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Title: Vashti - or, Until Death Us Do Part
Author: Wilson, Augusta J. Evans
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 "Vashti - or, Until Death Us Do Part" ***

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[Illustration: The stranger raised his hat and said: "Permit me to ask
your name?" "Salome Owen. And yours, sir, is--" "Ulpian Gray." Page
10.--_Vashti._]



VASHTI

_or_ UNTIL DEATH US DO PART

By AUGUSTA EVANS WILSON

(Augusta J. Evans)

Author of "Beulah," "Macaria," "Infelice," "St. Elmo," "Inez," etc.,
etc.,

"There is nothing a man knows, in grief or in sin half so bitter as to
think, what I might have been."


A. L. BURT COMPANY, PUBLISHERS NEW YORK



Entered according to Act of Congress in the year 1869, by GEORGE W.
CARLETON, In the Clerk's Office of the District Court of the United
States for the Southern District of New York.

Entered according to Act of Congress, in the year 1897, by MRS.
AUGUSTA J. EVANS WILSON, In the office of the Librarian of Congress at
Washington, D.C.

_Vashti._



TO THE HONORED MEMORY OF MY

_Beloved Father_,

WHOSE DEATH HAS RETARDED THE COMPLETION OF A WORK WHICH, IN THE
BEGINNING, WAS BLESSED WITH HIS APPROVAL,

I REVERENTLY DEDICATE THIS BOOK.



PREFACE.


  "Every man has his own style, as he has his own nose; and it is
  neither polite nor Christian to rally an honest man about his
  nose, however singular it may be. How can I help it that my style
  is not different? That there is no affectation in it, I am very
  certain."

    _Lessing._

  "Yea, I take myself to witness,
  That I have loved no darkness,
  Sophisticated no truth,
  Nursed no delusion,
  Allowed no fear."

                    _Matthew Arnold._



UNTIL DEATH US DO PART.

CHAPTER I.


"I can hear the sullen, savage roar of the breakers, if I do not see
them, and my pretty painted bark--expectation--is bearing down
helplessly upon them. Perhaps the unwelcome will not come to-day. What
then? I presume I should not care; and yet, I am curious to see
him,--anxious to know what sort of person will henceforth rule the
house, and go in and out here as master. Of course the pleasant,
peaceful days are at an end, for men always make din and strife in a
household,--at least my father did, and he is the only one I know much
about. But, after all, why borrow trouble?--the interloper may never
come."

The girl stood on tip-toe, shading her eyes with one hand, and peering
eagerly down the winding road which stretched at right angles to the
avenue, and over the hills, on towards the neighboring town. No moving
speck was visible; and, with a sigh of relief, she sank back on the
grassy mound and resumed the perusal of her book. Above and around her
spread the wide branches of an aged apple-tree, feathered thickly with
pearly petals, which the wind tossed hither and thither and drifted
over the bermuda, as restless tides strew pink-chambered shells on
sloping strands; and down through the flowery limbs streamed the
waning March sun, throwing grotesque shadows on the sward and golden
ripples over the face and figure of the young lounger. A few yards
distant a row of whitewashed bee-hives extended along the western side
of the garden-wall, where perched a peacock whose rainbow hues were
burnished by the slanting rays that smote like flame the narrow pane
of glass which constituted a window in each hive and permitted
investigation of the tireless workers within. The afternoon was almost
spent; the air, losing its balmy noon breath, grew chill with the
approach of dew, and the figure under the apple-tree shivered
slightly, and, closing her book, drew her scarlet shawl around her
shoulders and leaned her dimpled chin on her knee.

Sixteen years had ripened and rounded the girlish form, and given to
her countenance that indefinable charm which marks the timid hovering
between careless, frolicsome youth, and calmly conscious womanhood;
while perfect health rouged the polished cheeks and vermillioned the
thin lips, whose outlines sharply indexed more of decision than
amiability of character.

There were hints of brown in the heavy mass of waveless dusky hair,
that was elaborately braided and coiled around the well turned
head, and certain amber rays suggestive of topaz and gold flashed
out now and then in the dark-hazel iris of the large eyes, lending
them an eldritch and baleful glow. Fresh as the overhanging
apple-blooms, but immobile as if carved from pearl,--perhaps it
was just such a face as hers that fronted Jason, amid the clustering
boughs of Colchian rhododendrons, when first he sought old Æëtes'
prescient daughter,--the maiden face of magical Medea, innocent as
yet of murder, sacrilege, fratricide, and plunder,--eloquent of
all possibilities of purity and peace, but vaguely adumbrating all
conceivable disquietude and guilt.

The hushed expectancy of the fair young countenance had given place to
a dreamy languor, and the dark lashes drooped heavily, when a long
shadow fell upon the grass, and simultaneously the peacock sounded its
shrill alarm. Rising quickly the girl found herself face to face with
one upon whose features she had never looked before, and for a moment
each eyed the other searchingly. The stranger raised his hat, and
inclining his head slightly, said,--

"Permit me to ask your name?"

"Salome Owen. And yours, sir, is--"

"Ulpian Grey."

For a few seconds neither spoke; but the man smiled, and the girl bit
her under-lip and frowned.

"Are you the miller's daughter?"

"I am the miller's daughter; and you are the master of Grassmere."

"It seems that I come home like Rip Van Winkle, or Ulysses, unknown,
unwelcomed,--unlike the latter,--even by a dog."

"Where is your sister?"

"Not having seen her for five years, I am unable to answer."

"She went to town two hours ago, to meet you."

"Then, after all, I am expected; but pray by what route--balloon or
telegraph?"

"Miss Jane went to the railroad dépot, but thought it possible you
might not arrive to-day, and said she would attend a meeting at the
church, if you failed to come. I presume she missed you in the crowd.
Sir, will you walk into the house?"

Perhaps he did not hear the question, and certainly he did not heed
it, amid the clamorous recollections that rushed upon him as he gazed
earnestly over the lawn, down the avenue, and up at the ivy-mantled
front of the old brick homestead. Thinking it might impress him as
ludicrous or officious that she should invite him to enter and take
possession of his own establishment, Salome reddened and compressed
her lips. Apparently forgetful of her presence, he stood with his hat
in his hand, noting the changes that time had wrought: the growth of
venerable trees and favorite shrubs, the crumbling of fences, the
gathering moss on the sun-dial, and the lichen stains upon two marble
vases that held scarlet verbena on either side of the broad stone
steps.

His close-fitting travelling suit of gray showed the muscular,
well-developed form of a man of medium size, whose very erect carriage
enhanced his height and invested him with a commanding air; while the
unusual breadth of his chest and shoulders seemed to indicate that
life had called him to athletic out-door pursuits, rather than the dun
and dusty atmosphere of a sedentary, cloistered career.

There are subtle countenances that baffle the dainty stipple and line
tracery of time, refusing to become mere tablets, mere fleshy
intaglios of the past, whereon every curious stranger may spell out
the bygone, and, counting their footprints, cast up the number of
engraving years. Thus it happened that if Salome had not known from
the family Bible that this man was almost thirty-five, her eager
scrutiny of his features would have discovered little concerning his
age, and still less concerning his character. Exposure to the winds
and heat of tropic regions had darkened and sallowed the complexion,
which his clear deep blue eyes and light brown hair declared was
originally of Saxon fairness; in proof whereof, when he drew off one
glove and lifted his hand it seemed as if the marble fingers of one
statue were laid against the bronze cheek of another.

Looking intently at this grave yet benignant countenance, full of
serenity, because calmly conscious of its power, the girl set her
teeth and ground her heel into the velvet turf, for _frangas non
flectes_ was written on his smooth, broad brow, and she felt fiercely
rebellious as some fiery, free creature of the Kamse, when first
confronted with the bit and trappings of him who will henceforth
bridle and tame the desert-bred.

Waking from his brief reverie, the stranger turned and extended his
hand, saying, in tones as low and sweet as a woman's,--

"Will you not welcome a wanderer back to his home?"

She gave him the tips of her fingers, but the "Imp of the Perverse"
dictated her answer,--

"As you saw fit to compare yourself, a few moments since, to certain
celebrated absentees, I am constrained to tell you that I happen to be
neither Penelope nor Gretchen, nor yet the illustrious dog referred
to."

He smiled good-humoredly, and replied,--

"I am not very sure that there is not a spice of Dame Van Winkle
somewhere in your nature. True, we are strangers, but I believe you
are my sister's adopted child, and I hope you are glad to see her
brother at home once more. Jane is a dear kind link, who should make
us at least good friends; for, if you are attached to her you will in
time learn to like me."

"I doubt it,--seeing that you resemble Miss Jane about as nearly as I
do the Grand Lama of Larissa, or the idol Bhadrinath. But, sir,
although it is not my office to welcome you, I presume you have not
forgotten the front door, and once more I ask, Will you walk in and
make yourself at home in your own house?"

As she led the way to the steps, the arched gate at the end of the
avenue swung open, a carriage entered, and Salome retreated to her own
room, leaving unwitnessed the happy meeting between an aged, infirm
sister, and long-absent brother.

Locking the door to secure herself from intrusion, she drew a low
rocking-chair to the hearth, where smouldered the embers of a dying
fire, and dropping her face in her palms, stared abstractedly at the
ashes. As she swayed slowly to and fro, her lips parted and closed,
her brows bent from their customary curves of beauty, and half
inaudibly she muttered,--

"The sceptre is departing from Judah. My rule is well nigh ended; the
interregnum has been brief, and the old dynasty reigns once more.
Just what I dreaded from the hour I heard he was coming home. I
shall be reduced to a mere cipher, and made to realize my utter
dependence,--and the iron will soon enter my soul. We paupers are
adepts in the art of reading the countenance, and I have looked at
this Ulpian Grey long enough to know that I might as well bombard
Gibraltar with boiled peas as hope to conquer one of his whims or
alter one of his purposes. There will be bitterness and strife between
us. I shall wish him in his grave a thousand times before it closes
over him,--and he, unless he is too good, will hate me cordially. I
cannot and will not give up all my hopes and expectations, without a
long, fierce struggle."

Salome Owen was the eldest of five children, who, by the death of both
parents, had been thrown penniless upon the world, and found a
temporary asylum in the county poor-house. Her mother she remembered
merely as a feeble, fractious invalid; and her father, who had long
been employed as superintendent of large mills belonging to Miss Jane
Grey, had, after years of reckless intemperance, ended his wretched
career in a fit of mania a potu. His death occurred at a season when
Miss Grey was confined to her bed by an attack of rheumatism, which
rendered her a cripple for the remainder of her days; but the first
hours of her convalescence were spent in devising plans for the
education and maintenance of his helpless orphans. In the dusty,
cheerless yard of the poor-house she had found the little group
huddled under a mulberry tree one hot July noon; and, sending the two
younger children to the orphan asylum in a neighboring town, she had
apprenticed one boy to a worthy carpenter, another to an eminent
horticulturist in a distant State; and Salome, the handsomest and
brightest of the flock, she carried to her own home as an adopted
child. Here, for four years, the girl had lived in peace and luxurious
ease, surrounded by all the elegances and refining associations which
though not inherent in are at the command of wealth; and so rapidly
and gracefully had she fitted herself into the new social niche, that
the dark and stormy morning of her life had become only a dim and
hideous recollection, that rarely lifted its hated visage above the
smooth and shining surface of the happy present.

Fortuitous circumstances constitute the moulds that shape the majority
of human lives, and the hasty impress of an accident is too often
regarded as the relentless decree of all-ordaining fate; while to the
philosophic anthropologist it might furnish matter for curious
speculation whether, if Attila and Alaric had chanced to find
themselves the pampered sons of some merchant prince,--some Rothschild
or Peabody of the fifth century,--their campaigns had not been purely
fiscal and bloodless, limited to the leaves of a ledger, while the
names of Goth and Hun had never crystallized into synonyms of havoc
and ruin; or had Timour been trained to cabbage-raising and
vine-dressing, whether he would not have lived in history as the great
horticulturist of Kesth, or the Diocletian of Samarcand, rather than
the Tartar tyrant and conqueror of the East? How many possible Howards
have swung at Tyburn? How many canonized and haloed heads have barely
escaped the doom of Brinvilliers, and the tender mercies of Carnifex?

Analogous to that wonderful Gulf Stream, once a myth and still a
mystery, the strange current of human existence, four score and
ten years long, bears each and all of us with a strong, steady sweep
away from the tropic lands of sunny childhood, enamelled with verdure
and gaudy with bloom, through the temperate regions of manhood and
womanhood, fruitful and harvest-hued, on to the frigid, lonely shores
of dreary old age, snow-crowned and ice-veined; and individual
destinies seem to resemble the tangled drift on those broad
bounding gulf-billows, driven hither and thither, strewn on barren
beaches, scattered over bleaching coral crags, stranded upon blue
bergs,--precious germs from all climes and classes; some to be
scorched under equatorial heats; some to perish by polar perils; a
few to take root and flourish and triumph, building imperishable
land-marks; and many to stagnate in the long, inglorious rest of a
Sargasso Sea.

For all helpless human waifs in this surging ocean of time, there is
comfort in the knowledge that the fiercest storms toss their drift
highest; and one of these apparently savage waves of adversity had
swept Salome Owen safely to an isle of palms and peace, where, under
the fostering rays of prosperity, the selfish and sordid elements of
her character found rapid development.

In affectionate natures, family ties serve as cords to strangle
selfishness; for, in large domestic circles, each member contributes a
moiety to swell the good of the whole--silently endures some trial,
makes some sacrifice, shares some sympathy and sunshine, hoards some
grief and gloom, and had Salome remained with her brothers and
sisters, their continual claims on her time and attention would have
healthfully diverted thoughts that had long centred solely in self.
Finding that fortune had temporarily sheathed in velvet the goad of
necessity, the girl's aspirations soared no higher than the
maintenance of her present easy and luxurious position, as a petted
dependent on the affection and bounty of a weak but generous and
lonely old lady. Having no other object near, upon which to lavish the
love and caresses that were stored in her heart, Miss Jane had turned
fondly to Salome, and so earnestly endeavored to brighten her life,
that the latter felt assured she was selected as the heiress of that
house and estate where she had dwelt so happily; and thus sanguine
concerning her future prospects, the strong will of the girl
completely dominated the feebler and failing one of her benefactress,
through whose fingers the reins of government slipped so gradually,
that she was unconscious of her virtual abdication.

From this pleasant dream of a handsome heritage and life-long plenty,
Salome had been rudely aroused by the unwelcome tidings that a young
half-brother of Miss Jane was coming to reside under her roof; and
prophetic fear whispered that the stranger would contest and divide
her dominion. A surgeon in the United States navy, he had been absent
for five years in distant seas, and only resigned his commission in
consequence of letters which informed him of the feeble condition of
his only surviving relative. Those who have eaten the bread of charity
learn to interpret countenances with an unerring facility that
eclipses the vaunted skill of Lavater, and the girl's brief inspection
of the face which would henceforth confront her daily, yielded little
to dispel her gloomy forebodings. The sound of the tea-bell terminated
her reverie, and rising, she walked slowly to the dining-room,
throwing her head as erect as possible, and compressing her mouth like
some gladiator summoned to the fatal arena of the Coliseum.

The dining-room was large and airy, with lofty wide windows, and
neatly papered walls, where in numerous old-fashioned and quaintly
carved frames hung the ancestral portraits of the family. Although one
window was open, and the mild air laden with the perfumed breath of
spring, a bright wood fire flashed on the hearth, near which Miss Jane
sat in her large, cushioned rocking-chair, resting her swollen
slippered feet on a velvet stool, while her silver-mounted crutches
leaned against the arm of her chair. An ugly and very diminutive brown
terrier snarled and frisked on the rug, tormenting a staid and aged
black cat, who occasionally arched her back and showed her teeth; and
Dr. Grey stood leaning over his sister's chair, smoothing the soft
grizzled locks that clustered under the rich lace border of her cap.
He was talking of other days,--those of his boyhood, when, kneeling by
that hearth, she had pasted his kites, found strings for his tops,
made bags for his marbles, or bound up his bleeding hands, bruised in
boyish sports; and, while he read from the fresher page of his memory
the blessed juvenile annals long since effaced from hers, a happy
smile lighted her withered face, and she put up one thin hand to pat
the brown and bearded cheek which nearly touched her head. To the
pretty young thing who had paused on the threshold, watching what
passed, it seemed a peaceful picture, cosy and complete, needing no
adjuncts, defying intruders; but Miss Jane caught a glimpse of the
shrinking figure, and beckoned her to the fire-place.

"Salome, come shake hands with my sailor-boy, and tell him how glad we
are to have his sunburnt face once more among us. Ulpian, this is my
dear child Salome, who makes noise and sunshine enough in an otherwise
dark and silent dreary house. Why, children, don't stand bowing at
each other, like foreign ministers at court! Ulpian, you are to be a
brother to that child; so go and kiss her like a Christian, and let us
have no more state and ceremony."

"_Sans cérémonie_ we introduced ourselves this afternoon, under the
apple-tree, and I presume Salome will accept the assurance of my
friendly intentions and fraternal regard, and decline the seal which
only long acquaintance and perfect confidence could induce her to
permit. Notwithstanding the very evident fact that she is not entirely
overwhelmed with delight at my return, I gratefully acknowledge my
indebtedness to one who has so largely contributed to my sister's
happiness, and shall avail myself of every opportunity to prove my
appreciation of her devotion."

Dr. Grey stepped forward, took Salome's hand, and touched it lightly
with his lips, while the grave dignity of his manner forbade the
thought that affectation of gallantry or idle persiflage suggested the
words or action.

Disarmed by the quiet courtesy which she felt she had not merited, the
girl's ready wit and nimbly obedient tongue for once proved
treacherous; and, conscious that the flush was deepening on cheek and
brow, she moved to the oval table in the centre of the floor, and
seated herself behind the massive silver urn.

"Ulpian, take your place yonder, at the foot, and excuse my absence
from the table this first evening of your return. I always have my
meals here, close to the fire, and Salome presides in my place. Child,
put no cream in his tea, but a bountiful share of sugar. You see, my
boy, I have not grown too old to recollect your whims."

As he obeyed her, Salome was preparing to pour out the tea; but,
catching his eye, she paused, and Dr. Grey bowed his head on his hand,
and solemnly and impressively asked a blessing, and offered up fervent
thanks for the family reunion. In the somewhat fragmentary discourse
that ensued between brother and sister the orphan took no part; and, a
half hour later, when the little party removed to the library and
established themselves comfortably for the evening, Salome drew her
chair close to the lamp, and, under pretence of examining a book of
engravings, covertly studied the features and mien of the new-comer.

His quiet, low-toned conversation was of other lands and distant
nations, and, while there was an entire absence of that ostentatious
braggardism and dropsical egotism which unfortunately attacks the
majority of travellers, his descriptions of foreign scenery were so
graceful and brilliant, that despite her ungracious determination and
premeditated dislike, she became a fascinated listener; and, more than
once, found herself leaning forward to catch his words. Her own vivid
fancy travelled with him over the lakes and isles, temples and
palaces, he had visited; and, when the clock struck eleven, and a
brief silence succeeded, she started as from some delightful dream.

"Janet, shall we have prayers, or have I already kept you up too
late?"

Dr. Grey stooped and pressed his lips to his sister's wrinkled
forehead, and her voice faltered slightly, as she answered,--

"It is never too late to thank God for all his goodness, especially in
bringing my dear boy safely back to me. Salome, get the large Bible
from the cushion in the parlor."

As the orphan placed the book in Dr. Grey's hand it opened at the
record of births, where on the wide page appeared only the name of
Ulpian Grey, and from the leaves fluttered a small bow of blue
ribbon.

He picked it up, and, considering it merely a book-mark, would have
replaced it, but Miss Jane exclaimed,--

"It is the blue knot that fastens that child's collar. Give it to her.
She lost it yesterday, and has searched the house for it. How came it
in that old Bible, which I am sure has not been used for fifteen
years?"

Whatever solution of the mystery Salome might have deigned to offer,
remained unuttered, for Dr. Grey kindly obviated the necessity of a
reply by requesting her to bring him an additional candle from an
adjoining room; and the superfluous celerity with which she started on
the errand called a twinkle to his eye and a half-smothered smile to
his lips. She felt assured that he was thoroughly cognizant of the
curiosity which had prompted her researches among the family records,
and inferred that he had either no vanity to be flattered by such
trifles, or was dowered with too much generosity to evince any
gratification at the discovery of an interest she would have
vehemently disclaimed.

It was the first time she had ever bowed before the family altar, and,
notwithstanding her avowed aversion to "Puritanic ceremonials and
Pharisaical practices," she was unexpectedly awed and deeply
impressed by the solemnity with which he conducted the brief services;
while, despite her prejudice, his grave courtesy toward her, and the
subdued tenderness that marked his treatment of his sister, commanded
her involuntary respect. When she stood before the mirror in her own
room, unbraiding her heavy hair, a dissatisfied expression robbed her
features of half their loveliness, and discontent ploughed distorting
lines about the scarlet lips which muttered,--

"I wonder if, in one of his evil fits, my father sold and signed me
away to Satan? I certainly am _bon gré mal gré_ in bondage to him;
for, from my inmost heart I hate 'good, pious, sanctified souls,' such
as that marble man upstairs, who has come back to usurp my kingdom,
and lord it over this heritage. After to-day a new regime. The
potter's hands are fair and shapely, courteous and deft, but potter's
hands nevertheless. Tough kneading he shall find it, and stiffer clay
than ever yet was moulded, or my name is not Salome Owen. After all,
how much better are we than the lower beasts of prey? In the race for
riches there is but one alternative,--to devour, or be devoured;
consequently that was an immemorial and well tested rule in the
warfare that commenced when Adam and Eve found themselves shut out of
Eden. 'Each for himself,' etc., etc., etc. Since I must _ex
necessitate_ prey or be preyed upon, I shall waste no time in
deliberation."



CHAPTER II.


When fifty-two years old, Daniel Grey amassed a handsome fortune
by speculating in certain gold and coal mine stocks, which not
only relieved him from the necessity of daily toil in his dusty
counting-room, but elevated him to that more than Braminical caste,
dubbed in Mammon-parlance--capitalists; whose decrees outweigh
legislative statutes, and by feeling the pulse of stock-boards and
all financial corporations, regulate the fiscal currents of the
State. A few months subsequent to this sudden accession of wealth,
his meek and devoted wife--who had patiently shared all the trials
and hardships of his early impecunious career, and brightened an
humble home which boasted no treasure comparable to her loving,
unselfish heart,--was summoned to the enjoyment of a heritage beyond
the stars; and Daniel Grey, capitalist, found himself a florid
handsome widower, with two children, Enoch and Jane, to remind him
continually of the pale wife over whose quiet ashes rose a costly
mausoleum, where rare exotics nodded to each other across gilded
slab and sculptured angels. That he profoundly mourned his loss no
charitable mind could doubt, notwithstanding the obstinate fact that
ere the violets had bloomed a twelvemonth over the dead mother of
his children he had provided them with one who certainly bore her
name, usurped her precious privileges, walked in her footsteps, but
wofully failed to fill her place.

Mrs. Daniel Grey, scarcely the senior of the step-daughter whose lips
most reluctantly framed the sacred word "mother," was a fresh fair
young thing, whose ideas of marriage extended no further than
diamonds, white satin, reception cards, and bridal presents; and whose
regard for her worthy husband sought no surer basis than his
bank-stock and insurance dividends. Dainty and bright, in tasteful and
costly apparel, the pretty child-wife flitted up and down in his house
and over the serene surface of his life, touching no feeling of his
nature so deeply as that colossal _parvenu_ vanity which exulted in
the possession of a graceful walking announcement of his ability to
clothe in fine fabrics and expensive jewels.

Perhaps the mildew that stained the ghastly gaunt angels who kept
guard over the dust of the dead wife, extended yet further than the
silent territory over which sexton and mattock reigned, for one dreary
December night, instead of nestling for a post-prandial nap among the
velvet cushions of his luxurious parlor, Daniel Grey, capitalist,
slept his last sleep in a high-backed, comfortless chair before his
desk, where the confidential clerk found him next morning, with his
rigid icy fingers thrust between the leaves of his check-book.

According to the old Arab proverb,--

  "The black camel named Death kneeleth once at each door,
  And a mortal must mount to return nevermore."

And, past all peradventure, having borne away one member of the
household, the "Last Carrier" from force of habit hastens to perform
the same thankless service for the remainder;--thus ere summer
sunshine streamed on the husband's grave, another yawned at its side,
and a wreathed and fluted shaft shot up close to his mausoleum, to
tell sympathizing friends and careless strangers that the second wife
of Daniel Grey had been snatched away in the morning of life.

Her infant son Ulpian was committed to the tender guardianship of his
maternal grandmother, in whose hands he remained until the close of
his fourth year, when her death necessitated his return to the home of
his only relatives, Enoch and Jane. At the request of his sister, the
former had sold the elegant new residence in a fashionable quarter of
the town, and removed to the old homestead and farm, hallowed by
reminiscences of their mother, and invested with the magic attractions
that early association weaves about the spots frequented in youth.

Manifesting, even in boyhood, an unconquerable repugnance not only to
curriculum, but the monotonous routine of mercantile pursuits, Enoch
sullenly forswore stock-jobbing and finance, and declared his
intention of indulging his rural tastes and becoming a farmer. Fine
cattle and poultry of all kinds, heavy wheat-crops, and well-stored
corn-cribs engrossed his thoughts, to the entire exclusion of abstract
æsthetic speculation, of operatic music, and Pre-Raphaelitism; while
the sight of one of his silky short-horned Ayrshires yielded him
infinitely more pleasure than the possession of all Rosa Bonheur's
ideals could possibly have done, and the soft billowy stretch of his
favorite clover-meadow was worth all the canvas that Claude or Poussin
had ever colored. While Enoch had cordially hated his fair blue-eyed
young step-mother, not from any personal or individual grounds of
grievance, but simply and solely because she dared to occupy the
household niche, sanctified once and forever by his own meek
gentle-toned mother, he nevertheless tenderly loved her baby-boy; and
as Ulpian grew to manhood he became the idol, at whose shrine the
brother and sister offered their pure and most intense affection.

Neither had married, and when the youngest of the household band
completed his studies, and decided to accept a naval appointment, the
consternation and grief which the announcement produced at the
homestead, proved how essential the presence of the half-brother had
become to the happiness of the sedate stolid Enoch, and equable
unselfish Jane. But the desire to travel subordinated all other
sentiments in Ulpian's nature, and he eagerly embarked for a cruise,
from which he was recalled by tidings of the death of his brother.

A brief sojourn at the homestead had sufficed to arrange the affairs
of the carefully-managed estate, and the young surgeon returned to his
post aboard ship, in distant oriental seas. The increasing infirmity
of his sister had finally induced the resignation of his cherished
commission, and brought the man of thirty-five back to his home, where
the "old familiar faces" seemed to have vanished forever; and, in lieu
thereof, legions of cold-eyed strangers carelessly confronted him.

Emancipated from all restraint, and early consigned to the guidance of
his boyish caprices and immature judgment, Ulpian Grey's character had
unfolded itself under circumstances peculiarly favorable for the
fostering of selfishness and the development of idiosyncrasies. As a
plant, unmolested by man and beast, germinates, expands, and freely
and completely manifests all its inherent tendencies, whether
detrimental or beneficial to humanity, so Dr. Grey's matured manhood
was no distorted or discolored result of repeated educational
experiments, but a thoroughly normal efflorescence of an unbiassed
healthful nature.

Habits of unwavering application and searching study, contracted in
collegiate cloisters, tightened their grasp upon him, as he wandered
away from the quiet precincts of _Alma Mater_ and into the crowded
noisy campus of life; and even the gregarious and convivial manners
prevalent aboard ship failed to divert his attention from the
prosecution of scientific researches, or to retard his rapid progress
in classical scholarship.

For the treasures of knowledge thus patiently and indefatigably
garnered through a series of years, travel proved an invaluable polyglot
commentator, analyzing, comparing, annotating, and italicizing, and had
converted his mind into a vast, systematically arranged pictorial
encyclopædia of miscellaneous lore, embellished with delicate etchings,
noble engravings, and gorgeous illuminations,--a thesaurus where
_savants_ might seek successfully for _data_, and whence artists
could derive grand types, and pure tender coloring.

Reverent and loving appreciation of the intrinsically "true, good,
and beautiful" was part of the homage that his nature rendered to its
Creator, and instead of flowering into a morbid and maudlin
sentimentality which craves low-browed, long straight-nosed,
undraped statuettes in every nook and corner,--or dwarfs the soul and
pins it to the surplice of some theologic _dogmata_ claiming
infallibility--or coffins the intellect in cramped, shallow,
psychological categories,--it bore fruit in a wide-eyed, large-hearted,
liberal-minded eclecticism, which, waging no crusade against the various
Saladins of modern systems, quietly possessed itself of the really
valuable elements that constitute the basis of every ethical,
æsthetic, and scientific creed, which has for any length of time
levied black-mail on the credulity of mankind.

Breadth of intellectual vision promotes moral and emotional
expansion--for true catholicity of mind manufactures charity in the
heart; and toleration is the real mesmeric current which brings the
extremes of humanity _en rapport_,--is the veritable ubiquitous
Samaritan always provided with wine and oil for the bruised and
helpless, who are strewn along the highway of life; and those who
penetrated beyond the polished surface of Dr. Grey's character,
realized that no tinge of cynicism, no affectation of contempt for his
country and countrymen lurked in his heart, while erudition and
foreign sojourning seemed only to have warmed and intensified his
sympathy with all noble aims--his compassion for all grovelling ones.

That his compulsory return to the uneventful routine of life at the
homestead, involved a sacrifice which he would gladly have avoided, he
did not attempt to deny; but having invested a large amount of
earnest, vigorous faith in the final conservatism of that much-abused
monster which the seditious army of the Disappointed anathematize as
"Bad Luck," he went to work contentedly in this new sphere of action,
and waited patiently and trustfully for the slow grinding of the great
mill of Compensation, into whose huge hopper Fate had unceremoniously
poured all his plans.

His advent produced a very decided sensation not only in the quiet
neighborhood in which the farm was located, but also in the adjacent
town where the memory of Daniel Grey's meteoric ascent to pecuniosity
still lingered in the minds of the oldest citizens, and pleasantly
paved the way for a cordial reception of the fortunate son who
inherited not only his mother's comeliness but his father's hoarded
wealth.

Living in the middle of the nineteenth century, and in a hemisphere
completely antipodal to that in which Utopia was situated, or
"Bensalem" dreamed of, the appearance of a good-looking, well-educated,
affluent bachelor could not fail to stir all gossipdom to its dreg;
and society, ever tenderly concerned about the individual affairs of
its prominent members, was all agog--busily arranging for the
_ci-devant_ United States Surgeon a programme, than which he would
sooner have undertaken the feats of Samson or the Avatars of Vishnu.

His published card, announcing the fact that he had permanently
located in the city and was a patient candidate for the privilege of
setting fractured limbs and administering medicine, somewhat dashed
the expectations of many who conjected that the Grey estate could not
possibly be worth the amount so long reputed, or the principal heir
would certainly not soil his fingers with pills and plasters, instead
of sauntering and dawdling with librettos, lorgnettes, meerschaums,
and curiously-carved canes cut in the Hebrides or the jungles of
Java.

Over the door of that office, where the Angel of Death had smitten his
father thirty-five years before, a new sign swung in the breeze, and
showed the citizens the name of "Dr. Ulpian Grey. Office hours from
nine to ten, and from two to three."

The members of the profession called formally to welcome him to a
share of their annual profits, and collectively gave him a dinner; the
"best families" invited him to tea or luncheon, croquet or "German,"
and thus, having accomplished his professional and social _début_,
Ulpian Grey, M.D., henceforth claimed and exercised the privilege of
selecting his associates, and employing his time as inclination
prompted.

In the comprehensive course of study to which he had so long devoted
his attention, he had not omitted that immemorial stereotyped
volume--Human Nature--which, despite the attempted revisions of sages,
politicians, and ecclesiastics, remains as immutable as the
everlasting hills; printing upon the leaves of the youngest century
phases of guilt and guilelessness which find their prototypes in the
gray dawn of time, when the "morning stars sang together,"--yea, busy
to-day as of yore, slaughtering Abel, stoning Stephen, fretting Moses,
crucifying Christ. Finding much that was admirable, and more that
seemed ignoble, he gravely and reverently sought to possess himself of
the subtle arcana of this marvellous book, rejecting as equally
erroneous and unreliable the magnifying zeal of optimism and the
gloomy jaundiced lenses of sneering pessimism,--thoroughly satisfied
that it was a solemn duty, obligatory upon all, to study that complex
paradoxical human nature, for the mastery of which Lucifer and Jesus
had ceaselessly battled since the day when Adam and Eve were called
"to dress and to keep" the Garden by the Euphrates,--that heaven-born,
heaven-cursed, restless human nature, which now, as then,--

  "Grasps at the fruitage forbidden,
  The golden pomegranates of Eden,
  To quiet its fever and pain."

A few days' residence under the same roof, and a guarded observation
of Salome's conduct, sufficed to acquaint Dr. Grey with the ungenerous
motives that induced her chagrin at his return; and, without
permitting her to suspect that he had so accurately read her
character, he endeavored as unobtrusively as possible to bridge by
kindness and courtesy the chasm of jealous distrust which divided
them.

Indolent and self-indulgent, she neither brooked dictation, nor
gracefully accepted any suggestions at variance with the reigning
whim; for, since she became an inmate of Miss Jane's hospitable home,
existence had been a mere dreamy, aimless succession of golden dawns
and scarlet-curtained sunsets--a slow, quiet lapsing of weeks into
months,--an almost stagnant stream curled by no eddies, freighted with
few aspirations, bearing no drift.

The circumstances and associations of her early life had destroyed her
faith in abstract nobility of character; self-abnegation she neither
comprehended nor deemed possible; and of a stern, innate moral heroism
she was utterly sceptical; consequently a delicately graduated scale
of selfishness was the sole balance by which she was wont to weigh men
and women.

Her irregular method of study and desultory reading had rather
enervated than strengthened a mind naturally clear and vigorous, and
left its acquisitions in a confused and kaleidoscopic mass, bordering
upon intellectual salmagundi.

One warm afternoon, on his return from town, as Dr. Grey ascended the
steps he noticed Salome reclining on a bamboo settee at the western
end of the gallery, where the sunshine was hot and glaring,
unobstructed by the thin leafy screen of vines that drooped from
column to column on the southern and eastern sides of the building. If
conscious of his approach she vouchsafed not the slightest intimation
of it, and when he stood beside her she remained so immovable that he
might have imagined her asleep but for the lambent light which rayed
out from eyes that seemed intently numbering the soft fluttering young
leaves on a distant clump of elm trees, which made a lace-like tracery
of golden glimmer and quivering shadow on the purple-headed clover at
their feet.

Her fair but long slender fingers carelessly held a book that
threatened to slip from their light relaxing grasp, and compressing
his lips in order to smother a smile under his heavy moustache, Dr.
Grey stooped and put his hand on her plump white wrist, where the blue
veins were running riot.

"So young,--yet cataleptic! Unfortunate, indeed," he murmured.

She shook off his touch, and instantly sat erect.

"I should be glad to know what you mean."

"I have an admirable, nay, I venture to add, an almost infallible
prescription for catalepsy, which has cured two chronic and apparently
hopeless cases, and it will afford me great pleasure to try the third
experiment upon you, since you seem pitiably in want of a remedy."

"Thank you. Were I as free from all other ills that 'flesh is heir
to,' as I certainly am of the taint of catalepsy, I might indeed
congratulate myself upon an immunity which would obviate the dire
necessity of ever meeting a physician."

"Are you sure that you sufficiently understand the symptoms, to
recognize them unerringly?"

The rose tint in her cheeks deepened to scarlet, as she haughtily drew
herself up to her full height, and answered,--

"Dr. Grey himself is not more sagacious and adroit in detecting them;
especially when open eyes discover unwelcome and disagreeable objects,
which, wishing to avoid, they are still compelled to see. I hope you
are satisfied that I comprehend you."

"My meaning was not so occult as to justify a doubt upon that subject;
and moreover, Salome, lack of astuteness is far from being your
greatest defect. My motive should eloquently plead pardon for my
candor, if I venture to tell you that your frequent affectation of
unconsciousness of the presence of others, 'is a custom more honored
in the breach than the observance,' and may prove prolific of
annoyance in coming years; for courtesy constitutes the keystone in
the beautiful arch of social amenities which vaults the temple of
Christian virtues. Lest you should take umbrage at my frankness, which
ought to assure you of my interest in your happiness and improvement,
permit me to remind you of the oriental definition of a faithful
friend, that has more pith than verbal polish,--

  "The true friend is not he who holds up Flattery's mirror,
    In which the face to thy conceit most pleasing hovers;
  But he who kindly shows thee all thy vices, sirrah!
    And helps thee mend them ere an enemy discovers."

Rising, Salome swept him a profound courtesy, and, while her fingers
beat a tattoo on the book she held, she watched him with a peculiar
sparkle in her eyes, which he had already learned to understand was a
beacon flame kindled by intense displeasure. Dr. Grey seated himself,
and, taking off his hat, said gently and winningly, as he pushed aside
the hair that clustered in brown rings over his forehead,--

"Here is ample room for both of us. Sit down, and be reasonable; and
let me catch a glimpse of the amiable elements which I feel assured
must exist somewhere in your nature, notwithstanding your persistent
endeavor to conceal them. Your Janus character has hitherto breathed
only war--war; but, my young friend, I earnestly invoke its peaceful
phase."

The kindness of tone and evident sincerity of manner might have
disarmed a prejudice better founded than hers; but wrath consumed all
scruples, and, recollecting his forbearance with various former acts
of rudeness, she presumed to attempt further aggressions.

Waving her hand in tacit rejection of the proffered share of the
settee, she answered with more emphasis than perspicuity demanded,--

"Does your reading of the book of Job encourage you to believe that
when those self-appointed counsellors--Eliphaz the Temanite, Bildad
the Shuhite, and Zophar the Naamathite--returned to their respective
homes, they had cause to congratulate themselves upon their cordial
welcome to Job's bank of ashes, or felt bountifully repaid for their
voluntary mission of advice?"

"Unfortunately, no. My study of the record of the man of Uz renders
painfully patent that humiliating fact--old as humanity--that sanctity
of motive is no coat-of-mail to the luckless few who bravely bear to
the hearts of those with whom they associate the unwelcome burden of
unflattering truths. Phraseology--definitions--vary with advancing
centuries, but not so the human impulses they express or explain; and
friendship in the days of Job was the identical 'Mutual Admiration
Society,' which at present converts its consistent servile members
into Damon and Pythias, but punishes any violation of its canons with
hatred dire and inextinguishable. Were I blessed with the genius of
Praxiteles or of Angelo, I would chisel and bequeath to the world a
noble statue,--typical of that rare, fearless friendship, which,
walking through the lazaretto of diseased and morbid natures, bears
not honied draughts alone, but scalpel, caustic, and bitter tonics."

The calm sweetness of voice and mien lent to his words an influence
which no amount of gall or satire could have imparted; and, in the
brief silence that ensued, Salome's heart was suddenly smitten with a
humiliating consciousness of her childish flippancy,--her utter
inferiority to this man, who seemed to walk serenely in a starry plane
far beyond the mire where she grovelled.

Ridicule braced and exaggerated her weaknesses, and the strokes of
sarcasm she could adroitly parry; but for persistent magnanimity she
was no match, and recoiled before it like the traditional Fiend at
sight of the _Santo Sudario_. Watching her companion's quiet
countenance, she saw a shadow drift over it, betokening neither anger
nor scorn, but serious regret; and involuntarily she drooped her head
to avoid the eyes that now turned full upon her.

"Since I became a man, and to some extent capable of discriminating
with reference to the characters of persons with whom I found myself
in contact, I have made and invariably observed one rule of
conduct,--namely, never to associate with those whom I cannot
respect. Ignorance, want of refinement, irritability of temper, and
even lack of generous impulses, I can forgive, when redeemed by candor
and stern honesty of purpose; but arrogance, dissimulation, and
all-absorbing selfishness I will not tolerate. In you I hoped and
expected better qualities than you permit me to find, and I trust you
will acquit me of intentional rudeness if I acknowledge that you have
painfully disappointed me. It was, and still is, my earnest wish to
befriend and to aid you,--to contribute to your happiness, and
cordially sympathize in any annoyances that may surround you; but thus
far you have rendered it impossible for me to esteem you, and while I
do not presume that my good opinion is of any importance to you, our
present relations compel me to request that our intercourse may in
future be characterized by more urbanity than has yet graced it. My
sister has been much pained by the feelings with which you evidently
regard me, and since you and I are merely guests under her roof, a due
deference to her wishes should certainly repress the exhibition of
antipathies towards those whom she loves. It is her earnest desire (as
expressed in a conversation which I had with her yesterday) that I
should treat you as a young sister; and, for her sake, I offer you
once more, and for the last time, my hearty assistance in any
department in which I am able to render it."

"The folds of your flag of truce do not conceal the drawn sword
beneath it; and let me tell you, sir, it is very evident that
'demand' would far better have expressed your purpose than the
word 'request.'"

"At least you should not be surprised if I doubt whether you regard
any truce as inviolable, and am inclined to suspect you of latent
treachery."

"Your accusation of dissimulation is unjust, for I have openly,
fearlessly manifested my prejudice--my aversion."

"That you dislike me is my misfortune, but that you allow your
detestation to generate discord in our small circle is an error which
I trust you will endeavor to correct. That I have many faults I shall
not attempt to deny; but mutual forbearance will prove a mutual
blessing. For Jane's sake, shall there not be peace between us?"

Standing before her, he looked gravely down into her face, where flush
and sparkle had died out, and saw--what she was too proud to
confess--that he had partially conquered her waywardness, that she was
reluctantly yielding to his influence; but he understood her nature
too thoroughly to pause contented with this slight advantage in a
contest which he foresaw must determine the direction of her aims
through life.

"Salome, I am waiting for your decision."

Her lips stirred twice, but the words they framed were either too
haughty or too humble, for she refused them utterance; and, while she
deliberated, two tears settled the question by rolling swiftly over
her cheeks, and falling upon the cherry ribbon at her throat.

Accepting it as a tacit signature to his terms of capitulation, and
satisfied with the result, Dr. Grey forbore to urge verbal assurances.
Taking the book from her hand, he said, pleasantly,--

"Are you fond of French? I frequently find you poring over your
grammar."

"I have never had a teacher, nor have I conquered the conjugations;
consequently, I know comparatively little about the language."

"Are you studying it with the intention of familiarizing yourself with
French literature, or merely to enable you to translate the few
phrases that modern writers sprinkle through novels and essays?"

"For neither purpose, but simply because it is the court language of
the old world; and, if I should succeed in my hope of visiting Europe,
I might regret my ignorance of the universally received medium of
communication."

"Have you, then, no desire to master those noble bursts of eloquence
by which Racine, Bossuet, Fénélon, and Cousin have charmed the
intellects of all nations?"

"None, whatever. I might as well tell you at once, what you will
inevitably discover ere long if you condescend to inspect my meagre
attainments, that for abstract study I have no more inclination than
to fondle some mummy in the crypts of Cyrene, or play 'blind man's
buff' with the corpses in the Morgue. My limited investments of time
and thought in intellectual stock have been made solely with reference
to speedy dividends of most practical and immediate benefits; and
knowledge _per se_--knowledge which will not pay me handsome
interest--has no more value in my eyes than a handful of the dust of
those Atures found in the cavern of Ataruipe. Doubtless you think me
pitiably benighted, and possibly I might find more favor in your sight
if I affected a prodigious amount of literary enthusiasm, and
boundless admiration for scholarship and erudition; but that would
prove too troublesome an imposture,--for I am constitutionally,
habitually, and premeditatedly lazy."

She saw a smile lurking under his heavy lashes, and half ambushed in
the corners of his mouth; and, vaguely conscious that she was
rendering herself ridiculous, she bit her lip with ill-disguised
vexation.

"Salome, I am afraid that under the garb of a jest you are making me
acquainted with a very mournful truth. You have probably never heard
of Lessing,--Gotthold Ephraim Lessing."

"Oh, I am not quite as ignorant as a Pitcairn's Islander; and I think
I have somewhere seen that such a person as Lessing lived at
Wolfenbüttel. He once said, 'The chase is always worth more than
the quarry.' And again, 'Did the Almighty, holding in his right hand
Truth, and in his left Search after Truth, deign to proffer me the
one I might prefer,--in all humility, but without hesitation, I
should request Search after Truth.' When you have nothing more
important to occupy your attention, give ten minutes' reflection to
his admonition, and perhaps it may declare a dividend years hence.
Last week I found your algebra on the rug before the library grate,
and noticed several sums worked out in pencil on the margin. Are
you fond of mathematics?"

"Not that I am aware of."

"What progress have you made?"

"My knowledge of arithmetic is barely sufficient to take me through a
brief shopping expedition."

"Have you no ambition to increase it?"

"Dr. Grey, I have no ambition. That 'last infirmity of noble minds'
has never attacked me; and, folding my hands, I chant ceaselessly to
my soul, 'Take thine ease, eat, drink, and be merry.' The rapture of
the mathematician, who bows before the shrine of his favorite science,
is to my dull intellect as incomprehensible as the jargon of
metaphysics or the mysteries wrapped up in Pali cerements. Equations,
conic sections, differential calculus, constitute a skull and
cross-bones to which I allow as wide a berth as possible."

The weary dissatisfied expression of her large, luminous eyes, belied
the sneer in her voice and the curl of her thin lip, and it cost her
an effort to answer his next question.

"Will you tell me what rule you have adopted for the distribution of
your time, and the government of your life?"

"Yes, sir; you are heartily welcome to it: 'Yet a little slumber, a
little folding of the hands to sleep.' _Laissez nous faire_. Moreover,
Dr. Grey, if you will courteously lend me your ears, I will favor you
with a still more felicitous exposition of my invaluable organon."

Stooping suddenly, she raised from the floor a small volume which had
been concealed by her dress, and, as it opened at a page stained with
the juice of a purple convolvulus, she smiled defiantly, and read with
almost scornful emphasis,--

                         ... "'Ah, why
    Should life all labor be?
  Let us alone. Time driveth onward fast,
    And in a little while our lips are dumb.
  Let us alone. What is it that will last?
    All things are taken from us, and become
  Portions and parcels of the dreadful Past.
    Let us alone. What pleasure can we have
  To war with evil? Is there any peace
    In ever climbing up the climbing wave?
    All things have rest, and ripen towards the grave
  In silence; ripen, fall, and cease:
  Give us long rest or death; dark death or dreamful ease.'

There, Dr. Grey, you have my creed and method,--_Laissez nous
faire_."

With a degree of gravity that trenched on sternness, he bowed, and
answered,--

"So be it. I might insist that the closing lines of 'Ulysses' nobly
refute all the numbing heresy of the 'Lotos Eaters'--

           ... 'But something ere the end,
  Some work of noble note may yet be done.
  That which we are, we are:
  One equal templer of heroic hearts,
  Made weak by time and fate, but strong in will
  To strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield.'

But I would not rouse you from a lethargy, which, knowing it to be
fatal to all hopes of usefulness, you still deliberately prefer. Take
care, however, lest you bury the one original talent so deep that you
fail to unearth it when the Master demands it in the final day of
restitution. I have questioned you concerning your studies, because I
desired and intended to offer my services as tutor, while you
prosecuted mathematics and the languages; but I forbear to suggest a
course so evidently distasteful to you. Unless I completely misjudge
your character, I fear the day is not distant, when, haunted by ghosts
of strangled opportunities, you will realize the solemn and painful
truth, that,--

  'There is nothing a man knows, in grief or in sin,
  _Half so bitter as to think, What I might have been_!'"



CHAPTER III.


"Salome, you look so weary that I must insist upon relieving you. Give
me the book and run out for a breath of fresh air--a glimpse of blue
sky."

Dr. Grey laid his hand on the volume, but the girl shook her head and
pushed aside his fingers.

"I am not at all tired, and even if I were it would make no
difference. Miss Jane desires me to read this sermon aloud, and I
shall finish it."

The invalid, who had been confined to her bed for many days by a
severe attack of rheumatism, partially raised herself on one elbow,
and said,--

"My dear, give him the book, while you take a little exercise. You
have been pent up here long enough, and, moreover, I want to talk to
Ulpian about some business matters. Don't look so sullen, my child; it
makes no difference who reads the sermon to me. Kiss me, and run out
on the lawn."

The orphan relinquished chair and book, but there was no relaxation of
her bent brows, and neither warmth nor lingering pressure in the firm,
hardly drawn lips, which lightly touched the old lady's sallow,
wrinkled cheek. When she had left the room, closing the door after her
with more force than was requisite to bolt it securely, Miss Jane
sighed heavily, and turned to her brother.

"Poor thing! She is so jealous of you; and it distresses me to see
that no friendship grows up between you, as I hoped and believed would
be the case. If you would only notice her a little more I think you
might win her over."

"Leave it to time, Janet. I 'have piped unto her and she would not
dance; I have mourned unto her, and she has not lamented,'--and
concessions only feed her waywardness. If there be a residuum of good
sense and proper feeling in her nature, they will assert themselves
after a while; if not, all extraneous influences are futile. I will
resume the reading, if agreeable to you."

Moody and rebellious, Salome stood for some moments on the threshold
of the front door, staring vacantly out over the lawn; then, snatching
her hat from a hook in the hall, she swiftly crossed the grounds,
climbed over a low lattice fence at the foot of the declivity, and
followed a worn but neglected path leading into the adjoining forest.

The sanctity of the Sabbath afternoon rested like a benison over the
silent glades, where sunshine made golden roads along the smooth brown
pine straw, and glinted on the purple flags that fluttered in the mild
west wind. Even the melancholy plaint of sad-eyed dun doves was
hushed, as they slowly swung in the swaying pine-tops; and two young
lambs, neglected by the wandering flock, lay sleeping quietly, with
their snowy heads pillowed on clustering violets,--far from the fold,
forgotten by their mothers, at the mercy of strolling dogs, watched
only by the Great Shepherd.

Salome's rapid pace soon placed a mile between her and the fence that
bounded the lawn; and, pushing through the dense undergrowth which
betokened the proximity of a stream, she stood ere long on the margin
of a wide pond which supplied the broad, shining sheet of beryl water
that poured over the rocky dam, close to the large irregular building
called "Grey's Mill."

Piles of lumber were bleaching in the sunshine, but the machinery was
at rest, the workmen were all absent, and not a sound broke the
stillness, save the steady, monotonous chant of the water leaping down
into the race, where a thousand foam-flakes danced along towards the
huge wheels, and died on the soft green mosses and lush-creepers that
stole down to bathe in the sparkling wavelets. The knotted roots of an
old beech tree furnished a resting-place, and Salome sat down and
leaned her head against the scarred trunk, where lightning had once
girdled and partially destroyed it,--leaving one-half the branches
leafy, the remainder scorched and barren.

Overhanging willows darkened the edges of the pond; and, in the
centre, one tall, venerable cypress, lonely as some palm in the
desert, rose like a gray shaft tufted with a fine fringe of fresh
green; and occasional clusters of broad, shining leaves, spread
themselves on the surface of the water, cradling large, snowy lilies,
whose gold-powdered stamens trembled ceaselessly. Now and then a trout
leaped up, as if for a breath of May air, and fell back into the
circle that widened until it touched either bank; and not far from a
cow who stood knee-deep in water, browsing on a wild rose that
clambered over the willows to peep at its pink image in the pond, a
proud pair of gray geese convoyed a brood of yellow younglings that
dived and breasted the ripples with evident glee.

With her arms clasped around her knees, Salome sat watching the blue
tendrils of smoke that rose from a clump of elms beyond the mill and
curled lazily upward until they lost themselves in air; and, though
the arching elm boughs hid mossy roof and chimney, she nevertheless
felt that she was looking on the old house where she was born, and
where ten dreary years of sorrow and humiliation had embittered and
perverted her nature.

Those elms had seen her mother die, had heard her father's drunken
revelry, and bent their aged heads to listen on that wild wintry
night, when in blood-curdling curses his soul rent itself from the
degraded tenement of clay. Apparently peace brooded over earth, sky,
and water; but to that lonely figure under the riven beech, every
object within the range of vision babbled horrible tales of the early
years, and memory pointed to a corner of the lumber-shed adjoining the
mill where she had often secreted herself to avoid her father's
brutality,--always keeping her head in the moonshine, because she
dreaded the darkness inside, which childish fancy filled with ghostly
groups. She hated the place as she hated the past, and this was the
second time she had visited it since the day that consigned her to the
poor-house; for it was impossible for her to look at the pond without
recollecting one dark passage in her life, known only to God and
herself. To-day she recalled, with startling vividness a dusky,
starlit June evening, when, maddened by an unmerited and unusually
severe punishment inflicted by her father, she had resolved to drown
herself, and find peace in the mud at the bottom of the mill-pond.
Placing her infant sister on the grass, she had kissed her good-by,
and selecting the deepest portion of the water, had climbed out on a
willow branch and prepared for the final plunge. Putting her fingers
in her ears that she might not hear the bubbling of the murderous
water, she shut her eyes and sprang into the pond; but her long hair
caught the willow twigs, and, half strangled and quite willing to
live, she scrambled up into the low limbs that seemed so anxious to
rescue her from a watery grave; and, dripping and trembling, crept
back to the house, comforting herself with the grim assurance that
whatever else might befall, she certainly was not foreordained to be
either beaten to death or drowned. The impulse which had brought her
on this occasion to a scene so fraught with harrowing memories, was
explicable only by the supposition that its painful surroundings were
in consonance with the bitter and despondent mood in which she found
herself; and, in the gloom that this retrospection shed over her
countenance, her features seemed to grow wan and angular. For several
days she had been sorely disquieted by the realization of Miss Jane's
rapidly failing strength; and the probability of her death, which a
year ago would have been entirely endurable as an avenue to wealth,
now appeared the direst catastrophe that had yet threatened her
ill-starred life.

It was distressing to think of the kind old face growing stiff in a
shroud, but infinitely more appalling to contemplate the possibility
of being turned out of a comfortable home and driven to labor for a
maintenance. Salome had a vague impression that either Providence or
the world owed her a luxurious future, as partial compensation for her
juvenile miseries; but since both seemed disposed to repudiate the
debt, she was reluctantly compelled to ponder her prospective
bankruptcy in worldly goods, and, like the unjust steward, while
unwilling to work she was still ashamed to beg.

Although she strenuously resisted the strong, steady influence so
quietly exerted by Dr. Grey, the best elements of her nature, long
dormant, began to stir feebly, and she was conscious of nobler
aspirations than those which had hitherto swayed her; and of a
dimly-defined self-dissatisfaction that was novel and annoying.
Unwilling to admit that she valued his good opinion, she nevertheless
felt chagrined at her failure to possess it, and gradually she
realized her utter inferiority to this man, whose consistent Christian
character commanded an entire respect which she had never before
entertained for any human being. Immersed in vexing thoughts
concerning her future, she mechanically stretched out her hand to
pluck a bunch of phlox and of lemon-hued primroses that were nodding
in the sunshine close to her feet; but, as she touched the stems, a
large copper-colored snake slowly uncoiled from the tuft of grass
where they nestled and, gliding into the water, disappeared in the
midst of the lilies.

"I wonder if throughout life all the flowers I endeavor to grasp will
prove only Moccasin-beds! Why should they,--unless God abdicates and
Satan reigns? I have found, to my cost, that existence is not made
entirely of rainless June days; but I doubt whether darkness and
storms shut out the warm glow and perpetually curtain the stars.
Obviously I am no saint; still, I am disposed to believe I am not
altogether wicked. I have committed no capital sins, nor grievously
transgressed the decalogue,--and why should I despair of my share of
the good things of life? I am neither Cain nor Jezebel, and therefore
Fates and Furies have no warrant to dog my footsteps. Moreover, how do
I know that Destiny is indeed the hideous, vindictive crone that
luckless wretches have painted her, instead of an amiable, good soul,
who is quite as willing to scatter blessings as curses? Because some
dyspeptic Greek dreamed of three pitiless old weavers, blind to human
tears, deaf to human petitions, why should we wise and enlightened
people of the nineteenth century scare ourselves with the skeleton of
Paganism? I have as inalienable a right to brocades, crown-jewels, and
a string of titles, as any reigning queen, provided I can only get my
hands upon them; and, since life seems to be a sort of snatch-and-hold
game, quick keen eyes and nimble fingers decide the question. I have
never trodden on the world's tender toes, nor smitten its pet follies,
nor set myself aloft to gaze pityingly on its degradation, therefore,
the world honors me with no special grudge. But one thing is
mournfully certain,--my path is not strewn with loaves and fishes
ready baked and broiled, and I must even go gleaning and fishing for
myself. Almost everybody has some gift or some mission; but I really
do not see in what direction I can set to work. Work! How I hate the
bare thought! I have not sufficient education to teach, nor genius to
write, nor a talent for drawing, and barely music enough in my soul to
enable me to carry the church tunes respectably. Come, Salome Owen!
Shake off your sloth, and face the abominable fact that you must earn
your own bread. It is a great shame, and I ought not to be obliged to
work, for I am not responsible for my existence, and those who brought
me into the world owed it to me to provide for my wants. I cannot and
will not forgive my father and mother; but that will not mend matters,
since, nevertheless, here I am, with a body to feed and clothe, and
God only knows how I am to accomplish it. I find myself with youth,
health, some beauty, an average share of intellect, and all the wants
pertaining thereunto. If the worst comes to the worst I suppose I can
contrive, like other poverty-stricken girls, to marry somebody who
will support me comfortably; but that is rather an uncertain
speculation, and meantime Miss Jane might die. Now, if the Bible is
true, it must indeed be a blessed lot to be born a brown sparrow, and
have the Lord for a commissary. I am a genuine child of old Adam, and
labor is the heaviest curse that could possibly be sent upon me."

Once or twice during this profitless reverie she had paused to listen
to a singular sound that came from a dense group of willows not far
from the spot where she sat, and now it grew louder, swelling into a
measured cry, as of a child in great distress.

"Somebody in trouble, but it does not concern me; I have enough and to
spare, of my own."

She settled herself once more quite comfortably, but the low,
monotonous wail, smote her heart, and womanly sympathy with suffering
strangled her constitutional selfishness. Rising, she crept cautiously
along the edge of the pond until she reached the thicket whence the
sound proceeded, and, as she pushed aside the low branches and peeped
into the cool, green nook, her eyes fell upon the figure of a little
boy who lay on the ground, rolling from side to side and sobbing
violently.

"What is the matter? Are you sick or hungry?"

Startled by the sound of her voice, the child uttered a scream of
terror, and whirled over, hiding his face in the leaves and grass.

"For Heaven's sake, stop howling! What are you about,--wallowing here
in the mud, ruining your clothes, and yelling like a hyena? Hush, and
get up."

"Oh, please, ma'am, don't tell on me! Don't carry me back, and I will
hush!"

"Where do you live?"

"Nowhere. Oh!--oh!" And he renewed his cries.

"A probable story. What is your name?"

"Haven't got any name."

"You have no name, and you live nowhere? Come, little fellow, this
will never do. I am afraid you are a very bad boy and have run away
from home to escape being punished. Hush this instant!"

He had kept his face carefully concealed, and, resolved to ascertain
the truth, Salome stooped and tried to lift him; but he struggled
desperately, and screamed frantically,--

"Let me alone! I won't go back! I will jump into the pond and drown
myself if you don't let me alone."

He was so hoarse from constant crying that she could recognize no
familiar tones in his voice, but a great dread seized her, and,
suddenly putting her hands under his head, she forced the face up, and
looked at the flushed, swollen features.

"Stanley! Is it possible? My poor little brother!"

The equally astonished boy started up, and stared half wistfully, half
fearfully, at the figure standing before him.

"Is it you, Salome? I did not know you."

"How came you here? When did you leave the Asylum?"

"I ran away, three days ago."

"Why?"

"Because I was tired of living there, and I wanted to come back
home."

"Home, indeed! You miserable begger, don't you know you have no home
but the Orphan Asylum?"

"Yes, I have. I want to come back yonder. Don't you see home yonder,
among the trees, with the pretty white and speckled pigeons flying
over it?"

He pointed across the pond to the old house beyond the mill, whose
outlines were visible through the openings in the elms; and, as he
gazed upon it with that intense longing so touching in a child's face,
his sobs increased.

"Stanley, that is not your home now. Other people live there, and you
have no right to come back. Why did you run away from the Asylum? Did
they treat you unkindly?"

"No,--yes. They whipped me because I cried and said I hated to stay
there, and wanted to come home."

Salome looked at the soiled, torn clothes, and sorrowful face; and,
bursting into tears, she bent forward and drew her brother to her
bosom. He put his arms around her neck, and kissed her cheek several
times, saying, softly and coaxingly,--

"Sister Salome, you won't send me back, will you? Please let me stay
with you, and I will be a good boy."

For some minutes she was unable to reply, and wept silently as she
smoothed the tangled hair back from the child's white forehead and
pressed her lips to it.

"Stanley, how is Jessie? Where did you leave her?"

"She is well, and I left her at the Asylum. She had a long cry the
night I ran away, and said she wanted to see you, and she thought you
had forgotten us both. You know, Salome, it is over a year since you
came to see us, and Jessie and I are so lonesome there, we hate the
place."

"What were you crying so bitterly about when I found you, just now?"

"I am so hungry, and the man who lives yonder at home drove me away.
He said I was prowling around to steal something, and if he saw me
there any more he would shoot me. I ate my last piece of biscuit
yesterday."

"Why did you not come to me instead of the miller?"

"I was afraid you would send me back to the Asylum; but you won't,--I
know you won't, Salome."

"Suppose I had not happened to hear you crying,--what would have
become of you? Did you intend to starve here in the swamp?"

"I thought I would wait till the miller left home, and then beg his
wife to give me some bread, and, if I could get nothing, I was going
to pull up some carrots that I saw growing in a field back of the
house. Oh, Salome, I am so hungry and so tired!"

She sat down on a heap of last year's leaves, which autumn winds and
winter rains had driven against the trunk of a decayed and fallen
sweet-gum, and, drawing the weary head with its shock of matted yellow
curls to her lap, she covered her own face with her hands to hide the
hot tears that streamed over her cheeks.

"Salome, are you very mad with me?"

"Yes, Stanley; you have behaved very badly, and I don't know what I
ought to do with you."

He tried to put aside one of her shielding hands, and failing, wound
his arms around her waist, and nestled as close as possible.

"Sister, please let me stay and live with you, and I promise--I
declare--I will be a good boy."

"Poor little fellow! You don't in the least know what you are talking
about. How can you live with me when I have no home, and not a
dollar?"

"I thought you stayed with a rich lady, and had everything nice that
you wanted."

"I do not expect to have even a shelter much longer. The lady who
takes care of me is sick, and cannot live very long; and, when she
dies, I don't know where I shall go or what I may be obliged to do."

"If you will only keep me I will help you work. At the Asylum I saw
wood, and pick peas, and pull out grass and weeds from the strawberry
vines, and sometimes I sweep the yards. Just try me a little while,
Salome, and see how smart I can be."

"Would you be willing to leave poor little Jessie at the Asylum? If
she felt so lonesome when you were there, how will she get along
without you?"

"Oh, we could steal her out some night, and keep her with us. Salome,
I tell you I don't mean to go back there. I will die first. I will
drown myself, or run away to sea. I would rather starve to death here
in the swamp. Everybody else can get a home, and why can't we?"

"Because your father was a drunkard, and left his children to the
charity of the poor-house; and, God knows, I heartily wish we were all
screwed down in the same coffin with him. You and I, Jessie, and Mark,
and Joel are all beggars--miserable beggars! Hush, Stanley, you will
sob yourself into a fever! Stop crying, I say, if you do not want to
drive me crazy! I thought I had trouble enough, without being
tormented by the sight of your poor, wretched face; and now, what to
do with you I am sure I don't know. There--do be quiet. Take your arms
away; I don't want you to kiss me any more."

In the long silence that succeeded, the child, spent with grief and
fatigue, fell into a sound sleep, and Salome sat with his head in her
lap and her clasped hands resting on her knee.

The afternoon slowly wore away, and the dimpled pond caught
lengthening shadows on its surface as the sun dipped into the forest.
The measured tinkle of a distant bell told that the cows were wending
quietly homeward; and, while the miller's wife drove her geese into
the yard, the pigeons nestled in their leafy coverts high among the
elm arches, and the solemn serenity of coming summer night stole with
velvet tread over the scene, silencing all things save the silvery
barcarolle of the falling water, and the sweet, lonely vesper hymn of
a whippoorwill, half hidden in the solitary cypress.

Although tears came very rarely to her eyes, the orphan had wept
bitterly, and, surprised at finding herself so completely unnerved on
this occasion, she made a powerful effort to regain her composure and
usual stolidity of expression. Shaking the little sleeper, she
said,--

"Wake up, Stanley. Get your hat and come with me, at least for
to-night."

The child was too weary to renew the conversation, and, hand in hand,
the two walked silently on until they approached the confines of the
farm, when Salome suddenly paused at sight of Dr. Grey, who was
crossing the pine forest just in front of them. Pressing his sister's
hand, Stanley looked up and asked, timidly,--

"What are you going to do with me?"

"Hush! I have not fully decided."

She endeavored to elude observation by standing close to the body of a
large pine, but Dr. Grey caught a glimpse of her fluttering dress,
and came forward rapidly, carrying in his arms one young lamb and
driving another before him.

"Salome, will you be so good as to assist me in shepherding this
obstinate little waif? It has been running hither and thither for
nearly half an hour, taking every direction but the right one. If you
will either walk on and lower the bars for me or drive this lamb while
I go forward, you will greatly oblige me. Pardon me,--you look
distressed. Something painful has occurred, I fear."

The girl's usually firm mouth trembled as she laid her hand on the
torn straw hat that shaded Stanley's features, and answered,
hurriedly,--

"Yes. We have both stumbled upon stray lambs; but mine, unfortunately,
happens to prove my youngest brother, and, since I am neither Reuben
nor Judah, I could not leave him in the woods to perish. Stanley, run
on and pull down the bars yonder, where you see the sheep looking
through the fence."

"How old is he?"

"About eight years, I believe, but he is small for his age."

"He does not in the least resemble you."

"No; pitiable little wretch, he looks like nothing but destitution!
When a poor man dies, leaving a houseful of beggarly orphans, the
State ought to require the undertaker who buries him to shoot or hang
the whole brood, and lay them all in the Potter's Field out of the
world's way."

"Such words and sentiments are strangely at variance with the
affectionate gentleness and resignation which best become womanly
lips, and I pity the keen suffering that wrings them from yours. He
who 'setteth the solitary in families' never yet failed in loving
guardianship of trusting orphanage, and certainly you have no cause to
upbraid fate, or impiously murmur against the decrees of your God."

He stood before her, with one hand stroking the head of the lamb that
nestled on his bosom; but his face was sterner, his voice far more
severe, than she had ever known either before, and her eyes fell
beneath the grave and sorrowful rebuke which looked out from his.

"Your brother ran away from the Asylum, three days ago."

"How did you ascertain that fact?"

"About an hour after you left the house, the matron of the Asylum sent
to inquire whether you were aware of his absence, and to notify you
that your little sister Jessie is quite ill. I was searching for you,
when I accidentally found these lambs, deserted by their mother. Thank
you, Stanley; I will put up the bars, and you can go to the house with
your sister. Salome, the carriage is ready, and if you desire to see
Jessie immediately I will take you over as soon as possible. There is
a full moon, and you can return with me or remain at the Asylum until
morning. Confer with my sister concerning the disposal of this little
refugee."

He patted the boy's head, and entered the sheepfold, while Salome
stood leaning against the fence, looking vacantly down at the bleating
flock.

Catching her brother's hand, she hurried to the house, bathed his
face, brushed his disordered hair, and gave him a bountiful supper of
bread and milk; after which, Jane Grey ordered the little culprit
brought to her bedside, where she delivered a kind lecture on his
sinful disobedience. When Dr. Grey entered the room, Salome was
standing at the window, while Stanley clung to her dress, hiding his
face in its folds, vowing vehemently that he would not return to the
Asylum, and protesting with many sobs that he would be the best boy in
the world if he were only allowed to remain at the farm.

"Salome, do quiet him; he will fret himself into a fever," said Miss
Jane, whose nerves began to quiver painfully.

"He has it already," answered the girl, without turning her head. She
did not observe Dr. Grey's entrance, and when he approached the
window, where the mellow moonshine streamed full on her face, he saw
tears stealing over her cheeks, and noticed that her fingers were
clenched tightly.

"Salome, do you wish to see Jessie to-night? She has had convulsions
during the day, and may not live until morning."

She looked up at his grave, noble countenance, and her lips fluttered
as she answered, huskily,--

"I can do nothing for her, and why should I see her die?"

"To whose care was she committed by her dying mother?"

"To mine."

"Have you faithfully kept the sacred trust?"

"I did all that I could until Miss Jane placed her in the asylum."

"Does your conscience acquit you?"

She silently dropped her face in her hands, and for some seconds he
watched her anxiously.

"Have you and Janet decided what shall be done with Stanley?"

"No; the longer I ponder the matter, the more confused my mind
becomes."

"Will you leave it in my hands, and abide by my decision?"

"Yes, gladly."

"You promise to be satisfied with any course upon which I may
resolve?"

Looking up quickly, she exclaimed,--

"Oh, yes; I trust you, fully. Do what you think best."

Dr. Grey put his hand under Stanley's chin, and, lifting his face,
examined his countenance and felt his pulse.

"He is only frightened and fatigued. Put him to bed at once in your
room, and then let me take you to see little Jessie. If you fail to
go, you might reproach yourself in coming years."

It was nine o'clock when the carriage stopped at the door of the
Asylum, and Salome and Dr. Grey went up to the "Infirmary," where the
faithful matron sat beside one of the little beds, watching the deep
slumber of the flushed and exhausted sleeper.

The disease had almost spent its force, the crisis was passed, and the
attending physician had pronounced the patient much better; still,
when Salome stooped to kiss her sister, the matron held her back,
assuring her that perfect quiet was essential for her recovery.
Kneeling there beside the motherless girl, Salome noted the changes
that time and suffering had wrought on the delicate features; and, as
she listened to the quick, irregular breathing, the fountain of
tenderness was suddenly unsealed in her own nature, and she put out
her arms, yearning to clasp Jessie to her heart. So strong were her
emotions, so keen was her regret for past indifference and neglect,
that she lost all self-control, and, unable to check her passionate
weeping, Dr. Grey led her from the room, promising to bring her again
when the sick child was sufficiently strong to bear the interview.

During the ride homeward he made no effort to divert her thoughts or
relieve her anxiety, knowing that although severe it was a healthful
regimen for her long indurated heart, and was the _rénaissance_ of her
better nature.

When they arrived at home, the moon was shining bright and full, and,
as they waited on the gallery for a servant to open the door, Dr. Grey
drew most favorable auguries from the chastened, blanched face, with
its humbled and grieved expression.

"Salome, I shall for the present keep Stanley here; and, until I can
make some satisfactory arrangement with reference to his education, I
would be glad to have you hear his recitations every day. Have you the
requisite leisure to superintend his lessons?"

"Yes, sir. I have not deserved this kindness from you, Dr. Grey; but I
thank you, from my inmost heart. You are good enough to forgive my
many offences, and I shall not soon forget it."

"Salome, you owe me no gratitude, but there is much for which you
should go down on your knees and fervently thank your merciful God. My
young friend, will you do this?"

He extended his hand, and, unable to utter a word, Salome gave him
hers, for a second only, and hastened to her own room, where Stanley's
fair face lay in the golden moonlight, radiant with happy dreams of
white pigeons and pet lambs.



CHAPTER IV.


"Don't strangle me, Jessie! Put down your arms, and listen to me.
Sobbing will not mend matters, and you might as well make up your mind
to be patient. Of course I should like to take you with me, if I had
a home; but, as I told you just now, we are so poor that we must live
where we can, not where we prefer. Because I wear nice pretty clothes
do you suppose I have a pocketful of money? I have not a cent to buy
even a loaf of bread, and I can't ask Miss Jane to take care of you as
well as of Stanley and myself. Poor little thing, don't cry so! I know
you are lonely here without Stanley, but it can't be helped. Jessie,
don't you see that it can not be helped?"

"I don't eat so very much, and I could sleep with Buddie and wouldn't
be in the way,--and I can wear my old clothes. Oh, please, Salome! I
will die if you leave me here."

"You will do no such thing; you are getting well as fast as possible.
Crying never kills people,--it only makes their heads ache, and their
eyes red and ugly. See here, if you don't stop all this, I shall quit
coming to see you! Do you hear what I say?"

The only reply was a fresh sob, which the child strove to smother by
hiding her face in Salome's lap.

The matron, who sat by the open window, looked up from the button-hole
she was working, and, clearing her throat, said,--

"Better let her have her cry out,--that is the surest cure for such
troubles as hers. She was always manageable and good enough until
Stanley ran away, and since then she does nothing but mope and bite
her finger-nails. Cry away, Jessie, and have done with it. Ah, miss,
the saddest feature about Asylums is the separation of families;
and if the matron had a heart of stone it would melt sometimes at
sight of these little motherless things clinging to each other. I'm
sure I have shed a gallon of tears since I came here. It is a
fearful responsibility to take charge of an institution like this,
for if I try to make the children respect my authority, and behave
themselves properly, outsiders 'specially the neighbors, says I am
too severe; and if I let them frolic and romp and make as much din
and uproar as they like, why, then the same folks scandalize me
and the managers, and say there is no sort of discipline maintained.
I verily believe, miss, that if an angel came down from heaven to
matronize these children, before six months elapsed all the
godliness would be worried out of her soul by the slanders of the
public and the squabbles of the children. Now I don't confess to be
an angel, but I do claim a conscience, and God knows I make it a
rule to treat these orphans exactly as I treated my own and only
child, whom I buried three years ago. Do you suppose that any woman
who has laid her first-born in its coffin could be brutal enough to
maltreat poor little motherless lambs? I don't deny that sometimes I
am compelled to punish them, for it is as much my duty to whip them
for bad conduct as to see that their meals are properly cooked and
their clothes kept in order. Am I to let them grow up thieves and
liars? Must I stand by and see them pull out each other's hair and
bite off one another's ears?"

"Of course not, Mrs. Collins. You must preserve some discipline."

"Must I? Well, miss, I will show you how beautifully that sounds and
how poorly it works. There is your brother Stanley (I mean no offence,
miss, but special cases explain better than generalities),--there's
your brother Stanley, who ran away--for what?"

"Because he was homesick and wanted to see me."

"No such thing, begging your pardon. Perhaps he told you that, but
remember there are always two sides to every tale. The truth of the
matter is just this: Stanley has an ugly habit of cursing, which I
will not tolerate; and, twice when I heard him swearing at the other
children, I shamed him well and slapped him soundly. Last week I told
him and Joe Clark to shell a basket of peas, while the cook was making
some ginger-bread for them, and before I was out of the room they
commenced quarrelling. They raised such an uproar that I came back and
saw the whole fray. Stanley cursed Joe, who expostulated and tried to
pacify him, and when he finally threatened to tell me that Stanley was
cursing again, your brother snatched a hatchet that was lying on the
dresser and swore he would kill him if he did. He aimed a blow at
Joe's head, but slipped on the pea-hulls, and the hatchet struck the
boy's right foot, cutting off one of his toes. Now what would you have
done, under the circumstances,--allowed the children to be tomahawked
in that style? You say I must have discipline. Well, miss, I tried to
'discipline' Stanley's wickedness out of him by giving him a whipping,
and the end of the matter was that he ran away that afternoon. That is
not the worst of it,--for the children all know the facts, and since
they find that Stanley Owen can run away and be sustained in his
disobedience, of course it tends to demoralize them. So I say that if
I do my duty I am lashed by the tongues of people who know nothing of
the circumstances; and if I fail to perform my duty I am lashed by my
own conscience,--and between the two I have a sorrowful time; for I
declare to you, miss, that Stephen's martyrdom was a small affair in
comparison with what I pass through every week. I love the children
and try to be kind to them, but I can't have them cursing and swearing
like sailors, and scalping each other. I must either raise them like
Christians, or resign my situation to some one who is 'wise as
serpents and harmless as doves.' It is all very fine to talk of
'proper discipline' in charitable institutions; but, miss, in the name
of common sense, how can I get along unless the friends of the
children sustain me? Did you punish Stanley, and send him back? On the
contrary, you countenanced his bad conduct and kept him with you, and
it is perfectly natural that little Jessie here should be dissatisfied
and anxious to join him. I can't scold her, for I know she misses her
brother, who was always very tender and considerate in his treatment
of her."

"I appreciate the difficulties which surround you, and believe that
you are conscientiously striving to do your duty towards these
children; but I knew that if I compelled Stanley to return it would
augment instead of correcting the mischief."

At this juncture the matron was summoned from the room, and, during
the silence that ensued, Jessie climbed into her sister's lap, wound
her thin arms around her neck, and softly rubbed her pale cheek
against the polished rosy face, where perplexity and annoyance were
legibly written.

"Salome, don't you love me a little?"

"Of course I do; Jessie, don't be so foolish."

"Please let me go with you and Stanley."

"Do you want to starve,--you poor silly thing?"

"Yes; I would rather starve with Buddie than stay here by myself."

"I want to hear no more of such nonsense. You have not tried starving,
and you are too young to know what is really for your good. Now,
listen to me. At present I am obliged to leave you here,--come, don't
begin crying again; but, if you will be a good girl and try not to
fret over what cannot be helped, I promise you that just as soon as I
can possibly support you I will take you to live with me."

"How long must I wait?"

"Until I make money enough to feed and clothe you."

"Can't you guess when you can come for me?"

"No, for as yet I know not how I can earn a dollar; but, if you will
be patient, I promise to work hard for you and Stanley."

"I will be good. Salome, I have saved a quarter of a dollar that the
doctor gave me when I was sick,--because I let the blister stay on my
side a half hour longer; and I thought I would send it to Buddie, to
buy him some marbles or a kite; but I reckon I had better give it to
you to help us get a house."

She drew from her pocket a green calico bag, and, emptying the
contents into her hand, picked out from among brass buttons and bits
of broken glass a silver coin, which she held up triumphantly.

"No, Jessie,--keep it. Stanley has plenty of playthings, and you may
need it. Besides, your quarter would not go far, and I don't want it.
Good-bye, little darling. Try to give Mrs. Collins no trouble, and
recollect that when I promise you anything I shall be sure to keep my
word."

Salome drew the child's head to her shoulder, and, as she bent over
and kissed the sweet, pure lips, Jessie whispered, "When we say our
prayers to-night, we will ask God to send us some money to buy a home,
won't we? You know he made the birds feed Elijah."

"But we are not prophets, and ravens are not flying about with bags of
money under their wings."

"We do not know what God can do, and if we are only good, He is as
much bound to take care of us as of Elijah. He made the sky rain manna
and partridges for the starving people in the desert, and He is as
much our God as if we came out from Egypt under Moses. I know God will
help us, if we ask Him. I am sure of it; for last week I lost Mrs.
Collins' bunch of keys, and, when I could not find them anywhere, I
prayed to God to help me, and, sure enough, I remembered I left them
in the dairy where I was churning."

Jessie's countenance was radiant with hope and faith, which her sister
could not share, yet felt unwilling to destroy; and, checking the
heavy sigh that rose from her oppressed heart, she hastily quitted the
house.

In the midst of confused and perturbed reflections, rose like some
lonely rock-based beacon in boiling waves her sacred promise to the
trusting child, and ingenuity was racked to devise some means for its
prompt fulfilment. Consanguinity began to urge its claim vehemently,
and long dormant tenderness pleaded piteously for exiled idols.

"If I were only a Christian, like Dr. Grey! His faith, like strong
wings, bears him high above all sloughs of despond, all morasses of
moodiness. People cannot successfully or profitably serve two masters.
That is eminently true; not because it is scriptural, but _vice
versa_; because it is so obviously true it could not escape a place in
the Bible. Half work pays poor wages, and it is not surprising that
neither God nor Mammon will patiently submit to it. I suppose the time
has come when I must bargain myself to one or the other; for,
hitherto, I have declared in favor of neither. I am not altogether
sanctified, nor yet desperately wicked, but I hate Satan, who ruined
my father, infinitely more than I dislike the restrictions of
religion. I owe him a grudge for all the shame and suffering of my
childhood,--which, if God did not interfere to prevent, at least there
is strong presumptive evidence that he took no pleasure in witnessing.
I don't suppose I have any faith; I scarcely know what it means; but
perhaps if I try to serve God instead of myself, it will come to me
as it came to Paul and Thomas. I wonder whether mere abstract love of
righteousness and of the Lord drives half as many persons into
Christian churches as the fear of eternal perdition. I don't deny that
I am afraid of Satan, for if he contrives to smuggle so much sin and
sorrow into this world what must his own kingdom be? If there be any
truth in the tradition that every human being is afflicted by some
besetting sin that crouches at the door of the soul, lying in ambush
to destroy it, then my own 'Dweller of the Threshold,' is love of mine
ease. Time was when I would have bartered my eternal heritage for a
good-sized mess of earthly pottage, provided only it was well spiced
and garnished; but to-day I have no inclination to be swindled like
Esau. Idleness has well-nigh ruined me, so I shall take industry by
the horns, and laying thereon all my sins of indolence, drive it
before me as the Jews drove Apopompoeus."

She walked on in the direction of the town, turning her head neither
to right nor left, and keeping her eyes fixed on the blue air before
her, where imagination built a home, through whose spacious halls
Stanley and Jessie sported at will. On the principal street stood a
fashionable dress-making and millinery establishment, and thither
Salome bent her steps, resolved that the sun should not set without
having witnessed some effort to redeem the pledge given to Jessie.

Panoplied in Miss Jane's patronage, she demanded and obtained
admission to the inner apartment of this Temple of Fashion, where
presided the Pythoness whose oracular utterances swayed _le beau
monde_.

What passed between the two never transpired, even among the
apprentices that thronged the adjoining room; but when Salome left the
house she carried under her arm a large bundle which furnished work
for the ensuing fortnight.

Evening shadows overtook her, while yet a mile distant from home, and
as she passed a small cottage, where candle-light flared through the
open window, she saw Dr. Grey standing beside the bed, on which,
doubtless, lay some sufferer.

Ere many moments had elapsed, she heard his well-known footstep on
the rocky road, and involuntarily paused to greet him.

"What called you to old Mrs. Peterson's?"

"Her youngest grandchild is very ill with brain fever; so ill that I
shall return and sit up with him to-night."

"I was not aware that physicians condescended to act as mere
nurses,--to execute their own orders."

"Then I fear you have formed a very low estimate of the sacred
responsibilities of my profession, or of the characters of those who
represent it. The true physician combines the offices of surgeon,
doctor, nurse, and friend."

"Mrs. Peterson is almost destitute, and to a great extent dependent on
charity; consequently you need not expect to collect any fee."

"Knowing her poverty, I attend the family gratuitously."

"Is not your charity-list a very long one?"

"Could I divest myself of sympathy with the sufferings of those who
compose it I would not curtail it one iota; for I feel like Boerhaave,
who once said, 'My poor are my best patients; God pays for them.'"

"Then, after all, you are actuated merely by selfishness, and remit
payments in earthly dross,--in 'filthy lucre,'--in order to collect
your fees in a better currency, where thieves do not break through nor
steal?"

"'He that oppresseth the poor reproacheth his Maker; but he that
honoreth Him, hath mercy on the poor.' If a tinge of selfishness
mingle with the hope of future reward, it will be forgiven, I trust,
by the great Physician, who, in sublimating human nature, seized upon
its selfish elements as powerful agencies in the regeneration of
mankind. An abstract worship of virtue is scarcely possible while
humanity is clothed with clay, and I am not unwilling to confess that
hope of eternal compensation influences my conduct in many respects.
If this be indeed only subtle selfishness, at least we shall be
pardoned by Him who promised to prepare a place in the Father's
mansion for those who follow His footsteps among the poor."

She looked up at him, with a puzzled, searching expression, that
arrested his attention, and exclaimed,--

"How singularly honest you are! I believe I could have faith if there
were more like you."

"Faith in what?"

"In the nobility of my race,--in the possibility of my own
improvement,--in the watchful providence of God."

"Salome, there is much sound philosophy in the eighty-seventh and
eighty-ninth maxims of cynical Rochefoucauld, 'It is more disgraceful to
distrust one's friends than to be deceived by them. Our mistrust
justifies the deceit of others.' My opportunities have been favorable
for studying various classes of men, and my own experience corroborates
the truth of Montaigne's sagacious remark, 'Confidence in another
man's virtue is no slight evidence of a man's own.' Try to cultivate
trust in your fellow creatures, and the bare show of faith will
sometimes create worth."

"Did Christ's show of confidence in Judas save him from betrayal?"

"Let us hope that he was the prototype of a very limited class. You
must not expect to find mankind divided into two great castes--one all
angels, the other comprising hopeless demons. On the contrary, noble
and most ignoble impulses alternately sway the actions and thoughts of
the majority of our race; and the saint of to-day is not unfrequently
tempted to become the fiend of to-morrow. Remember that the conflict
with sinful promptings begins in the cradle--ends only in the
coffin,--and try to be more charitable in your judgments."

They walked a few yards in silence, and at length Salome asked,--

"Were you not kept up all of last night?"

"Yes; I was obliged to ride fifteen miles to set a dislocated
shoulder."

"Then you must be exhausted from fatigue, and unfit for watching
to-night. Will you not allow me to relieve you, and take charge of
Mrs. Peterson's grandchild? I admit I am very ignorant; but I will
faithfully follow your directions, and I think you may venture to
trust me."

Confusion flushed her face as she made this proposition, but in the
pale, pearly lustre of the summer starlight, it was not visible.

"Thank you heartily, Salome. I could implicitly trust your intentions,
but the case is almost hopeless, and I fear you are too inexperienced
to render it safe for me to commit the child to your care. I
appreciate your kindness, but am too much interested in the boy to
leave him when the disease is at its crisis, and a cup of coffee will
strengthen me for the vigil. You have been to the Asylum this
afternoon; tell me something about little Jessie."

"She is still rather pale, but otherwise seems quite well again. Of
course she is dissatisfied since Stanley has left, and thinks she
ought to be allowed to follow his example; but I finally persuaded her
to remain there patiently, at least for the present. It is well that
the poor have their sensibilities blunted early in life, for they are
spared many sorrows that afflict those who are pampered by fortune and
rendered morbidly sensitive by years of indulgence and prosperity."

A metallic ring had crept into her voice, hardening it, and although
he could not distinctly see her countenance, he knew that the words
came through set teeth.

"Salome, I hope that I misunderstand you."

"No; unfortunately, you thoroughly comprehend me. Dr. Grey, were you
situated precisely as I find myself, do you suppose you would feel
your degradation as little as I seem to do? Do you think you would
relish the bread of charity as keenly as one, who, for courtesy's
sake, shall be nameless? Could you calmly stand by, and with utter
_sang froid_ see your brothers and sisters--your own flesh and
blood--drift on every chance wave, like some sodden crust or withered
weed on a stormy, treacherous sea? Would not your family pride bleed
and die, and your self-respect wail and shrivel and expire?"

"You have so grossly exaggerated and overcolored your picture that I
recognize little likeness to reality."

"I neither gloze nor mask; I simply front the facts, which are,
briefly, that you were nurtured in independence and trained to abhor
the crumbs that fall from other people's tables, while all heroic
aspirations and proud chivalric dreams were fed by the milk that
nourished you; whereas, I grew up in the wan, sickly atmosphere of
penury; glad to grasp the crust that chance offered; taught to
consider the bread of dependence precious as ambrosia; willing to
forget family ties that were fraught only with humiliation and
wretchedness; coveting bounty that I had not sufficient ambition to
merit; and eager to live on charity, as long as it could be coaxed,
hoodwinked, or scourged into supporting me comfortably. Yesterday I
read a sentence that might have been written for me, so felicitously
does it photograph me, 'Temperament is a fate oftentimes, from whose
jurisdiction its victims hardly escape, but do its bidding herein, be
it murder or martyrdom. Virtues and crimes are mixed in one's cup of
nativity, with the lesser or larger margin of choice. _Blood is a
destiny._' You, Ulpian Grey, are what you are because your father was
a gentleman, and all your surroundings were luxurious and refined; and
I, the miller's child, am what you see me because my father was coarse
and brutal; because my body and soul struggled with staring
starvation,--physical, mental, and moral. Be just, and remember these
things when you are tempted to despise me as a pitiable, spiritless
parasite."

"My little friend, you have most unnecessarily tortured yourself, and
grieved and mortified me. Have I ever treated you with contempt or
disrespect?"

"You evidently pity me, and compassion is about as welcome to my
feelings as a vitriol bath to fresh wounds."

"Are you not conscious of having more than once acted in such a manner
as to necessitate my compassion?"

She was silent for some moments; but as they entered the avenue, she
said, impetuously,--

"I want you to respect me."

"If you respect yourself and merit my good opinion, I shall not
withhold it. But of one thing let me assure you; my standard of
womanly delicacy, nobility, gentleness, and Christian faith is very
exalted; and I cannot and will not lower it, even to meet the
requirements of those who claim my friendship. Thoroughly cognizant of
my opinions concerning several subjects, you have more than once,
premeditatedly and obtrusively outraged them, and while I can and do
most cordially overlook the offence, you should not deem it possible
for me to entertain a very lofty estimate of the offender. When I came
home you took such extraordinary pains to convince me that not a
single noble aspiration actuated you that I confess you almost
succeeded in your aim; but, Salome, I hope you are far more generous
than you deign to prove yourself, and I promise you my earnest respect
shall not lag behind,--shall promptly keep pace with your deserts. You
can, if you so determine, make yourself an attractive, brilliant,
noble woman; an ornament--and better still--a useful, honored member
of society; but the faults of your character are grave, and only
prayer and conscientious, persistent efforts can entirely correct
them. I am neither so unreasonable nor so unjust as to hold you
accountable for circumstances beyond your control; and, while I warmly
sympathize with all your sorrows, I know that you are still
sufficiently young to rectify the unfortunate warping that your nature
received in its mournful early years. To ask me to respect you is as
idle and useless and impotent as the soft murmur of this June breeze
in the elm boughs above us; but you can command my perfect confidence
and friendship solely on condition that you merit it. Salome,
something very unusual has influenced you to-day, forcing you to throw
aside the rubbish that you patiently piled over your better self until
it was effectually concealed; and, if you are willing to be frank with
me, I should be glad to know what has so healthfully affected you. I
believe I can guess: has not little Jessie wooed and won her sister's
heart, melting all its icy selfishness and warming its holiest
recesses?"

At this moment Stanley bounded down the steps to meet them, and,
bending over to receive his kiss and embrace, Salome gladly evaded a
reply. That night, after she had taught her brother his lessons for
the next day and made him repeat the prayer learned in the dormitory
of the Asylum,--when she had read Miss Jane to sleep and seen the
doctor set out on his mission of mercy, she brightened the lamp-light
in her own room, and, opening the parcel, drew out and commenced the
dainty embroidery which she had promised should be completed at an
early day.

The night was warm, but the sea-breeze sang a lullaby in the trees
that peeped in at her window, and now and then a strong gust
blew the flame almost to the top of the lamp-chimney. Stanley
slept soundly in his trundle-bed, occasionally startling her by
half-uttered exclamations, as in his dreams he chased rabbits or
found partridge-eggs. Oblivious of passing hours, and profoundly
immersed in speculations concerning her future, the girl sewed
on, working scallop after scallop, and flower after flower, in
the gossamer cambric between her slender fingers. Stars that looked
upon her early in the night had gone down into blue abysms below
the horizon, and the midnight song of a mocking-bird, swinging in
a lemon-tree beneath her window, had long since hushed itself with
the chirp of crickets and gossip of the katydids.

A tap on the facing of her open door finally aroused her, and she
hastily attempted to hide her work, as Dr. Grey asked,--

"What keeps you up so late? Are you dressing a doll for Jessie?"

"What brings you home so early? Is your patient better?"

"Yes; in one sense he is certainly better; for, free from all pain, he
rests with his God."

"What time is it?"

"Half-past three. Little Charles died about an hour ago, and, as I
shall be very busy to-morrow, I came upstairs to ask if you will
oblige me by going over to Mrs. Peterson's and remaining with her
until the neighbors assemble in the morning. It is an unpleasant duty,
and unless you are perfectly willing I will not request you to perform
it."

"Certainly, sir; I will go at once. Why should I hesitate?"

"Come down as soon as you are ready, and I will make Harrison drive
you over in my buggy. As it is only a mile I walked home."

When she stood before him, waiting for the servant to adjust some
portion of the harness, Dr. Grey wrapped her shawl more closely around
her, and said,--

"What new freak keeps you awake till four o'clock?"

"It is no freak, but the beginning of a settled purpose that reaches
in numberless ramifications through all my coming years. It does not
concern you, so ask me no more. Good-night. I suppose I ought to
tender you my thanks for deeming me worthy of this melancholy mission;
and if so, pray be pleased to accept them."



CHAPTER V.


"Jane, have you heard that we shall soon have some new neighbors at
'Solitude'?"

"No; who is brave enough to settle there?"

"Mrs. Gerome, a widow, has purchased and refitted the house,
preparatory to making it her home."

"Do you suppose she knows the history of its former owners?"

"Probably not, as she has never seen the place. The purchase was made
some months since by her agent, who stated that she was in Europe."

"Ulpian, I am sorry that the house will again be occupied, for some
mournful fatality seems to have attended all who ever resided there;
and I have been told that the last proprietor changed the name from
'Solitude' to 'Bochim.'"

"You must not indulge such superstitious vagaries, my dear, wise
Janet. The age of hobgoblins, haunted houses, and supernatural
influences has passed away with the marvels of alchemy and the weird
myths of Rosicrucianism. Because many deaths have occurred at that
place, and the residents were consequently plunged in gloom, you must
not rashly impute eldritch influences to the atmosphere surrounding
it. Knowing its ghostly celebrity, I have investigated the grounds of
existing prejudice, and find that of the ten persons who have died
there during the last fifteen years, three deaths were from hereditary
consumption, one from dropsy, two from paralysis, one from epilepsy,
one from brain-fever, one from drowning, and the last from a fall that
broke the victim's neck. Were these attributable to any local cause,
the results would certainly not have proved so diverse."

"Call it superstition, or what you will, no amount of coaxing,
argument, or ridicule, no imaginable inducement could prevail on me to
live there,--even if the house were floored with gold and roofed with
silver. It is the gloomiest-looking place this side of Golgotha, and I
would as soon crawl into a coffin for an afternoon nap as spend a
night there."

"Your imagination invests it with a degree of gloom which is
adventitious, and referable solely to painful associations; for
intrinsically the situation is picturesque and beautiful, and the
grounds have been arranged with consummate taste. This morning I
noticed a quantity of rare and very superb lilies clustered in a
corner of the _parterre_."

"Pray, what called you there?"

"A workman engaged in repairing some portion of the roof, slipped on
the slate and broke his arm; consequently, they sent for me."

"Just what he might have expected. I tell you something happens to
everybody who ever sleeps there."

"Do you suppose there is a squad of malicious spirits hovering in
ambush to swoop upon all new-comers, and not only fracture limbs, but
scatter to right and left paralysis, epilepsy, and other diseases?
From your rueful countenance a stranger might infer that Pandora's box
had just been opened at 'Bochim,' and that the very air was thick with
miasma and maledictions."

"Oh, laugh on if you choose at my old-fashioned whims and superstition;
but, mark my words, that place will prove a curse to whoever buys it
and settles there! Has Mrs. Gerome a family?"

"I believe I heard that she had no children, but I really know little
about her except that she must be a woman of unusually refined and
cultivated tastes, as the pictures, books, and various articles of
vertu that have preceded her seem to indicate much critical and
artistic acumen. The entire building has been refitted in exceedingly
handsome style, and the upholsterer who was arranging the furniture
told me it had been purchased in Europe."

"When is Mrs. Gerome expected?"

"During the present week."

"What aged person is she?"

"Indeed, my dear, curious Janet, I have asked no questions and formed
no conjectures; but I trust your baleful prognostications will find no
fulfilment in her case."

"Ulpian, I had some very fashionable visitors to-day, who manifested
an extraordinary interest in your past, present, and future. Mrs.
Channing and her two lovely daughters spent the morning here, and left
an invitation for you to attend a party at their house next Thursday
evening. Miss Adelaide went into ecstasies over that portrait in which
you wore your uniform, and asked numberless questions about you; among
others, whether you were still heart-whole, or whether you had
suffered some great disappointment early in life which kept you a
bachelor. What do you suppose she said when I told her that you had
never had a love-scrape in your life?"

"Of course she impugned the statement, which, to a young lady framed
for flirtations, must indeed have appeared incredible."

"On the contrary, she declared that the woman who succeeded in
captivating you would achieve a triumph more difficult and more
desirable than the victory of the Nile or of Trafalgar. I was tempted
to ask her if she might be considered the ambitious Nelson, but of
course politeness forbade. Ulpian, she is the prettiest creature I
ever looked at."

"Yes, as pretty as mere healthy flesh can be without the sublimation
and radiance of an indwelling soul. There is nothing which impresses
me so mournfully as the sight of a beautiful, frivolous, unscrupulous
woman, who immolates all that is truly feminine in her character upon
the shrine of swollen vanity; and whose career from cradle to grave is
as utterly aimless and useless as that of some gaudy, flaunting
ephemeron of the tropics. Such women act as extinguishers upon the
feeble, flickering flame of chivalry, which modern degeneracy in
manners and morals has almost smothered."

His tone and countenance evinced more contempt than Salome had known
him to express on any former occasion, and, glancing at his clear,
steady, grave blue eyes, she said to herself,--

"At least he will never strike his colors to Admiral Adelaide
Channing, and I should dislike to occupy her place in his estimation."

"My dear boy, you must not speak in such ungrateful terms of my
beautiful visitor, who certainly has some serious design on your
heart, if I may judge from the very extravagant praise she lavished
upon you. I daresay she is a very nice, sweet girl, and you know you
told me once that if you should ever marry your wife must be a beauty,
else you could not love her."

"Very true, Janet, and I have no intention of retracting or
diminishing my rigid requirements, but my definition of beauty
includes more than mere physical perfection,--than satin skin,
pearl-tinted, fine eyes, faultless teeth, abundant silky tresses, and
rounded figure. It demands that the heart whose blood paints lips and
cheek, shall be pure, generous, and holy; that the soul which looks
out at me from lustrous eyes shall be consecrated to another deity
than Fashion,--shall be as full of magnanimity, and strength, and
peace, as a harp is of melody; my beauty means meekness, faith,
sanctity, and exacts mental, moral, and material excellence. Rest
assured, my dear, sage counsellor, that if ever I bring a wife to my
hearthstone I will have selected her in obedience to the advice of
Joubert, who admonished us, 'We should choose for a wife only the
woman we would choose for a friend, were she a man.'"

"You expect too much; you will never find your perfect ideal walking
in flesh."

"I will content myself with nothing less--I promise you that."

"Oh, no doubt you will believe that the woman you marry is all that
you dream or wish; but some fine morning you will present me with a
sister as full of foibles and vanities and frailties as any other
spoiled and cunning daughter of Eve. Of course every bridegroom
classes as 'perfect' the blushing, trembling young thing who peeps
shyly at him from under a tulle veil and an orange wreath; but, take
my word for it, there is a spice of Delilah in every pretty girl, and
the credulity of Samson slumbers in all lovers. Nevertheless, Ulpian,
I would sooner see you in bondage to a pair of white hands and hazel
eyes,--would rather know that like all your race you were utterly
humbugged--hoodwinked--by some fair-browed belle, whose low voice
rippled over pouting pink lips, than have you live always alone, a
confirmed old bachelor. After all, I doubt whether you have really
never had a sweetheart, for every schoolboy swears allegiance to some
yellow-haired divinity in ruffled muslin aprons."

Dr. Grey laid his hand gently on the shrivelled fingers that were
busily engaged in shelling some seed-beans, and answered, jocosely,--

"Have I not often told you, that my dear, old, patient sister Janet,
is my only lady-love?"

"And your silly old Janet is not such an arrant fool as to believe any
such nonsense,--especially when she remembers that from time
immemorial sailors have had sweethearts in every port, and that her
spoiled pet of a brother is no exception to his race or his
profession."

He laughed, and smoothed her grizzled hair.

"Since my sapient sister is so curious, I will confess that once--and
only once in my life--I was in dire danger of falling most desperately
in love. The frigate was coaling at Palermo, and I went ashore. One
afternoon, in sauntering through the orange and lemon groves which
render its environs so inviting, I caught a glimpse of a countenance
so serene, so indescribably lovely, that for an instant I was disposed
to believe I had encountered the beatific spirit of St. Rosalie
herself. The face was that of a woman apparently about eighteen years
old, who evidently ranked among Sicilian aristocrats, and whose
elegant attire enhanced her beauty. I followed, at a respectful
distance, until she entered the garden of an adjacent convent and fell
on her knees before a marble altar, where burned a lamp at the feet of
a statue of the Virgin; and no painting in Europe stamped itself so
indelibly on my memory as the picture of that beautiful votary. Her
delicate hands were crossed over her heart,--her large, liquid, black
eyes, raised in adoration,--her full, crimson lips parted as she
repeated the '_Ave Maria_' in the most musical voice I ever heard.
Just above the purplish folds of her abundant hair drooped pomegranate
boughs all aflame with scarlet blooms that fell upon her head like
tongues of fire, as the wind sprang from the blue hollows of the
Mediterranean and shook the grove. The sun was going swiftly down
behind the stone turrets of a monastery that crowned a distant hill,
and the last rays wove an aureola around my kneeling saint, who,
doubtless, aware of the effect of her graceful attitudinizing, seemed
in no haste to conclude her devotions. As I recalled the charming
tableau, those lines wherein Buchanan sought to photograph the
picturesqueness of the Digentia, float up from some sympathetic cell
of memory,--

  'Could you look at the leaves of yonder tree,--
  The wind is stirring them, as the sun is stirring me!
    The woolly clouds move quiet and slow
  In the pale blue calm of the tranquil skies,
    And their shades that run on the grass below
  Leave purple dreams in the violet's eyes!
    The vine droops over my head with bright
  Clusters of purple and green,--the rose
  Breaks her heart on the air; and the orange glows
  Like golden lamps in an emerald night.'

My Sicilian Siren finally disappeared in a gloomy arched-way
leading into the convent, and I returned to the hotel to dream of
her until the morning sunshine once more bathed Conca D'Oro in
splendor,--when I instituted a search for the name and residence of
my inamorata. Six hours of enthusiastic investigation yielded me
the coveted information, but imagine the profound despair in which
I was plunged when I ascertained from her own smiling lips that
she was a happy wife and the proud mother of two beautiful children.
As she rose to present her swarthy husband, I bowed myself out and
took refuge aboard ship. Here ends the recital of the first and last
bit of romance that ever threw its rosy tinge over the quiet life of
your staid and humble brother--Ulpian Grey, M.D."

"Ah, my dear sailor boy, I am afraid thirty-five years of experience
have rendered you too wary to be caught by such chaff as pretty girls
sprinkle along your path! I should be glad to see your bride enter
this door before I am carried out feet foremost to my final rest by
Enoch's side."

"Do not despair of me, dear Jane, for I am not exactly Methuselah's
rival; and comfort yourself by recollecting that Lessing was forty
years old when he first loved the only woman for whom he ever
entertained an affection--his devoted Eva König."

Dr. Grey bent over his sister's easy-chair, and, taking her thin,
sallow face tenderly in his soft palms, kissed the sunken cheeks--the
wrinkled forehead; and then, laying her head gently back upon its
cushions, entered his buggy and drove to his office.

"Salome, what makes you look so moody? There are as many furrows on
your brow as lines in a spider's web, and your lips are drawn in as if
you had dined on green persimmons. Child, what is the matter?"

Miss Jane lifted her spectacles from her nose, and eyed the orphan,
anxiously.

"I am very sorry to hear that 'Solitude' will be filled once more with
people, and bustle, and din. It is the nearest point where we can
reach the beach, and I have enjoyed many quiet strolls under its
grand, old, solemn trees. If haunted at all, it is by Dryads and
Hamadryads, and I like the babble of their leaves infinitely better
than the strife of human tongues. Miss Jane, if I were only a pagan!"

"I am not very sure that you are not," sighed the invalid.

"Nor I. I have lost my place,--I am behind my time in this world by at
least twenty centuries, and ought to have lived in the jovial age of
fauns and satyrs, when groves were sacred for other reasons than the
high price of wood,--when gods and goddesses were abundant as
blackberries, and at the beck and call of every miserable wretch who
chose to propitiate them by offering a flask of wine, a bunch of
turnips, a litter of puppies, or a basket of olives. Hesiod and Homer
understood human nature infinitely better than Paul and Luther."

"Salome, you are growing shockingly irreverent and wicked."

"No, madam,--begging your pardon. I am only desperately honest in
wishing that my salvation and future felicity could be secured beyond
all peradventure, by a sacrifice of oatcakes, or white doves, or black
cats, instead of a drab-colored life of prayer, penance, purity, and
patience. I don't deny that I would rather spend my days in watching
the gorgeous pageant of the_ Panathenaea_, or chanting dithyrambics to
insure a fine vintage, or even offering a _Taigheirm_, than in running
neck and neck with Lucifer for the kingdom of heaven. I love kids, and
fawns, and lambs, as well as Landseer; but I should not long hesitate,
had I the choice, between flaying their tender flesh in sacrifice and
mortifying my own as a devout life requires."

"But what would have become of your poor soul if you had lived in
Pagan times?"

"What will become of it under present circumstances, I should be
exceedingly glad to know. 'The heathen are a law unto themselves,' and
I sometimes wish I had been born a Fejee belle, who lived, was
tastefully tattooed, and died without having even dreamed of
missionaries,--those officious martyrs who hope to wear a whole
constellation on their foreheads as a reward for having been eaten by
cannibals, to whom they expounded the unpalatable doctrine that,
'this is the condemnation, that light is come into the world, and men
loved darkness rather than light.' Moreover, I confess--"

"That is quite sufficient. I have already heard more than I relish of
such silly and sacrilegious chat. At least, you might have more
prudence and discretion than to hold forth so disgracefully in the
hearing of your little brother."

Miss Jane's cheek flushed, and her feeble voice faltered.

"He has fallen fast asleep over the bean-pods; and, even if he
had not, how much of the conversation do you imagine he would
comprehend? His sole knowledge of Grecian theogony consists of a
brief acquaintance with a bottle of pseudo Greek fire which
burnt the pocket out of his best pantaloons."

"Salome, you distress me; and, if Ulpian had not left us, you would
have kept all such heathenish stuff shut up in your sinful and wayward
heart."

"Dr. Grey is no Gorgon, having power to petrify my tongue. I am not
afraid of him; and my respect for your feelings is much stronger than
my dread of his."

"Hush, child! You are afraid of him, and well you may be. I fear
that all your Sabbath-school advantages--all your Christian
privileges--have been wofully wasted; and I shall ask Ulpian to talk
to you."

"No, thank you, Miss Jane. You may save yourself the trouble, for he
has given me over to hardness of heart and 'a reprobate mind,' and his
patience is not only 'clean gone forever,' but he has carefully washed
his hands of all future interest in my rudderless and drifting soul.
Let me speak this once, and henceforth I promise to hold my peace. I
do not require to be 'talked to' by anybody,--I only need to be let
alone. Sabbath-schools are indisputably excellent things,--and I can
testify that they are ponderous ecclesiastical hammers, pounding
creeds and catechisms into the mould of memory; but these nurseries of
the church nourish and harbor some Satan's imps among their
half-fledged saints; and while they certainly accomplish a vast amount
of good, they are by no means infallible machines for the manufacture
of Christians,--of which fact I stand in melancholy attestation. I
have a vague impression that piety does not grow up in a night, like
Jonah's gourd or Jack the Giant-killer's beanstalk; but is a pure,
glittering, spiritual stalactite, built by the slow accretion of
dripping tears. Do you suppose that you can successfully train my soul
as you have managed my body?--that you can hold my nose and pour a
dose of faith down my throat, like ipecac or cod-liver oil? In matters
of theology I am no ostrich, and, if you afflict me _ad nauseam_ with
religious dogmas, you must not wonder that my moral digestion rebels
outright. I shall not dispute the fact that in justice to your
precepts and example I ought to be a Christian; but, since I am not, I
may as well tell you at once and save future trouble, that I can
neither be baited into the church like a hawk into a steel-trap, nor
scared and driven into it like bees into a hive by the rattling of tin
pans and the screaking of horns. Don't look at me so dolefully, dear
Miss Jane, as if you had already seen my passport to perdition signed
and sealed. You, at least, have done your whole duty,--have set all
the articles of orthodoxy, well-flavored and garnished, before me;
and, if I am finally lost, my spiritual starvation can never be
charged against you in the last balance-sheet. I am not ignorant of
the Bible, nor altogether unacquainted with the divers creeds that
spring from its pages as thick, as formidable, as ferocious, as the
harvest from the dragon's teeth; and, thanking you for all you have
taught me, I here undertake to pilot my own soul in this boiling,
bellowing sea of life. I doubt whether some of the charts you value
will be of any service in my voyage, or whether the beacons by which
you steer will save me from the reefs; but, nevertheless, I take the
wheel, and, if I wreck my soul,--why, then, I wreck it."

In the magic evening light, which touches all things with a rosy,
transitory glamour, the fresh young face with its daintily sculptured
lineaments seemed marvellously and surpassingly fair; but, like
_morbidezza_ marble, hopelessly fixed and chill, and might have served
for some image of Eve, when, standing on the boundary of eternal
beatitude, she daringly put up her slender womanly fingers to pluck
the fatal fruit. Her large, brilliant eyes followed the sinking sun
as steadily--as unblinkingly--as an eagle's; but the gleam that rayed
out was baleful, presaging storms, as infallibly as that sullen, lurid
light, which glares defiantly over helpless earth when to-day's sun
falls into the cloudy lap of to-morrow's tempest.

A heavy sigh struggled across Miss Jane's unsteady lips, as, removing
her glasses, she wiped her eyes, and said, slowly,--

"Yes; I am a stupid, unsuspecting old dolt; but I see it all now."

"My ultimate and irremediable ruin?"

"God forbid!"

Salome approached the arm-chair, and, stooping, looked intently at the
aged, wan face.

"What is it that you see? Miss Jane, when people stand, as you do,
upon the borders of two worlds, the Bygone fades,--the Beyond grows
distinct and luminous. Lend me your second sight, to decipher the
characters scrawled like fiery serpents over the pall that envelops
the future."

"I see nothing but the grim, unmistakeable fact that my little,
clinging, dependent child, has, without my knowledge, put away
childish things, and suddenly steps before me a wilful, irreverent,
graceless woman, as eager to challenge the decrees of the Lord as was
complaining Job before the breath of the whirlwind smote and awed him.
Some day, Salome, that same voice that startled the old man of Uz will
make you bend and tremble and shiver like that acacia yonder, which
the wind is toying with before it snaps asunder. When that time comes
the clover will feed bees above my gray head, but I trust my soul will
be near enough to the great white throne to pray God to have mercy on
your wretched spirit, and bring you safely to that blessed haven
whither you can never pilot yourself."

Nervous excitement gave unwonted strength to the feeble limbs; and,
grasping her crutches, Miss Jane limped into her own room and closed
the door after her.

For some moments the girl stood looking out over the lawn, where
fading sunshine and deepening shadow made fitful _chiaroscuro_ along
the primrose-paved aisles that stretched under the elm arches,--then,
raising her fingers as if tracing lines on the soft, gold-dusted
atmosphere that surrounded her, she muttered doggedly,--

"Yes; I am at sea! But, if God is just, Miss Jane and I will yet shake
hands on that calm, surgeless, crystal sea, shining before the throne.
So, now I take the helm and put the head of my precious charge before
the wind, and only the Almighty can foresee the result. In His mercy I
put my trust. So be it.

  'Gray distance hid each shining sail,
    By ruthless breezes borne from me;
  And lessening, fading, faint, and pale,
    My ships went forth to sea.'"



CHAPTER VI.


"Mother, I am afraid Mrs. Gerome does not like this place, or the
furniture, or something, for she has not spoken a kind word about the
house since she came. She looks closely at everything, but says
nothing. What do you suppose she thinks?"

Robert Maclean, the gardener at "Solitude," paused abruptly, as his
mother pinched his arm sharply and whispered,--

"Whist! There she comes down the azalea walk; and no one likes to
stumble upon their own name when they are not expecting the sound
or sight of it. No; she has turned off towards the cedars, and does
not see us. As to her likes and dislikes, there is nothing this side
of heaven that will content her; and you might have known better
than to suppose she would be much pleased with anything. No matter
what she thinks, she seldom complains, and it is hard to find out her
views; but she told me to tell you that she approved all you had
done, and thanked you for the pains you have taken to arrange things
comfortably."

Old Elsie tied the strings of her white muslin cap, and turned her
back to the wind that was playing havoc with its freshly fluted
frills.

"Mother, I heard her laugh yesterday, for the first time. It was a
short, quick, queer little laugh, but it pleased me greatly. The cook
had set some duck-eggs under that fine black Spanish hen; and, when
they hatched, she marched off with the brood into the fowl-yard, where
they made straight for the duck-pool and sailed in. The hen set up
such a din and clatter that Mrs. Gerome, who happened to get a glimpse
of them, felt sorry for the poor frightened fowl, and tried to drive
the little ones out of the water; but, whenever she put her hand
towards them to catch the nearest, the whole brood would quack and
dive,--and, when she had laughed that one short laugh, she called to
me to look after them and went back to the house. You don't know how
strangely that laugh sounded."

"Don't I? Speak for yourself, Robert. I have heard her laugh twice,
but it was when she was asleep, and it was an uncanny, bitter
sound,--about as welcome to my ears as her death-rattle. Last night
she did not close her eyes,--did not even undress; and the hall clock
was striking three this morning when I heard her open the piano and
play one of those dismal, frantic, wailing things she calls 'fugues,'
that make the hair rise on my head and every inch of my flesh creep as
if a stranger were treading on my grave. When she was a baby, cutting
her eye-teeth, she had a spasm; and seeing her straighten herself out
and roll back her eyes till only the white balls showed, I took it for
granted she was about to die, and, holding her in my arms, I fell on
my knees and prayed that she might be spared. Well, now, Robert, I am
sorry I put up that petition, for the Lord knew best; and it would
have been a crowning mercy if he had paid no attention to my
half-crazy pleadings and taken her home then. What meddling fools we
all are! I thought, at that time, it would break my heart to shroud
her sweet little body; but ah! I would rather have laid my precious
baby in her coffin, with violets under her fingers, than live to see
that desperate, unearthly look, come and house itself in her great,
solemn, hungry, tormenting eyes, that were once as full of sparkles
and merriment as the sky is of stars on a clear, frosty night. My son,
we never know what is good for us; for, many times, when we clamor for
bread we break our teeth on it; and then, again, when we rage and howl
because we think the Lord has dealt out scorpions to us, they prove
better than the fish we craved. So, after all, I conclude Christ
understood the whole matter when he enjoined upon us to say, 'Thy will
be done.'"

The old nurse wiped her eyes with the corner of her black silk apron,
and, leaning against the trunk of a tree, crossed her arms comfortably
over her broad and ample chest, while Robert busied himself in
repotting some choice carnations.

"But, mother, do you really think she will be satisfied to stay here,
after travelling so long up and down in the world?"

"How can I tell what she will or will not do? You know very well that
she goes to sleep with one set of whims and wakes up with new ones.
She catches odd freaks as some people catch diseases. She said
yesterday that she had had enough of travel and change, and intended
to settle and live and die right here; but that does not prove that I
may not receive an order next week to pack her trunks and start to
Jericho or Halifax, and I should not think the world was upside down
and coming to an end if such an order came before breakfast to-morrow.
Poor lamb! My poor lamb! Yonder she comes again. Do you notice how
fast she walks, as if the foul fiend were clutching at her skirts or
she were trying to get away from herself,--trying to run her restless
soul entirely out of her wretched body? Come away, Robert, and let her
have all the grounds to herself. She likes best to be alone."

Mother and son walked off in the direction of the stables, and the
advancing figure emerged from the dense shade where interlacing limbs
roofed one of the winding walks, and paused before the circular stand
on which lemon, rose, white, crimson, and variegated carnations,
nodded their fringed heads and poured spicy aromas from their velvety
chalices.

The face and form of Mrs. Gerome presented a puzzling paradox, in
which old age and youth seemed struggling for mastery; and "death in
life" found melancholy verification. Tall, slender, and faultlessly
made, the perfection of her figure was marred by the unfortunate
carriage of her head, which drooped forward so heavily that the chin
almost touched her throat and nearly destroyed the harmony of the
profile outline. The head itself was nobly rounded, and sternly
classic as any well authenticated antique, but it was no marvel that
it habitually bowed under the heavy glittering mass of silver hair,
which wound in coil after coil and was secured at the back by a comb
of carved jet, thickly studded with small silver stars. The
extraordinary lustrousness of these waves of gray hair that rippled on
her forehead and temples like molten metal, lent a weird and wondrous
effect to the straight, regular, rigid features,--daintily cut as
those of Pallas, and quite as pallid. The delicate and high arch of
the eyebrows was black as ebony, and in conjunction with the long
jetty lashes formed a very singular contrast to the shining white
tresses, which lay piled like freshly fallen snow-drift above them.
The brow was full, round, smooth, and fair as a child's; and more than
one azure thread showed the subtle tracery of veins, whose crimson
currents left no rosy reflex on the firm, gleaming white flesh,
through which they branched.

Beneath that faultless forehead burned unusually large eyes, deep as
mountain tarns, and of that pure bluish gray that tolerates no hint of
green or yellow rays. The dilated pupils intensified the steel color,
and faint violet lines ran out from the iris to meet the central
shadows, while above and below the heavy black fringes enhanced their
sombre depths, where mournful mysteries seemed to float like corpses
just beneath the crystal shroud of ocean waves. The pale, passionless
lips,--perfect in their pure curves, but defrauded of the blood which
resolutely refused to come to the surface and tint the fine satin
skin,--were lined in ciphers that the curious questioned and wondered
over, but which few could read and none fully comprehend. The
beautiful, frigid mouth, where all sweetness was frozen out to make
room for hopelessness and defiance, would have admirably suited some
statue of discrowned and smitten Hecuba; and no amount of sighs and
sobs, no stormy bursts of grief or fierce invective, could rival the
melancholy eloquence of its mute, calm pallor.

The wan face, with its gray globe-like eyes, and the metallic glitter
of the prematurely silvered hair, matched in hue the pearl-colored
muslin dress which fluttered in the wind; and, standing there, this
gray woman of twenty-three looked indeed like Pygmalion's stone
darling,--

  "Fair-statured, noble, like an awful thing
  Frozen upon the very verge of life,
  And looking back along eternity
  With rayless eyes that keep the shadow Time."

Her frail, white hands, with their oval nails polished and opalescent,
were exceedingly beautiful; and, where the creamy foam of the fine
lace fell back from the dimpled wrists, quaintly carved jet serpents
with blazing diamond eyes coiled around the throbbing thread-like
pulses of sullen _sang azure_.

Bending over the carnations, she examined the gorgeous hues,--toyed
with their fragile stems,--and then, glancing shyly over her shoulder
like a startled fawn half expectant of hounds and hunter, she glided
rapidly to an artificial mound crowned with a mouldering mossy plaster
image of Ariadne and her pard, and stood surveying her new domain.

"Solitude" filled a semicircular hollow between low wooded hills,
which ran down to lave their grassy flanks in the blue brine of the
Atlantic, and constituted the horns of a crescent bay, on whose
sloping sandy beach the billows broke without barrier.

The old-fashioned brick house--with sharp, peaked roof, turreted
chimneys, and gable window looking down in front upon the clumsily
clustered columns that supported the arched portico--was built upon a
rocky knoll, of which nature laid the foundation and art increased the
height; and, around and above it, towered a dense grove of ancient
trees that shut out the glare of the sea and effectually screened the
mansion from observation. The damp walls were heavily draped with the
sombre verdure of ivy, whose ambitious tendrils clambered to the cleft
chimney-tops, and peered impertinently over the broad stone
window-sills, whence the indignant housemaid remorselessly sheared
them away as often as their encroachments grew perceptible.

In the rear of the house, and toward the west, stretched orchard,
vegetable garden, vineyard, and wheat-field, whose rolling green waves
seemed almost to break against the ruddy trunks of cedars that clothed
the hillside. To the left and north lay low, marshy, meadow land,
covered with rank grass and frosted with saline incrustations; while
south of the building extended spacious grounds, studded here and
there with noble groups of deodars, Norway spruce, and various
ornamental shrubs, and bounded by a tall impenetrable hedge of osage
orange. Before the house, which faced the ocean and fronted east, the
lawn sloped gently down to a terrace surmounted by a granite
balustrade; and just beyond, supported by stone piers on the golden
sands, stood an octagonal boat-house, built in the Swiss style, with
red-tiled roof, and floored with squares of white and black marble,
whence a flight of steps led to the little boat chained to one of the
rocky piers. Along the entire length of the terrace a line of giant
poplars lifted their aged, weather-beaten heads, high above all
surrounding objects,--ever on the _qui vive_, looking seaward,--trim
and erect as soldiers on dress parade, and defiant of gales that had
shorn them of many boughs, and left ghastly scars on their glossy
limbs.

Tradition whispered, with bated breath, that in the dim dawn of
colonial settlement a rude log hut had been erected here by pirates,
who came ashore to bury their ill-gotten booty, and rumors were rife
of bloody deeds and midnight orgies,--all of which sprang into more
vigorous circulation, when, in laying the foundations of the
boat-house piers, an iron pot containing a number of old French and
Spanish coins was dug out of the shells and sand.

Melancholy tales of stranded vessels and drowned crews, of a
slaver burned to the water's edge to escape capture, and of charred
corpses strewn on the beach, thickened the atmosphere of legendary
gloom that enveloped the spot,--where the successive demise of
several proprietors certainly sanctioned the feeling of dread and
superstitious distrust with which it was regarded. That the
unenviable celebrity it had attained was referable to local causes
generating disease, appeared almost incredible; for, if miasmatic
exhalations rose dank and poisonous from the densely shaded humid
house, they were promptly dispelled by the strong, invincible
ocean-breeze, which tore aside leafy branches and muslin curtains, and
wafted all noxious vapors inland.

A committee of medical sages having cautiously examined the place,
unanimously averred that its reputed fatality could not justly be
ascribed to any topographical causes. Whereupon the popular nerve,
which closely connected the community with supernaturaldom, thrilled
afresh; and all the calamities, real and imaginary, that had afflicted
"Solitude" from a period so remote that "the memory of man runneth not
to the contrary," were laid upon the galled shoulders of some
red-liveried, sulphur-scented Imp of Abaddon, whose peculiar mission
was to haunt the "piratical nest;" and, in lieu of human victims, to
addle the eggs, blast the grape crop, and make night hideous with
spectral sights and sounds.

To an unprejudiced observer the hills seemed to have gleefully clasped
hands and formed a half-circle, shutting the place in for a quiet
breezy communion with garrulous ocean, whose waves ran eagerly up the
strand to gossip of wrecks and cyclones, with the staid martinet
poplars that nodded and murmured assent to all their wild romances.

Such was the pleasant impression produced upon the mind of the lonely
woman who now owned it, and who hoped to spend here in seclusion and
peace the residue of a life whose radiant dawn had been suddenly
swallowed by drab clouds and starless gloom.

The Scotch are proverbially credulous concerning all preternatural
influences; and, had Robert Maclean been cognizant of half the ghostly
associations attached to the residence which he had selected in
compliance with general instructions from his mistress, it is scarcely
problematical whether the house would not have remained in the hands
of the real-estate broker; but, fortunately for their peace of mind,
Elsie and her son were as yet in blissful ignorance of the dismal
celebrity of their new home.

Resting her folded hands on the bare shoulders of the Ariadne, which
modest lichens and officious wreaths of purple verbena were striving
to mantle, Mrs. Gerome scanned the scene before her; and a quick,
nervous sigh, that was almost a pant, struggled across her lips.

"Unto this last nook of refuge have I come; and, expecting little,
find much. Shut out from the world, locked in with the sea,--no
neighbors, no visitors, no news, no gossip,--solitary, shady, cool,
and quiet,--surely I can rest here. Forked tongues of scandal can not
penetrate through those rock-ribbed hills yonder, nor dart across that
defying sea; and neither wail nor wassail of men or women can disturb
me more. But how do I know that it will not prove a mocking cheat like
Baiæ and Maggiore, or Copais and Cromarty? I have fled in disgust and
_ennui_ from far lovelier spots than this, and what right have I to
suppose that contentment has housed itself as my guest in that old,
mossy, brick pile, where mice and wrens run riot? Like Cain and
Cartophilus, my curse travels with me, and I no sooner pitch my tent,
than lo! the rattle and grin of my skeleton, for which earth is not
wide enough to furnish a grave! Well! well! at least I shall not be
stared to death here,--shall not be tormented by eye-glasses and
sketch-books; can live in that dim, dark, greenish den yonder,
unobserved and possibly forgotten and finally sleep undisturbed in the
dank shade of those deodars, with twittering birds overhead and a
sobbing sea at my feet. How long--how long before that dreamless
slumber will fall upon my heavy lids,--weary with waiting? Only
twenty-three yesterday! My God, if I should live to be an old woman!
The very thought threatens insanity! Ten--twenty--possibly thirty
years ahead of me. No; I could not endure it,--I should go mad, or
destroy myself! If I were a delicate woman, if I only had weak lungs
or a dropsical heart, or a taint of any hereditary infirmity that
would surely curtail my days, I could be tolerably patient, hoping
daily for the symptoms to develop themselves. But, unfortunately,
though my family all died early, no two members, selected the same
mode of escape from this bastile of clay; and my flesh is sound, and I
am as strong and compact as that granite balustrade, and--ha!
ha!--quite as hard. _Au pis aller_, if the burden of life becomes
utterly intolerable I can shuffle it off as quickly as did that proud
Roman, who, 'when the birds began to sing' in the dawn of a day
heralded by tempestuous winds laden with perfume from the vales of
Sicily, shut his eyes forever from the warm sparkling Mediterranean
billows that broke in the roads of Utica, and pricked the memory of
inattentive Azrael with the point of a sword. Neither Phædo, family,
nor fame, could coax Cato to respect the prerogative of Atropos; and
if he, 'the only free and unconquered man,' quailed and fled before
the apparition of numerous advancing years, what marvel that I, who am
neither sage nor Roman, should be tempted some fine morning when the
birds are sounding _reveille_ around my chamber windows, to imitate
'what Cato did, and Addison approved'? After all, what despicable
cowards are human hearts, and how much easier to die like Socrates,
Seneca, and Zeno, than stagger and groan under the load of hated,
torturing years, that are about as welcome to my shoulders as the 'old
man of the sea' to Sinbad's! How long?--oh, how long?"

The gloomy gray eyes had kindled into a dull flicker that resembled
the fitful, ghostly gleam of sheet lightning, falling through painted
windows upon crumbling and defiled altars in some lonely ruined
cathedral; and her low, shuddering tones, were full of a hopeless,
sneering bitterness, as painfully startling and out of place in a
woman's voice as would be the scream of a condor from the irised
throats of brooding doves, or the hungry howl of a wolf from the
tender lips of unweaned lambs. In the gloaming light of a soft gray
sky powdered by a few early stars, stood this desolate gray woman,
about whose face and dress there was no stain of color save the blue
glitter of a large sapphire ring, curiously cut in the form of a
coiled asp, with hooded head erect and brilliant diamond eyes that
twinkled with every quiver of the marble-white fingers.

Impatiently she turned her imperial head, when the sound of
approaching steps broke the stillness; and her tone was sharp as that
of one suddenly roused from deep sleep,--

"Well, Elsie! What is it?"

"Tea, my child, has been waiting half-an-hour."

"Then go and get your share of it. I want none."

"But you ate no dinner to-day. Does your head ache?"

"Oh, no; my heart jealously monopolizes that privilege!"

The old woman sighed audibly, and Mrs. Gerome added,--

"Pray, do not worry yourself about me! When I feel disposed to come in
I can find the way to the door. Go and get your supper."

The nurse passed her wrinkled hand over the drab muslin sleeves and
skirt, and touched the folds of hair.

"But, my bairn, the dew is thick on your head and has taken all the
starch out of your dress. Please come out of this fog that is creeping
up like a serpent from the sea. You are not used to such damp air, and
it might give you rheumatic cramps."

"Well, suppose it should? Does not my white head entitle me to all
such luxuries of old age and decrepitude? Don't bother me, Elsie."

She put out her hand with a repellent gesture, but Elsie seized it,
and clasping both her palms over the cold fingers, said, with
irresistible tenderness,--

"Come, dearie!--come, my dearie!"

Without a word Mrs. Gerome turned and followed her across the lawn and
into the house, whose internal arrangement was somewhat at variance
with its unpretending exterior.

The rooms were large, with low ceilings; and fire-places, originally
wide and deep, had been recently filled and fitted up with handsome
grates, while the heavy mantelpieces of carved cedar, that once
matched the broad facings of the windows and the massive panels of the
doors, were exchanged for costly _verd antique_ and lumachella. The
narrow passage running through the centre of the building was also
wainscoted with cedar and adorned with fine engravings of Landseer's
best pictures, whose richly carved walnut frames looked almost cedarn
in the pale chill light that streamed upon them through the
violet-colored glass which surrounded the front door and effectually
subdued the hot golden glare of the sunny sun. The old-fashioned
folding doors that formerly connected the parlor and library had been
removed to make room for a low, wide arch, over which drooped lace
curtains, partially looped with blue silk cord and tassels, and both
apartments were furnished with sofas and chairs of rosewood and blue
satin damask, while the velvet carpet, with its azure ground strewn
with wreaths of white roses and hyacinths, corresponded in color.
Handsome book-cases, burdened with precious lore, lined the walls of
the rear room; and on either side of a massive ormolu _escritoire_,
bronze candelabra shed light on the blue velvet desk where lay
delicate sheets of gossamer paper with varied and _outré_ monograms,
guarded by an exquisite marble statuette of Harpocrates, which stood
in the mirror-panelled recess reserved for pen, ink, and sealing-wax.
The air was fragrant with the breath of flowers that nodded to each
other from costly vases scattered through both apartments; and, before
one of the windows, rose a bronze stand containing china jars filled
with pelargoniums, in brilliant bloom. An Erard piano occupied one
corner of the parlor, and the large harp-shaped stand at its side was
heaped with books and unbound sheets of music. Here two long wax
candles were now burning brightly, and, on the oval marble table in
the centre of the floor, was a superb silver lamp representing Psyche
bending over Cupid, and supporting the finely-cut globe, whose soft
radiance streamed down on her burnished wings and eagerly-parted sweet
Greek lips. The design of this exceedingly beautiful lamp would not
have disgraced Benvenuto Cellini, nor its execution have reflected
discredit upon the genius of Felicie Fauveau, though to neither of
these distinguished artificers could its origin have been justly
ascribed. In its mellow, magical glow, the fine paintings suspended on
the walls seemed to catch a gleam of "that light that never was on
sea or land," for their dim, purplish Alpine gorges were filled with
snowy phantasmagoria of rushing avalanches; their foaming cataracts
braided glittering spray into spectral similitude of Undine tresses
and Undine faces; their desolate red deserts grew vaguely populous
with mirage mockeries; their green dells and grassy hill-sides,
couching careless herds, and fleecy flocks, borrowed all Arcadia's
repose; and the marble busts of Beethoven and of Handel, placed on
brackets above the piano, shone as if rapt, transfigured in the mighty
inspiration that gave to mankind "_Fidelio_" and the "_Messiah_."

On the sofa which partially filled the oriel window, where the lace
drapery was looped back to admit the breeze, lay an ivory box
containing materials and models for wax-flowers; and, in one corner,
half thrust under the edge of the silken cushion, was an unfinished
wreath of waxen convolvulus and a cluster of gentians. There, too,
open at the page that narrated the death-struggle, lay Liszt's "Life
of Chopin," pressed face downwards, with two purple pansies crushed
and staining the leaves; and a small gold thimble peeping out of a
crevice in the damask tattled of the careless feminine fingers that
had left these traces of disorder.

The collection of pictures was unlike those usually brought from
Europe by cultivated tourists, for it contained no Madonnas, no
Magdalenes, no Holy Families, no Descents or Entombments, no Saints,
or Sibyls, or martyrs; and consisted of wild mid-mountain scenery, of
solemn surf-swept strands, of lonely moonlit moors, of crimson sunsets
in Cobi or Sahara, and of a few gloomy, ferocious faces, among which
the portrait of Salvator Rosa smiled sardonically, and a head of
frenzied Jocasta was preëminently hideous.

As Mrs. Gerome entered the parlor and brightened the flame of the
Psyche lamp, her eyes accidentally fell upon the bust of Beethoven,
where, in gilt letters, she had inscribed his own triumphant
declaration, "_Music is like wine, inflaming men to new achievements;
and I am the Bacchus who serves it out to them_." While she watched
the rayless marble orbs, more eloquent than dilating darkening human
pupils, a shadow dense and mysterious drifted over her frigid face,
and, without removing her eyes from the bust above her, she sat down
before the piano, and commenced one of those marvellous symphonies
which he had commended to the study of Goethe.

Ere it was ended Elsie came in, bearing a waiter on which stood a
silver _epergne_ filled with fruit, a basket of cake, and a goblet of
iced tea.

"My child, I bring your supper here because the dining-room looks
lonesome at night."

"No,--no! take it away. I tell you I want nothing."

"But, for my sake, dear--"

"Let me alone, Elsie! There,--there! Don't teaze me."

The nurse stood for some moments watching the deepening gloom of the
up-turned countenance, listening to the weird strains that seemed to
drip from the white fingers as they wandered slowly across the keys;
then, kneeling at her side, grasped the hands firmly, and covered them
with kisses.

"Precious bairn! don't play any more to-night. For God's sake, let me
shut up this piano that is making a ghost of you! You will get so
stirred up you can't close your eyes,--you know you will; and then I
shall cry till day-break. If you don't care for yourself, dearie, do
try to care a little for the old woman who loves you better than her
life, and who never can sleep till she knows your precious head is on
its pillow. My pretty darling, you are killing me by inches, and I
shall stay here on my knees until you leave the piano, if that is not
till noon to-morrow. You may order me away; but not a step will I
stir. God help you, my bairn!"

Mrs. Gerome made an effort to extricate her hands, but the iron grasp
was relentless; and, in a tone of great annoyance, she exclaimed,--

"Oh, Elsie! You are an intolerable--"

"Well, dear, say it out,--an intolerable old fool! Isn't that what you
mean?"

"Not exactly; but you presume upon my forbearance. Elsie, you must not
interrupt and annoy me, for I tell you now I will not submit to it.
You forget that I am not a child."

"Darling, you will never be anything but a child to me,--the same
pretty child I took from its dead mother's arms and carried for years
close to my heart. So scold me as you may, my pet, I shall love you
and try to take care of you just as long as there is breath left in my
body."

She ended by kissing the struggling hands; and, striving to conceal
her vexation, Mrs. Gerome finally turned and said,--

"If you will eat your supper, and stay with Robert, and leave me in
peace, I promise you I will close the piano, which your flinty Scotch
soul can no more appreciate than the brick and mortar that compose
these walls. You mean well, my dear, faithful Elsie, but sometimes you
bore me fearfully. I know I am often wayward; but you must bear with
me, for, after all, how could I endure to lose you,--you the only
human being who cares whether I live or die? There,--go! Good night!"

She threw her arms around Elsie's neck, leaned her wan cheek for an
instant only on her shoulder, then pushed her away and hastily closed
the piano.

Two hours later, when the devoted servant stole up on tip-toe, and
peeped through the half-open door that led into the hall, she found
the queenly figure walking swiftly and lightly across the room from
oriel to arch, with her hands clasped over the back of her head, and
the silvery lamp-light shining softly on the waves of burnished hair
that rippled around her pure, polished forehead.

As she watched her mistress, Elsie's stout frame trembled, and hot
tears streamed down her furrowed face while she lifted her heart in
prayer, for the dreary, lonely, lovely woman, who had long ago ceased
to pray for herself. But when the quivering lips of one breathed a
petition before the throne of God, the beautiful cold mouth of the
other was muttering bitterly,--

  "Yea, love is dead, and by her funeral bier
  Ambition gnaws the lips, and sheds no tears;
  And, in the outer chamber Hope sits wild,--
  Hope, with her blue eyes dim with looking long."



CHAPTER VII.


"Ulpian, why do you look so grave and grieved? Does your letter
contain bad news?"

Miss Jane pushed back her spectacles and glanced anxiously at her
brother, who stood with his brows slightly knitted, twirling a
crumpled envelope between his fingers.

"It is not a letter, but a telegraphic dispatch, summoning me to the
death-bed of my best friend, Horace Manton."

"The man whose life you saved at Madeira?"

"Yes; and the person to whom, above all other men, I am most strongly
and tenderly attached. His constitution is so feeble that I have long
been uneasy about him; but the end has come even earlier than I
feared."

"Where does he live?"

"On the Hudson, a few miles above New York City. I have no time to
spare, for I shall take the train that leaves at one o'clock, and must
make some arrangement with Dr. Sheldon to attend my patients. Will it
trouble or tire you too much to pack my valise while I write a couple
of business letters? If so, I will call Salome to assist you."

"Trouble me, indeed! Nonsense, my dear boy; of course I will pack your
valise. Moreover, Salome is not at home. How long will you be
absent?"

"Probably a week or ten days,--possibly longer. If poor Horace
lingers, I shall remain with him."

"Wait one moment, Ulpian. Before you go I want to speak to you about
Salome."

"Well, Janet, I lend you my ears. Has the girl absolutely turned
pagan and set up an altar to Ceres, as she threatened some weeks
since? Take my word for the fact that she does not believe or mean
one half that she says, and is only amusing herself by trying to
discover how wide her audacious heresies can expand your dear
orthodox eyes. Expostulation and entreaty only feed her affected
eccentricities and skepticism, and if you will persistently and
quietly ignore them, they will shrivel as rapidly as a rank
gourd-vine, uprooted on an August day."

"Pooh! pooh! my dear boy. How you men do prate sometimes of
matters concerning which you are as ignorant as the yearling calves
and gabbling geese that I suppose your learned astronomers see
driven every day to pasture on that range of mountains in the
moon--Eratosthenes--that modern science pretends to have discovered,
and about which you read so marvellous a paper last week."

Miss Jane reverently clung to the dishonored remnants of the Ptolemaic
theory, and scouted the philosophy of Copernicus which she vehemently
averred was not worth "a pinch of snuff," else the water in the well
would surely run out once in every twenty-four hours. Now, as she
dived into the depths of her stocking-basket, collecting the socks
neatly darned and rolled over each other, her brother smiled, and
answered, good humoredly,--

"Dear Janet, I really have not time to follow you to the moon, nor to
prove to you that your astronomical doctrines have been dead and
decently buried for nearly three hundred years; but I should like to
hear what you desire to tell me with reference to Salome. What is the
matter now?"

"Nothing ails her, except a violent attack of industry, which has
lasted much longer than I thought possible; for, to tell you the truth
without stint or varnish, she certainly was the most sluggish piece of
flesh I ever undertook to manage. Study she would not, keep house she
could not, sewing gave her the headache, and knitting made her
cross-eyed; but, behold! she has suddenly found out that her pretty
little pink palms were made for something better than propping her
peach-bloom cheeks. A few days ago I accidentally discovered that she
was sitting up until long after midnight, and when I questioned her
closely, she finally confessed that she had entered into a contract to
furnish a certain amount of embroidery every month. Bless the child!
can you guess what she intends to do with the money? Hoard it up in
order to rent a couple of rooms, where she can take Jessie and
Stanley to live with her. Ulpian, it is a praiseworthy aim, you must
admit."

"Eminently commendable, and I respect and admire the motive that
incites her to such a laborious course. At present she is too young
and inexperienced to take entire charge of the children, and I know
nothing of your plans or intentions concerning her future; but, let me
assure you, dear Jane, that I will cordially coöperate in all your
schemes for aiding her and providing a home for them, and my purse
shall not prove a laggard in the race with yours. Recently I have been
revolving a plan for their benefit, but am too much hurried just now
to give you the details. When I return we will discuss it _in
extenso_."

"You know that I ascribe great importance to blood, but strange as
it may appear, that girl Salome has always tugged hard at my
heart-strings, as if our proud old blood beat in her veins; and
sometimes I fancy there must be kinship hidden behind the years, or
buried in some unknown grave."

"Amuse yourself while I am away by digging about the genealogical
tree of the house of Grey, and, if you can trace a fibre that
ramifies in the miller's family, I will gladly bow to my own blood
wherever I find it, and claim cousinship. Meantime, my dear sister,
do keep a corner of your loving heart well swept and dusted for your
errant sailor-boy."

He hastily kissed her cheek and turned away to write letters, while
she went into the adjoining room to pack his clothes.

When Salome returned from town, whither she had gone to carry a
package of finished work and obtain a fresh supply, she found Miss
Jane alone in the dining-room, and wearing a dejected expression on
her usually cheerful countenance.

"Did Ulpian tell you good-by?"

"No, I have not seen him. Where has he gone?"

"To New York."

The long walk and sultry atmosphere had unwontedly flushed the girl's
face, and the damp hair clung in glossy rings to her brow; but, as
Miss Jane spoke, the blood ebbed from cheeks and lips, and sweeping
back the dark tresses that seemed to oppress her, she asked,
shiveringly,--

"Is Dr. Grey going back to sea?"

"Oh no, child! An old friend is very ill, and telegraphed for him. Sit
down, dear,--you look faint."

"Thank you, I don't wish to sit down, and there is nothing the matter
with me. When will he come home?"

"I can not tell precisely, as his stay is contingent upon the
condition of his friend."

"Is it a man or woman whom he has gone to see?"

The astonishment painted on Miss Jane's face would have been ludicrous
to a careless observer, less interested than the orphan in her slow
and deliberate reply.

"A man, of course."

"Did he tell you so?"

"Certainly. He went to see Mr. Horace Manton, with whom he was
associated while abroad. But suppose it had been some winsome,
brown-eyed witch of a woman, instead of a dying man, what then?"

"Then you would have lost your brother, and I my French pronouncing
dictionary,--that is all. Did he leave any message about my grammar
and exercises?"

"No, dear; but he started so hurriedly--so unexpectedly--he had not
time for such trifles. Where are you going?"

"To put away my bonnet and bundle, and look after Stanley, who is
romping with the kittens on the lawn."

The old lady laid down her knitting, leaned her elbows on the arms of
her rocking-chair, and, clasping her hands, bowed her chin upon them,
while a half-stifled sigh escaped her.

"Mischief,--mischief, where I meant only kindness! I sowed good seed,
and reap thistles and brambles! My charity-cake turns out miserable
dough! But how could I possibly foresee that the child would be such a
simpleton? What right has she to be so unnecessarily interested in my
brother, who is old enough to have been her father? It is unnatural,
absurd, and altogether unpardonable in Salome to be guilty of such
presumptuous nonsense; and, of course, it is not in the least my
fault, for the possibility of this piece of mischief never once
occurred to me! True, she is as old as Ulpian's mother was when father
married her; but then Mrs. Grey was not at all in love with her
white-haired husband, and had set her affections solely on that
Mercer-Street house, with marble steps and plate-glass windows. How do
I know that, after all, Salome is not in love with Ulpian's fortune
instead of the dear boy's blue eyes, and handsome hair, and splendid
teeth? However, I ought not to think so harshly of the child, for I
have no cause to consider her calculating and selfish. Poor thing! if
she really cares for him there are breakers ahead of her, for I am
sure that he is as far from falling in love with her as I would be
with the ghost of my great-grandfather's uncle. Thank Providence, all
this troublesome, mischievous, Lucifer machinery of love and marriage
is shut out of heaven, where we shall be as the angels are. Ah,
Salome! I fear you are a giddy young idiot, and that I am a blind old
imbecile, and I wish from the bottom of my heart you had never
darkened my doors."

The quiet current of Miss Jane's secluded life had never been ruffled
by a serious _affaire du coeur_; consequently she indulged little
charity towards those episodes, which displayed what she considered
the most humiliating weakness of her sex.

While puzzling over the best method of extricating her _protégée_ from
the snare into which she was disposed to apprehend that her own
well-meant but mistaken kindness had betrayed her, she saw an unsealed
note lying beneath the table, and, by the aid of her crutch, drew it
within reach of her fingers. A small sheet of paper, carelessly folded
and addressed to Salome, merely contained these words,--

  "I congratulate you, my young friend, on the correctness of your
  French themes, which I leave in the drawer of the library-table.
  When I return I will examine those prepared during my absence;
  and, in the interim, remain,

  "Very respectfully,

  "ULPIAN GREY."

Miss Jane wiped her glasses, and read the note twice; then held it
between her thumb and third finger, and debated the expediency of
changing its destination. Her delicate sense of honor revolted at the
first suggestion of interference, but an intense aversion to
"love-scrapes" finally strengthened her prudential inclination to
crush this one in its incipiency; and she deliberately tore the paper
into shreds, which she tossed out of the window.

"If Ulpian only had his eyes open he would never have scribbled one
line to her; and, since I know what I know, and see what I see, it is
my duty to take the responsibility of destroying all fuel within reach
of a flame that may prove as dangerous as a torch in a hay-rick."

Limping into the library, she took from the drawer the two books
containing French exercises and laid them in a conspicuous place on
the table, where they could not fail to arrest the attention of their
owner; after which she resumed her knitting, consoling herself with
the reflection that she had taken the first step towards smothering
the spark that threatened the destruction of all her benevolent
schemes.

Up and down, under the spreading trees in the orchard, wandered
Salome, anxious to escape scrutiny, and vaguely conscious that she had
reached the cross-roads in her life, where haste or inadvertence might
involve her in inextricable difficulties.

She was neither startled, nor shocked, nor mortified, that the
unceremonious departure of the master of the house stabbed her heart
with pangs that made her firm lips writhe, for she had long been
cognizant of the growth of feelings whose discovery had so completely
astounded Miss Jane.

The orphan had not eagerly watched and listened for the sight of his
face--the sound of his voice--without fully comprehending herself;
for, however ingeniously and indefatigably women may mask their hearts
from public gaze and comment, they do not mock their own reason by
such flimsy shams, and Salome could find no prospect of gain in
playing a game of brag with her inquisitive soul.

In the quiet orchard, where all things seemed drowsy--where the only
spectators were the mellowing apples that reddened the boughs above
her, and her sole auditors the brown partridges that nestled in the
tall grass, and the shy cicadæ ambushed under the clover leaves--her
pent-up pain and disappointment bubbled over in a gush of passionate
words.

"Gone without giving me a syllable, a word, a touch! Gone, for an
indefinite period, without even a cold 'good-by, Salome!' You call
yourself a Christian, Dr. Grey, and yet you are cruel, now and then,
and make me writhe like a worm on a fish-hook! He told Stanley he
would return in two or three weeks, perhaps sooner,--but I know
better. I have a dull monitor here that says it will be a long, dreary
time, before I see him again. A wall of ice is rising to divide
us--but it shall not! it shall not! I will have my own! I will look
into his calm eyes! I will touch his soft, warm, white palms! I will
hear his steady, low, clear voice, that makes music in my ears and
heaven in my heart! It is three months since he shook hands with me,
but all time cannot remove the feeling from my fingers; and some day I
can cling to his hand and lean my cheek against it,--and who dare
dispute my right? He says he never loved any woman! I heard him tell
his sister he had yet to meet the woman whom he could marry,--and, if
truth lingers anywhere in this world of sin, it finds a sanctuary in
his soul! He never loved any woman! Thank God! I can't afford to doubt
it. No one but his sister has touched his lips, or his noble,
beautiful forehead. How I envied little Jessie when he put his arm
around her and stooped and laid his cheek on hers. Oh, Dr. Grey,
nobody else will ever love you as I do! I know I am unworthy, but I
will make myself good and great to match you! I know I am beneath you,
but I will climb to your proud height,--and, so help me God, I will be
all that your lofty standard demands! He does not care for me
now,--does not even think of me; but I must be patient and merit his
notice, for my own folly sank me in his good opinion. When these
apples were pale, pink blossoms, I dreaded his coming, and hoped the
vessel would be wrecked; now, ere they are ripe, I am disposed to
curse the cause of his temporary absence and think myself ill-used
that no farewell privileges were granted me. Now I can understand why
people find comfort in praying for those they love; for what else can
I do but pray while he is away? Oh, I shall not, cannot, will not,
miss my way to heaven if he gets there before me!"

In utter abandonment she threw herself down in the long yellow
sedge-grass,--frightening a whole covey of gossiping young partridges
and a couple of meek doves, all of which whirred away to an adjacent
pea-field, leaving her with her face buried in her hands, and watched
by trembling mute crickets and cicadæ.

On the topmost twig of the tallest tree a mocking-bird poised himself,
and sympathetically poured out his vesper canticle,--a song of
condolence to the prostrate figure who, just then, would have
preferred the echo of a man's deep voice to all Pergolese's strains.

After a little while pitying Venus swung her golden globe in among the
apple-boughs, peeping compassionately at her luckless votary; and,
finally, in the violet west,--

  "Two silver beacons sphered in the skies,
  Eve in her cradle opening her eyes."

Two weeks dragged themselves away without bringing any tidings of
the absent master; but, towards the close of the third, a brief
letter informed his sister that the invalid friend was still alive,
though no hope of his recovery was entertained, and that it was
impossible to fix any period for the writer's return. Salome asked
no questions, but the eager, hungry expression, with which she
eyed the letter as it lay on the top of the stocking-basket,
touched Miss Jane's tender heart; and, knowing that it contained no
allusion to the orphan, she put it into her hand, and noticed the
cloud of disappointment that gathered over her features as she
perused and refolded it. Another week--monotonous, tedious, almost
interminable--crept by, and one morning as Salome passed the
post-office she inquired for letters, and received one post-marked
New York and addressed to Miss Jane.

Hurrying homeward with the precious missive, her pace would well-nigh
have distanced Hermes, and the dusty winding road seemed to mock her
with lengthening curves while she pressed on; but at last she reached
the gate, sped up the avenue, and, pausing a moment at the threshold
to catch her breath and appear _nonchalant_, she demurely entered Miss
Jane's apartment. The only occupant was a servant sewing near the
window, and who, in reply to an eager question, informed Salome that
the mistress had gone to spend the day with a friend whose residence
was six miles distant.

The girl bit her lip until the blood started, and, to conceal her
chagrin, took refuge in the parlor, where the quiet dimness offered a
covert. Locking the door, she sat down in one of the cushioned
rocking-chairs and looked at the letter lying between her fingers. The
gilt clock on the mantel uttered a dull, clicking sound, and a little
green and gold-colored bird hopped out and "cuckooed" ten times. Miss
Jane would not probably return before seven, possibly eight o'clock,
and what could be done to strangle those intervening nine hours?

The blood, heated by exercise and impatience, throbbed fiercely in her
temples and thumped heavily at her heart, producing a half-suffocating
sensation; and, in her feverish anxiety, the doom of Damiens appeared
tolerable in comparison with the torturing suspense of nine hours on
the rack.

The envelope was an ordinary white one, merely sealed with a solution
of gum arabic, and dexterous fingers could easily open and reclose it
without fear of detection, especially by eyes so dim and uncertain as
those for which it had been addressed. A damp cloth laid upon the
letter would in five minutes prove an _open sesame_ to its coveted
contents, and a legion of fiends patted the girl's tingling fingers
and urged her to this prompt and feasible relief from her goading
impatience. Secure from intrusion and beyond the possibility of
discovery, she turned the envelope up and down and over, examining the
seal; and the amber gleams lying _perdu_ under the shadows of her
pupils rayed out, glowing with a baleful Lucifer light, as infallibly
indicative of evil purposes as the sudden kindling in a crouching
cat's or cougar's gaze, just as they spring upon their prey.

It was a mighty temptation, cunningly devised and opportunely
presented, and six months ago her parley with the imps of Apollyon who
contrived it would not have lasted five minutes; but, in some natures,
love for a human being will work marvels which neither the fear of
God, nor the hope of heaven, nor yet the promptings of self-respect
have power to accomplish.

Now while Salome dallied with the temper and gave audience to the
clamors of her rebellious heart, she looked up and met the earnest
gaze of a pair of sunny blue eyes in a picture that hung directly
opposite.

It was an admirable portrait of Dr. Grey, clad in full uniform as
surgeon in the U.S. Navy, and painted when he was twenty-eight years
old. Up at that calm, cloudless countenance, the girl looked
breathlessly, spell-bound as if in the presence of a reproving angel;
and, after some seconds had elapsed, she hurled the unopened letter
across the room, and lifted her hands appealingly,--

"No,--no! I did not--I cannot--I will not act so basely! I must not
soil fingers that should be pure enough to touch yours. I was sorely
tempted, my beloved; but, thank God, your blessed blue eyes saved me.
It is hard to endure nine hours of suspense, but harder still to bear
the thought that I have stooped to a deed that would sink me one iota
in your good opinion. I will root out the ignoble tendencies of my
nature, and keep my heart and lips and hands stainless,--hold them
high above the dishonorable things that you abhor, and live during
your absence as if your clear eyes took cognizance of every detail.
Yea,--search me as you will, dear deep-blue eyes,--I shall not shrink;
for the rule of my future years shall be to scorn every word, thought,
and deed that I would not freely bare to the scrutiny of the man whose
respect I would sooner die than forfeit. Oh, my darling, it were
easier for me to front the fiercest flames of Tophet than face your
scorn! I can wait till Miss Jane sees fit to show me the letter, and,
if it bring good news of your speedy coming, I shall have my reward;
if not, why should I hasten to meet a bitter disappointment which may
be lagging out of mercy to me?"

Picking up the letter as suspiciously as if it had been dropped by
the Prince of Darkness on the crest of Quarantina, she stepped upon a
table and inserted the corner of the envelope in the crevice between
the canvas and the portrait-frame, repeating the while a favorite
passage that she had first heard from Dr. Grey's lips,--

  "'God meant me good too, when he hindered me
  From saying "yes" this morning. I say no,--no!
  I tie up "no" upon His altar-horns,
  Quite out of reach of perjury!'"

Young though she was, experience had taught her that the most
effectual method of locking the wheels of time consisted in sitting
idly down to watch and count their revolutions; consequently, she
hastened upstairs and betook herself vigorously to the work of
embroidering a _parterre_ of flowers on the front breadth of an
infant's christening dress which her employer had promised should be
completed before the following Sabbath.

Stab the laggard seconds as she might with her busy needle, the day
was drearily long; and few genuine cuckoo-carols have been listened to
with such grateful rejoicing as greeted those metallic gutturals that
once in every sixty minutes issued from the throat of the gaudy
automaton caged in the gilt clock.

True, nine hours are intrinsically nine hours under all circumstances,
whether decapitation or coronation awaits their expiration; but to the
doomed victim or the heir-apparent they appear relatively shorter or
longer. At last Salome saw that the shadows on the grass were
lengthening. Her head ached, her eyes burned from steady application
to her trying work, and laying aside the cambric, she leaned against
the window-facing and looked out over the lawn, where Time seemed to
have fallen asleep in the mild autumn sunshine.

How sweet and welcome was the distance-muffled sound of tinkling
cow-bells, and the low bleating of homeward-strolling flocks, wending
their way across the hills through which the road crawled like a dusty
gray serpent.

A noisy club of black-birds that had been holding an indignation
meeting in the top of a walnut tree near the gate, adjourned to the
sycamore grove that overshadowed the barn in the rear of the house;
and Stanley's pigeons, which had been cooing and strutting in the
avenue, went to roost in the pretty painted pagoda Dr. Grey had
erected for their comfort. Finally, the low-swung, heavy carriage,
with its stout dappled horses, gladdened Salome's strained eyes; and,
soon after, she heard the thump of Miss Jane's crutches and her
cheerful voice, asking,--

"Where are the children? Tell them I have come home. Bless me, the
house is as dark as a dungeon! Rachel, have we neither lamps nor
candles?"

The orphan stole down the steps, climbed upon the table in the parlor,
and, seizing the letter, hurried into the dining-room, where, quite
exhausted by the fatigue of the day, the old lady lay on the sofa.

She held out her hand and drew the girl's face within reach of her
lips, saying,--

"My child, I am afraid you have had rather a lonely day."

"Decidedly the loneliest and longest I ever spent, and I believe I
never was half so glad to see you come home as just now when the
carriage stopped at the door."

Ah, what hypocrisy is sometimes innocently masked by the earnest
utterance of the truth! And what marvels of industry are accomplished
by self-love, which seeks more assiduously than bees for the honied
drops of flattery that feed its existence!

Miss Jane was pardonably proud that her presence was so essential to
the happiness of the orphan whom she fondly loved, and gratification
spread a pleasant smile over her worn features.

"Where is Stanley? The child ought not to be out so late."

"He went down to the sheep-pen to count the lambs and look after one
that broke its leg yesterday. Miss Jane, are you too much fatigued to
read a letter which I found this morning in your box at the
post-office?"

"Is it from Ulpian? I was wondering to-day why I did not hear from
him. Dear me, what have I done with my spectacles? They are the
torment of my life, for the instant I take them off my nose they seem
to find wings. Give me the letter, and see whether I left my glasses
on the bed where I put my bonnet."

Salome went into the next room and unsuccessfully searched the bed,
bureau, table, and wardrobe; and in an agony of impatience, returned
to the invalid.

"You must have lost them before you came home; I can't find them
anywhere. Let me read the letter to you."

"No; I must have my glasses. Perhaps I dropped them in the carriage.
Send word to the driver to look for them. It was very careless in me
to lose them, but I am growing so forgetful. Rachel, do hunt for my
spectacles."

Salome ground her teeth to suppress a cry of vexation; and, to conceal
her impatience, joined heartily in the search.

Finally she found the glasses on the front steps, where they had
fallen when their owner left the carriage; and, feeling that adverse
fate could no longer keep her in suspense, she hurried into the house
and adjusted them on Miss Jane's eagle nose.

Conscious that she was fast losing control over the nerves that were
quivering from long-continued tension, Salome stepped to the open
window and stood waiting. Would the old lady never finish the perusal?
The minutes seemed hours, and the pulsing of the blood in the girl's
ears sounded like muttering thunder.

Miss Jane sighed heavily,--cleared her throat, and sighed again.

"It is very sad, indeed! It is too bad,--too bad!"

Salome turned around, and exclaimed, savagely,--

"Why can't you speak out? What is the matter? What has happened?"

"Ulpian's friend is dead."

"Thank God!"

"For shame! How can you be so heartless?"

"If the man could not recover I should think you would be glad that
he is at rest, and that your brother can come home."

"But the worst of the matter is that Ulpian is not coming home. Mr.
Manton wished him to act as guardian for his daughter, who is in
Europe, and Ulpian will sail in the next steamer for England, to
attend to some business connected with the estate. It is too
provoking, isn't it? He says it is impossible to tell when we shall
see him again."

There was no answer, and, when Miss Jane wiped her eyes and looked
around, she saw the girl tottering towards the door, groping her way
like one blind.

"Salome,--come here, child!"

But the figure disappeared in the hall, and when the moonlight looked
into the orphan's chamber the soft rays showed a girlish form kneeling
at the window, with a white face drenched by tears, and quivering lips
that moaned in feeble, broken accents,--

"God help me! I might have known it, for I had a presentiment of
terrible trouble when he went away. How can I trust God and be
patient, while the Atlantic raves and surges between me and my idol?
After all, it was an angel of mercy whose tender white hands held
back this bitter blow for nine hours. Gone to Europe, and not one
word--not one line--to me! Oh, my darling! you are trampling under
your feet the heart that loves you better than everything else in the
universe,--better than life, and its hopes of heaven!"



CHAPTER VIII.


"Salome, where did you learn to sing? I was astonished this morning
when I heard you."

"I have not yet learned,--I have only begun to practise."

"But, my child, I had no idea you owned such a voice. Where have you
kept it concealed so long?"

"I was not aware that I had it until a month ago, when it accidentally
discovered itself."

"It is very powerful."

"Yes, and very rough; but care and study will smooth and polish it.
Miss Jane, please keep your eye on Stanley until I come home; for,
although I left him with his slate and arithmetic, it is by no means
certain that they will not part company the moment I am out of
sight."

"Where are you going?"

"To carry back some work which would have been returned yesterday had
not the weather been so inclement."

In addition to the package of embroidered handkerchiefs, Salome
carried under her arm a roll of music and an instruction-book; and,
when she reached the outskirts of the town, turned away from the main
street and stopped at the door of a small comfortless-looking house
that stood without enclosure on the common.

Two swart, black-eyed children were playing mumble-peg with a broken
knife, in one corner of the room; a third, with tears still on its
lashes, had just sobbed itself to sleep on a strip of faded carpet
stretched before the smouldering embers on the hearth; while the
fourth, a feeble infant only six months old, was wailing in the arms
of its mother,--a thin, sickly woman, with consumption's red autograph
written on her hollow cheeks, where the skin clung to the bones as if
resisting the chill grasp of death. As she slowly rocked herself,
striving to hush the cry of the child, her dry, husky cough formed a
melancholy chorus, which seemed to annoy a man who sat before the
small table covered with materials for copying music. His cadaverous,
sallow complexion, and keen, restless eyes, bespoke Italian origin;
and, although engaged in filling some blank sheets with musical notes,
he occasionally took up a violin that lay across his knees, and, after
playing a few bars, laid aside the bow and resumed the pen. Now and
then he glanced at his wife and child with a scowling brow; but, as
his eyes fell on their emaciated faces, something like a sigh seemed
to heave his chest.

When Salome's knock arrested his attention he rose and advanced to the
half-open door, saying, impatiently,--

"Well, miss, have you brought me any money?"

"Good morning, Mr. Barilli. Here are the ten dollars that I promised,
but I wish you to understand that in future I shall not advance one
cent of my tuition-money. When the month ends you will receive your
wages, but not one day earlier."

"I beg pardon, miss; but, indeed, you see--"

He did not conclude the sentence, but waved his hand towards the two
in the rocking-chair and proceeded to count the money placed in his
palm.

"Yes, I see that you are very destitute, but charity begins at home,
and I have to work hard for the wages that you have demanded before
they are due. Good morning, madam; I hope you feel better to-day.
Come, Mr. Barilli, I have no time to waste in loitering. Are you ready
for my lesson?"

"Quite ready, miss. Commence."

For three-quarters of an hour he listened to her exercises, which he
accompanied with his violin, and afterwards directed her to sing an
air from a collection of songs on the table. As her deep, rich
contralto notes swelled round and full, he shut his eyes and nodded
his head as if in an ecstacy; and, when she concluded, he rapped his
violin heavily with the bow, and exclaimed,--

"Some day when you sing that at _Della Scala_, remember the poor devil
who taught it to you in a hovel. Soaked as those old walls are with
music from the most famous lips the world ever applauded, they hold no
echoes sweeter than that last trill. After all, there is no
passion--no pathos--comparable to a perfect contralto crescendo. It is
wonderful how you Americans squander voices that would rouse all
Europe into a _furore_."

"I am afraid your eager desire for pupils biases your judgment, and
invests my voice with fictitious worth," answered Salome, eyeing him
suspiciously.

"Ha! you mean that I flatter, in order to keep you. Not so, miss. If
St. Cecilia herself asked tuition without good pay, I should shut the
door in her face; but, much as I need money, I would not risk my
reputation by praising what was poor. If one of my children--that
miserable little Beatrice, yonder--only had your voice, do you think I
would copy music, or teach beginners, or live in this cursed hole?
You have a fortune shut up in your throat, and some day, when you are
celebrated, at least do me the justice to tell the world who first
found the treasure; and, out of your wealth, spare me a decent
tombstone in the Campo Santo of--of--"

He laughed bitterly, and, seizing his violin, filled the room with
mournful _miserere_ strains.

"How long a course of training do you think will be necessary before
the inequalities in my voice can be corrected and my vocalization
perfected?"

"You are very young, miss, and it would not do to strain your voice,
which is well-nigh perfect in itself; but, of course, your execution
is defective,--just as a young nightingale cannot warble all its
strains before it is full-feathered. If you study faithfully, in one
year, or certainly one and a half, you will be ready for your
engagement at Della Scala. Hist! see if you can follow me?"

He played a subtle, chromatic passage, ending in a trill, and the
orphan echoed it with such accuracy and sweetness that the teacher
threw down his bow, and, while tears stood in his glittering eyes, he
put his brown hand on the girl's head, and said, earnestly,--

"There ought to be feathers here instead of hair, for no nightingale,
nestled in the olive groves of Italy, ever warbled more easily and
naturally. Don't go out to the world as Miss Owen,--make it call you
_Rosignuolo_. Take the next page in the instruction-book for a new
lesson, and practise the old scales over before you touch the
new,--they are like steps in a ladder, and save jumps and jars. God
made your voice wonderful, and, if you are only careful not to undo
his work, it will develop itself every year in fresh power and depth.
Ha! if my poor squeaking Beatrice only had it! But there is no more
music stored in her throat and chest than in a regiment of rats. Good
day, miss. Your lesson is ended, and I go to buy some wood for my
miserable shiverers."

He seized his hat and walking-stick and quitted the house, leaving his
pupil to gather up her music and conjecture, meanwhile, whether the
wood-yard or a neighboring bar-room was his real destination.

His dissipated habits had greatly impaired her faith in the accuracy
of his critical acumen touching professional matters, and, as she
rolled up the sheet of paper in her hands, Salome approached the
feeble occupant of the rocking-chair, and said, rather abruptly,--

"Madam Barilli, you ought to know when your husband speaks earnestly
and when he is merely indulging in idle flattery, and I wish to learn
his real opinion of my voice. Will you tell me the truth?"

"Yes, miss, I will. I am no musician, and never was in Europe, where
he studied; but he talks constantly of your voice, and tells me there
is a fortune in it. Only last night he swore that if he could control
it, he would not take a hundred thousand dollars for the right; and
then, poor fellow, he fell into one of his fierce ways and boxed my
little Beatrice's ears, because, he said, all the teachers in the
_Conservatoire_ could not put into her throat the trill that you were
born with. Ah, no, he flatters no one now! He has forgotten how, since
the day that I was coaxed to run away from my father's elegant home
and marry the tenor singer of an opera troupe and the professor who
taught me the gamut at boarding-school. Miss, you may believe him, for
Sebastian Barilli means what he says."

"One hundred thousand dollars! I promise him and you that if one-half
of that amount can be 'trilled' into my pocket you shall both be
comfortable during the remainder of your days."

"Mine are numbered, and will end before your career begins; and, when
you sing in Della Scala, I trust I shall be singing up yonder behind
the stars, where cold and hunger and heart-ache and cruel words cannot
follow me. But, miss, when I am gone, and Sebastian is over at the
corner trying to drown his troubles, and my four helpless little ones
are left here unprotected, for God's sake look in upon them now and
then, and don't let them cry for bread. My own family long ago cast me
off, and here I am a stranger; but you, who have felt the pangs of
orphanage, will not stand by and see my darlings starve! Oh, miss,
the poor who cannot pity the poor must be hard-hearted indeed!"

The suffering woman pressed her moaning babe closer to her bosom, and,
taking Salome's hand between her thin, hot fingers, bowed her
tear-stained face upon it.

Grim recollections of similar scenes enacted in the old house behind
the mill crowded upon the mind of the miller's daughter, hardening
instead of melting her heart; but, withdrawing her fingers, she said
in as kind a tone as she could command,--

"The poor are sometimes too poor to aid each other, and pity is most
unpalatable fare; but, if your husband has not grossly deceived
himself and me with reference to my voice, I will promise that your
children shall not suffer while I live. For their sake do not despond,
but try to keep up your spirits, else your husband will be utterly
ruined. Gloomy hearthstones make club-rooms and bar-rooms populous.
Good-by. When I come again, I will bring something to stimulate your
appetite, which seems to require coaxing."

She stooped and looked for a minute at the gaunt, white face of the
half-famished infant pressed against the mother's feverish breast, and
an irresistible impulse impelled her to stroke back the rings of black
hair that clustered on its sunken temples; then, snatching her music
and bundle, she hurried out of the close, untidy room, and, once more
upon the grassy common, drew a long, deep breath of pure fresh air.

Autumn, with orange dawns, and mellow, misty moons, when

  "Sweet, calm days, in golden haze
    Melt down the amber sky,"

had died on bare brown stubble-fields and vine-veined hill-sides,
purple with clustering grapes on leafless branches; and wintry days
had come, with sleety morns and chill, crisp noons, and scarlet sunset
banners flouting the silver stars in western skies, where the
shivering, gasping old year had woven,--

  "One strait gown of red
    Against the cold."

None of the earlier years of Salome's life seemed to her half so
drearily long as the four monotonous months that followed Dr. Grey's
departure; and, during the intervals between his brief letters to his
sister, the orphan learned a deceptive quietude of manner, at variance
with the tumultuous feelings that agitated her heart; for painful
suspense which is borne with clenched hands and firmly-set teeth is
not the more patient because sternly mute.

Which suffered least, Philoctetes howling on the shores of Lemnos, or
the silent Trojan priest, writhing in a death-struggle with the
serpent folds that crushed him before the altar of Neptune?

If any messages intended for Salome found their way across the ocean,
they finally missed their destination, and reached the dead-letter
office of Miss Jane's vast and inviolate pocket; and, while this
apparent neglect piqued the girl's vanity, the blessed assurance that
the absent master was alive and well proved a sovereign balm for all
the bleeding wounds of _amour propre_.

In order to defray the expense of her musical tuition, which was
carried on in profound secrecy, it was necessary to redouble her
exertions; and all the latent energy of her character developed itself
in unflagging work, which she persistently prosecuted early and late,
and in quiet defiance of Miss Jane's expostulations and predictions
that she would permanently impair her sight.

Paramount to the desire of amassing wealth that would enable her to
provide for Jessie and Stanley rose the hope that the cultivation of
her voice would invest her with talismanic influence over the man who
was singularly susceptible of the magic of music; and, jealously
guarding the new-found gift, she spared no toil to render it perfect.

Fearful that her suddenly acquired fondness for singing might arouse
suspicion and inquiry, she rarely practised at home unless Miss Jane
were absent; and, having procured a tuning-fork, she retreated to the
most secluded portion of the adjoining forest and rehearsed her
lessons to a mute audience of grazing cattle, sombre pines, nodding
plumes of golden-rod, and shivering white asters, belated and
overtaken by wintry blasts. Alone with nature, she warbled as
unrestrainedly as the birds who listened to her quavering crescendos;
and more than once she had become so absorbed in this forest
practising, that twinkling stars peeped down at her through the fringy
canopy of murmuring firs.

In fulfilment of a promise given to Stanley, with the hope of
stimulating him to more earnest study, Salome one day took a piece of
sewing and her music-book, and set off with her brother for the
sea-shore, where he was sometimes allowed to amuse himself by catching
crabs and shrimps. The route they were compelled to take was very
circuitous, since strangers were now forbidden to stroll through the
grounds attached to "Solitude," which was the nearest point where land
and ocean met. Following a cattle-path that threaded the bare brown
hills and wound through low marsh meadows, Salome at length climbed a
cliff that overhung the narrow strip of beach running along the base
of the promontory, and, while Stanley prepared his net, she applied
herself vigorously to the completion of a cluster of lilies of the
valley which she had begun to embroider the preceding night.

It was a mild, sunny afternoon, late in December, with only a few
flakes of white curd-like cirri drifting slowly before the stiffening
south wind that came singing a song of the tropics over the gently
heaving waste of waters--

  "Where the green buds of waves burst into white froth flowers."

Two glimmering sails stood like phantoms on the horizon; and a silent
colony of snowy gulls, perched in conclave on a bit of weed-wreathed
drift floating landward, were the only living things in sight, save
the childish figure on the yellow beach under the bleaching rocks, and
the girlish one seated on the tallest cliff, where a storm-scarred
juniper, bending inland, waved its scanty fringe in the fresh salt
breeze.

No note of human strife entered here, nor hum of noisy business marts;
and the solemn silence, so profound and holy, was broken only by the
soft, mysterious murmur of the immemorial ocean, as its crystal
fingers smote the harp of rosy shells and golden sands.

Clasped in the crescent that curved a mile northward lay the house,
and grove, and grounds of "Solitude," looking sombre in the distance,
as the shadow of surrounding hills fell upon the dense foliage that
overhung its quiet precincts, and toned down the garish red of the
boat-house roof, which lent a brief dash of color to the peaceful
picture. Beyond the last guarding promontory that seemed to have
plunged through the shelving strand to bathe in blue brine and cut off
all passage along its base, a strong well-trained eye might follow the
trend of the coast even to the dim outlines and thread-like masts,
that told where the distant town hugged its narrow harbor; and, in the
opposite direction, low, irregular sand hills and brown marshes crept
southward, as if hunting the warmth that alone could mantle them with
living verdure.

As the afternoon wore away, the sinking sun dipped suddenly behind a
wooded eminence, which, losing the warm purples it had worn since
noon, grew chill and blue as his rays departed; and, weary of her
work, Salome put it aside and began to practise her music lesson,
beating time with her slender fingers on the bare juniper-roots, from
which wind and rain had driven the soil. Running her chromatic scales,
and pausing at will to trill upon any minor note that wooed her
vagrant fancy, she played with her flexible voice as dexterous
violinists toy with the obedient strings they hold in harmonious
bondage to their bows.

Finally she pushed the exercises away, and began a _fantasus_ from
"Traviata," which she had heard Mr. Barilli play several times; and so
absorbed was she in testing her capacity for vocal gymnastics that she
failed to observe the moving figure dwarfed by distance and pacing the
sands in front of "Solitude."

The rich, fresh tones which seemed occasionally to tremble with the
excess of melody that burdened them played hide-and-seek among the
hills, startling whole choruses of deep-throated echoes, and attending
and retentive ocean, catching the strains on her beryl strings, bore
them whither--and how far? To palm-plumed equatorial isles, where
dying auricular nerves mistook them for seraphic utterances? To
toiling mariners, tossed helplessly by fierce typhoons, who, pausing
in their scramble for spars, listened to the weird melody that
presaged woe and wreck? To the broken casements of fishermen's huts,
on distant shores, where anxious wives peered out in the blackening
tempest, and shrank back appalled by sounds which sea-tradition
averred were born in coral caves, mosaiced with blanching human
skulls? What hoary hierophant in the mysteries of cataphonics and
diacoustics will undertake to track those trills across the blue bosom
of the Atlantic or the purplish billows of the Indian Ocean?

The wind went down with the sun; silver-edged cirri lost their
glitter, and swift was

                     ... "The spread
  Of orange lustre through these azure spheres
  Where little clouds lie still like flocks of sheep,
  Or vessels sailing in God's other deep."

In that wondrous and magical after-glow which tenderly hovers over the
darkening face of the dying day, like the strange, spectral smile that
only sheds its cold, supernatural light on lips twelve hours dead,
Salome's fair face and graceful _pose_ was as softly defined against
the western sky as some nimbussed saint or madonna on the golden
background of old Byzantine pictures. Her small straw hat, wreathed
with scarlet poppies, lay at her feet; and around her shoulders she
had closely folded a bright plaid flannel cloak, which tinted her
complexion with its ruddy hues, as firelight flushes the olive
portraits that stare at it from surrounding walls, and the braided
black hair and large hazel eyes showed every brown tint and topaz
gleam.

Leaning her arms on the top of her music-book, she rested her chin
upon them, and sat looking seaward, singing a difficult passage, in
the midst of which her nimble voice tripped on an E flat, and, missing
the staccato step, rolled helplessly down in a legato flood of melody;
whereupon, with an impatient grimace she shut her eyes, weary of
watching the wave-shimmer that almost dazzled her. After a few
seconds, when she opened them, there stood just on the edge of the
cliff, as if poised in air, a woman whose face and form were as
sharply cut in profile on the azure sea and sky as white cameo
features on black agate grounds.

Around the tall figure shining folds of silver poplin hung heavy and
statuesque, and over the shoulders a blue crape shawl was held by a
beautiful blue-veined hand, where a sapphire asp kept guard; while a
cluster of double violets fastened behind one shell-like ear breathed
their perfume among glossy bands of gray hair.

  "There was no color in the quiet mouth,
  Nor fulness; yet it had a ghostly grace,
  Pathetically pale,"

and wan, and woful--the still face turned seaward, fronting a round
white moon that was lifting its full disk out of the line where air
and water met--she stood motionless.

Lifting her head, Salome shivered involuntarily, and grew a shade
paler as she breathlessly watched the apparition, expecting that it
would fade into blue air or float down and mingle with the waters that
gave it birth. But there was no wavering mistiness about the shining
drapery; and, presently, when she turned and came forward, the orphan,
despite her sneers at superstition, felt the hair creep and rise on
her temples, and, springing to her feet, they faced each other. As the
stranger advanced, Salome unconsciously retreated a few steps, and
exclaimed,--

"Gray-eyed, gray-haired, gray-clad, gray-faced, and rising out of that
gray sea, I suppose I have at last met the gray ghost that people tell
me haunts old 'Solitude.' But how came such a young face under that
drift of white hair? If all ghosts have such finely carved, delicate
noses and chins, such oval cheeks and pretty brows, most of us here in
the flesh might thank fortune for a chance to 'shuffle off this mortal
coil.' Say, are you the troubled evil spirit that haunts 'Solitude'?"

"I am."

The voice was so mournfully sweet that it thrilled every nerve in
Salome's quivering frame.

"Phantom or flesh--which are you?"

"Mrs. Gerome, the owner of 'Solitude.'"

"Oh, indeed! I beg your pardon, madam, but I took you for a wraith!
You know the place has always been considered unlucky--haunted--and
you are such an extraordinary-looking person I was inclined to think I
had stumbled on the traditional ghost. I am neither ignorant nor
stupidly superstitious; but, madam, you must admit you have an
unearthly appearance; and, moreover, I should be glad to know how you
rose from the beach below to the top of this cliff? I see no feathers
on your shoulders--no balloon under your feet!"

"I was walking on the sands in front of my door, and, hearing some
very sweet strains that came floating down from this direction, I
followed the sound, and climbed by means of steps cut in the side of
this cliff. Since you regarded me as a spectre, I may as well tell you
that I was beginning to fancy I was listening to one of the old
sea-sirens, until I saw your rosy face and red lips, far too human for
a dripping mermaid or a murderous, mocking Aglaiopheme."

"No more a siren, madam, than you are a ghost! I am only Salome Owen,
the miller's child, waiting for that boy yonder, whose sublimest idea
of heaven consists in the hope that its blessed sea of glass is
brimming with golden shrimp. Stanley, run around the cliff, and meet
me. It is too late for us to be here. We should have started home an
hour ago."

"Who taught you 'Traviata'?"

"I am teaching myself, with what small help I can obtain from a
vagabond musician, who calls himself Signor Barilli, and claims to
have been a tenor singer in an opera troupe at Milan."

"You ought to cultivate your voice as thoroughly as possible."

"Why? Is it really good? Tell me, is it worth anything? No one has
heard it except that Italian violinist; and, if he praises it, I
sometimes fear it is because he is so horribly dissipated that he
confounds my _bravura_ runs with the clicking of his wine-glasses and
the gurgling of his flask. Do you know much about music?"

"I have heard the best living performers, vocal and instrumental, and
to a finer voice than yours I never listened; but you need study and
practice, for your execution is faulty. You have a splendid
instrument; but you do not yet understand its management. Where do you
live?"

"At 'Grassmere,' a farm two miles behind those hills, and in a house
hidden under elm and apple trees. Madam, it is very late, and I must
bid you good-evening. Before I go, I should like to know, if you will
not deem me unwarrantably impertinent, whether you are a very young
person with white hair, or whether you are a very old woman with a
wonderfully young face?"

For a moment there was no answer; and, supposing that she had offended
her, the orphan bowed and was turning away, when Mrs. Gerome's calm,
mournful tones arrested her:

"I am only twenty-three years old."

She walked away, turning her countenance towards the water, where
moonlight was burnishing the waves; and, when Salome and Stanley had
reached the bend in their path that would shut out the view of the
beach, the former looked back and saw the silver-gray figure standing
alone on the silent shore, communing with the silver sea, as desolate
and as hopeless as Buchanan's "Penelope,"--

  "An alabaster woman, whose fixed eyes
  Stare seaward, whether it be storm or calm."



CHAPTER IX.


"Doctor Sheldon, do you think she is dangerously ill?"

"I am afraid, Salome, that she will soon become so; for she is
threatened with a violent attack of pneumonia, which would certainly
be very dangerous to a woman of her age. It is a great misfortune that
her brother is absent."

"Dr. Grey reached New York three days ago."

"Indeed! I will telegraph immediately, and hasten his return."

Dr. Sheldon was preparing a blister in the room adjoining the one
occupied by Miss Jane, and the orphan stood by his side, twisting her
fingers nervously over each other, and looking perplexed and anxious.
He returned to his patient, and when he came out some moments later,
and took up his hat, his countenance was by no means reassuring.

"Although I know that you are very much attached to Miss Jane, and
would faithfully endeavor to nurse her, you are so young and
inexperienced that I do not feel quite willing to leave her entirely
to your guardianship; and, therefore, shall send a woman here to-night
who will fully understand the case. She is a professional nurse, and
Dr. Grey will be relieved to hear that his sister is in her hands, for
he has great confidence in her good sense and discretion. I shall stop
at the telegraph office, as I go home, and urge him to return at once.
Give me his address. Do not look so dejected. Miss Grey has a better
constitution than most persons are disposed to believe, and she may
struggle through this attack."

The new year was ushered in by heavy and incessant rains, and, having
imprudently insisted upon superintending the drainage of a new
sheepfold and the erection of an additional cattle-shed, Miss Jane had
taken a severe cold, which resulted in pneumonia.

Assiduously and tenderly Salome watched over her, and even after the
arrival of Hester Dennison, the nurse, the orphan's solicitude would
not permit her to quit the apartment where her benefactress lay
struggling with disease; while Miss Jane shrank from the stranger, and
preferred to receive the medicine from the hand of her adopted child.

When Dr. Sheldon stood by the bed early next morning, and noted the
effect of his treatment, Salome's keen eye observed the dissatisfied
expression of his face, and she drew sad auguries from his clouded
brow. He took a paper from his pocket, and said, cheerfully,--

"Come, Miss Jane, get up a smile to pay me for the good news I bring.
Can you guess what this means?" holding an envelope close to her
eyes.

"More blisters and fever mixtures, I suppose. Doctor, my poor side is
in a dreadful condition."

As she laid her hand over her left lung, she winced and groaned.

"How much would you give to have your brother's hand, instead of mine,
on your pulse?"

"All that I am worth! But my boy is in Europe, and can't come back to
me now, when I need him most."

"No, he is in New York. You have been dreaming, and forget that he has
reached America."

"No, I never knew it. Salome, is there a letter?"

"No letter, but a dispatch announcing his arrival. I told you; but you
must have fallen asleep while I was talking to you."

"No such thing! I have not slept a wink for a week."

"That is right, Miss Jane; scold as much as you like; it will do you
no harm. But, meantime, let me tell you I have just heard from Dr.
Grey, and he is now on his way home."

Salome was sitting near the pillow, and suddenly her head bowed
itself, while her lips whispered, inaudibly,--

"Thank God!"

The invalid's face brightened, and, stretching her thin, hot hand
towards the orphan, she touched her shoulder, and said:--

"Do you hear that, my child? Ulpian is coming home. When will he be
here?"

"Day after to-morrow evening, I hope, if there is no detention and
he makes all the railroad connections. I trust you will prove
sufficiently generous to bear testimony to my professional skill, by
improving so rapidly that when he arrives there will be nothing
left to do but compliment my sagacity, and thank me for relieving you
so speedily. Is not your cough rather better?"

She did not reply; and, bending down, he saw that she was asleep.

"Doctor, I am afraid she is not much better."

He sighed, shook his head, and beckoned Hester into the hall in order
to question her more minutely concerning the patient.

That night and the next she was delirious, and failed to recognize any
one; but about noon on the following day she opened her eyes, and,
looking intently at Salome, who stood near the foot of the bed, she
said, as if much perplexed,--

"I saw Ulpian just now. Where is he?"

"He will be here this afternoon, I hope. The train is due at two
o'clock, and it is now a quarter past twelve."

"I tell you I saw him not ten minutes since."

"You are feverish, dear Miss Jane, and have been dreaming."

"Don't contradict me! Am I in my dotage, think you? I saw my boy, and
he was pale, and had blood on his hands, and it ran down his beard and
dripped on his vest. You can't deceive me! What is the matter with my
poor boy? I will see him! Give me my crutches this instant!"

She struggled into a partially upright position, but fell back upon
her pillow exhausted and panting for breath.

"You were delirious. I give you my word that he has not yet come home.
It was only a horrible dream. Hester will assure you of the truth of
what I say. You must lie still, for this excitement will injure you."

The nurse gave her a powerful sedative, and strove to divert her
thoughts; but ever and anon she shuddered and whispered,--

"It was not a dream. I saw my dear sailor-boy, and he was hurt and
bleeding. I know what I saw; and if you and Hester swore till every
star dropped out of heaven, I would not believe you. If I am old and
dying, my eyes are better than yours. My poor Ulpian!"

Despite her knowledge of the feverish condition of the sick woman, and
her incredulity with reference to the vision that so painfully
disturbed her, Salome's lips blanched, and a vague, nameless, horrible
dread seized her heart.

Very soon Miss Jane fell into a heavy sleep, and, while the nurse
busied herself in preparing a bottle of beef-tea, the orphan sat with
her head pressed against the bedpost, and her eyes riveted on the face
of the watch in her palm, where the minute-hand seemed now and then to
stop, as if for breathing-time, and the hour-hand to have forgotten
the way to two o'clock.

For nearly six months Salome had counted the weeks and days,--had
waited and hoped for the hour of Dr. Grey's return as the happiest of
her life,--had imagined his greeting, the bright, steady glow in his
fine eyes, the warm, cordial pressure of his white hand, the friendly
tones of his pleasant voice; for, though he had failed to bid her
good-by, fate could not cheat her out of the interview that must
follow his arrival. Fancy had painted so vividly all the incidents
that would characterize this longed-for greeting, that she had lived
it over a thousand times; and, now that the meeting seemed actually at
hand, she asked herself whether it were possible that disappointment
could pour one poisonous drop into the brimming draught of joy that
rose foaming in amber bubbles to her parched lips.

In the profound silence that pervaded the darkened room, the ticking
of the watch was annoyingly audible, and seemed to Salome's strained
and excited nerves so unusually loud that she feared it might disturb
the sleeper. At a quarter to two o'clock she went to the hearth and
noiselessly renewed the fire, laying two fresh pieces of oak across
the shining brass andirons, whose feet represented lions' heads.

She swept the hearth, arranged some vials that were scattered on the
dressing-table, and gave a few improving touches to a vase filled with
white and orange crocuses, then crept back to the bedside and again
picked up the watch. It still lacked fifteen minutes of two, and,
looking more closely, she found that it had stopped. Tossing it into a
hollow formed by the folds of the coverlid, and repressing an
impatient ejaculation, she listened for the sound of the railroad
whistle, which, though muffled by distance, had not failed to reach
her every day during the past week.

Presently the silence, which made her ears ache, throbbed so suddenly
that she started, but it was only the "cuckoo! cuckoo!" of the painted
bird on the gilded clock. That clock was fifteen minutes slower than
Miss Jane's watch; and Salome put her face in her hands, and tried to
still the loud thumping sound of the blood at her heart.

The train was behind time. Only a few moments as yet, but something
must have happened to occasion even this slight delay; and, if
something,--what?

Hester came in and whispered,--

"Dinner is ready, and Stanley is hungry. Has Miss Jane stirred since I
went out?"

"No; what time is it?"

"Half after two."

"Oh, nonsense! You are too fast."

"Not a minute,--begging your pardon. My brother stays at the dépot,
and keeps my watch with the railroad time."

Salome went to the dining-room, gave Stanley his dinner, and, anxious
to escape observation, shut herself in the dim, cold parlor, where she
paced the floor until the cuckoo jumped out, chirped three times, and,
as if frightened by the girl's fixed eyes, fluttered back inside the
clock. More than an hour behind time! Now, beyond all hope or doubt,
there had been an accident! Loss of sleep for several consecutive
nights, and protracted anxiety concerning Miss Jane, had so unnerved
the orphan that she was less able to cope successfully with this
harrowing suspense than on former occasions; still the sanguine
hopefulness of youth battled valiantly with the ghouls that
apprehension conjured up, and she remembered that comparatively
trivial occurrences had sometimes detained the train, which finally
brought all its human freight safely to the dépot.

The day had been very cold and gloomy; and thick, low masses of
smoke-colored cloud scudded across the chill sky, whipped along their
skirts by a stinging north-east blast into dun, ragged, trailing
banners. Despite the keenness of the air, Salome opened one of the
parlor windows and leaned her face on the broad sill, where a
drizzling rain began to show itself. She had read and heard just
enough with reference to the phenomena of _clairvoyance_ to sneer at
them in happy hours, and to recur helplessly to the same subject with
a species of silent dread when misfortune seemed imminent. To-day, as
Miss Jane's delirious utterances haunted every nook and cranny of her
excited brain, permeating all topics of thought, she recalled many
instances, on legendary record, where the dying were endowed with
talismanic power over the secrets of futurity. Could it be possible
that Miss Jane had really seen what was taking place many miles
distant? Reason shook her hoary head, and jeered at such childish
fatuity; but superstitious credulity, goaded by an intense anxiety,
would not be silenced nor put to the blush, but boldly babbled of
Swedenborg and burning Stockholm.

Once she had heard Dr. Grey tell his sister, in answer to some inquiry
concerning the _arcana_ of mesmerism, that he had bestowed much time
and thought upon the investigation of the subject, and was thoroughly
convinced that there existed subtle psychological laws whose
operations were not yet comprehended, but which, when analyzed and
studied, would explain the remarkable influence of mind over mind, and
prove that the dread and baffling mysteries of psychology were merely
normal developments of intellectual power instead of supernatural or
spiritual manifestations.

This abstract view of the matter was, however, most unsatisfactory at
the present juncture; and the current of Salome's reflections was
abruptly changed by the sound of the locomotive whistle,--not the
prolonged, steady roar, announcing arrival, but the sharp, short,
shrill note of departure. Soon after, the clock struck four, and, ere
the echoes fell asleep once more in the sombre corners of the quiet
parlor, Dr. Sheldon drove up to the front door and entered the house.
Springing into the hall, Salome met him, and laid her hand on his
arm.

"Salome, your face frightens me. How is Miss Jane? Has she grown worse
so rapidly since I was here this morning?"

"I see little change in her. But you have locked bad news behind your
set teeth. Oh, for God's sake, don't torture me one second longer!
Tell me the worst. What has happened?"

"The down-train was thrown from an embankment twenty feet high, and
the cars took fire. Many lives have been sacrificed, and it is the
most awful affair I ever heard of."

He had partially averted his head to avoid the sight of her whitening
and convulsed features; but, laying her hands heavily upon his
shoulders, she forced him to face her, and her voice sank to a husky
whisper,--

"Is he dead?"

"I hope not."

"Speak out,--or I shall go mad! Is he dead?"

"Calm yourself, Salome, and let us hope for the best. We know nothing
of the particulars of this dreadful disaster, and have learned the
names of none of the sufferers. I have little doubt that Dr. Grey was
on the train, but there is no certainty that he was injured. The
regular up-train could not leave as usual, because the track was badly
torn up; but a locomotive and three cars ran out a while ago with
several surgeons and articles required for the victims. Pray sit down,
my poor child, for you are unable to stand."

"Where did it happen?"

"Near Silver Run water-tank,--about forty miles from here. The
accident occurred at twelve o'clock."

Salome's grasp suddenly relaxed, and, tossing her hands above her
head, she laughed hysterically,--

"Ha, ha! Thank God, he is not dead! He is only hurt,--only bleeding.
Miss Jane saw it all, and he is not dead, or she would have known it.
Thank God!"

Dr. Sheldon was a stern man and renowned for his iron nerves, but he
shuddered as he looked at the pinched, wan face, and heard the
unnatural, hollow sound of her unsteady voice. Had care, watching, and
suspense unpoised her reason?

Something of that which passed through his mind looked out of his
eyes, and interpreting their amazed expression, the girl waved her
hand towards the door, and added,--

"I am not insane. Go in, and Hester will explain."

He turned away, and she went back to the dusky room and threw herself
down on the sofa, opposite to the portrait of the U.S. surgeon.

Of what passed during the following two hours, she retained, in after
years, only a dim, confused, painful memory of prayers and promises
made to God in behalf of the absent.

Once before, when Miss Jane's death seemed imminent, she had been
grieved and perplexed by the possibility that Dr. Grey would inherit
the estate and usurp her domains; but to-day, when the Great Reaper
hovered over the panting, emaciated sufferer, and simultaneously
threatened the distant brother and sole heir of the extended
possessions which this girl had so long coveted, the only thought that
filled her heart with dread and wrung half-smothered cries from her
lips was,--

"Spare his life, oh, my God! Leave me penniless--take friends,
relatives, comforts, hopes of wealth--take all--take everything, but
spare that precious life and bring him safely back to me! Have mercy
on me, O Lord, and do not snatch him away! for, if I lose him now, I
lose faith in Christ--in Thee--I lose all hope in time and eternity,
and my sinful, wrecked soul will go down forever in a night that knows
no dawning!"

For six months she had been indeed,--

  "A faded watcher through the weary night--
  A meek, sweet statue at the silver shrines,
  In deep, perpetual prayer for him she loved;"

but patience, dragging anchor, finally snapped its cable, and now,
instead of an humble suppliant for the boon that alone made existence
endurable, she fiercely demanded that her idol should not be broken,
and, battling with Jehovah, impiously thrust her life down before Him
as an accursed and intolerable burden, unless her prayers were
granted. Ah, what scorpions and stones we gather to our boards, and
then dare charge the stinging mockeries against a long-suffering,
loving God! Ten days before, Salome had meekly prayed, "Thy will be
done," and had comforted herself with the belief that at last she was
beginning to grow pious and trusting, like Miss Jane; but, at the
first hint of harm to Dr. Grey, she sprang up, utterly oblivious of
the protestations of resignation that were scarcely cold on her lips,
and furious as a tigress who sees the hunter approach the jungle where
all her fierce affections centre. God help as all who pray orthodoxly
for His will, and yet, when the emergency arrives, fight desperately
for our own, feeling wofully aggrieved that He takes us at our word,
and moulds the clay which we make a Pharisaical pretense of offering!

A slow drizzling rain whitened the distant hills, that seemed to
blanch in their helplessness as the wind smote them like a flail; and
it wove a grayish veil over the leafless boughs of bending, shivering
elms, on the long, dim avenue. The wintry afternoon closed swiftly,
and, in its dusky dreariness, Salome listened to the tattoo of the
rain on the roof, and to the _miserere_ that wailed through the lonely
chambers of her soul. The chill at her heart froze her to numbness and
oblivion of the coldness of the atmosphere, and, when a servant came
in to close the window against the slanting sleet, she lay so still
that the woman thought her asleep, and stole away on tip-toe. The room
grew dark; but, through the half-opened door, the light from the hall
lamp crept in and fell on the gilded frame and painted face of the
portrait, tracing a silvery path along the gloomy wall. As the night
deepened, that wave of light rippled and glittered until the handsome
features in the picture seemed to belong to some hierarch who peeped
from a window of heaven, into a world drenched with unlifting
darkness.

That oval piece of canvas had become the one fetich to which Salome's
heart clung in silent adoration, defiant of the iconoclastic touch of
reason and the adverse decree of womanly pride; for natures such as
hers will always grovel in the dust, hugging the mutilated fragments
of their idol, rather than bow at some new, fretted shrine, where
other images hold sway, commanding worship. Looking up almost
wolfishly at that tranquil, shining countenance, she said to her
sullen, mourning heart,--

"There are no more like him, and, if we lose him, there is nothing
left in life, and all hope is at an end, and _finis_ shall be printed
on the first page of the book of our existence; and ruin, like a
pitiless pall, shall cover what might have been a happy, possibly a
grand and good, human career. We did not intend to love him,--no, no;
we tried hard to hate him who stood between us and affluence and
indolent ease, but he conquered us by his matchless magnanimity, and
shamed our ignoble aims and base selfishness, and put us under his
royal feet; and now we would rather be trampled by Ulpian, our king,
than crowned by any other man. Let us plead with Christ to spare the
only pilot who can save us from eternal shipwreck."

Lying there so helpless yet defiant in her desolation, some subtle
thread of association, guided, perhaps, by the invisible fingers of
her guardian angel, led her mind to a favorite couplet often quoted by
Dr. Grey,--

  "I heard faith's low, sweet singing, in the night,
  And, groping through the darkness, touched God's hand."

If the painted lips in the aureola on the wall had parted and audibly
uttered these words, they would scarcely have impressed her more
powerfully as a message from the absent; and, rising instantly, the
orphan prayed in chastened, humbled tones for strength to be patient,
for ability to trust God's wisdom and mercy.

How often, when binding our idolized Isaacs upon the altar, and,
meekly submissive to what appears God's inexorable mandates, we
unmurmuringly offer our heart's dearest treasure, the sacrificial
knife is stayed, and our loathed and horrible Moriahs, that erst smelt
of blood and echoed woe, become hallowed Jehovah-jirehs, all aglow,
not with devouring flames, but the blessed radiance of God's benignant
smile, and musical with thanksgiving strains. But Abraham's burden
preceded Abraham's boon, and the souls who cannot patiently endure the
first are utterly unworthy of the rapture of the last.

As the girl's mind grew calmer under the breath of prayer--which
stills the billows of human passion and strife as the command of Jesus
smoothed the thundering surf of Genesareth,--she recollected that she
had absented herself from the sick-room for an unusually long time.
How long, she could not conjecture, for the face of the clock was
invisible, and she had ceased to count the cuckoo-notes; but her limbs
ached, and a fillet of fire seemed to circle her brow.

With a lingering gaze upon the radiant portrait, she quitted the
parlor, and went wearily back to renew her vigil.

Hester Dennison was cowering over the hearth, spreading her bony hands
towards the crackling flames, and, walking up to the mantelpiece,
Salome touched the nurse, and whispered,--

"Hester, what did the doctor say? Is there any change?"

"Hush!" The woman laid a finger on her lip, and glanced over her
shoulder.

There was only a subdued light of a shaded lamp mingling with the
flicker of the fire, and, as Salome's eyes followed those of the
nurse, they rested upon the figure of a man kneeling at the bedside,
and leaning his head against the pillow where Miss Jane's white hair
was strewn in disorder.

A cry of delight, which she had neither the prudence nor power to
repress, rang through the silent chamber, startling its inmates, and
partially arousing the invalid. Salome forgot that life and death were
grappling over the prostrate form of the aged woman,--forgot
everything but the supreme joy of knowing that her idol had not been
rudely shattered.

Springing to the bedside, she put out her hands, and exclaimed,
rapturously:

"Oh, Dr. Grey! Were you much hurt? Thank God, you are alive and here!
Indeed, He is merciful--"

"Hush! Have you no prudence? Quit the room, or be quiet."

Dr. Grey lifted his haggard face from the pillow, and the light showed
it pallid and worn by acute suffering, while a strip of plaster
pressed together the edges of a deep cut on his cheek. His clothes
glistened with sleet, and bore stains that in daylight were crimson,
though now they were only ominously dark.

The stern tones of his voice, suppressed though it was, stung the
girl's heart; and she answered, in a pleading whisper,--

"Only tell me that you are not severely injured. Speak one kind word
to me!"

"I am not dangerously hurt. Hush! Remember life hangs in the
balance."

"Oh, Dr. Grey! will you not even shake hands with me, after all these
dreary months of absence? This is hard, indeed."

She had stood at his side, with her hands extended imploringly; and
now he moved cautiously, and, silently holding up one hand swathed in
linen bands, pointed to his left arm, which was tightly splintered and
bandaged.

The mute gesture explained all, and, sinking to the carpet, she
pressed her lips to the linen folds, and to the coat-sleeve, where
sleet and blood-spots mingled.

He could not have prevented her, even had he desired to do so; but at
that instant his sister moaned faintly, and, bending forward to
examine her countenance, he seemed for some minutes unconscious of the
presence of the form crouching close by his side.

After a little while he looked down, sighed, and whispered,--

"My child, do go to bed. You can do no good here, and too much
watching has already unstrung your nerves. Go to your room, and pray
that God will spare our dear Janet to us."

Was this the welcome for which she had waited and longed--of which she
had dreamed by day and by night? Not a touch, barely a brief,
impatient glance, and a few reproving, indifferent words. She had
rashly dared fate to cheat her out of this long-anticipated greeting,
and the grim, grinning crone had accepted the challenge, and now
triumphantly snapped her withered fingers in the face of the
vanquished.

When coveted fruit that has been hungrily watched through the slow,
tedious process of ripening finally falls rosy and mellow into
eagerly uplifted fingers, and breaks in a shower of bitter dust on the
sharpened and fastidious palate, it rarely happens that the
half-famished dupe relishes the taste; and Salome rose, feeling
stunned and mocked.

In one corner of the room stood a chintz-covered lounge, and, creeping
to it, she laid herself down; and, shading her features with her hand,
looked through her fingers at the pale, grieved face of the anxious
brother. Sometimes he stood up, studying the placid countenance of the
sufferer, and now and then he walked softly to the fire-place, and
held whispered conferences with Hester relative to the course of
treatment that had been pursued.

But everywhere Salome's eyes followed him; and finally, when he
chanced to glance at the couch, and noticed its occupant, whom he
imagined fast asleep, he pointed to a blanket lying on a chair, and
directed Hester to spread it over the girlish figure. The thoughtful
act warmed the orphan's heart more effectually than the thick woollen
cover; and when he sat down in an easy-chair close to the bed, and
within range of Salome's vision, she yielded to the comforting
consciousness of his presence. And, while her lips were moving in
thanks for his preservation and return, exhausted nature seized her
dues, and the girl fell asleep and dreamed that Dr. Grey stood by the
lounge, and whispered,--

  "No star goes down, but climbs in other skies;
  The rose of sunset folds its glory up
  To burst again from out the heart of dawn,
  And love is never lost, though hearts run waste,
  And sorrow makes the chastened heart a seer;
  The deepest dark reveals the starriest hope,
  And Faith can trust her heaven behind the veil."



CHAPTER X.


"Yes, Hester, the danger is past; and, if the weather continues
favorable, my sister will soon be able to sit up. My gratitude
prompts me to erect an altar here, where the mercy of God stayed
the Destroying Angel, as in ancient days David consecrated the
threshing-floor of Araunah."

"Dr. Grey, if you can possibly spare me, I should like to go back to
town to-day as Dr. Sheldon has sent for me to take charge of a patient
at his Infirmary."

"You ought not to desert me while I am so comparatively helpless; and
I should be glad to have you remain, at least until I recover the use
of my hands."

"Miss Salome can take my place, and do all that is really necessary."

"The child is so inexperienced I am almost afraid to trust her;
still--"

"Don't speak so loud. She is standing behind the window-curtain."

"Indeed! I thought she left the room when I entered it. Of course,
Hester, I will not detain you if it is necessary that you should be at
the Infirmary; but I give you up very reluctantly. Salome, if you are
at leisure, please come and see how Hester dresses my hand and arm,
for I must rely upon your kind services when she leaves us. Notice the
manner in which she winds the bandages. There, Hester,--not quite so
tight."

"Dr. Grey, I never had an education, and am at best an ignorant,
poor soul: therefore, not knowing what to think about many curious
things that happen in sick-rooms, I should be glad to hear what you
have to say concerning that vision of your sister. Remember, she
saw it at the very minute that the accident happened. I don't
believe in spirit-rapping, and such stuff as dancing tables, and
spinning chairs, and pianos that play tunes when no human being is
near them; but I have heard and seen things that made the hair rise
and stand on my head."

"The circumstance that occurred three days since is certainly rather
singular and remarkable, but by no means inexplicable. My sister knew
that I was then travelling by railroad,--that I would, without some
unusual delay, reach the dépot at a certain hour, and, being in a
delirious condition, her mind reverted to the probability of some
occurrence that might detain me. Having always evinced a peculiar
aversion to railroads, which she deems the most unsafe method of
travelling, she had a feverish dream that took its coloring from her
excited apprehension of danger to me; and this vision, born of delirium,
was so vivid that she could not distinguish phantom from reality. In
ninety-nine cases out of every hundred similar ones, the dream
passes without fulfilment, and is rarely recollected or mentioned;
but the hundredth--which may chance by some surprising coincidence to
seem verified--is noised abroad as supernatural, and carefully preserved
among 'well-authenticated spiritual manifestations.' If I had escaped
injury, the freaks of my sister's delirium would have made no more
impression on your mind than the ravings of a lunatic; and, since I was
so unfortunate as to be bruised and burned, you must not allow
yourself to grow superstitious, and attach undue importance to a
circumstance which was entirely accidental, and only startling because
so exceedingly rare. Presentiments, especially when occurring in cases
of fever, are merely Will-o-the-wisps floating about in excited,
diseased brains. While at sea, and constantly associated with sailors,
whose minds constitute the most favorable and fruitful soil for the
production of phantasmagoria and _diablerie_, I had frequent
opportunities of testing the fallacy and absurdity of so-called
'presentiments and forebodings.' I am afraid it is the absence of
spirituality in the hearts of the people, that drives this generation
to seek supernaturalism in the realm of merely normal physics. The only
true spiritualism is that which emanates from the Holy Ghost,--conquers
sinful impulses, and makes a Christian heart the temple of God."

Here Miss Jane called Hester into the adjoining room; and turning to
Salome, Dr. Grey added,--

"Notwithstanding the vaunted destruction of the ancient Hydra of
superstition by the darts and javelins of modern rationalism, and the
ponderous hot irons of empirics, it is undeniably true that the habit
of 'seeking after a sign' survived the generation of Scribes and
Pharisees whom Christ rebuked; and manifests itself in the middle of
the nineteenth century by the voracity with which merely material
phenomena are seized as unmistakable indications of preternatural
agencies. The innate leaven of superstition triumphs over common sense
and scientific realism, and men and women are awed by coincidences
that reason scouts, but credulity receives with open arms. Salome, I
regret exceedingly that I am forced to trouble you, but there are some
important letters which I wish to mail to-day, and you will greatly
oblige me by acting as amanuensis while I dictate. My present disabled
condition must apologize for the heavy tax which I am imposing upon
your patience and industry. Will you come to the library?"

She made no protestations of willingness to serve him, and confessed
no delight at the prospect of being useful, but merely bowed and
smiled, with an expression in her eyes that puzzled him.

Seated at the library-table, and writing down the sentences that he
dictated while pacing the floor, Salome passed one of the happiest
hours of her life; for it brought the blessed assurance that, for the
present at least, he acknowledged his need of her.

One of the letters was addressed to Mr. Gerard Granville, an _attaché_
of the American legation at Paris, and referred principally to
financial affairs; and the other, directed to Muriel Manton, contained
an urgent request that she and her governess would leave New York as
speedily as possible and become inmates of his sister's house.

When she had folded the letters and sealed them with his favorite
emerald signet,--bearing the words, "_Frangas non Flectes_,"--Salome
looked up, and asked,--

"How old is your ward, Miss Manton?"

"About your age,--though she looks much more childish."

"Pretty, of course?"

"Why 'of course'?"

"Simply because in novels they are always painted as pretty as
Persephone; and the only wards I ever knew happen to be fictitious
characters."

"Novels are by no means infallible mirrors of nature, and few wards
are as attractive as my black-eyed pet. Muriel will be very handsome,
I hope, when she is grown; but now she impresses me as merely sweet,
piquant, and pretty."

"Did you know her prior to your recent visit?"

"Yes; her father's house was my home whenever I chanced to be in New
York, and I have seen her, occasionally, since she was a little girl.
For your sake, as well as mine, I am glad she will reside here,
because I hope she will prove in every respect a pleasant companion
for you."

"Thank you; but, unfortunately, that is one luxury of which I never
felt the need, and with which, permit me to tell you, I can readily
dispense. I have little respect for women, and no desire to be wearied
with their inane garrulity."

She leaned back in her chair, and tapped restlessly with the end of
the pen-staff on the morocco-covered table.

Dr. Grey looked down steadily and gravely into her provokingly defiant
face, and replied very coldly,--

"Were I in your place, I think I should jealously guard my lips from
the hasty utterance of sentiments that, if unfeigned, ought to bring a
blush to every true woman's cheek; for I fear that she who has no
respect for her own sex bids fair to disgrace it."

A scarlet wave rolled up from throat to temples, and the lurking
yellow gleamed in her eyes, but the bend of her nostril and curve of
her lips did not relax.

"Which is preferable, hypocrisy or irreverence?"

"Both are unpardonable, in a woman."

"Where is your vast charity, Dr. Grey?"

"Busy in sheltering that lofty ideal of genuine female perfection
which you seem so pertinaciously ambitious to sully and degrade."

"You are harsh, and scarcely courteous."

"You will never find me less so when you vauntingly exhibit such
mournful blemishes of character."

"At least, sir, I am honest, and show myself just what God saw fit to
allow misfortune to make me."

"Hush, Salome! Do not add impiousness to the long catalogue of your
sinful follies. I hoped that there was a favorable change in you
before I left home, but I very much fear that, instead of exorcising
the one evil spirit that possessed you, you have swept, and garnished,
and settled yourself comfortably with seven new ones."

"And, like R. Chaim Vital, you come to pronounce _Nidui!_ and banish
my diabolical guests. If cauterization cures moral ulcers as
effectually as those that afflict the flesh, then, verily, you intend
I shall be clean and whole. You are losing patience with your
graceless neophyte."

"Yes, Salome; because forced to lose faith in her inclination and
capacity to sublimate her erring nature. Once for all, let me say that
habitual depreciation of your own sex will not elevate you in the
estimation of mine; for, however fallen you may find mankind, they
nevertheless realize amid their degradation that,--

  ''Tis somewhat to have known, albeit in vain,
    One woman in this sorrowful, bad earth,
  Whose very loss can yet bequeath to pain
    New faith in worth.'"

There was no taunt, no bitterness, in his voice; but grievous
disappointment, too deep for utterance; and the girl winced under it,
though only the flush burning on cheek and brow attested her
vulnerability.

"Remember, sir, that humanity was not moulded entirely from one
stratum of pipe-clay. Only a few wear paint, enamelling, and gold as
delicate costly Sèvres; and, while the majority are only coarse
pottery, it is scarcely kind--certainly not generous--in dainty,
transparent china, belonging to king's palaces, to pity or denounce
the humble Delft or Wedgewoodware doing duty in laborer's cottages."

"Very true, my poor little warped, blotched bit of perverse pottery;
but of one vital truth permit me to assure you: the purity and
elevation of our race depend upon preserving inviolate in the hearts
of men a belief that women's natures are crystalline as that
celebrated glass once made at Murano, which was so exceedingly fine
and delicate that it burst into fragments if poison was poured into
it."

"Then, obviously, I am no Venetian goblet; else long ago I should have
shattered under the bitter, black juices poured by fate. It seems I am
not worthy to touch the lips of doges and grand dukes; but let them
look to it that some day, when spent and thirsty, they stretch not
their regal hands for the common clay that holds what all their
costly, dainty fragments can never yield. _Nous verrons!_ 'The stone
which the builders rejected has become the head of the corner.'"

Dr. Grey had resumed his walk, but the half-suppressed, passionate
protest, whose underswell began to agitate her voice, arrested his
attention, and he came to the table and stood close to the orphan.

"What is the matter with my headstrong young friend?"

She made no answer; but her elfish eyes sought his, and braved their
quiet rebuke.

"This is the last opportunity I shall offer you to tell me frankly
what troubles you. Can I help you in any way? If so, command me."

"Once you could have helped me, but that time has passed."

"Perhaps not. Try me."

"It is too late. You have lost faith in me."

"No; you have lost all faith in yourself, if you ever indulged
any,--which I very much doubt. It is you who are faithless concerning
your own defective character."

"Not I, indeed! I know it rather too well, either to set it aloft for
adoration or to trample it in the mire. When your faith in me expired,
mine was born. Do you recollect that beautiful painted window in
Lincoln Cathedral which the untutored fingers of an apprentice
fashioned out of the despised bits of glass rejected by the
fastidious master-builder? It is so vastly superior to every other in
the church that the vanquished artist could not survive the chagrin
and mortification, and killed himself. My faith is very strong, that,
please God, I shall some day show you similar handiwork."

"You grow enigmatical, and I do not fully understand you."

"No; you do not in the least comprehend me. The girl whom you left six
months ago has changed in many respects."

"For better, or for worse?"

"Perhaps neither one nor yet the other; but, at least, sir, 'my future
will not copy fair my past.'"

"Since my return, I have noticed an alteration in your deportment,
which, I regret to say, I cannot consider an improvement; and I should
feel inclined to attribute your restless impatience to nervous disease
were I not assured by your appearance that you are in perfect health.
Remember, that quietude of manner constitutes a woman's greatest
charm; and, unfortunately, you seem almost a mimic mælstrom. But,
pardon me, I did not intend to lecture you; and, hoping all things, I
will patiently wait for the future that you seem to have dedicated to
some special object. I will try to have faith in my perverse little
friend, though she sometimes renders it a difficult task. May I
trouble you to stamp those letters?"

He could not analyze the change that passed swiftly across her face,
nor the emotion that made her suddenly clinch her hands till the rosy
nails grew purple.

"Dr. Grey, don't you believe that if Judas Iscariot had only resisted
the temptation of the thirty pieces of silver, and stood by his master
instead of betraying him, that his position in heaven would have been
far more exalted than that of Peter, or even of John?"

"That is a question which I have never pondered, and am not prepared
to discuss. Why do you propound it?"

She did not answer immediately; and, when she spoke, her glittering
eyes softened in their expression, and resembled stars rising through
the golden mist of lingering sunset splendor.

"God gave you a nobler heart than mine, and left it an easy, pleasant
matter for you to be good; while, struggle as I may, I am constantly
in danger of tumbling into some slough of iniquity, or setting up
false gods for my soul to bow down to. Because it is so much more
difficult for me to do right than for you, it is only just that my
reward should be correspondingly greater."

"I am neither John nor Peter, nor are you Judas; and only He who knows
our mutual faults and follies, our triumphs and defeats in the
life-long campaign with sin, can judge us equitably. I am too
painfully conscious of my own imperfections not to sympathize
earnestly with the temptations that may assail you; and, moreover, we
should never lose sight of the fact,--

  'What's done we partly may compute,
  But know not what's resisted.'"

"Dr. Grey, you have great confidence in the efficacy of prayer?"

"Yes; for without it human lives are rudderless, drifting to speedy
wreck and ruin."

"If I ask a favor, will you grant it?"

"Have I ever denied you anything that you asked?"

"Yes, sir,--your good opinion."

"I knew that had you really desired that, you would long since have
rendered it impossible for me to withhold it. But to the point,--what
is your petition?"

"I want you to pray for me."

"Salome, are you serious? Are you really in earnest?"

"Mournfully in earnest."

"Then rest satisfied that henceforth you will always have a place in
my prayer; but do not forget the greater necessity of praying for
yourself. Now, tell me how you have been employed during my long
absence. Where are the accumulated exercises which I promised to
examine and correct when I returned?"

"Promised whom?"

"You."

"You forget that I did not see you the day you left, and that you did
not even bid me good-by."

"I referred to your French exercises in a brief and hurried note that
I left for you."

"Left where? I never received--never heard of it."

"I laid it upon your plate, where I supposed you would certainty
notice it when you came home to dinner."

"Why did not you give it to Miss Jane?"

"Simply because she was not in the room when I wrote it. It is rather
surprising that it escaped your observation, as I laid it in a
conspicuous place."

She did not deem it necessary to inform him that on that unlucky day
she had suddenly lost her appetite, and failed to go to the table; and
now she put her fingers over her eyes to conceal the blaze of joyful
light that irradiated them, as he mentioned the circumstance,
comparatively trivial, but precious in her estimation, since it was
freighted with the assurance that at least he had thought of her on
the eve of his unexpected departure. What inexpressible comfort that
note might have contributed during all those tedious months of silence
and separation! While she sat there thinking of the dreary afternoon
when, down in the orchard-grass she lay upon her face, Dr. Grey came
nearer to her, and said,--

"I hope you have not abandoned your French?"

"No, sir; but I devote less time than formerly to it."

"If agreeable to you, we will resume the exercises as soon as I can
wield my pen."

"If you can teach me Italian, I should prefer it; especially since I
have learned to pronounce French tolerably well?"

"What use do you expect to have for Italian,--at least, at present?
French is much more essential."

"I have a good reason for desiring to make the change, though just now
I do not choose to be driven into any explanations."

"Pardon me. I had no intention of forcing your confidence. When in
Italy, I always contrive to understand and make myself understood;
but my knowledge and use of the language is rather too slip-shod to
justify my attempting to teach you idioms, hallowed as the medium
through which Dante and Ariosto charmed the world. Miss Dexter,
Muriel's governess, is a very thorough and accomplished linguist, and
speaks Italian not only gracefully but correctly. I have already
engaged her to teach you whatever she may deem advisable when she
comes here to live."

"You are very kind. Is she a young person?"

"She is a very highly cultivated and elegant woman, probably
twenty-five or six years old, and has been in Florence with Muriel."

Involuntarily and unconsciously the orphan sighed, and the muscles in
her broad forehead tangled terribly.

"Salome, please put your hand in the right pocket of my vest, and take
out a key that ought to be there. No,--not that; a larger steel one.
Now you have it. Will you be so good as to open that trunk which came
by express yesterday (it is in the upper hall), and bring me a box
wrapped in pink tissue-paper? I would not trouble you with so many
commissions if I could use my hands."

Unable longer to repress her feelings, the girl exclaimed eagerly,--

"If you could imagine what pleasure it affords me to render you the
slightest service, I am very sure you would not annoy me with
apologies for making me happy."

In a few moments she returned to the library, bearing in her hand a
small but heavy package, which she placed on the table before him.

"Please open it, and examine the contents."

She obeyed him; and, after removing the wrapping, found a blue velvet
case that opened with a spring and revealed a parcel enclosed in
silver paper. Dr. Grey turned and walked to the window; and, as Salome
took off the last covering, a watch and chain met her curious gaze.
One side of the former was richly and elaborately chased, and
represented Kronos leaning on his scythe; the other was studded with
diamonds that flashed out the name "Salome." Astonishment and delight
sealed the orphan's lips, and, in silence, far more eloquent than
words, she bowed her head upon the table. After a few moments had
elapsed, Dr. Grey attempted to steal out of the room; but, being
obliged to pass close by her chair, she put out her hand and arrested
his movement.

"It is the most beautiful watch I have ever seen; but, oh, sir! how
shall I sufficiently thank you? How can I express all that is
throbbing here in my proud, grateful heart? Although the costly gift
is elegant and tasteful, I hold still more precious the fact which it
attests,--that during your absence you thought of me. How shall I
begin to prove my gratitude for your kindness and generosity?"

"Do not thank me, my little friend; for, indeed I require no verbal
assurances that my _souvenir_ is kindly received and appreciated. Wear
the watch; and let it continually remind you not only of the sincerity
of my friendship, but of the far more important fact that every idle
or injudiciously employed hour will cry out in accusation against us
in the final assize, when we are called upon to render an account of
the distribution of that invaluable time which God allows us solely
for the accomplishment of His work on earth. It is so exceedingly
difficult for young persons to realize how marvellously rapid is the
flight of time, that you will, I trust, forgive me if I endeavor to
impress upon you the vital importance of making each day fragrant with
the burden of some good deed, the resistance of some sore temptation,
some service rendered to God or to suffering humanity which shall make
your years mellow with the fruitage that will entitle you to a
glorious record in the golden book of Abou Ben Adhem's angel. Let this
little jewelled monitress of the fleeting, mocking nature of time,
this ingenious toy, whose ticking is but the mournful, endless knell
of dead seconds, remind you that,--

  "This life of ours, what is it? A very few
  Soon ended years, and then--the ceaseless psalm,
  And the eternal Sabbath of the soul."

As Salome looked up into his tranquil, happy face, two tears glided
across her cheeks, and fell upon the pretty bauble.

"You will find a key in the case, and can wind it up, and set it by
the clock in the parlor."

"Dr. Grey, are you willing that my watch shall bear daily testimony of
something which I hold far above its diamonds,--that you have faith in
Salome Owen?"

"Perfectly willing that you should make it eloquent with all friendly
utterances and sympathy. Hester has bound my arm so tightly that it
impedes the circulation, and is very painful. Please loosen the
bandage."

She complied as carefully as possible, though her hands trembled; and,
when the ligature had been comfortably adjusted and the arm restored
to its sling, she stooped and pressed her lips softly and reverently
to the cold, white fingers, that protruded from the linen bands. He
endeavored ineffectually to prevent the caress, which evidently
embarrassed him; but she left two kisses on the bruised hand, and,
snatching her watch and chain from the table, hastily quitted the
room.

In after years, when loneliness and disappointment pressed heavily
upon her heart, she looked back to the three weeks that succeeded Dr.
Grey's return as the halcyon days, as the cloudless June morning of
her life; and, in blissful retrospection, temporarily found Elysium.

She wrote his letters, read aloud from his favorite books, dressed and
bandaged his blistered hand and fractured arm, and surrendered her
heart to an intense and perfect happiness such as she had scarcely
dared to hope would ever be her portion.



CHAPTER XI.


"Bring her into my office. Steady, men! There may be broken bones, and
jarring would be torture. Don't stumble over that book on the floor.
Lay her here on the sofa, and throw open the blinds."

"Dr. Grey, is she dead?"

"No, only badly stunned; and the contusion on the head seems to be
very severe. Stand back, all of you, and give her air. When did it
happen?"

"About twenty minutes ago. She is a stout, heavy woman, and we could
not walk very fast with such a burden. Ah! you intend to bleed her?"

"Yes, I fear nothing else will relieve her. Mitchell, hold the arm for
me."

"How did she receive this injury?" asked Dr. Mitchell, who had been
holding a consultation with Dr. Grey relative to some perplexing
case.

"Those gray ponies which we were admiring a half-hour since, as they
trotted by the door, took fright at a menagerie procession coming up
from the dépot to the Hippodrome,--and ran away. In steering clear of
the elephant, who was covered from head to foot, and certainly looked
frightful, the horses ran into a mass of lumber and brick at the
corner of Fountain and Franklin streets, where a new store is being
erected, and the carriage was upset. Unfortunately the harness was
very strong, and did not give away until the carriage had been dragged
some yards among the rubbish, and one of the horses finally floundered
into a bed of mortar, and broke the traces. The driver kept his hold
upon the reins to the last, but was badly bruised, and this woman was
thrown out on a pile of bricks and granite-caps. The municipal
authorities should prohibit these menagerie parades, for the meekest
plough-horse in the State could scarcely have faced that band of
musicians, flanked by the covered elephant and giraffe, and the cages
of the beasts,--much less those fiery grays, who seem snuffing danger
even when there is no provocation."

"Who is this woman?"

"She is a total stranger to me," answered Dr. Grey, bending down to
put his ear to the heart of the victim.

A bystander seemed better informed, and replied,--

"She is a servant or housekeeper of the lady who lives at 'Solitude.'
But here comes the driver, limping and making wry faces."

Robert Maclean approached the sofa, and his scratched and bleeding
face paled as he leaned over the prostrate form of his mother.

"Oh, doctors, surely two of you can save her! For God's sake, don't
let her die! Does she breathe?"

"Yes, the bleeding has already benefitted her. She breathes regularly,
and the action of her heart is better. Sit down, my man,--you look
ghastly. Mitchell, give him some brandy, and sew up that gash in his
cheek, while I write a prescription."

"Never mind me, doctor; only save my poor mother. She looks like death
itself. Mother, mother, it is all over now! Come, wake up, and speak
to me!"

He seized one of her cold hands, and chafed it vigorously between both
of his, while tears and blood mingled, as they dripped from his face
to hers.

"Doctor, tell me the truth; is there any hope?"

"Certainly, my friend; there is every reason to believe she will
ultimately recover, though you need not be surprised if she remains
for some hours in a heavy stupor. Remember, a pile of brick is not
exactly a feather pillow, and it may be some time before the brain
recovers from the severity of the contusion. What is your name?"

"Robert Maclean."

"And hers?"

"Elsie Maclean. Poor, dear creature! How she labors in her breathing.
Suppose I lift her head?"

"No; let her rest quietly, just as she is, and I trust all will be
well. Come to the table, and allow me to put some plaster over that
cut which bleeds so freely. Trust me, Maclean, and do not look so
woe-begone. I am not deceiving you. There may be serious internal
injuries that I have not discovered, but this stupor is not alarming.
I can find no fractured bones, and hope the blow on the head is the
most troublesome thing we shall have to contend with."

Dr. Grey proceeded to sponge the bruised and stained face and, hoping
to divert the man's anxious thoughts, said, nonchalantly,--

"I believe you are in Mrs. Gerome's employment?"

"Yes, sir."

"How long have you been at 'Solitude'?"

"I came here, sir, and bought the place, while she was in Europe. Ah,
doctor, if my mother should die, I believe it would kill my
mistress."

"You are old family servants?"

"My mother took her when she was twelve hours old, and has never left
her since. She loves Mrs. Gerome even better than she loves me--her
own flesh and blood. I can't go home and tell my mistress I have
nearly killed my mother. She would never endure the sight of me again.
Her own mother died the day after she was born, and she has always
looked on that poor dear soul yonder as her foster-mother."

Robert limped back to the sofa, and, seating himself on a chair,
looked wistfully into his mother's countenance; then hid his face in
his hands.

"Come, be a man, Maclean; and don't give way to nervousness! Your
mother's condition is constantly improving, though of course it is not
so apparent to you as to me. What has been done with the carriage and
horses?"

"Oh, the carriage is a sweet pudding; and the grays--curses on
'em!--are badly bruised. One of them had his flank laid open by a saw
lying on a lumber-pile; and I only wish it had sawed across the
jugular. They are vicious brutes as ever were bitted, and it makes my
blood run cold sometimes to see their devilish antics when Mrs. Gerome
insists on driving them. They will break her neck, if I don't contrive
to break theirs first."

"I should judge from their appearance that it was exceedingly unsafe
for any lady to attempt to control them. They seem very fiery and
unmanageable. What has been done with them?"

"The deuce knows!--knocked in the head, I trust. I asked two men, who
were in the crowd, to take them to the livery-stable. Mrs. Gerome is
not afraid of anything, and one of her few pleasures is driving those
gray imps, who know her voice as well as I do. I have seen them put up
their narrow ears and neigh when she was a hundred yards off; and
sometimes she wraps the reins around her wrists and quiets them, when
their eyes look like balls of fire. But Rarey himself could not have
stopped them a while ago, when they determined to run over that
menagerie show. My mistress will say it was my fault, and she will
stand by the gray satans through thick and thin. Hist, doctor, my
mother groans!"

"Would it not be best for you to go home and acquaint Mrs. Gerome with
what has occurred?"

"I would not face her without my mother for--twenty kingdoms! You have
no idea how she loves her 'old Elsie,' and I couldn't break the news
to her,--I would sooner break my head."

"This is not a proper place for your mother, and I advise you to
remove her to the hospital, which is not very far from my office. She
can be carried on a litter."

"Oh, my mistress would never permit that! She will let no one else
nurse my mother; and, of course, she could not go to a public place
like a hospital, for you know she is so dreadful shy of strangers."

After many suggestions, and much desultory conversation, it was
finally decided that Elsie should be placed on a mattress, in the
bottom of an open wagon, and carried slowly home. A careful driver was
provided, and when Dr. Grey had seen his patient comfortably arranged,
and established Robert on the seat with the driver, he yielded to the
solicitations of the son, that he would precede them to "Solitude,"
and acquaint Mrs. Gerome with the details of the accident.

Although ten months had elapsed since the latter took possession of
her new home, so complete had been her seclusion that she remained an
utter stranger; and, when visitors flocked from town and neighborhood
to satisfy themselves concerning the rumors of the elegant furniture
and appointments of the house, they were invariably denied admittance,
and informed that since her widowhood Mrs. Gerome had not re-entered
society.

Curiosity was piqued, and gossip wagged her hundred busy tongues over
the tormenting fact that Mrs. Gerome had never darkened the
church-door since her arrival; and, occasionally, when she rode into
town, wore a thick veil that thoroughly screened her features; and,
instead of shopping like other people, made Elsie Maclean bring the
articles to the carriage for her inspection.

The servants seemed to hold themselves as much aloof as their
mistress, and though Robert and his mother attended service regularly
every Sabbath, they appeared as gravely silent and ungregarious as
Sphinxes. The ministers of various denominations called to pay their
respects to the stranger, but only the clerical cards succeeded in
crossing the threshold; and, while rumors of her boundless wealth
crept teasingly through Newsmongerdom, no one except Salome Owen had
yet seen the new-comer.

Cases of books and pictures occasionally arrived from Europe, and
never failed to stir the pool of gossip to its dregs; for the wife of
the express-agent was an intimate friend of Mrs. Spiewell, whose
husband was pastor of the church which Elsie and Robert attended, and
who felt personally aggrieved that the Rev. Charles Spiewell was not
welcomed as the spiritual guide of the mistress of "Solitude."

Finally, a morbid, meddling inquisitiveness goaded the chatty little
woman beyond the bounds of ministerial decorum, and, having rashly
wagered a pair of gloves that she would gain an entrance to the
parlors (whereof the upholsterer's wife told marvellous tales), she
armed herself with a pathetic petition for aid to build a "Widow's
Row," and, with a subscription-list for a "Dorcas Society," and
confident of ingress, boldly rang the bell. Unfortunately, Elsie
chanced that day to be on post as sentinel, and, though she
immediately recognized the visitor as the mother of the small colony
of Spiewells who crowded every Sunday morning into the pew of the
pastor, she courtesied, and gave the stereotyped rebuff,--

"Mrs. Gerome begs to be excused."

"Ah, indeed! But she does not know who has called, or she would make
an exception in my favor. I am your minister's wife, and must really
see her, if only for two minutes. Take my card to her, and say I call
on important business, which cannot fail to interest her."

Not a muscle of Elsie's grave face moved, as she received the card,
and answered,--

"I am very sorry, madam, but Mrs. Gerome sees no visitors, and my
orders are positive."

Mrs. Spiewell bit her lip, and reddened.

"Then take these papers to her, and ask if she will please be so good
as to examine their claims to her charity. In the meantime I will wait
in the parlor, and must trouble you for a glass of water."

She thrust the petitions into Elsie's hand, and attempted to slip into
the hall, through the partial opening of the door which the servant
held during the parley; but, planting her massive frame directly in
the way, the resolute woman effectually barred entrance, and, pointing
to an iron _tête-à-tête_ on the portico, said, decisively,--

"I beg pardon, madam, but you will find a seat there; and I will bring
the water while Mrs. Gerome reads your letters. If you are fatigued, I
will hand you luncheon and some wine."

Mortified and enraged, Mrs. Spiewell grew scarlet, but threw herself
into the seat designated, resolved to snatch a glimpse of the interior
the instant the servant had disappeared.

Very softly Elsie closed and securely latched the door on the inside,
knowing that at that moment her mistress was sitting in the oriel
window of the front parlor.

In vain the visitor tried and twisted the bolt, and, completely
baffled, tears of chagrin moistened her eyes. She had scarcely time to
regain her seat, when Elsie reappeared, bearing on a handsome salver a
wine-glass, silver goblet, and an elegant basket filled with cake.

"Mrs. Gerome presents her compliments, and sends you this fifty dollar
bill for whatever society you represent."

Too thoroughly discomfited to conceal her pique and indignation, Mrs.
Spiewell snatched letters and donation, and, without lingering an
instant, swept haughtily down the steps, "shaking off the dust of her
feet" against "Solitude" and its incorrigible owner.

An innocent impertinence once coldly frustrated soon takes unto itself
a sting and branding-irons, and thus, what was originally merely idle
curiosity, becomes bitter malice; and henceforth the worthy minister's
gossiping wife lost no opportunity of inveighing against the
superciliousness of the stranger, and of insinuating that some very
extraordinary circumstances led her "to fear that something was
radically wrong about that poor Mrs. Gerome, for troubles that could
not be poured into the sympathetic ears of pastors and of pastors'
wives must be very dark, indeed."

Whenever the name of the new-comer was mentioned, Mrs. Spiewell
compressed her lips, shook her head, and shrugged her round shoulders;
and, of course, persons present surmised that the "minister's lady"
was acquainted with melancholy facts which charity prevented her from
divulging.

Many of the grievances and ills that afflict society spring not from
sinful, envenomed hearts, but from weak souls and empty heads; and
Mrs. Spiewell, who sat up with all the measle-stricken, teething, sick
children in her husband's charge, and would have felt disgraced had
she missed a meeting of the "Dorcas Society," or of the "Barefeet
Relief Club," would have been duly shocked if any one had boldly
charged her with slandering a woman whom she had never seen, and of
whose antecedents she knew absolutely nothing. Verily, it is
difficult, indeed, even for "the elect" to keep themselves "unspotted
from the world;" and Zimmerman was a seer when he declared, "Who lives
with wolves must join in their howls."

Absorbed by professional engagements, or fiscal cares, the gentlemen
of a community are rarely interested in or informed of the last wreck
of character which the whirlpool of scandal strews on the strand of
society; but vague rumors relative to Mrs. Gerome's isolation had
penetrated even into the quiet precincts of Dr. Grey's sanctum, and
consequently invested his present mission with extraneous interest.

For the first time since her arrival he approached the confines of
her residence, and, as he threw the reins over the dashboard of his
buggy and stood under the lofty old trees that surrounded the house,
he paused to admire the beauty of the grounds, the grouping of some
statues and pot plants on a neighboring mound, and the far-stretching
sheen of the rippling sea.

No living thing was visible except a golden pheasant and scarlet
flamingo strutting along the stone terrace at the foot of the lawn,
and silence and repose seemed brooding over house and yard; when
suddenly a rapid, passionate, piano-prelude smote the stillness till
the air appeared to throb and quiver, and a thrillingly sweet yet
intensely mournful voice sang the wailing strains of _Addio del
Passato_.

The indescribable yet almost overwhelming pathos of the tones affected
Dr. Grey much as the tremolo-stop in some organ-overture in a
dimly-lighted cathedral; and, as the singer seemed to pour her whole
aching heart and wearied soul into the concluding "_Ah! tutto-tutto
fini!_" he turned, and involuntarily followed the sound, like one in a
dream.

The front door was closed; but the sash of the oriel window had been
raised, and through the delicate lace curtains that were swaying in
the salt breath of ocean he could see what passed in the parlor. A
woman sat before the piano, running her snowy fingers idly across the
keys, now striking _fortissimo_ a wild stormy _fugue_ theme, and then
softly evoking a subtle minor chord that seemed the utterance of some
despairing spirit breathing its last prayer for peace.

Her Marie-Louise blue dress was girded at the waist by a belt and
buckle of silver, and the loose sleeve of the right arm was looped and
pinned up, showing the dimpled elbow and daintily rounded wrist
encircled by the jet serpent. Around her throat she had carelessly
thrown a lace handkerchief, and from the mass of hair that seemed
tiny, snow-capped waves, a cluster of blue nemophila leaned down to
touch the white forehead beneath, and peep at the answering blue
gleams in the large, shining, steely eyes. Her fingers strayed
listlessly into a _Nocturne_; but from the dreamy expression of the
face, upraised to gaze at the busts on the brackets above, it was
evident that her thoughts had wandered far away from _Addio del
Passato_, and were treading the drift-strewn strands of melancholy
memory.

Presently she rose, walked twice across the room, and came back to an
_étagére_ where stood an azure Bohemian glass vase, supported by
silver Tritons, and filled with late blue hyacinths and early
pancratiums.

Bending her regal head, she inhaled the mingled perfumes, worthy of
Sicilian or Cyprian meadows; and, while her slight fingers toyed with
the fragile petals, a proud smile lent its sad light to the chill
face, and she said aloud, as if striving to comfort herself,--

  "'Not the ineffable stars that interlace
  The azure canopy of Zeus himself
  Have surer sweetness than my hyacinths
  When they grow blue, in gazing on blue heaven,
  Than the white lilies of my rivers, when
  In leafy spring Selene's silver horn
  Spills paleness, peace, and fragrance.'"

With a heavy sigh she turned away, and sat down in the rear room, near
the arch, where an easel now stood, containing a large, unfinished
picture; and, taking her ivory palette and brushes, she began to
retouch the violet robe of one of the figures.

Dr. Grey had seen more beautiful women among the gilded pillars and
frescoes of palaces, and amid the olives and vineyards of Parthenope;
but in Mrs. Gerome he found a fascinating mystery that baffled
analysis and riveted his attention. Neither young nor old, she had
crowned herself with the glories of both seasons, and seemed some
sweet, dewy spring, wrapped in the snows and frozen in the icy garb of
winter.

He had expected to meet a middle-aged person, habited in widow's
weeds, and meek from the severe scourging of a recent and terrible
bereavement; but that anomalous white face and proud, queenly form
were unlike all other flesh that his keen eyes had hitherto scanned;
and he regarded her as curiously as he would have examined some
abnormal-looking specimen of nerves and muscles laid upon the marble
slab of a dissecting-table.

Recollecting suddenly that, if he did not present himself, the wagon
would arrive before he had accomplished the object of his visit, he
drew a card from his pocket, and, stepping over the low sill of the
oriel window, advanced to the arch.

The mistress of the house sat with her back turned towards him, and
was apparently absorbed in putting purple shadows into the folds of a
mantle that hung from the shoulders of a kneeling figure on the
canvas.

Face-downward on an ottoman near, lay a beautiful copy of Owen
Meredith's poems; and, after a few seconds, she paused, brush in hand,
and, taking up the book, slowly read aloud--glancing, as she did so,
from page to picture,--

              ... "'Then I could perceive
  A glory pouring through an open door,
  And in the light five women. I believe
  They wore white vestments, all of them. They were
  Quite calm; and each still face unearthly fair,
  Unearthly quiet. So like statues all,
  Waiting they stood without that lighted hall;
  And in their hands, like a blue star, they held
  Each one a silver lamp.'"

Standing immediately behind her, Dr. Grey saw that she had seized the
weird "_Vision of Virgins_," and was putting into pigment that solemn
phantasm of the poet's imagination where five radiant women were
passing to their reward,--and five wailing over flickering, dying
lamps, were huddled helplessly and hopelessly under a black and
starless midnight sky. Although unfinished, there was marvellous power
in the picture, and the sickly gleam from the expiring wicks made the
surrounding gloom more supernatural, like the deep shadows skulking
behind the lurid glare in some old Flemish painting.

He saw also that she had followed the general outline of the poem; but
one of the faces was so supreme in its mute anguish that he thought of
Reni's "Cenci," and of a wan "Alcestis," and a desperate "Cassandra,"
he had seen at Rome; and, in comparison, the description of the poet
seemed almost vapid,--

               ... "One as still as death
  Hollowed her hands about her lamp, for fear
  Some motion of the midnight, or her breath,
  Should fan out the last flicker. Rosy clear
  The light oozed through her fingers o'er her face.
  There was a ruined beauty hovering there
  Over deep pain, and dashed with lurid grace
  A waning bloom."

The room with its costly, quaint, and tasteful furniture,--the
solitary and singularly beautiful woman; the wonderful picture,
growing beneath her hand; the solemn silence, broken only by the deep,
hollow murmur of the dimpling sea that sent its shimmer in at the
window to meet the painted shimmer in a marine view framed on the
wall,--all these wove a spell about the intruder that temporarily held
him a mute captive.

The artist laid a delicate green on the stripped and scattered leaves
from a wreath of Syrian lilies lying on the marble steps of the
bridegroom's mansion, and once more she read a passage from the open
book,--

                ... "'Then I beheld
  A shadow in the doorway. And One came
  Crown'd for a feast. I could not see the Face.
  The Form was not all human. As the Flame
  Streamed over it, a presence took the place
  With awe. He, turning, took them by the hand
  And led them each up the wide stairway, and
  The door closed.'"

The sound of her voice, low but clear, and burdened with a sadness
that no language could exhaust or interpret, thrilled Dr. Grey's
steady nerves as no music had ever done, and, stepping forward, he
held out his card, and said,--

"Mrs. Gerome, a painful necessity has compelled me to intrude upon
your seclusion, and I trust you will acquit me of impertinence."

Rising, she fronted him with a frown severe as that which clouded
Artemis' brow when profane eyes peered through myrtle boughs into her
sacred retreat, and the changed voice seemed thick with bristling
icicles.

"Your business must be imperative, indeed, if it warrants this
intrusion. What servant admitted you?"

"None. I came in haste, and, seeing the window open, entered without
ringing. Madam, my card will explain my errand."

"Has Dr. Grey an unpaid bill? I was not aware the servants had needed
your services; but if so, present your claim to Robert Maclean, my
agent."

"Mrs. Gerome owes me nothing, and I came here reluctantly and in
compliance with Robert Maclean's request, to inform her of an accident
which happened this afternoon while--"

He paused, awed by the change that swept over her countenance, filling
it with horrible dread.

"Those gray horses?"

"Yes, madam."

"Not Elsie? Oh! don't tell me that my dear old Elsie was mangled!
Hush! I will not hear it!"

Palette and brushes fell upon the carpet, and she wrung her fingers
until the diamond-eyed asp set its blue fangs in her cold flesh.

"Robert was merely bruised, but his mother was very badly injured, and
is still insensible. Every precaution has been taken to counteract the
effect of the severe blow on her head, and I hope that after an hour
or two she will recover her consciousness. Robert is bringing her home
as carefully as possible, and you may expect them momentarily. Only
his urgent entreaties that I would precede him and prepare you for the
reception of his mother could have induced me to waive ceremony and
thrust myself into the presence of a lady who seems little disposed to
pardon the apparent presumption of my visit."

She evidently did not heed his words, and, suddenly clasping her hands
across her forehead, she said, bitterly,--

"Coward! why can't you speak out, and tell me that the corpse will
soon be here, and a coffin must be ordered? This is the last blow!
Surely, God will let me alone, now; for there is nothing more that He
can send to afflict me. Oh, Elsie,--my sole comfort! The only one who
ever loved me!"

A bluish pallor settled about her mouth, and Dr. Grey shuddered as he
looked into the dry, defiant eyes, so beautiful in form and color but
so mournfully desperate in their expression.

"Mrs. Gerome, your servant is neither dead nor dying, and I have told
you the worst. Down the road I can see the wagon coming slowly, and I
would advise you to call the household together, in order to assist in
lifting Elsie, who is very stout and heavy. Calm yourself, madam, and
trust your favorite servant to my care."

"Servant! Sir, she is mother, father, husband, friends,--all,--everything
to me! She is the only human being who cares for, or understands, or
sympathizes with me,--and I could not live without her. Oh, sir, do not
ask me to trust you! The time has gone by when I could trust anybody
but Elsie. You are a physician,--you ought to know what should be done
for her; and, Dr. Grey, if you have any pity in your soul, and any
skill in your profession, save my old Elsie's life! Dr. Grey--"

She paused a few seconds, and added, in a whisper,--

"If she dies, I am afraid I might grow desperate, and commit what you
happy people call a crime."

He felt an unwonted moisture dim his eyes, as he watched the delicate
face, white as the hair that crowned it, and wondered if the wide,
populous world could match her regal form and perfect features.

"Mrs. Gerome, I think I can promise that Elsie will recover from her
injuries; but a prayer for her safety would bring you more comfort
than my feeble words of assurance and encouragement. The mercy of God
is surer than the combined medical skill of the universe."

"The mercy of God!" she repeated, with a gesture of scorn and
impatience. "No, no! God set his face like a flint against me, long,
long ago, and I do not mock myself by offering prayers that only call
down smitings upon me. Seven years since I prayed my last prayer,
which was for speedy death; and, from that hour, I seem to have taken
a new lease on life. Now I stand still and keep silent, and I hoped
that God had forgotten me."

She covered her face with her hands and Dr. Grey drew a chair close to
her and endeavored to make her sit down, but she resisted and shrank
from his touch on her arm.

"Madam, the wagon has stopped at the door. Will you direct your
servants, or shall I?"

"If she is not dead, tell Robert to carry her into my room. Oh, Dr.
Grey, you will not let her die!"

As she looked up imploringly into his calm, noble face, she met his
earnest gaze, brimming with compassion and sympathy, and her lips and
chin quivered.

"Trust your God, and have faith in me."

He went out to assist in removing his patient, and when they had
carried the mattress and its occupant into the room opposite the
parlor and laid it on the carpet near the window, he had the
satisfaction of observing a favorable change in Elsie's condition.
While he stood by a table preparing some medicine, Robert stole up,
and asked:

"Do you notice any improvement? She groaned twice on the road, and
once I am sure she opened her eyes."

"Yes; I think that very soon she will be able to speak, for her pulse
is gaining strength every hour."

"How did my mistress take it?"

"She was much shocked and grieved. Maclean, where are her friends and
relatives?"

There was no reply, and, glancing over his shoulder to repeat the
inquiry, Dr. Grey saw Mrs. Gerome leaning against the door.

"Robert, have you killed her?"

"Oh, no, ma'am! She is doing very well, the doctor says."

She crossed the room, and sat down on the edge of the mattress, taking
one of the large brown hands in both of hers and bending her face over
the pillow.

"Elsie! mother! Elsie, speak to your poor child!"

That wailing voice pierced the stupor, and Dr. Grey was surprised to
see the woman's eyes unclose and rest wonderingly upon the countenance
hovering over her.

"My dear Elsie, don't you know me?"

"Yes, my bairn. What ails you?"

She spoke indistinctly, and shut her eyes once more, as if exhausted.

"If she was in her coffin, I verily believe she would rise, if she
heard your voice calling her," said Robert, wiping away the tears of
joy that trickled across his sunburnt cheeks.

Dr. Grey stooped to put his finger on Elsie's pulse, and Mrs. Gerome
threw herself down on the carpet, and buried her face in the pillow,
where her silver hair mingled with the grizzled locks that straggled
from beneath the old woman's torn lace cap.



CHAPTER XII.


"Well, Ulpian, are you convinced that 'Solitude' is an unlucky place,
and that misfortune dogs the steps of all who make it a home? Once you
laughed at my 'superstition.' What think you now, my wiseacre?"

"My opinion has not changed, except that each time I see the place I
admire it more and more; and, were it for sale, I should certainly
purchase it."

"Not with the expectation of living there?"

"Most assuredly."

Miss Jane had suspended for a moment the swift clicking of her
knitting-needles in order to hear her brother's reply, and now she
rejoined, almost sharply,--

"You will do no such silly thing while there is breath left in my body
to protest, or to persuade. Pooh! you only talk to tease me; for five
grains of observation and common sense will teach you that there is a
curse hanging over that old piratical nest."

"Dear Janet, when headstrong drivers persist in carrying a pair of
fiery, vicious horses into the midst of a procession of wild beasts
that would have scared even your sober dull Dapples out of their lazy
jog-trot, it is not at all surprising that snapped harness, broken
carriage, torn flesh, and strained joints should attest the folly of
the experiment. The accident occurred not far from my office, which is
haunted by nothing worse than your harmless sailor-boy."

"All very fine, my blue-eyed oracle, but I notice that the horses
belonging to 'Solitude' were the only ones that made mischief and came
to grief; and I promise you that all the hawsers in Gosport Navy-Yard
will never drag me inside the doomed place. How is your patient? If
you expect her to get well, you had better take a 'superstitious' old
woman's counsel, and send her away from that valley of Jehoshaphat."

"I am very sorry to tell you that she was more seriously hurt than I
was at first inclined to believe. Her spine was so badly injured that
although there is no danger of immediate death, she will never be
able to sit up or walk again. She may linger many months, possibly
years; but must, as long as life lasts, remain a bed-ridden cripple.
It is one of the saddest cases I have had to deal with during my
professional career; and Elsie Maclean bears her sufferings with
such noble fortitude, such genuine Christian patience, coupled with
stern Scotch heroism, that I cannot withhold my admiration and
earnest sympathy. Yesterday I held a consultation with four
physicians, and, when we told her the hopelessness of her condition,
she received the announcement without even a sigh, and seemed only
to dread that instead of an assistant she might prove a burden to her
mistress."

"She appears to be a very important personage in the household."

"Yes; she is Mrs. Gerome's nurse, housekeeper, and counsellor,--and I
have rarely seen such warm affection as exists between them. I wish,
Janet, that you were strong enough to call at 'Solitude,' for its
mistress leads a lonely, secluded life, and must require some
society."

"But, Ulpian, I hear strange things about her, and it is hinted that
she is deranged."

"Your knowledge of human nature should teach you how little truth is
generally found in the floating _on dits_ of social circles."

"How long has she been widowed?"

"I do not know, but presume that her affliction has not been very
recent, as she wears no mourning."

"If she has discarded widow's weeds, and dresses in colors, why should
she taboo society, and make herself the town-talk by refusing to
receive even the clergy and their wives? She has lived here ten
months, and I understand from Dolly Spiewell that not a soul has ever
seen her. Of course such eccentricities provoke gossip and tickle the
tongue of scandal, and if the world can't find out the real cause of
such conduct, it very industriously sets to work and manufactures
one."

"Which, in my humble opinion, constitutes a piece of unwarrantable
impertinence on the part of meddling Mrs. Grundy. The world might be
more profitably engaged in mending its own tortuous and mendacious
ways, and allowing poor solitary wretches to fondle their whims and
caprices. If Mrs. Gerome does not choose to receive visitors, what
right has the public to grumble, or even discuss the matter?"

As Salome spoke, she plunged her stiletto vigorously into a piece of
cambric, and her thin lip curled contemptuously.

"Abstractly true, my dear child; but, from the beginning of time,
people have meddled; and, since gossip she must, even Eve chatted too
freely with serpents. Besides, since we are in the world, we should
not turn eremites, and bristle at the sight of one of our own race;
for society has a few laws that are inexorable,--that cannot be
violated without subjecting the offender to being stung to death by
venomous tongues; and one of these statutes is, that all shall see and
be seen, shall talk and be talked about, and shall visit and be
visited. When a woman unaccountably turns recluse, she is at the mercy
of public imagination, stimulated by disappointed curiosity; and very
soon the verdict goes forth that she is either deformed or deranged."

"I dispute the prerogative of the public to dictate in such matters,
and I shall rebel whenever it presumes to lay even a little finger
across my path. What, pray tell me, is the world, but an aggregation
of persons like you and me, and what possible concern can you or I
have with the fact that Mrs. Gerome burrows like a mole, beyond our
sight? If she sees fit to found a modern sect of Troglodytes, I can't
understand that the wheels of society are thereby scotched, or that
the public has a shadow of right to raise a hue-and-cry and strive to
unearth her, as if she were a fox, a catamount, or a gopher. It is
useless for society to constitute itself a turning-lathe for rounding
off all individual angularities, and grinding people down to dull
uniformity until they are as indistinguishable as a bag of unpainted
marbles or of black-eyed peas; and, if God had intended that we should
all invariably think, feel, and act after one pattern, He would have
populated the world with Siamese twins; whereas, the first couple that
were born on earth were so dissimilar that all the universe was not
wide enough to hold them both, and manslaughter began when the race
only numbered a quartette. If mankind had not arrogated the privilege
of being its 'brother's keeper,' it would never have been forced to
deny the fact. I admire the honesty and truth with which Alexander
Smith bravely confessed, 'I love a little eccentricity; I respect
honest prejudices. It is high time, it seems to me, that a moral
game-law were passed for the preservation of the wild and vagrant
feelings of human nature.'"

"That is a dangerous doctrine, my dear child, especially for a woman
to entertain; because custom rules us with an iron rod, and flays us
alive if we contravene her decrees."

"I should be exceedingly glad to learn by what authority or process
Truth is provided with sex? Are some orthodox doctrines female and
others male? Why have not we women as clear a right to any given set
of principles as men? Truth is as much my property as that of the Czar
of Russia, and, if I choose to lay hold of any special province of it,
why must I perforce be dragged to the whipping-post of custom, simply
because by an accident I am called Susan or Hepzibah instead of Peter
or Lazarus? So long as my convictions of truth (which custom brands as
vagaries) are innocuous, I have a perfect and inalienable right to
indulge them; but the instant I become pestiferous to society, let me
be consigned to the tender mercies of strait-jacket and insane-asylum
regimen. If I creep quietly along my own intellectual and ethical
trail, taking heed not to touch the sensitive toes of custom, why
should it ungenerously insist upon bruising mine? My seer was right
when he boldly declared, 'The world has stood long enough under the
drill of Adjutant Fashion.' It is hard work, the posture is wearisome,
and Fashion is an awful martinet, and has a quick eye, and comes down
mercilessly on the unfortunate wight who can not square his toes to
the approved pattern. It is killing work. Suppose we try 'standing at
ease' for a little while? Wherefore, custom to the contrary
notwithstanding, I contend that Mrs. Gerome has as indisputable a
right to refuse admittance to Rev. Mrs. Spiewell as any anchorite of
the Nitrian Sands to decline receiving a bevy of inquisitive European
belles. If society rules like Russia or Turkey, then am I a candidate
for knout and bastinado. I do not wish to be unwomanly, and honesty
and candor are not necessarily unfeminine, because some coarse,
rough-handed, bold-eyed woman has possibly rendered them unpopular."

Miss Jane laid down her knitting, folded her hands, and, as she
watched the girl, her emotions were probably similar to those that
agitate some meek and staid hen, who, leading a young brood of ducks
from her nest, suddenly beholds them displaying their aquatic
proclivities by plunging into the horse-pond, and performing all the
evolutions of a regatta.

"Ah, child, I fear you think too little of what you wish or intend to
make yourself!"

"Only have patience, Miss Jane, and some day I will show you all the
graces of Griselda and Gudrun the second. Dr. Grey, have you seen Mrs.
Gerome?"

"Yes,--on two occasions."

"Is she not the most extraordinary and puzzling person you ever looked
at?"

"When and where could you have met her?"

"For a few minutes only, last winter, I saw her on the beach, near
'Solitude.' We exchanged a half-dozen words, and she left an
impression on my mind which all time will not efface. Since that
evening I have frequently endeavored to surprise her on the same spot,
but only once I succeeded in catching a glimpse of a blue shawl that
fluttered in the distance. She seemed to me a beautiful, pale
priestess, consecrated to the ministry of the shrine of sorrow; and,
when I hear snubbed-dom sneering at her, and remember the hopeless
expression with which her wonderful, homeless eyes looked out across
that grey, silent sea,--I cannot avoid thinking that she is very wise
in barring her doors, and heeding the advice of Montenebi, '_Complain
not of thy woes to the public: they will no more pity thee than birds
of prey pity the wounded deer_.'"

"My acquaintance with Mrs. Gerome is too slight to warrant the
utterance of an opinion relative to her idiosyncrasies, but I am
afraid cynicism rather than grief immures her from society. Her
prematurely white hair and the remarkable pallor of her smooth
complexion combine to render her appearance piquant and unnatural;
and, certainly, there is something in her face strangely suggestive of
old Norse myths, mystery, and magic. Her features, when analyzed,
prove faultlessly regular, but her life is out of tune, and the
expression of her countenance mars what would otherwise be perfect
beauty. I can, in some degree, describe the impression she produced
upon me by quoting the lines that were suggested when I saw her this
morning, standing by Elsie Maclean's bed,--

  'I saw a vision of a woman, where
    Night and new morning strive for domination;
  Incomparably pale, and almost fair,
    And sad beyond expression.
  Her eyes were like some fire-enshrining gem,
    Were stately, like the stars, and yet were tender;
  Her figure charmed me, like a windy stem,
    Quivering, and drooped, and slender.
  She measured measureless sorrow toward its length
    And breadth, and depth, and height.'"

Salome looked up from the eyelet she was working, but Dr. Grey had
turned his head towards his sister who had fallen asleep in her chair,
and the orphan could not see his face.

"Mrs. Gerome must have been very young when she married, and--"

"Hush! Janet looks so weary that I want her to have a long nap, and
our voices might disturb her."

He took his hat and gloves and left the room, and Salome forgot her
embroidery and fell into a reverie that proved neither pleasant nor
profitable, and lasted until Miss Jane awoke.

In the afternoon of the following day, when the orphan returned
from her clandestine visit to the Italian musician, she saw an
unusual number of persons on the front gallery, and found that the
long-expected party from New York had arrived during her absence. Miss
Jane was talking to the governess--a meek-looking, but exceedingly
handsome woman, of twenty-seven or eight years, with fair hair and
quiet brown eyes; and every detail of her dress, speech, and bearing
averred that Edith Dexter was no humble scion of proletariat. Her
polished yet reserved manners bespoke high birth and aristocratic
associations; but something in the composed, sad countenance, in the
listless drooping of the pretty head, hinted that she had long since
spilt the rosy sparkling foam of her cup of life, and was patiently
drinking its muddy lees.

On the upper step sat Dr. Grey, with his arm encircling the form of
his ward, whose head rested very confidingly against his shoulder.
Muriel Manton was dressed in deep mourning, and had evidently been
weeping, for her guardian was tenderly wiping the tears from her cheek
when Salome came up the avenue; and, with a keen, jealous pang that
she had never felt before, the latter scanned the stranger's claims to
beauty.

Very black eyes, brilliant complexion, and fine teeth, she certainly
possessed; but her features were rather coarse; her mouth was much too
large for classic requirements; and Salome was rejoiced to find her
nose indisputably _retroussé_.

Years hence she would doubtless be a large, well-formed, commanding
woman, who could exhibit Lyons silk or Genoese velvet to the best
advantage, and would be considered a fine-looking, rosy, robust
personage; but at present the face, which from under a small straw hat
anxiously watched hers, was infinitely handsomer, more attractive,
more delicate, and intellectual; and the miller's child felt that she
had little to apprehend from the merely personal charms of the wealthy
ward.

Salome felt injured as she eyed the doctor's arm, which had never
touched even her shoulder; and it was painful and humiliating to
notice the affectionate manner in which his hand stroked one of
Muriel's that lay on his knee,--and to remember that his fingers had
not met hers in a friendly grasp since long before his visit to
Europe,--had only clasped hers twice during their acquaintance.

"Come in, Salome, and let me introduce you to my ward Muriel, and to
Miss Dexter, who is prepared to receive you as a pupil."

Muriel silently held out her hand; but Salome only bowed and ran
lightly up the steps, as if she did not perceive the outstretched
fingers. Miss Dexter rose and advanced to meet her, saying, in a tone
that indexed great kindness of heart,--

"I am exceedingly glad to meet you, Miss Salome; for Dr. Grey has
promised that I shall find in you a most exemplary and agreeable
pupil."

"Thank you. I am indeed glad to hear that he has changed his opinion
of me; and I must endeavor not to lose my newly acquired amiable
character,--but he was rather rash to stand security for my good
behavior."

She saw that Dr. Grey was surprised at her cold reception of his pet
and _protegé_, and perversity took possession of her. Going to the
back of Miss Jane's old-fashioned rocking-chair she put her arms
around her, and, leaning over, kissed her cheek several times. It was
not her habit to caress any one or any thing,--not even her little
brother,--and this unusual demonstrativeness puzzled and surprised the
old lady who said, fondly,--

"I presume Ulpian is brave enough to encounter all the risks of
standing security for your obedience and docility."

"Certainly I appreciate his chivalry, since none knows better than he
the danger--nay, probability, of a forfeiture of the contract on my
part."

Dr. Grey rose, and, looking steadily at her, said, in a tone which she
well understood,--

"Promises are, in my estimation, peculiarly sacred things; and that
which I made to Miss Dexter in your behalf was based upon one that I
gave you some time since, namely, that I would have faith in you. Come
with me, Muriel; I want to show you and Miss Dexter the finest cow
this side of Ayrshire, and some sheep that are handsome enough to
compare favorably with the best that ever browsed in the 'Court of
Lions.'"

He took his ward's hand and led her away to the cattle-yard, whither
Miss Dexter accompanied them.

As Salome looked after the trio her eyes flashed and scarlet spots
burned on her cheeks, while a feeling of suffocation oppressed her
heart.

"Why will you vex him, when you know that he tries so hard to like
you?" asked Miss Jane in a distressed tone, stroking the girl's hot
face, as she spoke.

The head was instantly lifted beyond her reach, and the answer came
swiftly, sharp and defiant,--

"Do you mean to say that it is so extremely difficult for him to
tolerate me?"

"You are obliged to know that you are not one of his favorites, like
that sweet-tempered Muriel, to whom he seems so warmly attached; and
it is all your own fault, for he was disposed to like you when he
first came home. Ulpian loves quiet and amiable people, who are never
rude and snappish; and it appears to me that you are trying to see how
hateful and spiteful you can be. Why upon earth did you not shake
hands with those strangers, and treat them politely?"

"Because I don't choose to be hypocritical,--and I don't like Miss
Muriel Manton."

"Nonsense! Stuff! I only wish you were half as well-bred and
courteous, and lady-like."

"Do you, really? Then, to be obedient and, oblige you, when they come
back, I will imitate her example, and throw myself into Dr. Grey's
arms, and rub my cheek against his shoulder, and fondle his hands. If
this be 'lady-like,' then, indeed, I penitently cry '_peccavi!_' and
promise that in future you shall not have cause to complain of me."

"Pooh, pooh, child! What ails you? Muriel has known Ulpian all her
life, and looks upon him now as her father. He has petted her since
she was a little girl, and loves her almost as well as if she were his
child, instead of his ward. You know she is an orphan; and it is very
natural for her to cling to her guardian, who was for a great many
years her father's most intimate friend."

"We are both orphans, and she is certainly not my junior, yet your
propriety would be shocked if I behaved as she does. Where is
Stanley?"

"Studying his geography lesson, with the assistance of the globe, in
the library. What do you want with him?"

"I am going to the beach, and wish him to walk with me."

"It is too late for you to start for the seaside, and, moreover, it
would appear very discourteous in you to absent yourself the first
evening that these strangers spend here. Ulpian would be displeased."

"According to your statement a few minutes since, that is his chronic
condition, as far as I am concerned; and, as I do not belong to the
mimosa species, I think I may brave his frowns."

"That is not the worst you have to apprehend. Child, I think it would
be bitter indeed, to bear Ulpian Grey's contempt."

"I shall take care not to deserve it; and Dr. Grey never forgets to be
just."

"My dear little girl, what right have you to be jealous of his love
for his young ward?"

The flame that was slowly dying out of her face leaped up fiercer than
before, and she crimsoned to the edges of her hair.

"Jealous! Good heavens, Miss Jane, you must be dreaming! I merely
question the taste that allows his 'lady-like' favorite to caress him
so openly, and should not have expressed my disapprobation so
strongly if you had not rated me soundly, and held her up as a model
for my humble imitation. If she and her governess are to stir up
strife between you and me, I shall heartily wish them a speedy passage
to Halifax or heaven. Beyond all peradventure I shall get murderously
jealous if you dare to give this sloe-eyed, peony-faced girl, my place
in your dear old heart. She, of course, will fondle her guardian as
much as she pleases, or as often as he sees fit to allow; but woe unto
her if I catch her hands and lips about you, my dearest and best
friend! Don't scold me and praise her, or some fine day I shall jump
at and strangle her, which you know would not be 'well-bred' or
'lady-like,' much less moral and Christian."

She almost smothered the old lady in her arms, and kissed her several
times.

"What has stirred up the evil spirit in you? You look as wicked as
your mother Herodias, thirsting for the blood of John the Baptist; or
as Jezebel plotting against the prophet--"

"And telling me that like her I am 'going to the dogs' is not the
surest way to reform me. Stanley! Stanley! get your hat and come
here."

"Your awful temper will be your ruin if you don't put a curb-bit on
it. See here, Salome, don't be so utterly silly and childish! I do not
wish you to go to the sea-shore this evening."

"Please, Miss Jane, don't order me to stay at home, because, then of
course, I should feel bound to obey you, and I should not behave
prettily, and you would wish me at the bottom of the sea, instead of
on its brink. Let me go, and I will come back cool as a cucumber, and
well-behaved as Miss Muriel Manton. Please don't prohibit me; and I
promise I will lose my evil spirit in the sea, like that Gergesene
wretch that haunted the tombs. Here comes Stanley. Don't shake your
head. I am off."

Miss Jane would not receive the proffered farewell kiss, but tears
gathered and dimmed her eyes as she looked after the graceful, girlish
figure, swiftly crossing the lawn; and sad forebodings filled her
affectionate heart when she thought of the unknown future that
stretched before that impetuous, jealous, imperious nature.

Anxious that the strangers should feel thoroughly welcome and at home,
she joined them as soon as possible after their return from the
sheepfold, and exerted herself to keep the shuttlecock of conversation
in constant motion; but her brother's watchful eyes discerned the
perturbed feeling she sought to hide; and, when she insisted, for the
first time in two years, upon taking her seat and presiding at the
tea-table, he busied himself in arranging her cushions comfortably,
and whispered,--

"How good and considerate you are, my precious sister. A thousand
thanks for this generous effort, which I trust will not fatigue you."

He placed himself opposite, and was about to ask a blessing on the
meal, but paused to inquire,--

"Where are the children, Salome and Stanley?"

"They have gone down to the beach, and we will not wait for them."

Soon after, Muriel said,--

"I think Salome is almost beautiful. She has splendid eyes and hair.
Miss Edith, does she not remind you of a piece of sculpture at
Naples?"

"Yes; I noticed a resemblance to the _Julia-Agrippina_, and the
likeness must be remarkable, since it impressed us simultaneously.
Salome's brow is fuller, and her chin more prominent than that of the
Roman woman we admired so ardently; and, besides, I should judge that
she had quite as much or more will than the daughter of Germanicus,
for her lips are thinner."

Dr. Grey changed the topic of conversation, and Miss Dexter
courteously followed the cue.

The moon was high in heaven when Salome and her brother came up the
avenue; and, observing that the lights were extinguished in the front
rooms, she surmised that the new-comers had retired very early, in
consequence of fatigue from their long journey. Sending Stanley to
bed, she sat down on the steps to rest a few moments before going
upstairs, and began to fan herself with her straw hat.

She had grown very calm, and almost ashamed of her passionate
ebullition in the presence of strangers; and numerous good resolutions
were sending out fibrous roots in her heart. How long she rested there
she knew not, and started when Dr. Grey said, in a subdued voice,--

"Salome, I am waiting to lock the door, and should be glad if you will
come in now, or be careful to secure the inner bolt whenever you do.
As I always shut up the house, I was afraid you might not think of it;
and burglaries are becoming alarmingly frequent."

She rose instantly, and entered the hall.

"What time is it?"

"Eleven o'clock."

"Is it possible? You know, sir, that the evenings are very short
now."

"Yes."

He was removing a chair from the gallery and closing the Venetian
blinds, and she could not see his face. Hoping to receive some
friendly look, which she was painfully aware she did not deserve, she
loitered till he turned around.

"Salome, have you a light in your room?"

"I do not know, but suppose so."

"There are two candles in the library, and you had better take one,
rather than stumble along in the dark and wake everybody."

He brought out one, and handed it to her.

"Thank you. Good-night, Dr. Grey."

"Good-night, Salome."

The candle-light showed no displeasure in his countenance, which was
calm as usual, and there was not a hint of harshness in his unwontedly
low voice; but she read disappointment in his grave, kind eyes. She
knew that she could not sleep until she had made her peace with him;
and, though it cost her a great effort to conquer her pride, she said,
humbly,--

"'And if he trespass against thee seven times in a day, and seven
times in a day turn again to thee, saying, I repent,--thou shalt
forgive him.'"

"Yes; but the frequency of the offence renders it difficult to believe
the repentance genuine."

"Christ, your master, did not doubt it."

"I am less than the disciples whom he addressed; and they answered,
'Increase our faith.'"

"You did not pray for me this morning."

"I never neglect my promises. Why do you doubt that I fulfilled them
this morning?"

"This has been one of my sinful days, when Satan runs rough-shod over
all my good intentions, and drags me through the mire that I was
trying to hold my soul far above. I tell you, sir, that the 'unclean
spirit' that vexed the daughter of the Syrophoenician woman was mild,
and harmless, and well-mannered, in comparison with the demon that
takes bodily possession of me, and whose name is not '_Suset_'! but a
fearful _Ruach_ demanding the ban _Cherem_. I once thought all that
part of Scripture which referred to the casting out of devils was
metaphorical; but I know better now; for the one that Luther assaulted
with his inkstand was not more palpable than that which enters into my
heart every now and then, and overturns the altars of the 'true, good,
and beautiful,' and sets up instead a small hall of Eblis, as full of
horrible, mis-shapen things as that hideous 'Last Judgment' of
Orcagna, in the Campo Santo at Pisa, which you once showed me in a
portfolio of engravings. Oh, Dr. Grey! you ought to be merciful to me;
for indeed God gave me a fearfully wicked and cunning spirit for a
perpetual companion and tempter. Even Christ had Lucifer and
Quarantina."

"Yes, and conquered both, and promised assistance to all who earnestly
desire and resolve to follow his example."

"You cannot forgive my rudeness?"

"The act of incivility was very slight; but, my young friend, the
unaccountable perversity of your character certainly fills my mind
with serious apprehension concerning your future. Of course, I can
very readily forgive the occasion that displayed it, but I cannot
entirely forget the spirit that distresses me when I least expect
it."

"If you will dismiss this afternoon from your mind, I will never--"

"Stop! Make me no more promises till you are strong enough to keep
them inviolate. Promise less and pray more; I am not angry, but I am
disappointed."

She drooped her head to avoid his grave, sad gaze, and for a moment
there was silence.

"Dr. Grey, will you shake hands with me, in token of pardon?"

"Certainly, if you wish it."

He took her hand in both of his, pressed it kindly, and said, in a
low, solemn tone,--

"Good-night, Salome. May God guide, and strengthen, and help you to be
the noble woman, the consistent Christian, which only His grace and
blessing can ever enable you to become. Remember the cheering words of
Jean Paul Richter, 'Evil is like the nightmare, the instant you bestir
yourself it has already ended.'"



CHAPTER XIII.


"Ulpian, have you had any conversation with Salome?"

"Upon what subject?"

"Have you talked with her concerning her studies?"

"Not recently. Soon after Muriel and Miss Dexter came, I mentioned to
her the fact that I should be glad to see her enter a class with
Muriel and pursue the same studies, and that such an arrangement
would be entirely agreeable to Miss Dexter; but she declined the
proposition, saying she would only trouble the latter to teach her
Italian. Do you know why she is so anxious to acquire that language?"

"No; to tell you the truth, I know less and less every day about her
actions, for the child has suddenly grown very reserved. This morning
she was walking up and down the library with her hands behind her and
her eyes looking as if they were travelling to Jericho or Jeddo, and
when I asked her why she was so unusually silent, she snapped like a
toy-torpedo, 'I am silent because this is one of my wicked days, and I
am fighting the devil; and if I open my lips I shall say something
that will give him the victory.' I held out my hand to her and begged
her to come and sit by me and tell me what troubled or tempted
her,--and what do you suppose she said?"

"Something, I am afraid, that I shall be sorry to hear you repeat."

"She laid her hand on her heart and answered, 'You are very good, Miss
Jane, but you can no more help me than the disciples could relieve
that wretch whom only Christ healed.' '_This kind goeth not out but by
prayer and fasting._' Whereupon, she snatched a book from the table
and left the room. I did not see her for several hours, and when I met
her in the hall, a few moments since, I said, 'Well, dear, which won
the victory, sin or my little girl?' She put her hands on my
shoulders, laughed bitterly, and answered, 'It was a drawn battle.
Neither has much to boast of, and we lie on our arms watching--nay,
glaring at each other. Let me be quiet a little while, and don't ask
me about it.'"

"Can you conjecture the cause of the present trouble?"

"I have a suspicion."

Miss Jane paused, sighed, and frowned.

"I should think you might persuade her to confide in you."

"Pooh! Persuade her? I would quite as soon undertake to persuade the
Andes to dance a jig as attempt to discover what she has determined
not to divulge. If you knew her as well as I do, you would appreciate
the uselessness of trying to persuade her to do anything. But you men
never see what lies right under your noses, and I believe if you lived
in the same house with that child for five years longer you would
understand her as little as you do to-day. Ulpian, shut the door, and
sit down here close to me."

Dr. Grey complied; and, laying her shrunken hand on her brother's
knee, Miss Jane said, hesitatingly,--

"My dear boy, I don't know whether I ought to tell you, and, indeed, I
do not see my way clearly; but you seem so unsuspecting that I think
it is my duty to talk to you."

"Pray come to the point, dear Janet. Your exordium is very tantalizing.
Tell me frankly what disturbs you."

"It pains me to call your attention to a fact that I know cannot fail
to produce annoyance."

He put his arm around her, and, drawing her head to his shoulder,
answered, tenderly,--

"My precious sister, I have seen for some days that you were perplexed
and anxious, but I abstained from questioning you because I felt
assured whenever you deemed it best to confide in me, you would
voluntarily unburden your heart. Now lay all your troubles upon me,
and keep back nothing. Has Salome grieved you?"

"Oh, the child does not intend to grieve me! Ulpian, can't you imagine
what makes her unhappy, and restless, and contrary?"

"She is very wayward, passionate, and obstinate, and any restraint
upon her whims is peculiarly irksome and intolerable to her; but I
believe she is really striving to correct the unfortunate defects in
her character. She evidently dislikes our guests, and this proves a
continual source of disquiet to her; for, while she endeavors to treat
them courteously, I can see that she would be excessively rude if she
dared to indulge her antipathies."

"Do you know why she dislikes Muriel so intensely?"

"No; I cannot even conjecture. Muriel is very amiable and affectionate,
and seems disposed to become very fond of Salome, if she would only
encourage her advances. Can you explain the mystery?"

"If you were not as blind as a mole, or the fish in Mammoth Cave, you
would see that Salome is insanely jealous of your affection for your
ward, and that is the cause of all the trouble."

"It is unreasonable and absurd in her to entertain such feelings; and,
moreover, she has no right to cherish any jealousy towards my ward."

"Unreasonable! Yes, quite true; but did you ever know a woman to be
very reasonable concerning the man she loves?"

Dr. Grey's quiet face flushed, and he rose instantly, looking
incredulous and embarrassed.

"Surely, my dear sister, you do not intend to insinuate, or desire me
to infer, that Salome has any--"

He paused, bit his lip, and walked to the window.

"I mean to say, in plain Anglo-Saxon, and I desire you to understand,
that Salome is no longer a child; and that she loves you, my dear boy,
better than she will ever love any other human being. These things are
very strange, indeed, and girls' whims baffle all rules and disappoint
all reasonable expectations; but, nevertheless, it does no good to
shut your eyes to facts that are as clear as daylight. It is not a
sudden freak that has seized the poor child; it has grown upon her,
almost without her understanding herself; but I discovered it the day
that you left home so unexpectedly for New York. Her distress betrayed
her real feelings; and, since then, I have watched her, and can see
how completely her thoughts centre in you."

"Oh, Janet, I hope you mistake her! I cannot believe it possible, for
I recall nothing in her conduct that justifies your supposition; and I
do not think I lack penetration. If she were really interested in me,
as you imagine, she certainly would not thrust so prominently and
constantly before me faults of character which she well knows I cannot
tolerate. Moreover, my dear sister, consider the disparity in our
years, the incompatibility of our tastes and habits, and the
improbability that a handsome young girl should cherish any feeling
stronger than esteem or friendship for a staid man of my age! No, no;
it is too incredible to be entertained, and I am sorry you ever
suggested such an annoying chimera to me. Salome is rather a singular
compound, I willingly admit, but I acquit her of the folly you seem
inclined to impute to her."

Dr. Grey walked up and down the library floor, and, as his sister
watched him, a sad smile trembled over her thin, wrinkled face.

"Ulpian, you are considerably younger than our poor father was when
he married a beautiful creature not one month older than Salome is
to-day. Will you sit in judgment on your own young mother?"

"Nay, Janet; the parallelism is not as apparent as you imagine, for my
manner toward Salome has been calculated to check and chill any
sentiment analogous to that which my father sought to win from my
mother. Pray, do not press upon me a surmise which is indescribably
painful to me."

He resumed his seat, and, thrusting his fingers through his hair,
leaned his head on his open hand.

"My dear boy, if true, why should it prove indescribably painful to
you?"

"Cannot your womanly intuitions spare me an explicit reply?"

"No; speak frankly to me."

"No man of honor--no man who has any delicacy or refinement of
feeling--can fail to be distressed and annoyed by the thought that he
has unintentionally and unconsciously aroused in a woman's heart an
interest which he cannot possibly reciprocate."

"But, if you have never considered the subject until now, how do you
know that you may not be able to return the affection?"

"Because, when I examine my own heart, I find not even the germ of a
feeling which years might possibly ripen into love."

"Will you candidly answer the question I am about to ask you?"

"Yes, I think I can safely promise that much, simply because I wish to
conceal nothing from you; and I cannot conjecture any inquiry on your
part from which I should shrink. What would you ask?"

"Is it because you are interested in some other woman, that you speak
so positively of the hopelessness of my poor Salome's case?"

"No, my sister; no woman has any claim or hold on my heart stronger
than that of mere friendship. I have never loved any one as I must
love the woman I make my wife; and since I have seen and merely
admired so many who were attractive, lovely, and lovable, I often
think that I shall probably never marry.

             ... 'For several virtues
  I have liked several women; never any
  With so full a soul, but some defect in her
  Did quarrel with the noblest grace she owned,
  And put it to a foil.'

Of course this is a matter with reference to which I shall not
dogmatize, for we are all more or less the victims of caprice; and,
like other men, I may some day set the imperious feet of fancy upon
the neck of judgment and sound reason. As yet, I have not met the
perfect character whom I could ask to bear my name; still, I may be so
fortunate as either to find my ideal, or imagine that I do; or else
become so earnestly attached to some beautiful woman, that, for her
sake, I will willingly lower my lofty standard. These are the merest
possible contingencies, and I have little inclination to discuss them;
but I wish at all times to be entirely frank with you. Salome would
never suit me as a life-long companion. She meets none of the
requirements of my intellectual nature, and her perverse disposition,
and what might almost be termed _diablerie_, repel instead of
attracting me. I pity the child, and can sympathize cordially with her
efforts to redeem herself from the luckless associations of earlier
years that wofully distorted her character; and I can truly say that I
am interested in her welfare and improvement, and have a faint
brotherly affection for her; but I thoroughly comprehend my own
feelings when I assure you, Janet, that were Salome and I left alone
in the world I could never for a moment entertain the idea of calling
such a wayward child my wife. Are you satisfied?"

"Convinced, at least, that you are not deceiving me. But, Ulpian, the
girl is growing very beautiful--don't you think so?--or, is it my love
that makes me see her through flattering lenses?"

"Her lips are too thin, and her eyes too keen and restless for perfect
beauty, which claims repose as one of its essential elements; but,
notwithstanding these flaws, she has undoubtedly one of the handsomest
faces I have ever seen, and certainly a graceful, fine figure."

"And you are such an admirer of beauty," said Miss Jane, slipping her
fingers caressingly into her brother's hand.

"Yes; I shall not deny that I yield to no one in appreciation of
lovely faces; but, if I am aware that, like some rich crimson June
rose whose calyx cradles a worm, the heart beneath the perfect form is
gnawed by some evil tendency, or shelters vindictive passion and
sinful impulses, I should certainly not select it in making up the
precious bouquet that is to shed perfume and beauty in my home, and
call my thoughts from the din and strife of the outer world to
holiness and peace."

"You have no mercy on the child."

"I ought to have no mercy on glaring faults which she should ere this
have corrected."

"But she is so young--only seventeen! Think of it!"

Dr. Grey frowned, and partially withdrew his hand from his sister's
clasp.

"Janet, you grieve me. Surely you are not pleading with me in behalf
of Salome?"

Tears trickled over Miss Jane's sallow cheeks and dripped on the
doctor's hand, as she replied,--

"Bear with me, Ulpian. The girl is very dear to me; and, loving you as
she unquestionably does, I know that you could make her a noble,
admirable woman,--for she has some fine traits, and your influence
would perfect her character. Believe me, my dear boy, you, and you
only, can remould her heart."

"Possibly,--if I loved her; for then I would be patient and forbearing
towards her faults. But I cannot even respect that handsome, fiery,
impulsive, unreasonable child, much less love her; and, if I ever
marry, my wife must be worthy to remould my own defective life and
erring nature. I am surprised, my dear sister, that you, whose sincere
affection I can not doubt, should be willing to see me link my life
with that of one so much younger, and, I grieve to say it, so far
inferior in all respects. What congenial companionship could I
promise myself? What confidence could I repose--what esteem could I
entertain--for a silly girl, who, without warrant and utterly
unsought, bestows her love (if, indeed, what you say be true) upon a
man who never even dreamed of such folly, and is old enough to be her
father?"

"I can not comprehend the logic that condemns Salome, and justifies
your own mother; for, if there be any difference in their lines of
conduct, I am too stupid to see it."

Miss Jane lifted her head from her brother's shoulder, resolutely
dried her eyes, and settled her cap.

"My mother's tombstone should shelter her from all animadversion,
especially from the lips that owe their existence to her. Do not, my
sister, disturb the mouldering ashes of the long-buried past. The
unfortunate fact you have mentioned, and which I should gladly doubt
if you would only permit me to do so, renders it necessary for me to
be perfectly candid with you, and you will, I trust, pardon what I
feel compelled to say to you. I have remarked that you watch me quite
closely whenever I am engaged in conversation with my ward or her
governess, and yesterday, when Muriel came, stood by me, and leaned
her arm on my shoulder, you frowned and looked harshly at the child.
Once for all, let me tell you that there is no more possibility of my
loving Muriel or Edith, than Salome. Of the three, I care most for
Muriel, who looks upon me as her second father, and to whom I am
deeply attached. If I caress the poor, stricken child, and allow her
to approach me familiarly, you ought to understand your brother
sufficiently well not to ascribe his conduct to any feeling which he
would blush to confess to his sister. The day before Horace died, he
said, 'Be a father to my daughter; take my place when I am gone.' If I
were at liberty to divulge some matters confided to me, I could easily
assure you that there is not a shadow of possibility that Muriel will
ever grieve and mortify me as Salome has done. Now look at me, dear
Janet, and kiss me, and trust your brother; for he will never deceive
you, and can not endure a moment's estrangement from you."

Miss Jane put up her lips for the caress, and, after a short silence,
Dr. Grey continued,--

"Tell me now what you think best under the circumstances, and I will
endeavor to coöperate with you. Does Salome know you are cognizant of
her weakness--her misfortune--"

He stammered, and again his face flushed.

"Upon my word, Ulpian, you are positively blushing! Don't worry
yourself, dear, over what can not be helped, or at least is
attributable to no fault of yours. No; you may be sure Salome would be
drawn, quartered, and broiled, before she would confess to me the
feeling which she does not suspect I have discovered. Poor thing! I
can't avoid pitying her whenever you take Muriel's hand or caress her
in any way. This morning you smoothed the hair back from her forehead
while she was stooping over her drawing, and poor Salome's eyes
flashed and looked like a leopard's. She clenched her fingers as if
she were strangling something, and an expression came over her face
that was dangerous, and made me shiver a little. Something must be
done; but I am sure I do not know what to advise."

"How futile and mocking are merely human schemes! My principal object
in bringing Muriel and Miss Dexter here, was to provide agreeable and
improving companions for your pet and to afford her the privilege of
sharing the educational advantages which Muriel enjoyed. _L'homme
propose, et Dieu dispose_, if, indeed, an occurrence so earnestly to
be deplored can be deemed providential. What are her plans relative to
Jessie?"

"If she has matured any, she keeps them shut up in her own heart. Once
she talked freely to me on all subjects, but recently she seems to
avoid acquainting me with her intentions or schemes. Of course,
Ulpian, you know I have always expected to leave her a portion of my
property."

"Certainly, dear Janet; you ought to provide comfortably for the girl
whom you have taught to rely upon your bounty. It would be cruel and
unpardonable to foster hopes that you could not fully realize."

"It was my intention to put into your hands the share I intended for
her, and to leave her also to your care, when I die; but now I know
not what is best. If she could be separated from you, she might divert
her thoughts and become interested in other things or persons; but so
long as you are in the same house I know there will be nothing but
wretchedness and disappointment for her."

After a long pause, during which Dr. Grey looked seriously pained and
perplexed, he said, sorrowfully,--

"You are right in thinking separation would be best; and I will go
away at once--"

"Go where?" exclaimed his sister, grasping his coat-sleeve.

"I will furnish the rooms over my office, and live there. It will be
more convenient for my business; but I dislike to leave you and the
dear old homestead."

"Stuff! You will churn the Atlantic, with the North Pole for a dasher!
Ulpian Grey! come weal come woe, I don't intend to give you up. Here,
right here, you will live while there is breath in my body,--unless
you wish to make me sob it out and die the sooner. Pooh! Salome's
shining eyes can not recompense me for the loss of my boy's blue ones,
and I will not hear of such nonsense as the move you propose. You
know, dear, I can't be here very long at the best, and while God
spares me I want you near me. Besides, the separation of a few miles
would not be worth a thimbleful of chaff; for, of course, Salome would
hear of or see you daily, and the change would amount to nothing but
anxiety and grief on my part. We will think the matter over, and do
nothing rashly. But try to be patient with my little girl; and, for my
sake, Ulpian, do not allow her to suspect that you dream of her
feeling towards you. It is pitiable,--it is distressing beyond
expression; and God knows, if I had thought for an instant that such a
state of things would ever have come to pass, I would have left her in
the poor-house sooner than have been instrumental in bringing such
misery upon her young life. Last night I was suffering so much with my
shoulder that I could not sleep, and I heard the child pacing her room
until after three o'clock. It was useless to question her; for, of
course, she would not confess the real cause, and I did not wish her
to know that I noticed what I could not cure. But, my dearest boy, we
are not to be blamed; so don't look so mortified and grieved. I would
not have opened your unsuspecting eyes if I had not feared that your
ignorance of the truth might increase the trouble, and I knew I could
safely appeal to my sailor-boy's honor. Now you know all, and must be
guided by your own good sense and delicacy in your future course
toward the poor, proud young thing. Be guarded, Ulpian, and don't
torment her by petting Muriel in her presence; for sometimes I am
afraid there is bad blood in her veins, that brings that wicked glow
to her eyes, and I dread that she might suddenly say or do some
desperate thing that would plunge us all in sorrow. You know she is
not a meek creature, and we must pity her weakness."

Dr. Grey had grown very pale, and the profound regret printed on his
countenance found expression also in the deepened and saddened tones
of his voice.

"Trust me, Janet! I will do all a man can to rectify the mischief, of
which, God knows, I have been an innocent and entirely unintentional
cause. Salome's course is unwomanly, and lowers her in my estimation;
but she is so young I shall hope and pray that her preference for me
is not sufficiently strong to prove more than an idle, fleeting,
girlish fancy."

He took his gloves from the table and left the room; and, for some
time after his departure, his sister sat rocking herself to and fro,
pondering all that had passed. Finally, she struck her hand decisively
upon the cushioned top of her crutch, and muttered,--

"Yes, he certainly is as nearly perfect as humanity can be; but,
after all, Ulpian Grey is only flesh and blood, and despite his
efforts to crush it, there must be some vanity hidden under his proud
humility,--for certainly he is both humble in one sense, and
inordinately proud in another; and I do not believe there lives a
man of his age who would not be flattered by the love of a fresh young
beauty like Salome. He thinks now that he is distressed and
mortified; and, of course, he is honest in what he tells me; but I
have studied human nature to very little purpose for the last fifty
years, if, before long, he does not find himself more interested in
Salome than he will be willing to confess. Her love for him will
invest her with a charm she never possessed before, for men are
vulnerable as women to the cunning advances of flattery. One thing
is as sure and clear as that two and two make four,--if he is proof
against Salome's devotion it will be attributable to the fact that he
gives his heart to some one else; and I thought his blue eyes rather
shied away from mine when he said he had yet to meet the woman he
could marry. You don't intend to deceive me, my precious boy, I
know you don't; but I should not be astounded if you had hoodwinked
yourself,--a very little. But 'sufficient unto the day is the evil
thereof,' and I will wait,--and we shall see what we shall see."



CHAPTER XIV.


"Elsie, it is worse than useless to talk to me. Once I could listen to
you,--once I felt as you do now; but that time has gone by forever. I
will read to you as often as you desire it, provided you do not make
every chapter a text for a sermon. What do you wish to hear this
morning?"

"The fortieth Psalm."

Mrs. Gerome opened the Bible, and, when she had finished the psalm
designated, shut the book and laid it back close to Elsie's pillow.

The old woman placed her hand on the round, white arm of her mistress,
who rested carelessly against the bed.

"You know, my child, that David's afflictions were sore indeed; but he
declares, 'I waited patiently for the Lord, and he inclined unto me,
and heard my cry.' You will not be patient, and God can't help you
till you are. We are like children punished for bad conduct,--as long
as we rebel and struggle, of course we must be still further
chastised; but the moment we show real penitence, our parents notice
that we are bearing correction patiently, and then they throw away the
rod and stretch out their arms, and snatch us close to their loving
hearts. Even so God holds one hand to draw us tenderly to Him; and, if
we are obstinately sinful, with the other He scourges us into the
right path,--determined to help us, even against our own wills. Ah, if
I could see you waiting patiently for the Lord!"

"You will never see it. Patience was 'scourged' out of me, and now I
stand still because I am worn out with struggling, waiting--not
patiently, but wearily and helplessly--to see the end of my
punishment. What have I done that I should feign a penitence I shall
never feel? I was a happy, trusting, unoffending woman, when God smote
me fiercely; and, because I was so innocent, I could not kiss my
stinging rod, I grappled desperately with it. Elsie, don't stir up the
bitter dregs in my soul, and mix them with every thought. Let them
settle."

"My darling, I don't want them to settle. I pray either that they may
be stirred up and taken out, or sweetened by the grace of God. Do you
ever think of the day when you will face your sainted mother?"

"No. I think only of enduring this present life until death, my
deliverer, comes to my rescue."

"But, my bairn, you are not fit to die."

"Fit to die as to live," answered her mistress, morosely.

"For God's sake, don't flout the Almighty in that wicked manner! If
you would only be baptized and take refuge in prayer, as every
Christian should, you would find peace for your poor, miserable
soul."

"No; peace can't be poured out of a pitcher with the baptismal water;
and all the waves tossing and glittering out there in the ocean could
not wash one painful memory from my heart. I have had one baptism, and
it was ample and thorough. I went down into the waters of woe, and all
their black billows broke over me. Instead of the Jordan, I was
immersed in the Dead Sea, and the asphaltum cleaves to me."

"Oh, dearie, you will break my heart! I wish now that you had died
when you were only fourteen months old, for then there would have been
one more precious lamb in the flock of the Good Shepherd, safe in
heavenly pastures--one more dear little golden head nestling on
Jesus' bosom,--instead of--of--"

Elsie's emotion mastered her voice, and she sobbed convulsively.

"Why did not you finish? 'Instead of a gray head waiting to go down
into the pit of perdition.' Yes, it was a terrible blunder that I was
not allowed to die in my infancy; but it can't be helped now, and I
wish you would not fret yourself into a fever over the irremediable.
Why will you persist in tormenting yourself and me about my want of
resignation and faith, when you know that exhortation and persuasion
have no more effect upon me than the whistle of the plover down yonder
in the sedge and seaweed,--where I heartily wish I were lying, ten
feet under the shells? Rather a damp pillow for my fastidious, proud
head, but, at least, cool and quiet. Calm yourself, my dear Elsie, for
God will not hold you responsible if I miss my place among the saints,
when He divides the sheep from the goats, in the last day,--_Dies iræ
dies illa_. Let me straighten your pillow and smooth your cap-border,
for I see your doctor coming up the walk. There,--dry your eyes. When
you want me, send Robert or Katie to call me."

Mrs. Gerome leaned over the helpless, prostrate form on the bed,
pressed her cheek against that of her nurse, where tears still
glistened, and glided swiftly out of the room just before Dr. Grey
entered.

Never had he seen his patient so completely unnerved; but, observing
her efforts to compose herself, he forbore any allusion to an
agitation which he suspected was referable to mental rather than
physical causes. Bravely the stubborn woman struggled to steady her
voice, and still the twitching tell-tale muscles about her mouth; but
the burden of anxiety finally bore down all resolves, and, covering
her face with her broad hand, she wept unrestrainedly.

In profound silence Dr. Grey sat beside her for nearly five minutes;
then, fearful that the excitement might prove injurious, he said,
gently,--

"I hope you are not suffering so severely from bodily pain? What
distresses you, my good woman? Perhaps, if I knew the cause, I might
be able to render you some service."

"It is not my body,--that, you know, is numb, and gives me no
pain,--but my mind! Doctor, I am suffering in mind, and you have no
medicine that can ease that."

"Possibly I may accomplish more than you imagine is within reach of my
remedies. Of one thing you may rest assured,--you will never have
reason to regret any confidence you may repose in me."

"Dr. Grey, I believe you are a Christian; at least, I have heard so;
and, since my affliction, I have been watching you very closely, and
begin to think I can trust you. Are you a member of the church?"

"I am; although that fact alone should not entitle me to your
confidence. We are all erring, and full of faults, but I endeavor to
live in such a manner that I shall not bring disgrace upon the holy
faith I profess."

"Shut the door, and come back to me."

He bolted the door, which stood ajar, and resumed his seat.

"Dr. Grey, I know as well as you do that I can't last a great while,
and I ought to prepare for what may overtake me any day. I have tried
to live in accordance with the law of God, and I am not afraid to die;
but I am afraid to leave my mistress behind me. When I am gone there
will be no one to watch over and plead with her, and I dread lest her
precious soul may be lost. She won't go to God for herself, or by
herself, and who will pray for her salvation when I am in my shroud?
Oh, I can not die in peace, leaving her alone in the world she hates
and despises! What will become of my poor, bonnie bairn?"

Elsie sobbed aloud, and Dr. Grey asked,--

"Has Mrs. Gerome no living relatives?"

"None, sir, in America. There are some cousins in Scotland, but she
has never seen them, and never will."

"Where are the members of her husband's family?"

A visible shudder crept over that portion of the woman's body which
was not paralyzed, and her face grew dark and stern.

"He was an orphan."

"His loss seems to have had a terrible effect upon Mrs. Gerome, and
rendered her bitter and hopeless."

"How hopeless, none but she and I and the God above us know. Once she
was the meekest, sweetest spirit, that ever gladdened a nurse's heart,
and I thought the world was blessed by her coming into it; but now she
is sacrilegious and scoffing, and almost dares the Lord's judgments.
Dr. Grey, it would nearly freeze your blood to hear her sometimes.
Poor thing! she will have no companions, and so has a habit of talking
to herself, and I often hear her arguing with the Almighty about her
life, and the trouble He allowed to fall into it. Last night she was
walking there under my window, begging God to take her out of the
world before I die. Begging, did I say? Nay,--demanding. My precious,
pretty bairn!"

"Elsie, be candid with me. Is not Mrs. Gerome partially deranged?"

She struggled violently to raise herself, but failing, her head fell
back, and she lifted her finger angrily.

"No more deranged than you or I. That is a vile slander of busybodies
whom she will not receive, and who take it for granted that no lady in
her sound senses would refuse the privilege of gossiping with them.
She is as sane as any one, though there is an unnatural appearance
about her, and if her heart was only as sound as her head I could die
easily. They started the report of craziness long, long ago, in order
to get hold of her fortune; but it was too infamous a scheme to
succeed."

Elsie's strong white teeth were firmly set, and her clenched fingers
did not relax.

"Who started the report of her insanity?"

"One who injured her, and made her what you see her."

"She had no children?"

"Oh, no! Once I begged her to adopt a pretty little orphan girl we saw
in Athens, but she ridiculed me for an old fool, and asked me if I
wished to see her warm a viper to sting what was left of her heart."

"Mrs. Gerome has indulged her grief for her husband's loss, until she
has become morbidly sensitive. She should go into the world, and
interest herself in benevolent schemes; and, ultimately, her diseased
thoughts would flow into new and healthful channels. The secluded life
she leads is a hotbed for the growth of noxious fungi in heart and
mind. If you possess any influence over her, persuade her to re-enter
society. She is still young enough to find not only a cure for her
grief, but an ample share of even earthly happiness."

Elsie sighed, and waved her hand impatiently.

"You do not know all, or you would understand that in this world she
can not expect much happiness. Besides, she is peculiarly sensitive
about her appearance; and, of course, when she is seen, people stare,
and wonder how such a young thing got that pile of white hair. That is
the reason she quit travelling and shut herself up here."

"Was it grief that prematurely silvered her hair?"

"Yes, sir; it was as black as your coat, until her trouble came; and
then in a fortnight it turned as gray as you see it now. Doctor, I
said she was not deranged, and I spoke truly; but sometimes I have
feared that, when I am gone, she might get desperate, and, in her
loneliness, destroy herself. You are a sensible man, and can hold your
tongue, and I feel that I can trust you. Now, I know that Robert loves
her, and while he lives will serve her faithfully; but you are wiser
than my son, and I should be better satisfied if I left her in your
charge, when I go home. Will you promise me to take care of her, and
to try to comfort her in the day when she sees me buried?"

"Elsie, you impose upon me a duty which I am afraid Mrs. Gerome will
not allow me to discharge; and, since she is so exceedingly averse to
meeting strangers, I should not feel justified in thrusting myself
into her presence."

"Not even to prevent a crime?"

"I hope that your excited imagination and anxious heart exaggerate the
possibility of the danger to which you allude."

"No; exaggeration is not one of my habits, and I know my mistress
better than she knows herself. She thinks that suicide is not a sin,
but says it is cowardly; and she utterly detests and loathes
cowardice. Dr. Grey, I could not rest quietly in my coffin if she is
left alone in this dreary house, after I am carried to my long home.
Will you stay here awhile, or take her to your house,--at least for a
short time?"

"I will, at all events, promise to comply with your wishes as fully as
she will permit. But recollect that I am comparatively a stranger to
her, and her haughty reception of me the day I was compelled to come
here on your account, does not encourage me to presume in future.
Respect for her wishes, however unreasonable, and respect for myself,
would forbid an intrusion on my part."

"If you saw an utter stranger drowning, would fear of being considered
presumptuous or impertinent prevent your trying to save him? Your
self-love should not hold you back from a Christian duty."

"And you may rest assured that it never shall, when I feel that
interference--no matter how unwelcome or ungraciously received--will
prove beneficial. But remember that your mistress is eccentric and
shrinking, and all efforts to befriend her must be made very
cautiously."

"True, doctor; yet sometimes, instead of consulting her, it is best
to treat her as a wilful child. I believe you could obtain some
influence over her if you would only try to break the ice, because
she has spoken kindly of you several times since I have been so
helpless, and asked what she could do to show her gratitude for
your goodness to me. Yesterday she said she intended to direct
Robert to take some fine fruit to your house, and she remarked
that your eyes were, in comparison with other folks', what Sabbath is
to working week-days,--were so full of rest, that tired anxious
people might be refreshed by looking at them. Sir, that is more than I
have heard her utter for seven years about anybody; and, therefore, I
think you might do her some good."

Dr. Grey shook his head, but remained silent; and presently Elsie
touched his arm, and continued,--

"There is something I wish to say to you before I die, but not now. I
want you to promise me that when you see my end is indeed at hand,
you will tell me in time to let me talk a little to you. Will you?"

"You may linger for months, and it is possible that you may die quite
suddenly; consequently, it might be impracticable for me to fulfil the
promise you require. Still, if I can do so, I will certainly comply
with your wishes. Would it not be better to tell me at once what you
desire me to know?"

"While I live it is not necessary that any one should know, and it is
only when I am about to die that I shall speak to you. For my sake,
for humanity's sake, try to become acquainted with my mistress and
make her like you, as she certainly will, if she only knows you."

A tap at the door interrupted the conversation, and soon after, Dr.
Grey quitted the sick-room.

He paused in the hall to examine a fine copy of Landseer's "Old
Shepherd's Chief Mourner," and, while he stood before it, a large
greyhound started up from the mat at the front door, and bounded
towards him. Simultaneously Mrs. Gerome appeared at the threshold of
the parlor.

"Come here, sir! Poor fellow, come here!"

The dog obeyed her instantly; and, pressing close to her, looked up
wistfully in her face.

"Good morning, Mrs. Gerome. I must thank you for coming so promptly to
my assistance. I have never seen this dog until to-day, and,
consequently, was not on my guard."

"He arrived only yesterday, and is so overjoyed to be with me once
more that he allows no one else to approach."

"He is by far the handsomest dog I have ever seen in America."

"Yes, I had great difficulty in obtaining him. My agent assures me
that he belongs to the best that are reared in the tribe of Beni Lam;
and that he is a genuine Arab, there can be no doubt."

"How long have you owned him?"

"Two years. Unfortunately he was bitten by a snake one day while
wandering with me among the ruins at Pæstum, and was so singularly
affected that I was forced to leave him at Naples. Various causes
combined to delay his restoration to me until last week, when he
crossed the Atlantic; and yesterday he went into ecstasies when I
received him from the express agent. Hush! no growling! Down, sir!
Take care, Dr. Grey; he will bear no hand but mine, and it is rather
dangerous to caress him, as you may judge from the fangs he is showing
you."

The dog was remarkably tall, silky, beautifully formed, and of a soft
mole-color; and around his neck a collar formed of four small silver
chains, bore an oval silver plate on which was engraved in German
text, "_Ich Dien--Agla Gerome_."

"I congratulate you upon the possession of such a treasure," said
the visitor, with unfeigned admiration,--as, with the eye of a
_connoisseur_, he noted the fine points about the sleek, slim
animal, who eyed him suspiciously.

"Thank you. How is Elsie to-day?"

"More nervous than I have seen her since the accident, and some of her
symptoms are rather discouraging, though there is no immediate danger.
Do not look so hopeless; she may be spared to you for many months."

"Why will you not let me hope that she may ultimately recover?"

"Because it is utterly futile, and I have no desire to deceive you,
even for an instant. Good morning, Robert."

The gardener approached with a large basket filled with peaches and
nectarines, and, taking off his hat, bowed profoundly.

"My mistress ordered these placed in your buggy, as I believe our
nectarines ripen earlier than any others in the neighborhood."

"Thank you, Maclean. Mrs. Gerome is exceedingly kind, and I have an
invalid sister who will enjoy this beautiful fruit. Those nectarines
would not disgrace Smyrna or Damascus, and are the first of the
season."

Robert passed through the hall, bearing the basket to the buggy; and
at that instant there was a startling crash, as of some heavy article
falling in the parlor. The dog sprang up with a howl, and Dr. Grey
followed Mrs. Gerome into the room to ascertain the cause of the
noise. A glance sufficed to explain that a picture in a heavy frame
had fallen from a hook above the mantelpiece, and in its descent
overturned some tall vases, which now lay shattered on the hearth. Dr.
Grey lifted the painting from the rubbish, and, as he turned the
canvas towards the light, Mrs. Gerome said,--

"'_Une tristesse implacable, une effroyable fatalité pèse sui l'oeuvre
de l'artiste. Cela ressemble à une malediction amère, lancée sur le
sort de l'humanité._' There is, indeed, some fatality about that copy
of Durer's 'Knight, Death, and the Devil,' which seems really
ill-omened, for this is the second time it has fallen. Thank you, sir.
The frame only is injured, and I will not trouble you to remove it.
Let it lean against the grate, until I have it rehung more securely."

"It is too grim a picture for these walls, and stares at its
companions like the mummy at Egyptian banquets."

"On the contrary, it impresses me as grotesque in comparison with
Durer's 'Melancholy,' yonder, or with Holbein's 'Les Simulachres de la
mort.'"

"Durer's figure of 'Melancholy' has never satisfied me, and there is
more ferocity than sadness in the countenance, which would serve quite
as well for one of the Erinney hunting Orestes, even in the adytum at
Delphi. The face is more sinister than sorrowful."

"Since your opinion of that picture coincides so entirely with mine,
tell me whether I have successfully grasped Coleridge's dim ideal."

Mrs. Gerome drew from a corner of the rear room an easel containing a
finished but unframed picture; and, gathering up the lace curtain
drooping before the arch, she held the folds aside, to allow the light
to fall full on the canvas.

"Before you examine it, recall the description that suggested it."

"I am sorry to say that my recollection of the passage is exceedingly
vague and unsatisfactory. Will you oblige me by repeating it?"

"Excuse me; your hand is resting upon the book, which is open at the
fragment."

Dr. Grey bowed, and, lifting the volume from the table glanced
rapidly over the lines designated, then turned to the picture, where,
indeed,

  "Stretched on a mouldering abbey's broadest wall,
    Where ruining ivies propped the ruins steep,
  Her folded arms wrapping her tattered pall,
    Had Melancholy mused herself to sleep.
  The fern was pressed beneath her hair,
  The dark green adder's tongue was there;
  And still as past the flagging sea-gale weak,
  The long, lank leaf bowed fluttering o'er her cheek.
    That pallid cheek was flushed; her eager look
  Beamed eloquent in slumber! Inly wrought,
    Imperfect sounds her moving lips forsook,
  And her bent forehead worked with troubled thought."

The beautiful face of the reclining figure was dreamily hopeless and
dejected, yet pathetically patient; and, in the strange amber light
reflected from a sunset sea, the fringy shadow of a cluster of
fern-leaves seemed to quiver over the pale brow and still mouth, and
floating raven hair, where the green snake glided with crest erect and
forked tongue within an inch of one delicate, pearly ear. The gray
stones of the lichen-spotted wall, the graceful sweep of the shrouding
drab drapery, whose folds clung to the form and thence swung down from
the edge of the rocky battlement, the mouldering ruins leaning against
the quiet sky in the rear, and the glassy stretch of topaz-tinted sea
in the foreground, were all painted with pre-Raphaelite exactness and
verisimilitude, and every detail attested the careful, tender study,
with which the picture had been elaborated.

Was it by accident or design that the woman on the painted wall bore a
vague, mournful resemblance to the owner and creator? Dr. Grey glanced
from Durer's "Melancholy" to the canvas on the easel; then his
fascinated eyes dwelt on the dainty features of the artist, and he
thought involuntarily of another Coleridgean image,--of the "pilgrim
in whom the spring and the autumn, and the melancholy of both, seemed
to have combined."

"Mrs. Gerome, in this wonderful embodiment of Coleridge's fragmentary
ideal you have painted your own portrait."

"No, sir. Look again. My 'Melancholia' has a patient face, hinting of
possible peace. When I design its companion, 'Desolation,' I may be
pardoned if my canvas reflects what always fronts it."

"May I ask when you wrought out this extraordinary conception?"

"During the past month. The last touch was given this morning, and the
paint is not yet dry on that cluster of purplish seaweed clinging to
the base of the battlement. Last night I dreamed that Coleridge stood
looking over my shoulder and while I worked he touched the sea, and it
flushed a ruby red brighter than laudanum; and then he leaned down,
and with a pencil wrote _Dele_ across the fragment in his Sibylline
Leaves.' To-day I tried the effect of the hint, but the amber water
mellows the woman's features, and the ruby light rendered them sullen
and rigid."

"Were I to judge from the _bizarre_ themes that you select, I should
be tempted to fear that the wizard spell of opium evoked some of these
strangely beautiful creations of your brush. What suggested this
picture?"

"You merely wish to complete your diagnosis of my psychological
condition? If so, there is no reason why I should hesitate to tell you
that while I was playing one of Chopin's _Nocturnes_ the significance
of the Polish '_Zäl_' perplexed me. In striving to analyze it,
Coleridge's 'Melancholy' occurred to my mind, and teased and haunted
me until I wrought it out palpably. My work there means more than his
fragment, and includes something which I suppose Chopin meant by that
insynonymous word '_Zäl_.'"

Standing under the arch, with one hand holding back the lace drapery,
the other hanging nerveless at her side, she looked as weird as any of
her ideal creations; and, in the greenish seashine breaking through
the dense foliage of the trees about the house, her wan face, snowy
muslin dress, and floating white ribbons, seemed unsubstantial as the
figures on the wall. To-day there was no spot of color in face or
dress, save the azure gleam of the large, brilliant ring, on her
uplifted hand; and, as Dr. Grey scrutinized her appearance, he found
it difficult to realize that blood pulsed in that marble flesh, and
warm breath fluttered in that firm, frigid mouth. Glancing around the
rooms, he said,--

"Solitude is indeed a misnomer for a home peopled with such creations
as adorn these walls."

"No. Have you forgotten the definition of Epictetus? '_To be
friendless is solitude._'"

"I hope, madam, that you may never find yourself in that unfortunate
category, and certainly there are--"

"Sir, I know what Michael Angelo felt when he wrote from Rome, 'I have
no friends; I need none.'"

She interrupted him with an indescribably haughty gesture, and an
anomalous spasm of the lips that belonged to no known class of
smiles.

"On the contrary, Mrs. Gerome, the hunger for true friends has
rendered you morose and cynical."

He did not shrink from the wide eyes that flashed like blue steel in
moonshine; and as his own, calm, steady, and magnetic, dwelt gravely
on her face, he fancied she winced, slightly.

"No, sir. When I hunt or recognize friends, I shall borrow Diogenes'
lantern. Good morning, Dr. Grey."

"Pardon me if I detain you for a moment to inquire who taught you to
paint."

"The absolute necessity of self-forgetfulness."

"But you surely had some tuition in the art?"

"Yes; I had the usual boarding-school privilege of a master for
perspective, and pastel. Dr. Grey, have you been to Europe?"

"Yes, madam; on several occasions."

"You visited Dresden?"

"I did."

"Step forward a little,--there. Now, sir, do you know that painting
hanging over my _escritoire_?"

"It is Ruysdael's 'Churchyard,' and, from this distance, seems a
remarkably fine copy of that sombre, desolate, ghoul-haunted
picture."

"Thank you. That is the only piece of work of which I feel really
proud. Some day, when the light is pure and strong, come in and
examine it. Now there is a greenish tinge over all things in the room
thrown by sea-shimmer through the clustering leaves. Ah, what a long,
low, presageful moan that was, which broke from foaming lips, on
yonder strand!"

"Good morning, Mrs. Gerome. The inspection of your pictures has
yielded me so much pleasure that I must tender you my very sincere
thanks for your courtesy."

She bowed distantly; and, when he reached his buggy, he glanced back
and saw that perfect, pallid face, pressed against the cedar facing of
the oriel, looking seaward. He lifted his hat, but she did not observe
the salute; and, as he drove away, she kept her eyes upon the
murmuring waves, and repeated, as was her habit, the lines that
chanced to present themselves,--

  "Listen! you hear the solemn roar
  Begin, and cease, and then again begin,
  With tremulous cadence, slow, and bring
  The eternal note of sadness in.
  Sophocles, long ago,
  Heard it on the Ægean, and it brought
  Into his mind the turbid ebb and flow
  Of human misery."



CHAPTER XV.


"Miss Dexter, where is Muriel?" asked Dr. Grey, glancing around the
library, where the governess sat sewing, while Salome read aloud a
passage in Ariosto.

"She is not very well, and went up stairs, two hours ago, to rest. Do
you wish to see her immediately?"

"Yes. Call her down."

When the teacher left the room, Dr. Grey approached the table where
Salome sat, and looked over her shoulder.

"I went to the Asylum to-day, and found little Jessie very well, but
quite dissatisfied because you visit her so rarely. You should see her
as often as possible, since she is so dependent upon you for sympathy
and affection."

"I do."

"Miss Dexter gives a flattering report of your aptitude for acquiring
languages, and assures me that you will soon speak Italian fluently."

"Miss Dexter doubtless believes that praise of a pupil reflects credit
on the skill of the teacher. Unfortunately for her flattering estimate
of me, I must disclaim all polyglot proclivities, and have no
intention of eclipsing Mezzofanti, Max Muller, or Giovanni Pico
Mirandola. I needed, for a special purpose, a limited acquaintance
with Italian; and, as I have attained what I desired, I shall not
trouble myself much longer with dictionaries and grammars."

"And that special purpose--"

"Concerns nobody else, consequently I keep it to myself."

He turned from her and advanced to meet his ward, who came rapidly
forward, holding out both hands.

"Doctor, where have you been all day? I did not see you at breakfast
or dinner, and it seems quite an age since yesterday afternoon. You
see I am moping, horribly."

"My dear child, I see you are looking pale and weary, which is overt
and unpardonable treason. I sent for you to ask if it would be
agreeable to you to walk, or drive with me."

"Certainly,--either or both."

She had placed her hands in his, and stood looking up joyfully into
his quiet countenance.

"Get your hat, while I order my buggy brought to the door."

"Thank you, my dear doctor. The very thing I longed for, as I noticed
you riding up the avenue. I never saw you on horseback until to-day.
It is a delightful evening for a drive."

She gaily swung his hands, like a gratified child, and started off
for her hat, but, ere she crossed the threshold, turned back, and,
walking up to her guardian, laid her arm on his shoulder and whispered
something.

He laughed, and put his hand under her chin, saying, as he did so,--

"Little witch! How did you know it?"

Her reply was audible only to the ears for which it was framed, and
she darted away, evidently much happier than she had seemed for many
days.

While awaiting her return, Dr. Grey picked up her sketch-book, and was
examining the contents, when Salome rose and hurried towards the door.
As she passed him, his back was turned, and her muslin dress swept
within reach of his spur, which caught the delicate fabric. She
impatiently jerked the dress to disengage it, but it clung to the
steel points, and a long rent was made in the muslin. With a
half-smothered ejaculation, she tried to wrench herself free, but the
dress only tore across the breadth from seam to seam. Dr. Grey turned,
and stooped to assist her.

"Wait an instant, Salome; you have almost ruined your dress."

He was endeavoring to disentangle the shreds from the jagged edge of
the spur, but she bent down, and, seizing the skirt in both hands,
tore it away, leaving a large fragment trailing from the boot-heel.

"'More haste, less speed.' Patience is better than petulance, my young
friend."

His grave, reproving voice, rendered her defiant; and, with a forced,
unnatural laugh, she bowed, and hurried away, saying, as she looked
over her shoulder,--

"And spurs than persuasion? You mistake my nature."

Dr. Grey had been riding, all the morning, across a broken stretch of
country, where the roads were exceedingly insecure, and, as he removed
the troublesome spur and laid it on the mantelpiece, he folded up the
strip of muslin and put it into his pocket.

"I am waiting for you," cried Muriel, from the hall door.

He sighed, and went to his buggy; but the cloud did not melt from his
brow, for, as he drove off, he noticed Salome's gleaming eyes peering
from the window of her room; and pity and pain mingled in the emotions
with which he recalled his sister's warning words.

"Muriel, here is your letter, and, better still, Gerard will be with
us to-morrow. Diplomatic affairs brought him temporarily to
Washington, and he will spend next week with us. I cordially
congratulate you, my dear child, and hastened home to bring you the
good news, which I felt assured you would prefer to receive without
witnesses."

Muriel's blushing face was bent over her letter; but she put her hand
on her guardian's, and pressed it vigorously.

"A thousand thanks for all your goodness! Gerard writes that it was
through your influence he was enabled to visit Washington; and,
indeed, dear Dr. Grey, we are both very grateful for your kind
interest in our happiness. Even poor papa could not be more
considerate."

"For several days past I have observed that you were unusually
depressed, and that Miss Dexter looked constrained. Are you not
pleasantly situated in my sister's house. Do not hesitate to speak
frankly."

Muriel's eyes filled with tears, and she answered, evasively,--

"Miss Jane is very kind and affectionate."

"Which means that Salome is not."

"Dr. Grey, why does she dislike me so seriously? I have tried to be
friendly and cordial towards her; but she constantly repels me. I
really admire her very much; but I am afraid she positively hates
me."

"No, that is impossible; but she is a very peculiar, and, I am sorry
to be forced to say, an unamiable girl, and is governed by every idle
caprice. I hope that you will not allow yourself to be annoyed by any
want of courtesy which she may unfortunately have displayed. Although
a member of the household, Salome has no right to dispense or to
withhold the hospitalities of my sister's home, or to insult her
guests; and I trust that her individual whims will have no effect
whatever upon you, unless they create a feeling of compassion and
toleration in your kind heart. She has some good traits hidden under
her _brusquerie_, and when you know her better you will excuse her
rudeness."

"Why is she so moody? I have not seen a pleasant smile on her face
since I came here."

"My dear child, let us select some more agreeable topic for
discussion. Gerard will probably arrive on the early train, which will
enable him to breakfast with us to-morrow. He will endeavor to
persuade you to return at once to Europe; but I must tell you, in
advance of his proposal, that I hope you will not yield to his wishes,
since it would grieve me to part with you so soon."

Muriel turned aside her head to avoid her guardian's penetrating gaze,
and silently listened to his counsel concerning the course she should
pursue towards her betrothed.

For a year they had been affianced without the knowledge of her
father, from whom she had been separated; but the frankness with which
both had discussed the matter with Dr. Grey forbade the possibility of
his withholding his approbation of the engagement; though he assured
them he could not consent to its speedy consummation, as Muriel was
too young and childish to appreciate the grave responsibility of such
a step. Gerard Granville was several years older than his betrothed,
and Dr. Grey had been astonished at his choice; but a long and
intimate acquaintance led him to esteem the young man so highly, that,
while he felt that Muriel was far inferior, he strove to stimulate her
ambition, and hoped she would one day be fully worthy of him.

To-day Dr. Grey drove for an hour through quiet, unfrequented country
roads; and finally, when Muriel expressed herself anxious to catch a
glimpse of the sea and a breath of its brine, he turned into a narrow
track that led down to some fishermen's huts on the beach.

While they paused on the edge of the low, yellow strand, and inhaled
the fresh ocean air, Dr. Grey grew silent, and his companion fell
into a blissful reverie relative to to-morrow's events. Suddenly he
placed his hand on her arm, and said, "Listen! What a wonderfully
sweet, flexible voice! Surely, fishermen's wives are not singing
Mendelssohn's compositions? Did you hear that gush of melody? It
comes not from that house, but seems floating from the opposite
direction. Such strains almost revive one's faith in the Hindoo
_Gandharvas_,--musical genii, filling the air with ravishing sounds.
There! is it not exquisite? Hold these reins while I ascertain who
owns that marvellous voice."

Eager and curious as a boy, he sprang from the buggy, and, following
the bend of the beach, passed two small deserted huts, and plunged
into a grove of stunted trees, whence issued the sound that attracted
his attention. Ere he had proceeded many yards he saw a woman sitting
on a bank of sand and oyster-shells, and singing from an open sheet of
music, while she made rapid gestures with one hand. Her face was
turned from him, but, as he cautiously approached, the _pose_ of the
figure, the noble contour of the head and neck, and a certain muslin
dress which matched the strip in his pocket, made his heart beat
violently. Intent only on solving the mystery, he stepped softly
towards her; but just then a brace of plover started up at his feet,
and, as they whirred away, the woman turned her head, and he found
himself face to face with his musician.

"Salome!"

"Well, Dr. Grey."

She had risen, and a beautiful glow overspread her cheeks, as she met
his eyes.

"What brings you to this lonely spot, three miles from home, when the
sun has already gone down?"

"Have I not as unquestionable a right to walk alone to the seaside as
you to drive your ward whithersoever you list? Poverty, as well as
wealth, sometimes makes people strangely independent. What have you
done with Miss Muriel Manton?"

There was such a sparkle in her eyes, such a bright flush on her
polished cheeks and parted lips, that Dr. Grey wondered at her beauty,
which had never before impressed him as so extraordinary.

"Salome, why have you concealed your musical gift from me? Who taught
you to sing?"

"I am teaching myself, with such poor aid as I can obtain from that
miserable vagabond, Barilli, who is generally intoxicated three days
out of every six. Did you expect to find Heine's yellow-haired
Loreley, or a treacherous Ligeia, sitting on a rock, wooing passers-by
to speedy destruction?"

"I certainly did not expect to meet my friend Salome alone at this
hour and place. Child, do not trifle with me,--be truthful. Did you
come here to meet any one?"

"One never knows what may or may not happen. I came here to practise
my music lesson, _sans_ auditors, and I meet Dr. Grey,--the last
person I expected or desired to see."

He came a step nearer, and put his hand on her shoulder.

"Salome, you distress and perplex me. My child, are you better or
worse than I think you?"

She lifted her slender hand and laid it lightly on his, which still
rested upon her shoulder.

"I am both,--better and worse. Better in aim than you believe; worse
in execution than you could realize, even if I confessed all, which I
have not the slightest intention of doing. Ah, Dr. Grey, if you read
me thoroughly, you would not be surprised, or consider it presumptuous
that I sometimes think I am that anomalous creature, whom Balzac
defined as 'Angel through love, demon through fantasy, child through
faith, sage through experience, man through the brain, woman through
the heart, giant through hope, and poet through dreams.'"

As Dr. Grey looked down into the splendid eyes, softened and magnified
by a crystal veil of unshed tears, he sighed, and answered,--

"You are, indeed, a bundle of contradictions. Why have you so
sedulously concealed the existence of your fine voice, which the
majority of girls would have been eager to exhibit?"

"It was not lack of vanity, but excess, that prompted me to keep you
in ignorance, until I could astonish you by its perfection. You have
anticipated me only by a few days, and I intended singing for you next
week."

"It is not prudent for you to venture so far from home, especially at
this hour."

"We paupers are not so fastidious as our lucky superiors, and cannot
afford timid airs, and affectation of extreme nervousness. Having no
escort, and expecting none, I walk alone in any direction I choose,
with what fearlessness and contentment I find myself able to
command."

"It will be dark before you can reach the public road."

"No, sir; there is a young moon swinging above the tree-tops, to light
me on my lonesome ramble; and I come here so often that even the
rabbits and whippoorwills know me. Where is Miss Muriel?"

"Waiting in the buggy, on the beach. I must go back to her."

"Yes. Pray do not delay an instant, or she will imagine that some dire
calamity has befallen her knight, who, in hunting a siren, encountered
Scylla or Charybdis. Good evening, Dr. Grey."

"I am unwilling to leave you here so unprotected. Come and ride with
Muriel, and I will walk beside the buggy. My horse is so gentle that a
child can guide him."

"Thank you. Not for a ten-acre lot in Mohammed's Paradise would I mar
Miss Muriel's happiness, or punish myself by a _tête-à-tête_ with her.
It would be positively 'discourteous' in me to accept your proposal;
and, moreover, I abhor division,--_tout ou rien_."

"Wilful, silly child! It is not proper for you to wander along that
dreary road in the dark. Come with me."

"Not I. Make yourself easy by recollecting that 'naught is never in
danger.' See yonder in the west,--

  'Where, lo! above the sandy sunset rose
  The silver sickle of the green-gowned witch.'"

She laughed lightly, derisively, and collected the sheets of music
scattered on the bank.

Silently Dr. Grey returned to his ward, who exclaimed, at sight of
him,--

"I am glad to see you again, for you stayed so long I was growing
frightened. Did you find the singer?"

"Yes."

"What is the matter? You look troubled and solemn."

"I am merely annoyed by circumstances beyond my control."

"Dr. Grey, who was that sweet singer?"

"Salome Owen."

"How can such a thing be possible, when I have never heard a note from
her lips? You told me she had no musical talent."

"I was not aware that she sang at all, until this afternoon, and your
surprise does not equal mine."

"Where did you find her?"

"Sitting on a mound of sand, singing to the sea."

"Who is with her?"

"No one. I requested her to come with us, and offered to walk beside
my buggy; but she declined. Please be so considerate as to say nothing
about this occurrence, when you reach home; because animadversion only
hardens that poor girl in her whimsical ways. Now we will dismiss the
matter."

Muriel endeavored to render herself an agreeable companion during the
remainder of the drive; but her guardian, despite his efforts to
become interested in her conversation, was evidently _distrait_, and
both felt relieved when they reached Grassmere, where Miss Jane and
the governess welcomed their return.

Dr. Grey dismissed his buggy and entered the hall; but passed through
the house, and, crossing the orchard, followed the road leading
seaward.

Only a few summer stars were sprinkling their silvery rays over the
gray gloom of twilight, and the shining crescent in the violet west
had slipped down behind the silent hills that girded the rough,
winding road.

When Salome put her fingers on the gloved hand which, in the surprise
of their unexpected meeting, Dr. Grey had involuntarily placed on her
shoulder, she had felt that he shrank instantly from her touch, and
withdrew his hand hastily, as if displeased with the familiarity of
the action. All the turbid elements in her nature boiled up. Could it
be possible that he really loved his rosy-faced, bright-eyed,
prattling ward? She set this conjecture squarely before her, and
forced herself to contemplate it. If he desired to marry Muriel, of
course he would do so whenever he chose, and the thought that he might
call her his wife, and give her his name, his caresses, wrung a cry of
agony from Salome's lips. She threw herself on the sand-bank, and,
resting her chin on her folded arms, gazed vacantly across the yellow
strand at the glassy, leaden sea that stared back mockingly at her.

She was too miserable to feel afraid of anything but Dr. Grey's
marriage; and, moreover, she had so often, during the early years of
her life, gone to and fro in the darkness, that she was a stranger to
that timidity which girls usually indulge under similar circumstances.
The fishermen had abandoned the neighboring huts some months before,
and "Solitude," one mile distant, was the nearest spot occupied by
human beings.

She neither realized nor cared that it was growing darker, and, after
awhile, when the sea was no longer visible through the dun haze that
brooded over it, she shut her eyes and moaned.

Dr. Grey had walked on, hoping every moment to meet her returning
home; and, more than once, he was tempted to retrace his steps,
thinking that she might have taken some direct path across the hills,
instead of the circuitous one bending around their base. Quickening
his pace till it matched his pulse, which an indefinable anxiety
accelerated, he finally saw the huts dimly outlined against the starry
sky and quiet sea.

Pausing, he took off his hat to listen to

            "The water lapping on the crag,
  And the long ripple washing in the reeds,"

and, while he stood wiping his brow, there came across the beach,--

  "A cry that shivered to the tingling stars,
  And, as it were one voice, an agony
  Of lamentation, like a wind that shrills
  All night in a waste land, where no one comes,
  Or hath come since the making of the world."

In the uncertain light he ran towards the clump of trees where he had
left Salome, and strained his eyes to discover some moving thing. He
knew that he must be very near the spot, but neither the expected
sound nor object greeted him, and, while he stopped and held his
breath to listen, the silence was profound and death-like. He was
opening his lips to call the girl's name, when he fancied he saw
something move slightly, and simultaneously a human voice smote the
oppressive stillness. She was very near him, and he heard her saying
to herself, with mournful emphasis,--

  "Have I brought Joy, and slain her at his feet?
    Have I brought Peace, for his cold kiss to kill?
  Have I brought youth, crowned with wild-flowers sweet,
    With sandals dewy from a morning hill,
    For his gray, solemn eyes, to fright and chill?
  Have I brought Scorn the pale, and Hope the fleet,
  And First Love, in her lily winding-sheet,--
    And is he pitiless still?"

Dr. Grey knew now that she was not crying. Her hard, ringing, bitter
tone, forbade all thought of sobs or tears; but his heart ached as he
listened, and surmised the application she was making of the
melancholy lines.

Unwilling that she should know he had overheard her, he waited a
moment, then raised his voice and shouted,--

"Salome! Salome! Where are you?"

There was no answer, and, fearing that she might elude him, he
stretched out his arms, and advanced to the spot, which he felt
assured was only a few yards distant.

She had risen, and, standing in the gloom of the coming night,
deepened by the interlacing boughs above her, she felt Dr. Grey's hand
on her dress, then on her head, where the moisture hung heavily in her
thick hair.

"Salome, why do you not answer me?"

Shame kept her silent.

He passed his hand over her hot face, then groped for her fingers,
which he grasped firmly in his.

"Come home with your best friend."

He knew that she was in no mood to submit to reprimand, to appreciate
argument, or even to listen to entreaty, and that he might as
profitably undertake to knead pig-iron as expostulate with her at this
juncture.

For a mile they walked on without uttering a word; then he felt the
fingers relax, twitch, and twine closely around his own.

"Dr. Grey, where is Muriel? Where is your buggy?"

"Both are at home, where others should have been, long ago."

"You walked back to meet me?"

"I did."

"How did you find me, in the dark?"

"I heard your voice."

"But not the words?"

"Why? Are you ashamed for me to hear what any strolling stranger, any
unscrupulous vagabond, might have listened to?"

"It is such a desolate, lonely place, I thought no one would stumble
upon me, and I have been there so often without meeting a living thing
except the crabs and plover."

"You are no longer a child, and such rashness is altogether
unpardonable. What do you suppose my sister would think of your
imprudent obstinacy?"

They walked another mile, and again Salome convulsively pressed the
cool, steady, strong hand, in which hers lay hot and quivering.

"Dr. Grey, tell me the truth,--don't torture me."

"What shall I tell you? You torture yourself."

"Did you hear what I was saying to my own heart?"

"I heard you repeating some lines which certainly should possess no
relevancy for the real feeling of my young friend."

She snatched her fingers from his, and he knew she covered her face
with them.

They reached the gate at the end of the avenue, and Salome stopped
suddenly, as the lights from the front windows flashed out on the
lawn.

"Go in, and leave me."

She threw herself on the sward, under one of the elm-trees, and leaned
her head against its trunk.

"I shall do no such thing, unless you desire the entire household to
comment upon your reckless conduct."

"Oh, Dr. Grey, I care little now what the whole world thinks or says!
Let me be quiet, or I shall go mad."

"No; come into the house, and sing something to compensate me for the
anxiety and fatigue you have cost me. I do not often ask a favor of
you, and certainly in this instance you will not refuse to grant my
request."

She did not reply, and he bent down and softly stroked the hair that
was damp with dew and sea-fog.

The long-pent storm broke in convulsive sobs, and she trembled from
head to foot, while tears poured over her burning cheeks.

"Poor child! Can you not confide in me?"

"Dr. Grey, will you forget all that has passed to-day? Will you try
never to think of it again?"

"On condition that you never repeat the offence."

"You do not despise me?"

"No."

"You pity me?"

"I pity any human being who is so unfortunate as to possess your
wilful, perverse, passionate disposition. Unless you overcome this
dangerous tendency of character, you may expect only wretchedness and
humiliation in coming years. I am sincerely sorry for you, but I tell
you unhesitatingly, that I find it difficult to tolerate your grave
and obtrusive faults."

She raised her clasped hands, and said, brokenly,--

"This is the last time I shall ever ask you to forgive me. Will you?"

"As freely and fully as a grieved brother ever forgave a wayward
sister."

He took the folded hands, lifted her from the grass, and led her to a
side door opening upon the east gallery.

"Dr. Grey, give me one kind word before I go."

The lamp-light from the hall shone full on his pale face, which was
sterner than she had ever seen it, as he forcibly withdrew his hands
from her tight clasp, and, putting her away from him, said, very
coldly,--

"I exhausted my store of kind thoughts and words when I called you my
sister."

He saw that she understood him, for she tried to hide her face, but a
spasm passed over it, and she would have fallen had he not caught her
in his arms and carried her up to her own room.

Stanley was asleep with his head pillowed on his open geography, but
the candle burned beside him, and Dr. Grey placed Salome on a lounge
near the window, and sprinkled her face with water.

Kneeling by the low couch, he rubbed her hands vigorously with some
cologne he found on her bureau; and, watching her pale, beautiful
features, his heart swelled with compassion, and his calm eyes grew
misty. Consciousness very soon returned, and when she saw the noble,
sorrowful countenance, bent anxiously over her, she covered her face
with her hands and moaned rather than spoke,--

"I can't endure your pity. Leave me with my self-contempt and
degradation."

"My little sister, I leave you in God's merciful hands, and trust you
to the guidance of your womanly pride and self-respect. Good-night. We
will not engrave this unfortunate day on our tablets, but forget its
record, save one fact, that for all time it makes me your brother;
and, Salome,--

  "'So we'll not dream, nor look back, dear,
    But march right on, content and bold,
  To where our life sets heavenly clear,--
    Westward, behind the hills of gold.'"



CHAPTER XVI.


"Dr. Grey, who is that beautiful girl to whom Muriel introduced me
this morning? I was so absorbed in admiration of her face that I lost
her name."

As he spoke, Mr. Gerard Granville struck the ashes from his cigar, and
walked up to the table where Dr. Grey was sealing some letters.

"Her name is Salome Owen, and she is my sister's adopted child."

"What is her age, if I may be pardoned such impertinent queries?"

"I believe she has entered her eighteenth year."

"She is a regal beauty, and shows proud blood as plainly as any
princess."

"Take care, Granville; imagination has cantered away with your
penetration. Salome's family were coarse and common, though doubtless
honest people. Her father was a drunken miller, who died in an attack
of delirium tremens, and left his children as a legacy to the county.
I merely mention these deplorable facts to show you that your boasted
penetration is not entirely infallible."

"Miller or millionaire,--the girl would grace any court in Europe, and
only lacks a dash of _aplomb_ to make her irresistible. I have seen
few faces that attracted and interested me so powerfully."

"Yes, she certainly is very handsome; but I do not agree with you in
thinking that she lacks _aplomb_. Granville, if you have finished your
cigar, we will adjourn to the parlor, where the ladies are taking
their tea."

Dr. Grey collected his letters and walked away, followed by his guest;
and, a moment after, a low, scornful laugh, floated in through the
window which opened on the little flower-garden.

Miss Jane had requested Salome to gather the seeds of some apple and
nutmeg geraniums that were arranged on a shelf near the western window
of the library; and, while stooping over the china jars, and screened
from observation by a spreading lilac-bush, the girl had heard the
conversation relative to herself.

Excessive vanity had never been numbered among the faults that marred
her character, but Dr. Grey's indifference to personal attractions,
which strangers admitted so readily, piqued, and thoroughly aroused a
feeling that was destined to bring countless errors and misfortunes in
its train; and, henceforth,--

  "There was not a high thing out of heaven,
  Her pride o'ermastereth not."

Hitherto the love of one man had been the only boon she craved of
heaven; but now, conscious that the darling hope of her life was
crushed and withering under Dr. Grey's relentless feet, she resolved
that the admiration of the world should feed her insatiable hunger,--a
maddening hunger which one tender word from his true lips would have
assuaged,--but which she began to realize he would never utter.

During the last eighteen hours, a mournful change had taken place in
her heart, where womanly tenderness was rapidly retreating before
unwomanly hate, bitterness, and blasphemous defiance; and she laughed
scornfully at the "idiocy" that led her to weary heaven with prayers
for the preservation of a life that must ever run as an asymptote to
her own. How earnestly she now lamented an escape, for which she had
formerly exhausted language in expressing her gratitude; and how much
better it would have been if she could mourn him as dead, instead of
jealously watching him,--living without a thought of her.

All the girlish sweetness and freshness of her nature passed away, and
an intolerable weariness and disappointment usurped its place. Since
her acquaintance with Dr. Grey, he had been her sole _Melek Taous_,
adored with Yezidi fervor; but to-day she overturned, and strove to
revile and desecrate the idol, to whose vacant pedestal she lifted a
colossal vanity. Her bruised, numb heart, seemed incapable of loving
any one, or anything, and a hatred and contempt of her race took
possession of her.

The changing hues of Muriel's tell-tale face when Mr. Granville
arrived, and the excessive happiness that could not be masked, had not
escaped Salome's lynx vision; and very accurately she conjectured the
real condition of affairs, relative to which Dr. Grey had never
uttered a syllable. Bent upon mischief, she had, malice prepense,
dressed herself with unusual care, and arranged her hair in a new
style of coiffure, which proved very becoming.

Now, as the hum of conversation mingled with the sound of Muriel's
low, soft laugh, reached her from the parlor, her chatoyant eyes
kindled, and she hastily went in to join the merry circle.

"Come here, child, and sit by me," said Miss Jane, making room on the
sofa, as her _protégée_ entered.

"Thank you, I prefer a seat near the window."

Dr. Grey sat in a large chair in the centre of the floor, with Muriel
on an ottoman close to him, and Mr. Granville leaned over the back of
the chair, while Miss Dexter shared Miss Jane's old-fashioned ample
sofa. In full view of the whole party, Salome seated herself at a
little distance, and, with admirably assumed nonchalance, began to
enclose and sew up the geranium-seeds, in some pretty, colored paper
bags, prepared for the purpose.

After a few minutes Mr. Granville sauntered across the room, looked at
the cuckoo clock, and finally went over to the window, where he leaned
against the facing and watched Salome's slender white fingers.

She was dressed in a delicate muslin, striped with narrow pink lines,
and flounced at the bottom of the skirt, and wore a ribbon sash of the
same color; while in the broad braids of hair raised high on her head,
she had fastened a superb half-blown Baron Provost rose, just where
two long glossy curls crept down. The puffed sleeves, scarcely
reaching the elbows, displayed the finely rounded white arms, and the
exactness with which the airy muslin fitted her form, showed its
symmetrical outline to the greatest advantage.

Muriel touched her guardian, and whispered,--

"Did you ever see Salome look so beautiful? Her coiffure to-night is
almost Parisian, and how very becoming!"

Dr. Grey was studying the innocent, happy countenance of his
unsuspecting ward, and he could not repress a sigh, when, turning his
eyes towards Salome, he noticed the undisguised admiration in Mr.
Granville's earnest gaze.

A nameless dread made him take Muriel's hand and lead her to the
piano.

"Play something for me. I am music-hungry."

"Is Saul sad to-night?" she asked, smiling up at him.

"A little fatigued and perplexed, and anxious to have his cares
exorcised by the magic of your fingers."

With womanly tact she selected a _fantasia_ which Mr. Granville had
often pronounced the gem of her _repertoire_, and momentarily expected
to hear his whispered thanks; but page after page was turned, and
still her lover did not approach the piano, where Dr. Grey stood with
folded arms and slightly contracted brows. Muriel played brilliantly,
and was pardonably proud of her proficiency, which Mr. Granville had
confessed first attracted his attention; and to-night, when the piece
was concluded and she commenced a _Polonaise_, she looked over her
shoulder hoping to meet a grateful, fond glance. But his eyes were
riveted on the fair rosy face at his side, and his betrothed bit her
pouting lip and made sundry blunders.

As she rose from the piano-stool, Mr. Granville exclaimed,--

"Miss Muriel, you love music so well that I trust you will add your
persuasions to mine, and induce Miss Owen to sing for us, as she
declares she is comparatively a tyro in instrumental music, and would
not venture to perform in your presence."

"She has never sung for me, but I hope she will not refuse your
request. Salome, will you not oblige us?"

Muriel's eyes were dim with tears, but her sweet voice did not
falter.

"I was not aware that you sang at all," said Miss Dexter, looking up
from a mat which she was crocheting.

"She has a fine voice, but is very obstinate in declining to use it.
Come, Salome, don't be childish, dear. Sing something," coaxed Miss
Jane.

The girl waited a few seconds, hoping that another voice would swell
the general request, but the lips she loved best were mute; and,
suddenly tossing the paper bags from her lap, she rose and moved
proudly to the piano.

"Miss Manton, will you or Miss Dexter be so kind as to play my
accompaniment for me? I am neither Liszt, nor Thalberg, and the vocal
gymnastics are all that I can venture to undertake."

Muriel promptly resumed her seat before the instrument, and played the
symphony of an aria from "Favorite," which Salome placed on the
piano-board. Barilli had assured her that she rendered this fiery
burst of rage and hatred as well as he had ever heard it; and, folding
her fingers tightly around each other she drew herself up to her full
height, and sang it.

Mr. Granville leaned against the piano, and Dr. Grey was standing in
the recess of the window when the song began, but ere long he moved
forward unconsciously and paused, with his hand on his ward's shoulder
and his eyes riveted in astonishment on Salome's countenance. She knew
that the approbation and delight of this small audience was worth all
the _encore_ shouts of the millions who might possibly applaud her in
future years; and if ever a woman's soul poured itself out through her
lips, all that was surging in Salome's heart became visible to the man
who listened as if spell-bound.

Miss Jane grasped her crutches, and rose, leaning upon them, while a
look of mingled joy and wonder made her sallow face eloquent; and Miss
Dexter dropped her ivory needle, and gazed in amazement at the singer.
Muriel forgot her chords,--turned partially around, and watched in
breathless surprise the marvelous execution of several difficult
passages, where the rich voice seemed to linger while improvising
sparkling turns and trills that were strangely intricate, and
indescribably sweet.

As she approached the close of her song, Salome became temporarily
oblivious of pride, wounded vanity, and murdered hopes,--forgot all
but the man at her side, for whose commendation she had toiled so
patiently, and turning her flushed, radiant face, toward him, her
magnificent eyes aflame with triumph looked appealingly up at his, and
her hands were extended till they rested on his arm.

So the song ended, and for a moment the parlor was still as a tomb.
Dr. Grey silently enclosed the girl's two hands in his, and, for the
first time since she had known him, Salome saw tears swimming in his
grave, beautiful eyes, and noticed a slight tremor on his usually
steady lips.

"There is nothing in the old world or the new comparable to that
voice, and I flatter myself I speak _ex cathedra_. Miss Owen, you will
soon have the public at your feet."

She did not heed Mr. Granville's enthusiastic eulogy. She saw nothing
but Dr. Grey's admiring eyes,--felt nothing but the close warm clasp,
in which her folded fingers lay,--and her ears ached for the sound of
his deep voice.

"Salome, I shall not soon forgive you for keeping me in ignorance of
the existence of the finest voice it has ever been my good fortune to
hear. Knowing your adopted brother's fondness for music, how could you
hoard your treasure so parsimoniously, denying him such happiness as
you might have conferred?"

He untwined her fingers, which clung tenaciously to his, and saw that
the blood ebbed out of cheeks and lips as she listened to his
carefully guarded language. Silently she obeyed Miss Jane's summons to
the sofa.

"You perverse witch! Where have you been practising all these months,
that have made you such a wonderful cantatrice? Child, answer me."

"I did not wish to annoy the household by thrumming on the piano and
afflicting their ears with false flat scales, consequently I followed
the birds, and rehearsed with them, under the trees, and down on the
edge of the sea. If you like my voice I am glad, because I have
studied to perfect it."

"Like it, indeed! As if I could avoid liking it! But you must have had
good training. Who taught you?"

"I took lessons from Barilli."

"Aha,--Ulpian! Now you can understand how he contrives to feed his
family. Salome's sewing-money explains it all. Kiss me, dear. I always
believed there was more in you than came to the surface."

"Miss Owen ought to go upon the stage. Such gifts as hers belong to
the public, who would soon crown her queen of song."

Salome glanced at the handsome stranger, and bowed.

"It is my purpose, sir, to dedicate myself and future to the Opera,
where I trust I shall not utterly fail, as I have been for a year
studying with reference to this step."

A bomb-shell falling in that quiet circle, would scarcely have
startled its members more effectually; and, anxious to avoid comment,
Salome quitted the parlor and ran out on the lawn.

After awhile she heard Muriel's skilful touch on the piano, and, when
an hour had elapsed, the echo of voices died away, and soon a profound
silence seemed to reign over the house.

The hot blood was coursing thick and fast in her veins, and evil
purposes brooded darkly over her oppressed and throbbing heart. She
was thoroughly cognizant of the intense admiration with which Mr.
Granville regarded her, and to-night she had compared his handsome
face with the older, graver, and less regular features of Dr. Grey,
and wondered why the latter was so much more fascinating. Her beauty
transcended Muriel's, and it would prove an easy task to supplant her
in the affections of her not very ardent lover. Life in Paris, spiced
with the political intrigues incident to diplomatic circles, would
divert her thoughts, and might possibly make the coming years
endurable. Was the game worth the candle? No thought of Muriel's
misery entered for an instant into this entirely sordid calculation,
or would have deterred her even momentarily, had it presented itself
in expostulation. The girl's heart had suddenly grown callous, and her
hand would have ruthlessly smitten down any object that dared to cross
her path, or retard the accomplishment of her schemes. Weary at last
of pacing the dim starlit avenue, and yet too wretched to think of
sleeping, she re-entered the house, and cautiously locking the door,
threw herself into a corner of the parlor sofa, which stood just
beneath the portrait she so often studied.

If she had not at this juncture been completely absorbed in gazing
upon it, she might have seen the original, who soon rose and came
forward from the shadow of the curtains.

"Salome, I wish to make you my confidante,--to tell you something
which I have not yet mentioned even to Janet. Can I trust you, little
sister?"

Resting against the arm of the sofa, he looked intently into her face,
reading its perturbed lines.

"I presume you are amusing yourself by tantalizing my curiosity, as
your experiments appear to have thoroughly satisfied you that I am
utterly unworthy of trust. I follow the flattering advice you were so
kind as to give me some time since, and make no promises, which
shatter like crystal under the hammer of the first temptation. You
see, sir, you are teaching me to be cautious."

"You are teaching yourself lessons in dissimulation and maliciousness,
that you will heartily rue some day, but your repentance will come too
tardily to mend the mischief."

She tried to screen her countenance, but he was in no mood for
trifling, and putting his palm under her chin, forced her to submit to
his scrutiny.

"Salome, if I did not cherish a strong faith in the latent generosity
of your soul, I would not come to you as I do now to offer confidence,
and demand it in return."

She guessed his meaning, and her eyes glowed with all the baleful
light that he had hoped was extinguished forever.

"Dr. Grey makes a grace of necessity, and a pretence of confiding that
which has ceased to be a secret. Is such his boasted candor and
honesty?"

"If I believed that you were already acquainted with what I propose
to divulge, I would not fritter away my time in appealing to a
nobility of feeling which that fact alone would prove the hopelessness
of my ever finding in you."

He felt her face grow hot, and for an instant her eyes drooped before
his, stern and almost threatening.

"Well, sir; I wait for your confidential disclosures. Is there a Guy
Fawkes, or Titus Oates, plotting against the peace and prosperity of
the house of Grey?"

"Verily I am disposed to apprehend that there may be."

She endeavored to wrench her face from his hand, but he held it
firmly, and continued,--

"I wish to say to you that Muriel is very sensitive, and I hope that
during Mr. Granville's visit, you will try to be as considerate and
courteous as possible, to both. Salome, Gerard Granville has asked
Muriel to be his wife, and she has promised to marry him at the
expiration of a year."

The girl laughed derisively, and exclaimed,--

"Pray, Dr. Grey, be so good as to indulge me with your motive in
furnishing this piece of information?"

"Your astuteness forbids the possibility of any doubt with reference
to my motives,--which are, explicitly, anxiety for Muriel's happiness,
and for the preservation of your integrity and self-respect."

"What jeopardizes either?"

"Your heartless, contemptible vanity, which tempts you to demand a
homage and incense that should be offered only where it is due,--at
another, and I grieve to add, a purer shrine."

"Ah! My unpardonable sin consists in having braided my black locks,
and made myself comely! If you will procure an authentic portrait of
the Witch of Endor, I will do proper penance by likening my appearance
thereunto. Poor little rose! Can't you open your pink lips and cry
_peccavi_? Come down, sole ally and accomplice of my heinous vanity,
and plead for me, and make the _amende honorable_ to this grim
guardian of Miss Muriel's peace!"

She snatched the drooping rose from her hair, and tossed it at his
feet.

"Salome, you forget yourself!"

His stern displeasure rendered her reckless, and she continued,--

"True, sir. I did forget that the poor miller's child had no right to
obtrude her comeliness in the presence of the banker's daughter. I
confess my 'high crime and misdemeanor' against the pet of fortune,
and await my condign punishment. Is it your sovereign will that I
shear my shining locks like royal Berenice, and offer them in
propitiation? Or, does it seem 'good, meet, and your bounden duty,' to
have me promptly inoculated with small-pox, for the destruction of my
skin, which is unjustifiably smoother and clearer than--"

"Hush, hush!"

He laid his hand over her lips, and, for a while, there was an awkward
pause.

"If it were only possible to inoculate your heart with a little
genuine womanly charity,--if it were possible to persuade you to adopt
as your rule of conduct that golden one which Christ gave as a patent
of peace to all who followed it. But it is futile, hopeless. You will
not, you will not,--and my fluttering dove is at the mercy of a
famished eagle, already poised to swoop. I 'reckoned without my host'
when I so confidently appealed to your magnanimity, to your feminine
integrity of soul. You are a 'deaf adder that stoppeth her ear.'"

"Which will not 'hearken to the voice of the charmer, charm he
never so wisely.' Dr. Grey, what has the pampered heiress, the
happy _fiancée_ of that handsome man upstairs, to fear from the
poverty-stricken daughter of a miller, who you conscientiously
inform your guest passed from time to eternity through the gate
opened by delirium tremens. Mark you, my 'adder ears' have not been
sealed all the evening."

She had taken his hand from her lips, and thrown it from her.

"People who condescend to listen to conversations that are not
intended for them, generally deserve the punishment of hearing
unpleasant truths discussed. Salome, our interview is at an end."

"Not yet. Do you sincerely desire to see Muriel Mr. Granville's
wife?"

"I do, because I know that she is strongly attached to him."

"And you are sufficiently generous to sacrifice your happiness, in
order to promote hers? Oh, marvellous magnanimity!"

"Your insinuation is beneath my notice."

"How long have you known of her engagement?"

"Since the first interview I had with her, after her father's death."

"Let me see your face, Dr. Grey. If truth has not been hunted out of
the earth, it took refuge in your eyes. There, I am satisfied. You
never loved her. I think I must have been insane, or I would not have
imagined it possible. No, no; she never touched your heart, save with
a feeling of compassion. Don't go, I want to say something to you. Sit
down, and let me think."

She walked up and down the room for ten minutes, and, with his face
bowed on his hand, Dr. Grey watched and waited.

Finally he stooped to pick up the crushed rose on the floor, and then
she came back and stood before him.

"I promise you I will not lay a straw in the path of Muriel's
happiness, and it shall not be my fault if Mr. Granville fails in a
lover's _devoir_. I was tempted to entice him from his sworn
allegiance. Why should I deny what you know so well? But I will not,
and when I give my word, it shall go hard with me but I keep it;
especially when you hold the pledge. Are you satisfied? I know that
you have little cause to trust me, but I tell you, sir, when I deceive
you, then all heaven with its hierarchies of archangels can not save
me."

After all, Ulpian Grey was only a man of flesh and blood, and his
heart was touched by the beauty of the young face, and the mournful
sweetness of the softened voice.

"Thank you, Salome. I accept your promise, and rely upon it. As a
pledge of your sincerity I shall retain this rose, and return it to
you when little Muriel is a happy wife."

She clasped her hands, and looked at him with a mournful, wistful
expression, that puzzled him.

"My friend, my little sister, what is it? Tell me, and let me help you
to do your duty, for I see that you are wrestling desperately with
some great temptation."

"Dr. Grey, be merciful to me. Send me away. Oh, for God's sake, send
me away!"

She had grown ghastly pale, and her whole face indexed a depth of
anguish and despair that baffled utterance.

"My dear child, where do you desire to go? If your wishes are
reasonable they shall be granted."

"Will you persuade Miss Jane to take Jessie in my place, and send me
to France or Italy?"

"To study music with the intention of becoming a _prima donna_?"

"Yes, sir."

"My young friend, I cannot conscientiously advise a compliance with
wishes so fraught with danger to yourself."

"You fear that my voice does not justify so expensive an experiment?"

"On the contrary, I have not a doubt that your extraordinary voice
will lift you to the highest pinnacle of musical celebrity; and,
because your career on the stage promises to prove so brilliant, I
shudder in anticipating the temptations that will unavoidably assail
you."

"You are afraid to trust me?"

"Yes, my little sister; you are so impulsive, so prone to hearken to
evil dictates rather than good ones, that I dread the thought of
seeing you launched into the dangerous career you contemplate, without
some surer, safer, more infallible pilot than your proud, passionate
heart. If you were homely, and a dullard, I should entertain less
apprehension about your future."

Her broad brow blackened with a frown that became a terrible scowl,
and her eyes gleamed like lightning under the edge of a thunderous
summer cloud.

"What is it to you whether I live or die? The immaculate soul of
Ulpian Grey, M.D., will serenely wing its way up through the stars, on
and on to the great Gates of Pearl,--oblivious of the beggar who, from
the lowest Hades, where she has fallen, eagerly watches his flight."

"The anxious soul of Ulpian Grey will pray for yours, as long as we
remain on earth. Salome, I am the truest friend you will ever find
this side of the City of God; and, when I see you plunging madly into
ruin, I shall snatch you back, cost me what it may. Your jeers and
struggle have not deterred me hitherto, nor shall they henceforth. You
are as incapable of guiding yourself aright, as a rudderless bark is
of stemming the gulf-stream in a south-west gale; and I am afraid to
trust you out of my sight."

"Yes, I understand you; the good angel in your nature pities the demon
in mine. But your pity stifles me; I could not endure it; and,
besides, I cannot stay here any longer. I must go out into the world,
and seize the fortune that people tell me my voice will certainly
yield me."

Flush and sparkle had died out of her face, which, in its worn,
haggard pallor, looked five years older than when she entered the
parlor, three hours before.

"Pecuniary considerations must not influence you, because, while Janet
and I live, you shall want nothing; and when either dies, you will be
liberally provided for. Dismiss from your mind a matter that has long
been decided, and which no wish of yours can annul or alter."

With an impatient wave of the hand, she answered,--

"Give to poor little Jessie and Stanley what was intended for me. They
are helpless, but I can take care of myself; and, moreover, I am not
contented here. I want to see something of the world in which--_bon
gré mal gré_--I find myself. Let me go. Rousseau was a sage. '_Le
monde est le livre des femmes_.'"

He shook his head, and said, sorrowfully,--

"No, your instincts are unreliable; and if you roam away from Jane
and from me, you will sip more poison than honey. Be wise, and remain
where Providence has placed you. I will bring Jessie here, and you
shall teach her what you choose, and Stanley can command all the
educational advantages he will improve. After a while, you shall, if
you prefer it, have a pleasant home of your own, and dwell there with
the two little ones. Such has long been my scheme and purpose; but,
during my sister's life, she will never consent to give you up; and
you owe it to her not to desert her in the closing years, when she
most urgently requires the solace of your love and society."

Salome covered her face with her hands, and something like a heavy dry
sob shook her frame; but the spring of bitterness seemed exhaustless,
and her voice was indescribably scornful in its defiant ring.

"You are very charitable, Dr. Grey, and I thank you for all your
embryonic benevolent plans for me and my pauper relatives; but I have
drawn a very different map for my future years. You seem to regard
this house as a second '_La Tour sans venin_,' which, like its
prototype near Grenoble, possesses an atmosphere fatal to all
poisonous, noxious things; but surely you forget that it has long
sheltered me."

"No, it has never arrogated the prerogative of '_La Tour sans venin_,'
but of one thing, my poor wilful child, you shall never have reason to
be skeptical,--that dear Jane and I will indefatigably strive to serve
you as faithfully and successfully, as did in ancient days, the Psylli
whom Plutarch immortalized."

While he spoke Dr. Grey had been turning over the leaves of the old
family Bible, which happened to lie within his reach; and now, without
premonition, he read aloud the fifty-fifth Psalm.

She listened, not willingly, but _ex necessitate rei_, and rebelliously;
and, when he finished the Psalm, and knelt, with his face on his arms,
which were crossed upon the back of a chair, she stood haughtily erect
and motionless beside him.

His prayer was brief and fervent, that God would aid her in her
efforts to curb her passionate temper, and to walk in accordance with
the teachings of Jesus; and that he would especially overrule all
things, and guide her decision in the important step she contemplated.
He rose, and turned towards her, but her countenance was hidden.

"Good night, Salome. God bless you and direct you."

She raised her face, and her eyes sought his with a long, questioning,
pleading gaze, so full of anguish that he could scarcely endure it.
Then he saw the last spark of hope expire; and she bent her queenly
head an instant, and silently passed from the parlor.

  "I have watched my first and holiest hopes depart,
          One after one;
  I have held the hand of Death upon my heart,
          And made no moan."



CHAPTER XVII.


"Pardon my intrusion, Mrs. Gerome, and ascribe it to Elsie's anxiety
concerning your health. In compliance with her request, I have come to
ascertain whether you really require my attention."

Dr. Grey placed his hat and gloves on the piano, and established
himself comfortably in a large chair near the arch, where Mrs. Gerome,
palette in hand, sat before her easel.

"Elsie's nerves have run away with her sound common sense, and filled
her mind with vagaries. She imagines that I need medicine, whereas I
only require quiet and peace, which neither she nor you will permit me
to enjoy."

She did not even glance at the visitor, but mixed some colors rapidly,
and deepened the rose-tints in a cluster of apple-blossoms she was
scattering in the foreground of a picture.

"If it is not of vital importance that those pearly petals should be
finished immediately, I should be glad to have you turn your face
towards me for a few moments. There,--thank you. Mrs. Gerome, do I
look like a nervous, whimsical man, whose fancy mastered his
professional judgment, or blunted his acumen?"

"You certainly appear as phlegmatic, as utterly unimaginative, as any
lager-loving German, whom Teniers or Ostade ever painted '_Unter den
linden_.'"

"Then my words should possess some influence when they corroborate
Elsie's statement, that you are far from well. Do not be childishly
incredulous, and impatiently shake your head; from a woman of your age
and sense one expects more dignity and prudence."

"Sir, your rudeness has at least a flavor of stern honesty that makes
it almost palatable. Do you propose to take my case into your skilful
hands?"

"I merely propose to expostulate with you upon the unfortunate and
ruinous course of life you have decided to pursue. No eremite of the
Thebaid, or the Nitroon, is more completely immured than I find you;
and the seclusion from society is quite as deleterious as the want of
out-door air and sunshine. Your mind, debarred from communion with
your race and denied novel and refreshing themes, centres in its own
operations and creations, broods over threadbare topics until it has
grown morbid; and, instead of deriving healthful nourishment from the
world that surrounds it, exhausts and consumes itself, like fabled
Araline, spinning its substance into filmy nothings."

"Filmy nothings! Thank you. I flatter myself, when I am safely housed
under marble, the world will place a different estimate upon some
things I shall leave behind to challenge criticism."

"How much value will public plaudits possess for ears sealed by death?
Mrs. Gerome, you are too lonely; you must have companionship that will
divert your thoughts."

"Not I, indeed! All that I require, I have in abundance,--music,
books, and my art. Here I am independent, for remember that he was a
petted son of fame, who said, 'Books are the true Elysian fields,
where the spirits of the dead converse, and into these fields a
mortal may venture unappalled. What king's court can boast such
company,--what school of philosophy such wisdom?' Verily if you
had ever examined my library you would not imagine I lacked
companionship. Why sir, yonder,--

  'The old, dead authors throng me round about,
  And Elzevir's gray ghosts from leathern graves look out.'

Count Oxenstiern spoke truly, when he declared, 'Occupied with the
great minds of antiquity, we are no longer annoyed by contemporaneous
fools.'"

She rose and pointed to the handsome cases in the rear room, filled
with choice volumes; and, while she stood with one arm resting on the
easel, Dr. Grey looked searchingly at her.

To-day there was a _spirituelle_ beauty in the white face that he had
never seen before; and the large eloquent eyes were full of dreamy
sunset radiance, unlike their wonted steely glitter. A change, vague
and indefinable, but unmistakable, had certainly passed over that
countenance since its owner came to reside at "Solitude," and, instead
of marring, had heightened its loveliness. The features were thinner,
the cheeks had lost something of their pure oval moulding, and the
delicate nostrils were almost transparent in their waxen curves; but
the arch of the lip was softened and lowered, and the face was like
that of some marble goddess on which mid-summer moonshine sleeps.

Her white mull robe was edged at the skirt and up the front with a
rich border of blue morning-glories, and a blue cord and tassel girded
it at her waist, while the broad braids of hair at the back of her
head were looped and fastened with a ribbon of the same color. Her
sleeves were gathered up to keep them clear of the paint on the
palette, and the dimples were no longer visible in her arms. The ivory
flesh was shrinking closer to the small bones, and the diaphanous
hands were so thin that the sapphire asp glided almost off the slender
finger around which it was coiled.

"Mrs. Gerome, you have lost twenty pounds of flesh within the last two
months, and your extreme pallor alarms me."

"All things look pallid in these rooms, for the light is bluish,
reflected from carpet, furniture, and curtains."

"I have noticed that you invariably wear blue, to the exclusion of all
other colors."

"Yes. Throughout the Levant it is considered a mortuary color; and,
moreover, I like its symbolism. The _Mater dolorosa_ often wears blue
vestments; also the priests during Lent; and even the images of Christ
are veiled in blue, as holy week approaches. Azure, in its absolute
significance, represents truth, and is the symbol of the soul after
death; so, as I walk the earth,--a fleshy 'death in life,'--I clothe
myself symbolically. In pagan cosmogonies the Creator is always
colored blue. Jupiter Ammon, Vischnou, Cneph, Krischna,--all are
azure. And because it is a solemn, consecrated color, mystic and
mournful, I wear it."

"My dear madam, this is a morbid whimsicality that trenches closely
upon monomania, and would be more tolerable in a lackadaisical
school-girl, than in a mature, intelligent, and gifted woman. Some of
your fantasies would be positively respectable in a Bedlamite, and you
seem an anomalous compound of eccentricities peculiar to extreme youth
and to advanced age."

"I believe, sir, that you are entirely correct in your analysis. I
stand before you, young in years, but forsaken by that 'blue-eyed
Hope' who frolics hand in hand with youth; and yet utterly devoid of
that philosophy and wisdom which justly belong to the old age of my
heart."

Her tone was indescribably weary, and, as she laid aside her brush and
folded her hands together on the cross-beam of the easel, the
transient light died out of her countenance, and the worn, tired look,
came back and settled on every feature.

                ... "The soft, sad eyes,
  Set like twilight planets in the rainy skies,--
  With the brow all patience, and the lips all pain,"

wove a strange spell over the visitor, whose gaze was riveted on the
only woman who had ever aroused even temporary interest in his heart.

She was always beautiful, but to-day there was a helpless, hopeless
abandonment in her listless demeanor, that appealed successfully to
the manly tenderness and chivalry of his nature; and into his strong,
true, noble soul, came a longing to cheer, and guide, and redeem this
strange, desolate woman, whose personal loveliness would have made her
regnant over the gay circles of fashionable life, yet whose existence
was more lonely than that of an eaglet in some mountain eyrie.

Rising, he leaned against the easel and looked down into the colorless
face that possessed such a wondrous charm for him.

"Mrs. Gerome, for natures diseased like yours, the only remedy, the
only cure, is earnest, vigorous labor; and the regimen you really
require is mournfully at variance with your present habits and modes
of thought."

"I do labor incessantly; more indefatigably than any plowman, or
mason, or carpenter. Your prescription has been thoroughly tested, and
found worthless, as an antidote to my malady,--hopelessness."

"Unfortunately the labor has all been mental; heart and soul have
stood aloof, while the brain almost wore itself out. This canvas is
destroying you; your creations are too rapid, too exhausting."

"Dr. Grey, you grievously misapprehend the whole matter, for my work
reminds me of what Canova once said of West's pictures, 'He groups; he
does not compose.'"

Dr. Grey put his hand on her wrist, and counted the rapid, feeble,
irregular pulse.

She made an effort to throw off his fingers, but they clung
tenaciously to the polished arm.

"How many hours do you sleep, during the twenty-four?"

"Sometimes three, occasionally one, frequently none."

"How much longer do you suppose your constitution will endure such
merciless taxation?"

"I know very little about these things, and care still less, but as
Horne Tooke said, when a foreigner inquired how much treason an
Englishman might venture to write without being hanged, 'I cannot
inform you just yet, but I am trying.'"

"Has life become such an intolerable burden that you are impatient to
shake it off?"

"Even so, Dr. Grey. When Elsie dies the last link will have snapped,
and I trust I shall not long survive her. If I prayed at all, it would
be for speedy death."

"If you prayed at all, existence would not prove so wearisome; for
resignation would cure half your woes."

"Confine your prescriptions to the body,--that is tangible, and may be
handled and scrutinized; but venture no nostrums for a heart and soul
of which you know nothing. Once I was almost a Moslem in the frequency
and fervor of my prayers; but now, the only petition I could force
myself to offer would be that prayer of Epictetus, '_Lead me, Zeus and
Destiny, whithersoever I am appointed to go; I will follow without
wavering; even though I turn coward and shrink, I shall have to
follow, all the same._'"

Dr. Grey sighed heavily, and answered,--

"It is painful to hear from feminine lips a fatalism so grim as to
make all prayer a mockery; and it would seem that the loss of those
dear to you, would have insensibly and unavoidably drawn your heart
heavenward, in search of its transplanted idols."

He knew from the sudden spasm that seized her calm features, and
shuddered through her tall figure, that he had touched, perhaps too
rudely, some chord in her nature which--

  "Made the coiled memory numb and cold,
    That slept in her heart like a dreaming snake,
  Drowsily lift itself, fold by fold,
    And gnaw, and gnaw hungrily, half-awake."

"Ah, indeed, my heart was drawn after them,--but not heavenward! No, no,
no! My idols were not transplanted,--they were shattered!--shattered!"

She leaned forward, looking up into his face; and, raising her hand
impressively, she continued in a voice so mournful, so hopelessly
bitter, that Dr. Grey shivered as he listened.

"Oh, sir, you who stand gazing down in sorrowful reproach upon what
you regard as my unpardonable impiety, little dream of the fiery
ordeal that consumed my childlike, beautiful faith, as flames crisp
and blacken chaff. I am alone, and must ever be, while in the flesh;
and I hoard my pain, sparing the world my moans and tears, my wry
faces and desperate struggles. I tell you, Dr. Grey,--

  'None know the choice I made; I make it still.
    None know the choice I made, and broke my heart,
  Breaking mine idol; I have braced my will
    Once, chosen for once my part.
  I broke it at a blow, I laid it cold,
    Crushed in my deep heart where it used to live.
  My heart dies inch by inch; the time grows old,
    Grows old in which I grieve.'"

He did not comprehend her, but felt that her past must have been
melancholy indeed, of which the bare memory was so torturing.

"At least, Mrs. Gerome, let us thank God, that beyond the grave there
remains an eternal reunion with your idol, and--"

"God forbid! You talk at random, and your suggestion would drive me
mad, if I believed it. Let me be quiet."

She walked away, and seemed intently watching the sea, of whose
protean face she never wearied; and, puzzled and tantalized, Dr. Grey
turned to examine the unfinished picture.

It represented an almost colossal woman, kneeling under an apple-tree,
with her folded hands lifted towards a setting sun that glared from
purple hills, across waving fields of green and golden grain. The
azure mantle that enveloped the rounded form, floated on the wind and
seemed to melt in air, so dim were its graceful outlines; and on one
shoulder perched a dove with head under its wing, nestling to
sleep,--while a rabbit nibbled the grass at her feet, and a squirrel
curled himself comfortably on the border of her robe. In the
foreground were scattered sheaves of yellow wheat, full ears of corn,
bunches of blue, bloom-covered grapes, clusters of olives, and
various delicate flowers whose brilliant hues seemed drippings from
some wrung and broken rainbow.

The face was unlike flesh and blood,--was dim, elfish, wan, with
large, mild eyes, as blue and misty as the _nebulæ_ that Herschel
found in Southern skies,--eyes that looked at nothing, but seemed to
penetrate the universe and shed soft solemn light over all things.
Back from the broad, low brow, floated a cloud of silky yellow hair,
that glittered in the slanting rays of sunshine as if powdered with
gold dust; and over its streaming strands fluttered two mottled
butterflies, and a honey-laden bee. On distant hill-slopes cattle
browsed, and at the right of the kneeling woman a young lamb nibbled a
cluster of snowy lilies, while a dappled fawn watched the gambols of a
dun kid; and on the left, in a tuft of bearded grass, a brown snake
arched its neck to peer at a brood of half-fledged partridges.

"Mrs. Gerome, will you be so kind as to explain this mythologic
design?"

She came back to the easel, and took up her palette.

"If it requires an explanation it is an egregious failure, and shall
find a vacant corner in some rubbish garret."

"It is exceedingly beautiful, but I do not fully comprehend the
symbolism."

"If it does not clearly mean the one thing for which it was intended,
it means nothing, and is worthless. Look, sir, she--

  'Forgets, remembers, grieves, and is not sad;
    The quiet lands and skies leave light upon her eyes;
  None knows her weak, or wise, or tired, or glad.'"

Dr. Grey bit his lip, but shook his head.

"You must read me your painted riddle more explicitly. Is it Ceres?"

"No, sir; a few sheaves do not make a harvest. I am a stupid bungler,
spoiling canvas and wasting paint, or else you are as obtuse as the
critics who may one day hover hungrily over it. Try the aid of one
more clew, and if you fail to catch my purpose, I will dash my brush
all loaded with ochre, right into those mystic, prescient eyes, and
blur them forever. Listen, and guess,--

  'This is my lady's praise;
  God after many days
  Wrought her in unknown ways,
      In sunset lands;
  This was my lady's birth,
  God gave her might and mirth
  And laid his whole sweet earth
      Between her hands.'"

"Pray do not visit the sin of my stupidity upon that fascinating
picture. I am not familiar with the lines you quote, but know that you
have represented Nature, have embodied an ideal Isis, or Hertha, or
Cybele; though I can not positively name the phase of the Universal
Mother, which you have seized and perpetuated."

He caught her arm, and removed from her fingers the palette and
brushes.

"Dr. Grey, it is more than either or all of the three you mention; for
Persian mythology, like Persian wines and Persian roses, is richer,
more subtle, more fragrant, more glowing than any other. That woman is
'_Espendérmad_.'"

"Thank you; now I comprehend the whole. God has endowed you with
wonderful talent. The fruit and flowers in that foreground must have
cost you much labor, for indeed you seem to have faithfully followed
the injunction of Titian, 'Study the effect of light and shade on a
bunch of grapes.' That luscious amber cluster lying near the poppies
is tantalizingly suggestive of Rhineland, and of the vines that
garland the hills of Crete and Cyprus."

A shade of annoyance and disappointment crossed the artist's face.

"Now, I quite realize what Cespedes felt, when, finding that visitors
were absorbed by the admirable finish of some jars and vases in the
foreground of the 'Last Supper,' upon which he had expended so much
time and thought, he called his servant and exclaimed in great
chagrin, 'Andres, rub me out these things, since, after all my care
and study, people choose to see nothing but these impertinences.'"

"If Zeuxis' grandest triumph consisted in painting grapes, you
assuredly should not take umbrage at my praise of that fruit on your
canvas, which hints of Tokay and Lachrima Christi. I am not an artist,
but I have studied the best pictures in Europe and America, and you
must acquit me of any desire to flatter when I tell you that
background yonder is one of the most extraordinary successes I have
ever seen, from either amateur or professional painters."

Mrs. Gerome arched her black brows slightly, and replied,--

"Then the success was accidental, and I stumbled upon it, for I bestow
little study on the backgrounds of my work. They are mere dim
distances of bluish haze, and do not interest me, and, since I paint
for amusement, I give most thought to my central figure."

"Have you forgotten the anecdote of Rubens, who, when offered a pupil
with the recommendation that he was sufficiently advanced in his
studies to assist him at once in his backgrounds, laughed, and
answered, 'If the youth was capable of painting backgrounds he did not
need his instruction; because the regulation and management of them
required the most comprehensive knowledge of the art.'"

"Yes, I am aware that is one of the _dogmata_ of the craft, but Rubens
was no more infallible than you or I, and his pictures give me less
pleasure than those of any other artist of equal celebrity. Dr. Grey,
if I am even a tolerable judge of my own work, the best thing I have
yet achieved is the drapery of that form. Perhaps I am inclined to
plume myself upon this point, from the fact that it was the opinion of
Carlo Maratti that 'The arrangement of drapery is more difficult than
drawing the human figure; because the right effect depends more upon
the taste of the artist than upon any given rules.' That sweep of blue
gauze has cost me more toil than everything else on the canvas."

"Pardon the expression of my curiosity concerning your modes of
composition in these singular and quaint creations, for which you
have no models; and tell me how this ideal presented itself to your
imagination."

"Dr. Grey, I am not a great genius like Goethe, and unfortunately can
not candidly echo his declaration, that, 'Nothing ever came to me in
my sleep.' I can scarcely tell you when this idea was first born in my
busy, tireless brain, but it took form one evening after I had read
Charlotte Bronté's 'Woman Titan,' in 'Shirley,' and compared it with
that glowing description of Jean Paul Richter, 'And so the Sun stands
at the border of the Earth, and looks back on his stately Spring,
whose robe-folds are valleys, whose breast-bouquet is gardens, whose
blush is a vernal evening, and who, when she rises, will be Summer.'
Still it was vague, and eluded me, until I found somewhere in my most
desultory reading, an account of '_Espendérmad_,' one of the six
angels of Ormuzd, to whom was entrusted the guardianship of the earth.
That night I dreamed that I stood under a vine at Schiraz, gathering
golden-tinted grapes, when a voice arrested me, and, looking over my
shoulder, I saw that face peeping at me across a hedge of crimson
roses. Next day I sketched the features as they had appeared in my
dream, but I was not fully satisfied, and waited and pondered.
Finally, I read 'Madonna Mia,' and then all was as you see it now,
startlingly distinct and palpable."

"Why did you not select some dusky-haired, dusky-eyed, olive-tinted
oriental type, instead of a blonde who might safely venture into
Valhalla as a genuine Celtic Iduna?"

"With the exception of the yellow locks, I suspect the face of my
'_Espendérmad_' might easily be matched among the maidens of the
Caucasus, who furnish the most perfect types of Circassian beauty. You
know there is a tradition that when Leonardo da Vinci chanced to meet
a man with an expression of character that he wished to make use of in
his work, he followed him until he was able to delineate the face on
canvas; but, on the contrary, the countenances I paint present
themselves to my imagination, and pursue me inexorably until I put
them into pigment. I do not possess ideals,--they seize and possess
me, teasing me for form and color, and forcing me to object them on
canvas. Such is the _modus operandi_ of whims that give me my
'_Espendérmad_' praying to the Sun for benisons on the Earth, which
she is appointed to guard. Ah, if like the lambkins and birds, I, too,
could creep to the starry border of her azure robe, and lay my weary
head down and find repose. Some day, if my mind ever grows calm
enough, I want to paint a picture of Rest, that I can hang on my wall
and look upon when I am worn out in body and soul, when, indeed,--

  'My feet are wearied, and my hands are tired,
          My heart oppressed,
  And I desire, what I long desired,
          Rest,--only Rest.'"

"My dear madam, unless you speedily change your present mode of life,
you will not paint that contemplated picture, for a long rest will
soon overtake you."

A gleam that was nearer akin to joy than any expression he had yet
seen, passed from eye to lip, and she answered, almost eagerly,--

"If that be true, it offers a premium for the continuance of habits
you condemn so strenuously; but I dare not hope it, and I beg of you
not to tantalize me with vain expectations of a release that may yet
be far, far distant."

Dr. Grey's heart stirred with earnest sympathy for this lonely
hopeless soul, who, standing almost upon the threshold of life,
stretched her arms so yearningly to woo the advance of death.

The room was slowly filling with shadows, and, leaning there against
her easel, she looked as unearthly as the pearly forms that summer
clouds sometimes assume, when a harvest-moon springs up from sea foam
and fog, and stares at them. When she spoke again, her voice was chill
and crisp.

"My malady is beyond your reach, and baffles human skill. You mean
only kindness, and I suppose I ought to thank you, but alas! the
sentiment of gratitude is such a stranger in my heart, that it has yet
to learn an adequate language. Dr. Grey, the only help you can
possibly render me is to prolong Elsie's life. As for me, and my
uncertain future, give yourself no charitable solicitude. Do you
recollect what Lessing wrote to Claudius? 'I am too proud to own that
I am unhappy. I shut my teeth, and let the bark drift. Enough that I
do not turn it over with my own hands.' Elsie is signalling for me. Do
you hear that bell? Good-night, Dr. Grey."



CHAPTER XVIII.


"I have had a long conversation with Ulpian, and find him violently
opposed to the scheme you mentioned to me several days since. He
declares he will gladly share his last dollar with you sooner than see
you embark in a career so fraught with difficulties, trials, and--"

Miss Jane paused to find an appropriate word, and Salome very promptly
supplied her.

"Temptations. That is exactly what you both mean. Go on."

"Well, yes, dear. I am afraid the profession you have selected is
beset with dangerous allurements for one so inexperienced and
unsophisticated as yourself."

"Bah! Speak out. I am sick of circumlocution. What do you understand
by unsophisticated?"

"Why, I mean,--well, what can I mean but just what the word
expresses,--unsophisticated? That is, young, thoughtless, ignorant of
the ways of the world, and the excessive cunning and deceit of human
nature."

"Begging your pardon, it has another significance, which you will find
if you look into your dictionary,--that blessed Magna Charta of
linguistic rights and privileges. I do not claim the prerogatives of
Ruskin's class of the 'well educated, who are learned in the peerage
of words; know the words of true descent and ancient blood at a
glance, from words of modern _canaille_;' but I venture the assertion
that I am sufficiently sophisticated to plunge into the vortex of
public life, and yet keep my head above water."

"I don't want to see my little girl an actress, or a _prima donna_,
bold, forward, and eager to face a noisy, clamorous crowd, who feel
privileged to say just what they please about her. It would break my
heart; and, if you are bent on such a step, I hope you will wait, at
least, till I am dead."

"You ought to be willing to see me do anything honest, that will
secure my dependent brother and sister from want."

"The necessity of laboring for them is not especially imperative at
this juncture, and why should you be more sensitive now than formerly?
Do not deceive yourself, dear child, but face the truth, no matter how
ugly it may possibly be. It is not a sense of duty to the younger
children, but an inflated vanity, that prompts you to parade your
beauty and your wonderful voice on the stage, where they will elicit
applause and flattering adulation. My little girl, that is the most
dangerous, the most unhealthy atmosphere, a woman can possibly
breathe."

"Pray tell me how you learned all this? You, who have spent your life
in this quiet old house, who have been almost as secluded as some
Cambrian Culdee, can really know nothing of that public life you
condemn so bitterly."

"The history of those who have walked in the path you are now
preparing to follow, proves the deleterious influences and ruinous
associations that surround that class of women."

"Jenny Lind and Sarah Siddons redeem any class, no matter how much
maligned."

"But what assurance have I, that, unlike the ninety-nine, you will
resemble the one-hundredth?"

"Only try me, Miss Jane."

"Ah, child! A rash boy said the same thing when he tried to drive
the sun, and not only consumed himself but nearly burned up the
world. There is rather too much at stake to warrant such reckless
experiments."

"Quit mythology,--it is not in your line,--and come back to stern
facts and serious realities. Because I wish to dance a quadrille or
cotillion, and acquit myself creditably, does it ensue as an
inexorable consequence, that I shall join some strolling ballet
troupe, and out-Bayadère the Bayadères?"

"That depends altogether upon your agility and grace. If you could
reasonably hope to rival your Hebrew namesake, I am afraid my little
girl would think it 'her duty' to dance instead of to sing, for the
acquisition of a fortune; and insist upon executing wonderful things
with her heels and toes, instead of her voice."

"You and Dr. Grey seem to have simultaneously arrived at the
charitable conclusion that my heart is pretty much in the same
condition that the Hebrew temple was, when Christ undertook to drive
out the profane. Thongs in hand you two have overturned my motives,
and, by a very summary court-martial, condemned them to be scourged
out. Now, mark you, I am neither making change nor selling doves, and
still less are you and your brother--Jesus. Dr. Grey does me the honor
to indulge a chronic skepticism concerning the possibility of any good
and unselfish impulse in my nature, and I am sorry to see that you
have caught the contagious doubt of me, and of my motives."

She began the sentence in a challenging, sneering voice, but it was
ended in a lower and faltering tone.

  "While in the light of her large angry eyes,
  Uprose and rose a slow imperious sorrow."

"My dear, don't attempt to whip Ulpian over my shoulders. You know
very well that I have invested in you an amount of faith that the
united censure of the world cannot shake; and if Ulpian does not
follow my example, whose fault is it, I should be glad to know?
Evidently not his,--certainly not mine,--but undoubtedly yours. I have
noticed that you took extraordinary care and a very peculiar pleasure
in making him believe you much worse in all respects than you really
are; and since you have labored so industriously to lower yourself in
his estimation, it would be a poor compliment to your skill and energy
if I told you that you had not entirely succeeded in your rather
remarkable aim. Before he came home you were as contented, and
amiable, and happy, as my old cat there on the rug; but Ulpian's
appearance affected you as the entrance of a dog does my maltese, who
arches her back, and growls, and claws, as long as he is in sight. I
am truly sorry you two could never agree, but I feel bound to tell you
that you have only yourself to blame. I do not claim that my
sailor-boy is a saint, but he is assuredly some inches nearer
sanctification than my poor little Salome. Don't you think so? Be
honest, dear."

Miss Jane's hand tenderly caressed the beautiful head; and, as Salome
was too sullen or too much mortified to reply, the old lady
continued,--

"Nevertheless, Ulpian is a true and devoted friend, and can not bear
the thought of your leaving us, for any purpose, much less the one you
contemplate. Last night he said, 'Janet, I am her brother, and think
you I shall allow my sister to go out from the sacred precincts of
home, and become a target for the envy and malice of the better
classes who will criticise her, and for the coarse plaudits of the
pit? Do you suppose I can willingly see her bare feet turned towards a
path paved with glowing ploughshares? Tell her, for me, that if ever
she should carry her unfortunate freak into execution, I shall never
wish to touch her hand again, for I shall feel that it has lost its
purity in the clasp of many to whom she can not refuse it during a
professional career.'"

The orphan lifted her head from the arm of Miss Jane's chair, where it
had rested for some minutes, and striking her palms forcibly together,
she exclaimed, proudly,--

"Tell Dr. Grey I humbly thank him, but the threat has lost its sting;
and if I should chance to meet him years hence, though my hands shall
be pure and clean as Una's, and as unsullied as his own,--so help me
heaven! I will never thrust my touch on his, nor so far forget myself
as to suffer his fingers to approach mine. When I pass from this
threshold, we will have shaken hands forever."

"Dr. Grey's ears are not proof against such elevated, ringing tones of
voice, and he could not avoid hearing, as he came up the steps, the
childish words which he assures you he has no intention of believing
or remembering."

He had tapped twice at the half-open door, and now came forward with
a firm, quick step, to the ottoman where Salome sat. Taking her
hands, he patted the palms softly against each other, and smiling
good-humoredly, continued,--

"They are very white, and shapely, and pure, and I am not afraid that
my little sister will soil them. Her brother looks forward to the day
when they will gently and gracefully help him in his work among God's
suffering poor. I have not forgotten how dexterous and docile I found
your fingers, when I had temporarily lost the use of my own, and I
shall not fail to levy contributions of labor in the coming years."

She had snatched her fingers from his, and no sooner had he ceased
speaking, than she bowed haughtily, and answered,--

"Our reconciliations all belong to the Norman family, and are quite as
lasting as Lamourette's. Ceaseless war is preferable to a violated
truce, and since I have not swerved from my purpose, I shall not
falter in its enunciation. If I live it shall not be my fault if I
fail to go upon the stage. I am not so fastidious as Dr. Grey, and one
who sprang from _canaille_ must be pardoned if she betrays a longing
for the 'flesh-pots of Egypt.'"

She would have given her right hand to recall her words,--when, a
moment later, she met the gaze of profound pity and disappointment
with which Dr. Grey's eyes dwelt upon her countenance, hardened now by
its expression of insolent haughtiness; but he allowed her no
opportunity for retraction, even had she mastered her overweening
pride, and stooping to whisper a brief sentence in his sister's ear,
he took a medical book from the table, and left the room.

The silence that ensued seemed interminable to Salome, and at last she
turned, bowed her head in Miss Jane's lap, and muttered through set
teeth,--

"You see it is best that I should go. Even you must be weary of this
strife."

The old lady's trembling hands were laid lovingly on the girl's hot
brow and scorched cheeks.

"Not half so weary as your own oppressed heart. My dear child, why do
you persist in tormenting yourself so unmercifully? Why will you say
things that you do not mean?--that are absolute libels on your actual
feelings? I have often seen and deplored affectations of generosity
and refinement, but you are the first person I ever met who delighted
in a pretence of meanness, which her genuine nature abhorred. Salome,
I have tried to prove myself a mother to you since the day that I took
you under my roof; and now, when I am passing away from the
world,--when a few short months will probably end my feeble life, I
think you owe it to me to give me no sorrow that your hands can easily
ward off. Don't leave me. When I am gone there will be time and to
spare, for all your schemes. Stay here, and let me have peace and
sunshine about me, in my last fading hours. Ah, dear, you can't be
cruel to the old woman who has long loved you so tenderly."

The orphan pressed the withered hands to her lips, and, covering her
face with the folds of Miss Jane's black silk apron, exclaimed
passionately,--

"Do not think me ungrateful,--do not think me insensible to your love
and kindness; but, indeed I am very miserable here. Oh, Miss Jane! if
you knew how I have suffered, you would not chide, you would only pity
and sympathize with me; for your heart will never steel itself against
your poor wretched Salome!"

She lost control of herself, and sobbed violently.

"My dear little girl, tell me all your sorrows. To whom can you reveal
your trials and griefs, if not to me? For some weeks past I have
observed that you shunned my gaze, and seemed restless when I
endeavored to discover how you were employing your time; and I have
realized that you were sorely distressed, but I disliked to force your
confidence, or appear suspicious. Now, I have a right to ask what
makes you miserable in my house? Is the little girl ashamed to show me
her heart?"

"One month since, I would have gone to the stake rather than have
shown it to you, or have had any one dream of the wretchedness locked
in its chambers; but a week ago I was overwhelmed with humiliation,
and now I am not ashamed to tell you. Now that Dr. Grey knows it, I
would not care if the whole world were hissing and jeering at my
heels, and shouting my shame with a thousand trumpets. I tried to keep
it from him, and failing, the world is welcome to roll it as a sweet
morsel under its busy, stinging, slanderous tongue. Miss Jane, I have
intended to be sincere in every respect, but it appears that, after
all, I have probably been an arrant hypocrite if you believe that I
dislike your brother. I want to go away, because I can no longer
endure to live in the same house with Dr. Grey, who shows me more
plainly every hour that he can never return the affection I have been
idiotic and presumptuous enough to cherish for him. There! I have said
it,--and my lips are not blistered by the unwomanly confession, and
you still permit my head to rest in your lap. I expected you would be
indignant and insulted, and gladly send such a lunatic from your
family circle,--or that you would dismiss me coolly, with lofty
contempt; but only a woman can properly pity a woman's weakness, and
you are crying over me. Ah, if your tears were falling on my grave,
instead of my face!"

Miss Jane was weeping bitterly, but now and then she stooped and
kissed the quivering lips of her unhappy charge, who found some balm
in the earnest sympathy with which her appeal was received.

"My precious child, why should you be ashamed of your love for the
noblest man who ever unconsciously became a woman's idol? I do not
much wonder at your feelings, because you have seen no one else in any
respect comparable to him, and it is difficult for you to realize the
disparity in your ages. Poor thing! It must be terrible, indeed, to
one who loves him as you do, to have no hope of possessing his
affection in return. But I suppose it can't be helped,--and one half
the world seem to pour out their love on the wrong persons, and find
misery where they should have only joy and peace. Thank God, all this
mischief is shut out of heaven! Dear, don't hide your face, as if you
had stolen half of my sheep; whereas my poor innocent sailor-boy has
unintentionally stolen my little girl's heart."

"Miss Jane, you are too good,--too kind. Do not help me to excuse
myself,--do not teach me to palliate my pitiable weakness. It is a
grievous, a shameful, a disgraceful thing, for a woman to allow
herself to love any man who gives her no evidence of affection, and
shows her beyond all doubt that he is utterly indifferent to her. This
is a sin against womanly pride and delicacy that demands sackcloth and
ashes, and penance and long years of humiliation and self-abasement;
and I tell you this is the one sin which my proud soul will never
pardon in my poor weak, despised heart."

"If you feel this so keenly, you will soon succeed in conquering and
casting out of your heart an affection, which, having nothing to feed
upon, will speedily exhaust itself. You are young, and your elastic
nature will rebound from the pressure that you now find so painful. My
dear, a few months or years will bring comparative oblivion of this
period of your life."

"No; they will engrave more deeply the consciousness that I have
missed my sole chance of earthly happiness, for Dr. Grey is the only
man I shall ever love,--is the only man who can lift me to his own
noble height of excellence. I know it is customary to laugh at a
girl's protestations of undying devotion, and that the theory of
feminine constancy is as entirely effete as the worship of the Cabiri,
or the belief in Blokula and its witches; but, unfortunately, the
world has not sneered it entirely out of existence, and I am destined
to furnish a mournful exemplification of its reality. Whether my
nature is unlike that of the majority of women, I shall not undertake
to decide; but this I know,--God gave me only so much love to spend,
and I poured it all out, I deluged my idol with it, instead of doling
it carefully through the future years. Like the woman of Bethany, I
have broken my box of alabaster, and spilled all my precious ointment,
which might have served for a lifetime of anointing, and I cannot
renew the shattered receptacle, nor gather back the wasted fragrance;
and so my heart must remain without spikenard or balm during its
earthly sojourn. I have been prodigal,--have beggared my womanly
nature,--and henceforth shall feast on husks. But this piece of folly
can be laid on no shoulders but my own, and I must not wince if they
are galled by burdens which only I have imposed. Some women, under
similar circumstances, console themselves by fostering a tender and
excessive gratitude, which they pet and fondle and call second love;
but the feeling belongs to a different species, and is to strong,
earnest, genuine love, what the stunted pines of second growth are to
the noble, stalwart, unapproachable oaks, that spring from the
primitive virgin soil."

Miss Jane lifted the bowed face, and rested the head against her
bosom.

"If you are so thoroughly convinced of the impossibility of mastering
this affection, why talk of going away? You will be happier here,
under any circumstances, than among strangers."

"Do not misapprehend me. I do not intend to cherish my weakness,--to
caress and pamper it. I mean to strangle, and mangle, and bury it, if
possible. I meant, not that I should always love Dr. Grey, but that I
should never be able to regard any one else as I once loved him. I can
not stay here, seeing him daily trample my alabaster and ointment
under his feet. I can not endure the humiliation that has for some
days past made this house more intolerable than I may one day find
Phlegethon. I want to go into the whirl and din of life, where my
thoughts can dwell on some more comforting theme than the peerless
preëminence of the man who is master here, where I can spend hours in
elaborating _toilettes_ and _coiffures_ that will show to the greatest
advantage my small stock of personal charms; where the admiration and
love of other men will at least amuse and soothe the heart that has no
more love for anybody, or anything. Miss Jane, if I had never become
so deeply attached to Dr. Grey, it might perhaps be unsafe for me to
venture into the career which now lies before me; but when a woman's
heart is cold and dead in her bosom, there is no peril she need fear;
for only her warm, pleading heart, can ever silence the iron clang of
conscience and the silvery accents of reason. Worshipping some clay
god, my loving, yearning heart, might possibly have led me astray; but
now, pride and ambition stand as sentinels over its corpse, and a
heartless woman, desirous only of amassing a fortune and making
herself a celebrity in musical circles, is as safe from harm as the
bones of her grandmother, twenty years buried."

The agony that convulsed the orphan's features, and shivered the
smoothness of her usually sweet voice, touched the old lady's
sympathy, and she wept silently; straining her imagination for some
argument that would make an impression on the adamantine will with
which she found her own in conflict.

"My child, tell me how long you have had this trouble. When did you
first feel an interest in Ulpian?"

Unhesitatingly Salome related all that had occurred in her intercourse
with Dr. Grey, and her companion was surprised at the frankness and
mercilessness with which she analyzed her own feelings at each stage
of the acquaintance that proved so disastrous to her peace of mind;
and not only held her weakness up for scorn, but exonerated Dr. Grey
from all censure.

The minuteness of the confession was exceedingly painful; and, at its
conclusion, she pressed her palms to her cheeks, and moaned,--

"There, Miss Jane, I have not winced; I have kept back nothing. I have
been as patient and inexorable in laying open my nature, in treating
you to a _post-mortem_ examination of my heart, as a dentist in
scraping and chiselling a sensitive tooth, or a surgeon in cutting out
a cancer that baffled cauterization. Now you know all that I can tell
you, and I here lay the past in a sepulchre, and roll the stone upon
it, and henceforth I trust you will respect the dead; at least, let
silence rest upon its ashes. _Hic jacet cor cordium._"

Salome extricated herself from the arms of her best friend, and
smoothed the hair that constant strokes had somewhat disordered.

"Salome, I can not live much longer."

"I know that, dear Miss Jane, and it pains me even to think of leaving
the only person who ever really loved me."

"For my sake, dear child, bear the trial of remaining here a little
longer; at least, until I die. Do not desert me in my last hours. I do
not want the hands of strangers about me, when I am cold and stiff."

Salome rose and walked several times up and down the room; then paused
beside the easy-chair, and laid her clasped hands in Miss Jane's.

"You alone have a right to control me. Do with me as you think best. I
will not forsake the true, tender friend, who has done more for me
than all else on earth, or in heaven. For the present I remain here;
but allow me to say that I do not abandon my scheme. I relinquish none
of its details,--I only bide my time."

"'Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof.' Thank you, my precious
little girl, for yielding to my wishes when they conflict with yours.
Some day you will rejoice that you made what seemed a sacrifice of
inclination on the altar of duty. Now, listen to me. Ulpian is so
enraptured with your voice, that, while he will never consent to this
stage-struck madness, he is exceedingly anxious that you should enjoy
every musical advantage, and is curious to ascertain to what degree of
perfection your voice can be trained. After consulting me, he wrote
two days ago to a celebrated professor of music in Philadelphia or New
York (I really forget where the man is now residing), and offered him
a handsome salary if he would come and teach you for at least six
months, or as much longer as he deems requisite. I believe the
gentleman is delicate and threatened with consumption, which obliges
him to spend the winters in a warm climate, and Ulpian first met him
in Italy. My boy thinks that the opinion of this Professor Von
Somebody is oracular in musical matters; and, as he has trained some
of the best singers in Europe, Ulpian wishes him to have charge of
your voice. Say nothing about it until we hear whether he can accept
our offer. Kiss me."

Salome's face crimsoned, and she said, hesitatingly,--

"Miss Jane, I can not consent that Dr. Grey should contribute one cent
toward my musical tuition. I can humbly and gratefully accept your
charitable aid, but not his. You love me, and therefore your bounty
is not oppressive or humiliating, but he only pities and tolerates
me, and I would starve in some gutter rather than live as the
recipient of his charity. If you can conveniently spare the money
necessary to give me additional cultivation, I shall thankfully
receive it, for Barilli has taught me all of which he is master,
and there is no one else in town in whom I have more confidence.
It was my desire and determination that the work of my hands should
pay for polishing my voice, but embroidery-fees would not suffice
to defray the expenses of the professor to whom you allude; and, if
Dr. Grey pays for his services, I must in advance assure you and
him that I shall decline them, and rely upon Barilli and myself."

"Pooh! pooh! It is poor philosophy to quarrel with your bread and
butter, no matter who happens to hand it to you. Don't be so savage on
Ulpian, who really cares more for you than you deserve. But if it
comforts your proud, fierce spirit, you are welcome to know that
I--Jane Grey--pay Professor Von--whatever his name may be; and
Ulpian's pocket, about which you seem so fastidious, will not be
damaged one dollar by the transaction. Are you satisfied,--you pretty
piece of beggarly pride?"

"I am more grateful to you, dear Miss Jane, than I shall ever be able
to express. God only knows what would have become of me if you had not
mercifully snatched me, soul and body, from the purlieus of ruin."

She stooped to receive the fond kiss of her benefactress, and went
into her own room.

Nearly an hour later she slowly descended the stairs, and took her hat
from the stand in the hall. As she adjusted it on her head, and tied
the ribbons behind her knot of hair, Mr. Granville came out of the
parlor and seized her hand.

"Why will you torment me so cruelly? I have been waiting and watching
for you, at least half an hour."

She haughtily took her fingers from his, and indignantly drew herself
up,--

"Mr. Granville presumes on his position as guest, to intrude upon some
who do not desire his society. I was not aware, sir, that I had any
engagement with you."

"Forgive me, Salome! How have I offended you? If you could realize how
much pleasure your presence affords me, you would not punish me by
absenting yourself as you have persistently done for three days
past."

He bent his handsome face closer to hers, looking appealingly into her
beautiful flashing eyes; but she put up her hands to push him aside,
and answered,--

"I shall be happy to entertain you in the evenings, when the remainder
of the household assemble in the parlor; and will, with great
pleasure, sing for you whenever Miss Muriel will kindly oblige me by
playing my accompaniments; but I prefer to confine our acquaintance to
such occasions."

"Will you not allow me the privilege of accompanying you in the walk
for which you seem prepared?"

"No, sir; I respectfully decline your attendance."

She saw his cheek flush, and he said, hastily,--

"Salome, I shall begin to hope that you fear to trust your own
heart."

"Do not forget yourself, sir. If you knew where my heart is housed,
you would spare yourself the fruitless trouble, and me the annoyance,
of attentions and expressions of admiration which I avail myself of
this opportunity to assure you are particularly disagreeable to me. I
wish to treat you courteously, as the guest of those under whose roof
I am permitted to reside, but 'thus far, and no farther,' must you
venture. Moreover, Mr. Granville, since we are merely comparative
strangers, I should be gratified if you will in future do me the honor
to recollect that it is one of my peculiarities,--one of my
idiosyncrasies,--to prefer that only those I respect and love should
call me Salome. Good afternoon, sir."

She took her music-book, bowed coolly, and made her exit through the
front door, which she closed after her.

In the hammock that was suspended on the eastern side of the piazza,
Dr. Grey had thrown himself to rest; and meanwhile, to search for some
surgical operation recorded in one of his books.

Just behind him a window opened from the hall, and to-day, though a
rose-colored shade was lowered, the sash had been raised, and every
word that was uttered in the passage floated distinctly to him.

The whole conversation occurred so rapidly that he had no opportunity
of discovering his presence to the persons within, and though he
cleared his throat and coughed rather spasmodically, his warning was
unheeded by those for whom it was intended.

He knew that Salome could not possibly have guessed his proximity, as
he was not accustomed to use this hammock, and was completely shielded
from observation; and, while pained and surprised by Mr. Granville's
dishonorable course, which threatened life-long wretchedness for poor
Muriel, Dr. Grey's heart throbbed with joy at the assurance that
Salome was not so ungenerous as he had feared. Probably no other human
being would have so highly appreciated her conduct on this occasion;
and, as he mused, with his thumb and forefinger thrust between the
leaves of the book, a glad smile broke over his grave face.

"God bless the girl! Her prayers and mine have not been in vain, and
she is putting under her feet the baser impulses that mar her
character. Granville is considered by the world exceedingly handsome
and agreeable, and many,--yes, the majority of women, would have
yielded, and indulged in a 'harmless flirtation,' where Salome stood
firm. There was something akin to the scornful ring of Rachel's voice
in that child's tones, when she told Gerard he presumed on his
position as guest; and I will wager my hand that her large eyes did
not exactly resemble a dove's when she informed him it was not his
privilege to call her Salome. She has a fierce, imperious, passionate
temper, that goads her into mischief; but, after all, she is--she
must be--nobler than I have sometimes thought her. God grant it! God
bless her!"

  "But blame us women not,--if some appear
    Too cold at times; and some too gay and light.
  Some griefs gnaw deep. Some woes are hard to bear.
    Who knows the Past? And who can judge us right?"



CHAPTER XIX.


"Doctor Grey, are you awake? Dr. Grey, here is a note from 'Solitude,'
and the messenger begs that you will lose no time, as one of the
servants is supposed to be dying."

Salome had knocked twice at Dr. Grey's door, without arousing him, and
the third time she beat a tattoo that would have broken even heavier
slumbers than his.

"I am awake, and will strike a light in a moment."

She heard him stumbling about the room, and finally there was a crash,
as of a broken vase or goblet.

"What is the matter? Can't you find your matches?"

"No; some one has removed the box from its usual place, and I am
fumbling about at random, and smashing things indiscriminately. Will
you be so good as to bring me a match?"

"I have a candle in my hand, which you can take, while I order Elbert
to get your buggy ready."

"Thank you, Salome."

She placed the candle on the mat before his door, laid the note beside
it, and went down to the servants' rooms to call the driver.

It was two o'clock, and Dr. Grey had come home only an hour before,
from a patient who resided at some distance.

Dressing himself as expeditiously as possible, he read the blurred and
crumpled note.

  "Dr. Grey: For God's sake come as quick as possible. I am afraid
  my mother is dying.

    "ROBERT MACLEAN."

Three days before, when he visited Elsie, he found her more composed
and comfortable than she had been for several weeks, and Mrs. Gerome
had seemed almost cheerful, as she sat beside the bed, crimping the
borders of the invalid's muslin caps which the laundress had sent in,
stiff and spotless.

Recollecting Elsie's desire to confide something to him before her
death, and dreading the effect which this sudden termination of her
life might have upon her mistress, in whom he was daily becoming more
deeply interested, Dr. Grey hurried down stairs and met the orphan.

"Elbert is not quite ready, but will be at the door directly. I told
him the case was urgent."

"You are very considerate, Salome, and I am much obliged for your
thoughtfulness; though I regret that the messenger waked you, instead
of Rachel or me. I have never before known Rachel fail to hear the
bell, and I was so weary that I think a ten-inch columbiad would
scarcely have aroused me."

"I was not asleep,--was sitting at my window; and hearing some one
slam the gate and gallop up the avenue, I went to the door and opened
it, to prevent the ringing of the bell and waking of the entire
household."

"You should have been asleep four hours ago, and I had no idea you
were still up, when I came home. There was no light in your room. Are
you quite well?"

"Thank you, I am quite well."

She was dressed as he had seen her at dinner, and now, as she stood
resting one hand on the balustrade of the stairway, he thought she
looked paler and more weary than he had ever observed her.

The scarlet spray of pelargonium had withered from the heat of her
head, where it had rested all the evening, and the large creamy Grand
Duke jasmine fastened at her throat by a sprig of coral, was drooping
and fading, but still exhaled its strong delicious perfume.

"Your appearance contradicts your assertion. Is your wakefulness
attributable to any anxiety or trouble which I can remove?"

"No, sir. I hear Elbert opening the gate. Who is sick at 'Solitude'?"

"The servant who was so severely injured many months ago, by a fall
from a carriage, has grown suddenly worse."

Salome accompanied him to the front door, in order to lock it after
his departure; and, as he descended the steps, he turned and said, in
a subdued voice,--

"You have probably heard that Mrs. Gerome is a very peculiar,--indeed,
a decidedly eccentric person?"

"Yes, sir; it is reported that she is almost a lunatic."

"Which is totally false. She is very sensitive, and shrinks from
strangers, and consequently has no friends here. If I should find
Elsie dying, or if I need you, I wish you to come promptly. It may be
necessary to have some one beside the household, and you are the only
person I can trust. Try to go to sleep immediately, for I may send for
you very early in the morning."

"I shall be ready to come when I am needed."

The buggy rolled up to the steps, and Dr. Grey sprang into it and
drove swiftly down the avenue.

Salome crept softly back up stairs, but Miss Jane called out,--

"Who is there, in the hall? What is the matter?"

The girl opened the door, and put her head inside.

"Dr. Grey has been called to see a sick woman at 'Solitude,' and I
have just locked the door after him."

"Why could not Rachel do that, and save you from coming down stairs?
What time of night is it?"

"About half-past two. Rachel is asleep. Good-night."

"'Solitude,' did you say?"

"Yes, madam."

"Well, if people will persist in burrowing in that unlucky den, they
must take the consequences. Ulpian, poor fellow, will be completely
worn out. Good-night, dear; don't get up to breakfast, if you feel
sleepy."

Salome went to her own room, changed her dress, laid gloves, hat, and
shawl in readiness upon the bed, and threw herself down on the lounge
to rest, and if possible to sleep.

When Dr. Grey reached "Solitude," he found Robert Maclean pacing the
paved walk that led to the gate.

"Oh, doctor! Have you come at last? It seems to me I could have
crawled twice to your house, since Jerry came back."

"What change has taken place in your mother's condition? She was
better than usual, when I saw her last."

"We thought she was getting along very well, till all of a sudden she
became speechless. Go in, sir; don't stop to knock."

Mrs. Gerome sat at the bedside, mechanically chafing one of the hands
that lay on the coverlet, and the face of the dying woman was not more
ghastly than the one which bent over her. As Dr. Grey approached, the
mistress of the house rose, and put out her hands towards him, with a
wistful, pleading, childish manner, that touched him inexpressibly.

"Do not let her die."

He leaned over the pillow, and put his finger on the scarcely palpable
pulse.

"Elsie, tell me where or how you suffer."

A ray of recognition leaped up in her sunken eyes, and she looked at
him with a yearning, imploring expression, that was pitiable and
distressing indeed.

He saw that she was struggling to articulate, but failing in the
effort, a groan escaped her, and tears gathered and trickled down her
pinched face. He smoothed her contracted forehead, and said,
soothingly,--

"Elsie, you feel that I will do all that I can to relieve you. You can
not talk to me, but you know me?"

She inclined her head slightly, and in examining her he discovered
that only one side was completely paralyzed, and that she could still
partially control her left arm. When he had done all that medical
skill could suggest, he stood at her side, and she suddenly grasped
his fingers.

He put his face close to hers, and observing her tears start afresh,
whispered,--

"You wish to tell me something before you die?"

A gurgling sound, and a faint motion of her lips was the only reply of
which she was capable.

He placed a pencil between her fingers, but she could not use it
intelligibly, and he noticed that her eyes moved from his to those of
her mistress, as if to indicate that she was the subject of the
desired conversation.

It was distressing to witness her efforts to communicate her wishes,
while the tears dripped on her pillow; and unable to endure the sight
of her anguish, Mrs. Gerome sank on her knees and hid her face in the
coverlet.

Dr. Grey gently lifted Elsie's arm and placed her hand on the head of
her mistress, and the expression of her face assured him he had
correctly interpreted her feelings. Something still disturbed her, and
he suggested,--

"Mrs. Gerome, put your hand in hers."

She silently obeyed him, and then the old woman's eyes looked once
more intently into his. He could not conjecture her meaning, until, in
feeling her pulse, he found that she was trying to touch his fingers
with hers.

He slipped his own into the palm where Mrs. Gerome's lay, and, by a
last great effort, she pressed them feebly together.

Even then, the touch of those white, soft fingers, thrilled his heart
as no other hand had ever done, and he said,--

"Elsie, you mean that you leave her in my care? That you put her in my
hands? That you trust her to me?"

It was impossible to mistake the satisfied expression that flashed
over her countenance.

"I accept the trust. Elsie, I promise you that while I live she shall
never want a true and faithful friend. I will try to take care of her
body, and pray for her soul. I will do all that you would have done."

Once more, but very faintly, she pressed the two hands she had
clasped, and closed her eyes.

"Oh, doctor, can't you save her?" sobbed Robert.

In the solemn silence that ensued Mrs. Gerome lifted her face, and Dr.
Grey never forgot the wild, imploring gaze, that met his. He
understood its import, and shook his head. She rose instantly, moved
away from the bed, and left the room.

For nearly an hour Dr. Grey hung over the prostrate form, which lay
with closed eyes, and gradually sank into the heavy lethargic sleep,
from which he knew she could never awake.

Leaving her to the care of Robert and two female servants, he went in
search of the mistress of the silent and dreary house.

Taking a lamp from the escritoire in the back parlor, he went from
room to room, finding nowhere the object he sought, and at length
became alarmed. As he stood in the front door, perplexed and
anxious, the thought presented itself that she might have gone down
to the beach. He went back to the apartment occupied by the dying
woman,--felt once more the sinking pulse, and took a last look at
the altered and almost rigid face.

"Robert, I can do her no good. Her soul will very soon be with her
God."

"Oh, sir, don't leave her! Don't give her up, while there is life in
her body!" cried the son, grasping the doctor's sleeve.

Dr. Grey put his hand on the Scotchman's shoulder, and whispered,--

"I am going to hunt for Mrs. Gerome. She is not in the house. I may be
able to render her some service, but your mother is beyond all human
aid."

"Is there any pulse?"

"It is so feeble now, I can scarcely count it."

"Please, doctor, stay here by her while she breathes. Don't desert the
dear soul. My poor mother!"

Robert lost all control of himself, and wept like a child.

Loth to forsake him in this hour of direst trial, Dr. Grey leaned
against the bed, and for some moments watched the irregular convulsive
heaving of the woman's chest.

"Oh, sir, if my mistress hadn't a heart of stone, she would have let
her die peacefully. She might at least have granted her dying
prayer."

"What was it?"

"All of yesterday afternoon she pleaded with her to be baptized. My
mother--God bless her dear soul!--my mother told her that she could
not consent to die until she saw her baptized; and, with the tears
pouring down her poor face, she begged and prayed that I might fetch
the minister from town, and that she might see the ceremony performed.
But my mistress walked up and down the floor, and said, 'Never! never!
I have done with mockeries. I have washed my hands of all that,--long,
long ago.' And now--it is too late; and my poor mother can never--God
be merciful to us! is it all over?"

Dr. Grey raised the head, but the breathing was imperceptible and,
after a little while, he softly pressed down the lids that were
partially lifted from the glazed eyes, and quitted the room.

His buggy stood at the rear gate, and the driver was asleep, but his
master's voice aroused him.

"Elbert, go home, and ask Miss Salome please to come over as soon as
you can drive her here."

The east was purple and gold, the sea a purling mass of molten amber,
and only two stars were visible low in the west, where a waning moon
swung on the edge of the distant misty hills. The air was chill, and a
silvery haze hung above the moaning waves, and partially veiled the
windings of the beach. Under the trees that clustered so closely
around the house, the gloom of night still lingered like a pall, but
as Dr. Grey approached the terrace, he felt the pure fresh presence of
the new day. Up and down the sands his eyes wandered, hoping to
discern a woman's figure, but no living thing was visible, except the
flamingo and yellow pheasant still perched where they had spent the
night, on the stone balustrade that bordered the terrace. He took off
his hat to enjoy the crystalline atmosphere, and while he faced the
brightening east, the sharp peculiar bark of the Arab greyhound broke
the solemn silence that brooded over sea and land.

The sound proceeded from the boat-house, and he hastened towards it,
startling a mimic army of crabs and fiddlers that had not yet ended
their nightly marauding. The tide was higher than usual at this early
hour, and the waves were breaking sullenly against the stone piers.

As Dr. Grey ascended the iron steps leading to the pavilion, the dog
growled and showed his teeth, but the visitor succeeded in partially
winning him over, and now passed unmolested into the circular room. A
cushioned seat extended around the wall, where windows opened at the
four points of the compass; and on the round table in the centre of
the marble-tiled floor lay a telescope.

At the eastern window sat Mrs. Gerome, with her head resting on her
crossed arms. Although Dr. Grey's steps echoed heavily, as he trod the
damp mosaic where the mist had condensed, she gave no evidence of
having discovered his presence until he stood close beside her. Then
she raised one hand, with a quick gesture of caution and silence. He
sat down near her, and watched the countenance that was fully exposed
to his scrutiny.

No tears had dimmed the wide, mournful, almost despairing eyes, that
gazed with strange intentness over the amber sea, at the golden
radiance that heralded the coming sun; and every line and moulding of
her delicate features seemed cold and rigid enough for a cenotaph.
Even the lips were still and compressed, and a bluish shadow lay about
their dimpled corners, and under the heavy jet eyelashes. Her silver
comb had become loosened, and was finally dragged down by the coil of
hair that slipped slowly until it fell upon the morocco cushion of the
seat, and the glistening waves of gray hair rolled around her
shoulders, and rippled low on her brow. Sea fog had dampened and sea
wind tossed this mass of white locks, till it made a singular
burnished frame for the wan face that looked out hopeless and
painfully quiet.

Her silk _robe de chambre_ of leaden gray, bordered with blue, was
unbuttoned at the throat, and showed its faultless curve and contour;
while the full, open sleeves, blown back by the strong breeze, bared
the snowy arms, where one of the jet serpents that formed her
bracelets, pressed so heavily on the white flesh that a purple band
was visible when the hand was raised and the bracelet slipped back.

Watching her intently, Dr. Grey could not detect the slightest quiver
of nerve or muscle; and she breathed so low and softly that he might
have doubted whether she was really conscious, if he had not correctly
interpreted the strained expression of the unwinking gray eyes whose
pupils contracted as the sky flushed and kindled.

On the floor lay a dainty handkerchief, and stooping to pick it up, he
inhaled the delicate, tenacious perfume of tube-rose, which, blended
with orange-flowers, he had frequently discovered when standing near
her.

Placing it within reach of her fingers, he said, very gently and more
tenderly than he was aware of,--

"Mrs. Gerome,--"

"Hush! I know what you have come to tell me. I knew it when I came
away. Let me alone, now."

She raised her head, and turned her eyes to meet his, and he shuddered
at the hard, bitter look, that came swiftly over the blanched
features. For some seconds they gazed full at each other, and Dr.
Grey's eyes filled with a mist that made hers seem large and radiant
as wintry stars.

He knew then that his heart was no longer his own,--that this
wretched, solitary woman, had installed herself in its most sacred
penetralia; that she had not suddenly, but gradually, become the
dearest object that earth possessed.

He did not ask himself whether she filled all his fastidious and
lofty requirements,--whether she rose full-statured to his noble
standard,--whether reverence, perfect confidence, and unqualified
admiration would follow in the footsteps of mere affection. He
neither argued, nor trifled, nor deceived himself, but bravely
confessed to his own true soul, that, for the first time in his
life, he loved warmly and tenderly the only woman whose touch had
power to stir his quiet, steady pulses.

He had not intended to surrender his affections to the custody of any
one until reason and judgment had analyzed, weighed, and cordially
endorsed the wisdom of his choice; and now, although surprised at the
rashness with which his heart, hitherto so tractable and docile,
vehemently declared allegiance to a new sovereign, he did not attempt
to mask or varnish the truth. Thoroughly comprehending the fact that
it was neither friendship nor compassion, he gravely looked the new
feeling in the face, and acknowledged it,--the tyrant which sooner or
later wields the sceptre in every human heart.

Had he faithfully kept his compact with himself, and followed the
injunction of Joubert, "Choose for a wife only the woman, whom, were
she a man, you would choose for your friend"?

Because he found a fascination in her society, should he conclude that
it was a healthful atmosphere for his sturdy, exacting, uncompromising
nature?

To-day he swept aside all these protests and questions, postponing the
arraignment of his heart before the tribunal of slighted and indignant
reason, and allowed the newly mitred pontiff to lead him whither she
chose.

Unconscious of the emotions that brought an unusual glow to his
face and light to his eyes, Mrs. Gerome had dropped her head once
more on her arms, and the weary, despairing expression of her
countenance, as she looked at the gilded horizon, where sea and sky
seemed divided only by a belt of liquid gold,--might have served for
the face of some careless Vestal, who, having allowed the fire to
expire on the altar she had sworn to guard sleeplessly, sat hopeless,
desolate, and doomed,--watching from the dim, cheerless temple of
Hestia, the advent of that sun whose rays alone could rekindle the
sacred flame, and which, ere its setting, would witness the
execution of her punishment.

Dr. Grey bent over her, and said,--

"I came here in quest of you, hoping to persuade you to return to the
house."

"No. You came to tell me that Elsie is dead. You came to break the
news as gently as possible,--and to pity and try to comfort me. You
are very good, I dare say; but I wish to be alone."

"You have been too long alone, and I can not consent to leave you
here."

At the sound of his subdued voice, she turned her face towards him,
and, for a moment,--

  "A strange slow smile grew into her eyes,
    As though from a great way off it came
  And was weary ere down to her lips it fluttered,
    And turned into a sigh, or some soft name
  Whose syllables sounded likest sighs
  Half-smothered in sorrow before they were uttered."

"Dr. Grey, my loneliness transcends all parallels, and is beyond
remedy. Why should I not stay here? All places are alike to me, now.
That cold, silent corpse at the house, is not Elsie; and, since she
has been taken, I shall be utterly alone, go where I may."

She shivered, and he picked up a crape shawl lying in a heap under the
table, and wrapped it around her. The soft folds were damp, and, as he
lifted the veil of hair, to draw the shawl closer about her shoulders
and throat, he felt that it was moist from the humid atmosphere.

"Sir, I am not cold,--I wish I were. It is useless to wrap up my body
so warmly, and leave my heart shivering until death freezes it
utterly."

Dr. Grey took her beautiful white hands in his warm palms, and held
them firmly.

"Mrs. Gerome, you do not know what is best for you, and must be guided
by one who will prove himself your truest friend."

"Don't mock my misery! I never had but one friend, and henceforth must
live friendless. I knew what was before me, and therefore I dreaded
this dark, dark day, and begged you to save her. She was the world to
me. She supplied the place of father, mother, husband, society, and
because God saw that her loving sympathy and care made my existence a
trifle less purgatorial than He saw fit to render it, He took her
away. My poor Elsie would quit the highest throne in heaven to come
back to her desolate, dependent child; for only she knew how and why I
trusted and leaned upon her. Ah, God! it is hard that I who have so
long shunned strangers should be at their mercy, in the last hour of
trial that can be devised by fiends, or allowed by heaven to afflict
me."

She struggled to free her hands and hide her face, but her companion
clasped them in one of his, and attempted to draw her head down to his
shoulder.

"No, sir! The grave is the only resting-place for my poor, accursed
head. Do not touch me."

She shrank as far as possible from him, and her voice, hitherto so
firm and dry, trembled.

"Mrs. Gerome, I intend to take Elsie's place. You had confidence in
her sagacity and penetration, and know that she was cautious in all
things. During her long illness she studied my character and
antecedents, and finally begged me to take you under my guardianship
when she could no longer watch over you. She was importunate in her
appeal, and to comfort and compose her I gave her a solemn promise
that at her death I would take her place. You may deem me intrusive,
and perhaps presumptuously impertinent, but time proves all
things, and, after a little while, you will cling to me as you so long
clung to her. I shall wait patiently for your confidence; shall
deserve,--and then exact it. You need a strong arm to curb and guide
you,--you need a true, honest heart, to sympathize with your sorrows
and difficulties,--you need a fearless friend to defend you from the
assaults of gossip and malice; and all these, if God spares my life,
I am resolved to be to you. You can not repulse, or offend, or
chill, or wound me, for my word is sacredly pledged to the dead; and,
by the grace of God, I will strictly and fully redeem it, when we
meet at the last day."

The earnestness of his manner, the grave resolution of his tone, and
the invincible fearlessness with which his clear, calm, penetrating
eyes, looked into hers, seemed momentarily to overawe her; and she sat
quite still, pondering his unexpected words. Pressing her cold fingers
very gently, he continued,--

"Elsie had such confidence in my discretion, and friendly interest in
your welfare, that she requested me to warn her of her approaching
dissolution in order that she might communicate something, which she
assured me she desired to confide to me before her death. The
paralysis of her tongue prevented the fulfilment of her wish, but you
saw how keenly she suffered from her inability to utter what was
pressing on her heart. You can not have forgotten that her last act
was to put your hand in mine, and you heard my solemn acceptance of
the charge committed to me."

An expression of dread that bordered on horror, came over her ghastly
face, and her hands grasped his, almost spasmodically.

"Did she hint what she wished to tell you? Did you guess it all?"

"No. Whatever her secret may have been, it passed unuttered into that
realm where all mysteries are solved. I neither know nor surmise the
nature of her desired revelation, but some day when you fully
understand me, I shall ask you to tell me that which she believed I
ought to know. My dear madam, when I come to you and demand your
confidence, I have no fear that you will withhold it."

She closed her eyes as if to shut out some painful vision, and drooped
her head lower, till it rested on her chest.

The sun flashed up from his ocean bed, and, as the first beams fell on
the woman's hair, Dr. Grey softly passed his broad white hand over its
perfumed masses, redolent of orange flowers.

"The air is too damp for you. Come with me to the house."

She did not heed his words, and perhaps his touch on her head
recalled some exquisitely painful memory, for she shook it off, and
exclaimed,--

"Doubtless, like the remainder of the curious herd, you are wondering
at my 'crown of glory,'--and conjecturing what dire tragedy bequeathed
it to me. Sir,--

  'My hair was black, but white my life:
    The colors in exchange are cast!
  The white upon my hair is rife,
    The black upon my life has passed.'

Dr. Grey, I understand you; but you need not stay here to keep guard
over me, as if I were an imbecile or a refugee from an insane asylum.
That I am not the one or the other, is attributable to the fact that
my powers of endurance are almost fabulous. You fear that in my
loneliness and complete isolation I may turn coward, at the last
ordeal I am put through,--and, like Zeno cry out, and in a fit of
desperation strangle myself? Dr. Grey, make yourself easy. I do not
love my Creator so devotedly that I must needs hurry into his presence
before He sees proper to send me a summons.'"

"I am afraid to leave you here, for any woman who does not love and
reverence her Maker, requires a guardian. Of course you will do as you
like, but I shall remain here as long as you do."

He rose, and crossing his arms on his chest, began to walk about the
pavilion. She caught up her hair, twisted it hastily into a knot, and
secured it with her comb. As she did so, a small cluster of double
violets dropped into her lap. She had gathered them the preceding
afternoon, had carried them as an offering to Elsie, who insisted that
she should wear them in her hair, "they looked so bonnie just behind
the little roguish ear." At her request Mrs. Gerome had placed them at
the side of her head, and the old woman made her lean down that she
might smell them, and leave a kiss on their blue petals. Now the sight
of the withered flowers melted her icy composure, and, as she lifted
the little crushed, faded bouquet, and pressed it against her wan
cheek, a moan broke from her colorless lips.

"Oh, Elsie,--Elsie! How could you desert me? You knew you were all
I had to love and trust,--and how could you die and leave me
alone,--utterly alone, in this miserable world that has so cruelly
injured me!"

She clasped her hands passionately over the flowers, and the motion
caused the sapphire ring, which was now much too large, to slip from
the thin finger, and roll ringing across the marble floor.

Dr. Grey picked it up, and as he replaced it, drew her hand under his
arm, and led her out of the boat-house. They walked slowly, and as
they ascended the steps, he saw his buggy approaching the side gate.

Opening the parlor door, he drew his companion into the room, where
the Psyche lamp still burned brightly.

"Mrs. Gerome, will you trust me?"

He had hoped that a return to the house would touch her heart and make
her weep, but the cold, dry glitter of her eyes disappointed him.

"Dr. Grey, I trust neither men nor women, nor even the angels in
heaven; for one of them turned serpent, and if tradition be true, made
earth the dismal 'Bochin' I have found it."

She turned from him, and threw herself wearily upon the divan that
filled the recess of the oriel window.

Securing the door of the library, he extinguished the lamp, and
closing the parlor went out to meet Salome.



CHAPTER XX.


"Doctor Grey, you look weary and anxious."

"I feel so, for this has been a memorable night."

"The servant who opened the gate for us said that the poor old woman
died about day-break."

"Yes; when I arrived I found her speechless, and of course could do
nothing but watch her die. Come down this walk, I wish to talk to you
before you go into the house."

He pointed to a serpentine walk, overarched by laurustinus, and they
had proceeded some yards before he spoke again.

"Salome, I believe you told me that you had met Mrs. Gerome?"

"Yes, sir; once upon the cliffs, a mile below, I saw her for a few
moments."

"She is a very eccentric woman."

"I should judge so, from her appearance."

"Her life seems to have been blighted by early griefs, and she has
grown cynical and misanthropic. Loving no one but her faithful and
devoted nurse, she has completely isolated herself, and consequently
the death of this servant--companion--nay, foster-mother--is a
terrible blow to her. I want your promise that what you may hear or
witness in this house shall not travel beyond its walls to feed the
worse-than-Ugolino hunger of never-satiated scandal and gossip."

Salome's brow contracted and darkened.

"Do you class me among newsmongers and character-cannibals?"

"If I did, you certainly would not be here at this instant. I sent for
you to come and take my place temporarily, as I am compelled to see a
patient many miles distant, who is dangerously ill. The majority of
women might go away, and comment upon the occurrences of this
melancholy day, but I wish to keep sacred all that Mrs. Gerome desires
to screen from public gaze and animadversion. Because she is not fond
of society, it revenges itself by circulating reports detrimental to
the owner of a house which is elegantly furnished, not for popular
praise, but solely for her own comfort and gratification. While I
regard her course as very deplorable, and particularly impolitic for
one so young and unprotected, I am totally unacquainted with the
reasons that control her; and, in this hour of grief and bitterness, I
earnestly desire to shield her from intrusion and impertinent
scrutiny."

"In other words, you wish me to have eyes and yet see not,--and having
ears to hear not? You must indeed have little confidence in my good
sense, and still less in my feminine sympathy for the afflicted, if
you suppose that under existing circumstances I could come to the
house of mourning to collect materials to be rolled as sweet morsels
under the slanderous tongues, that already wag so industriously
concerning 'Solitude' and its solitary mistress. Verily, I occupy a
lofty niche in your estimation, and it would doubtless be pardonably
prudent in you to reconsider, and bid Elbert take me home with all
possible dispatch, before I see Fatima or Bluebeard."

"When will you cease to be childish, and remember that a woman's work
lies before you?"

"You may date that desirable transmogrification from the hour when you
cease to stir up the mud and dregs in my nature, by doubting the
possibility that they will ever settle, and leave a pure medium
between your soul and mine. Just so soon,--and no sooner."

"My young friend, you are too sensitive. I now offer you the strongest
proof of confidence that I can ever hope to command. Will you take
charge of this stricken household in my absence, and not only
superintend the arrangements necessary for the funeral, but watch over
Mrs. Gerome and see that no one disturbs her?"

"You may trust me to execute her wishes and your orders."

"Thank you. There certainly is no one except you whom I would trust in
this emergency. One thing more; if Mrs. Gerome leaves the house, do
not lose sight of her. It may be necessary to keep a very strict
surveillance over her, and I will return as soon as possible, and
relieve you."

As they entered the house, Salome said,--

"You will stop at home and get your breakfast?"

"No, I shall not have time."

"Let me make you a cup of coffee before you start."

"Thank you, it is not necessary; and besides, the house is in such
confusion that it would be difficult to obtain anything. Come with
me."

She followed him into the dim room, where the tall but emaciated form
of Elsie Maclean had been dressed for its last long sleep. The
housemaid sat at the bedside, and Robert stood at one of the windows.

The first passionate burst of grief had spent itself, and the son was
very calm.

At a sign from Dr. Grey he came forward, and bowed to the stranger.

"Robert, I am obliged to be absent for several hours, and Miss Owen
will remain until I return. If you need advice or assistance come to
her, and do not disturb Mrs. Gerome, who is lying on a sofa in the
parlor. I will drive through town, and send your minister out
immediately."

"You are very good, sir. Do you think the funeral should take place
before to-morrow? I want to speak to my mistress about it."

"For her sake, it is advisable that it should not be delayed beyond
this afternoon. It is very harrowing to know that the body is lying
here, and I think she would prefer to leave all these matters to you.
It would be better for all parties to have the funeral ceremonies
ended this evening."

"I suppose, sir, you know that my poor mother will be buried here, in
the grounds."

"For what reason? The cemetery is certainly the best place."

Robert handed a slip of paper to Dr. Grey, who read, in a remarkably
beautiful chirograph, the following words,--

"Robert, it was your mother's desire and is my wish that she should be
buried near that cluster of deodar cedars, just beyond the mound. Send
for an undertaker, and for the minister who visited her during her
illness; and let everything be done as if it were my funeral instead
of hers. Put some geranium leaves and violets in her dear hands, and
upon her breast."

"When did you receive this?" asked Dr. Grey.

"A moment ago, Phoebe, the cook, brought it to me from my mistress."

"Of course you have no choice, but must comply with her wishes and
those of the dead. Still, I regret this decision."

"Yes, sir; it is ill luck to keep a grave near the eaves of a house,
and it will be bad for my mistress to have it always in sight; for she
mopes enough at best, and does not sleep o' nights, and the Lord only
knows what will become of her with my poor mother's corpse and coffin
within ten yards of her window. Sir, how does she take this awful
blow? It comforted me to know you were with her."

"She bears this affliction as she seems to have endured all others
that have overtaken her, in a spirit of rebellious bitterness and
defiance. I am afraid that the excitement will seriously injure her.
Salome, I will return as early as the safety of a patient will
permit."

Robert followed the doctor to his buggy, to consult him with reference
to some of the sad details of the impending funeral, and after a hasty
glance at the placid countenance of the dead, Salome went back to the
hall, and sat down opposite to the parlor door, which had been pointed
out to her. Her nerves were strong, healthy, and firm, but the
presence of death, the profound silence that reigned, the chill
atmosphere, and dreary aspect of the house,--all conspired to oppress
her heart.

Through the open door she could see the ever restless sea, and hear
its endless murmuring monotone, and imagination seizing the ill-omened
legends she had heard recounted concerning this spot, peopled the
corners of the hall with phantoms, and every flitting shadow on the
lawn became a spectre.

Now and then the servants--two middle-aged women--passed softly to and
fro, and twice Robert crossed the passage, but not a sound issued from
the parlor; and once, when Phoebe came with her mistress's breakfast
on a waiter, and tried the bolt, she found the door locked. She
knocked several times, but receiving no answer went quietly back to
the kitchen.

Weary of sitting on one of the hard, uncomfortable walnut chairs, that
stood with its high carved back close to the wall, Salome rose, and
amused herself by studying the engravings that surrounded her. In the
midst of her investigations she was startled by a loud, doleful,
blood-curdling sound, that seemed to proceed from some spot
immediately beneath the floor of the hall. It was different from
anything she had ever heard before, but resembled the prolonged howl
of a dog, and rose and fell on the air like a cry from some doomed
spirit.

Robert came out of the room which his mother had always occupied, and,
as he passed Salome, she asked,--

"What is the matter? What is the meaning of that horrible noise?"

"Only the greyhound howling at the dead that he knows is lying over
his head. Ah, ma'am! The poor brute sees what we can't see, and his
death-baying is awful."

"Where is he? The sound seems to come through the floor."

"He is so savage that I was afraid he would hurt some of the strangers
who will come here to-day, so I chained him in the basement. Hist,
ma'am! Did you ever hear anything so dreadful? It raises the hair off
my head."

He went down stairs, and the howling, which was caused by the fact
that the dog was hungry and unaccustomed to being chained, ceased as
soon as he was set free. Ere long Robert came back, followed by the
greyhound, whose collar he grasped firmly. At sight of Salome he
growled and plunged towards her, but Robert was on the alert, and held
him down. Leading him to the parlor door, the gardener knocked, and
put his mouth to the key-hole.

"If you please, ma'am, will you let Greyhound in? It won't do to leave
him at large, and when I chain him he almost lifts the roof with his
howls."

No reply reached Salome's strained ears, but the door was opened
sufficiently to admit the dog, who eagerly bounded in, and then the
click of the lock once more barred intrusion; and when the joyful
barking had ceased, all grew silent once more.

From a basket of fresh flowers brought in by the boy who assisted
Robert, Salome selected the white ones and made a wreath, which she
laid aside and sprinkled; then gathering some rose and nutmeg
geranium-leaves, and a few violets blooming in jars that stood on the
gallery, she cautiously glided into the chamber of death, and arranged
them in Elsie's rigid hands.

Soon after, the undertaker and minister arrived, and while they
conferred with Robert concerning the burial service, the girl went
back to her vigil before the parlor door, and endeavored to divert her
thoughts by looking into a volume of poems that lay on the hall table.
The book opened at "Macromicros," where a brilliant verbena was
crushed between the leaves, and delicate undulating pencil-lines
enclosed the passage beginning,--

  "O woman, woman, with face so pale!
    Pale woman, weaving away
  A frustrate life at a lifeless loom."

Slowly the hours wore away, and at noon Elsie's body was placed in
the coffin and left on a table in the room opposite the parlor.

It was two o'clock when Dr. Grey came up the steps, looking more
fatigued than Salome had ever seen him. He sat down beside her on the
gallery, and sighed as he caught a glimpse of the men who were
bricking up the grave that yawned on the right hand side of the lawn.

"Where is Mrs. Gerome?"

"In the parlor. Once I heard her pacing the floor very rapidly, and
saying something to her dog. Since then--two hours ago--not a sound
has reached me."

"She has taken no food?"

"No, sir. The servant who prepared her breakfast knocked twice at the
door, but was refused admittance."

Dr. Grey went into the hall, and rapped vigorously on the door, but
there was no movement within.

"Mrs. Gerome, please permit me to speak to you for a few minutes. If
it were not necessary, I would not disturb you."

The appeal produced no effect; and, without hesitating, he walked to
the door of the library or rear parlor,--took the key from his pocket,
opened it, and entered.

The dog was asleep on the velvet rug before the hearth, and his
mistress sat at her escritoire, with her arms resting on the blue
desk, and her face hidden upon them. A number of letters and papers
were scattered about, and, in an open drawer a silver casket was
visible, with a pearl key in its lock.

Before the marble Harpocrates stood two slender violet-colored
Venetian glasses, representing tulips, and filled with fuchsias and
clematis that were dropping their faded velvet petals, and the
atmosphere was sweet with the breath of carnations and mignonette
blooming in the south window.

Dr. Grey hoped that Mrs. Gerome had fallen asleep; but when he bent
over her, he saw in the mirror above her that the large, bright eyes
were gazing vacantly into the recess of the desk.

She noticed his image reflected in the glass, and instantly sat
upright, spreading her hands over her papers as if to screen them. He
drew a chair near hers, and put his finger on her pulse, which
throbbed so rapidly he could scarcely count it.

"Have you slept at all, since I left you this morning?"

"No."

"You promised that you would not attempt to destroy yourself."

"I have kept my word."

"Yes; you 'keep it to our ear, and break it to our hope,' for you must
know that unless you take some rest and refreshment, you will be
seriously ill."

He saw a spark leap up in her eyes, like a bubble tossed into sunshine
by a sudden ripple, and she shook back the hair that seemed to oppress
her.

"Do not tease and torment me, now. I want to be quiet."

"My task is an unpleasant one, therefore I shall not postpone it. In a
short time--within the next hour--Elsie will be buried, and you owe a
last tribute of gratitude and respect to her remains. Will you refuse
it to the faithful friend to whom you are indebted for so much
affection and considerate care?"

"She would not wish me to do anything that is so repugnant, so painful
to me."

"Have you no desire to look at her kind, placid face once more?"

"I wish to remember it as in life,--not rigid and repulsive in
death."

"She looks so tranquil you would think she was sleeping."

"No,--no! Don't ask me. I never saw but one corpse, and that was of
a sailor drowned in mid ocean, and I shall never be able to forget
its ghastliness and distortion as it lay on deck, under sickly
moonshine."

"Mrs. Gerome, you must follow Elsie's body to the grave. Believe that
I have good reasons for this request, and grant it."

She shook her head.

"Your habits of seclusion have subjected you to uncharitable remarks,
and your absence from the funeral would create more gossip than any
woman can afford to give grounds for. There is a rumor that you are
deranged, and the best refutation will be your quiet presence at the
grave of your faithful nurse."

She straightened herself, haughtily.

"Seven years ago I turned my back upon the world, and scorned its
verdict."

"The men or women who defy public opinion invite social impalement,
and rarely fail to merit the branding and opprobrium they invariably
receive. Madam, I should imagine that to a nature so refined and
shrinking as yours, almost any trial would seem slight in comparison
with the certainty of becoming a target for sarcasm, pity, and malice,
in every kitchen in the neighborhood. Permit my prudence to prevail
over your reluctance to the step I have advised, and some day you will
thank me for my persistency. You have time to make the proper changes
in your dress, and, when the hour arrives, I will knock at your own
door. My dear madam, do not delay."

She rose, and began to replace the papers in the drawers of her desk,
which she closed and locked.

"Dr. Grey, why should you care if I am slandered?"

"Because I am now your best friend, and must tell you frankly your
foibles and dangers, and endeavor to guard you from the faintest
breath of detraction."

"I am very suspicious concerning the motives of all who come about me;
and, at times, I have been so unjust as to ascribe even my poor
Elsie's devotion to a desire to control my fortune for the benefit of
herself and child. Do you expect me to trust you more implicitly than
I ever trusted her?"

"I shall make it impossible for you to doubt me. Come to your room.
Elsie's few acquaintances will soon be here."

Mrs. Gerome thrust the key of her desk into her pocket, but a moment
after, when she drew out her handkerchief, it fell on the carpet, and
without observing it, she passed swiftly across the hall, and into her
own apartment.

As Dr. Grey lingered to secure the door, his eye fell upon the silver
key on the floor; and, placing it in his vest pocket, he rejoined
Salome.

At four o'clock several of Robert's friends came and seated themselves
in the room where the coffin sat wreathed with flowers; and
immediately after, Mr. and Mrs. Spiewell made their appearance,
accompanied by two ladies whose features were concealed by thick
veils. Robert and the servants soon joined them, and Salome stole into
the room and sat down in one corner.

Dr. Grey tapped softly at the door of Mrs. Gerome's apartment, and she
came out instantly, and walked firmly forward till she stood in the
presence of the dead. She was dressed in black silk, and wore two
heavy lace veils over her bonnet, which effectually screened her
countenance. Crossing the floor, she stood at Robert's side, and the
minister rose and began the burial service.

When a prayer was offered, all the other persons present bowed their
heads, but the mistress of the mansion remained erect and motionless;
and, as the pall-bearers took up the coffin and proceeded to the
grave, she followed Robert.

Dr. Grey stepped to her side and offered his arm, but she took no
notice of the act, and walked on as if she were an automaton.

The service was concluded, the coffin lowered, and, amid Robert's
half-smothered sobs, the mound was raised under the deodars, whose
long shadows slanted athwart it, in the dying sunlight.

The little group dispersed, and Mr. Spiewell led his wife to the owner
of "Solitude."

"Mrs. Gerome, Mrs. Spiewell and I have long desired the pleasure of
your acquaintance, and hope, if you need friends, you will permit
us--"

"Thank you for your kindness in visiting my faithful old Elsie."

The tall, veiled figure had cut short his speech by a quick,
imperative gesture of her hand; and, turning instantly away,
disappeared in one of the densely shaded walks that wound through the
grounds.

Dr. Grey escorted the party to their carriages, and as he handed Mrs.
Spiewell in, she said, in her sharp nasal tones,--

"I heard that Mrs. Gerome was devotedly attached to the poor old
creature who had nursed her, but she certainly seems to me very
indifferent and heartless."

"She is more deeply afflicted by her loss than you can possibly
realize, and I am exceedingly apprehensive that she will be ill in
consequence of her inability to sleep or eat. My dear madam, we must
not judge too hastily from appearances, else we shall deserve similar
treatment. Who are those two ladies veiled so closely?"

"Friends, I presume, or they would not be here."

But the little woman seemed uneasy, and flushed under the doctor's
searching gaze.

"I hope dear Miss Jane is as well as one can ever expect her to be in
this life. Come, Charles; you forget, my dear, that we have a visit to
make before tea-time. I notice, doctor, that you have a new carpet on
the floor of your pew, and a new cushion-cover to match; and, indeed,
you are so fine that the remainder of the church seems quite faded and
shabby. Good evening, doctor; my love to all at home."

The clergyman's gray pony trotted off with his master and mistress,
and Dr. Grey returned to Salome, who waited for him at the steps of
the terrace.

"What do you suppose brought Mrs. Channing and Adelaide to the poor
old woman's funeral?" asked the orphan.

"How did you discover them?"

"I found this handkerchief, whose initials I embroidered two months
ago, and recognize as belonging to Mrs. Channing. As for Miss
Adelaide, when she moved her veil a little aside to peep at Mrs.
Gerome, I caught a glimpse of her pretty face. Do they visit here?"

"Certainly not; nobody visits here but the butcher, baker, and doctor.
Those ladies came solely on a tour of inspection, and to gratify a
curiosity that is not flattering to their characters. My dear child,
you look tired."

"Dr. Grey, what is there so mysterious about this house and its owner
that all the town is agog and agape when the subject is mentioned?
What is Mrs. Gerome's history?"

"I am totally unacquainted with its details, and only know that since
she became a widow, she has been a complete recluse. She is very
unhappy, and we must exert ourselves to cheer her. This has been a
lonely, dreary day to you, I fear, and I trust it will not be
necessary for me to ask you to remain here to-night."

The sun had set, leaving magnificent cloud-pictures on sky and sea,
and while the orphan turned to enjoy the glorious prospect above and
around her, Dr. Grey went in search of the lonely women who now
continually occupied his thoughts.

She was standing under the pyramidal cedars, looking down at the
new grave, where Salome's wreath hung on the head-board, and
hearing approaching footsteps would have moved away, but he said,
pleadingly,--

"Do not avoid me."

She paused, and suddenly held out her hands to him.

"Ah,--is it you? Dr. Grey, what shall I do? How can I bear to live
here,--alone,--alone."

He took her hands and looked down into her white, chill face.

"My dear friend, take your suffering heart to God, and He will
heal, and comfort, and strengthen you. If He has sorely afflicted you,
try to believe that Infinite love and mercy directed all things, and
that ultimately every sorrow of earth will be overruled for your
eternal repose and happiness. Remember that this world is but a
threshing-floor, where angels use afflictions as flails, to beat
the chaff and dust from our hearts, and present them as perfect
grain for the garners of God. I know that you are desolate, but you
can never be utterly alone, since the precious promise, 'Lo! I am
with you alway, even unto the end of the world.'"

Despairingly she shook her head.

"All that might comfort some people, but it falls on my ears and heart
like the sound of the clods on Elsie's coffin. I have no religion,--no
faith,--no hope,--in time or eternity. My miserable past entombs all
things."

"Do not unearth your woes,--let the grave seal them. Your life stands
waiting to be sanctified,--dedicated to Him who gave it. My dear
friend,--

  'Cleanse it and make it pure, and fashion it
  After His image: heal thyself; from grief
  Comes glory, like a rainbow from a cloud.'"

The sound of his voice, more than the import of his words, seemed to
soothe her, for her eyes softened; but the effect was transitory, and
presently she exclaimed,--

"Mere 'sounding brass, and a tinkling cymbal!' Pretty words, and
musical; but empty as those polished shells yonder that echo only
hollow strains of the never silent sea. Once, Dr. Grey,--"

She paused, and a shiver crept through her stately form; then she
slowly continued, in a tone of indescribable pathos,--

"Once I could have listened to your counsel, for once my soul was full
of holy aims, and my heart as redolent of pure Christian purposes as a
June rose is of perfume; but now,--

  'They are past as a slumber that passes,
    As the dew of a dawn of old time;
  More frail than the shadows on glasses,
    More fleet than a wave or a rhyme.'"

Dr. Grey drew her arm through his, and silently led her to the house,
and into the parlor. He noticed that her breathing was quick and
short, and that she sank wearily upon the sofa, as if her strength had
well-nigh failed her.

He untied her bonnet-strings and removed it, and she threw her head
down on the silken cushion, as a spent child might have done.

Taking a vial from his pocket, he dropped a portion of the contents
into a wine-glass, and filled it with sherry wine.

"Mrs. Gerome, drink this for me. It will benefit you."

She swallowed the mixture, and remained quiet for some seconds; then a
singularly scornful smile curved her mouth as she said,--

"You drugged the wine. Well, so be it. Nepenthe or poison are alike
welcome, if they bring me death, or even temporary oblivion."

Katie came in and lighted the lamp, and Dr. Grey sat beside the sofa
and watched the effect of his prescription.

Tired at length of the sober sea and dark gloomy grounds, Salome came
back to the house and stood on the threshold of the parlor door,
looking curiously at the quiet, silent group, and at the pictures on
the walls.

She could see very distinctly the beautiful white face of the mistress
pressed against the blue damask cushion, and clear in outline as she
had once observed it on the background of ocean; and she noticed that
the features were sharper and that the figure was thinner. From the
silvery lamp-light the gray hair seemed to have caught a metallic
lustre on the ripples that ebbed back from the blue-veined temples,
and the woman looked like a marble snow-crowned image, draped in
black.

With one elbow on his knee, and his cheek resting in his hand, Dr.
Grey leaned forward, studying the features turned towards him, and
watching her with almost breathless interest. He was not aware of
Salome's presence, and was unconscious of the strained, troubled gaze,
that she fixed upon him.

The tender love that filled his heart looked out of his grave deep
eyes, which never wandered from the face so dear to him, and moved his
lips in an inaudible prayer for the peace and welfare of the lonely
waif whom Providence or fate had brought into his path, to evoke all
the tenderness latent in his sturdy, manly nature.

In the twinkling of an eye, Salome had learned the whole truth and
standing there, she staggered and grasped the doorway for support,
wishing that the heavens and earth would pass away--that death might
smite her, and end the agony that never could be patiently endured.

Recently she had tutored herself to bear the loss of his love and the
deprivation of his caresses,--she had mapped out a future in which her
lot was one of loneliness,--but through all the network of coming
years there ran like a golden cord binding their destinies the
precious hope that at least Dr. Grey would die as he had lived
hitherto,--without giving to any woman the coveted place in his heart,
where the orphan would sooner have reigned than upon the proudest
throne in Europe.

She had prayed that, with this assurance, God would help her to be
contented--would enable her to make her life useful and pure, and,
like Dr. Grey's, a blessing to those about her.

It had never occurred to her that the man whom she reverenced above
all things human or divine, and whose exalted ideal of feminine
perfection soared as far above her as the angels in Lebrun's "Stoning
of St. Stephen" soared above the sinning multitude below them--that
the man whose fastidiousness concerning womanly character and
deportment seemed exaggerated and almost morbid, could admire or
defend, much less love that gray-haired widow, whom the world
pronounced either a lunatic, or a scoffing, misanthropic infidel.

The discovery was so unexpected, so startling, that it partially
stunned her; and, like one addicted to somnambulism, she softly
crossed the room and stood behind Dr. Grey's chair.

He had taken Mrs. Gerome's hand to examine her pulse, and retained it
in his, looking fondly at the dainty moulding of the fingers and the
exquisite whiteness of the smooth skin. How long she stood there
Salome never knew, for paralysis seemed creeping, numb and cold, over
her heart and brain.

Dr. Grey saw that his exhausted patient was asleep, and knew that the
opiate he had administered in the wine would not relinquish its hold
until morning; and when her breathing became more quiet and regular he
bent his head and softly kissed the hand that lay heavily in his.

Salome covered her face and groaned; and rising, he was for the first
time cognizant of her presence. His face flushed deeply.

"How long have you been here?"

"Long enough to discover why you visit 'Solitude' so often."

He could not see her countenance, but her unnaturally hollow tone
pained and shocked him.

"You are very much fatigued, my dear child, and as soon as I have
given some directions to Robert, I will take you home. Get your
bonnet, and meet me at the door."

He took a shawl that was lying on the piano and laid it carefully over
the sleeper, then bent one knee beside the sofa, and mutely prayed
that God would comfort and protect the woman who was becoming so dear
to him.

With one long, anxious, tender look into her hopeless yet beautiful
face, he left the room and went in search of Robert and Katie. When he
had given the requisite directions, and descended the steps, he found
Salome waiting, with her fingers grasping the side of the buggy.
Silently he handed her in; and, as she sank back in one corner and
muffled her face, they drove swiftly through the sombre grounds, where
the aged trees seemed murmuring in response to the ceaseless mutter of
the sullen sea.

  "Whom first we love, you know, we seldom wed.
    Time rules us all. And Life indeed is not
  The thing we planned it out ere hope was dead.
    And then we women cannot choose our lot."



CHAPTER XXI.


"Ulpian, you certainly do not intend to sit up again to-night? Even
brass or whitleather would not stand the wear and tear that your
constitution is subjected to. You really make me unhappy."

"My dear Jane, it would make you still more unhappy if from mere
desire to promote my personal ease and comfort, I could forget the
solemn responsibility imposed by my profession. Moreover, my physical
strength is quite equal to the tax I exact from it."

"I doubt it, for we have all remarked how pale and worn you look."

"My jaded appearance is attributable to mental anxiety, rather than
bodily exhaustion."

"If Mrs. Gerome is so ill as to require such unremitting care and
vigilance, she should have a nurse, instead of expecting a physician
to devote all his time and attention to her. Where is Hester
Denison?"

"I have placed her at the steam-mill above town, where there is a bad
case of small-pox, and even if she were not thus engaged, I should not
take her to 'Solitude.'"

"Pray, why not? She took first-rate care of me when I was so sick last
year."

"Mrs. Gerome is morbidly sensitive at all times, and at this juncture
I should be afraid to introduce a stranger into her sick room."

"When people are so excessively nervous about being seen, I can't help
feeling a little suspicious. Do you suppose that Mrs. Gerome loved her
husband so much better than the majority of widows love theirs, that
seven years after his death she can't bear to be looked at? I like to
see a woman show due respect to her husband's memory, but I tell you
my experience--or rather my observation--leads me to believe that
these young widows who make the greatest parade of their grief, and
load themselves with crape and bombazine till they can scarcely
stagger under their flutings, flounces, and jet-fringes, are the most
anxious to marry again."

"Stop, my darling sister! Who has been filling your tongue and
curdling all the 'milk of human kindness' in your generous heart? If
women refuse to each other due sympathy in sorrow, to what quarter can
they turn for that balm which their natures require? I never before
heard you utter sentiments that trenched so closely upon harsh
uncharitableness. Your lips generally employ only the silvery language
of leniency, which I so much love to hear, but to-day they adopt the
dialect of Libeldom. Recollect, my dear sister, that even the pagan
Athenians would never build a temple to Clemency, which they
contended found her most appropriate altars in human hearts."

"Pooh, Ulpian! You need not preach me such a sermon, as if I were a
heathen. Facts, when they happen to be real facts, are the best
umpires in the world, and to their arbitrament I leave my character
for charity. When Reuben Chalmers died, his wife was so overwhelmed
with grief that she shut herself up like a nun; and when she drove out
for fresh air wore two heavy crape veils, and never allowed any one to
catch a glimpse of her countenance. Not even to church did she
venture, until one morning, at the end of two years, she laid aside
her weeds, clad herself in bridal array, was married in her own
parlor, and the next Sunday made her first appearance in public after
the death of her husband, leaning on the arm of her second spouse.
Now, that is true,--is no libel,--pity it is not! Though 'one swallow
does not make a summer,' I can't help feeling suspicious of very young
and hopelessly inconsolable widows, and am always reminded of
Anastasia Chalmers. So you see, my blue-eyed preacher, when your old
Janet talks of these things, she is not caught 'reckoning without her
host.'"

"One deplorable instance should not bias you against an entire class,
and the beautiful constancy of Panthea ought to neutralize the example
of a hundred Anastasia Chalmers. Is it not unfortunate that poor human
nature so tenaciously recollects all the evil records, and is so
oblivious of the noble acts furnished by history? Do cut the
acquaintance of the huge family of _on dits_, who serve the community
in much the same capacity as did the cook of Tantalus, when he dressed
and garnished Pelops for the banquet table. Unluckily, devouring
malice can not furnish the 'ivory shoulder' requisite to mend its
mischief. We are all prone to forget the injunction, 'Judge not, that
ye be not judged,' and instead of remembering that we are directed to
bear one another's burdens, we gall the shoulders of many, by
increasing the weights we should lighten. Janet, don't flay all the
poor young widows; leave them to such measures of peace as they may
find among their weeds."

Miss Jane listened to her brother's homily with a half-smile lurking
about the puckered corners of her eyes and mouth, and putting her
finger in the button-hole of his coat, drew him closer to her, as they
sat together on the sofa.

"How long since you took the tribe of widows under your special
protection?"

"Since the moment, that, owing to some inexplicable freak, my dear
Janet suffered 'evil communications to corrupt' her 'good manners,'
and absolutely forgot to be just and generous."

He kissed his sister and rose, but the troubled look that settled once
more on his countenance did not escape her observation.

"Ulpian, is Mrs. Gerome very ill?"

"Yes, I am exceedingly unhappy about her. She is dangerously ill with
a low, nervous, fever that baffles all my remedies."

Dr. Grey walked up and down the room, and Miss Jane pressed her
spectacles closer to her nose, and watched him.

"If the poor woman leads such a lonely, miserable life, I should think
that death would prove a blessed release to her. Of course it is
natural and reasonable that you should desire to save all your
patients, but why are you so very unhappy about her?"

He did not answer immediately, and when he spoke his deep tone was
tremulous with fervent feeling.

"Because I find that she is dearer to me than all the other women in
the world, except my sister; and her death would grieve me more than
any trial that has yet overtaken me--more than you can realize, or
than I can express."

He took Miss Jane's face in his hands, kissed her, and left the room.

Meeting Muriel and Salome in the hall, the former seized his arm, and
exclaimed,--

"You shall not leave home again! Let me tell Elbert to put up your
buggy. If you continue to work yourself down, as you are now doing,
you will be prematurely old, and gray, and decrepit. Come into the
parlor, and let me play you to sleep."

"I heartily wish I could follow your pleasant prescription, but duty
is inexorable, and knows no law but that of obedience."

"Must you sit up to-night? Is that poor lady no better?"

"I can see no improvement, and must remain until I do."

"You are afraid that she will die?"

"I hope that God will spare her life."

His serious tone awed Muriel, who raised his hand to her lips, and
murmured,--

"My dear doctor, I wish I could help you. I wish I could do something
to make you look less troubled."

"You can help me, little one, by being happy yourself, and by aiding
Salome in cheering my sister, while I am forced to spend so much time
away from her. Good evening. Take care of yourselves till I come
home."

Humming a bar of a Genoese barcarole, Muriel ran up stairs to join her
governess; but Salome turned and followed the master of the house to
the front door.

"Dr. Grey, can I render you any assistance at 'Solitude'?"

"Thank you,--the time has passed when you might have aided me. Two
weeks ago, when I requested you to go with me, Mrs. Gerome was
rational and would have yielded to your influence, but now she is
delirious and you could accomplish nothing. The servants are faithful
and attentive, and can be trusted during my absence to execute my
orders."

A bright flush rose to Salome's temples, and her eyes drooped beneath
his, so anxious and yet so calmly sad.

"At the time you spoke to me I could not go, but now I really should
be glad to accompany you. Will you take me?"

"No, Salome."

"Your reason, Dr. Grey?"

"Is one whose utterance would pain you, consequently I trust you will
pardon me for withholding it."

"At my own peril, I demand it."

"The motive which prompts your offer precludes the possibility of my
acceptance."

"How dare you sit in judgment on my motives? You who prate and
homilize of charity! charity! and who quote the 'golden rule' solely
for the edification and guidance of those around you. Example is more
potent than precept, and we are creatures of imitation. Suppose I
should question the disinterestedness of your motives in allowing one
patient to monopolize your attention to the detriment of the
remainder? Of course you would be shocked and think me presumptuous,
for one's sins and follies often play hide and seek, and sometimes we
insult our own pet fault when we find it housed in some other piece of
flesh."

"Good night, Salome. I shall endeavor to forget all this, since I am
too sincerely your friend to desire to set your hasty words in the
storehouse of memory."

He looked down pityingly, sorrowfully, into her angry imperious eyes,
and sudden shame smote her, making her cheeks glow and tingle as if
from the stroke of an open hand.

"Dr. Grey, wait one moment! Let me say something, that will
show,--that will--"

"Only make matters worse. No, Salome, I have little time for trifling,
still less for recrimination, none at all for dissimulation; and, in
your present mood, the least we can say will prove the most powerful
for good."

He went down to his buggy, but stopped and reflected; and fearing that
he might have been too harsh, he turned and approached her, as she
stood leaning against one of the columns of the gallery.

"Do not think me rude. I am not less your friend than formerly, though
I am anxious, and doubtless appear preoccupied. Let us shake hands in
peace."

He extended his own, but the girl stood motionless, and the remorseful
anguish and humiliation of her uplifted face touched his heart.

"Dr. Grey, if you really forgive and forget, prove it by taking me to
'Solitude.'"

"Do not ask what you well know I have quite determined it is best that
I should not grant."

The spark leaped up lurid as ever, in her dilating eyes.

"You take this method to punish me for my refusal to comply with your
wishes a fortnight since?"

"I have neither the right nor inclination to punish you in any
respect, and you must pardon my inability to accede to a request which
my judgment does not approve. Good-by."

He put his hand into his pocket, and left her; and while she stood
irresolute and disappointed, a servant summoned her to Miss Jane's
presence.

"Can I do anything for you?" asked the orphan, observing the cloud on
the old lady's brow.

"Yes, dear; sit down here and talk to me. I feel lonely, now that
Ulpian is away so constantly. He seems very uneasy about that woman at
'Solitude,' and I never saw him manifest so much anxiety about any
one. By the by, Salome, tell me something concerning her."

"I have already told you all I know of her."

"Wherein consists her attractiveness?"

"Who said she was attractive? She is handsome, and there is something
peculiar and startling about her, but she is by no means a beauty. I
have heard Dr. Grey say that she possessed remarkable talent, but I
have been favored with no exhibition of it. Why do you not question
your brother? Doubtless it would afford him much pleasure to furnish
an inventory of her charms and accomplishments, and dilate upon them
_ad libitum_."

"What makes you so savage?"

"Simply because there happens to be a touch of the wild beast in my
nature, and I have not a doubt that if the doctrine of metempsychosis
be true, I was a tawny dappled leopardess or a green-eyed cougar in the
last stage of my existence. Miss Jane, sometimes I feel as if it
would be a luxury--a relief--to crunch and strangle something or
somebody,--which is not an approved trait of orthodox Christian
character, to say nothing of meek gentility and lady-like refinement."

She laughed with a degree of indescribable scorn and bitterness that
was pitiable indeed in one so young.

"There is an evil fit on Saul."

"Yes; and you are neither my harp nor my David."

"Does my little girl expect to find a 'cunning player,' who will charm
away all the barbarous notions that occasionally lead her astray, and
tempt her to wickedness?"

"Verily,--no. The son of Jesse has forsaken his own household, and
made unto himself an idol elsewhere; and I--Saul--surrender to
Asmodeus."

Miss Jane laid her hand on the girl's arm, and said, in a hesitating,
troubled manner,--

"Has Ulpian told you?"

"Why should he tell me? My eyes sometimes take pity on my ears,--and
seeing very distinctly, save the necessity of hearing. My vision is
quite as keen now as when in my anterior existence, I crouched in
jungles, watching for my prey. Oh, Miss Jane! if you could look here,
and know all that I have suffered during the past three weeks, you
would not wonder that the tiger element within me swallows up every
other feeling."

She struck her hand heavily upon her heart, and the old lady was
frightened and distressed by the glitter of the eyes and the dilation
of the slender nostrils.

"When I came in, I knew from your countenance that you had heard
something which you desired to prepare me for,--which you intended to
break gently to me. But your kindness is unavailing. The truth crashed
in on my heart without premonition; and I saw, and understood, and
accepted the inevitable; and since then,--ah, my God! since then--"

Her head drooped upon her bosom, and a groan concluded the sentence.

"Perhaps Ulpian only pities the poor woman's desolation, and will lose
his interest in her when she recovers her health. You know how
tenderly he sympathizes with all who suffer, and I dare say it is more
compassion than love."

"What hypocrites we often are, in our desire to comfort those whom we
see in agony! Miss Jane, your kind heart is holding a hand over the
mouth of conscience, to smother its cries and protests while you utter
things in which you know there is no truth. You mean well; but you
ought to know better than to expect to deceive me. I understand the
difference between love and compassion, and so do you; and Dr. Grey
has not kept the truth from you. He has given his heart to that
gray-haired, gray-eyed woman,--and if she lives, he will marry her;
and then, if there were twenty oceans, I should want them all to roll
between us. I tell you now, I can not and will not stay here to see
the day that makes that pale gray phantom his wife. I should go mad,
and do something that might add new horrors to that doomed and
abhorred 'Solitude,' that has become Dr. Grey's Mecca. I could live
without his love, but I can not stand tamely by and see him lavish it
on another. Some women,--such, for instance, as we read of in novels,
would meekly endure this trial, as one appointed by Heaven to wean
them from earth; would fold their hands, and grow devout, and
romantically thin and wan,--and get sweet, patient, martyr expressions
about their unkissed lips; but I am in no respect a model heroine, and
it will prove safer for us all if I am far away when Dr. Grey brings
his bride to receive your sisterly embrace. If you are lonely, send
for Muriel and Miss Dexter, and let them entertain you. Just now, I am
not fit company for any but the dwellers in Padalon; so let me go away
where I can be quiet."

"Stay, Salome! Where are you going?"

"To walk."

The orphan disengaged her dress from Miss Jane's fingers, which had
clutched its folds to detain her, and made her escape just as Muriel
tapped at the door.

During the three weeks that had elapsed since Elsie's death Mrs.
Gerome had not left the house, and the third day after the funeral she
laid her head down on the pillow from which it seemed probable she
would never again lift it.

A low steady fever seized her, and at length her brain became so
seriously affected that all hope of recovery appeared futile and
delusive. In the early stages of her illness, Dr. Grey requested
Salome to assist him in nursing her, but the girl dared not trust
herself to witness the manifestations of an affection that nearly
maddened her, and had almost rudely refused compliance.

As the days wore drearily on, and Dr. Grey's haggard, anxious
countenance, told her that her rival was indeed upon the brink of
dissolution, a wild hope whispered that perhaps she might be spared
the fierce ordeal she so much dreaded; that if Mrs. Gerome died, the
future might brighten,--life would be endurable. In her wonted
impulsive manner, the girl had thrown herself on her knees, and
passionately prayed the Almighty to remove from earth the one woman
who proved an obstacle to all her hopes of peace and contentment.

She did not pause to inquire whether her petition was not an insult to
Him who alone could grant it; she neither analyzed, nor felt
self-rebuked for her sinful emotions and intense hatred of the sick
woman,--but vowed repeatedly that she would lead a purer, holier life,
if God would only interpose and prevent Dr. Grey from becoming the
husband of any one.

She had no faith in the superior wisdom of her Maker, and would not
wait patiently for the developments of His divine will toward her; but
chose her own destiny, and demanded that Omnipotence should become an
ally for its accomplishment. Like many who are less honest in
confessing their faith, this girl professed allegiance to her Creator
only so long as He appeared a coadjutor in her schemes; and, when
thwarted and disappointed, fierce rebellion broke out in her heart,
and annulled her oaths of fealty and obedience.

Dr. Grey was not ignorant of the emotions that swayed and controlled
her conduct, and when she declared herself ready to attend the
invalid, he was thoroughly cognizant of the fact that she longed to
witness the death which she deemed impending; and he could not consent
to see her eager eyes watching the feeble breathing of the woman whom
he now loved so fervently.

While he believed that in most matters Salome would not deceive him,
he realized that in one of her passionate moods of jealous hate,
irremediable mischief might result, and prudently resolved to keep her
beyond the pale of temptation.

It was almost dark when he reached the secluded house where he had
passed so many days and nights of anxiety, and went into the quiet
room in which only a dim light was permitted to burn. Katie was
sitting near the bed, but rose at his approach, and softly withdrew.

Emaciated and ghastly, save where two scarlet spots burned on the
hollow cheeks, Mrs. Gerome lay, with her wasted arms thrown over her
head, and her eyes fixed on vacancy. Even when delirium was at its
height she yielded to the physician's voice and touch, like some wild
creature who recognizes no control save that of its keeper; and from
his hand alone would she take the medicines administered.

Whether the influence was merely magnetic, he did not inquire, but
felt comforted by the assurance that his presence had power to
tranquillize her.

Now, as he drew her arms down from the pillow, and took her thin hot
hand in his cool palms, a shadowy smile stole over her features, and
she fixed her eyes intently on his.

"I knew you would protect me from him."

"Protect you from whom?"

"From Maurice. He is hiding yonder,--behind the window-curtain."

She pointed across the room, and a scowl darkened her countenance.

"You have only been dreaming."

"No, I am awake; and if you look behind the curtain you will find him.
His eyes are burning my face."

Willing to dispel this fantasy, Dr. Grey went to the window, and,
drawing aside the lace drapery, showed her the vacant recess.

"Ah, he has escaped! Well, perhaps it is better so, and there will be
no blood shed. Let him go back to Edith,--'golden-haired Edith
Dexter,'--and live out the remnant of his days. He came hoping to find
me dead, but I am not as accommodating now as formerly. Where are
those violets? Tell Elsie to bring the jars in, where I can smell
them."

He took a bunch of the fragrant flowers from his coat pocket, and put
them in her hand, for during her illness she was never satisfied
unless there was a bouquet near her; and now, having feebly smelled
them, her eyes closed.

More than once she had mentioned the name of Edith Dexter, always
coupling it with that of Maurice, who she evidently believed was
lurking with evil purposes around her home; and Dr. Grey was sorely
perplexed to follow the thread that now and then appeared, but failed
to guide him to any satisfactory solution of the mystery. He knew that
since she made "Solitude" her place of residence, Mrs. Gerome had
never met Muriel's governess, and he conjectured that she had either
known her in earlier years or now alluded to another person bearing
the same name. Miss Dexter was very fair, with a profusion of light
yellow hair, and suited in all respects the incoherent description
that fell from the sick woman's lips.

While at home for a short time that afternoon, Dr. Grey had spoken of
the dangerous condition of his patient, and asked the governess if she
had ever seen or known Mrs. Gerome. Without hesitation, Edith Dexter
quietly replied in the negative.

Formerly he had indulged little curiosity with reference to the
widow's history, but since she had become endeared to him, he was
conscious of an earnest desire to possess himself of a record of all
that had so darkened and chilled the life of the only woman he had
ever loved.

Once she had been merely an interesting psychological puzzle, and in
some degree a physiological anomaly: but from the day of Elsie's
death, his heart had yielded more and more to the strange fascination
she exerted over him; and now, as he sat looking into her face, so
mournfully sharpened and blanched by disease, he acknowledged to his
own soul that if she should die the brightest and dearest hopes that
ever gladdened his life would be buried in her grave.

Thoroughly convinced that his happiness depended on her recovery, he
prayed continually that if consistent with God's will, He would spare
her to him, and save him from the anguish of a lonely life, which her
love might bless and brighten.

But above the petition,--above all the strife of human love, and hope,
and fear,--rose silvery clear, "Nevertheless, Father, not my will, but
Thine."

During his long vigils he had allowed imagination to paint beautiful
pictures of the To-Come, wherein shone the figure of a lovely wife
whose heart was divided only between God and her husband,--whose life
was consecrated first to Christ, secondly to promoting the happiness
of the man who loved her so truly.

The apprehension of losing her was rendered still more acute by the
reflection that her soul was not prepared for its exit from the realm
of probation, and the thought of a separation that would extend
through endless æons, was well-nigh intolerable.

If she survived this attack, he believed that his influence would
redeem and sanctify her life; if she died, would God have mercy on her
wretched soul?

His faith in Providence was no jagged, quivering reed, but a strong,
staunch, firm staff that had never yet failed him, and in this hour of
severe trial he leaned his aching heart confidently and calmly upon
it.

That some mysterious circumstances veiled the earlier portion of Mrs.
Gerome's life, he had inferred from Elsie's promise of confidence, and
since death denied her the desired revelation, he had put imagination
upon the rack, in order to solve the riddle.

What could the old nurse wish to tell him, that she was unwilling to
divulge until her latest breath? Could the stain of crime cling to
that pale face on the pillow, or to those white hands that rested so
helplessly in his? Had she soiled her life by any deed that would
bring a blush to those thin sunken cheeks, or a flush of shame to the
brow of the man who loved her? Now bending fondly over her, the
language of his heart was,--

"Let her dead past bury its dead! Let the bygone be what it may,--come
sorrow, come humiliation, but I will dauntlessly shield her with my
name, defend her with my strong arm, uphold her by my honor, save her
soul by my prayers, comfort and gladden her heart with my deathless
love."

He was well aware that this night must decide her fate,--that her
feeble frame could not much longer struggle with the disease that had
almost vanquished it,--and leaning his forehead against her hand, he
silently prayed that God would speedily restore her to health, or give
him additional grace to bear the bitter bereavement.

She slept more quietly than she had been able to do for some days, and
Dr. Grey sent for Robert, who was pacing the walk that led to the
stables. They sat down together on the steps at the rear of the house,
and the gardener asked in a frightened, husky tone,--

"Is there bad news?"

"I see little change since noon, except that she is more quiet, which
is certainly favorable; but she is so very ill that I thought it best
to consult you about several matters. Do you know whether she has made
a will?"

"No, sir. How should I know it, even if she had?"

"Who is her agent?"

Robert hesitated, and pretended to be busy filling and lighting his
pipe.

"Maclean, I have no desire to pry into Mrs. Gerome's affairs, but it
is necessary that those who direct or control her estate should be
appraised of her condition. It is supposed that her fortune is ample,
and her heirs should be informed of her illness."

"She has no heirs, except--"

He paused, and after a few seconds exclaimed,--

"Don't ask me! All I know is that I heard her say she intended to
leave her fortune to poor painters."

"To whom shall I write, or rather telegraph? Where did she live before
she came to 'Solitude'? Who were her friends?"

"Mr. Simonton, of New York, is her lawyer and agent. Two letters have
come from him since she has been sick. Of course I did not open them,
but I know his handwriting. They are behind the clock in the back
parlor."

"Would it not be better to telegraph him at once?"

"What good could he do? Better send for the minister, and have her
baptized. Oh! but this is truly a world of trouble, and I almost wish
I was safely out of it."

"If she were conscious, she would not submit to baptism; and it would
not be right to take advantage of her delirium and force a ceremony to
which she is opposed."

"Not even, sir, to save her soul?"

"Her soul can not be affected by the actions of others, unless her
will coöperates, which is impossible in her present condition. Robert,
after your mother was partially paralyzed, she said that she desired
to confide something to me just before her death, and intimated that
it referred to Mrs. Gerome. She wished me to befriend her mistress,
and felt that I ought to know the particulars of her early history.
Unfortunately, Elsie was speechless when I arrived, and could not tell
me what she had intended to acquaint me with. I mention this fact to
assure you that if your mother could trust me, you need not regard me
so suspiciously."

"Dr. Grey, as far as I am concerned, you are very welcome to every
thought in my head and feeling in my heart; but where it touches my
mistress I have nothing to say. I will not deny that I know more than
you do, but when my poor mother told me, she held my hand on the Bible
and made me swear a solemn oath that what she told me should never
pass my lips to any man, woman, or child. So you must not blame me,
sir."

"Certainly not, Robert. But if she has any friends it is your duty to
send for them at once."

Dr. Grey rose and went into the library, where for some moments he
walked to and fro, perplexed and grieved. As his eye rested on the
escritoire, he recollected the key which he had kept in his pocket
since the hour that he picked it up from the carpet.

Doubtless a few minutes' search in its drawers and casket would place
him in possession of the facts which Elsie wished to confide; but
notwithstanding the circumstances that might almost have justified an
investigation, his delicate sense of honor forbade the thought. Taking
the letters from the mantelpiece, he turned them to the lamp-light.

  _Mrs. Agla Gerome,
          Care of Robert Maclean,
                  Box 20._
                            ---- ----.

They were post-marked New York, and from the size and appearance of
the envelopes he suspected that they contained legal documents.
Perhaps one of them might prove a will, awaiting signature and
witnesses. Dr. Grey carried them into the room where his patient still
slept, and placed them on the dressing-table. Accidentally his glance
fell on a large worn Bible that lay contiguous, and brightening the
light, he opened the volume, and turned to the record of births.

"Vashti Evelyn, born June 10th, 18--.

"Henderson Flewellyn, born April 17th, 18--.

"Vashti Flewellyn, born January 30th, 18--."

On the marriage record he found,

"Married, July 1st, 18--, Vashti Evelyn to Henderson Flewellyn.

"Married, September 8th, 18--, Evelyn Flewellyn to Maurice Carlyle."

The only deaths recorded were those of Henderson and Vashti
Flewellyn.

Whatever the mystery might be, Dr. Grey resolved to pursue the subject
no further; but wait patiently and learn all from the beautiful lips
of the white-faced sphinx, who alone possessed the right to unseal the
record of her blighted life.

  "Who might have been--ah, what, I dare not think!
    We all are changed. God judges for us best.
  God help us do our duty, and not shrink,
    And trust in heaven humbly for the rest."



CHAPTER XXII.


The profound stillness that pervades a room where life and death
grapple for mastery, invites and aids that calm, inexorable
introspection, which Gotama Buddha prescribes as an almost unerring
path to the attainment of peace; and, in the solemn silence of
his last and memorable vigil, Dr. Grey brought his heart into
complete unmurmuring subjection to the Divine will. A _soi-disant_
"resignation" that draws honied lips to the throne of grace,
leaving a heart of gall in the camp of sedition, could find no
harbor in his uncompromisingly honest nature; and though the
struggle was severe, he felt that faith in Eternal wisdom and mercy
had triumphed over merely human affection and earthly hopes, and
his strong soul chanted to itself the comforting strains of
Lampert's "Trust Song."

No mere gala barge, gay with paint and gaudy with pennons, was his
religion; no fair summer-day toy bearing him lightly across the
sun-kissed, breeze-dimpled sea of prosperity and happiness, and frail
as the foam that draped its prow with lace; but a staunch, trim,
steady, unpretending bark, that with unfaltering faith at the helm,
rode firmly all the billows of adversity, and steered unerringly
harborward through howling tempests and impenetrable gloom. Human
friendships and sympathy he considered unstable and treacherous as
Peter, when he shrank from his Lord; but Christian trust was one of
the silver-tongued angels of God, ringing chimes of patience and
peace, far above the din of wailing, bleeding hearts, and the fierce
flames of flesh martyrdom.

One o'clock found Dr. Grey sitting near the pillow, where for five
hours Mrs. Gerome had slept as quietly as a tired child. The
fever-glow had burned itself out, and left an ashen hue on the lips
and cheeks.

Wishing to arouse her, he spoke to her several times and raised her
head, but though she drank the powerful stimulant he held to her
mouth, her heavy eyelids were not lifted, and when he smoothed the
pillow and laid her comfortably upon it, she slumbered once more.

At the foot of the bed, with his keen yellow eyes fastened on his
mistress, crouched the greyhound, his silky head on his paws; and on a
pallet in one corner of the room slept Katie, ready to render any
assistance that might be required.

The apartment was elegantly furnished, and green and gold tinted all
its appointments. On an Egyptian marble table stood a work-box
curiously inlaid with malachite and richly gilded, and there lay some
withered flowers, a small thimble, and a pair of scissors with
mother-of-pearl handles. Around the walls hung a number of paintings,
which, with one exception, were landscapes or ocean-views; and as Dr.
Grey sat watching the shimmer of lamp-light on their carved frames and
varnished surfaces, they seemed to furnish images of

  "Green glaring glaciers, purple clouds of pine,
  White walls of ever-roaring cataracts;
  Blue thunder drifting over thirsty tracts,
  Rose-latticed casements, lone in summer lands,--
  Some witch's bower; pale sailors on the marge
  Of magic seas, in an enchanted barge
  Stranded at sunset, upon jewelled sands.
  Some cup of dim hills, where a white moon lies,
  Dropt out of weary skies without a breath
  In a great pool; a slumb'rous vale beneath,
  And blue damps prickling into white fire-flies."

No sweet-lipped, low-browed Madonnas, no rapt Cecilias, no holy Johns
nor meek Stephens, no reeling Satyrs nor vine-clad _Bacchantés_
relieved the eye, weary of mountain ghylls, red-ribbed deserts, and
stormy surfage.

One long narrow picture baffled interpretation, and excited
speculations that served in some degree to divert the sad current of
the physician's thoughts.

It was a dreary plain, dotted with the "fallen cromlechs of
Stonehenge," and in front of the desecrated stone altars stood a
veiled woman, with her hands clasped over a silver crescent-curved
knife, and her bare feet resting on oaken chaplets and mistletoe
boughs, starred and fringed with snowy flowers. Under the dexterously
painted gauze that shrouded the face, the outline of the features was
distinctly traceable, end behind the film,--large, oracular, yet
mournful eyes, burned like setting stars, seen through magnifying
vapors that wreathe the horizon.

It was a solemn, desolate, melancholy picture, relieved by no flush of
color,--gray plain, gray distance, gray sky, gray temple tumuli, and
that ghostly white woman, gazing grimly down at the gray-haired
sufferer on the low bed beneath her.

Under some circumstances, certain pictures seem basilisk-eyed,
riveting a gaze that would gladly seek more agreeable subjects, and it
chanced that Dr. Grey found a painful fascination in this piece of
canvas that hung immediately in front of him. Wherein consisted the
magnetism that so powerfully attracted him, he could not decide, but
several times when the wind blew the scalloped edge of the lace
curtain between the lamp and the picture, and threw a dim wavering
shadow over the figure on the wall, he almost expected to see the veil
float away from the stony face, and reveal what the artist had
adroitly shrouded. Now it looked a doomed "Norma," and anon the
Nemesis of a dishonored faneless faith, that was born among Magi, and
had tutored Pythagoras; and finally Dr. Grey rose and turned away to
escape its spectral spell.

Waking Katie, he charged her to call him if any change occurred in his
patient, and went to the front of the house for a breath of fresh
air.

Narcissus-like, a three-quarter moon was staring down at her own
image, rocked on the bosom of the sea, while dim stars printed silver
photographs on the deep blue beneath them,--

  "And the hush of earth and air
  Seemed the pause before a prayer."

The wind that had blown steadily for two days past from the
south-east, had gone down into some ocean lair; but the sullen
element refused to forget its late scourging, and occasionally a long
swelling billow dashed itself into froth against the stone piers of
the boat-house, and the cliffs which stood like a phantom fleet along
the southern bend of the beach, were fringed with a white girdle of
incessant breakers.

Far out from shore the rolling mass of water was darkly blue, but now
and then a wave broke over its neighbor, and in the distance the foam
flashed under moonshine like some reconnoitring Siren-face, peeping
landward for fresh victims; or as the samite-clad arm that Arthur and
Sir Bedivere saw rise above the mere to receive Excalibar.

Following the beckoning of those snowy hands, and listening to the low
musical monologue that sea uttered to shore, Dr. Grey started in the
direction of the terrace, whence he could see the whole trend of the
beetling coast, but some unaccountable impulse induced him to pause
and look back.

The dense shadow of the trees shut out from the spot where he stood
the golden radiance of the moon, but over the lawn it streamed in
almost unearthly splendor,--and there he saw some white object glide
swiftly towards the group of deodars. The first solution that occurred
to his mind was that Katie had fallen asleep, and Mrs. Gerome in her
delirium making her way out of the house, was seeking her favorite
walk; but a moment's reflection convinced him that she was too utterly
prostrated to cross the room, still less the grounds, and, resolved to
satisfy himself, he followed the moving object that retreated before
him.

Walking rapidly but stealthily in the shadow of the trees and
shrubbery, he soon ascertained that it was a woman's figure, and saw
that it stopped at Elsie's grave, and bent down to touch the
head-board. Creeping forward, he had approached within ten yards of
her, when his hat struck the lower limbs of a large acacia, and
startled a bird that uttered a cry of terror and darted out. The sound
caused the figure to turn her head, and catching a glimpse of Dr.
Grey, she ran under the dense boughs of the deodars, and disappeared.

He followed, and groped through the gloom, but when he emerged, no
living thing was visible; and, perplexed and curious, he stood still.

After some moments he heard a faint sound, as of some one smothering a
cough, and pursuing it, found himself at the boundary of the grounds.
Here a thick hedge of osage orange barred egress, and he saw the woman
disentangling her drapery from the thorns that had seized it.

Springing forward, he exclaimed,--

"Stand still! You can not escape me. Who are you?"

A feigned and lugubrious voice answered,--

"I am the restless spirit of Elsie Maclean, come back to guard her
grave."

In another instant he was at her side, and laying his hand on the
white netted shawl with which she was veiling her features, he tore it
away, and Salome's fair face looked defiantly at him.

"If I had known that my pursuer was Dr. Grey, I would not have
troubled myself to play the ghost farce, for of course I could not
expect to frighten you off; but I hoped you were one of the servants,
who would not very diligently chase a spectre. I did not suppose that
you could be coaxed or driven thus far from your arm-chair beside the
bed where Mrs. Gerome is asleep."

Astonishment kept him silent for some seconds, and, in the awkward
pause, the girl laughed constrainedly--nervously.

"After all your show of bravery in pursuing a woman, I verily believe
you are too much frightened to arrest me if I chose to escape."

"Salome, has something terrible happened at home, that you have come
here at midnight to break to me?"

"Nothing has happened at home."

"Then why are you here? Are you, too, delirious?"

Her scornful laugh rang startlingly on the still night air.

"Oh, Salome! You grieve, you shock me!"

"Yes, Dr. Grey, you have assured me of that fact too frequently--too
feelingly--to permit me to doubt your sincerity. You need not repeat
it; I accept the assertion that you are shocked at my indiscretions."

Compassion predominated over displeasure, as he observed the utter
recklessness that pervaded her tone and manner.

"I am unwilling to believe that you would, without some very cogent
reason, violate all decorum by coming alone at dead of night two miles
through a dreary stretch of hills and woods. Necessity sometimes
sanctions an infraction of the rules of rigid propriety, and I am
impatient to hear your defence of this most extraordinary caprice."

She was endeavoring to disengage the fringe of her shawl from the
hedge, but finding it a tedious operation, she caught her drapery in
both hands and tore it away from the thorns, leaving several shreds
hanging on the prickly boughs.

"Dr. Grey, I have no defence to offer."

"Tell me what induced you to come here."

"An eminently charitable and commendable interest in your fair
patient. I came here simply and solely to ascertain whether Mrs.
Gerome would die, or whether she could possibly recover."

Unflinchingly she looked up into his eyes, and he thought he had never
seen a fairer, prouder, or lovelier face.

"How did you expect to accomplish your errand by wandering about these
grounds, exposing yourself to insult and to injury?"

"I have been on the gallery since twilight, looking through the lace
curtains at Mrs. Gerome lying on her bed, and at you sitting in the
arm-chair. Her eyes are keener than yours, for she saw me peeping
through the window, and told you so. When you left the room I came out
among the trees to escape observation. I scorn all equivocation, and
have no desire to conceal the truth, for if I am not dowered

  'With blood trained up along nine centuries,
    To hound and hate a lie,'

at least I hold my pauper soul high above the mire of falsehood; and

               ... 'The things we do,
  We do: we'll wear no mask, as if we blushed.'"

They had walked away from the hedge, and Dr. Grey paused at the mound,
where the Ariadne gleamed cold and white in the moonbeams that slanted
across it like silver lances.

Revolving in his mind the best method of extricating the orphan from
the unfortunate predicament in which her rashness had plunged her, he
did not answer immediately, and Salome continued, impatiently,--

"If you imagine that I came here to act as spy upon your actions, you
most egregiously mistake me, for I know all that the most rigid
surveillance could possibly teach me. I heard you say that this night
would prove a crisis in Mrs. Gerome's case, and I was so anxious to
learn the result that I could not wait quietly at home until morning.
I begged you to bring me, and you refused; consequently, I came alone.
Deal frankly with me,--tell me, will that woman die?"

The breathless eagerness with which she bent towards him, the
strained, almost ferocious expression of her keen eyes, sickened his
soul, and he put his hand over his face to shut out the sight of
hers.

"Tell me the truth. I must and will know it."

Her sweet clear voice had become a low hoarse pant, and the knotted
lines were growing harder and tighter on her beautiful brow.

"I pray ceaselessly that God will spare her to me, and I hope all
things from His mercy. Another hour will probably end my suspense, and
decide the awful question of life or death. Salome, if she should die,
my future will be very lonely,--and my heart bereft of the brightest,
dearest hopes, that have ever cheered it."

A half-smothered cry struggled across the orphan's trembling lips that
had suddenly grown colorless, and he saw her clutch her fingers.

"And if she lives?"

"If she lives, and will accept the affection I shall offer her, the
remainder of my years will be devoted to the work of making her forget
the sorrows that have darkened the early portion of her life. I do
not wish to conceal the fact that she is inexpressibly dear to me."

During the long silence that ensued, a lifetime of agony seemed
compressed into the compass of a few moments, but Salome stood
motionless, with her arms pressed over her aching heart, and her head
thrown haughtily back, while the moonlight streamed down on her face
where pride and pain were struggling for right to reign.

When all expectation of earthly happiness is smothered in a proud,
passionate soul, and the future robes itself in those dun hues that
only the day-star of eternity can gild, nerves and muscles shrink and
shiver at the massacre of hopes which despair hews down, in the hour
that it "storms the citadel of the heart, and puts the whole garrison
to the sword."

Dr. Grey could not endure the sight of that fixed, hardened face, and
sorely distressed by the consciousness of the suffering which he had
unintentionally inflicted on one so young, he moved away, and for some
time walked slowly under the arching laurestines. Although his stern
integrity of purpose acquitted him of all blame, and he could accuse
himself of no word or deed that might be held amenable to conscience
for the mischief and misery that had resulted from his acquaintance
with this unfortunate girl, he regretted that he had remained in the
same house, and, by constant association, fed the flame that absence
might have extinguished.

While he pitied the weakness that had induced her to yield so entirely
to the preference she indulged for him, he felt humiliated at the
thought that he, who had intended to guide and elevate this wayward
child of nature, had been instrumental in darkening and embittering
her young life.

When he came back to the spot, whence she had not moved, and laid his
hand gently on her shoulder, she smiled strangely, and

  "Unbent the grieving beauty of her brows.
  But held her heart's proud pain superbly still."

"My little sister, you must not stay here any longer. Would you prefer
to go home at once in my buggy, or remain in the parlor until
daylight?"

"Neither. Let me sit down on the stone terrace till the end comes. I
will disturb no one. It will be three hours before day breaks, and
when you know whether your idol will live or die, come and tell me.
Take your hand from my shoulder."

He had endeavored to detain her, but she shrank away from his grasp,
and glided down the smooth sward to the terrace which divided it from
the ripple-barred and ringed sands of the shelving beach.

As he returned to the house, the wind sprang up and moaned through the
dense foliage above him, and an owl, perched in some clustering bough
that overhung the portico, screamed and hooted dismally. The sound was
so startling that the greyhound leaped to his feet and set up an
answering howl, which almost froze Katie with fright, and caused even
Mrs. Gerome's heavy eyelids to unclose.

Salome sat down on the paved terrace, crossed her arms over the low
stone balustrade, and resting her chin upon them, looked out at the
burnished bosom of the ocean. Just beneath her, and near enough to
moisten the granite with the silvery spray,--

  "Its waves are kneeling on the strand,
    As kneels the human knee,
  Their white locks bowing to the sand,
    The priesthood of the sea."

If the old Rabbinical legend of Sandalphon be grounded in some solemn
vision granted to the saints of eld, who walked in Syria, then
peradventure on this night, the angel must have been puzzled indeed
concerning the petitions that floated up, and demanded admission to
the Eternal ear.

From the anxious heart of the sincere and humble Christian who knelt
at the bedside of the invalid, rose a fervent prayer that if
consistent with the Father's will, He would lay His healing hand upon
the sufferer, and restore her to health and strength; while the
wretched girl on the terrace prayed vehemently that God would crush
the feeble flicker of life in Mrs. Gerome's wasted frame, would take
from the world a woman whose existence was a burden to herself and
threatened to prove a curse to others.

The passionate cry of Salome's soul was,--

"Punish me in any way, and all other ways! Send sickness, destitution,
humiliation,--let every other affliction smite me; but save me from
the intolerable anguish of seeing that woman his wife! O my God! the
world is not wide enough to hold us both. Take her, or else call me
speedily hence. I am not fit to die, but I shall never be better, if I
am doomed to witness this marriage. I would sooner go down to
perdition now, than live to see that thing of horror. Of two hells, I
choose that which takes me farthest from her."

For the first time in her life she felt that the hours were flying,
that the day of doom was rushing to meet her, and she shuddered when
one after another the constellations slipped softly and solemnly down
the sky, and vanished behind the dim shadowy outline of the western
hills. Gradually the moon sank so low that the sea could no longer
reflect her beams, and as the mighty waste of waters slowly darkened,
and the wind stiffened, and the song of the surf swelled like a rising
requiem, the girl felt that all nature was preparing to mourn with her
over the burial of her only hope of earthly peace.

If Mrs. Gerome died, a quiet future stretched before the orphan, and
she could bear to live without the love which she had the grim
satisfaction of knowing brightened no other woman's life.

The happiness of the man for whom she almost impiously prayed, was a
matter of little importance compared with the ease of her own heart;
and she had yet to learn that the welfare and peace of the object she
loved so selfishly would one day become paramount to all other aims
and considerations. That pure and sublime spirit of self-abnegation
which immolates every hope and wish that is at variance with the
happiness of the beloved had not yet been born in Salome's fiery
nature; and she cared little for the anguish that might be Dr. Grey's
portion, provided her own heart could be spared the pang of witnessing
his wedded bliss.

Through the trees, she could see the steady light of the lamp that
burned in the room where the sick woman lay, and so she watched and
waited, shivering in the shadow that fell over earth and ocean just
before the breaking of the new day.

Along the eastern horizon, the white fires of rising constellations
paled and flickered and seemed to die, as a gray light stole up behind
them; and the gray grew pearly, and the pearly opaline, and ere long
the sky crimsoned, and the sea reddened until its waves were like ruby
wine or human gore.

In the radiant dawn of that day which would decide the earthly
destinies of three beings, Salome saw Dr. Grey coming across the lawn.
His step was quiet,--neither slow nor hasty, and she could not
conjecture the result; but as he approached, she rose, wrapped her
shawl about her, and advanced to meet him. He paused, took off his
hat, and she knew all before a syllable passed his lips.

"Salome, God has heard my prayers,--has mercifully taken my darling
from the arms of death, and given her to me. I do not think I am too
sanguine in saying that she will ultimately recover, and my heart can
not find language that will interpret its gratitude and joy."

Never before had such a light shone in his clear, calm blue eyes, and
illumined his usually grave countenance; and though continued vigils
and keen anxiety had left their signet on his pale face, his great
happiness was printed legibly on every feature, and found expression
even in the deepened and softened tones of his voice.

The girl did not move or speak, but looked steadily into his
bright eyes, and the calmness with which she listened, comforted
and encouraged him to hope that ere long she would conquer her
preference.

How could he know that at that instant she was impiously vowing that
heaven had heard her last prayer?--that never again should a petition
cross her lips? God had granted one prayer,--had decided against
hers,--had denied her utterly; and henceforth she would not weary
Him,--she would not mock herself and her misery.

Dr. Grey saw that there was no quiver on the still, pale lips, no
contraction of the polished forehead; but the rigidity of her face
broke up suddenly in a smile of indescribable mournfulness,--a smile
where self-contempt and pity and hopeless bitterness all lent their
saddest phases.

"Dr. Grey, in your present happy mood, you certainly can not be so
ungracious as to deny me a favor?"

"Have I ever refused my little sister anything she asked?"

"The only favor you can ever grant me will be to persuade Miss Jane to
consent to my departure. Look to it, sir, that I am allowed to go, and
that right speedily; for go I certainly shall, at all hazards.
Convince your sister that it is best, and let me go away forever,
without incurring the displeasure of the only friend I ever had or
ever shall have."

She moved away as if to leave the grounds, but he caught her arm.

"Wait five minutes, Salome, and I will take you home in my buggy. It
is not right for you to walk alone at this early hour, and I will not
allow it."

She shook off his hand as if it had been an infant's; and, as she
walked away, he heard her laugh with a degree of savage bitterness
that stabbed his generous heart like a dagger; while behind her
trailed the hissing echo,--

              ... "Oh, alone, alone,--
  Not troubling any in heaven, nor any on earth."



CHAPTER XXIII.


In the pure, clear light of early morning, "Grassmere," with its wide,
smooth lawn, and old-fashioned brick house, weather-stained and
moss-mantled, looked singularly peaceful and attractive. Against the
sombre mass of tree-foliage, white and purple altheas raised their
circular censers, as if to greet the sun that was throwing level beams
from the eastern hill-top, and delicate pink, and deep azure, and
pearl-pale convolvulus held up their velvet trumpets all beaded with
dew, to be drained by the first kiss of the great Day-God. Up and down
the comb of the steep roof, beautiful pigeons with necklaces that
rivalled the trappings of Solomon, strutted and cooed; on the eaves,
busy brown wrens peeped into the gutters,--

  "And of the news delivered their small souls,"--

gossiping industriously; while from a distant nook some vagrant
partridge whistled for its mate, and shy doves swinging in the highest
elm limbs, moaned plaintively of the last hunting-season, that had
proved a St. Barthlomew's day to the innocent feathered folk.

On the lawn a flock of turkeys were foraging among the clover-blossoms,
and over the dewy grass a large brood of young guineas raced after
their mother, or played hide-and-seek, like nut-brown elves, under
the white and purple tufts of flowers. Save the bird-world--always
abroad early--no living thing seemed astir, and the silence that
reigned was broken only by the distance-softened bleating of
Stanley's pet lamb.

As Salome walked slowly and wearily up the avenue, she saw that the
housemaid had opened the front door, and when the orphan ascended the
steps, all within was still as a tomb, except the canary that sprang
into its ring and began to warble a _reveille_ as she approached the
cage. Miss Jane was usually an early riser, and often aroused her
servants, but to-day the household seemed to have overslept
themselves, and when Salome had rearranged her dress, and waked her
little brother, she rang the bell for Rachel, who soon obeyed the
summons.

"Is Miss Jane up?"

"No, ma'am, I suppose not, as she has not rung for me. You know I
always wait for her bell."

"Perhaps she is not very well this morning. I will go and see whether
she intends to get up."

Salome went down stairs and knocked at the door of Miss Jane's room,
but no sound was audible within, and she softly turned the bolt and
entered.

The lamp was burning very dimly on a table close to the bed, and upon
the open Bible lay the spectacles which the old lady had placed there
twelve hours before, when she finished reading the nightly chapter
that generally composed her mind and put her to sleep.

Salome conjectured that she had forgotten to extinguish the lamp, and
as she cautiously turned the wick down, her eyes rested on the open
page where pencil-lines marked the twelfth chapter of Ecclesiastes,
and enclosed the sixth and seventh verses, "Or ever the silver cord be
loosed, or the golden bowl be broken, or the pitcher be broken at the
fountain, or the wheel broken at the cistern. Then shall the dust
return to the earth as it was; and the spirit shall return unto God
who gave it."

Removing the glasses, the girl closed the book, and leaned over the
pillow to look at the sleeper. She had turned her face towards the
wall, and one hand lay under her head, pressed against her cheek,
while the other held her handkerchief on the outside of the
counterpane.

Very softly she slumbered, with a placid smile half breaking over her
aged, wrinkled features; and unwilling to shorten the morning nap in
which she so rarely indulged, Salome sat down at the foot of the bed,
and leaning her head on her hands, fell into a painful and profound
reverie.

Nearly an hour passed, unheeded by the unhappy girl, whose anguish
rendered her indifferent to all that surrounded her; and after a while
a keen pang thrilled her heart, as she heard Dr. Grey's pleasant voice
jesting with Stanley on the lawn. His happiness seemed an insult to
her misery, and she stopped her ears to exclude the sound of his quiet
laugh.

A half hour elapsed, and then his well-known rap was heard at the
door. Miss Jane did not answer, and Salome was in no mood to welcome
him home; but he waited for neither, and came in, gently closing the
door behind him.

At sight of the orphan, he started slightly, and said,--

"Is my sister sick?"

"I don't know, but she is sleeping unusually late. I thought it best
not to disturb her."

The look of dread that swept over his countenance frightened her, and
she rose as he moved hastily to the bedside.

"Salome, open the blinds. Quick! quick!"

She sprang to the window, threw the shutters wide open, and hastened
back. Dr. Grey's hand was on his sister's wrist, and his ear pressed
against her heart,--strained to catch some faint pulsation. His head
went down on her pillow, and Salome held her breath.

"Oh, Janet! My dear, patient, good sister! This is indeed hard to
bear. To die alone--unsoothed--unnoticed; with no kind hands about
you! To die--without one farewell word!"

He hid his face in his hands, and Salome staggered to the bed, and
grasped Miss Jane's rigid, icy fingers.

In the silence of midnight, Death stole her spirit from its clay
garments, and while she slept peacefully had borne her beyond the
confines of Time, and left her resting forever in the City Celestial.

A life dedicated to pure aims and charitable deeds had been rewarded
with a death as painless as the slumber of a tired child on its
mother's bosom, and, without struggle or premonition, the soul had
slipped from the bondage of flesh into the Everlasting Peace that
remaineth for the children of God.

It was impossible to decide at what hour she had died; and when the
members of the appalled household were questioned, Muriel and Miss
Dexter stated that she had kissed them good night and appeared as well
as usual at her customary time of retiring; and Rachel testified that
after she was in bed, she rang her bell and directed her to tell the
cook that as Dr. Grey would probably come home about daylight, she
must get up early and have a cup of coffee ready when he arrived.
Sobbing passionately, Rachel added,--

"When I asked her if I should put out the lamp, she said, 'No; Ulpian
may lose his patient, and come home sad, and then he will come in and
talk to me awhile.' And just as I was leaving the room, she called to
me, 'Rachel, what coat did Ulpian wear? It turns so cool now before
daylight that he will take cold if he has on that linen one.' I told
her I did not know, and she would not be satisfied till I went to his
room and found that the linen coat was hanging in the closet, and the
gray flannel one was missing. Then she opened her Bible and said, 'Ah,
that is all right. The flannel one will do very well, and my boy will
be comfortable.'"

Dr. Grey's grief was deep, but silent; and, during the dreary day and
night that succeeded, he would allow no one to approach him except
Muriel, whose soft little hands, and tearful, tender caresses, seemed
in some degree to comfort him.

One month before, Salome would have wept and mourned with him, but the
fountain of her tears was exhausted and scorched by the intense
bitterness and despairing hate that had taken possession of her since
the day of Elsie's burial; and stunned and dry-eyed, she watched the
preparations for the obsequies of her benefactress.

Her love for Miss Jane had never been sufficiently fervent to render
her distress very poignant; but in the death of this devoted friend
she was fully aware that at last she was set once more adrift in the
world, without chart or rudder save that furnished by her will.

Life to-day was not the beautiful web, all aglow with the tangling of
gold and silver threads, that had once charmed and dazzled her, for
the mildew of hopelessness had tarnished the gilding, and the mesh was
only a mass of dark knots, and subtle crossings, and inextricable
confusion.

Like that lost star that once burned so luridly in Cassiopeia, and
flickered out, leaving a gulf of gloom where stellar glory was, the
one most precious hope that lights and sanctifies a woman's heart had
waned and grown sickly, and finally had gone out utterly, and dust
and ashes and darkness filled the void. In natures such as hers, this
hope is not allied to the phoenix, and, once crushed, knows no
resurrection; consequently she cheated herself with no vain
expectation that the mighty wizard, Time, could evoke from corpse or
funeral-pyre even a spark to cheer the years that were thundering
before her.

A few months ago the future had glistened as peaceful and silvery as
the Dead Sea at midnight, when a full-orbed Syrian moon glares down,
searching for the palms and palaces that once marked Gomorrah's proud
places; and, like some thirsty traveller smitten with surface sheen,
she had laid her fevered lips to the treacherous margin, and, drinking
eagerly, had been repaid with brine and bitumen.

Disappointment was with her no meek, mute affair, but a savage fiend
that browbeat and anathematized fate, accusing her of rendering
existence a mere Nitocris banquet, where, while every sense is
sharpened and pampered, and fruition almost touches the outstretched
hands of eager trust, the flood-gates of the mighty Nile of despair
are lifted, and its chill, dusky waves make irremediable wreck of
all.

With the quiet thoughtfulness and good sense that characterized her
unobtrusive conduct, Miss Dexter had prepared from Muriel's wardrobe
an entire suit of mourning, which she prevailed upon Salome to accept
and wear; and, on the morning of the funeral, the latter went down
early into the draped and darkened parlor, where the coffin and its
cold tenant awaited the last offices that dust can perform for dust.

She had not spoken to Dr. Grey for twenty-four hours, and, finding him
beside the table where his sister's body lay, the orphan would have
retreated, but he caught the rustling sound of her crape and
bombazine, and held out his hand.

"Come in, Salome."

She took no notice of the offered fingers, but passed him, and went
around the table to the opposite side.

The wrinkled, sallow face, still wore its tranquil half-smile, and,
under the cap-border of fine lace, the grizzled hair lay smooth and
glossy on the sunken temples.

In accordance with a wish which she had often expressed, the ghostly
shroud was abandoned, and Miss Jane was dressed in her favorite black
silk. Salome had gathered a small bouquet of the fragile white
blossoms of apple-geranium, of which the old lady was particularly
fond, and, bending over the coffin, she laid them between the fingers
that were interlaced on the pulseless heart.

With a quiet mournfulness, more eloquent than passionate grief, the
girl stood looking for the last time at the placid countenance that
had always beamed kindly and lovingly upon her since that dreary day,
when, under the flickering shadow of the mulberry-tree, she had called
her from the poor-house and given her a happy home.

She stooped to kiss the livid lips, that had never spoken harshly to
her; and, for some seconds, her face was hidden on the bosom of the
dead. When she raised it, the dry, glittering eyes and firm mouth,
betokened the bitterness of soul that no invectives could exhaust, no
language adequately express.

"Dr. Grey, if the exchange could be made, I would not only willingly,
but gladly, thankfully, lie down here in this coffin, and give your
sister back to your arms. The Reaper, Death, has cut down the perfect,
golden grain, and left the tares to shiver in the coming winter. Some
who are useless and life-weary bend forward, hoping to meet the
sickle, but it sweeps above them, and they wither slowly among the
stubble."

He looked at her, and found it difficult to realize that the pale,
quiet, stern woman, standing there in sombre weeds, was the same fair
young face that he had seen thirty-six hours before in the moonlight
that brightened Elsie's grave. He thought that only the slow, heavy
rolling of years could have worn those lines about her faded lips, and
those dark purplish hollows under the steady, undimmed eyes. That
composed, frigid Salome, watching him from across the corpse and
coffin, seemed a mere chill shadow of the fiery, impetuous, radiant
girl, whose passionate waywardness had so often annoyed and grieved
him. The alabaster vase was still perfect in form, but the lamp that
had hitherto burned within, lending a rosy glow to clay, had fluttered
and expired, and the change was painful indeed.

His attention was so riveted upon the extraordinary alteration in her
appearance, that her words fell on his ear, as empty, as meaningless,
as the echoes heard in dreams, and when she ceased speaking, he looked
perplexed, and sighed heavily.

"What did you say? I do not think I understand you; my mind was
abstracted when you spoke."

"True; you never will understand me. Only the dead sleeping here
between us fully comprehended me, and even unto the end of my
life-chapter I must walk on misapprehended. When the coffin-lid is
screwed down over that dear, kind face, I shall have bidden adieu to
my sole and last friend; for in the Hereafter she will not know me.
Ah, Miss Jane! you tried hard to teach me Christianity, but it was
like geometry, I had no talent for it,--could not take hold of
it,--and it all slipped through my fingers. If there is indeed an
inexorable and incorruptible Justice reigning behind the stars, you
will be so happy that I and my sins, and my desolation will not
trouble you. Good-by, dear Miss Jane; it is not your fault that I
missed my chance of being coaxed into the celestial fold with the
elect sheep, and find myself scourged out with the despised goats. God
grant you His everlasting rest."

She turned, but Dr. Grey stretched his arm across his sister's body,
and caught the orphan's dress.

"Salome, God has called my own sister to her blessed rest in Christ,
but my adopted sister He has left to comfort, to sympathize with me.
Here, in the sacred presence of my dear dead, I ask you to take her
place, and be to me throughout life the true, loving, faithful friend
whom nothing can alienate, and of whom only death can deprive me. My
little sister, let the future ripen and sanctify our confidence,
affection, and friendship."

"No, sir; sinners can not fill the niches of the saints; and to-day we
are more completely divided than if the ocean roared between us. Once
I struggled hard to cure myself of my faults,--to purify and fashion
my nature anew, but the incentive has died, and I have no longer the
proud aspirations that lifted me like eagle's wings high above the
dust into which I have now fallen,--and where I expect to remain. You
need not fear that I shall commit some capital sin, and go down in
disgrace to my grave; for there must be some darling hope, some
precious aim, that goads people to crime,--and neither of these have
I. I do not want your friendship, and I will not allow your dictation;
and, if you are as generous as I have believed you, I think you will
spare me the manifestation of your pity. Miss Jane was the only link
that united us in any degree, and now we are asunder and adrift. You
see at least I am honest, and since I have not your confidence, I
decline your compassion and espionage, and refuse to accept a sham
friendship,--to trust myself upon a gossamer web that stretches across
a dismal gulf of gloom, and wretchedness, and endless altercation.
When I am in one continent, and you are in another, we shall be better
friends than now."

Her cold, slow, measured accents, and the calm pallor of her features
told how complete was the change that had set its stern seal on body
and soul; and Dr. Grey's heart ached, as he realized how withering was
the blight that had fallen on her once buoyant, sanguine nature.

"My dear Salome, for Janet's sake, and in memory of all her love and
counsel, let me beg you not to indulge feelings that can only result
in utter--"

"Dr. Grey, let there be silence and peace between us, at least in the
presence of the dead. Expostulation from your lips only exasperates
and hardens me; so pray be quiet. No! do not touch me! Our hands have
not clasped each other so often nor so closely that they must needs
miss the warmth and pressure in the coming years of separation, and I
will not soil your palm with mine."

She coldly put aside the hand that endeavored to take hers, and, after
one long, sad gaze at the marble face in the coffin, turned away, and
went back to her own room.

Miss Jane's charities had carried her name even to the secluded nooks
of the county, and, when her death was announced, many humble
beneficiaries of her bounty came to offer the last testimonial of
respect and gratitude, by following the remains to their final
resting-place. As the hour approached for the solemn rites, the house
was filled with friends and acquaintances; and the members of the
profession to which Dr. Grey belonged came to attend the funeral, and
officiate as pall-bearers.

Seated beside Dr. Grey, on one of the sofas, Salome's dry eyes noted
all that passed while the services were performed; and, when the
hearse moved down the avenue, she took his offered arm, and was placed
in the same carriage.

It was a long, dreary drive to the distant cemetery, and she was
relieved to some extent when they found themselves at the family
vault. Miss Jane had always desired to be buried under the slab that
covered her brother, and had directed a space left for that purpose.
Now the marble was removed, and the coffins of Jane and Enoch Grey
rested side by side. The voice of the minister ceased, and only little
Stanley's sobs broke that mournful silence which always ensues while
spade or trowel does its sad work. Then the sculptured slab was
replaced, and brother and sister were left to that blessed repose
which is granted only to the faithful when "He giveth His beloved
sleep."

  "Write, 'Blessed are the dead that die in the Lord,
  Because they rest,' ... because their toil is o'er.
  The voice of weeping shall be heard no more
  In the Eternal City. Neither dying
  Nor sickness, pain nor sorrow, neither crying,
  For God shall wipe away all tears. Rest,--rest."

In the death of his sister, Dr. Grey mourned the loss of the only
mother he had ever known, for his earliest recollections were of Miss
Jane's tender care and love, and his affection was rather that of a
devoted son than brother; consequently, the blow was doubly painful:
but he bore it with a silent fortitude, a grave and truly Christian
resignation, that left an indelible impression upon the minds of Miss
Dexter and Muriel, and taught them the value of a faith that could
bring repose and trust in the midst of a trial so severe.

His continued vigils at "Solitude," and the profound grief that could
not find vent in tears or words, had printed characters on his pale,
wearied face, that should have commanded the sympathy of all who
shared his friendship; but the sight of his worn features and the
sound of his slow step only embittered the heart of the orphan, who
saw in these evidences of fatigue and anxiety new manifestations of
affection for the patient who was not yet entirely beyond danger.

Four days after the funeral, Dr. Grey came in to breakfast later than
usual, having driven over very early to "Solitude;" and, as he seated
himself at the table and received from Muriel's hand a cup of coffee,
he leaned forward and kissed her rosy cheek.

"Thank you, my child. You are very kind to wait for me."

"How is that poor Mrs. Gerome? Will she never be well enough to
dispense with your services?"

Once, Salome would have answered, "He hopes not;" but now she merely
turned her head a little, to catch his reply.

"She is better to-day than I feared I should find her, as some
alarming symptoms threatened her yesterday; but now I think I can
safely say the danger has entirely passed."

Muriel hung over the back of his chair, pressing him to try several
dishes that she pronounced excellent, but he gently refused all except
the coffee; and, when he had pushed aside the empty cup, he drew the
face of his ward close to his own, and murmured a few words that
deepened the glow on her fair cheeks, while she hastily left the room
to read a letter.

For some moments he sat with his head resting on his hand, thinking of
the dear old face that usually watched him from the corner of the
fire-place, and of the kind words that were showered on him while he
breakfasted; but to-day the faded lips were frozen forever, and the
dim eyes would never again brighten at his approach.

He sighed, brushed back the hair that clustered in glossy brown rings
on his forehead, and rose.

"Salome, if you are not particularly engaged this morning, I should be
glad to see you in the library."

"At what hour?"

"Immediately, if you are at leisure."

The orphan put aside the fold of crape which she was converting into a
collar, and inclined her head slightly.

Since that brief and painful interview held beside Miss Jane's coffin,
not a syllable had passed between them, and the girl shrank with a
vague, shivering dread from the impending _tête-à-tête_.

Silently she followed the master of the house into the library, where
Dr. Grey drew two chairs to the table, and, when she had seated
herself in one, he took possession of the other.

Opening a drawer, he selected several papers from a mass of what
appeared to be legal documents, and spread them before her.

"I wish to acquaint you with the contents of my sister's will, which I
examined last night. Will you read it, or shall I briefly state her
wishes?"

"Tell me what you wish me to know."

She swept the papers into a pile, and pushed them away.

"Have you ever read a will?"

"No, sir."

She leaned her elbows on the table, and rested her face in her hands.

"All these pages amount simply to this,--dear Jane made her will
immediately after my return from Europe, and its provisions are: that
this place, with house, land, furniture, and stock, shall be given to
and settled upon you; and moreover that, for the ensuing five years,
you shall receive every January the sum of one thousand dollars. Until
the expiration of that period, she desired that I should act as your
guardian. By reference to the date and signature of these papers, you
will find that this will was made as soon as she was able to sit up,
after her illness produced by pneumonia; but appended to the original
is a codicil stating that the validity of the distribution of her
estate, contained in the former instrument, is contingent upon your
conduct. Feeling most earnestly opposed to your contemplated scheme of
going upon the stage as a _prima donna_, she solemnly declares, that,
if you persist in carrying your decision into execution, the foregoing
provisions shall be cancelled, and the house, land, and furniture
shall be given to Jessie and Stanley; while only one thousand dollars
is set apart as your portion. This codicil was signed one month ago."

Dr. Grey glanced over the sheets of paper, and refolded them, allowing
his companion time for reflection and comment, but she remained
silent, and he added,--

"However your views may differ from those entertained by my sister, I
hope you will not permit yourself to doubt that a sincere desire to
promote your life-long happiness prompted the course she has
pursued."

Five minutes elapsed, and the orphan sat mute and still.

"Salome, are you disappointed? My dear friend, deal frankly with me."

She lifted her pale, quiet face, and, for the first time in many
weeks, he saw unshed tears shining in her eyes, and glittering on her
lashes.

"I should be glad to know whether Miss Jane consulted you, in the
preparation of her will?"

"She conferred with me concerning the will, and I cordially approved
it; but of the codicil I knew nothing, until her lawyer--Mr.
Lindsay--called my attention to it yesterday afternoon."

"You are very generous, Dr. Grey, and no one but you would willingly
divide your sister's estate with paupers, who have so long imposed
upon her bounty. I had no expectation that Miss Jane would so
munificently remember me, and I have not deserved the kindness which
she has lavished on me, for Jessie and Stanley I gratefully accept her
noble gift, and it will place them far beyond the possibility of want;
while the only regret of which I am conscious, is, that I feel
compelled to pursue a career, which my best, my only friend
disapproved. In the name of poor little Jessie and Stanley, I thank
you, sir, for consenting to such a generous bequest of property that
is justly yours. You, who--"

"Pray do not mention the matter, for independent of the large legacy
left me by my sister, my own fortune is so ample that I deserve no
thanks for willingly sharing that which I do not need. My little
sister, you must not rashly decide a question which involves your
future welfare, and I can not and will not hear your views at present.
Take one week for calm deliberation, weigh the matter prayerfully and
thoughtfully, and at the expiration of that time, meet me here, and I
will accept your decision."

She shook her head, and a dreary smile passed swiftly over her
passionless face.

"Twenty years of reflection would not alter, or in any degree bend my
determination, which is as firmly fixed as the base of the Blue-Ridge;
and--"

"Pardon me, Salome, but, until the week has elapsed, I do not wish or
intend to receive your verdict. Before this day week, recollect all
the reasons which dear Janet urged against your scheme; recall the
pain she suffered from the bare contemplation of such a possibility,
and her tender pleadings and wise counsel. Ah, Salome, you are young
and impulsive, but I trust you will not close your ears against your
brother's earnest protest and appeal. If I were not sincerely attached
to you, I should not so persistently oppose your favorite plan, which
is fraught with perils and annoyances that you can not now realize.
Hush! I will not listen to you to-day."

He rose, and laying his hands softly on her head, added, in a solemn
but tremulously tender tone,--

"And may God in His infinite wisdom and mercy overrule all things for
your temporal and eternal welfare, and so guide your decision, that
peace and usefulness will be your portion, now and forever."



CHAPTER XXIV.


"Yes, Dr. Grey, I am better than I ever expected or desired to be in
this world."

"Mrs. Gerome, this is scarcely the recompense that my anxious
vigilance and ceaseless exertions merit at your hands."

The invalid leaned far back in her cushioned easy-chair, and, as the
physician rested his arm on the mantelpiece and looked down at her, he
thought of the lines that had more than once recurred to his mind,
since the commencement of their acquaintance,--

  "What finely carven features! Yes, but carved
  From some clear stuff, not like a woman's flesh,
  And colored like half-faded, white-rose leaves.
  'Tis all too thin, and wan, and wanting blood,
  To take my taste. No fulness, and no flush!
  A watery half-moon in a wintry sky
  Looks less uncomfortably cold. And ... well,
  I never in the eyes of a sane woman
  Saw such a strange, unsatisfied regard."

"I suppose I ought to be grateful to you, Dr. Grey, for Katie and
Robert have told me how patiently and carefully you nursed and watched
over me, during my illness; but instead of gratitude, I find it
difficult to forgive you for what you have done. You fanned into a
flame the spark of life that was smouldering and expiring, and baffled
the disease that came to me as the handmaid of Mercy. Death,
transformed into an angel of pity, kindly opened the door of escape
from the woe and weariness of this sin-cursed world, into the calmness
and dreamless rest of the vast shoreless Beyond; and just when I was
passing through, you snatched me back to my burdens and my bitter lot.
I know, of course, that you intended only kindness, but you must not
blame me if I fail to thank you."

"You forget that life is intended as a season of fiery probation, and
that without suffering there is no purification, and no reward.
Remember, 'Calm is not life's crown, though calm is well;' and those
who forego the pain must forego the palm."

"I would gladly forego all things for a rest,--a sleep that could know
no end. Katie tells me I have been ill a month, and from this brief
season of oblivion you have dragged me back to the existence that I
abhor. Dr. Grey, I feel to-day as poor Maurice de Guérin felt, when he
wrote from Le Val, 'My fate has knocked at the door to recall me; for
she had not gone on her way, but had seated herself upon the
threshold, waiting until I had recovered sufficient strength to resume
my journey. "Thou hast tarried long enough," said she to me; "come
forward!" And she has taken me by the hand, and behold her again on
the march, like those poor women one meets on the road, leading a
child who follows with a sorrowful air.'"

"There is a better guide provided, if you would only accept and yield
to his ministrations. For the flint-faced fate that you accuse so
virulently, substitute that tender and loving guardian the Angel of
Patience.

  'To weary hearts, to mourning homes,
  God's meekest Angel gently comes.
   . . . . . . . . . .
  There's quiet in that Angel's glance,
  There's rest in his still countenance!
   . . . . . . . . . .
  The ills and woes he may not cure
  He kindly trains us to endure.
   . . . . . . . . . .
  He walks with thee, that Angel kind,
  And gently whispers, 'Be resigned.'

A moment since, you quoted De Guérin, and perhaps you may recollect
one of his declarations, 'I have no shelter but resignation, and I run
to it in great haste, all trembling and distracted. Resignation! It is
the burrow hollowed in the cleft of some rock, which gives shelter to
the flying and long-hunted prey.' You will never find peace for your
heart and soul until you bring your will into complete subjection to
that of Him 'who doeth all things well.' Defiance and rebellious
struggles only aggravate your sorrows and trials."

She listened to the deep, quiet voice, as some unlettered savage might
hearken to the rhythmic music of Homer, soothed by the tones, yet
incapable of comprehending their import; and as she looked up at the
grave, kingly face, her eyes fell upon the broad band of crape that
encircled his straw hat, which had been hastily placed on the
mantelpiece.

"Dr. Grey, you ought to speak advisedly, for Robert told me that you
had recently lost your sister, and that you are now alone in the
world. You, who have severe afflictions, should know how far
resignation lightens them. I was much pained to learn that your sister
died while you were absent,--while you were sitting up with me. Ah,
sir! you ought to have watched her, and left me to my release. You
have been very kind and considerate toward one who has no claim upon
aught but your pity; and I would gladly lie down in your sister's
grave, and give her back to your heart and home."

Her countenance softened for an instant, and she held out her hand. He
took the delicate fingers in his, and pressed them gently.

"God grant that your life may be spared, until all doubt and
bitterness is removed from your heart, and that when you go down into
the grave it may be as bright with the blessed faith of a Christian as
that which now contains my sister Janet. Do not allow the gloom of
earthly disappointment to cloud your trust, but bear always in mind
those cheering words of Saadi,--

  'Says God, "Who comes towards me an inch through doubtings dim,
  In blazing light I do approach a yard towards him."'"

"If I am to be kept in this world until all the bitterness is scourged
out of me, I might as well resign myself to a career as endless as
that of Ahasuerus. I tell you, sir, I have been forced to drink out of
quassia-cups until my whole being has imbibed the bitter; and I am
like that tree to which Firdousi compared Mahmoud, 'Whose nature is so
bitter, that were you to plant it in the garden of Eden, and water it
with the ambrosial stream of Paradise, and were you to enrich its
roots with virgin honey, it would, after all, discover its innate
disposition, and only yield the acrid fruit it had ever borne.'"

"What right have you to expect that existence should prove one
continued gala-season? When Christ went down meekly into Gethsemane,
that such as you and I might win a place in the Eternal City, how
dare you demand exemption from grief and pain, that Jesus, your
God, did not spare Himself? Are you purer than Christ, and wiser
than the Almighty, that you impiously deride and question their
code for the government of the Universe, in which individual lives
seem trivial as the sands of the desert, or the leaves of the
forest? Oh! it is pitiable, indeed, to see some worm writhing in
the dust, and blasphemously dictating laws to Him who swung suns and
asterisms in space, and breathed into its own feeble fragment of clay
the spark that enabled it to insult its God. Put away such unwomanly
scoffing,--such irreverent puerilities; sweep your soul clean of all
such wretched rubbish, and when you feel tempted to repine at your
lot, recollect the noble admonition of Dschelaleddin, 'If this
world were our abiding-place, we might complain that it makes our
bed so hard; but it is only our night-quarters on a journey, and
who can expect home comforts?'"

"I can not feel resigned to my lot. It is too hard,--too unjust."

"Mrs. Gerome, are you more just and prescient than Jehovah?"

She passed her thin hand across her face, and was silent, for his
voice and manner awed her. After a little while, she sat erect in her
chair, and tried to rise.

"Doctor, if you could look down into the gray ruins of my heart, you
would not reprove me so harshly. My whole being seems in some cold
eclipse, and my soul is like the Sistine Chapel in Passion-week,
where all is shrouded in shadow, and no sounds are heard but Misereres
and Tenebræ."

"Promise me that in future you will try to keep it like that Christian
temple, pure and inviolate from all imprecations and rebellious words.
If gloom there must be, see to it that resignation seals your lips.
What are you trying to do? You are not strong enough to walk alone."

"I want to go into the parlor,--I want my piano. Yesterday I attempted
to cross the room, and only Katie's presence saved me from a severe
fall."

She stood by her chair, grasping the carved back, and Dr. Grey stepped
forward, and drew her arm under his.

In her great weakness she leaned upon him, and when they reached the
parlor door, she paused and almost panted.

"You must not attempt to play,--you are too feeble even to sit up
longer. Let me take you back to your room."

"No,--no! Let me alone. I know best what is good for me; and I tell
you my piano is my only Paraclete."

Holding his arm for support, she drew a chair instead of the
piano-stool to the instrument, and seated herself.

Dr. Grey raised the lid, and waited some seconds, expecting her to
play, but she sat still and mute, and presently he stooped to catch a
glimpse of her countenance.

"I want to see Elsie's grave. Open the blinds."

He threw open the shutters, and came back to the piano.

Through the window, the group of deodars was visible, and there,
bathed in the mild yellow sunshine was the mound, and the faded wreath
swinging in the breeze.

For many minutes Mrs. Gerome gazed at the quiet spot where her nurse
rested, and with her eyes still on the grave, her fingers struck into
Chopin's Funeral March.

After a while, Dr. Grey noticed a slight quiver cross her pale lips,
and when the mournful music reached its saddest chords, a mist veiled
the steely eyes, and very soon tears rolled slowly down her cheeks.

The march ended, she did not pause, but began Mozart's Requiem, and
all the while that slow rain of tears dripped down on her white
fingers, and splashed upon the ivory keys.

Dr. Grey was so rejoiced at the breaking up of the ice that had long
frozen the fountain of her tears, that he made no attempt to interrupt
her, until he saw that she tottered in her chair. Taking her hands
from the piano, he said gently,--

"You are quite exhausted, and I can not permit this to continue. Come
back to your room."

"No; let me stay here. Put me on the sofa in the oriel, and leave the
blinds open."

He lifted her from the chair and led her to the sofa, where she sank
heavily down upon the cushions.

Without comment or resistance, she drank a glass of strong cordial
which he held to her lips, and lay with her eyes closed, while tears
still trickled through the long jet lashes.

She wore a robe of white merino, and a rich blue shawl of the same
soft material which was folded across her shoulders, made the wan face
look like some marble seraph's, hovering over an altar where violet
light streams through stained glass.

For some time Dr. Grey walked up and down the long room, glancing
now and then at his patient, and when he saw that the tears had
ceased, he brought from a basket in the hall an exquisitely
beautiful and fragrant bouquet of the flowers which he knew she
loved best,--heliotrope, violets, tube-rose, and Grand-Duke
jessamine, fringed daintily with spicy geranium leaves, and scarlet
fuchsias.

Silently he placed it on her folded hands, and the expression of
surprise and pleasure that suddenly lighted her countenance, amply
repaid him.

"Dr. Grey, it has been my wish to except services from no one,--to owe
no human being thanks; but your unvarying kindness to my poor Elsie
and to me, imposes a debt of gratitude that I can not easily
liquidate. I fear you are destined to bankrupt me, for how can I hope
to repay all your thoughtful, delicate care, and generous interest in
a stranger? Tell me in what way I can adequately requite you."

Dr. Grey drew a chair close to the sofa, and answered,--

"Take care lest your zeal prove the contrary, for you know a
distinguished philosopher asserts that, 'Too great eagerness to
requite an obligation is a species of ingratitude;' and such an
accusation would be unflattering to you, and unpleasant to me."

Turning the bouquet around in order to examine and admire each flower,
Mrs. Gerome toyed with the velvet bells, and said, sorrowfully,--

"Their delicious perfume always reminds me of my beautiful home near
Funchal, where heliotrope and geraniums grew so tall that they looked
in at my window, and hedges of fuchsias bordered my garden walks.
Never have I seen elsewhere such profusion and perfection of
flowers."

"When were you in Madeira?"

"Two years ago. The villa I occupied was situated on the side of a
mountain, whose base was covered with vineyards; and from a grove of
lemon and oleanders that stood in front of the house I could see the
surging Atlantic at my feet, and the crest of the mountain clothed
with chestnuts, high above and behind me. In one corner of my vineyard
stood a solitary palm, which tradition asserted was planted when Zarco
discovered the island; and the groves of orange, citron, and
pomegranate trees were always peopled with humming-birds, and flocks
of green canaries. There, surrounded by grand and picturesque scenery
of which I never wearied, I resolved to live and die; but Elsie's
desire to return to America, which held the ashes of her husband and
child, overruled my inclination and the dictates of judgment, and
reluctantly I left my mountain Eden and came here. Now, when I smell
violets and heliotrope, regret mingles with their aroma; and, after
all, the sacrifice was in vain, and Elsie would have slept as calmly
there, under palm and chestnut, as yonder, where the deodar-shadows
fall."

"Is your life here a faithful transcript of that portion of it passed
at Funchal?"

"Yes; except that there I saw no human being but the servants, who
transacted any business that demanded interviews with the consul."

"It was fortunate that Elsie's wise counsel prevailed over your
caprice, for many of your griefs proceed from the complete isolation
to which you so strangely doom yourself; and until you become a useful
member of that society you are so fully fitted to adorn and elevate,
you need not hope or expect the peace of mind that results only from
the consciousness of having nobly discharged the sacred obligations to
God, and to your race. 'Bear ye one another's burdens,' was the solemn
admonition of Him who sublimely bore the burdens of an entire world.
Now tell me, have you ever stretched out a finger to aid the toiling
multitudes whose cry for help wails over even the most prosperous
lands? What have you done to strengthen trembling hands, or comfort
and gladden oppressed hearts? How dare you hoard within your own home
the treasure of fortune, talent, and sympathy, which were temporarily
entrusted to your hands, to be sown broadcast in noble charities,--to
be judiciously invested in promoting the cause of Truth in the fierce
war Evil wages against it? Hitherto you have lived solely for
yourself, which is a sin against humanity; and have pampered a morbid
and rebellious spirit, that is a grevious sin against your God. Shake
off your lethargy and cynicism, and let a busy future redeem a vagrant
and worthless past. '_He that goeth forth and weepeth, bearing
precious seed, shall doubtless come again with rejoicing, bringing his
sheaves with him._'"

The flowers dropped on her bosom, and, clasping her hands across her
forehead, she turned her face towards the sea, and seemed pondering
his words.

"Dr. Grey, my purse has always been open to the needy, and Elsie was
my almoner. Whenever you find a destitute family, or hear an appeal
for help, I shall gladly respond, and constitute you the agent for the
distribution of my charity-fund. As for bearing the sorrows of others,
pray excuse me. I am so weighed down with my own burdens that I have
no strength or leisure to spare to my neighbors, and since I ask no
aid, must not be censured for rendering none. It is utterly useless to
urge me to enter society, for like that sad pilgrim in Brittany, 'In
losing solitude I lose the half of my soul. I go out into the world
with a secret horror. When I withdraw, I gather together and lock up
my scattered treasure, but I put away my ideas sorely handled, like
fruits fallen from the tree upon stones.' No, no; in seclusion I find
the only modicum of peace that earth can ever yield me, and can
readily understand why Chateaubriand avoided those crowds which he
denominated, 'The vast desert of men.'"

"You must not be offended, if, in reply, I remind you of the rude but
vigorous words of that prince of cynics, Schopenhauer, 'Society is a
fire at which the wise man from a prudent distance warms himself; not
plunging into it, like the fool who after getting well blistered,
rushes into the coldness of solitude, and complains that the fire
burns.' Of the two evils, reckless dissipation and gloomy isolation,
the latter is probably an economy of sin; but since neither is
inevitable, we should all endeavor to render ourselves useful members
of society, and unfurl over our circle the banner of St. Paul, 'Use
this world as not abusing it.' Mrs. Gerome, do not obstinately mar the
present and future, by brooding bitterly over the trials of the past;
but try to believe that, indeed,--

           ... 'Sorrows humanize our race;
  Tears are the showers that fertilize this world.
  And memory of things precious keepeth warm
  The heart that once did hold them.'"

He watched her eagerly yet gravely, hoping that her face would soften;
but she raised her hand with a proud, impatient motion.

"You talk at random, concerning matters of which you know nothing. I
hate the world and have abjured it, and you might as well go down
yonder and harangue the ocean on the sin of its ceaseless muttering,
as expect to remodel my aimless, blank life."

Pained and disappointed, he remained silent, and, as if conscious of a
want of courtesy, she added,--

"Do not allow your generous heart to be disquieted on my account, but
leave me to a fate which can not be changed,--which I have endured
seven years, and must bear to my grave. Now that you see how desolate
I am, pity me, and be silent."

"It will be difficult for you to regain your strength here, where so
many mournful associations surround you, and I came to-day to beg you
to take a trip somewhere, by sea or land. Almost any change of scene
and air will materially benefit you, and you need not be absent more
than a few weeks. Will you take the matter under consideration?"

"No, sir; why should I? Can hills or waves, dells or lakes, cure a
mind which you assure me is diseased? Can sea breeze or mountain air
fan out recollections that have jaundiced the heart, or furnish an
opiate that will effectually deaden and quiet regret? I long ago tried
your remedy--travelling, and for four years I wandered up and down,
and over the face of the old world; but amid the crumbling columns of
Persepolis, I was still Agla Gerome, the wretched; and when I stood on
the margin of the Lake of Wan, I saw in its waves the reflection of
the same hopeless woman who now lies before you. Change of external
surroundings is futile, and no more affects the soul than the roar of
surface-surf changes the hollow of an ocean bed where the dead sleep;
and, verily,--

  'My heart is a drear Golgotha, where all the ground is white
  With the wrecks of joys that have perished,--the skeletons of
        delight.'"

He saw that in her present mood expostulation would only aggravate the
evil he longed to correct, and hoping to divert the current of her
thoughts, he said,--

"I trust you will not deem me impertinently curious if I ask what
singular freak bestowed upon you the name of 'Agla'?"

A startling change swept over her features, and her tone was haughtily
challenging.

"What interest can Dr. Grey find in a matter so trivial? If I were
named Hecate or Persephone, would the world have a right to demur, to
complain, or to criticise?"

"When a lady bears the mystic name, which, in past ages, was given to
the Deity, by a race who, if superstitious, were at least devout and
reverent, she should not be surprised if it excites wonder and
comment. Forgive me, however, if my inquiry annoyed you."

He rose and took his hat, but her hand caught his arm.

"Do you know the import of the word?"

"Yes; I understand the significance of the letters, and the wonderful
power attributed to them when arranged in the triangles and called the
'Shield of David.' Knowing that it was considered talismanic, I could
not imagine why you were christened with so mystical a name."

"I was never christened."

He could not explain the confusion and displeasure which the question
excited, and anxious to relieve her of any feeling of annoyance, he
added,--

"Have you ever looked into the nature of the _Aglaophotis_?"

She struggled up from her cushions, and exclaimed, with a vehemence
that startled him,--

"What induced you to examine it? I know that it is a strange plant,
growing out of solid marble, and accounted a charm by Arab magicians.
Well, Dr. Grey, do not I belong to that species? You see before you a
human specimen of _Aglaophotis_, growing out of a marble heart."

Sometimes an exaggerated whimsicality trenches so closely upon
insanity, that it is difficult to discriminate between them; and, as
Dr. Grey noted the peculiarly cold glitter of her large eyes, and the
restless movement of her usually quiet hands, he dreaded that the
crushing weight on her heart would ultimately impair her mind. Now he
abruptly changed the topic.

"Mrs. Gerome, whenever it is agreeable to you to drive down the beach
or across the woods and among the hills, it will afford me much
pleasure to place my horse, buggy, and myself at your disposal; and,
in fine weather like this, a drive of a few miles would invigorate
you."

"Thank you. I shall not trouble you, for I have my low-swung easy
carriage, and my grays--my fatal grays. Ah if they would only serve me
as they did my poor Elsie! When I am strong enough to take the reins,
I will allow them an opportunity. Dr. Grey, if I seem rude, forgive
me. You are very kind and singularly patient, and sometimes when you
have left me, I feel ashamed of my inability to prove my sincere
appreciation of your goodness. For these beautiful flowers, I thank
you cordially."

She held out her hand, and, as he accepted it, he drew from his pocket
the silver key which he had so carefully preserved.

"Accident made me the custodian of this key, which I found on the
floor the day of Elsie's burial. Knowing that it belonged to your
escritoire, whence I saw you take it, I thought it best not to commit
it to a servant's care, and have kept it in my pocket until I thought
you might need it."

Although the room was growing dim, he detected the expression of dread
that crossed her countenance, and saw her bite her thin lip with
vexation.

"You have worn for one month the key of my desk, where lie all my
papers and records; and when I was so desperately ill, I presume you
looked into the drawers, merely to ascertain whether I had prepared my
will?"

The mockery of her tone stung him keenly, but he allowed no evidence
of the wound to escape him. Bending over her as she sat partially
erect, supported by cushions, he took her white face tenderly in his
hands, and said, very calmly and gently,--

"When you know me better, you will realize how groundless is your
apprehension that I have penetrated into the recesses of your
writing-desk. Knowing that it contained valuable papers, I guarded it
as jealously as you could have done; and, upon the honor of a
gentleman, I assure you I am as ignorant of its contents as if I had
never entered the house. When I consider it essential to my peace of
mind to become acquainted with your antecedents, I shall come to you
and ask what I desire to learn. While you were so ill, I told Robert
that your friends should be notified of your imminent danger, and
inquired of him whether you had made a will, as I deemed it my duty to
inform your agent of your alarming condition. He either could not or
would not give me any satisfactory reply, and there the matter ended.
When I am gone, do not reproach yourself for having so unjustly
impugned my motives, for I shall not allow myself to believe that you
really entertain so contemptible an opinion of me; and shall ascribe
your hasty accusation to mere momentary chagrin and pique."

"Ah, sir! you ought not to wonder that I am so suspicious; you--but
how can you understand the grounds of my distrust, unless--"

"Hush! We will not discuss a matter which can only excite and annoy
you. Mrs. Gerome, under all circumstances you may unhesitatingly trust
me, and I beg to assure you I shall never divulge anything confided to
me. You need a friend, and perhaps some day you may consider me worthy
to serve you in that capacity; meantime, as your physician, I shall
continue to watch over and control you. To-day you have cruelly
overtasked your exhausted system, and I can not permit you to remain
here any longer. Come immediately to your own room."

His manner was so quietly authoritative that she obeyed instantly, and
when he lifted her from the sofa, she took his arm, and walked towards
the door. Before they had crossed the hall, he felt her reel and lean
more heavily against him, and silently he took the thin form in his
arms, and carried her to her room.

The gray head was on his shoulder, and the cold marble cheek touched
his, as he laid her softly down on her bed and arranged her pillows.
He rang for Katie, and, in crossing the floor, stepped on something
hard. It was too dusky in the closely curtained apartment to see any
object so small, but he swept his hand across the carpet and picked up
the key that had slipped from her nerveless fingers. Placing it beside
her, he smiled and said,--

"You are incorrigibly careless. Are you not afraid to tax my curiosity
so severely, and tempt me so pertinaciously, by strewing your keys in
my path? The next time I pick up this one, which belongs to your
escritoire, I shall engage some one to act as your guardian. Katie, be
sure she takes that tonic mixture three times a day. Good-night."

When the sound of his retreating footsteps died away, Mrs. Gerome
thrust the key under her pillow, and murmured,--

"I wonder whether this Ulpian can be as true, as trusty, as nobly
fearless as his grand old Roman namesake, whom not even the purple of
Severus could save from martyrdom? Ah! if Ulpian Grey is really all
that he appears. But how dare I hope, much less believe it? Verily, he
reminds me of Madame de Chatenay's description of Joubert, 'He seems
to be a soul that by accident had met with a body, and tried to make
the best of it.'"

"Did you speak to me, ma'am?" asked Katie, who was bustling about,
preparing to light the lamp.

"No. The room is like a tomb. Open the blinds and loop back all the
curtains, so that I can look out."

  "And the sunset paled, and warmed once more
  With a softer, tenderer after-glow;
  In the east was moon-rise, with boats off-shore
  And sails in the distance drifting slow."



CHAPTER XXV.


"Doctor Grey, sister says she wants to see you, before you go to
town."

Jessie Owen came softly up to the table where Dr. Grey sat writing,
and stood with her hand on his knee.

"Very well. Tell sister I will come to her as soon as I finish this
letter. Where is she?"

"In the library."

"In ten minutes I shall be at leisure."

He found Salome with a piece of sewing in her hand, and her young
sister leaning on her lap, chattering merrily about a nest full of
eggs which she and Stanley had found that morning in a corner of the
orchard; while the latter swung on the back of her chair, winding over
his finger a short curl that lay on her neck. It was a pleasant,
peaceful, homelike picture, worthy of Eastman Johnson's brush, and for
thirty years such a group had not been seen in that quiet old
library.

Dr. Grey paused at the threshold, to admire the graceful pose of
Jessie's fairy figure,--the lazy nonchalance of Stanley's posture,--and
the finely shaped head that rose above both, like some stately lily,
surrounded by clustering croci; but Salome was listening for his
footsteps, and turned her head at his entrance.

"Stanley, take Jessie up to my room, and show her your Chinese puzzle.
When I want either or both of you, I will call you. Close the door
after you, and mind that you do not get to romping, and shake the
house down."

"How very pretty Jessie has grown during the last year. Her complexion
has lost its muddy tinge, and is almost waxen," said the doctor, when
the children had left the room and scampered up stairs.

"She is a very sweet-tempered and affectionate little thing, but I
never considered her pretty. She is too much like her father."

"Salome, death veils all blemishes."

"That depends very much on the character of the survivors; but we will
not discuss abstract propositions,--especially since I have resolved
to follow the old oriental maxim,--

  'Leave ancestry behind, despise heraldic art,
  Thy father be thy mind, thy mother be thy heart.
  Dead names concern not thee, bid foreign titles wait;
  Thy deeds thy pedigree, thy hopes thy rich estate!'

Dr. Grey, the week has ended, and I took the liberty of reminding you
of the fact, as I am anxious to acquaint you with my purposes for the
future."

He drew a chair near hers, and seated himself.

"Well, Salome, I hope that reflection has changed your views, and
taught you the wisdom of my sister's course with reference to
yourself."

"On the contrary, the season of deliberation you forced upon me has
only strengthened and intensified my desire to carry into execution
the project I have so long dreamed of; and to-day I am more than ever
firmly resolved to follow, at all hazards, the dictates of my own
judgment, no matter with whose opinions or wishes they may conflict."

She expected that he would expostulate, and plead against her
decision, but he merely bowed, and remained silent.

"My object in asking this interview was to ascertain how soon it would
be convenient for you to place in my hands the legacy of one thousand
dollars which was bequeathed to me on condition that I went upon the
stage; and also to inquire what you intend to do with the children, of
whom Miss Jane's will constitutes you the guardian?"

"You wish me to understand that you are determined to defy the wishes
of your best friend, and take a step which distressed her beyond
expression?"

"I shall certainly go upon the stage."

"I have no alternative but to accept your decision, which you are well
aware I regard as exceedingly deplorable. The money can be paid to you
to-morrow, if you desire it. Hoping that you would abandon this freak,
I had intended to keep the children here, under your supervision,
while I removed to my house in town, and left their tuition to Miss
Dexter; but since you have decided otherwise, I shall remain here for
the present, keeping them with me, at least until after Muriel's
marriage. The income from this farm averages two thousand dollars a
year, and will not only amply provide for their wants and education,
but will enable me to lay aside annually a portion of that amount.
When Muriel marries, Miss Dexter may not be willing to remain here,
and if she leaves us I shall endeavor to find as worthy and reliable a
substitute. Have you any objection to this arrangement?"

"I have no right to utter any, since you are the legal guardian of the
children. But contingencies might arise for which it seems you have
not provided."

"What do you mean?"

"I mean that I can trust Jessie and Stanley to you, but when you are
married I prefer that they should find another home; or, if need be,
Jessie can come to me."

An angry flush dyed Dr. Grey's olive face, and kindled a fiery gleam
in his usually mild, clear, blue eyes, but looking at the girl's
compressed and trembling lips, and noting the underlying misery which
her defiant expression could not cover, his displeasure gave place to
profound compassion.

"Salome, dismiss that cause of anxiety from your mind, and trust the
assurance I offer you now,--that when I marry, my wife will be worthy
to assist me in guiding and governing my wards."

She was prepared to hear him retort that the career she had chosen
would render her an unsuitable counsellor for little Jessie; and
conscious that she had deeply wounded him, his calm reply was the
sharpest rebuke he could possibly have administered.

"Dr. Grey, I have no extraordinary amount of tenderness for the
children, because they are indissolubly associated with that period of
my life to which I never recur without pain and humiliation that you
can not possibly realize or comprehend; still, I am not exactly a
brute, and I do not wish them to be trained to regard me as a Pariah,
or to be told that I have forfeited their respect and affection. When
I am gone, let them think kindly of me."

"Your request is a reflection upon my friendship, and is so
exceedingly unjust that I am surprised and pained; but let that pass.
I am sure I need not tell you that your wishes shall be complied with.
I have often thought that after Stanley completed his studies, I would
take him into my office, and teach him my own profession. Have you any
objection to this scheme?"

"No, sir. I am willing to trust him implicitly to you. He has one
terrible fault which I have been trying to correct, and which I hope
you will not lose sight of. The boy seems constitutionally addicted to
telling stories, and prefers falsehood to truth. I have punished him
repeatedly for this habit, and you must, if possible, save him from
the pauper vice of lying, which is peculiarly detestable to me. I know
less of the little one's character, but believe that she is not
afflicted with this evil tendency."

"Stanley's fault has not escaped me, and two days ago I was obliged to
punish him for a gross violation of the truth; but as he grows older,
I trust he will correct this defect, and I shall faithfully endeavor
to show him its enormity. Is there anything else you wish to say to me
about the children? I will very gladly hear any suggestions you can
offer."

"No, sir. I have governed myself so badly, that it ill becomes me to
dictate to you how they should be trained. God knows, I am heartily
glad they were mercifully thrown into your hands; and if you can only
make Stanley Owen such a man as you are, the old blot on the name may
be effaced. From Mark and Joel I have not heard for several months,
and presume they will be sturdy but unlettered mechanics. If I
succeed, I shall interfere and send them to school; otherwise, they
must take the chances for letters and a livelihood."

"Salome, you are bartering life-long peace and happiness for the
momentary gratification of a whim, prompted solely by vanity. How
worthless are the brief hollow plaudits of the world (which will
regard you merely as the toy of an hour), in comparison with the
affection and society of your own family? Here, in your home, how
useful, how contented you might be!"

Her only reply was a hasty, imperious wave of the hand, and a long
silence followed.

In the bright morning light that streamed in through the tendrils of
honeysuckle clambering around the window, Dr. Grey looked searchingly
at the orphan, and could scarcely realize that this pale, proud,
pain-stricken face, was the same rosy round one, fair and fearless,
that had first met his gaze under the pearly apple-blossoms.

Then, pink flesh, hazel eyes, vermillioned lips, and glossy hair had
preferred incontestable claims to beauty; now, an artist would have
curiously traced the fine lines and curves daintily drawn about eyes,
brow and mouth, by the stylus of care, of hopelessness, of wild bursts
of passion. Her figure retained its rounded symmetry, but the
countenance traitorously revealed the struggles, the bitter
disappointments, the vindictive jealousy, and rudely-smitten and
blasted hopes, that had robbed her days of peace and her nights of
sleep.

Until this moment, Dr. Grey had not fully appreciated the change
that had been wrought by two tedious years, and as he scrutinized
the sadly sharpened and shadowed features, a painful feeling of
humiliation and almost of self-reproach sprang from the consciousness
that his inability to reciprocate her devoted love had brought down
this premature blight upon a young and whilom happy, careless
girl,--transforming her into a reckless, hardened, hopeless woman.

While his inexorable conscience fully exonerated him from censure, his
generous heart ached in sympathy for hers, and his chivalric
tenderness for all things weaker than himself, bled at the reflection
that he had been unintentionally instrumental in darkening a woman's
life.

But hope,--beautiful, blue-eyed, sunny-browed hope,--whispered that
this was a fleeting youthful fancy; and that absence and time would
dispel the temporary gloom that now lay on her heart, like some dense
cold vapor which would grow silvery, and melt in morning sunshine.

Under his steady gaze the blood rose slowly to its old signal-station
on her cheeks, and she put up one hand to shield its scarlet banners.

"Salome, will you tell me when and where you intend to go? Since you
have resolved to leave us, I desire to know in what way I can aid you,
or contribute to the comfort of the journey you contemplate."

"From the last letter of Professor V----, declining your proposal that
he should come here and instruct me, I learn that within the ensuing
ten days he will sail for Havre, _en route_ to Italy, where he intends
spending the winter. If possible, I wish to reach New York before his
departure, and to accompany him. The thousand dollars will defray my
expenses until I have completed my musical training, which will fit me
for the stage, and insure an early engagement in some operatic
company. Knowing your high estimate of Professor V----, both as a
gentleman and as a musician, I am exceedingly anxious to place myself
under his protection; especially since his wife and children will meet
him at Paris, and go on to Naples. Are you willing to give me a letter
of introduction, commending me to his favorable consideration?"

The hesitating timidity with which this request was uttered, touched
him more painfully than aught that had ever passed between them.

"My dear child, did you suppose that I would permit you to travel
alone to New York, and thrust yourself upon the notice of strangers? I
will accompany you whenever you go, and not only present you to the
professor, but request him to receive you into his family as a member
of his home-circle."

A quiver shook out the hard lines around her lips, and she turned her
eyes full on his.

"You are very kind, sir, but that is not necessary; and a letter of
introduction will have the same effect, and save you from a
disagreeable trip. Your time is too valuable to be wasted on such
journeys, and I have no right to expect that solely on my account you
should tear yourself away--from--those dear to you."

"I think my time could not be more profitably employed than in
promoting the happiness and welfare of my adopted sister, who was so
inexpressibly dear to my noble Janet. It is neither pleasant nor
proper for a young lady to travel without an escort."

He had risen, and laid his hand lightly on the back of her chair.

  "She smiled; but he could see arise
  Her soul from far adown her eyes,
  Prepared as if for sacrifice."

"Is it a mercy, think you, Dr. Grey, to foster a fastidiousness
that can only barb the shafts of penury? What right have toiling
paupers to harbor in their thoughts those dainty scruples that
belong appropriately to princesses and palaces? Why tell me that
this, that, or the other step is not 'proper,' when you know that
necessity goads me? Sir, I feel now like that isolated Florentine,
and echo her words,--

               ... 'And since help
  Must come to me from those who love me not,
  Farewell, all helpers. I must help myself,
  And am alone from henceforth.'"

"You prefer that I should not accompany you to New York?"

"Yes, sir; but I gratefully accept a letter to Professor V----."

"Very well; it shall be in readiness when you wish it. Have you fixed
any time for your departure?"

"This is Friday,--and I shall go on the six o'clock train, Monday
morning."

"Is there any service that I can render you in the interim?"

"No, thank you."

"As you have no likeness of the children, would it be agreeable to you
to have their photographs taken to-day,--and, at the same time, a
picture of yourself to be left with them? If you desire it I will meet
you in town, at the gallery, at any hour you may designate."

Standing before him, she answered, almost scornfully,--

"I shall not have time. Some day--if I succeed--I will send them my
photograph, taken in gorgeous robes as _prima donna_; provided you
promise that said robes shall not constitute a _San Benito_, and doom
the picture to the flames. I will detain you no longer, Dr. Grey, as
the sole object of the interview has been accomplished."

"Pardon me; but I have a word to say. Your career will probably be
brilliantly successful, in which event you will feel no want of
admirers and friends,--and will doubtless ignore me for those who
flatter you more, and really love you less. But, Salome, failure may
overtake you, bringing in its train countless evils that at present
you can not realize,--poverty, disease, desolation, in the midst of
strangers,--and all the woes that, like hungry wolves, attack
homeless, isolated women. I earnestly hope that the leprous hand of
disaster and defeat may never be laid upon your future, but the most
cautious human schemes are fallible--often futile--and if you should
be unsuccessful in your programme, and find yourself unable to
consummate your plans, I ask you now, by the memory of our friendship,
by the sacred memory of the dead, to promise me that you will
immediately write and acquaint me with all your needs, your wishes,
your real condition. Promise me, dear Salome, that you will turn
instantly to me, as you would to Stanley, were he in my place,--that
you will let me prove myself your elder brother,--your truest, best
friend."

He put his hand on her head, but she recoiled haughtily from his
touch.

"Dr. Grey, I promise you,

  'I will not soil thy purple with my dust,
  Nor breathe my poison on thy Venice-glass.'

I promise you that if misfortune, failure, and penury lay hold of me,
you shall be the last human being who will learn it; for I will cloak
myself under a name that will not betray me, and crawl into some
lazaretto, and be buried in some potter's field, among other
mendicants,--unknown, 'unwept, unhonored, and unsung.'"

If some motherless young chamois, rescued from destruction, and
pampered and caressed, had suddenly turned, and savagely bitten and
lacerated the hand that fondled and fed it, Dr. Grey would not have
been more painfully startled; but experience had taught him the
uselessness of expostulation during her moods of perversity, and he
took his hat and turned away, saying, almost sternly,--

"Bear in mind that neither palace nor potter's field can screen you
from the scrutiny of your Maker, or mask and shelter your shivering
soul in the solemn hour when He demands its last reckoning."

"Which 'reckoning,' your eminently Christian charity assures you will
prove more terrible for me than the Bloody Assizes. 'By the memory of
our friendship!' Oh, shallow sham! Pinning my faith to the _dictum_,
'The tide of friendship does not rise high on the bank of perfection,'
my fatuity led me to expect that your friendship was wide as the
universe, and lasting as eternity. Wise Helvetius told me that, 'To be
loved, we should merit but little esteem; all superiority attracts awe
and aversion;' _ergo_, since my credentials of unworthiness were
indisputable, I laid claim to a vast share of your favor. But, alas!
the logic of the seers is well-nigh as hollow as my hopes."

He looked over his shoulder at her, with an expression of pity as
profound as that which must have filled the eyes of the angel, who,
standing in the blaze of the sword of wrath, watched Adam and Eve go
mournfully forth into the blistering heats of unknown lands. Before he
could reply, she laughed contemptuously, and continued,--

"_Nil desperandum_, Dr. Grey. Remember that, 'Faith and persistency
are life's architects; while doubt and despair bury all under the
ruins of any endeavor.' When I have trilled a fortune into that
abhorred vacuum, my pocket, I shall go down to the Tigris, and catch
the mate to Tobias' fish, and by the cremation thereof, fumigate my
pestiferous soul, and smoke out the Asmodeus that has so long and
comfortably dwelt there."

"God grant you a Raphael, as guide on your journey," was his calm,
earnest reply, as he disappeared, closing the door after him.

When the sound of his buggy-wheels on the gravelled avenue told her he
had gone, she threw herself on the floor, and crossing her arms on a
chair, hid her face in them.

During Saturday, no opportunity presented itself for renewing the
conversation, and early on Sunday morning Dr. Grey sent to her room a
package marked $1,000.00--though really containing $1,500.00--and a
letter addressed to Professor V----. Without examining either, she
threw them into her trunk, which was already packed, and went down to
breakfast.

She declined accompanying Miss Dexter and Muriel to church, alleging,
as an excuse, that it was the last day she could spend with the
children.

Dr. Grey approached her when the remainder of the family had left the
table, where she sat abstractedly jingling her fork and spoon.

He noticed that her breakfast was untasted, and said, very gently,--

"I suppose that you wish to visit our dear Jane's grave, before you
leave us, and, if agreeable to you, I shall be glad to have you
accompany me there to-day."

"Thank you; but if I go, it will be alone."

He stooped to kiss Jessie, who leaned against her sister's chair, and,
when he left the room, Salome caught the child in her arms, and
pressed her lips twice to the spot where his had rested.

Late in the afternoon she eluded the children's watchful eyes, and
stole away from the house, taking the road that led towards
"Solitude." In one portion of the osage hedge that surrounded the
place, the lower branches had died, leaving a small opening, and here
Salome gained access to the grounds. Walking cautiously under the
thick and dark masses of shrubbery and trees, she reached the arched
path near the clump of pyramidal deodars, whose long, drooping plumes
were fluttering in the evening wind.

Thence she could command a view of the house and grounds in front, and
thence she saw that concerning which she had come to satisfy
herself,--believing that the evidence of her own eyes would fortify
her for the approaching trial of separation. Dr. Grey's horse and
buggy stood near the side gate, and Dr. Grey was walking very slowly
up and down the avenue leading to the beach, while Mrs. Gerome's tall
form leaned on his arm, and the greyhound followed sulkily.

Salome had barely time to look upon the spectacle that fired her heart
and well-nigh maddened her, ere the dog lifted his head, gave one
quick, savage bark, and darted in the direction of the cedars.

Dread of detection and of Dr. Grey's pitying gaze was more potent than
fear of the brute, and she ran swiftly towards the gap in the hedge,
by which she had effected an entrance into the secluded grounds. Just
as she reached it, the greyhound bounded up, and they met in front of
the opening. He set his teeth in her clothes, tearing away a streamer
of her black dress, and, as she silently struggled, he bit her arm
badly, mangling the flesh, from which the blood spouted. Disengaging a
shawl which she wore around her shoulders, she threw it over his head,
and, as the meshes caught in his collar, and temporarily entangled
him, she sprang through the gap, and seized a heavy stick which lay
within reach. He followed, snarling and pawing at the shawl that
ultimately dropped at Salome's feet; but finding himself beyond the
boundary he was expected to guard, and probably satisfied with the
punishment already inflicted, he retreated before a well-aimed blow
that drove him back into the enclosure.

The instant he started towards the cedars Dr. Grey suspected mischief,
and, placing Mrs. Gerome on a bench that surrounded an elm, he hurried
in the same direction.

When he reached the spot, the dog was snuffing at a patch of bombazine
that lay on the grass; and, confirmed in his sad suspicion, the doctor
passed through the opening in the hedge and looked about for the
figure which he dreaded, yet expected to see.

Bushy undergrowth covered the ground for some distance, and, hoping
that nothing more serious than fright had resulted from the escapade,
he stowed away the bombazine fragment in his coat pocket, and slowly
retraced his steps.

Secreted by two friendly oaks that spread their low boughs over her,
Salome had seen his anxious face peering around for the intruder, and
when he abandoned the search and disappeared, she smothered a bitter
laugh, and strove to stanch the blood that trickled from the gash by
binding her handkerchief over it. Torn muscles and tendons ached and
smarted; but the great agony that seemed devouring her heart rendered
her almost oblivious of physical pain. In the dusk of coming night she
crossed the gloomy forest, where a whippoorwill was drearily
lamenting, and, walking over an unfrequented portion of the lawn, went
up to her own room.

She bathed and bound up the wound as securely as the use of only one
hand would permit, and put on a dress whose sleeves fastened closely
at the wrist.

Ere long, Dr. Grey's clear voice echoed through the hall, and the
sound made her wince, like the touch of some glowing brand.

"Jessie, where is sister Salome? Tell her tea is ready."

The orphan went down and took her seat, but did not even glance at
the master of the house, who looked anxiously at her as she entered.

During the meal Jessie asked for some sweetmeats that were placed in
front of her sister, and, as the latter drew the glass dish nearer,
and proceeded to help her, the child exclaimed,--

"Oh, look there! What is that dripping from your sleeve? Ugh! it is
blood."

"Nonsense, Jessie! don't be silly. Hush! and eat your supper."

Two drops of blood had fallen on the table-cloth, and the girl
instantly set her cup and saucer over them.

She felt the slow stream trickling down to her wrist, and put her arm
in her lap.

"Is anything the matter?" asked Dr. Grey, who had observed the quick
movement.

"I hurt my arm a little, that is all."

Her tone forbade a renewal of inquiry, and, as soon as possible, she
withdrew to her room, to adjust the bandage.

The children were playing in the library, and Muriel was walking with
her governess on the wide piazza.

While Salome was trying by the aid of fingers and teeth to draw a
strip of linen tightly over her wound, a tap at the door startled
her.

"I am engaged, and can see no one just now."

"Salome, I want to speak to you, and shall wait here until I do."

"Excuse me, Dr. Grey. I will come down in ten minutes."

"Pardon me, but I insist upon seeing you here, and hope you will not
compel me to force the door open."

She wrapped a towel around her arm, drew down her sleeve, and opened
the door.

"To what am I indebted for the honor of this interview?"

"To my interest in your welfare, which cannot be baffled. Salome, what
is the matter? You looked so pale that I noticed you particularly, and
saw the blood on the table-cloth. My dear child, I will not be trifled
with. Tell me where you are hurt."

"Pray give yourself no uneasiness. I merely scraped and bruised my
arm. It is a matter of no consequence."

"Of that I beg to be considered the best judge. Show me your arm."

"I prefer not to trouble you."

He gently but firmly took hold of it, unwound the towel, and she saw
him start and shudder at sight of the mangled flesh.

"An ugly gash! Tell me how you hurt yourself so severely."

"It is a matter that I do not choose to discuss; but since you have
seen it, I wish you would be so good as to dress and bandage the
wound."

"Oh, my little sister! Will you never learn to trust your brother?"

"Oh, Dr. Grey! will you never learn to let me alone, when I am
indulging the 'Imp of the Perverse' in an audience, and do not wish to
be interrupted?"

She mimicked his pleading tone so admirably that his face flushed.

"Come to the sitting-room. No one can disturb us there, and I will
attend to your injury, which is really serious."

She followed him, and stood without flinching one iota, while he
clipped away the jagged pieces of flesh, covered the long gash with
adhesive plaster, and carefully bandaged the whole.

"Salome, you must dismiss all idea of starting to-morrow, for indeed
it would not be safe for you to travel alone, with your arm in this
condition. It may give you much trouble and suffering."

"Which, of course, _nolens volens_, I must bear as best I may; but, so
surely as I live to see daylight, I shall start, even if I knew I
should have to stop _en route_ and bury my pretty arm, and be forced
to buy a cork one, wherewith to gesticulate gracefully when I die as
'Azucena.' There! thank you, Dr. Grey; of course you are very
good,--you always are. Shall I bid you all good-by now, or wait till
morning? Better make my adieu to-night, so that I may not disturb the
matutinal slumbers of the household."

There was a dangerous, starry sparkle in her eyes, that he would not
venture to defy, and, sighing heavily, he answered,--

"I shall accompany you to the depôt, and place you under the
protection of the conductor."

"I do not desire to give you that trouble, and--"

"Hush! Do not grieve me any more than you have already done, by your
hasty, unkind, unfriendly speeches. I shall see you in the morning."

He left the room abruptly, to conceal the distress which he did not
desire her to discover; and having found Muriel and Miss Dexter,
Salome bade them good-by, requested them not to disturb themselves
next morning on her account, and called the children to her room.

For two hours they sat beside her on the lounge, crying over her
impending departure, but when she had promised to take them as far as
the depôt, their thoughts followed other currents, and very soon
after, both slumbered soundly in their trundle-bed.

With her cheek resting on her hand, Salome sat looking at them, noting
the glossiness of their curling hair, the flush on their round faces,
the regular breathing of peaceful childhood's sleep. Once she could
have wept, and would have knelt and prayed over them; but now her own
overmastering misery had withered all the tenderness in her heart,
and, while her eyes of flesh rested on the orphans, her mental vision
was filled with the figure of that gray-haired woman hanging on Dr.
Grey's arm. In a dull, cold, abstract way, she hoped that the little
ones would be happy,--how could they be otherwise when fortune had
committed them to Dr. Grey's guardianship? But a numb, desperate
feeling had seized her, and she cared for nothing, loved nothing,
prayed for nothing.

How the hours of that night of wretchedness passed she never knew; but
when the little bird in the parlor clock "cuckooed" three times, she
was aroused from her reverie by the tramp of horses' hoofs on the
gravel, and then the sharp clang of the bell echoed through the silent
house.

It was not unusual for messengers to summon Dr. Grey during the night,
and she was not surprised when, some moments later, she heard his
voice in the hall. After the lapse of a quarter of an hour, his firm,
well-known step approached and paused at her threshold.

"Salome, are you up?"

"Yes, sir."

"Come into the passage."

She opened the door, and stood with the candle in her hand.

"I regret exceedingly that I am compelled to leave here immediately,
as I must hasten to see a man and child who have been horribly burned
and injured by the falling in of a roof. The parties live some
distance in the country, and I fear I shall not be able to get back in
time to go with you to the cars. I shall drive as rapidly as possible,
and hope to accompany you, but if I should be detained, here is a note
which I hastily scribbled to Mr. Miller, the conductor, whom you will
find a very kind and courteous gentleman. I sincerely deplore this
summons, but the sufferers are old friends of my sister, and I hope
you will believe that nothing but a case of life and death would
prevent me from seeing you aboard the train."

"I am sorry, sir, that you thought it necessary to apologize."

She was not yet prepared to part from him forever,--she had been
nerving herself for the final interview at the depôt; but now it came
with a shock that utterly stunned her, and she reeled against the
door-facing, as if recoiling from some fearful blow.

The livid pallor of her lips, and the spasm of agony that contracted
her features, frightened him, and, as he sprang closer to her, the
candle fell from her fingers. He caught it, ere it reached the mat,
and placed it on a chair.

"My dear child, your arm pains you, and I beg you to defer your
journey at least until Tuesday. I shall be anxious and miserable
about you, if you go this morning, and, for my sake, Salome, if not
for your own, remain here one day longer. I have not asked many things
of you, and I trust you will not refuse this last request I may ever
be allowed to make."

She attempted to speak, but there came only a quiver across her mouth,
and a sickly smile that flickered over the ghastly proud face, like
the lying sunshine of Indian summer on marble cenotaphs.

"Salome, you will, to oblige me, wait until Tuesday?"

She shook her head, and mastered her weakness.

"No, Dr. Grey; I must go at once. I take all the hazard."

"Then you will find on the mantelpiece in my room, a paper containing
directions for the treatment of your arm, which demands care and
attention. I am sorry you are so obstinate, and, if I possessed the
authority, I would forbid your departure."

He could not endure the despairing expression of her eyes, which
seemed supernaturally large and brilliant, and his own quailed, for
the first time within his recollection. She knew that she was going
away forever, to avoid the sight of his happiness with Mrs. Gerome;
that, in comparison with that torture, all other trials, even
separation, would be endurable, but the least evil was more severe
than she had dreaded. Now, as she looked up at his noble face,
overshadowed with anxiety and regret, and paler than she had ever seen
it, the one prayer of her heart was, that, ere a wife's lips touched
his, death might claim him for its prey.

"Salome, I am deeply pained by the course you persist in following,
but I will not provoke and annoy you by renewed expression of a
disapprobation that has proved so ineffectual in influencing your
decision. God grant that the results may sanction your confidence in
your own judgment,--your distrust of mine. I promised you once that I
would pray for you, and I wish to assure you, that, while I live, I
shall never lay my head upon my pillow without having first committed
you to the mercy and loving care of that Guardian who never 'slumbers,
nor sleeps.' May God bless and guide you, my dear young friend, and if
not again in this world, grant that we may meet in the Everlasting
City of Peace. Little sister, be sure to meet me in the Kingdom of
Rest, where dear Janet waits for us both."

His calm eyes filled with tears, and his voice grew tremulous, as he
took Salome's cold, passive hand, and kissed it.

"Good-by, Dr. Grey; if I find my way to heaven, it will be because you
are there. When I am gone, let my name and memory be like that of the
dead."

She stood erect, with her fingers lying in his palm, and the ring of
her voice was like the clashing of steel against steel.

He bent down, and, for the first time, pressed his lips to her
forehead; then turned quickly and walked away. When he reached the
head of the stairs, he looked back and saw her standing in the door,
with the candle-light flaring over her face; and in after years, he
could never recall, without a keen pang, that vision of a girlish form
draped in mourning, and of fair, rigid features, which hope and
happiness could never again soften and brighten.

Her splendid eyes followed him, as if the sole light of her life were
passing away forever; and, with a heavy sigh, he hurried down the
steps, realizing all the mournful burden of that Portuguese sonnet,--

  "Go from me. Yet I feel that I shall stand
  Henceforward in thy shadow. Nevermore
  Alone upon the threshold of my door
  Of individual life, I shall command
  The uses of my soul, nor lift my hand
  Serenely in the sunshine as before,
  Without the sense of that which I forbore--
  Thy touch upon the palm. The widest land
  Doom takes to part us, leaves thy heart in mine,
  With pulses that beat double. What I do
  And what I dream include thee, as the wine
  Must taste of its own grapes. And when I sue
  God for myself, He hears that name of thine,
  And sees within my eyes the tears of two."



CHAPTER XXVI.


"I hope nothing has gone wrong, Robert? You look unusually forlorn and
doleful."

Dr. Grey stepped out of his buggy, and accosted the gardener, who was
leaning idly on the gate, holding a trowel in his hand, and lazily
puffing the smoke from his pipe.

"I thank you, sir; with us the world wags on pretty much the same,
but when a man has been planting violets on his mother's grave he does
not feel like whistling and making merry. Besides, to tell the
truth,--which I do not like to shirk,--I am getting very tired of
this dismal, unlucky place. If I had known as much before I bought
it as I do now, all the locomotives in America could not have
dragged me here. I was a stranger, and of course nobody thought it
their special duty to warn me; so I was bitten badly enough by the
agent who sold me this den of misfortune. Now, when it is too
late, there is no lack of busy tongues to tell me the place is
haunted, and has been for, lo! these many years."

"Nonsense, Robert! I gave you credit for too much good sense to listen
to the gossip of silly old wives. Put all these ridiculous tales of
ghosts and hobgoblins out of your mind, man, and do not make me laugh
at you, as if you were a child who had been so frightened by stories
of 'raw-head and bloody-bones,' that you were afraid to blow out your
candle and creep into bed."

"I am neither a fool nor a coward, and I will fight anything that I
can feel has bone and muscle; but I am satisfied that if all the water
in Siloam were poured over this place, it would not wash out the curse
that people tell me has always rested on it since the time the pirates
first located here. I can't admit I believe in witches, but
undoubtedly I do believe in Satan, who seems to have a fee-simple to
the place. It is not enough that my poor mother is buried yonder, but
my wheat and oats took the rust; the mildew spoiled my grape crop; the
rains ruined my melons; the worms ate up every blade of my grass; the
cows have got the black-tongue; the gale blew down my pigeon-house and
mashed all my squabs; and my splendid carnations and fuchsias are
devoured by red spider. Nothing thrives, and I am sick at heart."

The dogged discontent written so legibly on his countenance, did not
encourage the visitor to enter into a discussion of the abstract
causes of blight, gales, and black-tongue, and he merely answered,--

"The evils you have enumerated are not peculiar to any locality; and
all the farmers in this neighborhood are echoing your complaints. How
is Mrs. Gerome?"

"Neither better nor worse. You know what miserable weather we have had
for a week. This morning she ordered the small carriage and horses
brought to the door, and when I took the reins, she dismissed me and
said she preferred driving herself. I told her the grays had not been
used, and were badly pampered standing so long in their stalls, and
that I was really afraid they would break her neck, as she was not
strong enough to manage them; but she laughed, and answered that if
they did, it would be the best day's work they had ever accomplished,
and she would give them a chance. Down the beach they went like a
flash, and when she came home their flanks smoked like a lime-kiln.
What is ever to be done with my mistress, I am sure I don't know. She
makes the house so doleful, that nobody wants to stay here, and only
yesterday Katie and Phoebe, the cook, gave notice that they wished to
leave when the month was out. She has no idea what she will do, or
where she will go. We have wanted a hot-house, and she ordered me to
get the builder's estimate of the cost of two plans which she drew;
but when I carried them to her, she pushed them aside, and said she
would think of the matter, but thought she might leave this place, and
therefore would not need the building. She is as notionate as a child;
and no one but my poor mother could ever manage her. Hist! sir! Don't
you hear her? You may be sure there is mischief brewing when she sings
like that."

Dr. Grey walked towards the house, and paused on the portico to
listen,--

  "Quis est homo, qui non fleret
  Christi matrem si videret,
  In tanto supplicio."

The voice was not so strong as when he had heard it in _Addio del
Passata_, but the solemn mournfulness of its cadences was better
suited to the _Stabat Mater_, and indexed much that no other method of
expression would have reached. After some moments she forsook Rossini,
and began the _Agnus Dei_ from Haydn's Third Mass,--

  "Agnus Dei, qui tollis peccata mundi, miserere."

Surely she could not render this grand strain if her soul was in
fierce rebellion; and, with strained ears and hushed breath, Dr. Grey
listened to the closing

  "Dona nobis pacem,--pacem,--pacem."

It was a passionate, wailing prayer, and the only one that ever
crossed her lips, yet his heart throbbed with pleasure, as he noted
the tremor that seemed to shiver her voice into silvery fragments; and
as she ended, he knew that tears were not far from her eyes.

When he entered the room, she had left the piano, and wheeled a sofa
in front of the grate, where she sat gazing, vacantly into the fiery
fretwork of glowing coals.

A copy of Turner's "Liber Studiorum," superbly bound in purple velvet,
lay on her knee, and into a corner of the sofa she had tossed a square
of canvas almost filled with silken Parmese violets.

"Good-evening, Mrs. Gerome; I hope I do not interrupt you."

Dr. Grey removed the embroidery to the table, and seated himself in
the sofa corner.

"Good evening. Interruption argues occupation and absorbed attention,
and the term is not applicable to me. I who live as vainly, as
uselessly, as fruitlessly, as some fakir twirling his thumbs and
staring at his beard, have little right to call anything an
interruption. My existence here is as still, as stagnant, as some pool
down yonder in the sedge which last week's waves left among the sand
hillocks, and your visits are like pebbles thrown into it, creating
transient ripples and circles."

"You have gone back to the God of your æsthetic idolatry," said he,
touching the "Liber Studiorum."

"Yes, because 'Beauty pitches her tents before him,' and his pencil is
more potent in conjuring visions that enchant my wearied mind, than
Jemschid's goblet or Iskander's mirror."

"But why stand afar off, trusting to human and fallible interpreters,
when it is your privilege to draw near and dwell in the essence of the
only real and divine beauty?"

"Better reverence it behind a veil, than suffer like Semele. I know my
needs, and satisfy them fully. Once my heart was as bare of adoration
as Egypt's tawny sands of crystal rain-pools; but looking into the
realm of nature and of art, I chose the religion of the beautiful, and
said to my famished soul,

  'From every channel thro' which Beauty runs,
  To fertilize the world with lovely things,
  I will draw freely, and be satisfied.'"

"This morbid sentimentality, this sickly gasping system of æsthetics,
_soi-disant_ 'Religion of the Beautiful,' is the curse of the
age,--is a vast, universal vampire sucking the life from humanity.
Like other idolatries it may arrogate the name of 'Religion,' but it
is simply downright pagan materialism, and its votaries of the
nineteenth century should look back two thousand years, and renew the
_Panathenoea_. The ancient Greek worship of æsthetics was a proud and
pardonable system, replete with sublime images; but the idols of
your emasculated creed are yellow-haired women with straight
noses,--are purple clouds and moon-silvered seas,--and physical
beauty constitutes their sole excellence. Lovely landscapes and
perfect faces are certainly entitled to a liberal quota of earnest
admiration; but a religion that contents itself with merely
material beauty, differs in nothing but nomenclature from the
pagan worship of Cybele, Venus, and Astarte."

A chill smile momentarily brightened Mrs. Gerome's features, and
turning towards her visitor, she answered slowly,--

"Be thankful, sir, that even the worship of beauty lingers in this
world of sin and hate; and instead of defiling and demolishing its
altars, go to work zealously and erect new ones at every cross-roads.
Lessing spoke for me when he said, 'Only a misapprehended religion can
remove us from the beautiful, and it is proof that a religion is true
and rightly understood when it everywhere brings us back to the
Beautiful.'"

"Pardon me. I accept Lessing's words, but cavil at your interpretation
of them. His reverence for Beauty embraced not merely physical and
material types, but that nobler, grander beauty which centres in pure
ethics and ontology; and a religion that seeks no higher forms than
those of clay,--whether Himalayas or 'Greek Slave,'--whether emerald
icebergs, flashing under polar auroras, or the myosotis that nods
there on the mantelpiece,--a religion that substitutes beauty for
duty, and Nature for Nature's God, is a shameful sham, and a curse to
its devotees. There is a beauty worthy of all adoration, a beauty far
above Antinous, or Gula or Greek æsthetics,--a beauty that is not the
_disjecta membra_ that modern maudlin sentimentality has left it,--but
that perfect and immortal 'Beauty of Holiness,' that outlives marble
and silver, pigment, stylus, and pagan poems that deify dust."

He leaned towards her, watching eagerly for some symptom of interest
in the face before him, and bent his head until he inhaled the
fragrance of the violets which clustered on one side of the coil of
hair.

"'Beauty of Holiness.' Show it to me, Dr. Grey. Is it at La Trappe, or
the Hospice of St. Bernard? Where are its temples? Where are its
worshippers? Who is its Hierophant?"

"Jesus Christ."

She closed her eyes for a moment, as if to shut out some painful
vision evoked by his words.

"Sir, do you recollect the reply of Laplace, when Napoleon asked him
why there was no mention of God in his '_Mécanique Celeste_?' '_Sire,
je n'avais pas besoin de cette hypothèse._' I was not sufficiently
insane to base my religion of beauty upon a holiness that was buried
in the tomb supplied by Joseph of Arimathea,--that was long ago hunted
out of the world it might have purified. Once I believed in, and
revered what I supposed was its existence, but I was speedily
disenchanted of my faith, for,--

  'I have seen those that wore Heaven's armor, worsted:
  I have heard Truth lie:
  Seen Life, beside the founts for which it thirsted,
  Curse God and die.'

Dr. Grey, I do not desire to sneer at your Christian trust, and God
knows I would give all my earthly possessions and hopes for a religion
that would insure me your calm resignation and contentment; but the
resurrection of my faith would only resemble that beautiful floral
_Palingenesis_ (asserted by Gaffarel and Kircher), which was but 'the
pale spectre of a flower coming slowly forth from its own ashes,' and
speedily dropping back into dust. Leave me in the enjoyment of the
only pleasure earth can afford me, the contemplation of the
beautiful."

"Unless you blend with it the true and good, your love of beauty will
degenerate into the merely sensuous æsthetics, which, at the present
day, renders its votaries fastidious, etiolated voluptuaries. The
deification of humanity, so successfully inaugurated by Feuerbach and
Strauss, is now no longer confined to realms of abstract speculation;
but cultivated sensualism has sunk so low that popular poets chant the
praises of Phryne and Cleopatra, and painters and sculptors seek to
immortalize types that degrade the taste of all lovers of Art. The
true mission of Art, whether through the medium of books, statues, or
pictures, is to purify and exalt; but the curse of our age is, that
the fashionable pantheistic raving about Nature, and the apotheosizing
of physical loveliness,--is rapidly sinking into a worship of the
vilest elements of humanity and materialism. Pagan æsthetics were
purer and nobler than the system, which, under that name, finds favor
with our generation."

She listened, not assentingly, but without any manifestation of
impatience, and while he talked, her eyes rested dreamily upon the
yellow beach, where,--

  "Trampling up the sloping sand,
    In lines outreaching far and wide,
  The white-maned billows swept to land."

Whether she pondered his words, or was too entirely absorbed by her
own thoughts to heed their import, he had no means of ascertaining.

"Mrs. Gerome, what have you painted recently?"

"Nothing, since my illness; and perhaps I shall never touch my brush
again. Sometimes I have thought I would paint a picture of Handel
standing up to listen to that sad song from his own 'Samson,'--'_Total
eclipse, no sun, no moon_!' But I doubt whether I could put on
canvas that grand, mournful, blind face, turned eagerly towards the
stage, while tears ran swiftly from his sightless eyes. Again, I have
vague visions of a dead Schopenhauer, seated in the corner of the sofa,
with his pet poodle, Putz, howling at his master's ghastly white
features,--with his Indian Oupnekhat lying on his rigid knee, and
his gilded statuette of Gotama Buddha grinning at him from the
mantelpiece, welcoming him to Nirwána. There stands my easel, empty
and shrouded; and here, from day to day, I sit idle, not lacking
ideas, but the will to clothe them. Unlike poor Maurice de Guérin, who
said that his 'head was parching; that, like a tree which had lived
its life, he felt as though every passing wind were blowing through
dead branches in his top,' I feel that my brain is as vigorous and
restless as ever, while my will alone is paralyzed, and my heart
withered and cold within me."

"Your brush and palette will never yield you any permanent happiness,
nor promote a spirit of contentment, until you select a different
class of subjects. Your themes are all too sombre, too dismal, and the
sole _motif_ that runs through your music and painting seems to be _in
memoriam_. Open the windows of your gloomy soul, and let God's
sunshine stream into its cold recesses, and warm and gild and gladden
it. Throw aside your morbid proclivities for the melancholy and
abnormal, and paint peaceful _genre_ pictures,--a group of sunburnt,
laughing harvesters, or merry children, or tulip-beds with butterflies
swinging over them. You need more warmth in your heart, and more light
in your pictures."

"Eminently correct,--most incontestably true; but how do you propose
to remedy the imperfect _chiaro-oscuro_ of my character? Show me
the market where that light of peace and joy is bartered, and I
will constitute you my broker, with unlimited orders. No, no. I see
the fact as plainly as you do, but I know better than you how
irremediable it is. My soul is a doleful _morgue_, and my pictures
are dim photographs of its corpse-tenants. Shut in forever from the
sunshine, I dip my brush in the shadows that surround me, for,
like Empedocles,--

                 ... 'I alone
  Am dead to life and joy; therefore I read
  In all things my own deadness.'"

"If you would free yourself from the coils of an intense and selfish
egoism that fetter you to the petty cares and trials of your
individual existence,--if you would endeavor to forget for a season
the woes of Mrs. Gerome, and expend a little more sympathy on the
sorrows of others,--if you would resolve to lose sight of the caprices
that render you so unpopular, and make some human being happy by your
aid and kind words,--in fine, if, instead of selecting as your model
some cynical, half-insane woman like Lady Hester Stanhope, you chose
for imitation the example of noble Christian usefulness and
self-abnegation, analogous to that of Florence Nightingale, or Mrs.
Fry, you would soon find that your conscience--"

"Enough! You weary me. Dr. Grey, I thoroughly understand your motives,
and honor their purity, but I beg that you will give yourself no
further anxiety on my account. You cannot, from your religious
standpoint, avoid regarding me as worse than a heathen, and have
constituted yourself a missionary to reclaim and consecrate me. I am
not quite a cannibal, ready to devour you, by way of recompense for
your charitable efforts in my behalf, but I must assure you your
interest and sympathy are sadly wasted. Do you remember that
celebrated 'vase of Soissons,' which was plundered by rude soldiery in
Rheims, and which Clovis so eagerly coveted at the distribution of the
spoils? A soldier broke it before the king's hungry eyes, and forced
him to take the worthless mocking fragments. Even so flint-faced fate
shattered my happiness, and tauntingly offers me the ruins; but I will
none of it!"

"Trust God's overruling mercy, and those fragments, fused in the
furnace of affliction, may be remoulded and restored to you in
pristine perfection."

"Impossible! Moreover, I trust nothing but the brevity of human life,
which one day cannot fail to release me from an existence that has
proved an almost intolerable burden. You know Vogt says, 'The natural
laws are rude, unbending powers,' and I comfort myself by hoping that
they can neither be bribed nor browbeaten out of the discharge of
their duty, which points to death as 'the surest calculation that can
be made,--as the unavoidable keystone of every individual life.' A
grim consolation, you think? True; but all I shall ever receive. Dr.
Grey, in your estimation I am sinfully inert and self-indulgent; and
you conscientiously commend my idle hands to the benevolent work of
knitting socks for indigent ditchers, and making jackets for pauper
children. Now, although it is considered neither orthodox nor modest
to furnish left-hand with a trumpet for sounding the praises of
almsgiving right-hand, still I must be allowed to assert that I
appropriate an ample share of my fortune for charitable purposes.
Perhaps you will tell me that I do not give in a proper spirit of
loving sympathy,--that I hurl my donations at my conscience, as 'a sop
to Cerberus.' I have never injured any one, and if I have no tender
love in my heart to expend on others, it is the fault of that world
which taught me how hollow and deceitful it is. God knows I have never
intentionally wounded any living thing; and if negatively good, at
least my career has no stain of positive evil upon it. I am one of
those concerning whom Richter said, 'There are souls for whom life has
no summer. These should enjoy the advantages of the inhabitants of
Spitzbergen, where, through the winter's day, the stars shine clear as
through the winter's night.' I have neither summer nor polar stars,
but I wait for that long night wherein I shall sleep peacefully."

"Mrs. Gerome, defiant pride bars your heart from the white-handed
peace that even now seeks entrance. Some great sorrow or sin has
darkened your past, and, instead of ejecting its memory, you hug it to
your soul; you make it a mental Juggernaut, crushing the hopes and
aims that might otherwise brighten the path along which you drag this
murderous idol. Cast it away forever, and let Peace and Hope clasp
hands over its empty throne."

From that peculiar far-off expression of the human eye that generally
indicates abstraction of mind, he feared that she had not heard his
earnest appeal; but after some seconds, she smiled drearily, and
repeated with singular and touching pathos, lines which proved that
his words were not lost upon her,--

  "'Ah, could the memory cast her spots, as do
  The snake's brood theirs in spring! and be once more
  Wholly renewed, to dwell in the time that's new,--
  With no reiterance of those pangs of yore.
  Peace, peace! Ah, forgotten things
  Stumble back strangely! and the ghost of June
  Stands by December's fire, cold, cold! and puts
  The last spark out.'"

The mournful sweetness and calmness of her low voice made Dr. Grey's
heart throb fiercely, and he leaned a little farther forward to study
her countenance. She had rested her elbow on the carved side of the
sofa, and now her cheek nestled for support in one hand, while the
other toyed unconsciously with the velvet edges of the _Liber
Studiorum_. Her dress was of some soft, shining fabric, neither satin
nor silk, and its pale blue lustre shed a chill, pure light over the
wan, delicate face, that was white as a bending lily.

The faint yet almost mesmeric fragrance of orange flowers and violets
floated in the folds of her garments, and seemed lurking in the waves
of gray hair that glistened in the bright steady glow of the red
grate; and moved by one of those unaccountable impulses that sometimes
decide a man's destiny, Dr. Grey took the exquisitely beautiful hand
from the book and enclosed it in both of his.

"Mrs. Gerome, you seem strangely unsuspicious of the real nature of
the interest with which you have inspired me; and I owe it to you,
as well as to myself, to avow the feelings that prompt me to seek
your society so frequently. For some months after I met you, my
professional visits afforded me only rare and tantalizing glimpses of
you, but from the day of Elsie's death, I have been conscious that my
happiness is indissolubly linked with yours,--that my heart, which
never before acknowledged allegiance to any woman, is--"

"For God's sake, stop! I cannot listen to you."

She had wrung her hand violently from his clinging fingers, and,
springing to her feet, stood waving him from her, while an expression
of horror came swiftly into her eyes and over her whole countenance.

Dr. Grey rose also, and though a sudden pallor spread from his lips to
his temples, his calm voice did not falter.

"Is it because you can never return my love, that you so vehemently
refuse to hear its avowal? Is it because your own heart--"

"It is because your love is an insult, and must not be uttered!"

She shivered as if rudely buffeted by some freezing blast, and the
steely glitter leaped up, like the flash of a poniard, in her large,
dilating eyes.

Shocked and perplexed, he looked for a moment at her writhing
features, and put out his hand.

"Can it be possible that you so utterly misapprehend me? You surely
can not doubt the earnestness of an affection which impels me to offer
my hand and heart to you,--the first woman I have ever loved. Will you
refuse--"

"Stand back! Do not touch me! Ah,--God help me! Take your hand from
mine. Are you blind? If you were an archangel I could not listen to
you, for--for--oh, Dr. Grey!"

She covered her face with her hands, and staggered towards a chair.

A horrible, sickening suspicion made his brain whirl and his heart
stand still. He followed her, and said, pleadingly,--

"Do not keep me in painful suspense. Why is my declaration of devoted
affection so revolting to you? Why can you not at least permit me to
express the love--"

"Because that love dishonors me! Dr. Grey, I--am--a--wife!"

The words fell slowly from her white lips, as if her heart's blood
were dripping with them, and a deep, purplish spot burned on each
cheek, to attest her utter humiliation.

Dr. Grey gazed at her, with a bewildered, incredulous expression.

"You mean that your heart is buried in your husband's grave?"

"Oh, if that were true, you and I might be spared this shame and
agony."

A low wail escaped her, and she hid her face in her arms.

"Mrs. Gerome, is not your husband dead?"

"Dead to me,--but not yet in his grave. The man I married is still
alive."

She heard a half-stifled groan, and buried her face deeper in her arms
to avoid the sight of the suffering she had caused.

For some time the stillness of death reigned around them, and when at
last the wretched woman raised her eyes, she saw Dr. Grey standing
beside her, with one hand on the back of her chair, the other clasped
over his eyes. Reverently she turned and pressed her lips to his cold
fingers, and he felt her hot tears falling upon them, as she said,
falteringly,--

"Forgive me the pain that I have innocently inflicted on you. God is
my witness, I did not imagine you cared for me. I supposed you pitied
me, and were only interested in saving my miserable soul. The servants
told me you were very soon to be married to a young girl who lived
with your sister; and I never dreamed that your noble, generous heart
felt any interest in me, save that of genuine Christian compassion for
my loneliness and desolation. If I had suspected your feelings, I
would have gone away immediately, or told you all. Oh, that I had
never come here!--that I had never left my safe retreat, near Funchal!
Then I would not have stabbed the heart of the only man whom I
respect, revere, and trust."

Some moments elapsed ere he could fully command himself, and when he
spoke he had entirely regained composure.

"Do not reproach yourself. The fault has been mine, rather than
yours. Knowing that some mystery enveloped your early life, I should
not have allowed my affections to centre so completely in one
concerning whose antecedents I knew absolutely nothing. I have been
almost culpably rash and blind,--but I could not look into your
beautiful, sad eyes, and doubt that you were worthy of the love that
sprang up unbidden in my heart. I knew that you were irreligious, but
I believed I could win you back to Christ; and when I tell you that,
after living thirty-eight years, you are the only woman I ever met
whom I wished to call my wife, you can in some degree realize my
confidence in the innate purity of your character. God only knows how
severely I am punished by my rashness, how profoundly I deplore the
strange infatuation that so utterly blinded me. At least, I am
grateful that my brief madness has not involved you in sin and
additional suffering."

The burning spots faded from her cheeks as she listened to his low,
solemn words, and when he ended, she clasped her hands passionately,
and exclaimed,--

"Do not judge me, until you know all. I am not as unworthy as you
fear. Do not withdraw your confidence from me."

He shook his head, and answered, sadly,--

"A wife, yet bereft of your husband's protection! A wife, wandering
among strangers, and a deserter from the home you vowed to cheer! Your
own admission cries out in judgment against you."

He walked to the table and picked up his gloves, and Mrs. Gerome rose
and advanced a few steps.

"Dr. Grey, you will come now and then to see me?"

"No; for the present I do not wish to see you."

"Ah! how brittle are men's promises! Did you not assure Elsie that you
would never forsake her wretched child?"

"Our painful relations invalidate that promise,--cancel that pledge. I
can not visit you as formerly; still, I shall at all times be glad to
serve you; and you have only to acquaint me with your wishes to insure
their execution."

"Remember how solitary, how desolate, I am."

"A wife should be neither, while her husband lives."

The cold severity of his tone wounded her inexpressibly, and she
haughtily drew herself up.

"Dr. Grey will at least allow me an opportunity of explaining the
circumstances that he seems to regard as so heinous?"

He looked at the proud but quivering mouth,--into the great, shadowy,
gray eyes, and a heavy sigh escaped him.

"Perhaps it is better that I should know your history, for it will
diminish my own unhappiness to feel assured that you are worthy of the
estimate I placed upon you one hour ago. Shall I come to-morrow, or
will you tell me now what you desire me to know?"

"I can not sleep until I have exonerated myself in your clear,
truthful, holy eyes: I can not endure that you should think harshly of
me, even for a day. This room is suffocating! I will meet you on the
portico; and yonder, by the sea, I will show you my life."

She went to the escritoire, opened one of the drawers, and took out a
package. Wrapping a cloak around her, she quitted the parlor, and
found Dr. Grey leaning against one of the columns.

He did not offer her his arm as formerly, but slowly and silently they
walked down towards the beach, where the surf was rolling heavily in
with a steady roar, and tossing sheets of foam around the stone
piers.

           ... "While far across the hill,
  A dark and brazen sunset ribbed with black,
  Glared, like the sullen eyeballs of the plague."



CHAPTER XXVII.


"Doctor Grey, had you possessed a tithe of the ingenuity of
Peiresc, you might long ago have interpreted the deep, dark
incisions in my character, which, like the indentations on his
celebrated amethyst, show where the _laminæ_ of luckless events
inscribed my history with mournful ciphers. Elsie's hints would have
furnished any woman with a clew; but, since you have not availed
yourself of their aid, I must lift the shroud that hides the corpse of
my youth, my happiness, my faith in man, my hope in God. Ah! unto what
shall I liken it? This ruined, wretched thing I call my life? To the
_Tauk e Kerra_,--standing in a dreary waste, lifting its vast,
keyless arch helplessly to heaven? Even such a crumbling arch,
beautiful and grand in its glorious promise, is the incomplete,
crownless life of Agla Gerome,--a lonely and melancholy monument of a
gigantic failure. Two months before my birth, my father, Henderson
Flewellyn, died, and when I was three hours old, my poor young mother
followed him, leaving me to the care of her nurse, Elsie Maclean,
and of an old uncle who was at that time residing in Copenhagen.
Having no relatives to dictate, Elsie named me Vashti, for my
mother; but my great-uncle wrote that my baptism must be deferred
until he could be present, and instructed her to call me Evelyn,
after himself. But the stubborn Scotch will would not bend, and my
name was written in the family Bible, Vashti Flewellyn. Before the
expiration of three years, Mr. Mitchell Evelyn died, bequeathing his
fortune to me, as Evelyn Flewellyn, and consigning me to the
guardianship of Mr. Lucian Wright, a widowed minister of New York. I
was a feeble, sickly child, hovering continually upon the confines of
death, and, as city air was deemed injurious to me, Elsie kept me
at a farm-house on the Hudson, belonging to the estate that I was
destined to inherit. Here I remained until my tenth year, when Mr.
Wright removed me to the vicinity of Albany, and placed me under
the care of his maiden sister, who had a small class of girls to
educate. Elsie accompanied and watched over me, and here I spent four
quiet, happy years; but the death of my teacher set me once more
afloat, and I was carried to New York, and left at a large and
fashionable boarding-school. I was fond of study, and boundlessly
ambitious, and soon formed a warm, close friendship with a teacher who
entered the institution after I became one of its inmates. I had no
one to love but Elsie, who never left me, and consequently, I gave
to Edith Dexter, the young teacher, all the affection that I would
have lavished on parents, brothers, and sisters, had they been granted
to me. She was several years my senior, and the loveliest woman I ever
saw. Reared in affluence, her family had become impoverished, and
Edith was thrown upon her own resources for a support. My father's
fortune was very large, and the property left me by Mr. Evelyn swelled
my estate to very unusual proportions. Mr. Wright had carefully
attended to the investment of the income, and I was regarded as the
heiress of enormous wealth. Tenderly attached to Edith, whose
beauty, intelligence, and varied accomplishments rendered her
peculiarly attractive, I loaded her with presents, and determined
that as soon as my educational career ended, I would establish
myself in an elegant residence on Fifth Avenue, take Edith to live
under my roof, treat her always as my sister, and share my ample
fortune with her. Dr. Grey, you can form no adequate conception of
the depth of the love I entertained for her. Day and night my busy
brain devised schemes for lightening her labors, for promoting her
happiness; and I spared no exertion to shield her from the petty
vexations and humiliating annoyances incident to her situation.
Waking, I prayed for her; sleeping in her arms, I dreamed of the
future we should spend together. At the close of the session, she
went into Vermont to visit her invalid mother, and I to Mr. Wright's
quiet home, to remain until the end of vacation. The minister was a
kind-hearted but weak old man, who treated me tenderly, and humored
every caprice that attacked my brain. I had never before been his
guest, and here, at his house, on the second day of my sojourn, I
met his favorite nephew, Maurice Carlyle."

Mrs. Gerome uttered the name through firmly set teeth, and the blue
cords on her forehead tangled terribly.

Clenching her fingers, she drew a long breath, and continued,--

"At that time, he was by far the most fascinating, and certainly the
handsomest man I have ever met, and when I recall the beauty of his
face, the grace of his manner, the noble symmetry of his figure, and
the sparkling vivacity of his conversation, I do not wonder that from
the first hour of our acquaintance he charmed me. I was but a child, a
proud, impulsive young thing, full of romance, full of wild dreams of
manly chivalry and feminine constancy and devotion; and Maurice
Carlyle seemed the perfect incarnation of all my glowing ideals of
knightly excellence and heroism. He was thirty,--I not yet sixteen; he
poor and fastidious,--I generous and trusting, and possessed of one of
the largest estates on the continent. He had spent much of his life
abroad, and was as polished as any courtier who ever graced St. Cloud
or St. James; I an impetuous young simpleton, who knew nothing of the
world, save those tantalizing glimpses snatched from behind the bars
of a boarding-school. Here, examine these portraits, while the light
still lingers, and you will see the woful disparity that existed
between us at that period. They were painted a fortnight after I met
him."

She opened a velvet case, and laid before her companion two oval ivory
miniatures, richly set with large pearls.

Dr. Grey took them both in his hand, and, by the dull, lurid glow that
tipped a ridge of clouds lying along the western horizon, he saw two
pictures.

One, a remarkably handsome man, with brilliant black eyes and regular
features, and a cast of countenance that forcibly reminded him of the
likenesses of Edgar A. Poe, while the expression denoted more of
chicane than chivalry in his character. The other, a fresh, sweet,
girlish face, eloquent with innocence and purity, with clear, gray
eyes, overhung by jetty lashes, and overarched by black brows, while a
mass of dark hair was heaped in short curls on her forehead and
temples, and fell in long ringlets over her neck.

Dr. Grey looked at Mrs. Gerome, and now at the portrait, but the
resemblance could nowhere be traced, save in the delicate yet haughty
arch of the eyebrows, and the dainty moulding of the faultless nose.

While he glanced from one to the other, she placed a third miniature
beside those in his hand, and he started at sight of a surpassingly
lovely countenance, which recalled the outlines of one that he had
left in his library three hours before, where Miss Dexter sat reading
to Muriel.

"There you have the gods of my old worship,--Edith and Maurice. Can
you wonder at my infatuation?"

She took the pictures, and a derisive smile distorted her lips, as she
looked shiveringly at them, and hastily replaced them on their velvet
cushions. Closing the spring with a convulsive snap, she tossed the
case on the terrace, whence it fell to the grass below; and drew her
blue velvet drapery closer around her.

"Dr. Grey, you know quite enough of human nature to anticipate what
followed. Three days after I met Maurice Carlyle, he swore deathless
devotion to his 'gray-eyed angel,' and offered me his hand. Ah! when
I recall that evening, and think of the words uttered so tenderly, so
passionately, when I summon before me that radiant face, and
listen again to the voice that so utterly bewitched me, the
remembrance maddens me, and I feel a murderous hate of my race
stirring my blood into fierce throbs. With my hands folded in his,
we planned our future, painted visions that made my brain reel,
and when his lips touched my forehead, as sacred seal of our
betrothal, I felt that earth could add nothing to my blessed lot. Of
course Mr. Wright warmly sanctioned my choice, drugging his
conscience with the reflection that if Maurice was extravagant and
inert, my fortune would obviate the necessity of his attending to his
nominal profession, that of the law. The old man insisted, however,
that as I was a mere child, we must defer our marriage two years. Mr.
Carlyle frowned, and vowed he could not live more than twelve months
without his 'peerless prize,' and like any other silly girl, I
believed it as unhesitatingly as I did the lessons from the gospels
that were read to us night and morning. What cloudless days flew
over my young head, during the ensuing month; days wherein I never
tired of kneeling and thanking God for the marvellous blessing of
Maurice Carlyle's love. Life was mantling in a crystal goblet, like
_eau de vie de Dantzic_, and I could not even taste it without
watching the gold sparkles rise and fall and flash; and how could
I dream, then, that the draught was not brightened with gilt leaves,
but really flavored with _curare_? The only drawback to my happiness
was Elsie's opposition to my engagement, and Mr. Carlyle's refusal to
allow me to acquaint Edith with my betrothal. He was so 'furiously
jealous of that yellow-haired woman whom his darling loved too well.'
It would be quite time enough to inform her of my happiness when I
returned to school. From the beginning, Elsie distrusted, disliked,
and eyed him suspiciously, but her expostulations and arguments only
strengthened his influence, and partially overthrew hers. One day Mr.
Carlyle sought me in great haste, and with considerable agitation
informed me that he had been unexpectedly summoned abroad. Business,
with the details of which he tenderly forbore to weary me, would
detain him many months in Europe, and he implored me to consent to
a private marriage before his departure. Mr. Wright was in very
feeble health, had been threatened with paralysis, and my ardent
lover would be too unendurably miserable separated from me, when
death might at any moment rob me of my guardian. I consented, and
hastened to obtain Mr. Wright's sanction. That day chanced to be one
of his despondent, hypochondriacal seasons, and after some persuasion
on my part, and much sophistry from his nephew, the weak old man
yielded. Then my lover pressed his advantage, and vowed he could
never leave me, that his young bride must accompany him to London,
that my mind would be too much engrossed by thoughts of him to permit
the possibility of my studying advantageously in his absence, and
that he would assume the responsibility of superintending and
perfecting his wife's education. Mr. Wright demurred; Mr. Carlyle
raved; I wept. Maurice clasped me in his arms, and in the midst of
my tears and pleadings, my guardian succumbed. It was arranged that
our marriage should take place within a fortnight, and that we
should immediately start to Europe. Poor Elsie!--truest, wisest,
best friend God ever gave me,--was enraged and distressed beyond
expression. She wept, wrung her hands, and falling on her knees
entreated me not to execute my insane purpose,--assured me I was a
lamb led to sacrifice, was the victim of an infamous scheme between
uncle and nephew to possess themselves of my estate, and she
exhausted argument and persuasion in attempting to recall my
wandering common sense. Much as I loved her, this bitter vituperation
of my idol incensed and estranged me, and I temporarily forbade her
to enter my presence. Poor, dear, devoted Elsie! When my heart
relented, and I sought her to assure her of my forgiveness, tears
and groans greeted me, and I found her sitting at the foot of her bed,
with her face hidden in her apron."

Stretching her arms towards the grave, Mrs. Gerome paused; her lips
quivered, and two tears rolled down her cheeks.

"Ah! dear old heart! Brave, true, tender soul! How different my lot
would have been had I heeded her prayers and counsel! Not until I lie
down yonder, and mingle my dust with hers, can I, even for an instant,
forget her faithful, sleepless care and love. I believe she is the
only human being who was ever tenderly and truly attached to me, and
God knows I learned before I lost her how much her affection was
worth."

The cold, ringing voice grew tremulous, wavering, and some moments
passed before Mrs. Gerome continued,--

"Mr. Carlyle preferred a private wedding, but I insisted upon a
ceremony at the church where Mr. Wright officiated, and immediately
telegraphed to Edith, requesting her presence as bridesmaid, and
offering to provide her outfit and defray all expenses, if she would
accompany us to Europe. My betrothed bit his lip, and objected; but on
this point, at least, I was firm, and assured him I would not be
married unless Edith could be with me. She wrote, declining my
invitation to Europe, but came to New York, the day of my wedding.
When I look back at what followed, I have a vague, confused feeling,
similar to that which results from taking opium. Mr. Carlyle had
positively interdicted my taking Elsie to Europe, assuring me that his
wife should not be in leading-strings to a spoiled and presumptuous
nurse, and promising me that, when we returned to America, she might
occupy the position of housekeeper in our establishment. Absorbed by
my own supreme happiness, I scarcely saw Edith until we were dressed
for the ceremony, and when she came and leaned against the table where
the bridal presents were arranged, I noticed that she was pale and
much agitated, but ascribed her emotion to grief at my approaching
departure. Several of my schoolmates officiated as bridesmaids, and a
large party assembled at the church to witness the marriage. Mr.
Carlyle was a great favorite in society, and his friends were invited
to the wedding breakfast at the parsonage. It was on the bright
morning of my sixteenth birthday, when I stood before the altar and
listened to and uttered the words that made me a wife. Every syllable,
every intonation, of the minister's voice is branded on my memory as
with a red-hot iron: 'Wilt thou have this man to thy wedded husband,
to live together after God's ordinance, in the holy estate of
matrimony? Wilt thou obey him, serve him, love, honor, and keep him,
in sickness and in health; and forsaking all others, keep thee only
unto him, so long as ye both shall live?' And there, before the altar,
with the stained glass making a rainbow behind the pulpit, I answered,
'_I will_.' Oh, Dr. Grey, pity me! pity me!"

A cry of anguish escaped her, and she extended her arms until her
hands rested on her companion's shoulder.

In silence he bent his head, and put his lips to the tightly clasped
fingers.

"Tell me, sir,--if that vow means that man may make a plaything of
God's statutes? If it binds for one hour, does it not bind while life
lasts?"

"'_So long as ye both shall live_,'" answered Dr. Grey, solemnly; and
he gently removed her hand, and drew himself a little farther from
her.

She was too painfully engrossed by sad reminiscences to notice the
action, and resumed her narrative.

"There was a gay party at the breakfast, and I could not remove my
fascinated eyes from the radiant face of my husband, who had never
seemed half so princely as now, when he was wholly my own. Once he
bent his handsome head to mine, and whispered, '_La Peregrina_,' the
pet name he had given me, because he averred that, in his estimation,
my love was worth as many ducats as that celebrated pearl of Philip.
'_La Peregrina_,' indeed! Ah! he melted it in gall and hemlock, and
drained it at his wedding feast. My heart was so overflowing with
happiness that I slipped my fingers into his, and, in answer to his
fond epithet, whispered, 'Maurice, my king.'"

The speaker was silent for a moment, and an expression of disgust and
scorn usurped the place of mournfulness.

"Dr. Grey, I deserved my punishment, for no Aztec ever worshipped his
stone God more devoutly than I did my black-eyed, smooth-lipped idol.
'Thou shalt have no other gods before me.' Ah! my 'graven image'
seemed so marvellously godlike that I bowed down before it; and there,
in the midst of my adoration, the curse of idolatry smote me. Half
bewildered by the rapture that made my heart throb almost to
suffocation, I stole away from the guests and hid myself in the small
hot-house attached to Mr. Wright's study, longing for a little quiet
that would enable me to realize all the blessedness of my lot. With
childish glee I toyed with my title,--with my new name,--Maurice
Carlyle's wife--Evelyn Carlyle! How pretty it sounded,--how holy it
seemed! My future was as brilliant as that vast enchanted hall into
which poor Nouronihar was enticed through her insane love for Vathek,
and, like hers, my illusion was dispelled by a decree that strangled
hope in my heart, and enveloped it in flames."

Here the flood of melancholy memories drowned her words, and, crossing
her arms on the stone balustrade, she sat silent and moody.

In the dusky, crepuscular light, Dr. Grey could no longer discern the
emotions that printed themselves so legibly on her countenance; but
the outline of her face, and the listless, hopeless droop of her
figure, curved between him and the dun waste of waters.

Overhead a few dim, hazy stars shivered on the ragged skirts of
trailing gray clouds, and the ceaseless rustle of the shuddering
poplars formed a mournful accompaniment to the muttering of the ocean,
whose weary waves were sobbing themselves to rest, like scourged but
unconquered children.

"I thank you for your patience, Dr. Grey. You forbear to hurry me,
even as you would shrink from rudely jostling or pushing forward the
mattock which slowly digs into a grave,--removing human mould and
crumbling coffin, searching for the skeleton beneath. Exhuming human
bones is melancholy work, but sadder still is the mission of one who
disinters the ashes of a woman's love, hope, and faith. Across the
centre of Mr. Wright's hot-house ran a light trellis of fine
lattice-work cut into an arch and covered with the dense luxuriant
foliage of the bignonia trained over it. Behind this screen I had
ensconced my happy self, and sat idly bruising the leaves of a rose
geranium that chanced to be near me, when my blissful reverie was
interrupted by the sound of that voice which had stolen my heart, my
reason, my common sense. Believing that he had missed and was
searching for his bride, I rose and peeped through the glossy leaves
of the clambering vine that divided us. Not four feet distant stood my
husband of an hour, with his arms clasped fondly around Edith, who, in
a broken, passionate voice, denounced his perfidy and heartlessness.
Vehemently he pleaded for an opportunity to exculpate himself, and
there, tearful and sobbing, with her head on his bosom, my friend
listened to an explanation that was destined to enlighten more than
one person. From his lips I learned that he had become entangled in
certain financial difficulties that involved his honor as a gentleman;
he had used money to enable him to embark in a speculation which, if
successful, would have afforded him the means of marrying in
accordance with the dictates of his heart; but, like the majority of
nefarious schemes, it failed signally, and fear of detection, and the
absolute necessity of obtaining a large amount of money, had goaded
him to the desperate step of sacrificing his happiness and offering
his hand to me. He strained her to his breast, kissed her repeatedly,
and impiously called God to witness that he loved her, and her only,
truly, tenderly; that never for an instant had his affection wandered
from her, 'his beautiful, idolized darling.' He bitterly denounced his
folly, cursed the hour that had thrown me and my fortune in his path,
and swore that he utterly loathed and despised the silly child whose
wealth alone had made her his dupe; and, as he flatteringly expressed
it, his 'hated and intolerable incubus.' He had intended to spare her
and himself the agony of this hour,--had determined to remain always
in Europe, where he could escape the mocking contrast of his bride and
his beloved. With indescribable scorn, and a wonderful fertility of
derisive epithets, he held me up, as on the point of a scalpel, and
proved the utter impossibility of his having been influenced by any
other than the most grossly mercenary motives; while, between the
bursts of invective against me, he lavished upon her a hundred fond,
tender, passionate phrases of endearment that had never been applied
to me. Pressing one hand on her head, he raised the other, and called
Heaven to witness, that, although the world might regard him as the
husband of 'that sallow, gray-eyed, silly girl,' whose gold alone had
bought his name, the only woman he could ever love was his own
beautiful Edith; and, should death come to his aid and free him from
the detested bond that linked him to the heiress, he swore he would
not lose a day in claiming the lovely wife that fate had denied him.
All this, and much more, which I have not now the requisite patience
to recapitulate, fell on my ears, startling me more painfully than the
trumpet-blast of the Last Judgment will ever do. Standing there, in my
costly bridal robe, I listened to the revelation that blotted out all
sun and moon and stars from my life,--that made earth a dismal Sheol
and the future a howling desolation,--a dreary wilderness of woe. In
my agony and shame I clenched my hands so savagely, one upon the
other, that my diamond betrothal-ring cut sharply into the quivering
flesh, and blood-drops oozed and dripped on my shining gossamer veil
and white velvet dress. In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, my
whole nature was metamorphosed; and my coming years swept in panoramic
vision before me, beckoning me to the prompt performance of a stern
and humiliating duty. The blood in my veins seemed to hiss and bubble
like a seething cauldron, and my heart fired with a hate for which
language has no name, no garb, no provision; but my brain kept
faithful guard, and reason calmly pointed out my future path. When Mr.
Carlyle ended his tirade against me and his curses on his own folly, I
moved forward into the arch and confronted my dethroned and defiled
gods. If the tedious years of the primitive patriarchs could be
allotted to me they would never suffice to efface the picture that
lingers in deep, hot lines on my memory, and pursues me as ruthlessly
as the avenging cross followed and tortured the miserable fugitive in
Gustave Doré's '_Le Juif errant_,' or the Eyeless Christ that proved a
haunting Nemesis to the Empress Irene. Edith's lovely face was on his
bosom, and his false, handsome lips were pressed to hers. So, I met my
husband and my dearest friend, one hour after the utterance of vows
that were perhaps still echoing in the courts of heaven. Such
spectacles of human perfidy are the real Medusas that Gorgonize
trusting, tender, throbbing hearts, and in view of this one I laughed
aloud,--laughed so unnaturally that it was no marvel I was called a
maniac. At sight of my desperate white face Edith shrieked and
fainted, and Maurice blanched and stammered and cowered. Without a
word of comment or recrimination I silently passed on to my own room,
where Elsie was waiting to clothe me in my travelling-suit. In three
hours the steamer would sail, and I had little leisure for resolution
and execution. Summoning the lawyer to whose care my estate was
entrusted, I requested him to call Mr. Wright and Mr. Carlyle into the
dressing-room that adjoined my apartment, and there I held an audience
with the three who were most interested in my career. Briefly I
explained what had occurred, and announced my determination, then and
there, to separate forever from the man who could never be more than
my nominal husband. I told them I held marriage, next to the Lord's
Supper, the holiest sacrament instituted by God, but mine had been an
infamous mockery, an unpardonable sin against me, and an insult to
Heaven, whose blessing could never rest upon it. Marriage, without
sanctifying love, was unhallowed, was a transgression of divine law,
and a crime against my womanhood which neither God nor man should
forgive. Maurice Carlyle had perjured himself,--had never loved the
woman who went with him to the altar,--and the affection that had
stirred my heart one hour before, was now as dead as the Pharaohs
hidden for centuries under the pyramids. We two, who had sworn to
love, honor, and cherish one another, now hated and despised each
other beyond all possibility of expression; and I considered it a
heinous sin to perpetuate the awful mockery, to cling to the letter of
a contract that bade defiance to every impulse of heart and soul,--to
every dictate of reason and decree of conscience. Wedded lives and
divided hearts I believed a crime, and while I admitted that man could
not put asunder those whom God's statutes joined together, I contended
that Mr. Carlyle's perjury rendered it sinful for him and me to reside
under the same roof. I could not recognize the validity of divorces,
for human hands could not unlink God's fetters, and man's law had no
power to free either of us from the bonds we had voluntarily assumed
in the invoked presence of Jehovah. I would neither accept nor permit
a divorce, for, in my estimation, it was not worth the paper that
framed it, and was a species of sacrilegious trifling; but I would
never live as the wife of a man who had repeatedly declared he had not
an atom of affection for me. _Under some circumstances I deemed
separation a woman's duty_, and while I fully comprehended the awful
import of the vow '_Till death us do part_,' and denied that human
legislators could free us, or annul the marriage, I was resolved,
while life lasted, to consider myself a duped, an unloved, but a
lawful wife,--a woman consecrated by solemn oaths that no human action
could cancel. Since money was the bait, I was willing to divide my
fortune as the price of a quiet separation; and though from that hour
I intended to quit his presence forever, and regard the tie that
linked us as merely nominal, I would allow him a liberal income until
I attained my majority and would liquidate all his present debts. To
your imagination, Dr. Grey, I leave the details of what ensued,--my
guardian's remorseful grief, my lawyer's wonder and expostulation, Mr.
Carlyle's confusion, chagrin, and rage. He pleaded, argued,
threatened; but he might as well have attempted to catch and restrain
in the hollow of his hand the steady sweep of Niagara, as hope to
change my purpose. My terms were fixed, and I gave him permission to
tell the world what he chose concerning this strange _denouement_ of
the wedding feast. If I could only go away at once, I cared not what
the public thought or said; and finally, finding me no longer a
yielding child, but a desperate, stern, relentless woman, my terms
were acceded to. Briefly we discussed the legal provisions, and I
signed some hastily prepared papers that settled a bountiful annuity
upon Mr. Carlyle. My trunks were sent to the steamer, the carriage was
brought to the door, and in the presence of my guardian and the
lawyer, I announced my desire never to look again upon the man who
had so completely blighted my life. In silence I laid upon the table
my betrothal and wedding rings, and the sparkling diamond cross that
had constituted my bridal present. No word of reproach passed my lips,
for women love when they upbraid, and only aching, fond hearts furnish
stinging rebukes; but I hated and scorned the author of my ruin too
utterly to indulge in crimination and reproach. So we two, who had
just been pronounced man and wife, who had clasped hands and linked
hearts and lives until we should stumble into the tomb,--we, Maurice
Carlyle and Evelyn, his bride, four hours married, stood up and looked
at each other for the last time. During the interview I had addressed
no remark to him, and the last words I ever uttered to him were
contained in that sentence fondly whispered when he bent over me at
the table, 'Maurice, my king.' As I bade adieu to my guardian, and
paused before the princely figure whom the world called my husband,
our eyes met, and he flushed, and muttered, 'You will rue your
rashness.' Silently I looked on the handsome features that had so
suddenly grown loathsome to me, and he snatched my wedding ring from
the table and held it appealingly towards me, saying remorsefully,
'Evelyn, my wife, forgive your wretched husband!' Without a word, or a
touch of his outstretched hands, I turned and went down to the
carriage, where my faithful nurse sat weeping and waiting. One hour
later, the vessel swung from her moorings, and Elsie and I were soon
at sea. A girl only sixteen, four hours married, separated forever
from husband and friends,--without hope or faith in either human or
heavenly things,--hating, with most intolerable intensity, the man
whose name she had just assumed, and to whom she felt indissolubly
bound, in accordance with the vow '_So long as ye both shall live_.'"

Out of the tossing, moaning sea, the moon had risen slowly, breaking
through a rent scarf of cloud that barred her solemn, white disc,
and silvering the foam of the racing waves that seemed to reflect
the glittering fringe of the scudding vapor in the chill vault above
them. There was no mellow radiance, no golden lustre such as
southern moons are wont to shed, but a weird, fitful glitter on
sea and land, that now shone with startling vividness, and anon
waned, until sombre shadows seemed stalking in spectral ranks from
some distant, gloomy ocean lair. It was one of those melancholy
nights when the supernatural realm threatened to impinge upon the
physical, that shuddered and shrank from the contact,--when the
atmosphere gave vague hints of ghostly denizens, and every passing
breeze seemed laden with sepulchral damps and vibrating with
sepulchral sounds.

Mrs. Gerome sat erect, with her hands resting on the balustrade, and
under that mysteriously white moon her pearl-pale face looked as
hopelessly cold and rigid as any Persepolitan sphinx, that nightly
fronts the immemorial stars which watch the ruined tombs of
Chilminar.

Raising her fingers to her forehead, she lifted and shook a band of
the shining white hair, and resumed her narration, in the same steady,
passionless tone.

"These gray locks were the fruit of that bridal day, for, on the
afternoon that we sailed, I was taken very ill with what was called
congestion of the brain,--was unconscious throughout the voyage, and
when we reached Liverpool, my hair, once so black and glossy, was as
you see it now. Ah! how often, since that time, have I heard poor
Elsie mourning over my mother's untimely death, and quoting that
ancient superstition, 'You should never wean a child while trees are
in blossom; otherwise it will have gray hair.' Mr. Wright was so
prostrated by grief at what had occurred, that he survived my departure
only a few weeks; and at his death, Mr. Carlyle attempted to seize and
control my estate. Urging the plea of my minority, he insisted upon
assuming the charge of my property, and in order to consummate his
avaricious designs, and screen his name from opprobrium, he told the
world that I was hopelessly insane; and that the discovery of this
fact, one hour after his marriage, had induced him to send me abroad
under the care of a faithful and judicious nurse. To give plausibility
to this statement, a paragraph was inserted in the New York papers
announcing that I was a raving maniac and an inmate of an English
asylum for lunatics. Mr. Clayton, my lawyer, was the sole surviving
witness of my final interview, and of its financial provisions; and,
had he yielded to bribes and threats which were unsparingly offered,
God only knows what would have been my fate, since the tender mercies
of my husband destined me to the cheerful and attractive precincts of
a mad-house. To Mr. Clayton's stern integrity and brave defence, I am
indebted for the preservation of my fortune and the defeat of a
daring and iniquitous scheme to arrest me in London and commit me to the
custody of an asylum-warden. Fortunately for me, he lived long enough
to transfer to my own guardianship, when I attained my majority, the
estate which had cost me every earthly hope. Six months after my
departure from America I bade farewell to Europe, and plunged into
the most remote and unfrequented portions of the East, where I wished to
remain unknown and unnoticed. In a half-defiant and half-superstitious
mood, I had assumed the talismanic and mystical name of Alga Gerome,
with the faint hope that it might shield me from the intrigues and
persecutions which I felt assured would always dog the steps of
Evelyn Carlyle. Having appointed a cautious and confidential agent in
New York and Paris, I destroyed all traces of my whereabouts, and
became as utterly lost to the world as though the portals of the
grave had closed upon me. Without friends, and accompanied only by
Elsie and her son Robert, I lived year after year in wandering through
strange lands. Books and pictures were my solace, and to strangle time
I first devoted myself to drawing and painting. After a while I came
back to Rome, and frequented the studios and galleries, perfecting
myself in the mechanical department of Art. But fear of encountering
some familiar face drove me from the Eternal City, and a sudden whim
took me to Madeira, where I spent the only portion of my life to
which I recur with any degree of satisfaction. There, surrounded by
magnificent scenery, and safe from intrusion, I intended to drag out
the remainder of my dreary years; but poor Elsie grew so restless, so
homesick, so impatient to visit the graves of her household band, that I
finally allowed myself to be persuaded into returning to my native land.
Robert preceded us, and purchased this secluded spot, which I had
stipulated must be upon the sea-shore and secure from all intrusion.
Avoiding New York, I came reluctantly to Boston, thence to 'Solitude,'
without seeing or hearing of any whom I had once known. When I was
twenty-one, I transferred to Mr. Carlyle the sum of thirty thousand
dollars, as a final settlement; but my agent scrupulously obeyed my
instructions, and no human being, save himself, is aware of my place
of residence or the name under which I am sheltered. Strenuous
efforts have been made by Mr. Carlyle to unearth his wretched dupe,
but since I left England, nearly eight years ago, he has been unable
to discover any trace of my location. From time to time I received
bills, contracted by him, and paid by my lawyer after I left New York;
and in my escritoire are two accounts of jewellers, where I find
charged the flashing ring and costly diamond cross, which I refused
to retain but for which I paid, after my separation. Prone to
dissipation, Mr. Carlyle plunged into excesses that would have
squandered royal portions, and my agent writes that his eagerness to
ascertain where I am residing has recently increased, in consequence of
his pecuniary necessities, although the terms of our separation deprive
him of every shadow of claim upon me or my purse. Such, Dr. Grey, is
the shattered idol of my girlish adoration,--such the divinity of dust
upon which I spent the treasures of my love and trust. Gray-haired,
gray-hearted, mocked, and maddened in the dawn of my confiding
womanhood, nominally a wife, but in reality a nameless waif, shut
out from happiness, and pitied as a maniac,--such, is that most
desolate and isolated woman, whom, as Agla Gerome, you have known as
the mistress of this lonely place. As for my name, I sometimes wonder
whether in the last great gathering in the court of Heaven, my own
mother will know what to call her unbaptized child,--whether the sins
charged against me will be read out as those of Vashti, or Evelyn,
or Agla. Elsie persistently clung to Vashti, and verily there seems
a grim fitness in her selection,--a dismal analogy between my
blasted life and that of the discrowned Persian Queen. Be that as it
may, if I miss a name I surely shall not miss the equity that man
denies me. '_So long as ye both shall live_.' When I look out in
springtime, over the blossoming earth, daisies, and violets, and
primroses range themselves into lines that spell out these hated words
of an ever-echoing vow, and if, in midnight hours, I raise my weary
eyes, the sleepless stars revengefully group themselves, and flash back
to me, in burning characters, '_Till death us do part_.' Up yonder,
behind sun, and planet, and nebulæ, I shall look God in the face, and
pointing to my withered heart and blighted life, can say truly, 'At
least I kept the ruins free from perjury; there, at your feet, is the
oath unsullied, that I called you to accept on the awful day when I
knelt at your altar.' Love, honor, and obedience, Maurice Carlyle's
unworthiness rendered impossible; but the vow which consecrated and
set me apart, which forbade the thought that other men might offer
homage and affection, or even ordinary tributes of admiration, I
have kept sacredly and faithfully. I might have plunged into the
whirlpool of fashionable life, and found temporary oblivion of my
humiliation and disappointment; but from such a career my whole
being revolted, and in seclusion I have dragged out a dreary series of
years that can scarcely be termed life. Recently I have been honored by
several proposals for a divorce, on condition of an additional
settlement of money upon my eminently chivalric and devoted husband;
but my invariable reply has been, _human legislation is impotent to
cancel the statutes of Almighty God, which declare that only death
can free what Jehovah has joined together_, and the legal provisions
of man crumble and shrivel before the divine command, '_For the woman
which hath an husband is bound by the law to her husband so long as he
liveth_.' With what impatience, what ceaseless yearning, I await the
cold touch of that deliverer who alone can sever my galling,
detested fetters, none but the God above us can understand and
realize. The eagerness with which I once anticipated my bridal hour
does not approximate the intensity of my longing for the day of my
death. O merciful God! surely, surely, I have been sufficiently
tortured, and the tardy release can not be far distant."

She raised her face skyward, as if invoking Divine aid, but her wan
lips were voiceless; and only the song of the surf mingled with the
whisper of trembling poplars, whose fading leaves gleamed ghostly and
chill under the silver sheen of that broad white moon.

  "There heavily, across the troubled night,
  A warning comet trails her hideous hair,
  And underneath, the wroth sea-waves are white."

During the hour in which Dr. Grey listened to the recital of this
woman's hapless career, she became as utterly dead to him as though
shroud and sepulchre had already claimed her; and when she ceased
speaking, he looked as sorrowfully down at her fair, frozen face, as
if the coffin-lid were shutting it forever from his view.

Henceforth she was as sacred in his sad eyes as some beloved corpse,
and bowing his head upon his hands, he prayed long but silently that
God would strengthen him for the duties of a desolate future,--would
sanctify this grievous disappointment to his eternal welfare, and
grant him power to lead heavenward the heart of the only woman whom he
had ever desired to call his own.

Putting away the beautiful dreams wherein this regal form had moved to
and fro as crown and queen of his home and heart, he calmly resigned
the cherished scheme that linked this woman's life with his; and felt
that he would gladly barter all his earthly hopes for the assurance,
that, throughout eternity, he might be allowed the companionship which
time denied him.

Mrs. Gerome rose, and folding her mantle around her, said proudly,--

"Married life, unhallowed by love, is more acceptable in your
righteous eyes than my isolated existence; and you have passed
sentence against me. So be it. Strange code of morality you Christians
hug to your hearts, squeezing the form that holds no spirit; but some
day I shall be acquitted by that incorruptible tribunal where God
alone has the right to judge us. Till then, farewell."

She turned to leave the terrace, but he arrested the movement, and
placed himself before her.

"You misinterpret my silence, if you suppose it was employed in
censuring your course. Pondering all that you have recapitulated, I
can conjecture no line of conduct towards your husband less deplorable
than that which you have pursued; and I honor the stern honesty and
integrity of purpose from which you have never swerved. Mrs. Carlyle,
I acquit you of all guilt, save that of impious defiance, of rebellion
against your God, whose grace could sweeten even the bitter dregs of
the cup you have well-nigh drained."

At the sound of her name, so long unuttered, she winced and writhed as
if some sensitive nerve had been suddenly pierced and torn; but
without heeding her emotion, Dr. Grey continued,--

"If your earthly lot has been stinted of sunshine, can you not bear a
little temporary gloom,--must you needs people it with adverse
witnesses, must you thicken the darkness with imprecations? You forget
that life is only the racecourse, not the goal,--that this world is
for human souls what the plain of Dura proved for the Hebrew trio who
braved its flames. Suppose you are lonely and bereft of the love that
might have cheered you? Was not Christ far more isolated and loveless?
In His fearful ordeal He was forsaken by God,--but to you remains the
everlasting promise, 'I will not leave you comfortless; I will come to
you.' O wretched woman! give your aching heart to Him who emptied it
of earthly idols in order to fit it up for His own temple.

  'Is God less God, that thou art left undone?
  Rise, worship, bless Him, in this sackcloth spun,
  As in that purple.'"

Silently she listened, looking steadily up at his noble face, where
intense mental anguish had left unwonted pallor, and printed new
ciphers on brow and lips; and when his adjuration ended, she put out
her hand.

"That you do not condemn me is the most precious consolation you could
offer, for your good opinion is worth much to my proud, sensitive
soul. If all men were like you there would be no mutilated, ruined
lives, such as mine,--no nominal wives roaming up and down the world
in search of an obscure corner wherein to hide dishonored heads and
crushed hearts. God grant you some day a wife worthy of the noblest
man it has ever been my good fortune to meet. Good-by."

He did not accept the offered hand, and stood for a moment as if
struggling to master some impulse to which he could not yield. Perhaps
he dared not trust the touch of those gleaming, slender fingers that
had clasped a living husband's; or perchance he was so absorbed by
painful thoughts that he failed to observe them.

Laying his palm softly on her snowy head, he said tenderly,--

"Mrs. Carlyle, you have innocently, and I believe unconsciously,
caused me the keenest suffering I have ever endured; and I feel
assured you will not withhold the only reparation which you could
render, or I accept. Will you promise to consecrate the remainder of
your life to the service of Christ? Will you humble your defiant soul,
and so spend your future, that when this brief earthly pilgrimage ends
you can pass joyfully to the city of Rest? Girded with this hope, I
can brave all trials,--can be content to look upon your face no more
in this world,--can patiently wait for a reunion in that Eternal Home
where they which shall be accounted worthy to obtain that world, and
the resurrection from the dead, neither marry nor are given in
marriage."

"Oh, Dr. Grey, if it were possible!"

She clasped her hands and bowed her chin upon them, awed by his tones,
and unable to met his grave, pleading eyes.

"Faith and prayer are the talismans that render all things possible to
an earnest Christian; and it has been truly said 'We mount to heaven
mostly on the ruins of our cherished schemes, finding our failures
were successes.' Recollect,--

  'There is a pleasure which is born of pain:
  The grave of all things hath its violet,'

and do not indulge a corroding bitterness that has almost destroyed
the nobler elements of your nature. I will exact no promise, but when
I am gone, do not forget the request that my soul makes of yours. May
God point out your work and help you to perform it faithfully. May His
hand guide and uphold, and His merciful arms enfold you, now and
forever, is and shall be my prayer."

For a moment his hand lingered as if in benediction upon the drooping
gray head, then he quietly turned and walked away, knowing full well
that he was bidding adieu to the most precious of all earthly
objects,--that he too was shattering a lovely "graven image," before
which his heart had fondly bowed.

As the sound of his firm step died away, the lonely woman lifted her
face and looked after the form, vanishing in the gloom of the
overarching trees. When he had disappeared, and she turned seaward,
where the moon, as if inviting her to heaven, had laid a broad shining
band of beaten silver from wave to sky,--the miserable wife raised her
hands appealingly, and made a new covenant with her pitying God.

              ... "Wherefore thy life
  Shall purify itself, and heal itself,
  In the long toil of love made meek by tears."



CHAPTER XXVIII.


"Merton, you are not conscious of the extent of your infatuation, which
has already excited comment in our limited circle of acquaintances."

"Indeed! The members of 'our limited circle of acquaintances' are
heartily welcome to whatever edification or amusement they may be able
to derive from the discussion of my individual affairs, or the
analysis of my peculiar tastes. You forget, my dear Constance, that to
devour and in turn be devoured is an inexorable law of this world; and
if my eccentricities furnish a _ragout_ for omnivorous society, I
should be philanthropically glad that tittle-tattledom owes me
thanks."

The speaker did not lay aside the newspaper that partially concealed
his countenance; and when he ceased speaking, his eyes reverted to the
statistical table of Egyptian and Algerine cotton, which for some
moments he had been attentively examining.

"My dear brother, you are spasmodically and provokingly philosophical!
Pray do me the honor to discard that stupid _Times_, which you pore
over as if it were the last sensation novel, and be so courteous as to
look at me while you are talking," replied the invalid sister, beating
a tattoo on the side of her couch.

"I believe I have nothing to communicate just now," was the quiet and
unsatisfactory answer, as he drew a pencil from his pocket and made
some numeral annotations on the margin of the statistics.

"Surely, Merton, you are not angry with your poor Constance?"

Merton Minge lowered his paper, restored the pencil to his vest
pocket, and wheeling his chair forward, brought himself closer to the
couch.

"I wish you were as far removed from fever as I certainly am from
anger. Your eyes are too bright, my pretty one."

He put his fingers on her pulse, and when he removed them, compressed
his lips to stifle a sigh.

"Why will you so persistently evade me?--why will you always change
the subject when I allude to that young lady?"

"Because, when a man attains the sober and discreet age of forty
years, he naturally and logically thinks he has earned, and is
entitled to, an exemption from the petty teasing to which sophomores
and sentimentalists are subjected. While I gratefully appreciate the
compliment implied in your forgetfulness, permit to remind you of the
disagreeable fact that I am no longer a boy."

"You lose sight of that same ugly and ill-mannered fact, much more
frequently than I am in danger of doing; and I affectionately suggest
that you stimulate your own torpid memory. Ah, brother! why will you
not be frank, and confide in me? Women are not easily hoodwinked,
except by their lovers,--and you can not deceive me in this matter."

"What pleasure do you suppose it would afford me to practice deceit of
any kind towards my only sister? To what class of motives could you
credit such conduct?"

"I think you shrink from acknowledging your real feelings, because you
very well know that I could never sanction or consent to them."

Mr. Minge arched his heavy brows, and the sternly drawn lines of his
large mouth relaxed, and threatened to run into curves that belonged
to the ludicrous, as he turned his twinkling eyes upon his sister's
face.

"What extraordinary hallucinations attack even sage, sedate,
middle-aged men? Ten minutes ago I would have sworn I was your
guardian; whereas, it seems your apron-strings are the reins that rule
me. Don't pout, my Czarina, if I demand your credentials before I bow
submissively to your _ukase_."

"Irony is not your forte; and, Merton, I beg you to recollect that I
detest bantering,--it is so excessively ungenteel. No wonder you look
nervous and ashamed, after your recent very surprising manifestation
of--well, I might as well say what I mean--of _mauvais goût_."

Constance Minge impatiently threw off the light worsted shawl that
rested on her shoulders, and propped her cheek on her jewelled hand.

Her brother's countenance clouded, and his lips hardened, but after
one keen look at her flushed features, he once more resumed the
perusal of the paper. Some moments elapsed, and his sister sobbed, but
he took no notice of the sound.

"Merton, I never expected you would treat me so cruelly."

"Make out your charges in detail, and when you are sure you have
included all the petty deeds of tyranny as well as the heinous acts of
brutality, I will examine the indictment, and hear myself arraigned.
Shall I bring you some legal cap, and loan you my pencil?"

For five minutes she held her handkerchief to her eyes, and then Mr.
Minge rose and looked at his watch.

"You will not be so unkind as to leave me again this afternoon, and
spend your time with that--"

"Constance, you transcend your privileges, and this is a most
_apropos_ and convenient occasion to remind you that presumption is
one fault I find it particularly difficult to forgive. Since my
forbearance only invites aggression, let me hear say (as an economy of
trouble), that you are rashly invading a realm where I permit none to
enter, much less to dictate. I hope you understand me."

"I knew it,--I felt it! I dreaded that artful girl would make mischief
between us,--would alienate the only heart I had left to care for me.
Oh, how I wish she had been forty fathoms under the sea before you
ever saw her!--before you ceased to love me!"

A flood of tears emphasized the sentence, which seemed lost upon Mr.
Minge, as he lighted a cigar, tried its flavor, threw it away, and
puffed the smoke from a second.

"I am sorry you can't smoke and compose your nerves, as I am preparing
to do,--though I confess I prefer to kiss your lips untainted by such
odors. Shall I?"

He held his cigar aside to prevent the wind from wafting the curling
column of smoke in her face, and bent his head close to hers; but she
put up her hand to prevent the caress, and averted her face.

"As you like. But mark you, Constance, the next time our lips touch,
you will find yourself in the nominative case, while I meekly fill an
objective position. You are a poor, wilful, spoiled child, and I must
begin to undo my own ruinous work."

He picked up his hat and walked off, followed by a pretty Italian
mouse-colored greyhound, whose silver bell tinkled as she ran down the
steps.

"Merton, come back! Do not leave me here alone, or I shall die.
Brother!--"

On strode the stalwart figure, looking neither to right nor left,
and behind him trailed the vaporous aroma of the fine cigar.
Raising herself on her couch, the invalid elevated her voice, and
exclaimed,--

"Please, dear Merton, come back,--at least long enough to let me kiss
you. Please, brother!"

He paused,--wavered,--drew geometrical figures on the ground with the
tip of his boot, and finally took off his hat, turned and bowed,
saying,--

"Show some flag of truce, if you really want me to return."

She raised her hands and gracefully tossed him several kisses.

Slowly Mr. Minge retraced his steps, and, as he sat down once more
close to his sister and pushed back his hat, she saw that he intended
her to realize that her reign was at an end; and she trembled and
turned pale at the expression with which he regarded her.

"Merton, don't you know--don't you believe--that I love you above
everything else?"

She sat erect, and stole one arm around the neck that did not bend
toward her, as was its habit.

"If you really loved me, you would desire to see me happy."

"I do desire it, earnestly and sincerely; and there is no sacrifice I
would not make to see you really happy."

"Provided I selected your mode of obtaining the boon, and moreover
consulted your caprices and antipathies; otherwise, my happiness would
annoy and insult you."

"Don't scold,--kiss me." She put up her lips, but he did not respond
to the motion, and she pettishly drew his head down and kissed him
several times. "How obstinate you have grown!--how harsh towards me!
It is all the result of that--"

She bit her lip, and her brother frowned.

"Take care! You seem continually disposed to stumble very awkwardly
into forbidden realms."

The petted invalid nestled her pretty head on his bosom, and patted
his cheek with one hot hand.

"Brother, Kate Sutherland was here this morning, and left--besides
numerous kind messages for you--a three-cornered note that I ordered
Adèle to place in your dressing-case, where I felt sure you would see
it."

"Yes, I saw it."

"An invitation to ascend Monte Pellegrini?"

"Which I respectfully decline."

"O Merton! Why not go?"

"Simply because I never premeditatedly, and with _malice prepense_,
bore myself by joining parties composed of persons in whom I have not
an atom of interest."

"But Kate is so lovely?"

"Not to me."

"Nonsense! She was the handsomest young girl in Paris, and was the
acknowledged belle of the season."

"Possibly. Henna-dyed nails are considered irresistible in Turkey, but
your opalescent ones attract me infinitely more pleasantly."

"Pray what have my nails to do with Kate's beauty?"

"Nothing destructive, I hope,--as I am disposed to think she has
little to spare."

"Good heavens! You surely would not insinuate that you believe
or consider,--or would admit, that she is not vastly superior
to--to--there, Beauty, down! She is actually dining on the fringe
of my pelerine!"

To cover her confusion, Constance addressed herself to the diminutive
dog at her feet, and taking her flushed face in his hands, the brother
looked steadily down, and answered,--

"I never insinuate. It impresses me as a cowardly and contemptible bit
of plebeian practice that found favor after the royal purple was
trailed in agrarian democratic dust; and lest you should unjustly
impute abhorred innuendoes to me, I will say perspicuously, that the
most attractive and beautiful woman I have ever seen is not your fair
friend Miss Sutherland, nor any other darling of diamond and satin
sheen, but a young lady whom I admire beyond expression, Miss Salome
Owen."

An angry flush burned on the invalid's face, and her mouth curled
scornfully.

"She is rather handsome sometimes,--so are gypsies and other waifs;
but it is a wild sort of beauty,--if beauty you persist in terming it;
and low birth and blood are visible in everything that appertains to
her. I never expected to see my brother condescend to the level of
opera-singers, and I am astonished at your infatuation. There! you
need not expect to blast me with that fiery look, and besides, you
know you mentioned her name, which I had scrupulously avoided. I
confess I am very proud of my family, and of you, its sole male
representative, and I wish it preserved from all taint."

"Untainted it shall remain, while a drop of the blood throbs in my
veins, and I, who am jealous of my honor, have carefully pondered the
matter, and maturely decided that he who entrusts his happiness to
Salome Owen will be indeed an enviable man, and pardonably proud of
his prize. Once I bartered myself away at the altar, and gave my name
and hand for wealth, for aristocratic antecedents, for fashionable
status, and five years of purgatorial misery was the richly merited
penalty for the insult I offered my heart. Death freed me, and for ten
years I have lived at least in peace, indulging no thought of a second
alliance, and merely amused, or disgusted by the matrimonial snares
that have lined my path. I no longer belong to that pitiable class who
feel constrained to marry for position, and who convert the
altar-steps into so many rounds of the social ladder; and I have
earned the right to indulge my outraged heart in any caprice that
promises to mellow, to gild the evening of my life with that
home-sunshine that was denied its gloomy tempestuous morning. My
future, my fortune, my social standing, my unblemished name, are all
my own,--and I shall exercise my privilege of bestowing them where and
when I please, heedless of the sneers and howls of disappointed
mercenary schemers. Come weal, come woe, I here announce that neither
you nor the world need hope to influence me one 'jot or tittle' in an
affair where I allow no impertinent interference. I warn you this is
the last time I shall permit even an indirect allusion to matters with
which you have no legitimate concern; and provided you do not obtrude
them upon me, it is a question of indifference to me what your opinion
and that of your 'circle' may chance to be. Constance, you here have
your ultimatum. Defy me, if you please, but prompt separation will
ensue; and you will unexpectedly find yourself _en route_ for America.
Peace or war? Before you decide, recollect that all your future will
be irretrievably colored by it."

"In my state of health it is positively cruel for you to threaten me;
and some day when you follow my coffin to Mount Auburn, you will
repent your harshness. I wish to heaven I had never left home!"

A passionate fit of weeping curtailed the sentence, and, while the
face was covered with the lace handkerchief, the brother rose and made
his escape.

Despite the fact that forty years had left their whitening touches on
his head and luxuriant beard, Merton Minge, who had never been
handsome, even in youth, was sufficiently agreeable in appearance to
render him an object of deep interest in the circle where he moved.
Medium-statured, and very robust, a healthful ruddy tinge robbed his
complexion of that sallow hue which mercantile pursuits are apt to
induce, and brightened the deep-set black eyes which his debtors
considered mercilessly keen, cold, and incisive.

The square face, with its broad, full forehead, and deep curved furrow
dividing the thick straight brows,--its well-shaped but prominent
nose, and massive jaws and chin partially veiled by a grizzled beard
that swept over his deep chest,--was suggestive of ledgers rent-roll,
and stock-boards, rather than æsthetics, chivalry, or sentimentality.
The only son of a proud but impoverished family, who were eager to
retrieve their fortune, he had early in life married the imperious
spoiled daughter of a Boston millionaire, whose dower consisted of
five hundred thousand dollars, and a temper that eclipsed the
unamiable exploits of ancient and modern shrews.

Hopeless of domestic happiness in a union to which affection had not
prompted him, Mr. Minge devoted himself to the rapid accumulation of
wealth, and by judicious and successful speculations had doubled his
fortune, ere, at the comparatively early age of thirty, he was left a
childless widower. Whether he really thanked fate for his timely
release, his most intimate friends were never able to ascertain, for
he wore mourning, badges for three years, and conducted himself in all
respects with exemplary dignity and scrupulous propriety. But the
frigid indifference with which he received all matrimonial overtures
indicated that his conjugal experience was not so rosy as to tempt him
to repeat the experiment.

His mother was a haughty, frivolous woman, jealously tenacious of her
position as one of the oligarchs of _le beau monde_, and his fragile
sister had from childhood been the victim of rheumatism that
frequently rendered her entirely helpless. To these two and their
fashionable friends, he abandoned his elegant home, costly equipages,
and opera-box, reserving only a suite of rooms, his handsome
riding-horse, and yacht.

Grave and unostentatious, yet not moody,--neither impulsively liberal
and generous nor habitually penurious and uncharitable,--he led a
quiet and monotonously easy life, varied by occasional trips to
foreign lands, and comforted by the assurance that his income-tax was
one of the heaviest in the state. Two years after the death of his
mother, he took his sister a second time to Europe, hoping that the
climate of the Levant might relieve her suffering; and upon the
steamer in which he crossed the Atlantic he met Salome Owen.

Extravagantly fond of music, though unable to extract it from any
instrument, his attention had first been attracted by her exquisite
voice, which invested the voyage with a novel charm and rendered her a
great favorite with the passengers.

Human nature is wofully inflexible and obstinate, and not all the
Menus, Zoroasters, Solomons, and Platos have taught it wisdom;
wherefore it is not surprising that a caustic wit and savage cynic
asserts, "The vices, it may be said, await us in the journey of life
like hosts with whom we must successively lodge; and I doubt whether
experience would make us avoid them if we were to travel the same road
a second time."

Habit may be second nature, but it is the Gurth, the thrall of the
first,--the vassal of inherent impulses; and even the most ossified
natures contain some soft palpitating spot that will throb against
the hand that is sufficiently dexterous to find it. In every man and
woman there lurks a vein of sentiment, which, no matter how heavily
crushed by the super-incumbent mass of utilitarian, practical
commonplaceisms, will one day trickle through the dusty _débris_,
and creep like a silver thread over the dun waste of selfishness; or,
Arethusa-like, burst forth suddenly after long subterranean
wandering.

For forty years it had crawled silently and sluggishly under the
indurated and coldly egoistic nature of Merton Minge,--had been dammed
up at times by avarice and at others by grim recollections of his
domestic infelicity; but finally, after tedious meandering in the
Desert of Heartlessness, it struggled triumphantly to the surface one
glorious autumn night, when a golden moon illumined the Atlantic waves
and kindled a bewitching beauty in the face of Salome, who sat on
deck, singing an impassioned strain from _La Favorite_.

Her silvery voice was the miraculous rod that smote his petrified
affections, and a wellspring of tenderness gushed forth, freshening,
softening, and clothing with verdure and bloom his arid, sterile,
stony temperament. Long-buried dreams of his boyhood stirred in their
chilly graves and flitted dimly before him, and a hope that had
slumbered so soundly he had utterly ignored its memory, started up,
eager and starry-eyed, as in the college days of eld,--the precious
hope, underlying all other emotions in a man's heart, that one day he
too would be loved and prayed for by a pure womanly heart, and pure,
sweet, womanly lips.

Fifteen years before, he had vowed "to cherish," not the haughty girl
whose hand he clasped, but the five hundred thousand dollars that
gilded it; and faithfully he had kept his oath to the god of his
idolatry, sacrificing the best half of his life to insatiate
_Kuvera_.

On that cloudless October night, as he watched the shimmer of the moon
on Salome's silky hair, and noted the purely oval outline of her
daintily carved face, and the childish grace of her fine form,--as he
listened to flute-like tones, as irresistible as Parthenope's, his
cold, formal, non-committal mouth stirred, his hand involuntarily
opened and closed firmly, as if grasping some "pearl of great price,"
and his slow, almost stagnant pulses, leaped into feverish activity,
and soon ran riot. Perhaps more regular features, and deeper, richer
carnation bloom had confronted him, but love makes sad havoc of
ideals and abstract standards, and he who defined beauty, "the woman I
love," was wiser than Burke and more analytical than Cousin.

The freshness, the _brusquerie_, the outspoken honesty, that
characterized Salome, strangely fascinated this grave, selfish,
_blasé_ aristocrat, who was weary of hollow, polished conventionalities
and stereotyped society phrases; and, as he sat on deck watching her
countenance, he would have counted out his fortune at her feet for
the privilege of claiming her fair, slender hand, and her tremulous,
scarlet lips, instinct with melody that entranced him.

Henceforth life had a different goal, a nobler aim, a tenderer and
more precious hope; and all the energy of his vigorous character was
bent to the fulfilment of the beautiful dream that one day that young
girl would bear his name, grace his princely home, and nestle in his
heart.

He did not ask, Can that fair, graceful, gifted young thing ever love
a gray-haired man, old enough to call her his daughter? Nay, nay!
Common sense was utterly dethroned and expelled,--romance usurped the
realm, and draped the future with rainbows; and he only set his teeth
firmly against each other, and said to his bounding heart and blinded
soul, "Patience, ye shall soon possess her!"

To Paris, Lyons, Naples, he had followed her, and finally secured a
villa at Palermo, where Prof. V---- had established himself and his
household in a comfortable suite of rooms.

To-day, as he left his sister and approached the house where the
professor dwelt, his countenance was moody and forbidding, but its
expression changed rapidly, as he caught a glimpse of the white muslin
dress that fluttered in the evening wind.

Salome was swiftly pacing the wide terrace that commanded a view of
the Mediterranean, and her hands were clasped behind her, as was her
habit when immersed in thought.

Over her head she had thrown a white gauze scarf of fringed silk,
which, slipping back, displayed the elaborate braids of hair wound
around the head, where a crescent of snowy hyacinths partially
encircled the glossy coil, and drooped upon her neck.

Her face wore a haggard, anxious, restless expression, and the thin
lips had lost their bright coral tint,--the smooth, clear cheeks
something of their rounded perfection.

As Mr. Minge came forward, she paused in her walk and leaned against
the marble railing of the terrace, where a lemon tree, white with
bloom, overhung the mosaiced floor and powdered it with velvety
petals.

He held out his hand.

"I hope I find you better?"

"Do I look so, think you?" said she, eyeing him impatiently, and
keeping her hands folded behind her.

"Unfortunately, no; and if I possessed the right I have more than once
solicited, other physicians should be consulted. Why will you tamper
with so serious a matter, and unnecessarily augment the anxiety of
those who love you?"

"I beg you to believe that my self-love is infinitely stronger than
any other with which I am honored, and prompts me to all possible
prudential precautions. Three doctors have already annoyed me with
worthless prescriptions, and this morning I paid their bills and
dismissed them; whereupon, one of them revenged himself by maliciously
informing me that I should not be able to sing a note for one year at
least."

"To what do they attribute the disease?"

"To that attack of scarlet fever, and also to the too frequent and
severe cauterization of my throat. Time was when like other fond
fools, I fancied Fate was not the hideous hag that wiser heads had
painted her, but an affable old dame, easily cajoled and propitiated.
With Carthaginian gratitude she repays my complimentary opinion by
trampling my hopes and aims as I crush these petals, which yield
perfume to their spoiler, while I could--"

She put her foot upon the drifting lemon blossoms, and bit her lip to
keep back the bitter words that trembled on her tongue.

"Come and sit here on the steps, and confide your plans to one whose
every scheme shall be subordinated to your wishes, your happiness."

Mr. Minge attempted to take her hand, but she drew back and repulsed
him.

"Excuse me. I prefer to remain where I am; and when I am so fortunate
and sagacious as to mature any plans, I shall be sure to lock them in
my own heart beyond the tender mercies of meddling, marplot fortune."

Her whole face grew dark, sinister, almost dangerous in its sudden
transformation, and, leaning against the railing, she impatiently
swept off the snowy lemon leaves. Mr. Minge took the end of her scarf,
and as he toyed with the fringe, sighed heavily.

"Of course you are forced to abandon your contemplated _début_ in
Paris?"

"Yes. A _début_ minus a voice, does not tempt me. Ah! how bright the
future looked when I sang for the agent of the Opera-House, and found
myself engaged for the season. How changed, how cheerless all things
seem now."

"Salome, fate is Janus-faced, and while frowning on you smiles
benignantly on me. I joyfully hail every obstacle that bars your path,
hoping that, weary of useless resistance, you will consent to walk in
the flowery one I have offered you. My beautiful darling, why will you
refuse the--"

"Silence! I am in no mood to listen to a repetition of sentiments
which, however flattering to my vanity, have no power to touch my
heart. Mr. Minge, I have twice declined the offer you have done me the
honor to make; and while proud of your preference, my Saxon is not so
ambiguous or redundant as to leave any margin for misconception of my
meaning."

"My dear Salome, I fear your decision has been influenced by the
consciousness that my poor, petted Constance has occasionally
neglected the courtesies which you had a right to claim from the
sister of the man who seeks to make you his wife."

"No, sir; your sister's sneers, and the petty slights and persecutions
for which I am indebted to her friend, Miss Sutherland, have not
sufficient importance to affect me in any degree. My decision is
based upon the unfortunate fact that I do not love you."

"No woman can withstand such devotion as I bring you, and time would
soon soften and deepen your feelings."

"Sir, you unduly flatter yourself. Neither time nor eternity would
change me, and you would do well to remember that it is my voice,
sir,--not my hand and heart,--that I offer for sale."

"Your stubborn rejection is explicable only by the supposition that
you have deceived me,--that you have already bartered away the heart I
long to call my own."

"I am a miller's child,--you a millionaire, but permit me to remind
you that I allow no imputation on my veracity. Why should I condescend
to deceive you?"

She petulantly snatched her scarf from the fingers that still stroked
it caressingly; but an instant later a singular change swept over her
countenance, and pressing her hands to her heart, she said in a proud,
almost exultant tone,--

"Although I deny your right to question me upon this subject, you are
thoroughly welcome to know that I love one man so entirely, so
deathlessly, that the bare thought of marrying any one else sickens my
soul."

Mr. Minge turned pale, and grasped the carved balustrade against which
he rested.

"O Salome! you have trifled."

"No, sir. Take that back. I never stoop to trifling; and the curse of
my life has been my almost fatal earnestness of purpose. If I ever
deliberated one moment concerning the expediency of clothing myself
first with your aristocratic name, afterwards with satin, velvet, and
diamonds,--if I ever silenced the outcry of my heart long enough to
ask myself whether _gilded misery_ was not the least torturing type of
the epidemic wretchedness,--at least I kept my parley with Mammon to
myself; and if you obstinately cherished hopes of final success, they
sprang from your vanity, not my dissimulation. Mark you, I here set up
no claim to sanctity,--for indeed my sins are 'thick as leaves in
Vallombrosa'; but my pedigree does not happen to link me with
Sapphira, and deceit is not charged to me in the real Doomsday Book.
Theft would be more possible for me than falsehood, for while both are
labelled 'wicked,' I could never dwarf and shrivel my soul by the
cowardly process of mendacity. Mr. Minge, had I been a trifle less
honest and true than I find myself, I might have impaired my
self-respect by trifling."

"Forgive me, Salome, if the pain I endure rendered me harsh or unjust.
My dearest, I did not intend to wound you, but indeed you are cruel
sometimes."

"Yes; truth is the most savagely cruel of all rude, jagged weapons,
and leaves ugly gashes and quivering nerves exposed, and these are the
hurts that never cicatrize--that gape and bleed while the heart throbs
to feed them."

"Tell me candidly whether the heart I covet belongs to that Mr.
Granville, who paid you such devoted attention in Paris."

A short, scornful, mirthless laugh rang sharply on the air, and
turning quickly, Salome exclaimed contemptuously,--

"I said I loved a man,--a true, honest, brave, noble man,--not that
perfumed, unprincipled, vain, foppish automaton, who adorns a corner
of the diplomatic apartment where _attachés_ of the American embassy
'most do congregate'! Gerard Granville is unworthy of any woman's
affection, for maugre the indisputable fact that he is betrothed to a
fond, trusting girl, now in the United States, he had the effrontery
to attempt to offer his addresses to me. If an honest man be the
noblest work of God, then, beyond all peradventure, the disgrace of
creation is centred in an unscrupulous one, such as I have the honor
to pronounce Mr. Granville."

Seizing her hands, Mr. Minge carried them forcibly to his lips, and
said, in a voice that faltered from intensity of feeling,--

"Is it the hope that your love is reciprocated which bars your heart
so sternly against my pleadings? Spare me no pangs,--tell me all."

She freed her fingers from his grasp, and retreating a few steps,
answered with a passionate mournfulness which he never forgot,--

"If I were dowered with that precious hope, not all the crown jewels
in Christendom and Heathendom could purchase it. Not the proudest
throne on that continent of empires that lies yonder to the north,
could woo me one hour from the only kingdom where I could happily
reign,--the heart of the man I love. No--no--no! That hope is as
distant as the first star up there above us, which has rent the blue
veil of heaven to gaze pityingly at me; and I would as soon expect to
catch that silver sparkle and fold it in my arms as dream that my
affection could ever be returned. The only man I shall ever love could
not bend his noble, regal nature to the level of mine, and towers
beyond me, a pinnacle of unapproachable purity and perfection. Ah,
indeed, he is one of those concerning whom it has been grandly said:
'_The truly great stand upright as columns of the temple whose dome
covers all,--against whose pillared sides multitudes lean, at whose
base they kneel in times of trouble._' Mr. Minge, it is despair that
crouches at my heart, not hope that shuts its portals against your
earnest petition; for a barrier wider, deeper than a hundred oceans
divides me from my idol, who loves, and ere this, is the husband of
another."

She did not observe the glow that once more mantled his cheek, and
fired his eyes, until he exclaimed with unusual fervor,--

"Thank God! That fact is freighted with priceless comfort."

Compassion and contempt seemed struggling for mastery, as she waved
him from her, and answered, impatiently,--

"Think you that any other need hope to usurp my monarch's place,--that
one inferior dare expect to wield his sceptre over my heart? Pardon
me,--

  'If there were not an eagle in the realm of birds,
  Must then the owl be king among the feathered herds?'

Some day a gentler spirit than mine will fill your home with music,
and your heart with peace and sunshine; and, in that hour, thank
honest Salome Owen for the blessings you owe to her candor. I must bid
you good-night."

She drew the scarf closer about her head and throat, and turned to
leave the terrace.

"Will you not allow me to drive you to-morrow afternoon on the Marino?
Do not refuse me this innocent and inexpressibly valued privilege. I
will not be denied! Good-night, my--Heaven shield you, my worshipped
one! Hush!--I will hear no refusal."

He stooped, kissed the folds of the scarf that covered her head, and
hurried down the steps of the terrace.

The glory of a Sicilian sunset bathed the face and figure that stood a
moment under the lemon-boughs, watching the retreating form which soon
disappeared behind clustering pomegranate, olive, and palm; and a
tender compassion looked out of the large hazel eyes, and sat on the
sad lips that murmured,--

"God help you, Merton Minge, to strangle the viper that coils in your
heart, and gnaws its core. My own is a serpent's lair, and I pity the
pangs that rend yours also. But after a little while, your viper will
find a file,--mine, alas! not until death arrests the slow torture.
To-morrow afternoon I shall be--where? Only God knows."

She shivered slightly, and raised her beautiful eyes towards the west,
where golden gleams and violet shadows were battling for possession of
a reef of cloud islets, which dotted the azure upper sea of air, and
were reflected in the watery one beneath.

"Courage! courage!

  'Those who have nothing left to hope,
  Have nothing left to dread.'"



CHAPTER XXIX.


"Muriel, where can I find Miss Dexter?"

"She went out on the lawn an hour ago, to regale herself with what she
calls, 'atmospheric hippocrene,' and I have not heard her come in,
though she may have gone to her room. Pray tell me, doctor, why you
wish to see my governess?--to inquire concerning my numerous
peccadilloes?"

Muriel adroitly folded her embroidered silk apron over a package of
letters that lay in her lap, and affected an air of gayety at variance
with her dim eyes and wet lashes.

"I shall believe that conscience accuses you of many juvenile
improprieties, since you so suspiciously attack my motives and
intentions. Indeed, little one, you flatter yourself unduly, in
imagining that my interview with Miss Dexter necessarily involves the
discussion of her pupil. I merely wish to enlist her sympathy in
behalf of one of my patients. Muriel, I would have been much more
gratified if I had found you walking with her, instead of moping here
alone."

"I am not moping."

The girl bit her full red lip, and strove to force back the rapidly
gathering tears.

"At least you are not cheerful, and it pains me to see that anxious,
dissatisfied expression on a face that should reflect only sunshine.
What disturbs you?--the scarcity of Gerard's letters?"

Dr. Grey sat down beside his ward, and throwing her arms around his
neck, she burst into a passionate flood of tears. The sudden movement
uncovered the letters, which slipped down and strewed the carpet.

"Oh, doctor! I am very miserable!"

"Why, my dear child?"

"Because Gerard does not love me as formerly."

"What reason have you for doubting his affection?"

"He scarcely writes to me once a month, and then his letters are short
and cold as icicles, and full of court gossip and fashion items, for
which he knows I do not care a straw. Yesterday I received one,--the
first I have had for three weeks,--and he requests me to defer our
marriage at least six months longer, as he cannot possibly come over
in May, the time appointed when he was here."

She hid her face on her guardian's shoulder, and sobbed.

An expression of painful surprise and stern displeasure clouded Dr.
Grey's countenance, as he smoothed the hair away from the girl's
throbbing temples.

"Calm yourself, Muriel. If Gerard has forfeited your confidence, he is
unworthy of your tears. Do you apprehend that his indifference is
merely the result of separation, or have you any cause to attribute it
to interest in some other person?"

"That is a question I cannot answer."

"Cannot, or will not?"

"I know nothing positively; but I fear something, which perhaps I
ought not to mention."

"Throw aside all hesitancy, and talk freely to me. If Granville is
either fickle or dishonorable, you should rejoice that the discovery
has been made in time to save you from life-long wretchedness."

"If we were only married, I am sure I could win him back to me."

"That is a fatal fallacy, that has wrecked the happiness of many
women. If a lover grows indifferent, as a husband he will be cold,
unkind, unendurable. If as a devoted fiancée you can not retain and
strengthen his affection,--as a wife you would weary and repel him.
Have you answered the last letter?"

"No, sir."

"My dear child, do you not consider me your best friend?"

"Certainly I do."

"Then yield to my guidance, and follow my advice. Lose no time in
writing to Mr. Granville, and cancel your engagement. Tell him he is
free."

"Oh, then I should lose him,--and happiness, forever!" wailed Muriel,
clasping her hands almost despairingly.

"You have already lost his heart, and should be unwilling to retain
him in fetters that must be galling."

"Ah, Dr. Grey! it is very easy for you who never loved any one, to
tell me, in that cold, business-like way, that I ought to set Gerard
free; but you cannot realize what it costs to follow your counsel. Of
course I know that in everything else you are much wiser than I, but
persons who have no love affairs of their own are not the best judges
of other people's. He is so dear to me, I believe it would kill me to
give him up, and see him no more."

"On the contrary, you would survive much greater misfortune than
separation from a man who is unworthy of you. I cannot coerce, but
simply counsel you in this matter, and should be glad to learn what
your own decision is. Do you intend to wait until Gerard Granville
explicitly requests you to release him from his engagement?"

She winced, and the tears gushed anew.

"Oh, you are cruel! You are heartless!"

"No, my dear Muriel; I am actuated by the truest affection for my
little ward, and desire to snatch her from future humiliation. My
knowledge of human nature is more extended, more profound than yours,
but since you seem unwilling to avail yourself of my experience, it
only remains for you to acquaint me with your determination. Are you
willing to tell me the nature of your answer?"

"I intend to accede to Gerard's wish, and will defer the marriage
until November; but in the meantime, I shall endeavor to win back his
heart, which I believe has been artfully enticed from me."

"By whom?"

She made no reply, and lifting her head from his shoulder, Dr. Grey
looked keenly into her face, and repeated his question.

"Do not urge me to express suspicions that may possibly be unjust."

"That are entirely unjust, you may rest assured," said he, almost
vehemently.

"By what means did you so positively ascertain that fact?"

"The result will prove. Now, my dear child, you must acquit me of
heartlessness and cruelty when I tell you, that, under existing
circumstances, I cannot and will not consent to the solemnization of
your marriage until you are of age. Once the conviction that an
earlier consummation of your engagement was essential to the happiness
of both parties, overruled the dictates of my judgment, and induced me
to acquiesce in your wishes; but subsequent events have illustrated
the wisdom of my former opposition, and now I am resolved that no
argument or persuasion shall prevail upon me to sanction or permit
your marriage until you are twenty-one."

With a sharp cry of chagrin and amazement, Muriel sprang to her feet.

"You surely do not mean to keep me in this torture, for nearly three
years? I will not submit to such tyranny, even from Dr. Grey."

"As a faithful guardian, I can see no alternative, and fear of
incurring your displeasure shall not deter me from the performance of
a stern duty to the child of my best and dearest friend. I must and
will do what your father certainly would, were he alive. My dear
Muriel, control yourself, and do not, by harsh epithets and unjust
accusations, wound the heart that sincerely loves you. To-day, as your
guardian, I hearken to the imperative dictates of my conscience, and
turn a deaf ear to the pleadings of my tender affection, which would
save you from even momentary sorrow and disappointment. Since my
decision is irrevocable, do not render the execution of my purpose
more painful than necessity demands."

Seizing his hand, Muriel pressed it against her flushed cheek, and
pleaded falteringly,--

"Do not doom your poor little Muriel to such misery. Oh, Dr. Grey!
dear Dr. Grey, remember you promised my dying father to take his
place,--and he would never inflict such suffering on his child. You
have forgotten your promise!"

"No, dear child. It is because I hold it so sacred that I cannot yield
to your entreaties; and I must faithfully adhere to my obligations,
even though I forfeit your affection. I shall write to Mr. Granville
by the next mail, and it is my wish that henceforth the subject should
not be referred to. Cheer up, my child; three years will soon glide
away, and at the expiration of that time you will thank me for the
firmness which you now denounce as cruelty. Good-morning. Be sure to
think kindly of your guardian, whose heart is quite as sad as your
own."

She struggled and resisted, but he kissed her lightly on the
forehead, and as he left the room heard her bitter invectives against
his tyranny and hard-heartedness.

Crossing the elm-studded lawn, he approached a secluded walk, bordered
with lilacs and myrtle, and saw the figure of the governess pacing to
and fro.

During the four months that had elapsed since his last visit to
"Solitude," he scrutinized and studied her character more closely than
formerly, and the investigation only heightened and intensified his
esteem.

No hint of her history had ever passed the calm, patient lips, which
had forgotten how to laugh, and now, as he watched her pale,
melancholy face, which bore traces of extraordinary beauty, he
exonerated her from all blame in the ruinous deception that had
blasted more lives than one; and honored the silent heroism which so
securely locked her disappointment in her own heart. He knew that
consumption was the hereditary scourge of her family, that she bore in
her constitution the seeds of slowly but surely developing disease,
and did not marvel at the quiet indifference with which she treated
symptoms which he had several times pointed out as serious and
dangerous.

To-day her manner was excited, and her step betrayed very unusual
impatience.

"Miss Dexter, from the frequency of your cough I am afraid you are
imprudent in selecting this walk, which is so densely shaded that the
sun does not reach it until nearly noon. Are not your feet damp?"

"No, sir; my shoes are thick, and thoroughly protect them."

She paused before him, and, in her soft, brown eyes, he saw a strange,
unwonted restlessness,--an eager expectancy that surprised and
disturbed him.

"Are you at leisure this morning?"

"Do you need my services immediately?"

She answered evasively; and he noticed that she glanced anxiously
toward the road leading into town.

"You will greatly oblige me, if some time during the day, you will be
so good as to superintend the preparation of some calves'-feet jelly,
for one of my poor patients. I would not trouble you, but Rachel is
quite sick, and the new cook does not understand the process. May I
depend upon you?"

"Certainly, sir; it will afford me pleasure to prepare the jelly."

Looking more closely at her face, he saw undeniable traces of recent
tears, and drew her arm through his.

"I hope you will not deem me impertinently curious if I beg you to
honor me with your confidence, and explain the anxiety which is
evidently preying upon your mind."

Embarrassment flushed her transparent cheek, and her shy eyes glanced
up uneasily.

"At least, Miss Dexter, permit me to ask whether Muriel is connected
with the cause of your disquiet?"

"My pupil is, I fear, very unhappy; but she withholds much from me
since she learned my disapproval of her approaching marriage."

"Will you acquaint me with your objections to Mr. Granville?"

"Against Mr. Granville, the gentleman, I have nothing to urge; but I
could not consent to see Muriel wed a man, who, I am convinced, has no
affection for her."

"Have you told her this?"

"Repeatedly; and, of course, my frankness has offended and alienated
her. Oh, Dr. Grey! the child totters on the brink of a flower-veiled
precipice, and will heed no warning. Perhaps I should libel Mr.
Granville were I to impute mercenary motives to him,--perhaps he
fancied he loved Muriel when he addressed her,--I hope so, for the
honor of manhood; but the glamour was brief, and certainly he must be
aware that he has not proper affection for her now."

"And yet, she is very lovable and winning."

"Yes,--to you and to me; but her good qualities are not those which
gentlemen find most attractive. What is Christian purity and noble
generosity of soul, in comparison with physical perfection? Muriel
often reminds me of one whom I loved devotedly, whose unselfish and
unsuspicious nature wrought the ruin of her happiness; and from her
miserable fate I would fain save my pupil."

He knew from the tremor of her lips and hands, and the momentary
contraction of her fair brow, to whom she alluded; and both sighed
audibly.

"My convictions coincide so entirely with yours, that I have had an
interview with my ward, and withdrawn my consent to her marriage until
she is of age."

"Thank God! In the interim she may grow wiser, or some fortuitous
occurrence may avert the danger we dread."

In the brief silence that ensued, the governess seemed debating the
expediency of making some revelation; and, encountering one of her
perplexed and scrutinizing glances, the doctor smiled and said,
gravely,--

"I believe I understand your hesitancy; but I assure you I should
never forfeit any trust you might repose in me. You have some cause of
serious annoyance, entirely irrespective of my ward, and I may be
instrumental in removing it."

"Thank you, Dr. Grey. For some days I have been canvassing the
propriety of asking your advice and assistance; and my reluctance
arose not from want of confidence in you, but from dread of the pain
it would necessarily inflict upon me, to recur to events long buried.
It is not essential, however, that I should weary you with the minutiæ
of circumstances which many years ago smothered the sunshine in my
life, and left me in darkness, a lonely and joyless woman. I have
resided here long enough to learn the noble generosity of your
character, and to you, as a true Christian gentleman, I come for
aid,--premising only that what I am about to say is strictly
confidential."

"As such, I shall ever regard it; but if I am to become your coajutor
in any matter, let me request that nothing be kept secret, for only
entire frankness should exist between those who have a common aim."

A painful flush tinged her cheek, and the fair, thin face, grew
indescribably mournful, as she clasped her hands firmly over his arm.

"Dr. Grey, when unscrupulous men or women deliberately stab the
happiness of a fellow-creature, they have no wounded sensibilities, no
haunting compunction,--and if remorse finally overtakes, it finds them
well-nigh callous and indurated; but woe to that innocent being who is
the unintentional and unconscious agent for the ruin of those she
loves. I cannot remember the time when I did not love the only man for
whom I ever entertained any affection. He was the playmate of my
earliest years,--the betrothed of my young maidenhood,--and just
before my poor father died, he joined our hands and left his blessing
on my choice. Poverty was the only barrier to our union, but I took a
situation as teacher, and hoarded my small gains in the hope of aiding
my lover, who went abroad with a wealthy uncle, and completed his
education in Germany. I knew that Maurice had contracted very
extravagant and self-indulgent habits,--but in the court of love is
there any 'high crime' or misdemeanor for which a woman's heart will
condemn her idol? Nay, nay; she will plead his defence against the
stern evidence of her own incorruptible reason; and, if need be, share
his punishment,--die in his stead. I denied myself every luxury, and
jealously husbanded my small salary, anticipating the happy hour when
we might invest it in furniture for our little home; and, indeed, in
those blessed days of hope, it seemed no hardship,--

  'And joy was duty, and love was law.'

From time to time our marriage was deferred, but I well knew I was
beloved, and so I waited patiently, until fortune should smile upon
me. In the interim I became warmly attached to a young girl in the
school where I taught, and whose affection for me was enthusiastic and
ardent. Evelyn was an orphan, and the heiress of enormous wealth,
which she seemed resolved to share with me; and, more than once, I was
tempted to acquaint her with the obstacle that debarred me from
happiness. Ah! if I had only confided in her, and trusted her faithful
love, how much wretchedness would have been averted! But she appeared
to me such an impulsive child that I shrank from unburdening my heart
to her, while she acquainted me with every thought and aim of her
pure, guileless life. She was singularly, almost idolatrously fond of
me, and I loved her very sincerely, for her character was certainly
the most admirable I have ever met.

"At vacation we parted for three months, and I hurried to meet my
lover, who had promised to join me in Vermont, where my mother had
gone to recruit her failing health. For the first time Maurice proved
recreant, and wrote that imperative business detained him in New York.
Did I doubt him, even then? Not in the least; but endeavored by
cheerful letters to show him how patiently I could bear the separation
that might result in pecuniary advantage to him. My mother looked
anxious, and foreboded ill; but I laughed at her misgivings, and
proudly silenced her warning voice. In the midst of my blissful dream
came a lengthy telegraphic dispatch from my young girl-friend Evelyn,
inviting me to hasten to New York, and accompany her on a bridal tour
through Europe. In a brief and almost incoherent note, subsequently
received, she accidentally omitted the name of her future husband, and
designated him as 'my prince,' 'my king,' 'my liege lover.' The same
mail brought me a long and exceedingly tender letter from my own
betrothed, informing me that at the expiration of ten days he would
certainly be with me to arrange for an immediate consummation of our
engagement. A railroad accident delayed me twenty-four hours, and I
did not reach New York until the morning of the day on which my friend
was married. The ceremony took place at ten o'clock, and when I
arrived, Evelyn was already in the hands of the hair-dresser. I was
hurried into the room prepared for me, and while waiting for my trunk,
noticed a basket containing some of the wedding cards. I picked up
one, and you can perhaps imagine my emotions, when I saw that my own
lover was the betrothed of my friend. Dr. Grey, eight miserable years
have gone wearily over my head since then, but now, in the dead of
night, if I shut my eyes, I see staring at me, like the rayless,
glazed orbs of the dead, that silver-edged wedding card, bearing in
silver letters--Maurice Carlyle, Evelyn Flewellyn. Oh, blacker than
ten thousand death-warrants! for all the hopes of a lifetime went down
before it. Every ray of earthly light was extinguished in a night of
woe that can have no dawn, until the day-star of eternity shimmers on
its gloom."

She shuddered convulsively, and the agonized expression of her face
was so painful to behold that her companion averted his head.

"I was alone with my misery, and so overwhelming was the shock that I
fainted. When the hair-dresser came to offer her services, she found
me lying insensible on the carpet. How bitterly, how unavailingly,
have I reproached myself for my failure to hasten to Evelyn, even
then, and divulge all. But with returning consciousness came womanly
pride, and I resolved to hide the anguish for which I knew there was
no cure. As soon as I was dressed, we were summoned down stairs to
meet the remainder of the bridal party, and there I saw the man whom I
expected to call my husband talking gayly with his attendants.

"Evelyn impetuously presented me as her 'dearest friend,' and,
without raising his eyes, he bowed profoundly and turned away. How I
endured all I was called to witness that morning, I know not; but
my strength seemed superhuman. The ceremony was performed in
church, and after our return to the house, Mr. Carlyle asserted and
claimed the right to kiss the bridesmaids. There were four, and I was
the last whom he approached. I was standing in the shadow of the
window-curtain, which I had clutched for support, and, as he came
close to me, our eyes met for the first time that day, and I can
never, never forget the pleading mournfulness, the passionate
tenderness, the despair, that filled his. I waved him from me, but
he seized my hand, and pressed his hot lips lingeringly to mine.
Then he whispered, 'My only love, my own Edith, do not judge till you
hear your wretched Maurice. Meet me in the hot-house when Evelyn
goes to change her dress, and I will explain this awful, this
accursed necessity.' A few moments later he stood with his bride at
the head of the table in the breakfast-room, while I was placed
close to Evelyn, and the mirror opposite reflected the group. I know
now it was sinful, but, oh! how could I help it? As I looked at
the reflection in the glass, and compared my face with that of the
bride, I felt my poor wicked heart throb with triumph at the
thought that my superior beauty could not soon be forgotten,--that,
though her husband, he was still my lover. Dr. Grey, do not despise me
for my weakness, as I should have despised him for his perfidy; and
remember that a woman cannot in a moment renounce allegiance to a man
who is the one love of her life. They forced me to drink some wine
that fired my brain and made me reckless, and an hour after, when
Maurice came up and offered his arm, inviting me to promenade for a
few minutes in the hot-house, I yielded and accompanied him. He told
me a tale of dishonorable financial transactions, into which he had
been betrayed solely by the hope of obtaining money that would enable
him to hasten our union; but the utter failure of the scheme
threatened him with disgrace, possibly with imprisonment, and the
only mode of preserving his name from infamy, was to possess
himself of Evelyn's large fortune. Just as he clasped me in his
arms, and vehemently declared his deathless affection for me,--his
contempt and hatred of his poor childish bride,--I heard a strange
sound that was neither a wail nor a laugh, a sound unlike any other
that ever smote my ears, and looking up, I saw Evelyn standing before
us."

Miss Dexter groaned aloud, and covered her eyes with her hand.

"Oh, my God! help me to shut out that horrible vision! If I could
forget that distorted, death-like face, with livid lips writhing away
from the gleaming teeth, and desperate, wide eyes, glaring like globes
of flame! She looked twenty years older, and from her clenched
hands,--her beautiful, exquisite hands,--that were wont to caress me
so tenderly, the blood was dripping down on her lace veil and her
white velvet bridal dress. How much she heard I know not, for I never
saw her again. I swooned in Maurice's arms, and was carried to my own
room; and when I finally groped my way to Evelyn's apartment, they
told me she had been gone two hours,--had sailed for Europe, leaving
her husband in New York. What passed in her farewell interview with
him none but he and her lawyer knew; but they separated there on
condition that his debts were cancelled. She went abroad with a
faithful old Scotch woman who had been her nurse, and her husband told
the world she was a maniac."

"Did he tell you so? Did you believe it?" exclaimed Dr. Grey, with a
degree of vehemence that startled the governess.

"I have never seen Maurice Carlyle since that awful hour in the
hot-house. He came repeatedly to my home, but I refused to meet him,
and dozens of his letters have been returned unopened. Once, while I
was absent, he obtained an interview with my mother, and besought her
intercession in his behalf, pleading for my pardon, and assuring her
that, as his wife was hopelessly insane, he would apply for a divorce,
and then claim the hand of the only woman he had ever loved. I dreaded
the effect upon Evelyn, and had no means of ascertaining her real
condition. Soon after, I lost my mother, whose death was hastened by
grief and humiliation; and, when I had laid her down beside my father,
I went in search of Evelyn. Several times I had attempted to
communicate with her, and with Elsie, the nurse, but my letters always
came back unopened, and bearing the London stamp. Having been informed
that she was in an insane asylum in England, I took the money that had
been so carefully hoarded for a different purpose and went to London.
One by one, I searched all the asylums in the United Kingdom, and
finding no trace of her, came back to America. Finally, on the
death-bed of Mr. Clayton, her lawyer, who understood my great anxiety
to discover her, I was told in strict confidence that she was
perfectly sane,--had never been otherwise,--but preferred that the
false report in circulation should not be corrected, since her husband
had set it in motion. I learned that she was well and pleasantly
located somewhere in the East, but would never see the faces of either
friends or foes, and absolutely refused all intercourse with her race.
From one of her letters (which, a moment after, he burned in the
grate) Mr. Clayton read me a paragraph: '_The greatest mercy you can
show me is to allow me to forget. Henceforth mention no more the names
of any I ever knew; and let silence, like a pall, shroud all the past
of Vashti._' He died next day, and since then--"

The sad, sweet voice, which for some moments had been growing more and
more unsteady, here sank into a sob, and the governess wept freely,
while her whole frame shook with the violence of long-pent anguish,
that now defied control.

"Oh, if I could find her! If I could go to her and tell her all, and
exonerate myself! If I could show her that he was mine always,--mine
long before she ever saw him,--then she would not think so harshly of
me. I know not what explanation Maurice gave her, nor how much of our
conversation she overheard; and I cannot live contentedly,--oh! I
cannot die in peace till I see my poor crushed darling, and hear from
her lips the assurance that she does not hold me responsible for her
wretchedness. Dr. Grey, I love her with a pitying tenderness that
transcends all power of expression. Perhaps if Maurice had ever loved
her, I could not feel as I do towards her; for a woman's nature
tolerates no rival in the affection of her lover, and, unprincipled as
mine proved in other respects, I know that his heart was always
unswervingly my own. My dear, noble Evelyn! My pure, loving little
darling! Ah! I have wearied heaven with prayers that God would give
her back to my arms."

Unable to conceal the emotion he was unwilling she should witness, Dr.
Grey disengaged his arm and walked away, striving to regain his usual
composure.

Did the governess suspect the proximity of her long-lost friend? If
she claimed his assistance in prosecuting her search, what course
would duty dictate?

Retracing his steps, he found that she had seated herself on a bench
near one of the tallest lilacs, and having thrown aside her quilted
hood of scarlet silk, her care-worn countenance was fully exposed.

She was gazing very intently at some object in her hand, which she
bent over and kissed several times, and did not perceive his approach
until he stood beside her.

"Dr. Grey, I believe my prayer has been heard, and that at last I have
discovered a clew to the retreat of my lost Evelyn. Last week I went
to a jewelry store in town, to buy a locket which I intended as a
birthday gift for Muriel. Several customers had preceded me, and while
waiting, my attention was attracted towards one of the workmen who
uttered an impatient ejaculation and dashed down some article upon
which he was at work. As it fell, I saw that it was an oval ivory
miniature, originally surrounded with very large handsome pearls, the
greater portion of which the jeweller had removed and placed in a
small glass bowl that stood near him. I leaned down to examine the
miniature, and though the paint was blurred and faded, it was
impossible to mistake the likeness, and you cannot realize the thrill
that ran along my nerves as I recognized the portrait of Evelyn. So
great was my astonishment and delight that I must have cried out, for
the people in the store all turned and stared at me, and when I
snatched the piece of ivory from the work-table, the man looked at me
in amazement. Very incoherently I demanded where and how he obtained
it, and, beckoning to the proprietor, he said, 'Just as I told you;
this has turned out stolen property.' Then he opened a drawer and took
from it a similar oval slab of ivory, and when I looked at it and saw
Maurice's handsome face, my brain reeled, and I grew so dizzy I almost
fell. 'Madam, do you know these portraits?' asked the proprietor.

"I told him that I did,--that I had seen these jewelled miniatures
eight years before on the dressing-table of a bride, and I implored
him to tell me how they came into his possession. He fitted them into
a dingy, worn case, which seemed to have been composed of purple
velvet, and informed me that he purchased the whole from an Irish lad,
who asserted that he picked it up on the beach, where it had evidently
drifted in a high tide. On examination, he found that the case had
indeed been saturated with sea-water, but the pearls were in such a
remarkable state of preservation that he doubted the lad's statement.
He had bought the miniatures in order to secure the pearls, which he
assured me were unusually fine, and to satisfy himself concerning the
affair had advertised two ivory miniatures, and invited the owners to
come forward and prove property. After the expiration of a week, he
discontinued the notice, and finally ordered the pearls removed from
their gold frames. When I had given him the names of the originals, he
consented that I should take the portraits which were now worthless to
him, and gave me also the name of the boy. It was not until two days
afterward that I succeeded in finding Thomas Donovan, a lad about
fourteen years old, whose mother Phoebe is a laundress, and does up
laces and fine muslins. When I called and stated the object of my
visit he seemed much confused, but sullenly repeated the assertion
made to the jeweller. Yesterday I went again and had a long
conversation with his mother, who must be an honest soul, for she
assured me she knew nothing of the matter, and would investigate it
immediately. The boy was absent, but she promised either to send him
here this morning or come in person, to acquaint me with the result. I
offered a reward if he would confess where he obtained them; and if he
proved obstinate, threatened to have him arrested. Now, Dr. Grey, you
can understand why I have so tediously made a full revelation of my
past, for I wish to enlist your sympathy and claim your aid in my
search for my long-lost friend. These portraits inadequately represent
the fascinating beauty of one of the originals, and the sweetness and
almost angelic purity of the other."

She held up the somewhat defaced and faded miniatures for the
inspection of her companion, but scarcely glancing at them, he said,
abstractedly,--

"You are sure they belong to Mrs. Carlyle?"

"Yes. As she put on her diamonds just before going down stairs she
showed me the portraits in her jewelry casket, where she had also
placed a similar one of myself. Ah! at this instant I seem to see her
beaming face, as she bent down, and sweeping her veil aside, kissed my
picture and Maurice's."

"Do you imagine that she is in America?"

"No; I fear she is dead, and that these were stolen from the old
nurse. Who is that yonder? Ah, yes,--Phoebe Donovan. Now I shall hear
the truth."

Forgetting her shawl, and unmindful of the fact that the sun was
streaming full on her head and face, she hurried to meet the woman who
was ascending the avenue, and very soon they entered the house.

A quarter of an hour elapsed ere Phoebe came out, and walked rapidly
away; and, unwilling to prolong his suspense, Dr. Grey went in search
of the governess.

He met her in the hall, and saw that she was equipped for a walk. Her
cheeks were scarlet, her brown eyes all aglow with eager expectation,
and her lips twitched, as she exclaimed,--

"Oh, doctor, I hope everything; for I learn that the pictures were
found on the lawn at 'Solitude,' where Phoebe was once hired as cook;
and she recognized the case as the same she had one day seen on a
writing-desk in the parlor. The boy confessed that he picked it up
from the grass, and, after taking out the contents, soaked the case in
a bucket of salt-water. Phoebe says the pictures belong to Mrs.
Gerome, the gray-headed woman who owns that place on the beach, and I
am almost tempted to believe she is Elsie, who may have married again.
At all events, I shall soon know where she obtained the portraits."

"You are not going to 'Solitude'?"

"Yes, immediately. I cannot rest till I have learned all. God grant I
may not be mocked in my hopes."

The unwonted excitement had kindled a strange beauty in the whilom
passive face, and Dr. Grey could for the first time realize how lovely
she must have been in the happy days of eld.

"Miss Dexter, Mrs. Gerome will not receive you. She sees no visitors,
not even ministers of the gospel."

"She must--she shall--admit me; for I will assure her that life and
death hang upon it."

"How so?"

"If Evelyn is alive, and I can discover her retreat, I will urge her
to go to her husband, who needs her care. You know Mrs. Gerome,--she
is one of your patients. Come with me, and prevail upon her to receive
me."

In her eagerness she laid her hand on his arm, and even then noticed
and wondered at the crimson that suddenly leaped into his olive face.

"Some day I will give you good reasons for refusing your request,
which it is impossible for me to grant. If you are resolved to hazard
the visit, I will take you in my buggy as far as the gate at
'Solitude,' and when you return will confer with you concerning the
result. Just now, I can promise no more."

An expression of disappointment clouded her brow.

"I had hoped that you would sympathize with and be more interested in
my great sorrow."

"Miss Dexter, my interest is more profound, more intense, than you can
imagine, but at this juncture circumstances forbid its expression. My
buggy is at the door."



CHAPTER XXX.


Even at mid-day the grounds around "Solitude" were sombre and chill,
for across the sky the winds had woven a thin, vapory veil, whose
cloud-meshes seemed fine as lacework; and through this gilded netting
the sun looked hazy, the light wan and yellow, and rifled of its
customary noon glitter.

Following one of the serpentine walks, the governess was approaching
the house, when her attention was attracted by the gleaming surface of
a tomb, and she turned towards the pyramidal deodars that were swaying
slowly in the breeze,--

  "Warming their heads in the sun,
  Checkering the grass with their shade,"

and photographing fringy images on the shining marble.

A broad circle of violets, blue with bloom, surrounded a sexangular
temple, whose dome was terminated by a mural crown and surmounted by a
cross. The beautifully polished pillars were fluted, and wreathed
with carved ivy that wound up to the richly-sculptured cornices, where
poppies clustered and tossed their leaves along the architrave; and,
in the centre, visible through all the arches, rose an altar, bearing
two angels with fingers on their lips, who guarded an exquisite urn
that was inscribed "_cor cordium_."

Beneath the eastern arch, that directly fronted the sea, were two
steps leading into the mausoleum, and, as Miss Dexter stood within,
she saw that the floor was arranged with slabs for only two tombs
close to the altar, one side of which bore in golden tracery,--

  "_Elsie Maclean, 68. Amicus Amicorum._"

Around the base of the urn were scattered some fresh geranium-leaves,
and very near it stood a tall, slender, Venetian glass vase filled
with odorous flowers, which had evidently been gathered and arranged
that day.

For whom had the remaining slab and opposite side of the altar been
reserved?

The heart of the governess seemed for a moment to forget its
functions, then a vague hope made it throb fiercely; and rapidly the
anxious woman directed her steps towards the house, that seemed as
silent as the grave behind her.

The hall door had swung partially open, and, dreading that she might
be refused admittance if she rang the bell, she availed herself of the
lucky accident (which in Elsie's lifetime never happened), and entered
unchallenged and unobserved.

From the parlor issued a rather monotonous and suppressed sound, as of
some one reading aloud, and, advancing a few steps, the governess
stood inside the threshold.

The curtains of the south window were looped back, the blinds thrown
open, and the sickly sunshine poured in, lighting the easel, before
which the mistress of the house had drawn an ottoman and seated
herself.

To-day, an air of unwonted negligence marked her appearance, usually
distinguished by extraordinary care and taste.

Her white merino _robe de chambre_ was partially ungirded, and the
blue tassels trailed on the carpet; her luxuriant hair instead of
being braided and classically coiled, was gathered in three or four
large heavy loops, and fastened rather loosely by the massive silver
comb that allowed one long tress to straggle across her shoulder,
while the folds in front slipped low on her temples and forehead.

Intently contemplating her work, she leaned her cheek on her hand, and
only the profile was visible from the door, as she repeated, in a
subdued tone,--

  "I stanch with ice my burning breast,
    With silence balm my whirling brain,
  O Brandan! to this hour of rest,
    That Joppan leper's ease was pain."

The easel held the largest of many pictures, upon which she had
lavished time and study, and her present work was a wide stretch of
mid-ocean, lighted by innumerable stars, and a round glittering polar
moon that swung mid-heaven like a globe of silver, and shed a ghostly
lustre on the raging, ragged waves, above which an Aurora Borealis
lifted its gleaming arch of mysterious white fires.

On the flowery shore of a tropic isle, under clustering boughs of lime
and citron, knelt the venerable figure of Saint Brandan,--and upon a
towering, jagged iceberg, whose crystal cliffs and diamond peaks
glittered with the ghastly radiance reflected from arctic moon and
boreal flames, lay Judas, pressing his hot palms and burning breast to
the frigid bosom of his sailing sapphire berg.

No hideous, scowling, red-haired arch-apostate was this painted
Iscariot,--but a handsome man, whose features were startlingly like
those in the ivory miniature.

It was a wild, dreary, mournful picture, suggestive of melancholy
mediæval myths, and most abnormal phantasms; and would more
appropriately have draped the walls of some flagellating ascetic's
cell, than the luxuriously furnished room that now contained it.

Bending forward to deepen the dark circles which suffering and
remorse had worn beneath the brilliant eyes of the apostle, the lonely
artist added another verse to her quotation,--

  "Once every year, when carols wake
    On earth the Christmas night's repose,
  Arising from the sinner's lake
    I journey to these healing snows."

The motion loosened a delicate white lily pinned at her throat, and it
fell upon the palette, sullying its purity with the dark paint to
which its petals clung. She removed it, looked at its defaced
loveliness, and tossed it aside, saying moodily,--

"Typical of our souls, originally dowered with a stainless and
well-nigh perfect holiness, but drooping dust-ward continually, and
once tainted by the fall,--hugging the corruption that ruined it."

As the governess looked and listened, a half-perplexed, half-frightened
expression passed over her countenance, and at length she advanced to
the arch, and said, tremblingly,--

"Can I have a few moments' conversation with Mrs. Gerome, on important
business?"

"My God! am I verily mad at last? Because I called up Judas, must I
also evoke the partner of his crime?"

With a thrilling, almost blood-curdling cry Mrs. Gerome had leaped to
her feet at the sound of Miss Dexter's voice, and, dropping palette
and brush, confronted her with a look of horror and hate. The quick
and violent movement shook out her comb, and down came the folds of
hair, falling like a silver cataract to her knees.

Bewildered by memories which the face and form recalled, the governess
looked at the shining white locks, and her lips blanched, as she
stammered,--

"Are you Mrs. Gerome?"

Her scarlet hood had fallen back, disclosing her wealth of golden
hair; and gazing at her thin but still lovely features, rouged by a
hectic glow that lent strange beauty to the wide, brown eyes, Mrs.
Gerome answered, huskily,--

"I am the mistress of this house. Who is the woman who has the
audacity to intrude upon my seclusion, and vividly remind me of one
whose hated lineaments have cursed my memory for years? Woman, if I
believed _she_ had the effrontery to thrust herself into my presence,
I should fear that at this instant I am afflicted with the abhorred
sight of Edith Dexter, than whom a legion of devils would be more
welcome!"

The name fell hissingly from her stern mouth, and when she shook back
the hair that drooped over her brow, the gray globe-like eyes
glittered as polished blue steel under some fitful light.

A low, half-stifled cry escaped the governess, and springing forward
she fell on her knees and grasped the white hands that had clutched
each other.

"Evelyn! It must be Evelyn! despite this gray hair and wan,
changed face! and I could never mistake these beautiful, beautiful
hands--unlike any others in the world! Evelyn, my lost darling! oh,
I thank God I have found you before I die!"

She covered the cold fingers with kisses, and pressed her face to a
band of the floating hair; but with a gesture of loathing Mrs. Gerome
broke away, and retreated a few steps.

"How dare you come into my presence? Goaded by a desire to witness the
ruin you helped to accomplish? Your audacity at least astounds me; but
fate decrees you the enjoyment of its reward. Lo! here I am! Behold
the gray shadow of what was once a happy, confiding girl! Behold in
the desolate, lonely woman, who hides her disgrace under the name of
Agla Gerome, that bride of an hour, that Evelyn whose heart you
stabbed! Does the wreck entirely satisfy you? What more could even
fiendish malevolence desire?"

"Evelyn, you wrong me. For mercy's sake do not upbraid and taunt me so
unjustly!"

In vain she held out her hands imploringly, while tears rolled over
her crimsoned cheeks, and sobs impeded her utterance. Mrs. Gerome
laughed bitterly.

"What! I wrong you? Have _you_ gone mad, instead of your victim? Miss
Dexter, you and I can scarcely afford to deal in mock tragedy, and
though you make a pretty picture kneeling there, I have no mind to
paint you yonder, where I put your colleague, Judas. Is it not a good
likeness of your lover, as he looked that memorable day when the broad
banana-leaves overshadowed his handsome head?"

She rapped the canvas with her clenched hand, and continued, in
accents of indescribable scorn,--

"Do you kneel as penitent or petitioner? You come to crave my pardon,
or my husband?"

The governess had bowed her face almost to the carpet, like some
fragile flower borne down by a sudden flood; but now she rose, and,
throwing her head back proudly, answered with firm yet gentle
dignity,--

"Of Mrs. Gerome I crave nothing. Of Evelyn Carlyle I demand justice;
simply bare justice."

"Justice! You are rash, Miss Dexter, to challenge fate; for, were
justice meted out, the burden would prove more intolerable to you than
that King Stork whom Zeus sent down as a Nemesis to quiet clamorous
frogs. Justice, let me tell you, long ago fled from this hostile and
inhospitable earth and took refuge beyond the stars, where, please
God, you and I shall one day confront her and get our long-defrauded
dues. Justice? Nay, nay! the thing I recognize as justice would crush
you utterly, and you should flee to the _Ultima Thule_ to avoid it. I
divine your mission. You come as envoy-extraordinary from my honorable
and chivalric husband, to demand release from the bonds that doom me
to wear his name and you to live without that spotless ægis? Since my
fortune no longer percolates through the sieve of his pocket, and
legal quibbles can not now avail to wring thousands from my purse, he
desires a divorce, in order to remove to your fair wrists the fetters
which have proved more galling to mine than those of iron."

"Evelyn, insult must not be heaped upon injury. As God hears me, I
tell you solemnly that you have seen your husband since I have. Upon
Maurice Carlyle's face I have never looked since that fatal hour when
I last saw yours, ghastly and rigid, against the background of
guava-boughs. From that day until this, I have neither seen, nor
spoken, nor written to him."

"Then why are you here, to torment me with the sight of your face,
which would darken the precincts of heaven, if I met it inside of the
gates of pearl?"

"I have come to exonerate myself from the aspersions that in your
frenzy you have cast upon me. Evelyn, I am here to prove that my
wrongs are greater than yours,--and if either should crave pardon, it
would best become you to sue for it at my hands. But for you, I should
have been a happy wife,--blessed with a devoted husband and fond
mother; and now in my loneliness I stand for vindication before her
who robbed me of every earthly hope, and blotted all light, all
verdure, all beauty from my life. You had known Maurice Carlyle six
weeks, when you gave him your hand. I had grown up at his side,--had
loved, trusted, prayed, and labored for him,--had been his promised
wife for seven dreary years of toil and separation, and was counting
the hours until the moment when he would lead me to the altar. Ah,
Evelyn,--"

A violent spell of coughing interrupted the governess, and when it
ended she did not complete the sentence.

Impatiently Mrs. Gerome motioned to her to continue, and, turning her
head which had been averted, the hostess saw that her guest was
endeavoring to stanch a stream of blood that trickled across her lips.
Involuntarily the former started forward and drew an easy-chair close
to the slender figure which leaned for support against the corner of
the piano.

"Are you ill? Pray sit down."

"It is only a hemorrhage from my lungs, which I have long had reason
to expect."

Wearily she sank into the chair, and hastily pouring a glass of water
from a gilt-starred crystal _carafe_, standing on the centre-table,
Mrs. Gerome silently offered it. As the governess drained and returned
the goblet, a drop of blood that stained the rim fell on the hand of
the mistress of the house.

Miss Dexter attempted to remove it with the end of her plaid shawl,
but her companion drew back, and taking a dainty, perfumed
handkerchief from her pocket, shook out its folds and said,
hastily,--

"It is of no consequence. I see your handkerchief is already
saturated; will you accept mine?"

Without waiting for a reply, she laid it on the lap of the visitor,
and left the room.

Soon after, a servant brought in a basin of water and towels, which
she placed on the table, and then, without question or comment,
withdrew.

Some time elapsed before Mrs. Gerome re-entered the parlor, bearing a
glass of wine in her hand. Miss Dexter had bathed her face, and,
looking up, she saw that the gray hair had been carefully coiled and
fastened, and the flowing merino belted at the waist; but the brow
wore its heavy cloud, and the arch of the lip had not unbent.

"I hope you are better. Permit me to insist upon your taking this
wine."

She proffered it, but the governess shook her head, and tears ran down
her cheeks, as she said,--

"Thank you,--but I do not require it; indeed I could not swallow it."

The hostess bowed, and, placing the glass within her reach, walked to
the window which looked out on the marble mausoleum, and stood leaning
against the cedarn facing.

Five, ten minutes passed, and the silence was only broken by the
ticking of the bronze clock on the mantelpiece.

"Evelyn."

The voice was so sweet, so thrilling, so mournfully pleading, that it
might have wooed even stone to pity; but Mrs. Gerome merely glanced
over her shoulder, and said, frigidly,--

"Can I in any way contribute to Miss Dexter's comfort? The servants
tell me there is no conveyance waiting for you; but, since you seem
too feeble to walk away, my carriage is at your service whenever you
wish to return. Shall I order it?"

"No, I will not trouble you. I can walk; and, after a little while, I
will go away forever. Evelyn, do you think me utterly unprincipled?"

A moment passed before she was answered.

"While you are in my house, courtesy forbids the expression of my
opinion of your character."

"Oh, Evelyn, my darling! God knows I have not merited this harshness,
this cruelty from your dear hands. Eight tedious, miserable years I
have searched and prayed for you,--have clung to the hope of finding
you, of telling you all,--of hearing your precious lips utter those
words for which my ears have so long ached, 'Edith, I hold you
guiltless of my wretchedness.' But at last, when my search is
successful, to be browbeaten, derided, denounced, insulted,--oh, this
is bitter indeed! This is too hard to be borne!"

Her anguish was uncontrollable, and she sobbed aloud.

Across Mrs. Gerome's white lips crept a quiver, and over her frozen
features rose an unwonted flush; but she did not move a muscle, or
suffer her eyes to wander from the cross and crown on Elsie's tomb.

"Evelyn, I believe, I hope (and may God forgive me if I sin in
hoping), that I have not many years, or perhaps even months to live;
and it would comfort me in my dying hour to feel that I had laid
before you some facts, of which I know you must be ignorant. You have
harshly and unjustly prejudged me,--have steeled yourself against me;
still I wish to tell you some things that weigh heavily upon my
aching, desolate heart. Will you allow me to do so now? Will you hear
me?"

There was evidently a struggle in the mind of the motionless woman
beside the window, but it was brief, and left no trace in the cold,
ringing voice.

"I will hear you."

Slowly and impressively the governess began the narrative, of which
she had given Dr. Grey a hasty _résumé_, and when she mentioned the
midnight labors in which she had engaged, the copying of legal
documents, the sale of her drawings, the hoarding of her salary in
order to aid her mother and her betrothed, and to remove the obstacles
to her marriage, Mrs. Gerome sat down, and, crossing her arms on the
window-sill, hid her face upon them.

Unflinchingly Miss Dexter detailed all that occurred after her
arrival in New York; and finally, approaching the window, she insisted
that her listener should peruse the last letter received from her
lover, and containing the promise that within ten days he would come
to claim his bride. But the lovely hand waved it aside, and the proud
voice exclaimed impatiently,--

"I need no additional proof of his perfidy, which, beyond controversy,
was long ago established. Go on! go on!"

Upon all that followed the ceremony,--the departure of the wife,--and
her own despairing grief, the governess dwelt with touching eloquence
and pathos; and, at last, as she spoke of her fruitless journey to
England,--her sad search through the insane asylums,--Mrs. Gerome
lifted her queenly head, and bent a piercing glance upon the speaker.

Ah! what a hungry, eager expression looked out shyly from her whilom
hopeless eyes, when, with an imperious gesture, she silenced her
visitor, and asked,--

"You spent your hard earnings, not in _trousseau_, or preparations for
housekeeping; but hunting for me in lunatic asylums? Suppose you had
found me in a mad-house?"

"Then I should have become an inmate of the same gloomy walls; and,
while you lived, should have shared with faithful Elsie the care and
charge of you. God is my witness, I had resolved to dedicate my
remaining years to the task of cheering and guarding yours. Oh,
Evelyn! not until we stand in the great Court of Heaven can you
realize how sincerely, how tenderly, and unwaveringly, I love you. My
darling, how can you distrust my faithful heart?"

She sank on her knees, and, throwing her arms around the tall, slender
form, looked with mournful, beseeching tenderness at the haughty
features above her.

For a moment the proud, pale face glowed,--the great shadowy eyes
kindled and shone like wintry planets in some crystalline sky; but
doubt, murderous, cynical doubt, grappled with hope, and strangled
it.

"Edith, I wish I could believe you. I am struggling desperately to lay
hold of the fluttering garments of faith, but I cannot! Suspicion has
walked hand in hand with me so long that I cannot shake off her
numbing touch, and I distrust all human things, save the dusty heart
that moulders yonder in my old Elsie's grave."

She pointed to the white columns of the temple, and then the uplifted
fingers fell heavily on Edith's shoulder.

"Go on. I wish to learn whose treachery betrayed the secret of my
retreat."

Pressing her feverish lips to the hand she admired so enthusiastically,
Miss Dexter resumed her recital of what had occurred since her journey
to London, and finally ended it with an account of her removal to
'Grassmere,' and of the discovery of the miniatures that guided her to
'Solitude.'

A long pause followed, and a heavy sigh, only partially smothered,
indexed the contest that raged under Mrs. Gerome's calm exterior.

"Edith, would you have inferred from Dr. Grey's manner that he was not
only acquainted with my history, but yours, at least, so far as it
intersected mine? Did he furnish no hint, no clew, that aided you in
your search?"

"None whatever. On the contrary, he appeared so preoccupied, so
abstracted, that I reproached him with indifference to my troubles. It
is not possible that he knew all, while I briefly summed up a portion
of the past."

"At that moment he was thoroughly cognizant of everything that I could
tell him. But, at least, one honorable, trustworthy man yet graces the
race; one pure, incorruptible, and consistent Christian remains to
shed lustre upon a church that can nowhere boast his peer. I confided
all to Dr. Grey, and he has kept the trust. Ah, Edith, if you had only
reposed the same confidence in me, during those halcyon days of our
early friendship,--days that seem to me now as far off, as dim and
unreal, as those starry nights when I lay in my little crib, dreaming
of that mother whose face I never saw, whose smile is one of the
surprises and blessings reserved for eternity,--how different my lot
and yours might have been! Why did you not trust me with your happy
hopes, your lover's name and difficulties? How differently I would
have invested that fortune, which proved our common ruin, and doomed
three lives to uselessness and woe. To-day you might have proudly worn
the name that I utterly detest; and I, the outcast, the wanderer, the
tireless, friendless waif, drifting despairingly down the tide of
time,--even I, the unloved, might have been, not a solitary cumberer,
not a household upas,--but why taunt the hideous Actual with a blessed
and beautiful Impossible? Ah, truly, truly,--

  "'What might have been, I know, is not:
    What must be, must be borne;
  But ah! what hath been will not be forgot,
    Never, oh! never, in the years to follow!'"

She closed her eyes and seemed pondering the past, and mutely the
governess prayed that hallowed memories of their former affection
might soften her apparently petrified heart.

Edith saw a great change overspread the countenance, but could not
accurately interpret its import; and her own heart began to beat the
long-roll.

The heavy black eyelashes lying on Mrs. Gerome's marble cheeks
glistened, trembled, and tears stole slowly across her face. She
raised her hand, but dropped it in her lap, and frowned slightly and
sighed. Then she lifted it once more, and looking through the shining
mist that magnified her splendid eyes, she laid her fingers on the
golden head of the kneeling woman.

"You and I have innocently wronged and ruined each other; you with
your beauty, I with my accursed gold. Time was when at your bidding I
would have laid my throbbing heart at your feet, provided I could
thereby save you one pang; for I loved you as women very rarely love
one another. But now, lonely and hopeless, I have lost the power, the
capacity to love anything, and I have no heart left in my bosom. I
acquit you of much for which I formerly held you responsible, and I
honor the purity of purpose that forbade your receiving the visits or
letters of him who must one day answer for our worthless lives. I
fully forgive you the suffering that made me prematurely old; but my
affection is as dead as all my girlish hopes, and buried under the
crushing years that have dragged themselves over my poor, proud,
pain-bleached head. You are more fortunate, more enviable than I, for
you have the comforting anticipation of a speedy release, the precious
assurance that your torture will ere long be ended; while I must front
the prospect of perhaps fourscore and ten years: for, despite my ivory
skin and fever-blanched locks, I am maddeningly healthy. Friend of my
childhood, friend of my happy, sunny, sinless days, I cordially
congratulate you on your approaching deliverance. God knows I would
pay you my fortune, if I could innocently and successfully inject into
my veins and lungs the poison that will soon rob you of care and
regret. If I was harsh to-day, forgive and forget it, for nothing
rankles in the grave; and now, Edith, go away quickly, before I repent
and recant the words I here utter. God comfort you, Edith Dexter, and
remember that I hold you guiltless of my wrecked destiny."

"Oh, Evelyn! add one thing more. Say, 'Edith, I love you.'"

A strangely mournful smile parted Mrs. Gerome's perfect lips over her
dazzling teeth, as she pushed the kneeling figure from her, and said
coldly,--

"Rise, and leave me. I love no living thing, brute or human, for even
my faithful dog lies buried a few yards hence. Maurice treated my
warm, loving nature, as Tofana did her unsuspecting victims, and for
that slow poison there is no antidote. The sole interest I have in
life centres in my art, and when death mercifully remembers me, some
pictures I have patiently wrought out will be given to the public; and
the next generation will, perhaps,--

  'Hear the world applaud the hollow ghost,
  Which blamed the living woman,'

and, smiling grimly in my coffin, I shall echo,--

  'Hither to come, and to sleep,
  Under the wings of renown.'"

Both rose, and the two so long divided faced each other sorrowfully.

"Dear Evelyn, do not hug despair so stubbornly to your bosom. You
might brighten your solitary existence if you would, and be
comparatively happy in this lovely seaside home."

"You think 'Solitude' a very desirable and beautiful retreat? Do you
remember the gay raiment and glittering jewels that covered the
radiant bride of Giacopone di Todi? One day an accident at a public
festival mangled her mortally, and when her gorgeous garments were
torn off, lo!

  'A robe of sackcloth next the smooth, white skin.'"

A sudden pallor crept over the delicate face of the governess, and,
folding her hands, she exclaimed with passionate vehemence,--

"I cannot, I must not shrink from the chief object of my visit here. I
came not only to exonerate myself, but to plead for poor Maurice."

Mrs. Gerome started back, and the pitiless gleam came instantly into
her softened eyes.

"Do not mention his name again. I thought you had neither seen nor
heard from him."

"I must plead his wretched cause, since he is denied the privilege
of appealing to your mercy. Evelyn, my friends write me that he is
almost in a state of destitution. Only last night I received this
letter, which I leave for your perusal, and which assures me he is in
want, and, moreover, is dangerously ill. Who has the right, the
privilege,--whose is the duty, imperative and stern, to hasten to his
bedside, to alleviate his suffering, to provide for his needs?
Yours, Evelyn Carlyle, and yours alone. Where are the marriage-vows
that you snatched from my lips eight years ago, and eagerly took
upon your own? Did you not solemnly swear in the presence of heaven
and earth to serve him and keep him in sickness, and, forsaking all
others, to hold him from that day forward, for better, for worse,
until death did part ye? Oh, Evelyn! do not scowl, and turn away.
However unworthy, he is your husband in the sight of God and man,
and your wedding oath calls you to him in this hour of his terrible
need. Can you sleep peacefully, knowing that he is tossing with
paroxysms of pain, and perhaps hungering and thirsting for that which
you could readily supply? If it were right,--if I dared, I would
hasten to him; but my conscience inexorably forbids the thought,
and consigns my heart to torture, for which there is no name. You
will tell me that you provided once, twice, for all reasonable
wants,--that he has recklessly squandered liberal allowances. But
will that satisfy your conscience, while you still possess ample
means to aid him? Will you permit the man whose name you bear to
live on other charity than your own,--and finally, to fill a
pauper's grave? Oh, Evelyn! was it for this that you took my darling,
my idol, from my clinging, loving arms? Will you see his body
writhing in the agony of disease, and his precious, immortal soul
in fearful jeopardy, while you stand afar off, surrounded by every
luxury that ingenuity can suggest, and gold purchase? Oh, Evelyn!
be merciful; do your duty. Like a brave, true, though injured woman,
go to Maurice, and strive to make him comfortable; to lighten, by
your pardon, his sad, heavily laden heart. By your past, your
memories of your betrothal, your hopes of heaven, and above all, by
your marriage vows, I implore you to discharge your sacred duties."

A bitter smile twisted the muscles about Mrs. Gerome's mouth, as she
gazed into the quivering, eloquent face of her companion, and listened
to the impetuous appeal that poured so pathetically over her burning
lips.

"Edith, you amaze me. Is it possible that after all your injuries you
can cling so fondly, so madly, to the man who slighted, and
humiliated, and blighted you?"

"Ah! you are his wife, and I am the ridiculed and pitied victim of his
flirtation, so says the world; but my affection outlives yours.
Evelyn, I have loved him from the time when I can first recollect; I
loved him with a deathless devotion that neither his unworthiness, nor
time, nor eternity can conquer; and to-day, I tell you that he is dear
to me,--dear to me as some precious corpse, over which a gravestone
has gathered moss for eight weary, dreary years. The angels in heaven
would not blush for the feeling in my heart towards Maurice Carlyle;
and the God who must soon judge me will not condemn the pure and
sacred love I cherish for the only man who could ever have been my
husband, but whom I have resolutely refused to see, even when the
world believed you dead. I cannot go to him, and comfort, and provide
for him now; but, in the name of God, and your oath, and if not for
your own sake, at least for his and for mine, I ask you once more,
Evelyn Carlyle, will you hasten to your erring but unhappy husband?"

Her scarlet cheeks and lips, her glowing brown eyes, and waving yellow
hair, formed a singular contrast to the colorless, cold face of her
listener; whose steely gaze was fixed on the distant sea, that lay
like a beryl mirror beneath the hazy sky.

When the sound of the sweet but strained voice had died away, Mrs.
Gerome turned her eyes towards the governess, and answered,--

"I will do my duty, no matter how revolting."

"Thank God! When will you go?"

"If at all, at once."

"Evelyn, when you come home, will you not let me see you, now and
then, and win my way back to my old place in your dear heart? Oh! my
pale, peerless darling, do not deny me this."

"Home? I have no home. My heart is grayer than my head,--and your old
niche is full of dust, and skeletons, and murdered hopes. Let me see
you no more in this world; and perhaps in the Everlasting Rest I shall
forget my hideous past, which your face recalls."

"Oh, my poor bruised darling! do not banish me," wailed the governess,
endeavoring to fold her arms about the queenly form, which silently
but effectually held her back.

"At least, dear Evelyn, let me kiss you once more, in token that you
cherish no bitterness against me."

"Good-by, Edith. I hold you innocent of my injuries. May God help you,
and call us both speedily to our dreamless sleep under moss and
marble."

She bent down, and with firm, icy lips, lightly touched the forehead
of the governess, and walked away, unheeding the burst of tears with
which the frigid caress was welcomed.

  "And I think, in the lives of most women and men,
    There's a moment when all would go smooth and even,
  If only the dead could find out when
    To come back, and be forgiven."



CHAPTER XXXI.


"Madam, are you aware that you breathe an infected atmosphere?--that
this building is assigned to small-pox cases? Pray do not cross the
threshold."

The superintendent of the hospital laid aside his pipe, and
advanced to meet the stranger whose knock had startled him from a
_post-prandial_ doze.

"I am not afraid of contagion, and came to see the patient who was
brought here yesterday from No. 139 Elm Street."

"Have you a permit to visit here?"

"Yes; you will find it on this paper, given me by the proper
authorities."

"What is the name of the person you desire to see?"

The superintendent opened a book that lay on the table beside him, and
drew his finger up and down the page.

"Maurice Carlyle."

"Ah, yes,--I have it now. Maurice Carlyle, Ward 3,--cot No. 7. Madam,
may I ask,--"

"No, sir; I have no inclination to answer idle questions. Will you
show me the way, or shall I find it?"

"Certainly, I will conduct you; but I was about to remark that a death
has just occurred in Ward No. 3, and I am under the impression that it
was the Elm Street case. Madam, you look faint; shall I bring you a
glass of water?"

"No. Show me the body of the dead."

"This way, if you please."

He walked down a dim, low-vaulted passage, and paused at the entrance
of a room lined with cots, where the nurse was slowly passing from
patient to patient.

"Nurse, show this lady to cot No. 7."

Swiftly the tall figure of the visitor glided down the room, and
placing her hand on the arm of the nurse, she said huskily,--

"Where is the man who has just died? Quick! do not keep me in
suspense."

"There, to the right; shall I uncover the face?"

Under the blue check coverlet that was spread smoothly over the cot,
the stiff outlines of a human form were clearly defined; and, when the
nurse stooped, the stranger put out one arm and held him back, while
her whole frame trembled violently.

"Stop! be good enough to leave me."

The attendant withdrew a few yards, and curiously watched the queenly
woman, who stood motionless, with her fingers tightly interlaced.

She was dressed in a gray suit of some shining fabric, and a long
gossamer veil of the same hue hung over her features. After a few
seconds she swept back the veil, and, as she bent forward, a stray
sunbeam dipped through the closed shutters, and flashed across a white
horror-stricken face, crowned with clustering braids of silver hair.

She shut her eyes an instant, grasped the coverlet, and drew it down;
then caught her breath, and looked at the dead.

It was a young, boyish face, horribly swollen and distorted, and
coarse red locks were matted around his brow and temples.

"Thank God, Maurice Carlyle still lives."

She involuntarily raised her hands towards heaven, and the expression
of dread melted from her countenance.

Slowly and reverently she re-covered the corpse, and approached the
nurse.

"I am searching for my husband. Which cot is No. 7?"

"That on your left,--next to the dead."

Mrs. Carlyle turned, and gazed at the bloated crimson mass of disease
that writhed on the narrow bed, and a long shudder crept over her, as
she endeavored to discover in that loathsome hideous visage some
familiar feature--some trace of the manly beauty that once rendered it
so fascinating.

The swollen blood-shot eyes stared vacantly at the ceiling, and, while
delirious muttering fell upon the ears of the visitor, she saw that
his cheeks were somewhat lacerated, and his hands, partially confined,
were tearing at the inflamed flesh.

She shivered with horror, and a groan broke from her pitying heart.

"What an awful retribution! My God, have mercy upon him! He is
sufficiently punished."

Drawing her perfumed lace handkerchief from her pocket, she leaned
over and wiped away the bloody foam that oozed across his lips, and
lifting his hot head turned it sufficiently to expose the right ear,
where a large mole was hidden by the thick hair.

"Maurice Carlyle! But what a fearful wreck?"

She covered her eyes with her hand, and moaned.

The nurse came nearer, and said hesitatingly,--

"Madam, surely he is not your husband? His clothes are almost in
tatters, while yours are--ahem!--"

"Spare me all comments on the comparison. Can I obtain a comfortable,
quiet room, in this building, and have him removed to it at once? You
hesitate? I will compensate you liberally, will pay almost any price
for an apartment where he can at least have silence and seclusion."

"We can accommodate you, but of course if the patient is carried from
this ward to a private room, we shall be compelled to charge extra."

"Charge what you choose, only arrange the matter as promptly as
possible. How soon can you make the change?"

"In twenty minutes, madam."

The nurse rang for an assistant, to whom the necessary instructions
were given, and in the _interim_ Mrs. Carlyle leaned against the cot,
and brushed away the flies that buzzed about the pitiable victims.

Two men carried the sufferer up a flight of steps, and ere long he was
transferred to a large comfortable bed in an airy, well-furnished
apartment.

The removal had not been completed more than an hour, when the surgeon
made his evening round, and followed the patient to his new quarters.

He paused at sight of the elegantly dressed woman who sat beside the
bed, and said, stammeringly,--

"I am informed that No. 7 is your husband, and that you have taken
charge of his case, and intend to nurse him. Have you had small-pox?"

"No, sir."

"Madam, you run a fearful risk."

"I fully appreciate the hazard, and am prepared to incur it. Do you
regard this case as hopeless?"

"Not altogether, though the probabilities are that it will terminate
fatally."

"I have had too little experience to warrant my undertaking the
management of the case, and, while I intend to remain here, I wish you
to engage the services of some trustworthy nurse who understands the
treatment of this disease. Can you recommend such a person?"

"Yes, madam; I can send you a man in whom I have entire confidence,
and fortunately he is not at present employed. If you desire it, I
will see him within the next hour, and give him all requisite
instructions about the patient."

"Promptness in this matter will greatly oblige me, and I wish to spare
no expense in contributing to the comfort and restoration of the
sufferer. As I am utterly unknown to you, I prefer to place in your
hands a sufficient amount to defray all incidental expenditures."

She laid a roll of bills upon the table, and as Dr. Clingman counted
them, she added,--

"It is possible that I may be attacked by this disease, though I have
been repeatedly vaccinated; and if I should die, please recollect that
you will find in my purse a memorandum of the disposition I wish made
of my body,--also the address of my agent and banker in New York
City."

With mingled curiosity and admiration the physician looked at the
pale, handsome woman, who spoke of death as coldly and unconcernedly
as of to-morrow's sun, or next month's moon.

"Madam, allow me to ask if you have no friends in this city,--no
relatives nearer than New York?"

"None, sir. It is my wish that our conversation should be confined to
the symptoms and treatment of your patient."

Dr. Clingman bowed, and, after writing minute instructions upon a
sheet of paper left on the mantelpiece, took his departure.

Securing the door on the inside, Mrs. Carlyle threw aside her bonnet
and wrappings, and came back to the sufferer on the bed.

Eight years of reckless excess and dissipation had obliterated every
vestige of manly beauty from features that disease now rendered
loathsome, and the curling hair and long beard were unkempt and
grizzled.

Leaning against the pillow, the lonely woman bent over to scrutinize
the distorted, burning face, and softly took into her cool palms one
hot and swollen hand, which in other days she had admiringly stroked,
and tenderly pressed against her cheek and lips. How totally unlike
that countenance, which, handsome as Apollyon, had looked down at her
on her bridal day, and fondly whispered--"my wife."

Memory mercilessly broke open sealed chambers in that wretched woman's
heart, and out of one leaped a wail that made her tremble and
moan,--"Oh, Evelyn, my wife, forgive your husband."

Slowly compassion began to bridge the dark gulf of separation and
hate, and as the wife gazed at the writhing form of her husband, her
stony face softened, and tears gathered in the large, mournful eyes.

"Ah, Maurice! This world has proved a huge cheat to you and to
me,--and well-nigh cost us all peace in the next one. My husband, yet
my bitterest foe,--my first, my last, my only love! If I could recall
one throb of the old affection, one atom of the old worshipping
tenderness and devotion,--but it has withered; my heart is scorched
and ashen,--and neither love nor hope haunts its desolate ruins. Poor,
polluted, down-trodden idol! Maurice--Maurice--my husband, I have
come. Evelyn, your wife, forgives you, as she hopes for pardon at the
hands of her God."

Kneeling beside the bed, with her snowy fingers clasped around his,
she bowed her head, and humbly prayed for his soul, and for her own;
and, when the petition ended, that peace which this world can never
give,--which had so long been exiled, fluttered back and brooded once
more in her storm-riven heart.

Softly she lifted and smoothed the long tangled hair that clung to his
forehead, and tears dripped upon his scarlet face, as she said;
brokenly,--

"_Till death us do part!_ Poor Maurice! Deserted and despised by your
former parasites. After long years, my vows bring me back in the hour
of your need. God grant you life, to redeem your past,--to save your
sinful soul from eternal ruin."

Suns rose and set, weary days and solemn nights of vigil succeeded
each other, and tirelessly the wife and hired nurse watched the
progress of the dreadful disease. Occasionally Mr. Carlyle talked
deliriously, and more than once the name of Edith Dexter hung on his
lips, and was coupled with tenderer terms than were ever bestowed on
the woman who wore his own. Bending over his pillow, the pale watcher
heard and noted all, and a sad pitying smile curved her mouth now and
then, as she realized that the one holy love of this man's life
triumphed over the wreck of fortune, health, and hope, and kept its
hold upon the heart that long years before had sold itself to
Lucifer.

Sleeplessly, faithfully, she went to and fro in that darkened room,
whose atmosphere was tainted by infection, and at last she found her
reward. The crisis was safely passed, and she was assured the patient
would recover.

The apartment was so dimly lighted that Mr. Carlyle took little notice
of his attendants, but one afternoon when the nurse had gone to
procure some refreshments, the sick man turned on his pillow, and
looked earnestly at the woman who was engaged in writing at a table
near the bed.

"Mrs. Smith."

Mrs. Carlyle rose and approached him.

"Are you Mrs. Smith,--my landlady?"

"No, sir. I am merely your nurse."

"My nurse? What is the matter with me?"

"Small-pox,--but the danger is now over."

"Small-pox! Where did I catch it? Am I still in Elm Street?"

"No, sir; you are in the hospital."

Shading his inflamed eyes with his hand, he mused for some moments,
and she saw a perplexed and sorrowful expression cross his features.

"Is there any danger of my dying?"

"That danger is past."

"What is your name?"

"Mrs. Gerome."

"Stand a little closer to me. I find I am almost blind. Mrs. Gerome?
Your voice is strangely like one that I have not heard for many
years,--and it carries me back,--back--to--" He sighed, and pressed
his fingers over his eyes.

After a few seconds, he said,--

"Do give me some water. I am as parched as Dives."

She lifted his head and put the glass to his lips,--and while he
drank, his eyes searched her face, and lingered admiringly on her
beautiful hand.

"Are you a regular nurse at this hospital?"

"I am engaged for your case."

"I see no pock-marks on your skin; it is as smooth as ivory. Shall I
escape as lightly?"

"It is impossible to tell. Here comes your dinner."

He caught her arm, and gazed earnestly at her.

"Is your hair really so white, or is it merely an illusion of my
inflamed eyes?"

"There is not a dark hair in my head; it is as white as snow."

While the nurse prepared the food and arranged it on the table, Mrs.
Carlyle hastily collected several articles scattered about the
apartment, and softly opened the door.

Standing there a moment, she looked back at the figure comfortably
elevated on pillows, and a long sigh of relief crossed her lips.

"Thank God! I have done my duty, and now he needs me no longer. Next
time I see your face, Maurice Carlyle, I hope it will be at the last
bar, in the final judgment; and then may the Lord have mercy upon us
both."

The words were breathed inaudibly, and, closing the door gently, she
hurried down the steps and in the direction of a small room which Dr.
Clingman had converted into an office.

As she entered, he looked up and pushed back his spectacles.

"What can I do for you?"

"A little thing, which will cost you no trouble, but will greatly
oblige me. Doctor, I have found you a kind and sympathizing gentleman,
and am grateful for the delicate consideration with which you have
treated me. Mr. Carlyle is beyond danger, and I shall leave him in
your care. When he is sufficiently strong to be removed, I desire that
you will give him this letter, which contains a check payable to his
order. There, examine it, and be so good as to write me a receipt."

Silently he complied, and when she had re-enclosed the check and
sealed the envelope she placed it in his hand.

"Dr. Clingman, is there any other place to which small-pox cases can
be carried? To-day I have discovered some symptoms of the disease in
my own system, and I feel assured I shall be ill before this time
to-morrow."

"My dear madam, why not remain here?"

"Because I do not wish to be discovered by Mr. Carlyle, and forced to
meet him again. I prefer to suffer, and, if need be, die, alone and
unknown."

"If you will trust yourself to me, and to a faithful female nurse whom
I can secure, I promise you, upon my honor as a gentleman, that I will
allow no one else to see you, living or dead. My dear madam, I beg you
to reconsider, and remain where I can watch over, and perhaps preserve
your life. I dreaded this. You are feverish now."

Wearily she swept her hand across her forehead, and a dreary smile
flitted over her wan features.

"My life is a worthless, melancholy thing, useless to others, and a
crushing burden to me; and I might as well lay it down here as
elsewhere. I accept your promise, Dr. Clingman, and hope you will
obtain a room in the quiet and secluded portion of the building. If I
should be so fortunate as to die, do not forget the memorandum in this
purse. I leave my body in your care, my soul in the hands of Him who
alone can give it rest."

  "The burden of my days is hard to bear,
    But God knows best;
  And I have prayed,--but vain has been my prayer,--
    For rest--for rest."



CHAPTER XXXII.


"Miss Dexter, have you succeeded in seeing Mrs. Gerome since her
return?"

"No, sir; she obstinately refuses to admit me, though I have called
twice at the house. Yesterday I received a letter in answer to several
that I have addressed to her, all of which she returned unopened.
Since you have already learned so much of our melancholy history, why
should I hesitate to acquaint you with the contents of her letter? You
know the object of her journey north, and I will read you the
result."

The governess drew a letter from her pocket, and Dr. Grey leaned his
face on his hand and listened.

  "SOLITUDE, _May 10th, 18--_.

  "_Edith_,--No lingering vestige of affection, no remorseful
  tenderness, prompted that mission from which I have recently
  returned, and only the savage scourgings of implacable duty could
  have driven me, like a galley-slave, to my hated task. The victim
  of a horrible and disfiguring disease which so completely changed
  his countenance that his own mother would scarcely have recognized
  him,--and the tenant of a charity hospital in the town of ----, I
  found that man who has proved the Upas of your life and of mine.
  During his delirium I watched and nursed him--not lovingly (how
  could I?) but faithfully, kindly, pityingly. When all danger was
  safely passed, and his clouded intellect began to clear itself, I
  left him in careful hands, and provided an ample amount for his
  comfortable maintenance in coming years. I spared him the
  humiliation of recognizing in his nurse his injured and despised
  wife; and, as night after night I watched beside the pitiable
  wreck of a once handsome, fascinating, and idolized man, I fully
  and freely forgave Maurice Carlyle all the wrongs that so
  completely stranded my life. To-day he is well, and probably
  happy, while he finds himself possessed of means by which to
  gratify his extravagant tastes; but how long his naturally fine
  constitution can hold at bay the legion of ills that hunt like
  hungry wolves along the track of reckless dissipation, God only
  knows.

  "For some natures it is exceedingly difficult to forgive,--to
  forget, impossible; and while my husband's abject wretchedness and
  degradation disarmed the hate that has for so many years rankled
  in my heart, I could never again look willingly upon his face.
  Edith, you and I have nothing in common but miserable memories,
  which, I beg you to believe, are sufficiently vivid, without the
  torturing adjunct of your countenance; therefore, pardon me if I
  decline to receive your visits, and return the letters that are
  quite as welcome and cheering to my eyes as the little shoes and
  garments of the long-buried dead to the mother, who would fain
  look no more upon the harrowing relics. I do not wish to be harsh,
  but I must be honest, and our intercourse can never be renewed in
  this world.

  "In bygone days, when I loved you so fondly and trusted you so
  fully, it was my intention to share my fortune with you; and,
  since I find that you have not forfeited my confidence in the
  purity of your purposes, such is still my wish. I enclose a draft
  on my banker, which I hope you will deem sufficient to enable you
  to abandon the arduous profession in which you have worn out your
  life. If I can feel assured that I have been instrumental in
  contributing to the peace and ease of the years that may yet be in
  store for you, it will serve as one honeyed drop to sweeten the
  dregs of the cup of woe I am draining. Edith, do not refuse the
  only aid I can offer you in your loneliness; and accept the
  earnest assurance that I shall be grateful for the privilege of
  promoting your comfort. Affection and trust I have not, and a few
  paltry thousands are all I am now able to bestow. By the love you
  once professed, and in the name of that compassion you should feel
  for me, I beg of you, despise not the gift; and let the
  consciousness that I have saved you from toil and fatigue quiet
  the soul and ease the heart of a lonely woman, who has shaken
  hands with every earthly hope. I have done my duty, my conscience
  is calm and contented, and I sit wearily on the stormy shore of
  time, waiting for the tide that will drift into eternity the
  desolate, proud soul of

  "VASHTI CARLYLE."

Tears rolled over the governess' cheeks, and, refolding the letter,
she said, sorrowfully,--

"My poor, heart-broken Vashti! She has resumed the name which old
Elsie gave her because it was her mother's; and how mournfully
appropriate it has proved. I could be happy if permitted to spend the
residue of my days with her; but she decrees otherwise, and I have no
alternative but submission to her imperious will."

Dr. Grey did not lift his face where the shadow of a great, voiceless
grief hung heavily, and his low tone indexed deep and painful emotion,
when he answered,--

"I sincerely deplore her unfortunate decision, for isolation only
augments the ills from which she suffers. Many months have elapsed
since I saw her last, but Robert Maclean told me to-day that she was
sadly changed in appearance, and seemed in feeble health. She did not
tell you that she had been dangerously ill with varioloid, contracted
while nursing her husband. Although not in the least marked or
disfigured, the attack must have seriously impaired her constitution,
if all that Robert tells me be true. Since her return, one month ago,
she has not left her room."

"Dr. Grey, exert your influence in my behalf, and prevail upon her to
admit me."

"Miss Dexter, you ascribe to me powers of persuasion which,
unfortunately, I do not possess; and Mrs. Carlyle's decree is
beyond the reach of human agency. To the few who are earnestly
interested in her welfare, there remains but one avenue of aid and
comfort,--faithful, fervent prayer."

"Perhaps you are not aware of the exalted estimate she places on your
character, nor of the value she attaches to your opinions. Of all
living beings, she told me she reverenced and trusted you most; and
you, at least, would not be denied access to her presence."

She could not see the tremor on his usually firm lips, nor the pallor
that overspread his face, and when he spoke his grave voice did not
betray the tumult in his aching heart.

"I am no longer a visitor at 'Solitude,' and shall not see its
mistress unless she requires my professional aid. While I am very
deeply interested in her happiness, I could never consent to intrude
upon her seclusion."

"I know my days are numbered, and after a little while I shall sleep
well under the ancient cedars that shade the head-stones of my father
and mother; but I could die more cheerfully, more joyfully, if Evelyn
would only be comforted, and accept some human friendship."

"For some weeks you have seemed so much better that I hoped warm
weather would quite relieve and invigorate you. Spend next winter in
Cuba or Mexico, and it will probably add many months, possibly years,
to your life."

She smiled, and shook her head.

"This beautiful springtime has temporarily baffled the disease, but
for me there can be no restoration. Day by day I feel the ebbing of
strength and energy, and the approach of my deliverer, death; but I
realize also, what the Centaur uttered to Melampus, 'I decline unto my
last days calm as the setting of the constellations; but I feel
myself perishing and passing quickly away, like a snow-wreath floating
on the stream.'"

As he looked at the thin, pure face where May sunshine streamed warm
and bright, and marked the perfect peace that brooded over the changed
features, Dr. Grey was reminded of the lines that might have been
written for her, so fully were they suited to her case,--

  "I saw that one who lost her love in pain,
    Who trod on thorns, who drank the loathsome cup;
  The lost in night, in day was found again;
    The fallen was lifted up.
  They stood together in the blessed noon,
    They sang together through the length of days;
  Each loving face bent sunwards, like a moon
    New-lit with love and praise."

"My friend, the shadows are passing swiftly from your life, and, in
the mild radiance of its close, you can well afford to forget the
storms that clouded its dawn."

"Forget? No, Dr. Grey, I neither endeavor nor desire to forget the
sorrows that first taught me the emptiness of earthly things, the
futility of human schemes,--that snapped the frail reed of flesh to
which I clung, and gave me, instead, the blessed support, the
immovable arm of an everlasting God. Ah! that woman was deeply versed
in the heart-lore of her own sex, who wrote,--

  'When I remember something which I had,
  But which is gone, and I must do without,

       *       *       *       *       *

  When I remember something promised me,
    But which I never had, nor can have now,
  Because the promiser we no more see
    In countries that accord with mortal vow;
  When I remember this, I mourn,--but yet
    My happier days are not the days when I forget.'"

"If Mrs. Carlyle possessed a tithe of your faith and philosophy, how
serene, how tranquilly useful her future years might prove."

"In God's own good time her trials will be sanctified to her eternal
peace, and she will one day glide from grief to glory, for she can
claim the promise of our Lord, 'The pure in heart shall see God.' No
purer heart than Vashti Carlyle's throbs this side of the throne where
seraphim and cherubim hover."

In the brief silence that succeeded, the governess observed the
unusually grave and melancholy expression of her companion's
countenance, and asked, timidly,--

"Has anything occurred recently to distress or annoy you? You look
depressed."

"I feel inexpressibly anxious about Salome, concerning whose fate I
can learn nothing that is comforting. In reply to my letter, urging
him to make every effort to ascertain her locality and condition,
Professor V---- writes, that he is now a confirmed invalid, confined
to his room, and unable to conduct the search for his missing pupil.
She left Palermo on a small vessel bound for Monaco, and her farewell
note stated that all attempts to discover her retreat would prove
futile, as she was resolved to preserve her incognito, and wished her
friends in America to remain in ignorance of her mode of life.
Professor V---- surmises that she is in Paris, but gives no good
reason for the conjecture, except that she possibly sought the best
medical advice for the treatment of her throat and recovery of her
voice. His last letter, received yesterday, informed me that one of
Salome's most devoted admirers, a Bostonian of immense wealth, was so
deeply grieved by her inexplicable disappearance that he was
diligently searching for her in Leghorn and Monaco. She left Palermo
alone, and with a comparatively empty purse."

"Dr. Grey, are you aware of the suspicions which Muriel has long
entertained with reference to Mr. Granville's admiration of Salome,
and the efforts of the latter to encourage his attentions?"

"I have very cogent reasons for believing that however amenable
to censure Mr. Granville doubtless is, Muriel's distrust of Salome
is totally unjust. If she were capable of the despicable course my
ward is disposed to impute to her, I should cease to feel any
interest in her career or fate; but I cherish the conviction that
she would scorn to be guilty of conduct so ignoble. Her defects of
character I shall neither deny nor attempt to palliate, but I trust
her true womanly heart as I trust my own manly honor; and a stern
sense of justice to the absent constrains me to vindicate her from
Muriel's hasty and unfounded aspersions. So strong is my faith in
Salome's conscientiousness, so earnest my friendship for her, that
since the receipt of Professor V----'s letter I have determined to
go immediately to Europe, and if possible discover her retreat. My
sister's adopted child must not and shall not suffer and struggle
among strangers, while I live to aid and protect her."

Miss Dexter rose and laid her thin, feverish hand on his arm, while
embarrassment made her voice tremble slightly,--

"I am rejoiced to learn your decision, and God grant you speedy
success in your quest. Do not deem me presumptuous or impertinent if,
prompted by a sincere desire to see you happy, I venture to say, that
he who lightly values the pure, tender, devoted love of such a woman
as Salome Owen,--tramples on treasures that would make his life
affluent and blessed--that neither gold can purchase nor royalty
compel. Under your guidance, moulded by your influence, she would
become a noble woman,--of whom any man might justly be proud."

Fearful that she had already incurred his displeasure, and unwilling
to meet his eye, she turned quickly and made her escape through the
open door.

In the bright glow of that lovely spring day, the calm face of Ulpian
Grey seemed scarcely older than on the afternoon when he came to make
the farm his home; and though paler, and ciphered over by the leaden
finger of anxiety, it indexed little of the long, fierce strife, that
conscience had waged with heart.

Lighter and more impulsive natures expend themselves in spasmodic and
violent ebullitions, but the great deep of this man's serene character
had never stirred, until the one mighty love of his life had lashed it
into a tempest that tossed his hopes like sea-froth, and finally
engulfed the only rosy dream of wedded happiness that had ever flushed
his quiet, solitary, sedate existence.

Having kept his heart in holy subjection to the law of Christ, he did
not quail and surrender when the great temptation rose, bearing the
banner of insurrection; but sternly and dauntlessly fronted the shock,
and kept inviolate the citadel, garrisoned by an invincible and
consecrated will.

The yearning tenderness of his strong, tranquil soul, had enfolded
Mrs. Carlyle, drawing her more and more into the penetralia of his
affection; but from the hour in which he learned her history he had
torn away the clinging tendrils of love,--had endeavored to expel her
from his heart, and to stifle its wail for the lost idol.

Week after week, month after month, he had driven every day within
sight of the blue smoke that curled above the trees at "Solitude," but
never even for an instant checked his horse to gaze longingly towards
the Eden whence he had voluntarily exiled himself.

There were hours when his heart ached for the sight of that white face
he had loved so madly, and the sound of the mournfully sweet
voice,--and his hand trembled at the recollection of the soft, cold,
snowy fingers, that once thrilled his palms; but he treated these
utterances of his heart as mercilessly as the hunter who cheers his
dogs in the chase where the death-cry of the victim rings above bark
and halloo.

No wall of division, no sea of separation, would have proved so
effectual, so insurmountable, as his own firm resolve that his earthly
path should never cross that of one whom God's statutes had set apart
until death annulled the decree. In this torturing ordeal he was
strengthened by the conviction that he alone suffered for his
folly,--that Mrs. Carlyle was a stranger to feelings that robbed him
of sleep, and clouded his days,--that the heaving tide of his devoted
love had broken against her frozen heart as idly as the surges of the
sea that die in foam upon the dreary, mysterious ruins of the Serapeon
at Pozzuoli.

In the silent watches of the night, as he pondered the brief,
beautiful vision that had so completely fascinated him, he reverently
thanked God that the woman he loved had never reciprocated his
affection, and was not sitting in the ashes of desolation, mourning
his absence. Striving to interest himself more and more in Stanley and
Jessie, who had become inordinately fond of him, his thoughts
continually reverted to Salome, and that subtle sympathy which springs
from the "fellow-being," that makes us "wondrous kind" to those whose
pangs are fierce as ours, began faintly and shyly, but surely, to
assert itself. A shadowy, intangible self-reproach brooded like a
phantom over his generous heart, when, amidst the uncertainty that
seemed to overhang the orphan's fate, he remembered the numberless
manifestations of almost idolatrous affection which he had coldly
repulsed.

In the earnest interest that day by day deepened in the absent girl,
there was no pitiable vanity, no inflated self-love, but a stern
realization of the anguish and humiliation that must now be her
portion, and a magnanimous eagerness to endeavor to cheer a heart
whose severest woes had sprung from his indifference.

More than a year had elapsed, and no letter had ever reached him,--not
even a message in her two brief epistles to Stanley, and Dr. Grey
missed the bright, perverse element that no longer thwarted him at
every turn.

He longed to see the proud, girlish face, with its flashing eyes, and
red lips, and the haughty toss of the large, handsome head; and the
angry tones of her voice would have been welcome sounds in the house
where she had so long tyrannized. To-day, as Ulpian Grey sat in his
own little sitting-room, his eyes were fixed on a copy of Rembrandt's
_Nicholas Tulp_, which hung over the mantelpiece; but the mysteries of
anatomy no longer riveted his attention, and his thoughts were busy
with memories of a fond though wayward girl, whom his indifference
had driven to foreign lands,--to unknown and fearful perils.

Through the windows stole the breath of Salome's violets, and the
sweet, spicy odor of the Belgian honeysuckle that she had planted and
twined around the mossy columns that supported the gallery; and with a
sigh he closed his eyes, shut out the anatomy of flesh, and began the
dissection of emotions.

Could Salome's radiant face brighten his home, and win his heart from
its devouring regret? Would it be possible for him to give her the
place whence he had ejected Mrs. Carlyle? Could he ever persuade
himself to call that fair, passionate young thing, that capricious,
obstinate, maliciously perverse girl,--his wife?

Involuntarily he frowned, for while pity pleaded for the refugee from
home and happiness, the man's honest nature scouted all shams, and he
acknowledged to himself that he could never feel the need of her lips
or hands,--could never insult her womanhood, or degrade his own
nature, by folding to his heart one whose touch possessed no
magnetism, whose presence exerted no spell over his home.

Salome, his friend, his adopted sister, he wished to discover, to
claim, and restore to the household; but Salome, his wife,--was a
monstrous imaginary incubus that appalled and repelled him.

The difficulties that presented themselves at the outset of his search
would have discouraged a less resolute temperament, but it was part of
his wise philosophy, that--

  "We overstate the ills of life. We walk upon
  The shadow of hills across a level thrown,
  And pant like climbers."

As a pitying older brother, he thought of Salome's many foibles,--of
her noble intentions and ignoble executions,--of her few feeble
triumphs, her numerous egregious failures in the line of duty; and
loving Christian charity pleaded eloquently for her, whispering to his
generous soul, "We know the ships that come with streaming pennons
into the immortal ports; but we know little of the ships that have
taken fire on the way thither,--that have gone down at sea."

What pure friendship could accomplish he would not withhold, and life
at the farm was not so attractive now that he felt regret at the
prospect of temporary absence.

The disappointment that had so rudely smitten to the earth the one
precious hope born of his acquaintance with "Solitude," had no power
to embitter his nature,--to drape the world in drab, or to shroud the
future with gloom; and though his noble face was sadder and paler,
Christian faith and resignation rang blessed chimes of peace in heart
and soul, and made his life a hallowed labor of love for the needy and
grief-stricken. To-day, as he sat alone at the south window, he could
overlook the fields of "Grassmere," where the rich promise of golden
harvest "filled in all beauty and fulness the emerald cup of the
hills," and the waving grain rippled in light and shade like the
billows of some distant sunset sea. Basking in the balmy sunshine, and
contemplating his approaching departure for Europe, a sudden longing
seized him to look once more on the face of Vashti Carlyle, before he
bade farewell to his home.

She was in feeble health, and might not survive his absence,
and, moreover, what harm could result from one final visit to
"Solitude,"--from a few parting words to its desolate mistress? She
had sent a message through Robert, that she would be glad to see
Dr. Grey whenever he could find leisure to call, and now hungry
heart and soul cried out savagely,--

"Why not? Why not?"

His heavy brows knitted a little, and his mouth grew rigid as iron,
but after some moments the lips relaxed, and with a sad, patient
smile, he repeated those stirring words of Richter to Herman,--"Suffer
like a man the Alp-pressure of fate. Trust yourself upon the broad,
shining wings of your _faith_, and make them bear you over the Dead
Sea, so as not to fall spiritually dead within."

"No, no, Ulpian Grey,--keep yourself 'unspotted from the world.'
Strangle that one temptation which borrows the garments of an angel
of light and mercy, and dogs you, sleeping and waking. I will see her
no more till death snaps her fetters, and I can meet her in the
presence of God, who alone can know what separation costs me. May He
grant her strength to bear her lonely lot, and give me grace to be
patient even unto the end, bringing no reproach on the sacred faith I
profess."

It was the final struggle between love and duty, and though the
vanquished heart wailed piteously, exultant conscience, like Jupiter
of old, triumphantly applauded, "Evan, evoe!"



CHAPTER XXXIII.


"Wanted!--Information of Salome Owen, who will confer a favor on her
friends, and secure a handsome legacy by calling at No. -- ----."

"Dr. Grey, for six months this advertisement has appeared every
morning in two of the most popular journals in Paris, and as it has
elicited no clew to her whereabouts, I am reluctantly compelled to
believe that she is no longer in France."

Mr. Granville refolded the newspaper, and busied himself in filling
and lighting his meerschaum.

"By whom was that notice inserted?"

"By M. de Baillu, the agent and banker of Mr. Minge of Boston, who was
warmly and sincerely attached to your _protégée_, and earnestly
endeavored to marry her. When she left Palermo, Mr. Minge came to this
city and solicited my aid in discovering her retreat."

"Pardon me, but why did he apply to you?"

"Simply because he knew that I was an old acquaintance, and he had
seen me with her, when she first came from America."

"How did you ascertain her presence in Paris?"

"Accidentally; one night, at the opera, whither she accompanied
Professor V----, I recognized her, and of course made myself known.
To what shall I ascribe the honor of this rigid cross-questioning?"

"To reasons which I shall very freely give you. But first, permit me
to beg that you will resume your narrative at the point where I
interrupted you. I wish to learn all that can be told concerning Mr.
Minge."

"He was an elderly man of ordinary appearance, but extraordinary
fortune, and seemed completely fascinated by Salome's beauty. He
offered a large reward to the police for any clew that would enable
him to discover her, and finally found the physician whom she had
consulted with reference to some disease of the throat, which
occasioned the loss of her voice. He had prescribed for her several
times, but knew nothing of her lodging-place, as she always called at
his office; and finally, without assigning any reason, her visits
ceased. Mr. Minge redoubled his exertions, and at last found her in
one of the hospitals connected with a convent. The Sisters of Charity
informed him that one bleak day when the rain was falling drearily,
they chanced to see a woman stagger and drop on the pavement before
their door, and, hurrying to her assistance, discovered that she had
swooned from exhaustion. A bundle of unfinished needlework was hidden
under her shawl, and they soon ascertained that she was delirious from
some low typhus fever that had utterly prostrated her. For several
weeks she was dangerously ill, and was just able to sit up when Mr.
Minge discovered her. He told me that it was distressing and painful
beyond expression to witness her humiliation, her wounded pride, her
defiant rejection of his renewed offer of marriage. One day he took
his sister Constance and a minister of the gospel to the hospital, and
implored Salome to become his wife, then and there. He said she wept
bitterly, and thanked him, thanked his sister also, but solemnly
assured him she could never marry any one,--she would sooner starve in
the--"

Dr. Grey raised his hand, signalling for silence, and for some moments
he leaned his forehead against the chair directly in front of him.

Mr. Granville cleared his throat several times, and loosened his
neck-tie, which seemed to impede his breathing.

"Shall I go on? There is little more to tell."

"If you please, Granville."

"Mr. Minge would not abandon the hope of finally persuading her to
accept his hand, but next day when he called to inquire about her
health, and to request the sisters to watch her movements, and
prevent her escape, he was shocked to learn that she had disappeared
the previous night, leaving a few lines written in pencil on a
handkerchief, in which she had wrapped her superb suit of hair. They
were addressed to the Sisters of Charity, and briefly expressed her
gratitude for their kindness in providing for her wants, while she
assured them that as soon as possible she would return and compensate
them for their services in her behalf. Meantime, knowing the high
price of hair, she had carefully cut off her own, which was
unusually long and thick, and tendered it in part payment. When she
was taken into the building, her nurse found concealed in her dress a
very elegant watch, bearing her name in diamond letters, and she
requested that the sisters would hold it in pawn, until she was able
to redeem it. During her illness, it had been locked up, and they
supposed she left it, fearing that an application for it would arouse
suspicions of her intended flight. Mr. Minge bought the hair and
handkerchief, and, after a liberal remuneration for their care of
the invalid, he took charge of the watch, and left his address to be
given her when she called for her property. That her mind had become
seriously impaired, there can be little doubt, since nothing but
insanity can explain her refusal to accept one of the handsomest
estates in America. Unfortunately, a few days subsequent to her
departure from the hospital, Mr. Minge was taken very violently ill
with pneumonia, and died. Conscious of his condition, he prepared a
codicil to his will, and bequeathed to Salome twenty-five thousand
dollars, and an elegant house and lot in New York City. He exacted
from his sister a solemn promise that she would leave no means
untried to ferret out the wanderer, to whom he was so devotedly
attached; and, should all efforts fail, at the expiration of five
years the legacy should revert to the hospital which had sheltered
her in the hour of her destitution. The watch he left with his sister
Constance; the hair, he ordered buried with him. Three months have
elapsed, and no tidings have reached Miss Minge, who remains in
Paris for the purpose of complying with her brother's dying request."

"My poor, perverse Salome! To what desperate extremities has she been
reduced by her unfortunate wilfulness. Gerard, will you tell me
frankly your own conjecture concerning her fate?"

"If alive, I believe she has left Europe."

"Upon what do you base your supposition?"

"Mr. Minge was convinced that her attachment to some one in America
was the insurmountable barrier to his success as a suitor; and, if
so, she probably returned to her native land. Dr. Grey, I will speak
candidly to you of a matter which has doubtless given you some
disquiet. Muriel informs me that you have no confidence in the
sincerity of my attachment to her, and that upon that fact is founded
your refusal to allow the consummation of our engagement, so long as
she continues your ward. I confess I am not free from censure, but,
while I have acted weakly, I am not devoid of principle. Sir, I was
strangely and powerfully attracted to Salome Owen, and she exerted
a species of fascination over me which I scarcely endeavored to
resist. In an evil hour, infatuated by her face and her marvellous
voice, I was wild enough to offer her my hand, and resolved to ask
Muriel to release me. Dr. Grey, even at my own expense, I wish to
exonerate Salome, who never for an instant, by word or look,
encouraged my madness. She repulsed my advances, refused every
attention, and when I rashly uttered words, which, I admit, were
treasonable to Muriel, she almost overwhelmed me with her fiery
contempt and indignation,--threatening to acquaint Muriel with my
inconstancy, and appealing to my honor as a gentleman to keep
inviolate my betrothal vows. Dr. Grey, if my heart temporarily
wandered from its allegiance to your ward, it was not Salome's
fault, for in every respect her conduct towards me was that of a
noble, unselfish woman, who scorned to gratify her vanity at the
expense of another's happiness. She shamed me out of my folly, and
her stern honesty and nobility saved me from a brief and humiliating
career of dishonorable duplicity. Whether living or dead, I owe this
tribute to the pure character of Salome Owen."

"Thank Heaven! I had faith in her. I believed her too generous to
stoop to a flirtation with the lover of her friend; and, deplorable as
was your own weakness, I am rejoiced, Gerard, to find that you have
conquered it. Tell Muriel all that you have confided to me, and in her
hands we will leave the decision."

"Do you intend to prosecute the search which has proved so fruitless?"

"I do. She has not returned to America,--she is here somewhere; and,
living or dead, I must and will find her."

Dr. Grey seemed lost in perplexing thought for some time, then drew a
sheet of paper before him, and wrote, "Ulpian Grey wishes to see
Salome Owen, in order to communicate some facts which will induce her
return to her family; and he hopes she will call immediately at No.
Rue ----."

"Gerard, please be so good as to have this inserted in all the leading
journals in the city; and give me the address of Mr. Minge's agent."

At the expiration of a month, spent in the most diligent yet
unsuccessful efforts to obtain some information of the wanderer, Dr.
Grey began to feel discouraged,--to yield to melancholy forebodings
that an untimely death had ended her struggles and suffering.

Once, while pacing the walks in the Champs-Elysées, he caught a
glimpse of a face that recalled Salome's, and started eagerly forward;
but it proved that of a Parisian _bonne_, who was romping with her
juvenile charge.

Again, one afternoon, as he came out of the Church of St. Sulpice, his
heart bounded at sight of a woman who leaned against the railing, and
watched the play of the fountain. When he approached her and peered
eagerly into her countenance, blue eyes and yellow curls mocked his
hopes. One morning, while he walked slowly along the _Rue du Faubourg
St. Honoré_, his attention was attracted by the glitter of pretty
baubles in the _Maison de la Pensée_, and he entered the establishment
to purchase something for Jessie.

While waiting for his parcel, a woman came out of a rear apartment and
passed into the street, and, almost snatching his package from the
counter, he followed.

A few yards in advance was a graceful but thin figure, clad in a
violet-colored muslin, with a rather dingy silk scarf wound around her
shoulders. A straw hat, with a wreath of faded pink roses, drooped
over her face, and streamers of black lace hung behind, while over the
whole she had thrown a thin gray veil.

Dr. Grey had not seen a feature, but the _pose_ of the shoulders, the
haughty poise of the head, the quick, nervous, elastic step, and,
above all, the peculiar, free, childish swinging of the left arm, made
his despondent heart throb with renewed hope.

Keeping sufficiently near not to lose sight of her, he walked on and
on, down cross streets, up narrow alleys, towards a quarter of the
city with which he was unacquainted. The woman never looked back,
rarely turned her head, even to glance at those who passed her, and
only once she paused before a flower-stall, and seemed to price a
bunch of carnations, which she smelled, laid down again, and then
hurried on.

Dr. Grey quickly paid for the cluster, and hastened after her.

In turning a corner, she dropped a small parcel that she had carried
under her scarf, and as she stooped to pick it up, her veil floated
off. She caught it ere it reached the ground, and when she raised her
hands to spread it over her hat, the loose open sleeves of her dress
slipped back, and there, on the left arm, was a long, zigzag scar,
like a serpentine bracelet.

With great difficulty Dr. Grey stifled a cry of joy, and waited until
she had gained some yards in advance.

The woman was so absorbed in reverie that she did not notice the
steady tramp of her pursuer, but as the number of persons on the
street gradually diminished, he prudently fell back, fearing lest her
suspicion should be excited.

At a sudden bend in the crooked alley which she rapidly threaded, he
lost sight of her, and, running a few yards, he turned the angle just
in time to see the flutter of her dress and scarf, as she disappeared
through a postern, that opened in a crumbling brick wall.

Above the gate a battered tin sign swung in the wind, and dim letters,
almost effaced by elemental warfare, announced, "_Adèle Aubin,
Blanchisseuse_."

Dr. Grey passed through the postern, and found himself in a narrow,
dark court, near a tall, dingy, dilapidated house, where a girl ten
years of age sat playing with two ragged, untidy children.

It was a dreary, comfortless, uninviting place, and a greenish slime
overspread the lower portions of the wall, and coated the uneven
pavement.

From the girl, who chatted with genuine French volubility and freedom,
Dr. Grey learned that her father was an attaché of a barber-shop, and
her mother a washer and renovater of laces and embroideries. The
latter was absent, and, in answer to his inquiries, the child informed
him that an upper room in this cheerless building was occupied by a
young female lodger, who held no intercourse with its other inmates.

Placing a five-franc piece in her hand, the visitor asked the name of
the lodger, but the girl replied that she was known to them only as
"_La Dentellière_," and lived quite alone in the right-hand room at
the top of the third flight of stairs.

The parley had already occupied twenty minutes, when Dr. Grey cut it
short by mounting the narrow, winding steps. The atmosphere was close,
and redolent of the fumes of dishes not so popular in America as in
France, and he saw that the different doors of this old tenement were
rented to lodgers who cooked, ate, and slept in the same apartment. At
the top of the last dim flight of steps, Dr. Grey paused, almost out
of breath; and found himself on a narrow landing-place, fronting two
attic rooms. The one on the right was closed, but as he softly took
the bolt in his hand and turned it, there floated through the key-hole
the low subdued sound of a sweet voice, humming "_Infelice_."

It was not the deep, rich, melting voice, that had arrested his drive
when first he heard it on the beach, but a plaintive, thrilling echo,
full of pathos, yet lacking power; like the notes of birds when
moulting-season ends, and the warblers essay their old strains.
Cautiously he opened the door wide enough to permit him to observe
what passed within.

The room was large, low, and irregularly shaped, with neither
fire-place nor stove, and only one dormer window opening to the south,
and upon a wide waste of tiled roofs and smoking chimneys. The floor
was bare, except a strip of faded carpet stretched in front of a small
single bedstead; and the additional furniture consisted of two chairs,
a tall table where hung a mirror, and a washstand that held beside
bowl and pitcher a candlestick and china cup. On the table were
several books, a plate and knife, and a partially opened package
disclosed a loaf of bread, some cheese, and an apple.

In front of the window a piece of plank had been rudely fastened, and
here stood two wooden boxes containing a few violets, mignonette, and
one very luxuriant rose-geranium.

The faded blue cambric curtain was twisted into a knot, and as it was
now nearly noon, the sun shone in and made a patch of gold on the
stained and dusky floor.

On the bed lay the straw hat, garlanded with roses that had lost their
primitive tints, and before the window in a low chair sat the lonely
lodger.

On her knees rested a cushion, across which was stretched a parchment
pattern bristling with pins, and with bobbins she was swiftly knitting
a piece of gossamer lace, by throwing the fine threads around the
pins.

Over the floor floated her delicate lilac dress, and the sleeves were
looped back to escape the forest of pins.

Dr. Grey had only a three-quarter view of the face that bent over the
cushion, and though it was sadly altered in every lineament,--was
whiter and thinner than he had ever seen it,--yet it was impossible to
mistake the emaciated features of Salome Owen.

The large, handsome head, had been shorn of its crown of glossy braids
that once encircled it like a jet tiara, and the short locks clustered
with childlike grace and beauty around the gleaming white brow and
temples.

There was not a vestige of color in the whilom scarlet mouth, whose
thin lines were now scarcely perceptible; and, in the finer oval of
her cheeks, and along the polished chin, the purplish veins showed
their delicate tracery. The hands were waxen and almost transparent,
and the figure was wasted beyond the boundaries of symmetry.

In the knot of ribbon that fastened her narrow linen collar, she had
arranged a sprig of mignonette, that now dropped upon the cushion as
she bent over it. She paused, brushed it off, and for a few seconds
her beautiful hazel eyes were fixed on the blue sky that bordered her
window.

The whole expression of her countenance had changed, and the
passionate defiance of other days had given place to a sad, patient
hopelessness, touching indeed, when seen on her proud features. Slowly
she threw her bobbins, and a fragment of "_Infelice_" seemed to drift
across her trembling lips, that showed some lines of bitterness in
their time-chiselling.

As Dr. Grey watched her, tears which he could not restrain trickled
down his face, and he was starting forward, when she said, as if
communing with her own desolate soul,--

"I wonder if I am growing superstitious. Last night I dreamed
incessantly of Jessie and home, and to-day I cannot help thinking that
something has happened there. Home! When people no longer have a home,
how hard it is to forget that blessed home which sheltered them in the
early years. Homeless! that is the dreariest word that human misery
ever conjectured or human language clothed. Never mind, Salome Owen,
when God snatched your voice from you, He became responsible; and your
claims are like the ravens and sparrows, and He must provide. After
all, it matters little where we are housed here in the clay, and
Hobbs was astute when he selected for the epitaph on his tombstone,
'This is the true philosopher's stone.' Home! Ah, if I sadly missed my
heart's home, here in the flesh, I shall surely find it up yonder in
the blessed land of blue."

A tear glided down her cheek, glistened an instant on her chin, and
fell on her pattern. She brushed it away, and smiled sorrowfully,--

"It is ill-omened to sprinkle bridal lace with tears. Some day this
fine web will droop around a bride's white shoulders and after a time
it may serve to deck the cold limbs of some dead child. If I could
only have my shroud now, I would not make lace a _desideratum_; serge
or sackcloth would be welcome. Patience,--

                ... 'What if the bread
  Be bitter in thine inn, and thou unshod
  To meet the flints? At least it may be said,
  Because the way is _short_, I thank thee, God!'"

She partially rose in her chair, and took from the table a volume of
poems. After some search, she found the desired passage, and, rocking
herself to and fro, she read it aloud in a low, measured tone,--

  "O dreary life! we cry, 'O dreary life!'
  And still the generations of the birds
  Sing through our sighing, and the flocks and herds
  Serenely live, while we are keeping strife
  With heaven's true purpose in us, as a knife
  Against which we may struggle! Ocean girds
  Unslackened the dry land, savannah-swards
  Unweary sweep,--hills watch unworn; and rife
  Meek leaves drop yearly from the forest-trees,
  To show above the unwasted stars that pass
  In their old glory. '_O thou God of old,
  Grant me some smaller grace than comes to these!
  But even so much patience, as a blade of grass
  Grows by, contented through the heat and cold._'"

The book slipped from her fingers and fell upon the floor, and with a
sob the girl bowed her head in her hands.

Quickly the intruder glided unseen into the room, and stood at the
back of her chair.

He knew she was praying, and almost breathlessly waited several
minutes.

At last she raised her face, and while tears trembled on her lashes,
she said meekly,--

"I ought not to complain and repine. I will be patient and trust God;
for I can afford to suffer all through time, provided I may spend
eternity with Christ and Dr. Grey."

"Oh, Salome! Thank God, we shall be separated neither in time nor in
eternity! Dear wanderer, come back to your brother!"

He stepped before her, and involuntarily held out his arms.

She neither screamed nor fainted, but sprang to her feet, and a
rapture that beggars all description irradiated her worn, weary,
pallid face.

"Is it really you? Oh! a thousand times I have dreamed that I saw
you,--stood by you; but when I tried to touch you, there was nothing
but empty air! Oh, Dr. Grey!--my Dr. Grey! Am I only dreaming, here in
the sunshine, or is it you bodily? Did you care for me a _little_? Did
you come to find _me_?"

She grasped his arm, swept her hands up and down his sleeve, and then
he saw her reel, and shut her eyes, and shudder.

"My poor child, I came to Paris solely to hunt for my wayward Salome,
and, thank God! I have found her."

He put his arm around her, and placed her head against his shoulder.

Ah, how his generous heart ached, as he noted the hungry delight with
which her splendid eyes lingered on his features, and the convulsive
tenacity with which she clung to him, trembling with excess of joy
that brought back carmine to her wasted lips and carnation bloom to
her blanched cheeks.

He heard her whispering, and knew it was a prayer of thanksgiving for
the blessing of his presence.

But very soon a change came over her sparkling, happy face, like an
inky cloud across a noon sky, and he felt a shiver stealing through
her form.

"Let me go! You said once, that when I came to Europe to enter on my
professional career, you wished never to touch my hands again,--you
would consider them polluted."

"Dear Salome, I recant all those harsh, unjust words, which were
uttered when I was not fully aware of the latent strength of your
character. Since then, I have learned much from Professor V----, and
from Gerard Granville, that assures me my noble friend is all I could
desire her,--that she has grandly conquered her faults, and is worthy
of the admiration, the perfect confidence, the earnest affection,
which her adopted brother offers her. Your pure, true heart makes pure
hands, and as such I reverently salute them."

He took her hands, raised and kissed them respectfully, tenderly.

She hid her burning face on his bosom, and there was a short pause.

"Salome, sit down and let me talk to you of home,--your home. Have you
no questions to ask about your pet sister and brother?"

He attempted to release himself, but she clung to him, and clasping
her arms around his neck, said in a strained, husky tone,--

"Dr. Grey, did you bring your--your wife to Paris?"

"I have no wife."

She uttered a thrilling cry of delight, threw her head back, and gazed
steadily into his clear, calm, blue eyes.

"Oh, sir, they told me you had married Mrs. Gerome."

He placed her in the chair, and kneeling down beside her, took her
quivering face in his palms and touched her forehead softly with his
lips.

"The only woman I ever wished to make my wife is bound for life to a
worthless husband. Salome, I loved her before I knew this fact; and,
since I learned (soon after your departure) that she was separated
from the man whom she had wedded, I have not seen her, although she
still resides at 'Solitude.' Salome, I shall never marry, and I ask
you now to come back to Jessie and Stanley, who will soon require your
care and guidance, for it is my intention to return to the position in
the U.S. naval service, which only Janet's feeble health induced me to
resign. God bless you, dear child! I wish you were indeed my own
sister, for I am growing very proud of my brave, honest friend,--my
patient lace-weaver."

The girl's head sank lower and lower until it touched her knees, and
sobs rendered her words scarcely audible.

"If you deem me worthy to be called your friend, it is because of your
example, your influence. Oh, Dr. Grey,--but for you,--but for my hope
of meeting you in the kingdom of Christ, I shudder to think what I
might have been! Under all circumstances I have been guided by what I
imagined would have been your wishes,--your advice; and my reward is
rich indeed! Your confidence, your approbation! Earth holds no
recompense half so precious."

"Thank God! my prayers have been abundantly answered, my highest hopes
of your future fully realized. Henceforth, let us with renewed energy
labor faithfully in the vast, whitening fields of Him who declares,
'The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few.'"

  "O human soul! as long as thou canst so
  Set up a mark of everlasting light,
  Above the howling senses' ebb and flow,
  To cheer thee and to right thee if thou roam,
  Not with lost toil thou laborest through the night,
  Thou makest the heaven thou hopest indeed thy home."



CHAPTER XXXIV.

"SAD CASE OF MANIA A POTU."


"Watchman McDonough reports that late last night, he picked up, on the
sidewalk, the insensible body of Maurice Carlyle, who showed some
signs of returning animation after his removal to Station House
No. ----. A physician was called in, and every effort made to save the
unfortunate victim of intemperance; but medical skill was inadequate
to arrest the work of many years of excess, and before daylight the
wretched man expired in dreadful convulsions. Coroner Boutwell held an
inquest on the body, and the verdict rendered was 'Death from _mania a
potu_.' Mr. Carlyle was well known in this city, where for many years
he was an ornament to society, and a general favorite in the
fashionable and mercantile circle in which he moved. Of numbers who
were once the recipients of his bounty and hospitality, none offered
succor in the hour of adversity, and among all his former friends none
were found to cheer or pity in the last ordeal to which flesh is
subjected. The melancholy fate of Maurice Carlyle furnishes another
illustration of the mournful truth that the wages of intemperance are
destitution and desertion."

Such was the startling announcement, which, under the head of "Police
Report," Dr. Grey read and re-read in a prominent New York paper that
had accidentally remained for some days unopened on his desk, and was
dated nearly a month previous. Locking the door of his office, he sat
down to collect his bewildered thoughts, and to quiet the tumult in
his throbbing heart.

During the two years that had drearily worn away since his last
interview with Mrs. Carlyle, he had sternly forbidden his mind to
dwell on its brief dream of happiness, and by a life of unusually
active benevolence endeavored to forget the one episode which alone
had power to disquiet and sadden him.

He had philosophically schooled himself to the calm, unmurmuring
acceptance of his lonely destiny, and looked forward to a life
solitary yet not unhappy, although uncheered by the love and
companionship which every man indulges the instinctive hope will
sooner or later crown his existence.

Now heart and conscience, so long at deadly feud, suddenly signalled a
truce, clasped hands, embraced cordially. How radiant the world
looked,--with what wondrous glory the future had in the twinkling of
an eye robed itself. The woman he had loved was stainless and free,
and how could she long resist the pleadings of his famished heart?

He would win her from cynicism and isolation, would melt her frozen
nature in the genial atmosphere of his pure and constant affection,
and interweave her aimless, sombre life with the busy, silvery web of
his own.

After forty years, God would grant him home, and wife, and hearthstone
peace.

What a flush and sparkle stole to this grave man's olive cheek, and
calm, deep blue eyes!

Ah! how hungrily he longed for the touch of her hand, the sight of her
face; and, snatching his hat, he put the paper in his pocket, and
hurried towards "Solitude."

In the holy hush of that hazy autumnal afternoon, nature--_Magna
Mater_,--

  "The altar-curtains of whose hills
    Are sunset's purple air,"
  "Who dips in the dim light of setting suns
  The spacious skirts of that vast robe of hers
  That widens ever in the wondrous west,"

seemed slumbering and dreaming away the day.

The forests were gaudy in their painted shrouds of scarlet and yellow
leaves, and long, feathery flakes of purple bloom nodded over crimson
berries, emerald mosses, and golden-hearted asters.

Only a few weeks previous, Dr. Grey had driven along that road, and,
while the echo of harvest hymns rang on the hay-scented air, had asked
himself how men and women could become so completely absorbed in
temporal things, ignoring the solemn and indisputable fact of the
brevity of human life and the restricted dominion of man,--

  "Whose part in all the pomp that fills
  The circuit of the summer hills
  Is, that his grave is green."

But to-day all sober-hued reflections were exorcised by the rapturous
_Jubilate_ that hope was singing through the sunlit chambers of his
happy heart; and when he entered the grounds of "Solitude" they seemed
bathed in that soft glamour, that witching "light that never was on
sea or land."

As he sprang from his buggy and opened the little gate leading into
the _parterre_, Robert came slowly forward, bearing a basket filled
with a portion of the crimson apples that flushed the orchard, just
beyond the low hedge.

"You could not have chosen a better time to come, Dr. Grey; and if I
were allowed to have my way you would have been here last night. Were
you sent for at last, or was it a lucky chance that brought you?"

"Merely an accident, as I received no summons. Robert, how is your
mistress?"

"God only knows, sir; I am sure I never can tell how she really is.
She has not seemed well since she took that journey to the North, and
for two weeks past she appears to have been slipping down by inches
into her grave. She neither eats nor sleeps, and for the last three
nights has not lain down,--so old Ruth, the housekeeper, tells me.
Yesterday I begged my mistress to let me go for you, but she smiled
that awful freezing smile that strikes to the very marrow of my bones,
worse than December sleet,--and raised her finger so: and said, 'At
your peril, Robert. Mind your orchard, man, and I will take care of
myself. I want neither doctors nor nurses, and only desire that you,
and Ruth, and Anna, will attend to your respective duties and let me
be quiet. All will soon be well with me.' I killed a partridge, had it
nicely broiled, and carried it to her; and she thanked me, and made a
pretence of eating the wing, just to please me; but when the waiter
was taken away to the kitchen, I found all the bird on the plate. This
morning, just before daylight, I heard her playing a wild, mournful
thing on the piano, that sounded like a dirge or a wail; and Ruth says
when she went into the parlor to open the blinds, she found her
praying, and thinks she was on her knees for an hour. Please God!
sometimes I wish she was in heaven with my mother, for she will never
see any peace in this life."

"What seems to be the disease?"

"Heart-ache."

"You should have come and told me this long ago."

"And pray to what purpose, Dr. Grey? She vowed she would allow no
human being to cross her threshold, except the servants, and I would
sooner undertake to curl a steel, or make ringlets out of a pair of
tongs, than bend her will when once she takes a stand. Humph! My
mistress is no willow wand, and is about as easily moved as the
church-steeple, or the stone-tower of the lighthouse."

"Has she recently received letters that contained tidings which
excited or distressed her?"

"A letter came last week, but I know nothing of its contents. You need
not go into the house if you wish to find her, for about an hour and a
half ago I saw her come out into the grounds, and she never goes in
till the lamps are lighted."

An anxious look clouded for an instant Dr. Grey's countenance, but
undaunted hope sang on of the hours of hallowed communion that the
future held, while in her invalid condition he assumed the care and
guardianship of his beloved; and, turning into the lawn, he eagerly
searched the winding walks for some trace of her, some flutter of her
garments, some faint, subtle odor of orange-flowers or tube-roses.

Here and there clusters of purple, pink, and orange crysanthemums
flecked the lawn with color; and a flower-stand, covered with china
jars that held geraniums, seemed almost a pyramid of flame, from the
profusion of scarlet blooms.

The sun had gone down behind a waving line of low hills, where,--

  "Thinned to amber, rimmed with silver,
    Clouds in the distance dwell,
  Clouds that are cool, for all their color,
    Pure as a rose-lipped shell.
  Fleets of wool in the upper heavens
    Gossamer wings unfurl;
  Sailing so high they seem but sleeping
    Over yon bar of pearl."

Still as crystal was the sapphire sea that mirrored that quiet,
sapphire sky, and not a murmur, not a ripple, stirred the evening air
or the yellow sands that stretched for miles along the winding coast.

When Dr. Grey had partially crossed the lawn, he glanced towards the
marble temple that gleamed against the dark background of deodars, and
saw a woman sitting on the steps of the tomb. Softly he approached and
entered the mausoleum by an arch on the opposite side, but,
notwithstanding his cautious tread, he startled a white pigeon that
had perched on the altar, where fresh violets, heliotrope, and snowy
sprigs of nutmeg-geranium were leaning over the scalloped edge of the
Venetian glasses, and distilling perfume in their delicate chalices.

Mrs. Carlyle had brought her floral tribute to the sepulchral urn,
and, having carefully arranged her daily Arkja, had seated herself on
the steps to rest.

From the two sentinel poplars that guarded the front, golden leaves
were sifting down on the marble floor, and three or four had drifted
upon the lap of the quiet figure, while one, bright and rich as autumn
gilding could make it, rested like a crown on the silver waves that
covered her head.

Down the shining steps trailed the folds of the white merino robe, and
around her shoulders was wrapped the blue crape shawl, while a cluster
of violets seemed to have slipped from her fingers, and strewed
themselves at random on her dress.

Softly Dr. Grey drew near, and his voice was tremulously tender, as he
said,--

"Mrs. Carlyle, no barrier divides us now."

She did not speak, or turn her queenly head, and he laid his hand
caressingly on the glistening gray hair.

"My darling, my first and only love--my brave, beautiful 'Agla,' may I
not tell you, at last, what conscience once forbade my uttering?"

As motionless and silent as the sculptured poppies above her, she took
no notice of his passionate pleading, and he sprang down one step
directly in front of her.

The white face was turned to the sea, and the large, wide,
wonderfully lovely yet mournful gray eyes were gazing fixedly across
the waste of water, at a filmy cloud as fine as lace, that like a
silver netting caught the full October moon which was lifting itself
in the pearly east.

The long black lashes did not droop, nor the steady eyes waver, and
with a horrible foreboding Dr. Grey seized her hands. They were rigid
and icy. He stooped, caught her to his bosom, and pressed his lips to
hers, but they were colder than the marble column against which she
leaned; for, one hour before, Vashti Carlyle had fronted her God.

Alone in the autumn evening, sitting there with the golden poplar
leaves drifting over her, the desolate woman had held her last
communion with the watching ocean that hushed its murmuring, to see
her die; and, laying down the galling burden of her sunless, dreary
life, she had joyfully and serenely "put on immortality" in that
everlasting rest, where "there was no more sea, no more death, neither
shall there be any more pain, for the former things are passed away."

Ah! beautiful and holy was--

  "That peaceful face wherein all past distress
  Had melted into perfect loveliness."



CHAPTER XXXV.


Since that October day when Ulpian Grey sat on the steps of the tomb,
holding in his arms the beautiful white form, whom in life God had
denied him the privilege of touching, six months had drifted slowly;
yet time had not softened the blow, that, while almost crushing his
tender, unselfish heart, had no power to shake the faith which was so
securely anchored in Christ.

Among the papers found in Mrs. Carlyle's desk was one containing the
request that Dr. Grey would superintend the erection of a handsome
monument over the remains of her husband, whenever and wherever he
chanced to die; and her will provided that her fortune should be
appropriated as the nucleus of a relief fund for indigent painters.

Her own pictures, to which she had carefully affixed in delicate
violet ciphers the name "Agla," she directed placed on exhibition in a
New York gallery, and ultimately sold for the benefit of the orphans
of artists. To Robert she bequeathed a sum sufficient to maintain him
in ease and comfort; and to Dr. Grey her escritoire, piano, books, and
the sapphire ring she had always worn.

The latter was found in the silver casket, and had been folded in a
sheet of paper containing these words,--

"According to the teachings of the Buddhists, 'the sapphire produces
equanimity and peace of mind, as well as affording protection against
envy and treachery. It produces also prayer and reconciliation with
the Godhead, and brings more peace than any other gem of necromancy;
_but he who would wear it must lead a pure and holy life_.' Finding my
sapphire asp mockingly inefficacious in its traditional talismanic
powers, I conclude that my melancholy career has been a violation of
the stipulated condition, and therefore bequeath it to the only human
being whom I deem worthy to wear it with any hope of success."

While awaiting orders from the naval department, Dr. Grey purchased
"Solitude," whither he removed, with Muriel and Miss Dexter, and
temporarily established himself, until the arrival of Mr. Granville.

Immediately after her return from Europe, Salome invested a portion of
Mr. Minge's legacy in the site of the old mill that had fallen to
ruin. Here she built a small but tasteful cottage _orné_ on the spot
where her father had died, and here, with Jessie and Stanley, she
proposed to spend her winters; while Mark and Joel were placed at the
"Grassmere Farm," a mile distant, and entrusted with its management
until the younger children should attain their majority.

Too proud to accept the home which Dr. Grey had tendered her,
Salome was earnestly endeavoring to imitate the noble example of
self-abnegation that lifted him so far above all others whom she had
ever known; and the most precious hope of her life was to reach
that exalted excellence which alone could compel his admiration and
respect.

From the day of Mrs. Carlyle's death, the orphan had been a
comparatively happy woman, for jealousy could not invade or desecrate
the grave and its harmless sleeper; and Salome fervently thanked God,
that, since she was denied the blessing of Dr. Grey's love, at least
she had been spared the torture of seeing him the fond husband of
another.

Time had deepened, but refined, purified, and consecrated her
unconquerable affection for the only man who had ever commanded her
reverence, and whose quiet influence had so happily remoulded her
wayward, fiery nature.

There were seasons when the old element of innate perversity
re-asserted itself, but the steady reproving gaze of his clear, true
eyes, or the warning touch of his hand on her head, had sufficed to
still the rising storm.

Conscientiously the passionate, exacting woman was striving to bring
her heart and life into subjection to the law,--into conformity with
the precepts of Christ; and though she was impulsive, proud Salome
still,--the glaring blemishes in her character were gradually
disappearing.

One bright balmy spring morning previous to the day appointed for
Muriel's marriage, and for her guardian's departure for the fleet in
Asiatic waters, where he had been assigned to duty, Dr. Grey drove up
the avenue of elms and maples that led to Salome's pretty villa; and
as he ascended the steps, Jessie sprang into his arms, and almost
smothered him with caresses.

"Oh, doctor! something so wonderful has happened,--you never could
guess, and I am as happy as a bee in a woodbine. Sister will tell
you."

"Where is she?"

"In the parlor, waiting for you."

The child ran off to join Stanley, who was trying a new pony in the
yard, and Dr. Grey went into the cool fragrant room, which was fitted
up with more taste than in earlier years he would have ascribed to its
owner.

Salome sat before the open piano, and at his entrance raised her face,
which had been bowed almost to the ivory keys.

"Good morning, Dr. Grey. I am glad you have come to rejoice with me,
and I was just thanking God for the unexpected restoration of my
voice. Once when it seemed so necessary to me. He suddenly took it
from me; and now, when it is a mere luxury to own it, He as
unexpectedly gives it to me once more. Verily,--strange as it may
appear, my voice is really better than when Professor V---- pronounced
it the first contralto in Europe."

She had risen to greet him, and as he retained her hand in his, she
stood close to him, looking earnestly into his face.

There were tears hanging like tremulous dewdrops on the long jet
under-lashes,--and the bright red in her polished cheeks, and the
crimson curves of her parted lips made a picture pleasant to
contemplate.

"My dear child, I do indeed cordially congratulate you. God saw that
your voice might possibly prove a snare and a curse, by ministering to
false pride and exaggerated vanity, and in mercy and wisdom He
temporarily deprived you of an instrument that threatened you with
danger. Now that you are stronger, more prudent, and patient, He
trusts you again with one of the choicest blessings that can be
conferred on a woman. You have deserved to recover it, and I joyfully
unite my thanks with yours. Let me hear your voice once more."

Trembling with excess of happiness, she sat down and sang feelingly,
eloquently, her favorite "_O mon Fernand_;" and, as he listened, Dr.
Grey looked almost wonderingly at the beautiful flashing face, that
had never seemed half so radiant before. There was marvellous witchery
in her rich round flexible tones, that wound into the holy-of-holies
of the man's great heart, and elevated his thoughts above the dross
and dust of earth.

When she ended, he placed his soft palm tenderly on her head, and
smoothed the glossy hair.

"I thank you inexpressibly. Sometimes when sad memories oppress me,
how I shall long to have you charm them away by that magical spell
that bears my thoughts from this world to the next. There are some
songs which you must learn for my sake."

Ah! at that moment, as she stood there robed in a soft stainless white
muslin, with a cluster of double pomegranate flowers glowing in her
silky hair, the girl was very lovely, very attractive, so full of
youthful grace, so winning in her beautiful enthusiasm,--yet Ulpian
Grey's heart did not wander for an instant from one who slept
dreamlessly under the sculptured urn on the marble altar of the
mausoleum.

  "Why are the dead not dead? Who can undo
  What time hath done? Who can win back the wind?
  Beckon lost music from a broken lute?
  Renew the redness of a last year's rose?
  Or dig the sunken sunset from the deep?"

"Dr. Grey, if my voice can chase away one vexing thought, one wearying
care or melancholy memory, I shall feel that I have additional reason
to thank God for the precious gift."

"I have not seen you look so happy for three years. Indeed, my little
sister, you have much for which to be grateful, and in the midst of
your blessings try to recollect those grand words of Marcus Aurelius
Antoninus, 'The soul is a God in exile.' My child, look to it that
your expatriation ends with the shores of time, for--

  'Yea, this is life; make this forenoon sublime,
  This afternoon a psalm, this night a prayer,
  And time is conquered, and thy crown is won.'"

For some seconds Salome did not speak, for the shadow on his
countenance fell upon her heart, and looking reverently up at him, she
thought of Richter's mournful _dictum_,--"Great souls attract sorrows,
as mountains tempests."

"Dr. Grey, want of patience is the cause of half my difficulties and
defeats, and plunges me continually into the slough of distrust and
rebellious questioning. I find it so hard to stand still, and let God
do his will, and work in his own way."

"My dear Salome, patience is only practical faith, and the want of it
causes two-thirds of the world's woes. I often find it necessary to
humble my own pride, and tame my restless spirit by recurring to the
last words of Schiller, 'Calmer and calmer! many difficult things are
growing plain and clear to me. Let us be patient.' Child, sing me one
song more, and then come out and show me where you propose to place
those grape-arbors we spoke of yesterday. This is the last opportunity
I shall have to direct your workmen."

An hour later Salome fastened a sprig of Grand Duke jasmine in the
button-hole of his coat,--shook hands with him for the day, and though
she smiled in recognition of his final bow as he drove down the
avenue, her thoughts were busy with the dreaded separation that
awaited her on the morrow and, while her lips were mute, the cry of
her heart was,--

            ... "O Beloved, it is plain
  I am not of thy worth, nor for thy place.
  And yet because I love thee, I obtain
  From that same love this vindicating grace,
  To live on still in love,--and yet in vain,--
  To bless thee, yet renounce thee to thy face."

Dr. Grey spent the remainder of the day in visiting his patients, and
as he rode from cottage to hovel, bidding adieu to those whose lives
had so often been committed to his professional guardianship, he was
received with tearful eyes, and trembling hands; and numerous
benedictions were invoked upon his head.

Silver threads were beginning to weave an aureola in his chestnut
hair, and the smooth white forehead showed incipient furrows, but the
deep blue eyes were as tranquil and trusting as of yore, and full of
tenderer light for the few he loved, for all in suffering and
bereavement.

With a sublime and increasing faith in the overruling wisdom and mercy
of God, he patiently and hopefully bore his loneliness and grievous
loss,--comforting himself with the assurance that, "the evening of
life brings with it its lamp;" and looking eagle-eyed across the
storm-drenched plain of the present to the gleaming jasper walls of
the Eternal Beyond.

                   ... "My wine has run
  Indeed out of my cup, and there is none
  To gather up the bread of my repast
  Scattered and trampled,--yet I find some good
  In earth's green herbs, and streams that bubble up,
  Clear from the darkling ground,--content until
  I sit with angels before better food.
  Dear Christ! when thy new vintage fills my cup,
  This hand shall shake no more, nor that wine spill."



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