to any more state airs. I am tired of them.
Your Majesty, let me tell you something. Mark well my words. It is to
me, not Rube, you owe your present exaltation."

"_To you!_"

The unsmiling countenance now broke into a ripple of scorn.

"What a ridiculous thing for you to say!"

"The whole thing has been ridiculous," said Jerome. "I never in my
whole life ever enjoyed anything so much. 'Tis the one grain of truth
which gives point to the ridiculous. Think of Rube, dear fellow, so
anxious to crown you, knowing nothing, suspecting nothing, begging me
not to run fast, and I, so ten thousand times more anxious than he
could possibly be, to have you crowned."

"_You?_"

"Yes. _Me!_ Don't you know, in your heart, Mellville, that I wanted
you crowned?"

"No, I know nothing of the kind! When a man wants a thing done, he
does it with his own hand; when he does not want it done, or cares
not much about it, he does it with another man's hand. Had you been
anxious you would not have left it to Rube."

"But with that wreath in my own hand, Mell, I was morally bound to put
it upon another head."

"Ah, indeed! Why?"

Jerome did not answer immediately. When he did, it was with averted
eyes, and with some impatience, and not in reply to her first question
at all, but her quick repetition of his own words, "Morally bound,
eh?"

"Yes, Mellville. You forget I am a guest in her mother's house."

"I do not forget it! I remember it every hour in the whole twenty-four;
but does that make it incumbent upon you to ignore me? Jerome, look me
in the face. What is Clara Rutland to you?"

"Nothing!" exclaimed he, savagely, between compressed lips. "Less than
nothing! A hundred times to-day I have wished her at the bottom of--"

"There! No use to send her there _now_. It's too late!"

The knowledge of what she had done, the wretchedness she saw it was
destined to entail upon her, all this while couchant like a wild beast
within her, now uprose into her expressive features. Jerome was struck
with it.

"What do you mean?" he asked.

"You will know soon enough," she responded.

He stooped to pick up the handkerchief she had dropped, and in
restoring it, his hand, so cool and steady, came in contact with hers,
so hot and tremulous; it touched and lingered, lingered long, and
clung in a tender pressure; while a voice so low and firm, a voice,
oh! so faint and sweet, stole its way into her ear, murmuring but one
word, one little, fond word, which moved her in the strangest way,
which thrilled, yet soothed her. Cooler than snow it fell upon her
burning cheeks, warmer than a sunbeam into her freezing heart. That
little game with Rube passed out of her memory.

But looking up all too soon, she saw him. He smiled upon her. He was
glad to see that she and Devonhough were getting along quite
pleasantly.

"I wish you would go away!" she suddenly exclaimed, turning upon her
companion rudely. "Go back to Clara Rutland! You have no business
here! I do not believe a word you have said to me! I yet fail to
comprehend why a man may not be the master of his own actions."

"Heigh-ho!" sighed Jerome. "Just so it is in life. Just as a man
begins to think he has put everything in order, and settled the
question, here comes chaos again. You do not understand that,
Mell? Well, I will tell you. Every man has a master--circumstance. On
my side, I am surprised that you, with all your quickness of
apprehension, have not been able to see clearer and deeper into this
subject. You ought to have known, you must have felt that I had
some good reason for acting towards you as I have to-day. Have you
been true to your promise to trust me--and trust me blindly? I fear
not. You have been cruelly angry with me ever since this morning,
when I dared not speak."

"And why was it that you dared not speak?" demanded Mell, her lip
curling contemptuously, but with a tremolo movement in her voice.
"Does it then require some courage for a man, in your position to
speak to a poor girl like me? Rube does not think so."

"With Rube it is different."

"_It is_, very different. There is no false pride about Rube."

"And I hope there is none about me. But, Mell, you do not in the least
understand my position."

"I know as much about it as I care to know. Henceforth, Mr.
Devonhough, let us be strangers."

"We can never be strangers," said Jerome. He was growing earnest; he
spoke very low and with that rapidity of utterance which accompanies
excited feelings. "This no time nor place, Mell, for such an
explanation; but here, and now, I will make it. I cannot longer exist
under the ban of your displeasure. Know then, dear, that I would not
speak to you this morning for your own sweet sake--not mine. I was
driven to it to protect your good name, and keep you out of the mouths
of those shallow-pated creatures, who have nothing else to talk about
but other people's failings. Had Clara Rutland once seen me speak to
you--had she for one moment suspected the least acquaintance between
us, that hydra-headed monster, Curiosity, would have lifted its
unpitying voice in a hundred awkward questions: 'How did you come to
know Mell Creecy? Where did you meet her? Who introduced you to her?'
And so on to the end of a long chapter. I did not wish to say, for
your sake, that I had never met you anywhere but in a cornfield. I did
not wish to say, for your sake, that we had became acquainted in a
very delightful, but by no means conventional, manner. I have thought
it best, all along, to keep the fact of our acquaintance in the
background, until we were brought together in some way perfectly
legitimate and customary. Always for your sake, dear, not mine. Now
you know in part; to-morrow I will make a clean breast of all my
difficulties; so disperse these clouds, and give me one sweet look ere
I go."

Instead of that, Mell swallowed a lump in her throat which felt as
big as her head. She studiously avoided, for the rest of the day,
any further speech with Jerome. His explanation was plausible
enough on its face; but Mell was in no condition of mind to draw
conclusions which might stand the test of reason, or be satisfactorily
demonstrated on geometrical principles; and nothing that Jerome
could say was now calculated to act as a sedative on Mell's nerves.
She kept whispering to herself, "He feels it, yes, he feels it;"
and thus nourished the firmness and the bravado necessary to her in
the further requirements of her high position. She needed it all, and
more, when it came to bestowing upon Jerome a handsome pair of
spurs, as the second prize of the day. Certainly he cared for her,
or why this glow on his clear-cut face, or why this light in his
speaking eyes now bent upon her. Mell turned her head quickly.

"I can't understand why you don't like Devonhough," Rube remarked,
noticing the movement. "I think it odd. He carries things with a high
hand among the girls, I can tell you. Most all of 'em are dead in love
with him."

"And do you wish me added to the list?" interrogated Mell, finding
herself in a tight place, and hardly knowing how to get out of it.

"Well, no; I don't!" laughed Rube, much appreciating the sly humor of
the question.

By seven o'clock the day's festivities were concluded; and then ensued
a melting of all hostile elements into a homogeneous mass, all
ravenous after iced-lemonade and home-made cake, and a heterogeneous
devouring of the same; after which, the crowd, well pleased, but
pretty well fagged out, turned their faces homeward, under a sun still
shining, but shorn of its hottest beams.

No one will gainsay the statement that our heroine has made great
social strides in one summer's day. In the morning a simple country
girl, poor in pocket, humble in rank, unknown in society, seated
beside Miss Josey in the little pony phaeton, full of fair hopes and
inspirations; in the evening the affianced wife of the best-born and
most eligible young man in the county; returning to the old farm-house
in grand style, leaning back on soft cushions, beside her future lord,
in a flashy open carriage drawn by a ravishing pair of high mettled
roans.

Ambitious, indeed, must be that girl not satisfied with this wonderful
result of one single operation in matrimonial stocks. And yet Mell is
not happy. She forgets to give heed to what Rube is saying; she
forgets almost to answer him back; so full of regret is she for her
own lost self. She had had a thousand longings to get out of her old
self, and out of her old life, and now, on the threshold of a new
existence, Mell finds herself with only one desire--just to get back
where she came from. If only she could--oh! if only she could, most
gladly would this lately crowned queen have relinquished the glories
of empire, the spoils of captive hearts, the trophies of social
triumphs, the high emprise of a brilliant future, only to be simple
Mell once more.

Ah, poor Mell! Not for sale now. Sold!


CHAPTER V.

PLAYERS ON A STAGE.

Now, then, here is Thursday. Jerome had said: "You will be on hand
without fail, Mell; and so will I, and so will something else."

"But that something else," moaned the hapless Mell, bowed down and
heart-stricken, "will never be on hand again in the meadow for me, nor
anywhere else."

Saddest of all, she had herself laid the axe to the root of her own
happiness; she had baited her own hook and caught a big fish; she had
provoked her own doom, and herself sealed it.

Rube was not to blame.

And Jerome--he had made out a good case. Had he loved her less he
would, perhaps, have acted differently.

She had digged a pitfall for her own occupation; and of all
comfortless and stony places, such pitfalls as this make the hardest
lying.

Out in the narrow hall, on its own particular peg, hung Mell's white
sun-bonnet. She took it down and put it on her head, and walked slowly
to the top of the hill. With no intention of going to the meadow
herself, her feelings demanded that she should find out if Jerome was
there.

He was, strolling moodily to and fro, in deep thought.

He knows now. Rube has told him. He despises her to-day, and yesterday
he had loved her. Look at him down there in the meadow! a beam from
the sun, a breath from the hills, a part of the morning, the most
glorious expression of nature in all nature's glory! Observe how he
walks! Note how he stands still! Most men know how to walk, and most
men know how to stand still, after a fashion; but not after Jerome's
fashion. In motion, Jerome is a poem set a-going; standing still, he
is grace doing nothing. He can lift one hand, and in that ordinary act
sow the seed of a dozen beautiful fancies; he can wield such mastery
over the physical forces of expression as has wondrous potency to sway
the emotions of others.

So she thought; so she stood, hidden herself from sight, but with the
meadow in full view; and while so thinking, and so standing, drinking
him in with every breath, feeding upon him with her eyes, devouring
him with her soul, she, the affianced wife of another!

Oh, wicked Mell!

Jerome grows impatient; he looks at his watch, and turns inquiringly
towards the hill; and Mell flies back to the house as if pursued by
fiery dragons. For if he but caught sight of her, if he but crooked
his finger at her, she would go down there, and then--what then?

Mell was not blind to her own weakness. The afternoon brought Rube,
overwhelmingly happy, overwhelmingly devoted. She must take an airing
with him in his brand new buggy; and while they scoured the country
round about, Rube was making diligent inquiry as to how soon they
might get married. Mell caught her breath, and, in the same breath, at
a possible reprieve.

"Won't you give me a little time to think?" she pleaded. "It has come
so sudden!"

"Hasn't it, though!" cried happy Rube. "Do you half realize the romance
of the thing, Mellville? 'Tis like a page out of Knight-Errantry, the
days of lances and standards, and blood-thrilling adventures, when
warriors in steel swore by the Holy-rood, and won fair women's
smiles by deeds of valor--something very unlike the prosaic happenings
of this practical modern life. But yesterday a wandering pilgrim, to-day
I have found a shrine. ''Tis a dream!' I thought, when I opened my
eyes this morning, 'a dream, too sweet to be true! Rube, old fellow,'
I said to myself, 'you've got something to live for now. You must
look to your ways and improve upon the old ones. There's a dear little
hand that belongs to you; there's a pair of blue eyes to watch for
your coming; there's a sweet little woman who believes in you, God bless
her! For her sake I will run the race of life like a man; for her
sweet sake I will win it!'"

This was the time for Mell to speak. She wanted to speak, but--she did
not. There were just exactly six reasons why she did not.

Here they are, all in a row:

Reason Number One.--She was not quite sure of Jerome--quite sure,
perhaps, in regard to his affections, but not his intentions. Love is
much, but not everything, and a lover surrounded by difficulties is
not to be depended upon matrimonially.

Number Two.--She was as resolutely bent upon getting out of this mean,
sordid life as ever, and what way was there but this way?

Number Three.--Rube was rich, and Rube's wife would be rich, too. For
her part, she was sick and tired of poverty. Poverty, in a world
governed by wealth, is the most unpardonable sin in that world's
decalogue.

Number Four.--Rube was in "society," and what ambitious woman ever yet
saved her soul outside the magic circle of society?

Number Five.--Rube was an aristocrat, and Rube's wife would be _ex
necessitate rei_, an aristocrat also. Her Creator, she believed, had
intended her for an aristocrat; otherwise why had He endowed her with
intellect, beauty, and the power to sway men's passions?

Number Six.--The fact that she did not love Rube had, in reality,
nothing to do with Rube's eligibility as a husband. He would make a
very good one, an infinitely better one than none at all!

Of course, she would be paying a tremendous price for all these
worldly advantages. Mell was aware of that all the while, but after
deducting from the gross weight of their true value the real or
approximate weight of their possible evils and disadvantages, she
would undoubtedly still be getting the best of a good bargain.

What is life but an enigmatical offset of losses and gain--so much
gain on the one hand, so much loss on the other? And what was this
transaction between herself and Rube but a repetition, under a
somewhat different formula, of those mathematical problems worked out
on her slate at school? It was all very simple.

Young woman, if you were in Mell's place; if you had six good reasons
for not telling the man you are about to marry that you did not care a
straw about him, wouldn't you hold your peace?

Then cast no stones at Mell.

Mell _was_ deeply moved by Rube's words, but not deep enough to damage
her future prospects. And since a woman has very poor prospects
outside of matrimony, ought we not to excuse her for attending closely
to business?

At all events, although Mell's thoughts were heavy, and her soul
stirred within her, and her thick breathing almost stifled in a
painful sense of guilt, she did not say a word. Feeling that Rube's
eyes were fixed upon her, she raised to him her own, suffused in
tears; an answer which fully satisfied her companion. From which it
will appear that a woman may weep for the man she takes in--weep, and
yet keep on taking him in.

And what can a man do? How could Rube tell that it was the hidden
pathos of his own groundless faith, and not a feeling of sympathetic
affection, which brought such softness of expression into that girl's
luminous orbs?

If the actual is the only true thing, and amounts to everything, as it
really does in the school of Realism, there is still one difficulty to
be encountered--to get hold of the actual. He who aspires to find out
the actual, where a woman is concerned, must get himself another kind
of eye, one whose vision is introspective and able to penetrate into
that mysterious element in a clever woman's nature which enables her
so successfully to clothe the Not-True in the beautiful garments of
Truth.

Rube Rutland felt uncertain about a good many things--his own strength
under temptation, his mother's consent to this marriage, Clara's
temper, the great sea serpent, the Pope's infallibility, the man in
the Iron Mask, and many a cock-and-bull story beside, but he never
once doubted Mell Creecy's love, the purest myth among them all.

He came, after this, every day to the little house upon the hill, and
had it out "comferterble in the parler," as old man Creecy had advised
Jerome to do. He courted with the enthusiasm of an incorrigible
faddist over a new fad; and no lover of those olden days of which he
had spoken, when goodly knights tilted in the jousts of arms, and won
fair lady's favor with deeds of prowess, ever yet surpassed a modern
mighty man with a mission. Devotion itself is paralyzed when it comes
to them.

At the Bigge House, as one may suppose, there had been considerable
consternation when its young master announced his intention of taking
to wife old Jacob Creecy's daughter. Consternation, but hardly
surprise; for Rube had ever been one of those lawless members of
well-conducted households privileged to say and do outrageous things,
and expected to turn out of the beaten track on the slightest
provocation.

Miss Rutland was most concerned. Said she to her brother:

"Rube, why not marry a female Ojibbwa, and be done with it? _That_
would be an improvement on Mell Creecy as a _mésalliance_. My God!
Rube, you can't bring a girl here into this house as your wife, whose
father talks like a nigger, who says 'dis,' and 'dat,' and 'udder;' or
do you expect to hold your position in society, your place among
honorable men, simply by the grace of heaven?"

This was severe; but it was not all--not half, in fact, that Rube had
to hear before he got rid of Clara. But it was not the first time he
had brought a hornet's nest about his ears, nor swam against the
stream, nor borne the brunt of Clara's tongue. Through much practice
Rube had pretty well mastered the art of holding out, which does not
consist so much in talking back as in saying nothing. Moreover, his
cause was good, and half a man can hold out with a good cause to hold
on. One hard speech Rube did make to Clara; he told her, in effect,
that whatever might be the grammatical shortcomings of old Jacob
Creecy himself, his daughter knew more in one single minute than Clara
would ever learn in a lifetime.

Mrs. Rutland was not less unwilling, but more reasonable.

"You are my only son," she said to him, "my first-born. I expected you
to add lustre to the family and make a great match."

"The family is illustrious enough," replied he; "if not, it will never
be more illustrious at my expense. I will have none of your great
matches, mother. I intend to marry the woman I love. I have loved her
ever since she was a child. None of the rest of you need marry her,
however; I will not impose that task upon you. But Mellville is to be
my wife to a dead certainty, and I am my own master."

"You are, my son. I have not sought to prevent your marrying her. I
have only expressed my disappointment."

"Well, I am sorry about that. But see here, mother; I will make it
easy for you. Keep this as your own home as long as you live, and I
will make another home for myself and the wife you do not like."

"No, no, my dear boy, ever generous, ever kind! As your wife she
_must_ be dear to me. What is a mother's greedy aspiration compared to
her child's real happiness? Follow your bent, my boy; follow it with
your mother's sanction. And now, do you still love me a little, Rube,
in spite of this new love?"

"A little, dear mother!" He threw his arms about her. "No, not a
little! Much, very much; more than ever before! And believe me, when
you know Mell, you will feel very differently about it. You have only
seen her so far, through Clara's eyes; come and see her as she is;
come now, mother, with me."

And so it came about that on a certain day Rube came as usual to the
farm-house, but not as usual, alone. His mother came with him--came,
looking about her with prying eyes, and a nose bent on thorough
investigation, and a mind ready to ferret out every idea in Mell's
brain; a mind ready to probe every weak place in Mell's character; a
mind ready to catechize every integument in Mell's body.

The look of things about the premises prepossessed her at once in the
girl's favor. The house was neither large, handsome, nor fresh; but it
was venerable, an attribute greatly esteemed by people of rank. Much
of its unpainted ugliness was concealed in trailing vines and creeping
ivy, much of its dilapidation shrouded in luxuriant shrubbery, an
every-day adaptation of the simplest elements of relief, technique.
The little front garden, in its white-sanded walks and well-weeded
beds, brilliant in many-hued blossoms, was just like a spruce
country-damsel in her best bib and tucker. The little parlor, daintily
furnished and tastefully arranged, where the visitor trod, not on bare
boards, but a neat carpet, commingling Turkish forms and Yankee
interpretations, was still more suggestive. Into this cozy apartment
Mell had really crowded, in practical forms, all she had learned of
human nature as it appears in man's nature. Pretty things there were,
but none too pretty for use. Perfect neatness there was, but not too
perfect to interfere with a man's love for the let-me-do-as-I-please
principle. Here a man who smokes might, after asking permission, puff
away to his heart's content, puff away without a compunction and
without a frown from its ministering spirit. Or, if my lord feels in a
breaking mood, let him break, break right and left, and there's no
great harm done; a few dollars would put them all back. This is a
consideration by no means small or unimportant to some men, who seem
inspired to break everything they touch, from a woman's heart to the
most venerated of old brass icons.

This little room did everything it could to please a man, and put
nothing in his way; although it made him feel, with its presiding
genius in it, every kind of way, except uncomfortable.

There's a rose upon the mantle, stuck by careless hand in a vase of
antique design--one rose, no more; for one such faultless rose as this
fills up all the spirit's longing in a rose. A thousand roses, perfect
of their kind, could do no more. Here we have _sub rosa_ a profound
philosophical maxim showing its colors--as brief as profound, i.e.,
enough is enough, whether it be enough rose or enough stewed pigeon
with green peas.

On a spider-legged table in this diminutive lady's bower, there sat a
dish of ferns; some moss was growing in a basket; some colored strands
of wool lay across a piece of canvas; a carved paper-cutter peeped out
from the leaves of an unread book, left lying on an ottoman by some
person who had been seated in an easy-chair with silken cushions, soft
to rest upon in weariness, in a cozy corner; and on a sofa of crimson
plush reposed, in restful quiet, a guitar with blue ribbon attached.
This guitar told its own tale; Mell _had_ learned something useful,
after all, at that famous boarding-school; for to the strumming of
this guitar she could sing you, with inimitable taste and in a
bird-like voice, an English madrigal, or a French _chansonnette_, or
one of those plaintive love ditties which finds its way into the
listener's heart through any language.

"Now, mother," said Rube, looking about him with pardonable pride,
"isn't this pleasant? Have we, amid all our grandeur, any such snug
den as this?"

"Well, no, Rube! It _is_ charming! _Multum in parvo_, one may say. But
whom have we here?"

It was Mell, halting for one awe-struck instant in the doorway,
attired in a fresh muslin dress, with ribbons to match her eyes, and
cheeks dyed a red carnation at the formidable prospect of meeting,
face to face, the august mistress of the Bigge House. Rube pressed
forward to meet her, and took her fluttering hand in his own, and led
her forward.

"Your new daughter, mother, and this, Mellville, is our good mother.
You'll get along famously with her, I believe, in spite of Clara."

Who but a blundering man, like dear honest Rube, would have so
completely let the domestic cat out of the bag?

No need for Mell to be the most wide-awake creature in existence to
understand on the spot, the real status of affairs, as concerned
herself, at the Bigge House.

Subjugated at once by her beauty, constrained to admit her lady-like
deportment, Mrs. Rutland kissed the rounded cheek and hoped she would
make her dear boy very happy. And Mell looked flatteringly conscious
of the great lady's condescension, and blushingly avowed her
unalterable determination to try. This interesting little ceremony
seemed to dissipate all the underlying displeasure at Rube's choice in
his mother's mind.

She watched the girl closely during the interview which followed. Many
girls are pretty and lady-like, not many are to be found as well
educated as Mell Creecy, or as thoroughly equipped by both nature and
education to entertain, to amuse, to fascinate. This was that part of
Mell which "tuck arter her ole daddy," as old Jacob was wont to say.
Even Clara Rutland's manners were not more easy and irreproachable,
and Clara had never been half so ready in speech and apt in reply. It
was a matter of agreeable wonder to Mrs. Rutland how a hard-working
uneducated farmer could have such a daughter, and she wondered also if
this phenomenal social prodigy could be found so strongly marked in
any other land under the sun.

Obeying an instinct of curiosity, the visitor inquired:

"Your father and mother, Melville, are they here? Will they see us?"

"Not if I can help it!" inwardly.

Outwardly very different.

"So sorry! Mother is not well to-day. She is rarely well, and rarely
sees anyone. Father is as usual busy upon the farm."

"Rube says your father is a very thorough farmer," remarked the
visitor.

"Doesn't a good farmer make money out of it," queried Mell, glancing
at her betrothed with a doubtful little smile, "just as a lawyer does
out of law, and a doctor out of physic? The earth is full of gold, and
ought not a good digger to strike it somewhere--some time? Father, at
any rate, is devoted to farming, as an occupation, and is happy in it,
getting out of the ground more of God's secrets than the rest of us
find among the stars."

"That is a pretty idea, Mellville," said Mrs. Rutland.

"Bless you!" exclaimed Rube, "that's nothing! She's full of 'em!"

Full of them, yes; and feeding his honest soul upon them, in place of
the real bread of affection.

The visit was long and pleasant, and at its close Mell accompanied her
guests to the very door of their carriage. There Mrs. Rutland again
touched the girl's soft cheek with her high-bred lips. Her foot was
upon the stepping-stone, when with a sudden thought, she turned once
more.

"Mellville, we are to be very gay next week, a house full of company;
but I suspect we shall be honored with very little of Rube's society
unless we first secure yours. Will you come, then, and make us a
little visit?"

"You are kind," answered she, coloring beautifully with intensity of
gratification. "Most kind! I will come with exceeding pleasure."

These were perhaps the first unstudied words she had uttered in Mrs.
Rutland's presence. There was no doubt about her wanting to go to the
Bigge House. She had been wanting to go there a long time. A veritable
flood-tide of joy filled her being at this speedy consummation of her
dearest hopes, but it was not of this she thought at that moment, nor
of Mrs. Rutland, nor of Rube. "I will see Jerome," was what Mell
thought.

"Sweetest of mothers!" said Rube inside the vehicle.

"Luckiest of men!" returned his mother. "I am returning home as did
the Queen of Sheba; the half was not told!"

Rube now felt solid, unquestionably solid, in his own mind.

Mell, standing yet in the gateway, looked after them; gladly received
they had been, like many another guest; gladly, too, dismissed.

"The chain tightens," cogitated the future mistress of the Bigge
House, "and if I should want to break it!"

But why should she want to break it, unless--

"There's no use counting upon that," Mell frankly admitted to herself,
"and no man's difficulties must be allowed to interfere with my
future. And Rube is _so_ eligible! A good fellow, too; a most
excellent fellow! There's a something, however. What is it?"

We will tell you, Mell--Rube is not Jerome.

Going back into the house she found her father and mother peeping
through the blinds.

"Lord, Lord!" exclaimed old Jacob. "You'se jess er gittin' up, Mell! I
knowed ye could do it, darter; but I mus' say, I never lookt fer yer
ter git es high es the Bigge House."

Mrs. Creecy inquired about Mrs. Rutland. Was she nice? pleasant?

"Very. No one could be nicer or pleasanter. She asked for you--both of
you."

"She did? Then why didn't you tell us?"

"Wife!" remonstrated the old farmer, "you is sartingly loss yo'
senses! Don't ye know, when Mell's fine friends comes er long, we's
expected ter run inter er rat-hole or some udder hole? All the use
chillun has fer parients these days is ter keep 'em er going. Onst
Mrs. Rullan', Mell aint gwine ter know us by site! She aint no chile
er mine, no how, Mell aint!"

"Wall, now, she is yourn, I kin tell ye," cried Mrs. Creecy, flaring
up, very much to the enjoyment of her liege lord.

The daughter turned off in disgust. Her father's pleasantries were the
least pleasant of all his disagreeable ways. A coarse man's humor is
apt to be the coarsest thing about him.

It was under very different auspices from those of her day dreams,
that Mell, after a few days of busy preparation, was admitted into the
sacred precincts of the social hierarchy.

Jerome was to have been the founder of her greatness, her steersman in
these unknown waters--not Rube.

None in this higher realm welcomed her more graciously than Clara.
Clara had high views of philosophy, but only one maxim: "See how the
hare runs, hear how the owl cries, accept the inevitable, and get all
you can out of it."

Jerome returned from Cragmore the day following her own domestication
into this new sphere of existence. How strange it all seemed, and how
unnatural! How strange he should find her there, and with so good a
right to be there! Surely years have intervened since those lovely
mornings in the meadow, when Sukey cropped the dew-wet grass, and she
sat on the old tree-stump and Jerome lay at her feet.

Surely long, long years!

So long that Jerome has forgotten all about them--and her. She is now
to him only Miss Creecy, the prospective wife of his nearest friend,
the prospective mistress of the Bigge House, and not attractive, it
would appear, in these new surroundings. Others, very likely, did not
notice how he never spoke to her, if he could help it; how he never
looked at her, if he could help it; how they kept far apart, as far as
the East is from the West, though sleeping under the same roof, and
eating at the same table, and constantly together morning, noon, and
night. Others did not notice all these things, but Mell did.

"He despises me," sobbed Mell in the darkness of her own chamber,
smothering her sobs in her own pillow. "Once he loved, and now he
despises me!"

Better go to sleep, Mell; tears cannot wash away stern facts, and what
good would it do now, if he did love you?

The other guest has come; the one of whom Jerome had spoken. It is the
Honorable Archibald Pendergast, who is middle-aged, well-fed, and
somewhat portly, who has big round shoulders and a jolly way of
looking at things, who bellows out his words with a broad accent, and
says, Aw! aw! with tremendous effect; who wears his whiskers _à la
manière Anglaise_, as befits a man proud of his British ancestry and
his English ways. This great man's marvellous wealth and honors, and
incalculable influence in national councils, and stupendous grandeur
of future prospects, carry everything before him--at the Bigge House,
and everywhere else.

Adapting herself with versatile cleverness, to these prevailing
conditions in her unaccustomed environment, Mell's conception of modes
and manners expanded day by day, and she began to see plainly a good
many objects only dimly discerned before.

"I don't think," remarked she, quite innocently to Rube, the day after
the great man's advent, "that Mr. Devonhough admires the Senator as
much as the rest of us."

"I shouldn't wonder!"

Rube looked knowing and laughed.

"If he was as badly stuck on you as he appears to be on Clara, _I_
wouldn't admire him either!"

"But," said Mell, "is Jerome?"

"Yes, certainly. Didn't you know that? I thought you did. They are in
the same interesting predicament as ourselves. Only Clara won't
announce, because she wants to keep up to the last minute her good
times with other men. I don't see how Devonhough stands it, and I'm
awfully glad you're not that sort of a girl!"

"How long?" asked not-that-sort-of-a-girl, trying to steady her voice,
trying to maintain her rôle of a disinterested inquirer.

"How long have they been engaged!" repeated Rube. "Let me see--Six
months at least."

"Six months!"

"You seem surprised, Mell." He turned his glance full upon her.

"Not at all," said she, pulling herself to rights. "I was only
thinking that you ought to be willing to wait as long as that."

"So I would; as many years, for that matter, if there was any good
reason why I should. But there is not; not one, and so, Mell--"

"Six months!" ejaculated Mell, in the privacy of her own room. "So all
the while he lay at my feet he was engaged to Clara Rutland!"

Mell began to understand Jerome's difficulties.

Later on she saw clearly some other things. Clara is fond of Jerome,
and would gladly, for that reason, marry him; but she is likewise
attracted by the mighty Senator's wealth, and national importance, and
English ancestry, and future expectations; and for such reasons leans
matrimonially towards the Honorable Archibald, who is thirty years
older than Jerome, but thirty years richer and thirty years greater.
Between two fires Clara meanwhile keeps to the letter of the law with
Jerome, and holds out in ambuscade _le pot au lait_ to the Honorable
Archibald.

A closer acquaintance with the interior circuit of these unwanted
surroundings, so delicately refined, so distinctly aristocratic, so
far above her own poor world, and yet withal, so unsatisfying and so
"over-charged with surfeiting," developed to Mell the startling fact
that a life spent in incessant amusement not only soon ceases to
amuse, but becomes, in process of time, a devouring conflict with
_ennui_. She recalled with a sense of wondering comprehension the Arab
proverb: "All sunshine makes the desert."

Another thing, these women at ease, with nothing in the world to do,
Mell was thunderstruck to discover, were the hardest worked people she
had ever known, striving each on a daily battle-ground of dawdling,
dressing, and pleasure. Seeking after some personal end, some empty
honor, or some favorite phantom just out of reach. What bickering and
strife; what small conspiracies; what canker at the roots and stunting
in the fruit; what Guelph and Ghibbeline factions in the midst of all
this music, and dancing, and laughter! The same amount of time spent
in a good cause, Mell's long head could not but realize, would ease
the rack, plant many a blade of corn, staunch many a bleeding wound,
wipe the death drops from many a ghastly brow, lift up heaps of fallen
heroes prone on stony plains, and plant the standard of the cross on
many a benighted shore. Outside, Mell had yearned towards this
stronghold of the rich, as a place where there was plenty of room for
growth and happiness: inside, she discovered with astonishment and a
groan, that there was plenty of room there for dullness and
unhappiness as well. Idleness without repose, leisure and no ease,
tears and no time to shed them--on every side, and unexpected dry-rot
in the substance of things, she had pictured to her own fancy as fair,
and only fair.

"Then," interrogated Mell of her conscious Ego, "if not here, where
dwelleth content?"

Mayhap, Mell, upon the rock where the hawks nest, or in that haven
where the roving wind hideth its tired self for rest. Somewhere, but
never among the haunts of men. The deep hath its treasures, and there
are treasures of the mine; the mind hath its treasures, and there are
treasures of store; but content is the golden treasure, hardest of all
to find, and when found hardest to keep.

One night there was a ball, and the social lights of Pudney and
Cragmore, and the capital of the State itself, turned out in full
force. The Bigge House was crammed to its utmost capacity.

Dressing early, Mell left her room to other guests, in various stages
of evening toilet, and descending to the first floor, looked about her
for some quiet spot where, for a time, she could hide herself and her
tumultuous thoughts. The large reception room was dimly lighted as
yet, and empty apparently. Glad to find it so, she walked in, and
standing between the long pier-glasses, a tapering column draped in
tulle clouds, took a full-length, back and front inspection of her own
person.

Now this dainty rustic maiden, as we have seen, looked at when framed
in a high-necked, long-sleeved, simple morning-gown, made a sweet
picture for any eye; but it was, in some respects, a tame presentation
compared to this gorgeously arrayed being, bedecked in flowers and a
low corsage, with marble shoulders, shapely throat, alabaster neck and
rounded arms, bewilderingly displayed, cunningly concealed. This
fairy-like being cannot be a _bona fide_ woman; she is more likely a
study from Reynolds or Gainsborough, who has stepped out of canvas and
a gilt frame on the wall there, merely to delight the living eye and
inflame the fumes of vital fancy.

Not long, however, whether sprite or woman, did she pose there in
admiration of her own face and figure. For, truth to tell, they have
both become hateful in the girl's own sight. Her fair face looks to
herself no longer as a fresh-gathered blossom sparkling with dew, as
the ethereal interpreter of a woman's pure soul, blameless and serene.
Much more does it look, to her own acute sensibilities, as a painted
mask, put on for hard service; always in place, always properly
adjusted, proof against attack, but every little loophole needing to
be defended at every point. A mask very troublesome to wear, but not
upon any account to be discarded, since it concealed the discordance
of a secret love and the clanking of a chain.

But now, to-night, in this empty room, in this deep silence and
blessed solitude, where there is no eye to see, no ear to hear, she
will throw off for one thankful moment the ugly, hateful thing. She
will allow the dejected visage to fitly portray the dejected mind; she
will breathe freely once more, and sigh and sigh, and moan and moan,
and wring her hands in uncontrollable agony; and, ignoring the fact
that the heaviest part of her trouble is of her own making, wonder why
she had ever been born for such as this.

Hope is entirely dead in Mell's heart. Transplanted out of the lowly
valley of her own birth to the mountain-tops of her soul's desire, she
feels as lonely as we might imagine the spirit of Greek art, set down
in a modern world. Turn whatever way she would, there was but one fate
for her--martyrdom. If she did not marry Rube, she would be a martyr
in her own humble home; if she did marry him, she would be a martyr in
his more pretentious one; and there was not as great a difference as
she had thought between the air in the valley and the air on the
mountain-top. It is the lungs which breathe, and not the air inhaled,
most at issue, and a martyr is a martyr anywhere, the social type
being hardly less excruciating to undergo than others more quickly
ended.

Pitiful in the extreme are such thoughts in a young mind; pitiful such
manifestations of suffering in one too young to suffer.

How the people upstairs would be surprised if they could see her! How
the Honorable Archibald, who liked things jolly, begawd! who thought
all evidence of feeling bad form, you know; who believed, root and
branch, in British stoicism, even in the jaws of death; how he would
advise her in a spirit of friendliness and a well-bred way, not aw to
make a blawsted dolt of herself--if he only knew. Fortunately, he did
not know; fortunately, nobody knew.

Nobody?

Then who or what is that creature in semblance of man, in attitude of
deepest thought, with folded arms and hanging head, darkly shadowed,
dimly seen, scarcely discernible in the embrasure of the window over
there?

Spirit or man? If a man, he might be a dead one for all the noise he
makes--only a dead man was never known before to use his eyes in such
a lively manner, or his ears to such good purpose, or to betray so
deep an interest in a living woman, even in a ball dress.

Mell did not look towards him, did not know he was there; yet, on a
sudden, as if from some inward sense of vigilance rather than any
extraneous source of knowledge, her pulses strangely fluttered--she
became aware that she was not in reality alone. _How_, in the absence
of visual impression, we can only say by an instinct as unaccountable
as the phenomenon of sound waves which excite wire vibrations.

She was mysteriously imbued with another presence, if such a thing is
possible, and in all the world there was but one who could so clothe
the circumambient air in his own personality.

That one was Jerome Devonhough. Perceiving she now knew he was there,
he got up and came towards her.

Mell did not look at him; she looked upon the floor. He looked
straight at her, and looked so long and hard, and with a gaze so fixed
and steady, that he seemed to be slowly absorbing her very being into
his own entity.

When this became intolerable, the fairy-like apparition in tulle,
wrestling with the situation, on a war footing with her own feelings,
lifted from a glowing face those _lapis lazuli_ eyes of hers--pure
stones liquified by soul action--to his face and dropped them. In one
swift turn of those eyes she had taken in as much of that stern, cold,
accusing face as she could well bear. But there was nothing on it she
had not expected to see. She knew the unrelenting disdain of that
proud nature for what is stained, unworthy, unwomanly, as well as she
knew its strength to esteem, its gift to exalt, its power to bless.

And to look into a once loving face now grown cold, and to find there
no longer an indulgent smile nor approving aspect, is not an
experience to be coveted, even by the happiest.

"You are enjoying it, I hope," said at length a low mocking voice.

"Enjoying it!" retorted plucky Mell, "of course I am enjoying it! Why
shouldn't I? I am probably enjoying it as much as you are!"

"More, I hope. I, for one, never did enjoy being miserable."

"Oh, miserable!" exclaimed Mell, in a lively tone. His misery appeared
to put her in the highest spirits. "Going to marry a rich girl and
feeling miserable over it, how is that? You ought to be as happy,
almost, as I am!"

"The happiness which needs to be so extolled," replied Jerome, with a
sardonic laugh, "rests on a slim foundation. Mine is of a different
stamp. It leads me to envy the very worms as they crawl under my
feet. Even a worm is free to go where his wishes lead him--even a
worm is free to find an easy death and quick, when life becomes
insupportable."

Mell pressed her hand upon her heart, beating so fast--that pent-up
heart in a troubled breast, which rose and fell as a storm-tossed
vessel amid tempestuous seas.

"You cannot blame me for it," said she wildly. "You slighted me, you
trifled with me, you goaded me to it! I would do it again; if need
be!"

"Once has been enough," Jerome told her, in sadness. Speech was an
effort to him; when a man regards some treasure, once his own now lost
to him, he thinks much, but he has little to say. That little, nine
times out of ten, would better be left unsaid. Jerome felt it so; for
a long time he said nothing more--he only continued to look at the
woman he had lost.

She continued to contemplate the floor, until those polished boards,
waxed in readiness for gay dancers' feet, became to her a sorry sight
indeed, and a source of nervous irritation. When their glances
encountered again, hers was full of passionate entreaty, his of
inflamed regret.

"I have a question to put to you," he broke forth, harshly. "What
right have you to marry Rube Rutland, loving me?"

"The same right that you have to marry Clara Rutland, loving me!"

This turned the tables. Now Jerome's glance was riveted upon those
polished boards, and she looked at him. She had not had so good a look
at him in a long time, and her two eyes had never been eyes enough to
take in as much of him as her heart craved.

"At least," said Jerome, regaining his composure and holding up his
head, "this much may be said for me. My contract with her was made in
good faith. I liked her well enough--I loved no one else--it was all
right until I met you. My soul is as a pure white dove in this matter,
compared to yours! And these bonds of mine, they hang but by a single
thread. Our future would have been assured but for your broken
faith."

"Mine? It is all _your_ fault, not mine! Had you trusted me, as a man
ought to trust the woman he loves, all might have been well with us."

"All would have been well with us had you trusted _me_, as a woman
should trust the man she loves. Did I not ask you so to trust me?
Great God! Mellville, could I conceive that you would stake your
future happiness--our future happiness, on the paltry issues of a
foot-race? That whole day my mind was full of projects for bringing
about a happy termination to all our troubles. I could have done it! I
would have done it! But now!"

Lashed into fury by a vivid conception of his own wrongs, brought
about, as he chose to consider, through her treachery alone, Jerome
turned upon her angrily:

"Let me tell you one thing! You shall not marry Rube Rutland!"

"Shall I not?"

Mell laughed--not one of her musical laughs. Now that she was fairly
in for it, she rather enjoyed this fencing match with Jerome.
Hitherto, she had always by stress of circumstances, acted upon the
defensive with him; now she could assert her mastery.

"Shall I not? How will you prevent it?"

"I will open his eyes. I will tell him you do not care a rap for
him."

"You will tell him that? Very well. I will _swear_ to him that I do.
Whom will he believe? _Not you!_"

Her words, her manner, were exasperating, and they were intended to
be exasperating. That cool and systematic self-control which
characterized Jerome, had more than aroused a feeling of rebellious
protest in the girl's impetuous nature. If she could break him up a
little--

"_I say you shall not marry him!_" The words were not loudly spoken,
but they were the utterances of a man much in earnest. "Rather than
see you his wife I would gladly see you dead!"

"Oh, no doubt! But let me tell you, sir, I do not propose to die to
please you! I propose to please myself by becoming the wife of Rube
Rutland!"

This was too much, even for Jerome.

"You heartless, cruel, wicked woman!"

With a single stride he reached her side; he shook his finger rudely
in her face; nay, in a frenzy of mad passion he did worse than
that--he took hold of the wayward creature herself and shook her with
such violence that those heavy coils of hair, upon which she had
expended so much time and pains, loosened and fell about her in a
reckless loveliness beyond the reach of art.

"Woman, do you know what you are doing? Do you know that you are
playing with dangerous implements? toying with men's passions?
dallying with men's souls?"

It is safe to say, Mell had never had such a shaking up, however
frequent the occasions when she had deserved it.

This unconventional usage on the part of Jerome, a man who wore
self-possession and correct manners as an every day coat of mail, not
only surprised Mell, but terrified and subdued her. In undertaking to
"break up" Jerome by stirring up the green-eyed monster, Mell had
neglected to take into account the well-established fact, that no
jealous man stands long upon ceremony. Panting for breath, she awoke
unpleasantly to a full comprehension of a madman's possibilities, and
ignoring all those impassioned inquiries with which he had interlarded
the severer measures of corporeal punishment, she remarked in a spirit
of meekness and a very faint voice:

"Jerome, let me go, please; you are hurting me."

"But how much more you are hurting me," said Jerome, harshly.

He released her, however, and felt ashamed. No man with real manliness
in him, but does feel ashamed after he has hurt a woman. She may have
deserved it, and yet he feels ashamed.

One would think that now after this ungentlemanly conduct on Jerome's
part, Mell the high spirited will not only be full of a tremendous
indignation, but be willing, and more than willing, to give him up for
good and all.

How little you know a woman, you who think that! A harmless man never
does anywhere so little harm as in a woman's affections. The rod of
empire sways the world and a woman's mind--all women, to a great or
less degree; all women are sisters.

In other words, it is very necessary for a man to be capable of
shaking up a woman for past offences, and present naughtiness, when
she needs it, or else he must make up his mind to take a back seat and
give up the supremacy. Some of the fair sex never come to terms
without a shaking--there may be one or two, here and there among them,
who never come to terms, even with a shaking!

Mell did not belong to this small minority; she was completely
subdued. Contrite, and submissive, she now approached her audacious
antagonist; approached him timidly, where he stood a little apart, and
with his back turned to her, feeling, as we have said, quite ashamed
of himself, and said gently:

"Jerome, I will break with Rube if you will break with Clara."

"An honorable man cannot leave a woman in the lurch," answered he, in
a manner indicative of a strong protest under the existing law.

"And how about an honorable woman?" interrogated Mell.

"She can lie, and lie, and still be honorable," he informed her with
fierce irony.

"Then you expect me to----"

"I do! I confidently expect you to do it, and at once. Break with him,
and have a little patience with me, until Clara gets the Honorable
Archibald taut on the line, and awakens to the fact that she loves me
still--but only as a brother! It is coming--it is sure to come, and
before long."

"In the meantime," remarked Mell, with a peculiar expression, "what's
the use of hurting Rube's feelings?"

"Gods and angels, listen!" exclaimed her companion, in overwhelming
indignation. "The question then has narrowed down to the getting of a
husband without regard to any body's feelings--save Rube. His are not
to be hurt until you can hurt them with impunity! You are bound to
hold on to _him_ until you secure _me_, beyond a peradventure! That is
your little game, Mell, is it? Out upon you! Oh, unfortunate man that
I am, to have fallen into the hands of a woman who is particular as to
the fit of her ball dress, but has no preference when it comes to a
husband; who has the aspect of a goddess, but the easy principles of a
Delilah; who is, in fact, not a genuine woman at all, with a heart and
a soul in her, but a man-eating monster, seeking prey--a shark in
woman's clothing, ready to take into the matrimonial clutch, and
swallow at a single gulp, me, if you can get me; if not me, Rube; if
not Rube, any other eligible creature in man's guise, whether
descended from a molecule in the coral, or a tadpole in the spawn:
whether a swine of Epicurus, or an ape just from Barbary! Shame upon
you, woman! Shame! Shame!"

Restive under these severe strictures, Mell had made several
ineffectual attempts to put a stop to them, but her appealing gestures
implored in vain. Finding he would not desist, she bit her lips in
great agitation, and crimsoned violently.

"You are the most impertinent man in existence!" she informed him
petulantly, when he had done.

"That's right, Mell," he answered. "Turn red--turn red to the tips of
your eyelashes! It is the most hopeful sign I have yet seen.
Mellville, look at me."

She raised to him wonderingly her wondrously beautiful eyes.

"I have been asking myself how I could love you so well, a woman who
could condescend to sail under false colors; who knows how to stoop
from her high estate, and trick, and juggle, and blind; who has set a
trap to catch a mouse, and victimizes her prey; who has spread her
toils to obtain a husband under false pretences. I have asked myself
many times, 'how can you love that woman?' I have wished that I loved
you less--that I loved you not at all! And I would crush it out--this
unspeakable tenderness, which shields and defends your image in my
heart--crush it out, beat it down, tear it into tatters, grind it into
dust under the heel of an inexorable resolve, but that I believe, but
that I _know_, Mell, that there is something within you deeper,
better, worthier! 'Truth is God,' and the woman who is true in all
things is a part of Divinity. But what of the woman who is false where
she ought to be true? Let her hide her head in the presence of devils!
Be true, then, Mell, be earnest! This frivolous trifling with life's
most serious concerns shows so small in a being born to a noble
heritage! It is only excusable in a natural _niais_, or a woman
unendowed with a soul."

Jerome here paused. After a moment spent in thought, he approached his
companion very near, and in a voice of passionate tenderness resumed:

"My darling! you can never know what hours of torment, what days of
suffering, this conduct of yours has cost me. But I believe you have
erred more through thoughtlessness, and a pardonable feeling of
resentment--more through love turned into madness, than any settled
determination to do wrong. But now let it go no further. Hasten to set
yourself right with Rube. No matter whether you and I are destined to
be happy in each other's love or not; at all hazards be true to the
immortal within you. Promise me to undo the mischief you have done;
promise me to be a good, true, useful woman, thinking more of duty
than your own interest and pleasure. The world is overstocked with
butterflies, but it needs good women, and I want you to be one of
them--the best! My darling, you will promise me?"

Mell was much affected; she hung her head and her bosom heaved.

"Do you hesitate?" cried Jerome, mistaking her silence. "Promise me,
Mell, I implore, I beseech you!"

"Theatricals?" asked a voice in the doorway.

It was Rube.

"Rehearsing your parts?" he again inquired, coming in.

"Yes," replied Jerome. "For are we not all players upon a stage?"

"And what play have they decided upon?" next questioned the
unsuspecting Rube, who, carrying no concealed weapons himself, was
never on the lookout for concealed weapons on others.

"I don't recall the name," said Jerome. "Do you, Miss Creecy? It is
'Lover's Quarrel,' or some such twaddle, I think."

Mell thought it was something of that kind, but she furthermore
expressed the opinion that it would be well-nigh impossible to get it
up in time for the delectation of the Honorable Archibald.

"Which is no great pity," declared the off-hand Rube; "I wish he'd
take himself elsewhere to be delectated."

There was no doubt as to Rube's preferences for a brother-in-law;
which, however, did not take away from the awkwardness of this remark.
Not suspicious, neither was Rube obtuse; he noted a singular
contraction on Jerome's brow, he noted a strange confusion in Mell's
manner, and he put it all down to his own blundering tongue, which was
always placing his best friend either in a false or in an annoying
position before Mell. Out of these considerations he made haste to
subjoin:

"Ah, Mellville, you should have seen Devonhough how splendidly he
acquitted himself in our class plays at college!"

This was a pure offering from friendship's store. Honest Rube, with
his fine open countenance all aglow with enthusiasm for his friend and
joy in the presence of the woman he loved, looked the archetype of
hopeful young manhood, untouched, as yet, by sorrow or mistrust.
Regarded from an architectural standpoint, he had the sublime
simplicity and dignity of the Doric, which was just wherein he
differed from Jerome, who was a Corinthian column, delicately
chiselled, ornately moulded.

Mell remarked, in reply to this expression of lively admiration from
Rube, that she wished she could have seen Mr. Devonhough--or
something. Mr. Devonhough, with the expression of a man whose
self-respect will not admit of his bearing much more, said with an
impatient "Pshaw," that she needn't wish to have seen him, that this
good acting of his was all in Rube's eye, and nowhere else; that he
hated an actor, and that he never would act another part himself, as
long as he lived, not to oblige anybody, and so help him God!

After which, shadowed by clouds, beleaguered with dark thoughts, with
sombre fires of jealousy smoldering in his eye, and war-hounds of
anxiety gnawing at his vitals, he abruptly turned and left the
room--not with his usual deliberation.

And still Rube saw nothing.

"He's real cut up," said the sympathetic Rube, looking commiseratingly
after the friend of his bosom. "And all for what? Because a woman
never seems certain of her own mind. When judgment overtakes you women
what is to become of you all, anyhow--eh, Mell?"

Mell could hardly say; and Rube, dismissing Jerome from his mind for
the present, found other occupation. He had never seen Mell before in
full dress. He addressed himself _con amore_, and exclusively, for a
time, to the study of structural feminity and those marvels of nature
presented to the eye of the earnest investigator, in the shape of a
well-formed woman on the outside of a ball dress.

During this process Rube's sensations were indefinable.

Mell, preoccupied in thoughts of her own, hears, at length, his voice
dreamily, as a sound from afar, and looks up irritably to see, for the
hundredth time, how coarse of fibre Rube is compared to Jerome.

She resents the unpalatable fact. She resents something else, and
makes a very vigorous but unavailing effort to gain her freedom.

"I cannot understand," playfully remonstrated Rube, and with arms
immovable, "why so simple a matter disturbs you so much. You are as
white as a sheet, you are quivering like a leaf, your hands are icy
cold, and what is it all about?"

"I told you never, _never_ to do that!" cried out Mell, in an agony of
passionate protest.

Even the most cold-blooded among mortals finds the caress of a person
not dear to them offensive; but take the woman of emotional nature,
exquisitely sensitive in all matters of feeling, and to such the touch
of unloved lips is worse than a plague spot.

"Don't you hear me? I cannot bear it! I am not used to it!"

There was something more than maidenly coyness in her tone; there was
mental anguish, and a downright shade of anger. We wonder Rube did not
detect it. But you know, gentle reader, how it is. There are so many
things all around and about us which we do not hear and see, because
we are intent upon other matters, and are not looking for them. With
such feelings, in that dreadful moment Mell would rather have
submitted to a dozen stripes from Jerome, than one single caress from
Rube--her future husband, bear you in mind! the being by whose side
she expected to pass the rest of her days. Poor Mell! If getting up in
the world requires self-torture, self-immolation such as this,
wouldn't it be better, think you, not to get up? Wouldn't it be
better, in the long run, for every woman, situated as you are, to use
a dagger, and thereby not only settle her future, but get clean out of
a world where such sufferings are necessary? There can't be any other
world much worse, judged by your present sensations.

But Rube, as we have said, did not hear that piteous wail of a woman
coercing her flesh and blood, the frame of her mind, the bent of her
soul. She was his own, and no words could tell, how he loved her. If a
man cannot lawfully kiss his own wife, or one so near to being his own
wife, it is a hard case, truly. That one little slip "'twixt the cup
and the lip," which has played such havoc in men's expectations, from
the first beginnings of time to the present moment, did not enter into
Rube's calculations, or his thoughts.

He was in a playful and a loving mood. He tightened his clasp upon
her, he chucked her under the chin, he pinched her cheek, he patted
those sunny locks of hers and smiled down into that fair face, _faire
les yeux doux_, and babbled to her in lover-language, not unlike the
"pitty, pitty ittle shing" upon which we linguistically feed helpless
infancy, as little witting the possible sufferings of the child under
such an infliction, as Rube did Mell's.

"Now truly, Mell," asked Rube, "did you never let any other fellow
kiss you--never? not once?"

"No!" said Mell, emphatic and indignant. "_Never!_ And _you_ shouldn't
now, if I could help myself! Do go away! I tell you I'm not used to
such as this!"

She was almost ready to cry.

The whole thing was immensely amusing and entertaining to Rube, and
while he laughed, he could also understand how it might come hard on a
girl, at first, to feel the bloom despoiled on her chaste lips.

"But you will get used to it after awhile," he assured her, with a
quiet smile. "My word for it, you will! I will see to it that you do.
There now, my pretty one (just what Jerome called her) sweet,
frightened bird, why ruffle your beautiful plumage against these bars?
They are made of adamant; but only be quiet and take to them kindly
and they will not derange a single feather. You are exquisitely lovely
to-night! You will intoxicate all beholders! And have you been
thinking of that blissful time when we are going to get married?"

She had, of course; but what made him so impatient? Couldn't he wait
until she got back home? Rube could, certainly; but only on
conditions, and those conditions would come very hard on a girl not
used to a lover's kiss, and who objected to a lover's fondling, unless
she managed well.

Fortunately, Mell could manage well. She could have managed the
diversified attractions of a dime museum if necessary.

"And before he shall desecrate my lips again," Mell vowed to herself,
under her breath, "I will perish by my own hands!"

Ah! Mell, Mell, you should have thought of that before you sold
yourself!

At daylight she crawled upstairs and into bed. The ball had been a
great success and she its reigning belle. Women like her, with such a
form, with such a face, with such glory of hair and wealth of high
spirits and physical exuberance, work like a spell in a ball-room.
There was something bewildering in the gleam of her eye; something
intoxicating in the turn of her neck, the flow of her garments.

She had danced, to please Rube, more than once with Jerome. It was
while the two were floating together in that delirious rapture of
conscious nearness, to which the conventional waltz gives pretext
and the stamp of propriety, and while their senses swayed to the
rhythmic measure of the sweetest music they had ever heard, that
Mell looked up meltingly into her partner's face--a face absorbed,
excited, yet darkly set with a certain sternness which Mell fully
understood--looked up and said to him: "Only wait until I get back
home." Simple words indeed, and holding little meaning for those
who heard; but they gave a new lease of life to Jerome. He answered
back in a whisper, certain words. And now it only remained for
Clara Rutland to accept the Honorable Archibald Pendergast and the
happiness of two loving hearts would be assured.

The ball is over, gone, past, never to come back again, with its waltz
melody, its ravishing rhyme without reason, its sweet smelling
flowers, its foam-crested wine, its outlying joy, its underlying
pathos, its hidden sweetness, and its secret pain. For, there never
was a ball yet which had its lights and not its shadows; which did not
have some heavy foot among its light fantastic toes; some heavy heart
among its gallant men and beautiful women.

Mell lives it over in the pale dawn. It made her blood curdle and her
flesh creep to think of those two men. What was she going to do with
them--Rube and Jerome? How was it all to end?

Horrible it would be to break off with Rube, more horrible still not
to do so. Fearful it would be to tell him the truth--the whole truth.
But that was what Jerome expected her to do, what she ought to do.

Those words of his were burned into her memory with fire. He wanted
her to become a good, true, useful woman, and be no longer a
butterfly.

He had called her 'my darling.' He had called her so twice. He loved
her just as much as ever. In fact, he loved her more; for the man is
not living who does not love a woman more when he finds out somebody
else loves her as well as he.

She was quite decided, and Jerome was undeniably right; there was but
one honorable course for her to follow. Even if Jerome married Clara,
and she herself never had another offer of marriage (she never would
have another such as Rube) how sweet it would be, even in a life of
loneliness, to be free, to be able to maintain the dignity and the
probity of her womanhood, to be able to throw aside the despicable
part of a double-dealer and a deceiver, to be able to feel that she
had been worthy of Jerome though never his.

Thus Mell felt when she stretched her weary limbs on that silken couch
of ease in the dim morning light, and turned her face to the wall, and
closed her eyes, and thought of that exquisite moment, when from
Jerome's shoulder, conventionally used, she had proffered to him the
olive branch of peace and had caught the heavenly beams of that smile
which restored her to his favor. With the bewitchment of this smile
reflected upon the fair lineaments of her own face, Mell fell into
that sweet rest, which remains even for the people who flirt.

But how different everything always seems the day after the ball!

It must be the gas-light in the ball-room, it must be the sunlight in
the day-time, which makes all the difference. Sunlight is the
effulgence of a God, and lights up Reality; gas-light is a ray kindled
by the feeble hand of man to brighten the unreal--a delusion and a
snare.

The absurd fancies of a ball-room hide their fantastic fumes in the
broad daylight.

Coming down to a six o'clock dinner--finding Rube at the bottom of
the stairs to attend upon her--finding the assembled company,
including the Honorable Archibald, half-famished and yet kept
waiting for their dinner, until the future mistress of the Bigge
House put in an appearance, Mell began more clearly to estimate her
own importance--her own, but through Rube. Her beauty, her wit,
they were her own; but they had availed her little before her
betrothment to Rube. Especially was she impressed with this aspect of
the case, when, hanging upon his arm, she entered the brilliant
drawing-room to become immediately the bright particular star of the
social heavens, the cynosure of all eyes; to be immediately
surrounded by flattering sycophants; to be pelted with well-bred
raillery for her tardiness and sleepy-headedness; to be bowed down
to and reverenced and waited upon and courted and admired by these
high-born people--she, old Jacob Creecy's daughter, but the future
wife of the young master of this lordly domain.

And Jerome expected her to give all this up--did he? And to give it up
whether he gave up Clara, or not? Jerome was simply crazy--and she
would be a good deal crazier herself before he caught her doing it!
Mell still has an eye to the main chance. Mell still "tuck arter her
ole daddy!"

                  *       *       *       *       *

The summer wanes. The ripened grain is harvested and the chaff falling
from the sheaves on the threshing floor; the patient teams sniff the
first cool breeze and put their shoulders to the wheel; the wagons are
heaped in corn; the fields grow white for the picking. In the windings
of green valleys yellow leaves and red play fast and loose amid the
green, and go fluttering to the ground; the deer stalks abroad; glad
hunters blow their horns, and the unleashed hounds are joyful at the
scent of noble prey.

Twice has the moon changed, and Mell is still at the Bigge House,
showing up amid its polished refinements, as a choice bit of Corian
faïence contrasted with cut-glass. Every day she spoke of going, but
every day there was some reason why she should not go and should stay.
Mrs. Rutland wanted her to stay; and Mell herself, whatever her
misgivings, whatever her struggles, whatever her trials, wanted, too,
on the whole, to stay. Here was a congenial atmosphere of style and
fashion, congenial occupation--or the congenial want of any, endless
variety of amusement, the hourly excitement of spirited contact with
kindred minds, and no vulgar father and mother to mortify her tender
sensibilities. Here, too, she was in the presence of the one being on
earth she most loved, and even to see him under cold restraint, was
better than not to see him at all. Sometimes it happened they sat near
each other for a few blissful seconds; sometimes it was a stolen look
into each other's eyes; sometimes an accidental touch of the hand when
Jerome was initiating the ladies into the ingenious methods of a
fore-overhand stroke or a back-underhand stroke, or the effective
results of skillful volleying--such casual trifles as these, unnoticed
by others, but more precious to them than "the golden wedge of
Ophir."

So the days passed on; rainy days, dry days, clear days, cloudy days,
bright days, dark days, every kind of day, and every one of them a
day's march nearer the imperishable day.

"There's a messenger outside, Miss Mellville, to say that your father
is sick and wishes you to come home."

Jerome, it was, who spoke.

"Father sick!" exclaimed Mell. "I will go at once."

"How provoking!" broke in Mrs. Rutland. "I wanted you particularly
to-day. Rube, too. Don't you remember he wants you to go to Pudney?"

"Yes, yes," interrupted Mell hastily. She did not wish Mrs. Rutland to
say before Jerome what Rube wanted her to go there for. It was to have
her picture taken. "I am very sorry, but if father is really sick I
ought to go."

"Rhesus is under saddle," said Jerome. "Shall I ride over and find out
just how he is? I can do so in a very few minutes."

"No!" said Mell, with quick speech and restrained emphasis. Whom would
he see there? What would he hear? Her mother in an old cotton frock,
talking bad grammar. And Jerome was so delicate in his tastes, so
fastidious and æsthetic.

"No," said Mell, decidedly. "I'm much obliged, but--"

"Yes," interposed Mrs. Rutland, "I wish you would go, for Rube is not
here and I've no notion of letting Mell go unless it is necessary."

"Did you say I must not?" inquired Jerome, addressing Mell and not
moving.

"Go, if Mrs. Rutland wishes it," stammered Mell, furiously angry with
herself that she could not utter such commonplace words to him without
getting all in a tremor. They were all blind, these people, or they
must have seen, long ago, how it stood with Jerome and herself.

He was back in an incredibly short space of time.

"I saw your mother," Jerome reported. (Great heavens! in her
poke-berry homespun, without a doubt!) "Your father is quite sick, but
not dangerously so. He only fancied seeing you, but can wait until
to-morrow."

While the old man waited, Mell had her pretty face photographed for
Rube.

He drove her home in the buggy the next morning. Coming in sight of
the quiet and shade of the old farm-house and recalling, as a
forgotten dream, its honest industry, its homely manners, its sweet
simplicity, Mell marvelled at her own sensations. Could it be
gladness, this feeling that swept over her at sight of the old home?
Yes, it was gladness. Perplexed in mind, heavy at heart, and fretted
to the lowest depths of her soul by this struggle within her, which
seemed to be never ending, Mell was glad to get back into the quietude
of the old farm house after the continuous strain and excitement of
the past few weeks. The flowers in the little garden stirred gently in
the breeze; there was a gleam of blue sky above the low roof; birds
chirped softly in the euonymus hedge under the window of her own
little room, and the tranquillity and serenity and staidness of the
spot soothed her feverish mind and calmed her feverish spirit. It was
lonely, desolate, mean, and poor, but none the less a refuge from the
storms of a higher region; from the weariness of pleasure and the
burden of empty enjoyment; from the tiresomeness of being amused, and
the troublesomeness of seeming to be amused without being; from an
ecstasy of suffering and an agony of transport; in short, a hoped-for
refuge from herself and Jerome.

"Hurry up, Mell! Hurry up! He's mos' gone!"

"What, mother! You don't mean--?"

"Yes, I does, Mell. He was tuck wuss in the night. He won't know ye,
I'm 'fraid."

But he did, and opening his eyes he smiled faintly, as she hung over
his ugly face--uglier now, after the ravages of disease, than ever
before; dried up by scorching fevers to a semblance of those
parched-up things we see in archæological museums; deeply lined and
seamed and furrowed, as if old Time had never had any other occupation
since he was a boy but to make marks upon it; uglier than ever, but
with an expression upon it which had never been there before--that
solemn dignity which Death gives to the homeliest features.

"Father! father!" sobbed Mell, "don't die! Don't leave your little
Mell! Don't leave me now, when I've just begun to love you as I
ought!"

Ha, Mell! Just begun! He has reached a good old age, and you are a
woman grown, and you have just begun to love your father! It is too
late, Mell. He does not need your love now. He is trying to tell you
that, or something else. Put your ear a little closer.

"What did you say, father! Try to tell me again."

And he did; she heard every word:

"Good-bye, little Mell! I ain't gwine ter morteefy ye no mo'!"


CHAPTER VI.

A DEAL IN FUTURES.

"Why do you fret so much about it?" asked Rube, sitting beside his
promised wife about a week after the old man was laid to rest. "You
loved your father, of course, but--"

"There's the point!" exclaimed Mell. "I did not love him--not as a
child ought to love a parent. What did it matter that his looks
were common and his speech rude? His thoughts were true, his
motives good, his actions honest, and now I mourn the blindness which
made me value him, not for what he was, but what he looked to be. In
self-forgetfulness and sacrificing devotion to me he was sublime. He
went in rags that I might dress above my station; he ate coarse food
that I might be served with dainties; he worked as a slave that I
might hold my hands in idleness; and how did I requite him? I was
ashamed of him; I held him in contempt. Oh, oh! My, my!"

"Come, now," remonstrated Rube, trying to stem the torrent of this
lachrymatory deluge, and wondering what had become of all the
comforting phrases in the English language, that he could not put his
tongue upon one of them. "Do try to calm yourself, dearest. I know you
are exaggerating the true state of the case, as we are all prone to
do in moments of self-upbraiding. I never saw you lacking in respect
to him."

"There's a great many bad things in me you never saw," blubbered Mell,
breaking out afresh.

"Dear, dear!" said Rube, "I never saw such grief as this!"

"You--are--disgusted, I know?"

"Not a bit of it!" declared Rube; "just the contrary! I fairly dote on
the prospect of a wife who is going to cry hard and cut up dreadful
when anything happens to a fellow. It kind of makes dying seem sort of
easy. But, come, now; you've cried enough. Let me comfort you."

"No, no!" cried Mell, shrinking away from him. "If you only knew, you
would not want to comfort me. I do not deserve a single kind word from
you. I am unworthy your regard. I am a weak woman, and a wicked one.
Oh, Rube! I have not treated you right. That day at the picnic I was
angry with some one else; I was piqued; I did not feel as I made you
think I felt. I--that is--"

Here Mell broke down completely in her disjointed arraignment of self,
thoroughly disconcerted by the young man's change of countenance. His
breath came quick, a dark cloud overspread his features, and he lost
somewhat of his ruddy color.

"Do you mean, then, to say I was but a tool, and the whole thing a lie
and a cheat?"

Rube's thoughts sped as directly to their mark, as the well-aimed
arrow from the bent bow.

"Don't be so angry with me," prayed Mell, "please don't! You don't
know how much I have suffered over it. I say, at that time I thought I
cared for some one else, and so I ought not, in all fairness, to have
encouraged you; but, it is only since father died, that I have been
able to see things in their true light. I have had a false standard of
character, a false measure of worth, a false conception of human aims
and human achievement. Out of the wretchedness of sleepless hours I
have heard the under-tones of truth: Knowledge is great, but how much
greater is goodness without knowledge than knowledge without
goodness!"

Rube made no reply. He left her side, and, crossing the room, folded
his arms and looked moodily out of the window. He was very simple in
nature, somewhat slow, sometimes stupid; but loyal and true--true in
great things, and no less true in small ones, and as open as the day.

Mell dried her eyes, and glanced at him anxiously. The worst part of
her duty was now over. She began already to feel relieved; she began
already to know just how she was going to feel in a few minutes more,
the possessor of a conscience, void of offence before God and man.
There's nothing like it--a good conscience.

"This beats all!" soliloquized Rube, at the window; "I'll be hanged if
there's enough solid space in a woman's mind to peg a man's hat on!
Now, just as things have panned out all right for Devonhough, here's a
tombstone in my own graveyard!"

"Ha!" thought Mell, hearing, considering.

"_Just as things have panned out all right for Devonhough._"

What did that mean? Her throbbing, panting, bursting heart knew only
too well. Clara had come to a decision--she would marry Jerome, and
not the Honorable Archibald.

Rube had scarcely ceased to speak when Mell raised her head.

"Rube!"

Very soft that call!

Unheeding, Rube still looked out of the window and into the past. That
day at the picnic--that beautiful day, that day of days; a pure,
white, luminous spot in memory's galaxy of fair and heavenly
things--that day she had not felt as she had made him think she felt;
hence, he had been a cat's-paw, a puppet; and she--oh, it could not be
that Mell was a dissembler, a hypocrite, a serpent!

"Rube!"

A little louder was this call.

He turned, he obeyed--no more able to resist the beckoning hand, the
dulcet voice, the luring glance, than you or I the spells of our own
individual Sirens and Circes.

He came back to her, but stood in gloomy waiting, his brow so dark,
his expression so hard and cold and stern, that the girl on the sofa
felt herself wilting and withering before him, as a frail flower in a
deadly blast.

She did not say a word.

She only used two eyes of blue, and two big tears which rolled out of
them, and down upon her velvet cheek, and splash upon her little white
hand, with crushing effect--not upon the hand, but the beholder.

"Mell," said he, hoarsely, "what is all this? What is the meaning of
it? I do not see your drift, exactly. Do you wish to be free?"

"I thought that would be _your_ wish," floundered Mell, "perhaps, when
you heard of that other--other fancy--you know, Rube; if I had not
told you anything about it, and it had come afterwards to your
knowledge, you would have thought I had not acted squarely towards
you."

"So much, then, I understand; but what are your leanings now? Don't
beat about the bush; speak out your wishes plainly. I am not a brute.
I would release a woman at the very altar, if her inclinations leaned
in another direction. Do you imagine I would care to marry a woman,
however much I might love her, whose heart was occupied by another?
Where would be the sanctity of such a marriage? I would be the worse
defrauded man of the two. So, Melville, if there is any one you like
better than you do me, speak it now. Tell me plainly, do you care for
me--or some one else?"

Now, Mell, here's your chance; hasten to redeem your past. He has put
the whole thing before you in a nutshell. You know just how he thinks
and how he feels. After this, you dare not further betray a heart so
noble, so forbearing, so true! Tell him, Mell; tell him, for your own
sake; tell him, for his sake; tell him, for God's sake! Come, Mell,
speak--speak quick! Don't wait a second, a single second! A second is
a very little bit of time, the sixtieth part of one little minute;
but, short as it is, if you hesitate, it will be long enough for you
to remember that you may live to be a very old woman, and pass all
your life in this old farm-house, utterly monotonous and wearisome;
that you will be very lonely; that you will be very poor; that you
will be very unhappy; that you will miss Rube's jewels and Rube's
sugar plums and Rube's hourly devotions, to which you have now become
so well accustomed;--short, but long enough to remember all this. So
speak, Mell, quick! quick! The second is gone before Mell speaks.

It was a long second for Rube.

"O Mell, Mell! can it be that you care for him and not for me? At
least, let _me_ hear it--let me hear the truth! I can bear anything
better than this uncertainty."

Even this bitter cry brought forth no response. The dumbness of
Dieffenbachia lay upon Mell's tongue.

"I see how it is," said Rube, turning to go.

"No, you don't!" exclaimed Mell, pulling him back. She was now
desperate. Her tear-stained face broke into April sunshine. "I do not
care for that other. How could you think so? Once I thought so myself;
it was a delusion. A woman cannot love a selfish, tyrannical,
overbearing creature like that!--not really, though she may think so
for a time; but you, Rube, you are the quintessence of goodness! you
are worth a dozen such men as he!"

"So it's me!" ejaculated Rube. "I am the lucky dog! I am the
quintessence of goodness!"

He drew a long breath; he sank comfortably back into the old seat and
into the old sense of security, and addressed himself with a joyous
air and renewed enthusiasm to the old rôle of love-making.

Just like a man--the very man who thinks he has such a deep insight
into dark matters, who thinks he knows so much about everything in the
wide world, especially women!

"You are the most conscientious creature alive!" declared Rube,
happier than ever, over a nearly lost treasure. "The whole amount of
your offence seems to be that you once thought you cared--"

"Yes--that's it! I once thought so."

"But _I_ once thought that I cared for another girl. You would not,
for that reason, wish to send me adrift, would you?"

"No. Only I wish you hadn't!"

"Just the way I feel about it."

He laughed uncontrollably.

"Pretty one! Soul of honor! What other girl would have opened her lips
about such a trifle? And now I will not be put off another moment.
Name the day which is to make me the happiest of men."

The day was named, and Mell really felt more composure of mind and
less disquietude of spirit than she had known for many a day. She had
eased, to some extent, her guilty conscience. She had shed many
bitter, if unavailing, tears over Rube and her dead father; and now,
convinced that she could not help herself, and determined to make the
best of it, her mind drifted complacently over the long stretch of
prosperous years before her, wherein she would be neither lonely, nor
poor, nor unhappy, nor unloved; with sugar plums to her taste and
jewels in quantity--for there are just two things in this world every
young woman is sure to love--tinsel and taffy.

A healing balm now poured itself, so to speak, into her life and
future prospects.

Of Jerome she saw no more. He had gone home before her father's
funeral. He had seemingly passed out of her life forever. She never so
much as mentioned his name, even to Rube, and she even thought of him
less frequently than of yore. How could she be expected to think of
him with the wedding trousseau demanding all her thoughts and time?

But one day Rube came to the farm-house, worried, and told Mell, of
his own accord, that it was about Jerome and Clara. There had been a
row between them.

The Honorable Archibald Pendergast, as she well knew, was no ordinary
man--neither, it seemed, was he an ordinary lover. Notwithstanding his
late rejection, he had been paying Clara such marked attentions in
Washington that a society journal had publicly announced their
engagement; whereupon Jerome had delivered his ultimatum--she would
marry him at once or else they were quits.

"And I don't blame him," declared Rube, "not one bit! He stood as much
at her hands, and stood it as long, as a man _can_ stand. I never
could have taken the same from you."

Ah, Rube, we little know, any of us, just what we are taking at any
hour in the day and at the hands of our own friends!

It is well for us that we do not.

"And now," inquired Mell, scarcely able to articulate, so great was
her agitation, "what is Clara going to do?"

"She is going to marry the Honorable Archibald," replied Rube, adding,
with the breezy disgust of a sunny temper: "It's a confounded shame!
He's old enough for her father, and I don't believe she cares _that_
about him! But he's a great statesman, and there's a good prospect of
his getting into the White House some of these days; and some women
love social eminence better than they do their own souls! I am glad
you are not one of that kind, Mell--you will be content with your
planter husband, won't you, Mell?"

"I have written him to come to our wedding," pursued Rube. "I like him
as well as ever--even more! He's a splendid fellow! I hope he will
come, but I think it hardly probable."

Mell thought, too, it was hardly probable. After this, things went
wrong again with Mell. Her trousseau ceased to occupy her time and
attention; her wayward thoughts waged internecine strife in regions of
turmoil and vain speculation.

Meanwhile, Jerome made no sign.

"Woe is me!" wept Mell. Much had she wept since her father died; but a
dead man is not half so sore a subject of weeping as a living woman's
unworthiness, when it falls under her own judgment.

"To do right is the only thing," moaned the unhappy girl--"to do right
and give no heed to consequences. I have learned the lesson at last.
It has been a hard one. Henceforth I am going to do right though I
slay myself in the doing."

She prayed that night as she had never prayed in all her life before.
She asked for divine help in doing right by Rube. And she arose from
her knees strengthened to do her duty, as she then conceived it.


CHAPTER VII.

THE LAST STRUGGLE.

And the quiet days pass one by one--each one very like the other--until
the last sun has set, and the evening lights gleam in the old
farm-house on the last night before the wedding-day--that wedding-day
which she had, to the very last, put off to the latest possible time.
Under the hush of evening skies, in the flower-decked garden, in the
dreamy grey air, in the sight of fallow fields glistening in the
moonlight, Rube is saying good-night.

"To bed early," was the parting injunction of Mell's future lord; "we
have a long journey before us."

"Yes," answered Mell, solemnly, "a very long journey. The journey of
life."

"However long, all too short," was Rube's fond reply. He stroked her
lovely hair. "Mell!

                  'May never night 'twixt me and you
                  With thoughts less fond arise!'"

After he was gone Mell repeated those words, "a very long journey."
Then she sighed.

It would have to be a very long journey, indeed, to correspond with
this sigh of Mell's--a very long sigh.

Well, there is no better time for a woman to sigh than the night
before she is married. Nor are tears amiss. Not one in ten knows what
she's about; for, if she did, she would not--

On the brink of the Untried there is room enough to stop and look
about one, to think better of it, to turn around and go back; only no
man or woman was ever yet gifted with brains enough to do it. The
things unknown, which loom up so temptingly into sight upon the brink
of the Untried, look far more desirable, infinitely more tempting,
than all the known blessings of the past. And so Mell sighed--but
lifted not a finger to save herself.

She went back into the little parlor to finish packing some
favorite trifles in a box to be sent to the Bigge House ere she
returned--school friend's mementoes and some of Rube's presents.

Thus engaged, outside was heard the noise of stamping hoofs and the
rumbling of wheels--some vehicle stopped at the gate--somebody came up
the sanded garden path, ascended the steps, crossed the little porch
and gave a hasty rap upon the front door.

Mell sprang to her feet. It thrilled her strangely, that footstep on
the porch, that knock upon the door.

Who could be coming there at such an hour--and the night before her
wedding?

Rube, perhaps; something he had forgotten to do or say. She would go
to the door; she started, and came back. She listened again.

It was not Rube's step--it was not Rube's knock.

Her senses were ever alert; she always noticed such things.

But the man outside had no time to lose, and did not propose to wait
there all night. He cleared his throat impatiently and knocked again.
This knock was louder than the first and more peremptory. It had a
remarkable effect upon Mell--a startling effect.

She sank upon the nearest chair, she trembled from head to foot; wild
thoughts whirled through her anarchical brain with the swiftness of a
whirlwind, and it was not until the persistent intruder knocked the
third time that she succeeded, through breath coming thick and fast,
and half-palsied lips, faintly to call out, "Come in!"

And the man came in, and the girl, crouching upon the chair, as if she
would fain hide herself down in depths of concealment where he would
never find her, felt no surprise, knowing already the late comer was
Jerome.

Jerome--but not at his best. He had been sick--or, so she thought, her
affrighted eyes sweeping over him in one swift glance. Pale was his
face, and careworn; physically, Jerome had never appeared so ill;
spiritually, he had never appeared to better advantage.

There are perplexed and ethereal truths in the heart of human things
which no bloom of health ever yet expressed. The sweetness pressed out
of suffering by the operations of its own nature, clothes itself in a
subtler and more irresistible charm than was ever yet discovered in
the hues of a pearly complexion, or the rays of a brilliant eye. From
under the potent spell of its attraction, we soon forget a countenance
merely beautiful; we never forget the one made beautiful through
suffering.

Our sainted mother, who went through rivers of fire and a thousand
death agonies ere death itself came; who died, at last, with a joyful
smile on her face, bidding us meet her on the other shore--we do not
forget how _she_ looked!

Our heroic father, borne home from the battle-field, with his death
wound; who bade us with his last breath to serve God and our
country--we do not forget how _he_ looked! These are the images
indelibly fixed in the sensitized slide of memory, while the
peach-bloom face upon the boulevard, the merry face in the dance, fade
as fades the glory of a flower.

Jerome has suffered. Some of his youth he has left behind him. But
with that youth he has left, too, much of his suffering. At this
moment every feature in his facial federation of harmonious elements
was lighted up with a kindling spirit of its own. Whatever the
inspiration, whether intrinsically noble, or ignoble, it is to its
possessor a glorious inspiration. We say noble, or ignoble; for, one
man's glory may be another man's shame, and both true men. So,
perhaps, no cause is great in itself, but only great in the conception
of the soul who conceives it and who fights for it.

Out of Jerome's presence, Mell had branded him as a being selfish,
tyrannical, and incapable of long retaining a woman's love; in his
presence she only knew he was the embodiment of life's supreme good.

But worse than a flaming sword was now the sight of the man she loved.
She dreaded the sound of his coming voice as she dreaded the trump of
Doom. What would he say--he who handled words as a skilful surgeon
manipulates cutting-instruments, to kill or cure--what would he say to
the woman who had been untrue to her word?

He said absolutely nothing.

No formal salutation passed between the two. Drawing a chair directly
in front of the hostess, by whom his coming was so little expected,
Jerome sat down upon it and regarded the agitated face and the almost
cowering form of the woman before him, in profound silence.

She had dreaded his words, had she? Heavens! This wordless arraignment
of her guilty self at the bar of her own conscience, her silent
accuser both judge and jury, and only two wretched hearts, which ached
as one, for witness, was worse than a true bill found in a crowded
court of justice. A storm of angry words, a typhoon, a sorocco, a
veritable Dakota blizzard of sweeping invective, would have been easy
lines compared to this.

She would die--Mell knew she would--of sheer shame and self-reproach,
before this awful silence, which threatened to continue to the end of
time, was ever broken.

Would he never open his mouth and say something, no matter how
dreadful?

He did, at last.

"Mellville," said Jerome, gently, "are you glad to see me?"

"No!" passionately.

"Not glad? Then you are the most ungrateful, as well as the most
faithless, of mortal beings. I have travelled long to get here. My
reaching here in time was uncertain, well nigh a hopeless matter; but
nothing is hopeless to the man who dares. What did I come for? Do you
know?"

"To load me with reproaches. Do it and begone!"

"No, Mell; I have not come for that! There's no salvation in abuse,
and I have come to save. Perhaps, Mell, there is no one in the whole
world who understands you--your nature, in its strength and in its
weakness--as well as I. You are not a perfect woman, Mell; you have
one fault, but even that fault I love because I so love you! And I see
so plainly just how and why your love has failed me in my utmost need,
and I know so well just how and why the conditions of existence, amid
such surroundings as this, must be utterly unendurable to a girl of
your temperament and aims. And so, through all my anger and all my
sorrow and all my wounded affection, I have made excuses in my heart
for my pretty Mell, my faithless Mell, whom I still love in spite of
all her weakness; who in that weakness could find no other way of
escape from a poor, bald, common-place, distasteful life, except
through the crucifixion of her own heart, the ruin of her own
happiness. Weak, you are nevertheless far dearer to me than the
strongest-minded of your sex; false in act but not at heart, you are
still the sweetest to me of all sweet womanhood; and I have come to
save, not to reproach you! Here is what I bring. It goes fittingly
with the heart long in your possession."

He reached forth his hand to her. Mell inspected it with those dark
and regretful looks we bestow on the blessings which are for others,
but not for us.

This was the hand whose touch conferred happiness; a hand so strong,
so firm, so steady, perfect in every joint and finger-tip, endowed
with all the intellectual subtlety and effective mechanism of which
the hand of man is capable--the only hand, among thousands and
ten-thousands of human hands, she had ever wanted for her own--and now
here it was, so near, and, alas! farther than ever before! She
clenched her own hands convulsively together, and closed her eyes to
shut out the sight of it and the entreating tenderness of its appeal.

"Take it," said Jerome, seductively; "it is now mine to give, and
yours to accept."

"Too late," returned Mell, in sadness; "to-morrow I wed with Rube."

"_To-morrow?_ Yes, I know. But have you ever reflected what a long way
off to-morrow is? and how little we need to dread the coming of
to-morrow, if we look well after to-day? And, my dear Mell, how many
things occur to-night ere to-morrow ever comes! That's another thing
you have not thought about. In your plans for marrying Rube to-morrow,
you have neglected to take into consideration"--the rest he whispered
into her ear, so low, so low she could scarcely catch it, but the
sudden crash of brazen instruments, the sharp clash of steel, a
thunderbolt at her very feet could not have made her start so
violently or convulsed her with such terror--"_the fact that you are
going to marry me to-night!_" With a gesture of instinctive
repugnance, with a look of supplicating horror, she pushed him away.

"Only devils tempt like that!"

"No devil ever yet tempted a woman to right-doing."

"It could not be right to treat Rube so."

"It is the only way to right a wrong already done him."

"No. I am going to make that wrong up to Rube. I have sworn to do it!
I am going to stick by Rube through thick and thin. You go away! What
did you come here for? Dark is the fate of the woman who breaks her
plighted vows."

"Darker still the fate of the woman who seals false vows. Such are
untrue to the high instincts of the immortal within them."

"But think how infamous! how base such an act! how scandalous! I
cannot do it!"

"Yet, you will do worse--far worse. A loveless marriage is worse than
a broken vow. Such a marriage may pass current for legal tender in the
courts of the world, but when some day, you come to square up
accounts, you will find fraudulent bonds and unholy speculation in
married estate the worst investment a foolish woman ever made.
Dishonesty never pays, but it pays less in a marriage without love
than anywhere else. And where's the use of trying to deceive Rube and
the rest of the world, when God knows? You can't very well hoodwink
_Him_, Mell. And how will you be able to endure it; to be clothed in
marvellously fine garments and ride in a chariot, and envy the beggars
as you pass them in their honest rags; to be a Jonas in every kiss, a
Machiavelli in every word, a crocodile in every tear; Janus-faced on
one side, and mealy-mouthed on the other; to be a fraud, a sham, a
make-believe, an organized humbug, and a painted sepulchre? That's the
picture of the woman who marries one man and loves another. Is it a
pleasant picture, Mell? You will chafe behind the gilded bars, and
champ the jewelled bit. You will feel the sickening thraldom of a
cankering memory, a rankling regret, a sullen remorse, a longing after
your true self, with every breath a lie, every act a counterfeit,
every word a mincing of the truth. God only knows how you will bear
it!"

God only--she did not. Her head drooped lower in unspeakable
bitterness and humiliation. Amid all the darkness she could see but
one ray of light.

"But if I do my duty--" began Mell.

"A woman's first duty to her husband is to love him," said Jerome,
gravely; "failing in that, she fails in all else."

"But love comes with the doing of duty, everybody says. I must do my
duty by Rube."

"Very well. Do your duty, Mell, but do it now. That is all I ask.
Manifestly it is not your duty to marry him. With every throb of your
heart pulsating for me, you will not be worth one dollar to Rube in
the capacity of a wife. He would tell you so, if he knew. Can't you
see that, Mell?"

She could see it distinctly. Jerome's words burned with the brilliancy
of magnesium, throwing out this aspect of the subject in glaring
light. Rube stood again before her, as he had stood on the morning of
that day upon which she had undertaken to fulfil her promise to Jerome
and failed so ignominiously--stood, and was saying: "_I_ would be the
most defrauded man of the two," and "where would be the sanctity of
such a marriage?"

Not one dollar would she be worth to him--_if he knew!_ He would know
some time; everything under the sun gets known somehow, the only
question is--when?

Seeing the impression made, Jerome spoke again, in words low,
impassioned:

"Save yourself, for the love of God! Save yourself and Rube from such
a fate!"

Mell glanced about her in terror and confusion, turning red and pale.
Gladly would she save herself; but how can a respectable member of
good society accept salvation at such a price--the price of being
talked about?

"It is too late," she told her companion, in tones as sorrowful as the
wail of a wandering bard in a strange land; "too late! Why, man, the
bridal robes are ready, the bridal cake is baked, the bridal guests
are bidden; and would you have me, at this last minute, turn Rube
into a laughing-stock, a by-word on every idle lip, a man to be
pointed out upon the streets, a man to be jeered at in the crowd?
Would you have me do that?"

"Yes. That is not a happy lot, but it soon passes, and is better than
being duped for life and wretched for life."

Mell averted her face. She seemed striving for words:

"I don't see why Rube should be so unhappy as you seem determined to
make him. Even granting that he knew that I do not feel romantically
towards him, as I have felt towards you--"

"Have felt?" interposed her listener.

She waived his question aside and proceeded:

"Still there is a love born of habit and propinquity, and that will
come to my rescue. Rube is a splendid fellow! I respect him. I honor
his character, and I could be happy with him if--"

"Well," said Jerome, huskily, "go on."

"_If it were not for you._"

"Ha!" exclaimed he, "has it come to that? That alters the case
completely. I will take myself off, then! I will get out of your way!
Had I suspected the existence of one drop of real affection in your
heart towards the man you are about to marry, I would have cut off
this right hand of mine rather than come here to-night. In coming I
was sustained by the belief that I would not defraud my friend--not in
reality--not of any thing he could value; not of a wife, but of an
empty casket. This belief, on my part, is all that redeems my coming
from being an act of diabolism. And now it turns out that there is a
very good reason why the bridal cake cannot be thrown to the dogs, and
the bridal robes cannot be committed to the flames, and the bridal
guests cannot upon any account be robbed of their bride upon the
morrow--_you could be happy with him if it were not for me!_"

Bitter in tone was this repetition of her words--words which wounded
him so keenly. They were calculated to wound the tender sensibilities
of any lover, most of all a lover of Jerome Devonhough's stamp. He
could condone any weakness on her part, except that which touched his
own dominion over her--the sceptre of his love, the yoke of his power.
Under a pacific exterior, there seethed in Jerome, volcanic masses of
self-will and unchangeable purpose; hemmed in, held in bounds, seldom
breaking forth in violent eruption, but always there. He was totally
unprepared for any change in the feelings of the woman upon whom he
had lavished the arbitrary tenderness of his own strong nature.
Jerome, you perceive, is no more of a hero than Mell is a heroine. He
is the counterpart of the man who lives round the corner, who sits
next you in church, whom you meet not unfrequently at your friend's
house at dinner. This man loves his wife, not because she is an
artistic production, elaborately wrought out in broad, mellow,
triumphant lines, grand in character, but rather because he recognizes
good material in her for his own moulding. We must never approach the
contemplation of any man's requirements in a wife with our minds full
of loose generalities. There is so much of the fool in every man, the
wisest man, who falls in love. He falls in love, not so much with what
is ideally lovable in a woman, but what is practically complemental to
his own nature. Jerome, being strong, loved Mell, who was weak, and
weak in those very places where Jerome was strong. She needed him. He
felt that he was a necessary adjunct to her perfect development in the
sphere of womanhood; he felt that she was necessary to him in the
enlargement of his manhood. For, does not a man of his type need some
one to guide, to govern, to lord it over, and to get all the nonsense
out of? But he would love her, too, notwithstanding all this, with
that sheltering devotion which a woman needs--all women, with one
exception. A strong woman in her strength is not dependent upon any
man's love.

"So it has come to this," pursued Jerome, brooding in low tones over
the matter, "there is but one impediment to your happiness--the man
whom you have professed to love, whom you have so basely resigned.
With me safely out of the way, you and Rube are all right. You do, it
seems, know your own mind at last. And Clara Rutland knows hers at
last, and everybody is about to be made incontinently happy--everybody
but me! I am left out in the cold! I am left, between you all,
stranded on the lonely rock of unbelief, either in a woman's word or a
woman's love; and must eat alone, and digest as best I may, all the
sour grapes left over from two marriage-feasts. A pleasant prospect,
truly! Would to God I had never seen either one of you!"

Mell was dumb. She was dumb from conviction. Clara Rutland _had_
treated him badly, and so had she; and she could think of nothing to
say which would put in any fairer light that ugly treatment. She
marvelled at his patience through it all; she was bewildered that he
had thus far, during this trying interview, remained

                 "In high emotions self-controlled."

She knew a change must come. She saw through furtive eyes and without
raising her head, that a change had already come. Not even a strong
will can regulate a heart's pulsations--a heart which has been sinned
against in its most sacred feelings. As the storm-clouds sweep up from
the west and mass themselves with awful grandeur in battle array, so
lowered dark and tempestuous thoughts, pregnant with danger, on the
young man's brow. Across his frame there swept a convulsive quiver of
emotion; his features took on that hard, stern look of repressed
indignation and passion which Mell so well knew and so much feared.

With that look upon his face, Jerome was not a man to be trifled
with.

But what was he going to do? Shake her again?

She said nothing when he took hold of her two hands with a grasp of
iron. Silently she awaited her fate; tremblingly she wondered what
that fate would be.

He was only telling her good-by. He knew not how hard he pressed upon
those tender hands; he only knew he might never clasp them in his own
again. It was a terrible moment--terrible not alone for Mell.

One would have thought, seeing how he suffered in giving her up, that
she was the last woman in the world; whereas, we know there are
multitudes of them, many more estimable in character, some equally
desirable in person, with just such wondrous hair, just such
enchanting eyes, just such shapeliness of construction, enough in
itself to inspire mankind with the most passionate love--plenty of her
kind, but none exactly Mell!

Sensible of that detaining clasp; knowing his keen eyes scanned darkly
and hungrily every quivering feature in her unquiet face; hearing his
labored breath and the low sobs wrung from a strong man's agony, Mell
felt first as a guilty culprit.

If only he would stab her to the heart, and then himself.

We little thought, any of us, when we saw him lying in the meadow on
the grass at her feet, that out of the joyous inspiration of that
glorious summer weather, out of two young lives so beautiful, out of
young love, a thing so full of poetry and romance, would come such
wretchedness as this.

After a little while, the touch of those rose-leaf palms, the
whiteness of her face, the appeal for mercy in those eyes seeking his
own, had a soothing effect upon Jerome. He would now put forth all his
strength and quietly say good-by.

Softly he pressed to his lips one of those imprisoned hands; softly,
in a heart-sick rapture of despairing renunciation, he was about to do
the same with the other, when the glint of Rube's solitaire, the
pledge of her hated bondage to another, the glaring witness of her
treachery towards himself, flashed into his eyes and overcame all his
good resolutions. With a look of unutterable reproach, with a gesture
of undying contempt, he tossed the offending hand back upon her lap.

"Think not," he broke forth, in vehement utterance, "that no thought
of me will embitter your bridal joys! I leave you to your fate! I go
to my own! Dark it may be, but not darker than yours!"

And this was the quiet way in which he bade her good-by.

The words pierced Mell to the very soul, and, combined with the
blackness of his countenance, filled her with indefinable, but very
horrible imaginings. He had almost reached the door, when with a
smothered cry of pain, she followed him.

As irresistibly as ever he drew her.

"Jerome! Jerome! Where are you going?"

"To ruin!" exclaimed he, turning upon her with that barbaric
fierceness which seems to underlie everything strong in nature--"to
ruin, where you women without principle, have sent many a better man!
To ruin, and to hell, if I choose," he added, with fearful emphasis.
"My going and my coming are no longer any concern of yours!"

"Yes, they are, Jerome," she assured him, deprecatingly. "Don't leave
me in anger, Jerome!"

"Not in anger? Then, how--in delight?" There was now a menacing gleam
in his eye which more than ever alarmed her. "My cause is lost. You
have done me all the wrong you could, and now that I am dismissed, set
aside, told to begone, debased, and dethroned, you expect me to be
delighted over it, do you?"

"No, Jerome; but do not leave me feeling so. Promise me to do nothing
rash."

"I will not promise you anything! You have not spared my feelings, why
should _I_ spare yours? Since your affection for me has moderated into
that platonic kind, which admits of your happiness in union with
another, I will do whatever I please to do, knowing no act of mine,
however dreadful, will affect you."

"Oh, Jerome, do not say that! You must see, you must know in your
heart, that I do still care for you--Oh, God! more than I ought."

"And yet not enough to make you do what is right!"

"But to right you, will wrong Rube," she answered in confusion.

"Enough, then; you know your own feelings, or ought to. Since Rube is
the one dearest to you, marry him!"

He turned again upon his heel. Obeying an impulse she could not
resist, Mell once more detained him. It is hard to die, everybody
says; but to die yourself must be easier than to give up the one you
love.

"Jerome, wait a moment! Come back! Jerome, you do not realize what a
dishonorable thing this is you are persuading me to do?"

"Don't I?" he laughed wildly. "God Almighty! Mellville, what do you
take me for? Wouldn't I have been here a week ago, two weeks ago, but
for the battle I have had to fight with my own scruples--but for the
war I have had to wage with my own soul? I have said to myself, again
and again, 'I will not do this thing though I die!' But when I started
out upon this journey, it had come to this: 'I must do this thing or
else--die!'"

Shaken as a storm-rifted tree bending in the blast, she was not yet
uprooted.

"It is hard, hard," she murmured, wringing her hands in nervous
constraint; "but time, you know, Jerome, time softens everything."

"It does!" he said, harshly--"even the memory of a crime!"

"What do you mean by that?" exclaimed Mell, every word of his filling
her with indefinable fears.

"I mean what I say. Once out of the way, you and Rube, the two beings
most dear to me on earth, could be happy together; you have told me
so. Then, how selfish in me--"

"Oh, Jerome, you would not! Surely you would not do such a thing!"

"I do not say that I would, nor that I would not. A desperate man is
not to be depended on either by himself or others. I only know that in
this fearful upheaval of all my life's aims and ends, any fate seems
easier than living. But Mellville--" his tones were now quiet, but
they were firm; his lips were set in angles of immovable resolve; his
brow bent and dark with the shadows of unlifting determination. It
would be difficult to imagine a more striking figure than Jerome in
the rôle of a man who had made up his mind--

"But Mellville, this struggle must end. It must end _now_, or it will
put an end to us. I did not come here to-night to submit to the
humiliation of begging a woman to marry me against her will. I came to
rescue a being in distress from the painful consequences of her own
rash act. Now, then, you love me, or you do not? You will marry me, or
you will not? Which is it? Answer! In five minutes I leave this house,
with or without you!"

He dropped upon his knees at her feet; he snatched her to his breast.
Reason was gone, his soul all aflame:

"Mell, listen: Love is more than raiment, more than food, more than
the world's censure or the world's praise. It is sweeter in life than
life itself! But time presses; the other wedding comes on apace; we
have no time to spare. An hour's hard driving will bring us to Parson
Fordham's, well known to me. There we will be married at once, and
catch the early train at Pudney. Our names will be an execration and a
by-word for a little time, but what of that? What though all friends
turn their backs upon us! Together we will enter hopefully upon a new
life, loving God and each other--a life of truer things, Mell; a life
consecrated to each other and glorified by perfect love and perfect
trust. Will you lead that life with me?"

"No, I will not!"

"What, Mellville!" he cried. "You will not! I thought you loved me,
loved me as I loved you?"

"Once I loved you," she said. She spoke now as much to her own soul as
to his perceptions. "Once--or was it only that I thought I did? For
long weeks I struggled against deceiving Rube, and out of that I must
have drifted by slow degrees into deceiving myself. For, to-night,
even to-night, when I parted from Rube I thought it was you I loved,
not he! But the mists have lifted from my vision, and now, at this
moment--never fully until this moment--I see you both in your true
light; I weigh you understandingly, one against the other; I set your
self-seeking against his unselfishness, your improbity against his
high sense of honor. And how plainly I see it all! Just as if a moral
kaleidoscope were exhibiting by spiritual reflections, to the eyes of
my mind, the difference between one man and another, at an angle of
virtue which is the aliquot part of three hundred and sixty degrees of
real merit! Upon this disk of the imagination appears your own image;
and what are you doing? Passing me by as an unknown thing, a thing too
small to know in the presence of mighty magnates at a county picnic!
There is another manly form; what is he doing? Lifting me up from the
bare earth where the other's cruel slights have crushed me; feeding me
with his own hands; even then loving me. How different the pictures!
Shift the scene. Some one is crowning me: I am a queen before the
world. Whose hand has held a crown for me? Not yours--Rube's! You had
not the courage. He had. I love courage in a man. I love it better
than a handsome face or an oily tongue. A man without courage--what is
he? He isn't a man at all--not really. Jerome Devonhough," here she
turned her lovely face, grown so cold, and her exquisite eyes, grown
so scornful, full upon him, "were you the right sort of a man, would
you be here to-night? Will a man, false to his friend, be true to his
wife? I can trust Rube Rutland; can I trust you? No! For, even while
loving, I could not keep down a feeling of contempt. Beginning with
respect for Rube, that sentiment of respect has ripened into
love--real love--not the wild, senseless, mad, unreasoning passion of
an untutored girl, which eats into its own vitals, and drains its own
lees,--as mine for you,--but that deeper, better, higher, more
enduring, and well-nigh perfect affection of the full-lived woman, who
out of deep suffering has emerged into an enlightened conception of
her own nature's needs, her own heart's craving for what is best,
truest, most God-like in a man! That love, which will wear well, nor
grow threadbare through time, which will take on a more wondrous glow
in the realms of eternity, is the love I feel for Rube!"

"Bah!" he exclaimed, not yet quenched, not yet hopeless. "Eternity is
a long word, and all your fine talking cannot deceive _me!_ Oh, woman,
woman, what a face you have, and what brains! I do not know which
holds me tighter. That face so fair, that mind so subtle--together
they might well turn the head of the devil himself, but they cannot
deceive _me!_ The string which draws you is golden. It is not Rube you
love so much, so purely, so perfectly; oh, no, not Rube! Not Rube, but
his possessions. Not the man--the man's house! Its beautiful turrets
and gables, its gardens and lawns, its lovely views, and spacious
luxury, and abounding wealth. For that you give me up. Still loving
me, Rube's pelf is dearer still!"

"Not now--not now! Now I love _him_--the man! Not for what he has, but
for what he is. For his truth, his nobility, his honor; and, as that
honor is in my keeping, I bid you go and return no more. Your power to
tempt me from my duty _and my love_ is over! My faith is grounded, my
purpose unalterable. Go!"

"This is folly. Come with me!" he cried, striving to draw her towards
the door.

She resisted.

"Come!" he urged.

She broke from him, crying:

"No, by heaven! Were it the only chance to save my own life, I would
not go! I have done with you now, forever!"

"Good-night, then," he told her, with a bitter sneer and a low,
mocking bow. "Good-night; but you will be sorry for this! You will
regret this night's work all the days of your life. Its memory will
darken the brightest day of your life!"

She did not speak, or move, as he turned upon his heel and left her.

There sounds his foot upon the stair, and next upon the gravelled
walk! And now the garden-gate swings open, and the carriage-door bangs
shut, after which the wheels grate upon the pebbles, and the clatter
of horses' hoofs rings out upon the midnight air. Gone! Gone!

Her head reels; all her senses seem benumbed. Not even a heavy tread
through the dark entry did she hear. It was the clasp of strong arms
around her which woke her from her trance.

She turned, exclaiming in alarm: "Rube! You here! You--you have
heard?"

"Every word. I was up; I could not sleep. Does any man sleep the night
before he is married? _I_ could not. I lighted a cigar and went out
upon the lawn. At the gate I stood, puffing away and looking up in
this direction, wondering if my sweet wife that is to be had obeyed my
parting injunctions and gone to sleep, when presently a carriage came
tearing along, going in the very direction of my own thoughts. A man
sat within; I cannot say that I exactly recognized that man in the
moonlight, but I saw him move quickly back when he saw me, and that
aroused my suspicions. I followed; I could not help following.
Something told me my happiness was menaced, my love in danger. I was
determined to know the truth, Mell. I listened."

"And you do not hate me?"

"Hate you, Mell? Dearer to me than ever you are at this moment! I
know how you have been tempted; I realize all you have overcome. Never
could I doubt such love! Comforted by it, I can bear up even under
so heavy a misfortune as the treachery of a friend. But the hour is
late; we must not talk longer; you must snatch a little rest.
Good-night once more, dear love. To-morrow, Mellville, you will be
mine--to-morrow!"

"Aye, Rube! To-morrow, yours! Upon every day and every morrow of my
life, always yours!"


THE END.



                  *       *       *       *       *



Transcriber's Note:

  Authors' archaic and variable spelling and hyphenation is mostly
  preserved.

  Authors' punctuation styles are preserved.

  Passages in italics indicated by _underscores_.

  Passages in bold indicated by =equal signs=.

  Typographical problems have been changed and are listed below, as
  are changes made to standardise some hyphenation.


Transcriber's Changes:

  Page 169: Was 'territores' (nullify the results of the war by
            converting the Southern States into conquered =territories=,
            in order that party supremacy)

  Page 169: Was 'acquiesence' (The hint was taken, the contest of 1868
            was fought under a seeming =acquiescence= in the views of
            Stevens and Morton;)

  Page 194: Was 'imperturable' ("No, indeed! I have pledged my word to
            _her_ never to touch a drop!" protested Andy, with
            =imperturbable= good nature.)

  Page 221: Was 'anymore' ("W.," she said, "you don't know =any more=
            about it than Horace Greeley did.")

  Page 225: Was 'contemptously' (Mrs. W. spoke of them
            =contemptuously= as "nasty black worms.")

  Page 245: Was 'in' (which is much better, and come to the reader =in
            the= shape of love-stories, odd adventures,)

  Page 248: Was 'of' (and if she were in the company =of one= whom she
            trusted intimately, she would laugh those popular virtues
            to scorn with her warm,)

  Page 254: Was 'pleasant, sounding' (Mell's rather strained gayety
            found an agreeable echo in his =pleasant-sounding=
            laughter.)

  Page 263: Standardised hyphenation: Was 'pic-nic' (Not on Wednesday,
            for there's a confounded =picnic= afoot for that day.)

  Page 263: Standardised hyphenation: Was 'pic-nics' (I wish the man
            who invented =picnics= had been endowed with immortal life
            on earth and made to go to every blessed one)

  Page 269: Standardised hyphenation: Was 'pre-occupied' (They were
            fine young fellows, and very pleasant, too, but Mell
            continued so =preoccupied= in the vain racking of her
            brain)

  Page 270: Was 'omniverous' (It was altogether as much as she could
            do to keep from sobbing aloud in the faces of all these
            =omnivorous=, happy people.)

  Page 273: Was 'inate' (to a simple country girl, who, destitute of
            fortune, had nothing to commend her but =innate= modesty
            and God-given beauty.)

  Page 276: Was 'It' ("You mean it? =It is= a solemn promise! One of
            those promises you always keep!")

  Page 278: Was 'repentent' (I don't know who feels most idiotic or
            =repentant=, the girl who wears 'em or the fellow who won
            'em.)

  Page 278: Was 'juvenality' (Jerome, as soon as he could again command
            his voice, "unless it be Miss Josey's =juvenility=.")

  Page 281: Was 'It' ("But I don't wonder you feel a little frightened
            about it. =It is= such a wonderful thing for Rube to do:
            but Rube has two eyes in his head,)

  Page 282: Was 'How--do' ("=How-do=, old fellow?" said Jerome, by way
            of congratulation.)

  Page 287: Was 'bran' (She must take an airing with him in his
            =brand= new buggy)

  Page 289: Standardised hyphenation: Was 'farmhouse' (And so it came
            about that on a certain day Rube came as usual to the
            =farm-house=, but not as usual, alone.)

  Page 291: Was 'it' (The visit was long and pleasant, and at =its=
            close Mell accompanied her guests to the very door of
            their carriage.)

  Page 293: Was 'wont' (Only Clara =won't= announce, because she wants
            to keep up to the last minute her good times)

  Page 298: Was 'fiercy' ("She can lie, and lie, and still be
            honorable," he informed her with =fierce= irony.)

  Page 299: Was 'tortment' (you can never know what hours of
            =torment=, what days of suffering, this conduct of yours
            has cost me.)

  Page 301: Was 'exquisively' (but take the woman of emotional nature,
            =exquisitely= sensitive in all matters of feeling, and to
            such the touch of unloved)

  Page 302: Was 'it' (The ball is over, gone, past, never to come back
            again, with its waltz melody, =its= ravishing rhyme
            without reason)

  Page 303: Standardised hyphenation: Was 'gaslight' (It must be the
            =gas-light= in the ball-room, it must be the sunlight in
            the day-time, which makes all the difference.)

  Page 304: Was 'forgotton' (the quiet and shade of the old farm-house
            and recalling, as a =forgotten= dream, its honest
            industry)

  Page 305: Was 'euonyms' (birds chirped softly in the =euonymus=
            hedge under the window of her own little room)

  Page 305: Was 'ecstacy' (from an =ecstasy= of suffering and an agony
            of transport; in short, a hoped-for refuge from herself
            and Jerome.)

  Page 313: Was 'ignominously' (upon which she had undertaken to fulfil
            her promise to Jerome and failed so =ignominiously=--stood,
            and was saying)

  Page 313: Was 'ques-is' (He would know some time; everything
            under the sun gets known somehow, the only =question
            is=--when?)



                  *       *       *       *       *





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